Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm Feeling Better Now

Things were much better today. One instructor actually gave us valuable information. It wasn't presented in the best way, but I got what I needed and that is the most important thing. I am excited to learn how to do a lesson plan. A real lesson plan, that is. Not this nasty little Madeline Hunter direct instruction nonsense that so many love to use, but a real lesson plan that is student-centered by allowing the student to construct his or her own knowledge and gain a life-long understanding.

We even [gasp] think about other learners, those who are gifted or those with disabilties, and how this lesson plan can be useful for them, for everyone. You see, teachers tend to make classrooms that are convenient for teachers and not centered around the learning of the student. For shame, says I. The classroom should be all about the student and what can be done to help that student want to learn and retain that knowledge. Grades, rewards and punishments should never be the center of any classroom.

There may be some hope for the classes this semester yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teachers Who Teach Teachers …

… can be some of the worst teachers. They really can; it is amazing. There is a pervasive belief among teachers who teach teaching that they need only lecture us about best practices rather than implementing those best practices into their own classrooms. Lecture, we know, is one of the poorest forms of teaching, and yet….

So I am rather irritated today. Yesterday I was plumb pissered off. My instructors seem to be more interested in due dates and paperwork rather than concepts and knowledge. This is not always true, of course. I’ve had a teacher a few semesters ago, a math teacher, who was concerned with knowledge and understanding rather than memorization of algorithms. He was amazing and I learned a lot. I wish more of my teachers were like him. He questioned our approach to teaching and challenged us to think about the art of teaching and why we do things the way we do.

This semester seems like a muddled mass of chaotic worksheets and busywork. I keep getting the feeling that I missed the last class period. We jump from idea to idea, page to page, without any congruency. We all have our bad days, but when the entire class is confused about the goals, then there is an obvious disconnect between teacher and student. Simply plugging ahead is not the best path. Good teachers care more about conceptual learning that they do the assignments and that master teacher will stop and re-evaluate to ensure that learning is taking place.

For example I had a resource book due yesterday. It is a three-ring binder filled with state requirements, teaching strategies, resources, and the like. A handy book without a doubt and I am thankful to have it. Yesterday we brought it to class and each section was checked off to ensure completion. Points were deducted for anything that was missing.

What’s the problem you ask? Philosophy. We are being taught about inquiry-based learning and how to make a child’s education meaningful and long lasting. A good teacher should always ask why he or she has required an assignment and what goal should be accomplished. Is the goal in this college classroom to get points for a binder? Yes, indeed it was the goal, but it should not have been the goal. The goal is the information and the learning involved. The notebook is a tool to be used not the end goal. The due date should not be the end goal. Rather, the content should be what we care about. Teachers are entirely too concerned with points and due dates rather than conceptual learning and understanding. Had it been me, I would have considered something more along the lines of having the notebook finished sometime this week or so. Anything out of place would need to be inserted. If I just had to assign points to it (which is up for debate) then it would be all or nothing. As soon as a student got all the required pieces in place then the points are given in full. It may seem an insignificant detail to non-teachers, but it is all about philosophy and how you teach overall, and it is very significant.

I am not happy about the state of teacher education today. Maybe tomorrow will be different. Lesson Learned: If the entire class has the blank look, then your lesson plan is not working. A different approach is necessary. Do something else. Try something new. Fine a new path. Slow down. Explain. Draw some connections. Define the end goal. Give examples.

Give examples! Teachers who teach teachers are notorious for not wanting to offer examples of what they expect. They give vague descriptions and esoteric responses to questions then count off when the final product does not meet expectations. It is maddening and I suspect it has more to do with control than anything else. Teachers tend to be a controlling lot.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Spectacular Spider-Man

Spider-Man is back in a new animated series from the WB. Looks pretty cool. This is coming in 2008. Check out the trailer. This would be a nice tie-in for kids who do not like to read. They may not like to read, but they will probably read Spider-Man. I'd keep a look out for a comic based on the TV show.

The Quest for a Puppy

(We've bought a puppy. He's the grey/brown runt in the middle.)

We’ve been thinking about getting a puppy. Kind of a “hole in the head” deal, I know, but my daughter has been asking for a pet. We have a cat, and cats are great, but they do their own things and do not enjoy being dressed up in pretty bows and sweaters. Ever since my sister got a Maltese for her family, my little one has been begging and we have continued to deny.

