Monthly Archives: February 2015

Super Fan

A memory of my mom from one of my cousins.


I don’t have a long story, but several good memories.

Aunt Elaine (Uncle Bill too when time allowed) has taken time to be one of the many “Number 1 fans” who was there for my basketball games in high school and for many of my kids’ activities throughout their high school years and even college.

My dad knew how to yell at games (mom would have, but dad was probably shushing her), but by far the loudest fan I had at several basketball games was my Aunt Elaine.  You would have thought that she wrote the book on basketball and all of the rules too!  She always seemed to know the rules better than the officials did!!

My kids have been fortunate to not only have their grandparents attending their activities, but their Great Aunt Elaine too.  She’s taken time to attend musicals, football games, basketball games, track meets, the state track meet, and most recently KSU football games to watch the marching band (I guess she’s there for the football team too).  Elaine & Bill’s home has also been a great place for breaks on trips to Manhattan and a wonderful bed & breakfast for trips to Manhattan and life guard training too!  Needless to say, you’ve touched our lives in many ways Aunt Elaine.

Thanks for the love, laughter and unending advice you’ve provided us over the years.

Happy Birthday!!!!

Nixon Now

nixon now

It’s interesting how all this political drama can be going on all around you, and you have no idea what’s happening, just because you happen to be in the first grade. I was 9 when the U.S. fled Vietnam, the war that was famously brought into our living rooms. And I have no memory of it at all. And as far as Nixon goes, and all the hoopla, no memory.

I do remember ordering a poster of President Ford from a scholastic book order in second grade. Yeah, I was that kid. And I remember having a brief discussion about the Ford-Carter election with my babysitter. My well reasoned point–I don’t know why they don’t just stay with the president we’ve already got. My baby sitter agreed.

My first Nixon memories are of Saturday Night Live skits that I didn’t really get. Dan Aykroyd’s Nixon pretending the whole coverup was just he and Halderman playing a joke for the microphones. And was there a weird one where Nixon ended up on his knees with one of is aides praying for help while the painting of Eisenhower gave him the stink eye? Did I just make that up? (Maybe the Eisenhower painting part came from Porky’s.)

[After some research, it was a portrait of Lincoln (“You’re lucky; they just shot you.”), and it was Kissinger forced to his knees to pray with Nixon. — Rolling Stone’s 50 greatest SNL sketches of all time.]

The Dark Parts of Our Stories

This is from about three years ago.  I know today’s not Palm Sunday.  But in my experience we have dark times throughout the year.


Palm Sunday.  Jesus rides in to Jerusalem and is honored as a king

As we know how the story ends, it is easy for us to celebrate with the crowds today, call this coming Friday “Good,” and then meet again next week for the biggest celebration on the church calendar.  But we miss key parts of the story when we do that, the dark parts.

I want to talk real briefly about where we would be without those dark parts in our own lives, and about a reason it’s important that Christ went through those very bad times.

First, imagine life without the darkest parts.  What if some of our favorite stories were told that way?  Dorothy lands in Oz, follows the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where without incident she rides the balloon to Kansas.  Bruce Wayne and his parents enjoy a night out.  And he grows up to be a fairly well adjusted millionaire.  Uncle Billy realizes what he did with the money, and George Bailey never wishes he was never born, and everyone has a merry Christmas.

What about the real stories of our lives.  It’s nice to imagine them without the hard times we faced, death, oppression, and abandonment.  Where would I be without heartbreak and disappointment?  What if the girls I pursued in high school and college had reciprocated my feelings? What would I be doing now if my first real job as news manager at a small Kansas radio station would have been all that I dreamed rather than the depressing and discouraging situation that it was?  What if our initial neat and tidy plans for having children went exactly as planned?  It’s easy to wish that the difficult parts of our lives never happened.  But the difficult parts happen all the time, and now that we know how these stories end, would we give them up?

Finally, it’s important to remember the dark parts of this wonderful week, not just because we know how the story ends, but because we still experience darkness.

And it’s important to remember that we worship a god who is with us in the darkness, a god who has suffered, and continues to suffer with us.  Where is god when awful things happen?  He’s right there, in the hospitals, on the battlefields, in the streets, in the homes of scared and hungry children.  Just as he was 2000 years ago, with the sick, the hungry, the outcast, being left by his friends, beaten, and hung up on a cross as an example to others who not only side with the losers, but dare to stand up with them against those who oppress.

So as we prepare to remember our lord’s last supper, before he hurt, suffered, and died, it’s nice to know the end of the story.  But sometimes we don’t.  And when we’re hurting, our god is Immanuel.  He is with us.


Rot & Ruin

rot and ruin

I’ve since read the other three books, but here’s what I thought at the time, of the first one.