We’ve not good luck with dogs. The first time we rescued a stray Basset. He had been tied up to a tree in a field on a farm. His skin felt like sandpaper from all the ticks. He needed an immediate home and we gave it a shot. Why not? Good G … oh my … for the Love of Pete that dog stunk. We gave him oatmeal baths and he smelled like fresh stink. It was awful. You could hardly pet him without having to wash. He wasn’t a good fit. So we gave him to the Basset Rescue.

We did some research and filled out some breed selectors on the Internet. A Whippet continued to land high on the list of breeds for us. We called the Whippet Rescue and they had a dog ready. He was a perfect dog, they assured us. The lied. He urinated everywhere, especially on my daughter’s toys. I took him outside and he would hold it, then come back in and pee on her toys.

We are inexperienced dog people. The rescue knew that. We are not used to training any dog, especially a dog with a serious emotional disorder. We called them about his urinating and asked for help. They mailed me a potty band. If you have a dog that insists on going in the house, then you put a woman’s maxi pad on the band and wrap the band around his belly, covering his digit. When he urinates, it wets the maxi and keeps him wet. They assured me that he would not like it and would soon stop going. Again, they lied.

This dog would pee in his band and not care a bit. I was at a loss of what to do. We figured our next step was doggy school. Remember that he was an adult by the time we got him. Then it happened. One day he attacked my daughter, pushed her to the floor, got on top of her and bit her on the chest, drawing blood. My wife saw the entire incident and she states that it was an unprovoked attack. Had she ran over his tail or something like that, we would have felt different.

That was it for me. I was done. You can’t pin my daughter down and draw blood. Had I been an experienced dog trainer, I may have known what to do and been able to help this poor beast. I wasn’t. I called the rescue and they came to get him. Here’s the kicker: When they picked him up they told us that we were his third family. The last family threatened to put a bullet in his head if the rescue didn’t pick him back up that same day! That would have been helpful information before we agreed to take him.

That’s when we got a cat and put all this dog business behind us. Then my damned sister had to go and get a toy dog. This Maltese is the runt of her litter and weighs about three pounds. She is a tiny thing. They take her everywhere and dress her up. It’s like a living, breathing doll. You can see why my 7-year-old is frothing at the mouth for one of her own.

We’ve been back on the dog search. This time we searched for toy dogs using various breed selectors on the Internet. There are some really cute and cuddlies out there my friends: Maltese, Bichon, Yorkshire Terriers, Havanese, Japanese Chin and the like. What is a fella to do? Some of these dogs are really – really – expensive. Then you run into the problems of puppy mills and bad breeders and that kind of stuff. Some folks, like my buds Paul and Linda, prefer to get animals from sources other than breeders. Me, I’ve had my fill of the Division of Family Services (DFS) for dogs. Not had good luck there.

Then we found the right little guy. This Bishonki, a mixture of a Bishon and a Yorki, he is the runt of the litter weighing in at a whopping two pounds. He is adorable and a bit spunky. We went to the breeder’s home and met him and his parents. He and all the other dogs are well cared for. Despite the fact that there are two dozen or so dogs in the home, it did not smell of dog. I don’t know how, but it did not (and I have a pretty sensitive sniffer.)

He turned and spun, chewed and played then went to sleep in my baby’s lap. The best part of it all, the thing that really makes us feel sure, is that the breeder has offered to help train us in dog speak and to teach us how to help raise a good citizen-dog. She even demonstrated some techniques that night. If we run into problems with him, bad behaviors and such, all it takes is one call and we can send the pup back to her for boot camp to break the bad habit. And I guess we also get our own train-the-trainer boot camp, which is good for new dog owners.

It’s a done deal. We bought him and he is ready to come home. The breeder won’t let him come home until our kitchen remodel is finished. We have food in boxes in the family room so we can eat while the kitchen is being worked on. I can just imagine what a puppy would do with all that food. Hopefully he will come home late next week. All that is left is for us to go to the pet store and make our home puppy-ready.

We’ve been working on names. We’ve decided to let the 7-year-old name him. She did a great job naming the cat. So far she’s come up with several names, Harley being one of them. She came up with that one all on her own, I promise. We’ll see what she comes up with.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Local Blogger Passes Away

I am sorry to report that one of our fellow bloggers has passed away in a motorcycle accident. I didn't really know Dan as I had met him a couple of times at a blogger's meeting, but I'm sure he will be missed by his friends and family.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What Teacher's Make

Stupid Democrats

Leave it to my internet Granny to post the right stuff. I stole this from her. This is why I am a Demublican. Did some Democrats not get the message during the last election? People are tiring of President Bush's tactics and elected some different folks to stand up to his bullying and destruction of the US Constitution and our freedoms. Not small potatoes folks. And yet, we have elected officials who help him trample all over our rights. Why? I don't have the foggiest clue. How hard is it to stand up for what is right?

Come on! Why does the Attorney General need to be able to spy on Americans WITHOUT a warrant from the FISA court? Does that really sound like a good idea? What's so hard about getting a warrant from the FISA court?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Get On The Bus

We got a postcard in the mail today. My daughter now qualifies to ride the bus to school. Wow. She will be excited about that, although I don't know if we will do it or not.

Bullet Proof Backpack

School stabbings and shootings are all the fear these days and manufacturers are responding in kind. MJ Safety Solutions has created the Ballistic Bookbag, which provides level II ballistic protection, similar to most types of body armor, according to the website.

Amazingly, this backpack could have saved 97% of those who died, boosts the site. They even offer stats on the numbers of people killed and injured since 1999. What is the price of your child's life? A meager $175. What kind of mother would you be if you didn't buy it?

They state that response is so high that there are problems with the online checkout process. You can call them directly to purchase yours.

Kitchen Remodel: Day 10

Some kind of busy bees working in the house today. I have carpenters and electricians crawling the place. I can't hear myself think. I think I'm going to go get my school supplies and run errands.

They are putting up cabinets, laying some underlayment installing lights and plugs and all kinds of other stuff.

The Modern Church

I was reading Roger Ray’s article in yesterday’s paper (online edition) about the relevance of today’s church. My wife sent it to me thinking it would make a good blog post. She was right, as always. She acts as my editor in that capacity, by suggesting articles from which I can write my own thoughts.

Anyway, I read the article and wasn’t sure what to think, so I slept on it. Ray’s message is that the church should be taking on issues such as: poverty, injustice, and war rather than a more self-indulgent, egocentric worship service. We Christians should, in his view (if I understood it properly), be focusing on others more than ourselves.

“…spirituality which does not respond directly to the message of concern for the poor and liberation of the oppressed is little more than idolatry, fine for people whose real interests are narcissistic anyway but not much to offer to anyone who is sincerely seeking a relationship with the Divine.”

This is not a liberal viewpoint. In fact, I have heard Republicans and Libertarians state that it is the church that should be supporting the poor and working toward eliminating our ills, rather than the government. It is the church’s responsibility to come up with and sustain social programming to help the underprivileged rather than the government through taxation.

Although I do not think that a church should engaged exclusively in social programming, I do think that money is better spent on helping those listed in the Beattitudes rather than in building mega churches with gymnasiums and coffee bars. That is not to say that a church should not build or repair, but the building should never be the emphasis or the goal of the church. To build for the sake of building bigger is unnecessary and may not be what Christ intended. Putting on a fireworks show, the second one in the community, should take a back seat to serving the poor, the downtrodden and the sick.

Where did our churches get lost in all of that? They have become so consumed with looking good that they have lost their way. Some churches, many churches, have become consumed with bigness as a way to prove that they are spiritual and close to God, that they are the true path and that something good must be going on in order for God to grant them such bigness. Maybe it has nothing to do with God.

If your church is not engaged in the community by helping the poor and downtrodden, then maybe, and I say maybe, your church has lost its way. That can always be fixed. I grew up in a Baptist church that did nothing for anyone. We did not work with any community agency to help feed or cloth anyone or provide for the well being of others. True, we did not have much money. It was a mission church with 35-50 members, but that is no excuse. My current church gets it. We are involved in many movements to help others. Too many to list here, in fact.

We also have a capital campaign project right now. It is not that building is bad. Building is not what our church is about. For instance, we are building a new playground. Not a large one, but a useable one; one that is away from the street and safer for the children. Here again, it is not really for the church that we do this. There is a unrelated day care in our church and we partnered to help them serve their children. We will just use it too. That is good use of building money.

Who does your church serve?

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Great Con Experience

(My daughter, Hawk Girl, posing with Spider-Man.
She followed him throughout the weekend, telling
him all about Mary Jane and other Spidey tidbits.)

(Here is a nice shot of the crowd. This is only a small
portion of the convention center.)

Three days of comic book bliss. Let’s see here. How do I write this blog post without boring you to death with my “Aunt Bessie’s vacation to Florida extravaganza?” With 148 photos (60 of which I have posted on my photo web site) and plenty of stories to tell, it’s no easy task. I’ll try to break it up into sections for your reading pleasure.

Understanding Comics
I went to the con for one main reason: discover new comics for use in the classroom. Some of you may know that I have a website for the use of comics in the classroom called THE GRAPHIC CLASSROOM. I want my site to be a resource for teachers, school librarians, and parents who may wish to introduce comics and graphics novels to their students. It’s going quite well, if you’ll pardon me the short horn tooting.

I wanted to meet comic creators – writers, illustrators and publishers – and discover new books that would be perfect for the classroom. I struck gold. I found fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and drama, high quality comics and those that have some work to do. I have to thank my friend, Linda, who works at a print shop. She was able to get me about 50 color business cards with only a two-hour notice. It’s a good thing I had the cards. I think it adds legitimacy to my endeavor and I know they helped me come home with so many media copies of titles, almost more than I could carry. Good thing I thought to bring an empty backpack with me to the con; it came back full.

I spent the whole of Friday and much of Saturday talking with comic creators about the need for high quality comics that can be used in the classroom. Much of today’s comics are not suitable for kids or the classroom. Comic geeks tend to like their girls with big boobs, little clothing and in compromising positions. I got a lot of laughs from some creators when I asked them if they had anything for kids. I know that there is a major untapped market in comics for kids. We just have a lot to do to convince creators to make them, publishers to print them, and parents and schools to accept comics as a legitimate form of literature. I know that it is and so do others, which is why the American Library Association is also promoting comics and graphic novels in libraries.

Not all creators are adult-only minded. Two such creators are Josh Elder (Mail Order Ninja) and Russell Lissau (The Batman Strikes). Both of these guys get it. They understand the importance – the need – for high quality children’s comic literature and both are committed to the endeavor. I have previously reviewed Mail Order Ninja and I highly recommend it. I have not written a review of The Batman Strikes yet (although I have read one issue), but I have two copies on my desk, one of which is signed by Lissau. I was bummed that I didn’t take my Mail Order Ninja books with me to have Elder sign them. He emailed me before the con to tell me he would be there, but I had already left.

(Russell Lissau, left, and Josh Elder, right.)

It takes people like Elder and Lissau to change the children’s literature landscape and I will there with them reviewing and promoting their works in an effort to help our youth read for enjoyment again. It seems that many comic writers begin thinking of all-ages comics when they have children. I can not recall how many times a writer at the con would tell me about the moment they realized that they could not show their work to their own children. That is the point when those creators realize that children and teens are being left out of the comic world. I believe that things are changing rapidly, and that we will see the backing and support for all-ages comics and their use of in the classroom.

The Con
Once you’ve gone to a major comic book convention, you realize that everyone just calls it “the con.” You hear it all the time: “How’s the con going for you so far?” or maybe “Enjoying the con?” I just find that funny, I guess. It was huge. I can’t really describe it except to say that it took me all of Thursday night, Friday and most of Saturday to do what I came to do and see what I needed to see. It was that big. From what I understand, the Chicago con is a garage sale compared to the con in San Diego, Ca. I can’t imagine it. This was bigger than a football field and full of thousands of people buying and selling comics, toys, movies, games, posters, stickers, and other pop culture stuff. There were comic creators on hand to sign things and movie stars as well. Actor Michael Madsen (Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs) was there signing autographs. Lou Ferrigno from The Incredible Hulk tv show was also there. He signed an educational Hulk poster for my future classroom.

Once The Goals Were Met
After my initial job of making contacts with creators, I was free to play. I was on the hunt for some comics that I had previously been unable to find. I found out about The Lone Ranger comic with issue 5. So I was missing the first four and they are a bit hard to find. You never know about a con. You might find what you want and you might not. If you do find it, you may discover that it is expensive. That is how it is with The Lone Ranger #1. I found it for $30, $15, $10 and finally, after looking long and hard, I found it for $4. I snatched that puppy up quick. I also found the other three (issues 2,3 and 4) so I was a happy man.

I also went with the intention of finding some copies of Texas Strangers (1-3) and White Picket Fences (issues 1-3) for the classroom. I’ve heard a lot about both of these titles and I have been anxious to get my hands on them. Mission accomplished. I was also lucky to get a sketchbook of the much anticipated, The Mice Templar by Bryan Glass and Michael Oeming. The big surprise find for me was a signed copy of the George R. R. Martin piece, The Hedge Knight. Martin is one of my favorite prose writers. His ability to craft an emotional and engaging piece of fiction is a thing of beauty. His novella, The Hedge Knight, was turned into a comic by Image. This find was for me, rather than the classroom, and I almost passed it up until my wife spoke up and told me to buy it. I’m glad she said so and I’m glad I bought it.

The Journey to the Con
Drive or fly? We weren’t sure what to do, but realized that driving would probably be our cheapest alternative, even considering gas prices. Then a friend suggested we take the train. Train? Mass transit. Comfortable. More environmental than driving our own car. Perfect. So we drove to St. Louis (as Springfield doesn’t have an Amtrak station) and caught the train to Chicago. The train going out was a double-decker super liner. There was lots of room between seats, a foot rest, and plenty of room to fully recline and not bother the person behind you. It was comfortable. There was a dining car and a lounging car with seats and tables. The train coming back was less comfy but better than an airplane. No dining or lounge car, but it was fine. Best of all, I didn’t have to drive in Chicago. I must admit to you all that big city driving makes me a bit nervous. I don’t like it all. I don’t mind it if I am following someone else, but I hate to go it alone. So this was a nice alternative.

(Wife and daughter in the dining car of the train.)

The wife and daughter really loved the train ride. We played cards in the lounge car, got up and walked around, had a convenient restroom, and read too. Well, they read. I get motion sickness so I stuck to the iPod. It was a fine time and I would travel by train again. I see what folks talk about when they travel abroad. Trains really are the way to go. I don’t see why our nation is so reluctant.

The Cab Ride and Chicago-style Pizza
We’ve all heard cabbie jokes, but never having been in New York or taken a cab in a huge city, it made little sense. The taxi driver that picked us up at the train station was a lunatic. This guy had people honking at him from pick-up at the Amtrak station all the way to the hotel, a 35-minute taxi ride of terror. This nut job, I swear to you, drove on the shoulder of the 5-lane expressway. People got in this guys way, he went around them despite the rush hour traffic. Cutting people off, nearly running them off the road, nothing was off limits to this guy. I was convinced we were going to get in a wreck. I don’t really see how we didn’t.

I thought if I made conversation with him, he might calm down. It didn’t work, but the conversation was interesting enough. We were in Chicago. We wanted to try an authentic Chicago-style pizza pie. So we asked him. Always ask a local about the best little hole to eat in. He suggested this little Italian pizzeria. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Dominos. I kid you not. The cab driver suggested Dominos Pizza as the best Chicago-style pizza. I quit talking with him after that and just prayed that we would not get in a wreck.

We ended up asking the concierge where to eat pizza. It was yum. We ordered a large pizza with sausage, hamburger and pepperoni, and a small cheese for the little one, and a salad. That was nearly $50 by the way. Everything in Chicago was expensive, but I’ll get to that later. That was way too much pizza, even for us. Three days later, we were still eating on it and we never actually finished it. I had no idea how thick these pizzas were.

(This was the small pizza!)

The Prices

I promised to talk about the prices. Holy cow! I had no idea. Our hotel was connected to the convention center and the whole complex was close to O’Hare, so the prices were outrageous. A can of coke in our mini-bar was $4 a pop. A package of M&M’s was $3.50. That’s to be expected. The food at the convention wasn’t really much better. We did finally find a restaurant close by that was a basic American grill – $21 for plenty of breakfast for the three of us and it was much better than the hotel restaurant, called O’h. At first we thought it was called that because of the proximity to the airport. It’s because it was Oh so freaking expensive. The breakfast buffet was $17.50 and they didn’t even have biscuits and gravy! The prime rib dinner at night was $35. Needless to say, we were glad to find the other diner so we could avoid O’h.

This vacation contained a lot of firsts for my daughter. I love documenting those. It’s so much fun to see a child experience the wonderful aspects of the world. She had a good time and asked me if we could come back next year. I love it that my daughter loves comics. It’s something else we can share together. We read comics together all the time.

We thought ahead and knew that she could get bored, what with all the shopping and standing. So my wife packed my daughter’s Hawk Girl Halloween costume. Boy, am I glad we had that thing. Once she donned her HG costume, she was the center of attention, which is here she likes to be. We couldn’t walk anywhere without being stopped for a picture. She did her share of picture asking too. She nearly stalked Spider-Man at the convention. He finally figured out that she loved him and he would pick her up and talk with her and the like. She talked to him about Mary Jane and how she loved him. She even told him that she knew he was really Peter Parker, but she did it quietly because she knew his identity needed to remain secret.

We talked a lot about costumes and she mentioned that she thought some folks thought she was the real Hawk Girl. Deep down inside, she knew that he wasn’t really Spider-Man, but part of her wanted to believe he was. Fine with me. That is the beauty of the child’s imagination so I don’t mind indulging her. It will not last forever. The world will school that imagination out of her soon enough.

The End
It was a worthwhile trip for me and should aid me not only with my website, but with my master’s thesis as well. Ultimately, this entire endeavor will help mold me into a better teacher. For that, I’m glad to pay the high prices. Besides, it is all kinds of fun.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Kitchen Remodel: Day 2

The work has begun and I have just gotten a taste of what it is like to live without a kitchen. I don't know if I can do this for a month. So far things are going well and progressing. A few glitches here and there but nothing we can't handle. I'll post a few pics later and I will post them all on my personal photo site when the deal is done.

Wizard World Chicago

I'm off to the biggest comic book convention I've ever been to. Wizard World Chicago is one of the biggies in the comic book world. The biggest, of course, is the Comicon in San Diego. We are making it a real experience by taking the Amtrak out of St. Louis. The family is going with me and we are planning to have a great time. We are taking my daughter's Hawk Girl costume so she can parade around and get all kinds of attention.

I'll blog on the adventure when I get back.

Spineless Twits

Warrantless wiretapping. What a shame. Aren’t we proud of our newly elected Democrats for standing up our rights? What’s that I hear? It is our Constitution being flushed down the toilet. Standing above is King George with his plunger.

The Religious Right

A serious question has been posed to me. I recently posted an article on the last Harry Potter book. I mentioned that there are many members of the religious right who denounce the books as nothing more than promotion of the occult. My friend and fellow blogger, Larry at Simple Thoughts, took issue with my statement and asked me to define the term “religious right”.

Says Larry in the comments section of the blog: “I was serious about finding your definition of the “religious right”. You have made a box that with (sic) ‘the majority of the religious right condemn the book’ and I want to know if I am supposed to get in it or not.” He didn’t pose the question to me by private email. He posted through my comments section, twice. So my response is also public, although I think I would have preferred the whole discussion in private first, seeing that we are friends.


Larry, to quote Dr. Phil: It’s not about you. The story was not about your personal box. I think you are taking personally a statement that had nothing to do with you. You may very well fit into the category of “religious right” or you may not. You asked me if you are “supposed to get in it or not.” I’m not exactly sure that I am the one to decide if the label of “religious right” or “Christian right” is the label into which you fall. It could be that some of your views do, indeed, place you into that category. On the other hand some of your beliefs may be counter to the label. It’s really up to you to opt into the category of “religious right” or not. If your beliefs happen to place you there, then you should embrace the term and the box.

I stand by my statement that most of the members of the religious right see Harry Potter as a way to induct Americans, through its children, into the occult. Take notice here. I did not say “all”. A quick Google search will result in tons of articles on the evilness of Harry Potter. Watch the religious programs on Sunday morning. Pat Robertson, Jim Hagee, Jerry Faldwell, et. al have denounced Potter as the work of the devil. The religious right has had such an effect, that most elementary teachers do not read Harry Potter books aloud to their classrooms. It is not the liberal Christians and it is not the un-churched who have the problems with Harry Potter. Who is left?

Here is a partial list of criteria that one might use to determine if he or she is indeed a member of the religious right. This is not the DSM-IV. There are no “x out of x numbers” here to officially put someone into the religious right movement. It is a subjective term.

You Might Be a Member of the Religious Right

If you are a Christian and you believe the Harry Potter books are the spawn of Satan … you might be a part of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you think God directed the US to fight the war in Iraq … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and support the Nation of Israel … you might be a member of the religious right.

If are a Christian and you oppose homosexuals having same rights under the law as heterosexual couples … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you do not support stem cell research … you might be a member of the religious right.

If your pastor ever supported the election or re-election of George W. Bush from the pulpit (either directly or indirectly) … you might be a member of the religious right. (True liberal Christians would never use the pulpit to endorse or oppose any political candidate.)

If you are a Christian and you think Republicans are God’s chosen party … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you think sex education in schools promotes teen sex … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you think that liberals love killing babies … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you believe that liberals want to teach 5-year-olds to have sex … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you believe that a middle school dance is evil because of the “sinful gyrations of the woman’s bosom” … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you believe that all Hispanics are illegal immigrants … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you are a Christian and you oppose the “mixing of the breeds” (interracial marriage) … you might be a member of the religious right.

If you watch Pat Robertson, Jerry Faldwell, or Jim Hagee and buy their books or send them money … then you might be a member of the religious right.

If you believe Tinky Winky is gay … you might be a member of the religious right.

So there we are. I have some questions for you. Do you oppose the Harry Potter books? Are you a member of the religious right? Rather than asking me where you fall, why don’t you tell all of us if you meet this label. For an official definition, I point you to Wikipedia to look up both “religious right” and “Christian right”. If you really want me to try and label you, Larry, I will do so only in person.

I will tell you that I am a liberal Christian. Politically, I consider myself a Demublican because I have some beliefs that are both liberal and conservative. For instance, I am a gun owner and securely fall into the category of “from my cold dead hands” perspective. I lean toward the liberal side more than I lean toward the conservative. I think most people that know me, consider me a liberal. I am fine with that label even though I know that is not a perfect fit. You see, I tend not to support abortion, although I am not black and white about it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Truth Haters

Some bloggers really get the hate mail. I’m lucky that I haven’t really gotten any thus far, and I am not opening an invitation either. The closest I have come is when the Springfield News-Leader voted this blog (and all other anonymous blogs) not worth reading.

The Voice of Truth, a new member of the local blogosphere, has had his share during his short time. He has taken some heat because he does not equate Christianity with the Republican party. Andy (whoever that is) called VoT “worthless”. Apparently if you are not a Republican, according to Andy, then you are not a real Christian and also do not stand up for what you think is right. Interesting, because that seems to be exactly what VoT is doing by virtue of having a blog and promoting his ideas, but that would involve logical thinking.

VoT is not the only one who has taken heat by not always being a Republican. I think my friend, Larry of Simple Thoughts can relate. He’s had folks follow him after he made comments on another blog. He’s had his own special hater with a hard-on. People are crazy as Hell these days.

Now Larry and I debate often and we have a great time with it. Sometimes we get after it and sometimes we just gouge each other, but it is not hate filled. Usually it is because Larry is confused about the definitions of words and labels! Larry is more conservative and I am more liberal, but we are both Christians and we get along fine. So it amazes me when folks can’t just debate and disagree with civility and grace.

I think VoT is taking it all in stride, which is a good thing. He knows that there are members of the right and left that will not like him because he doesn’t condemn either one. The price you pay for thinking on your own.

By the way, I’ve yet to meet a liberal, any liberal, who wants to teach 5-year-olds to have sex. That Andy guy is crazy for saying such a thing. As someone who believes in tolerance, I accept his right to believe and say what he wants, even if he is nuttier than a hoot owl. Of course I’m just having fun with this Andy person. My guess, and I don’t know him so I can’t say for sure, is that he doesn’t really understand what most Christian liberals believe. Maybe there are not any around him or maybe he does not care to understand the real viewpoints of Christian liberals?

Blog away, says I. Write what you think and add to the civil dialogue. You might even have fun. For every hater, there are twice as many friends.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Kitchen Remodel: 2 Days Before

We are spending the afternoon cleaning out our cupboards. It is a larger job than I anticipated and after working on it for a while I snuck off to blog. Our first problem is that we do not have enough boxes. The second problem is that we do not have enough garage space to store all this stuff while the kitchen is being remodeled. Having more stuff than you need is a good problem to have considering all those who go without, but it is still a pain.

The contractor starts on the kitchen/dining remodel on Tuesday. The cabinets will be delivered on Thursday or Friday. It is a done deal. The contractor thinks it will take 3-4 weeks, so we will be storing food in boxes and eating on paper plates for a while.

Sensationalism Leads To Stupidity and Death

The word on the street is that the man who stole a sport utility vehicle in Phoenix may be charged with the deaths of the television crews who died covering the event when their helicopters collided. The big debate is whether or not he should be charged with felony murder.

We discussed this event from a Christian perspective in our Sunday school class this morning. It was quite interesting. I can’t help but wonder, – can’t keep from thinking about – the newsmongers themselves. It was a car theft, not a murderer on the run. Was it really news to begin with, enough to warrant having news choppers sending in a live feed? It was a car theft in Phoenix, Arizona! I mean a car being stolen in Bois D’Arc is one thing. That will make the news.

They should have never been there in the first place. It was not news. It was nothing more than ambulance chasing for the purpose of sensationalism. It had nothing to do with news. Those reporters and photographers sacrificed their lives to cover a car theft: tragic and sickening. I am glad that I am no longer in the business.

More About Harry Potter

Harry Potter is not considered an abomination by all who practice the Christian faith. This morning our assistant minister mentioned in service that she got the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book. She was excited to read it, but hadn't had a chance yet. I thought it deserved mentioning considering how vehemently the majority of the religious right condemn the book. Of course our church has moved on from the middle ages. We even have a female minister [gasp!]

Friday, August 03, 2007

Nancy DisGrace

I've been out of pocket for almost a week and I am coming to this news event a bit late. The bridge collapse in Minnesota is tragic and yet our media is up to scrounging news before results come in. I am referring to the shameful excuse of a television show host known as Nancy Grace. Last night here headlines were asking “Who Is To Blame?” I’m sure she will carry her banner of hate and destruction for at least two weeks (as she always does).

As if there is some pressing need to jump to conclusions and lay blame before we even have the information. DisGrace is the queen of this, but the mainstream media in general is so good at this.


I’m really not a hard-core metal rocker or anything like that, but I manage to make my way to some major metal concerts and motorcycle rallies. The bike things are by choice but the concerts have more to do with my cousin. I just got back from the biggest metal concert in the nation, OZZFEST. It was a crazy time. Think of thousands of toothless head bangers and drunk rockers in black leather, and high hardcore hillbillies. Actually that description works pretty well for either the concert or the biker rallies, but in this case I am talking about Ozzy Osbourne’s well known metal tour.

There were bands galore on two stages and the music rocked for a little over 12 hours. There we were –Austin, Evan and I – head banging, and moshing with the best of them. Austin is my 16-year-old cousin and I have taken him to concerts since he was about 14. We’ve seen Gwar, Rob Zombie and Anthrax, 3 Inches of Blood, Ozzy and all kinds of bands. This makes our third concert together and I’m sure it won’t be our last.

This was the first time that I have taken another minor with us. Austin’s long time friend, Evan (also 16-years-old) went with us. I was a bit hesitant of taking him because I hadn’t met Evan before. Normally I would insist on meeting the kid first. In this case, they have been friends for years and Austin’s parents vouched for him. Both he and Austin are great and I would take either one of them anywhere without worrying about them. They have good heads on their shoulders, which explains why they are both allowed to go to such things.

Austin and Evan with their favorite band, 3 Inches of Blood.

This concert was a hard one this year. Seeing how I am a full time student and am remodeling my kitchen, I don’t have any money just floating around. But the boys carried their own weight. They both work and have money. Cousins Jennifer and Tim got us the hotel room, which just happened to be 20 minutes from the concert. I hate driving in large cities. I’ve grew up in a small town and live in Springfield, so I’m not used to driving in the big city. Having the hotel so close was very handy and much appreciated. We owe Jennifer and Tim big time.

As for the concert itself, Ozzy arranged for the tickets to be free this year. We paid for parking ($20), food (a hot dog was $5), t-shirts ($30), and water ($4 for a 12-ounce bottle). You couldn’t take hardly anything in the venue with you. No backpacks, no food, no chairs, no towels, no CD’s to be signed, nothing really. They did allow each of us one bottle of water sans the cap and allowed me to bring my digital camera, my hat and sunscreen.

There were two stages. The second stage held the majority of the bands. It was a concrete pad with a stage. So we had no place to sit from noon to 5 pm. We just hung out and listened to the bands play. Two hours of which was in the pouring rain. The bands didn’t stop and we didn’t either. Just stuck it out and squished around the rest of the day. We did luck out. The main stage had seats, but they were reserved. Our free tickets were for the lawn, which was on a major slant.

This is a shot of the crowd at the main stage.

We found a seat and quickly figured out that sitting was not going to be an option either. There were going to be too many on the lawn. Some guys were walking around selling CD’s for the main stage bands. For a cool 20 bones, you could get an upgrade to the seats and a CD of your choice. I cajoled the salesman to give us three tickets and we had great seats really close to the stage. I got a Lamb of God CD to boot.

I will warn you. If you ever go to a concert be sure and take earplugs with you. You will need them. Having gone to other concerts with Austin I knew this. Luckly, I bought a whole pack of them because our first set in the beginning got really wet and nasty. We got seats in front of the speakers and had a ball. I was glad to sit. My dogs were barking. To be honest, when our bands were playing the main stage we didn’t sit anyway. It was too fun to get up and head bang and show are metal horns.

If you’ve ever seen the show, The Osbournes, you may be wondering if Ozzy himself actually made the venue. Yep. He was the headliner and the crowd went nuts when he hit the stage. He was amazingly spry.

It made their day. The boys loved the bands and were so excited to get to go. Austin couldn’t quit talking about getting to meet and talk to his favorite band, 3 Inches of Blood. We got his picture with the band and autographs. Nothing cooler than that. It was worth it: the rain, the high prices, the hours of standing.

Here is a list of the bands that were there:

3 Inches of Blood
Circus Diablo
The Showdown
In This Moment (female lead screamer)

Ozzy Osbourne
Lamb of God
Static X
Lordi (who should have never been a main stage band)