I really liked this book. There were a lot of interesting things going on out in the rot n ruin (zombie infested part of North America) that I hope are explored in the other books. After all that interesting world building, good character development, and fast moving story, I was a bit disappointed with the standard “myth of redemptive violence” action movie ending that we get. I know it’s fun and satisfying to see the bad guy really get it, but it’s also easy and not challenging to either the characters or the readers. So just four stars. That’s the only improvement I hope to see when I read the next two books.

Treadmill Movies 1-9


I’ve been teased by some of my friends about my treadmill movies: they’re weird, what in the world are you watching, like that. After watching the most recent of these, The Square, my thought is that (some of) these weird movies are the movies that people should be watching.

It reminds me of when I was on the Kaleidoscope Film Committee at Kansas State. We were the ones who brought the weird and political movies to the student union. I was in the weird/campy camp, not the political camp. This was the mid/late 80s and there were some fellow travelers, ie communists, on the committee. I remember one specific meeting where we were to bring our suggestions for the movies to show the next semester. I suggested a John Waters scratch and sniff movie, or a 3D 50s monster movie, or something like that. One of the communist girls, older, brooding, attractive in a mysterious way, beret, you know, the whole package,who had just suggested Nicaragua No Pasaran looked down her nose and through her dark long hair at me and reminded me that we were not the Feature Film Committee. Such disdain in her voice. Enough that even I noticed it.

Then I hear the voice of the Kaleidoscope adviser (some professor) chastising this communist girl who had gone from mysterious to bitch in one comment. “Now, we’re here to present all kinds of movies.” I think someone then said, or should have said, can’t we join together to look down on the Feature Film Committee.

Well, now I get where that lovely communist was coming from. These “weird” movies I’m watching, many of them at least, are about something that matters, about things that are going on in the world that actually affect real people. Meanwhile, most of us sit at the front of the train (Snow Piercer reference) and plug in the The Creature from the Black Lagoon, or another explosion movie or fighting robot movie or fart comedy.

I’m sure it’s been said before, or something like it, that there’s good art and there’s art, the goal of which is to do good. There are both kinds of films on my weird list, and the best of them are good art whose goal is to do good. Or even great art trying to do good, trying to make a difference, trying to encourage us to be better people. If you’re not sure where to start, start somewhere near the top of this list of my first 9 treadmill movies. I’ve tried to organize them using the Venn diagram described above as a guide, and included my twitter length reviews.

Great art trying to do good

The Square. Doc re recent Egyptian revolutions that should be shown in classes teaching the American revolution. We don’t appreciate our lot

Man on Wire. “Life should be lived on the edge of life- every year, every idea as a true challenge.” Can you imagine being there. Doing that.

Waste Land. Doc shows art is amazing because people are amazing. Circumstances have little to do with how amazing and happy. A joy. See it.

 Good art trying to do good

Poetry. To make poetry you have to look at things closely. More questions raised than answers given, but in the right way. Poetry=Life?

Snow Piercer. Hunger games for adults? Is that humanity’s only hope? Not to take over the system, but destroy it and start from scratch.

Good art trying to do good if promoting Stalin’s Soviet Union is a good thing

Battleship Potemkin, 1925. Silent soviet propaganda. Civil disobedience scene on the steps is amazingly shot, moving, still too relevant.

Good art

All About Eve. 1950. Betty Davis at her Betty Davisest. Hey there’s Marylin. Smart dialogue holds up after 65 years. A bit too long in the end.

The Taste of Others. French rom-com about snobbery, reverse snobbery; high, middle, & low brow. I thought it was good. Disagree? No taste.

Art trying to do good (the only one so far I didn’t really care for)

The Conformist, 1970. Italian expressionist fascist thriller. Interesting/beautiful moments. I think the whole is less than the sum of its parts.


Real Cool Chick


What a cool little button from the 40s or 50s. This button inspires this profound advice. Surround yourself with cool chicks (and cool cats). Of course MaryEllen is the coolest, but beyond that, I’m very fortunate that I get to hang with cool people most of the time. Some of that is by design, and some of that is just lucky. But I know that cool folks make life better.

Intention of Wholeness

More on mom.  I hope people write things like this about me one day.  Which probably means I need to start being this way.  This one from a son of my parents’ old friends.


I have a lot of great memory’s of your mother.  We have shared some great laughs but the memories I keep are the ones that moved me.

She was always offering a hug when I saw her.  Even in the teen years when the last thing an adolescent boy wanted was a hug, but she knew it was the greatest thing I needed.  And if anyone was around, she would tell them how long she’d known me and how I love liver.  And to this day that same hug is always available.

Now I like to believe these hugs are just for me, but I have seen the world receive these as well.  Living 4 houses from the high school I have seen her interact with other kids as well and with as much intention.  One day I watched a kid walking south from the high school before school was out.  Obviously he had called it a day.  I saw Elaine pull over and talk to him.  Soon he was in the car and she was pulling a u-turn back to the school.

There is always an intention of wholeness coming from your mom.  How it occurs to the rest of the world is up to the world, but those of us that have received it are blessed.

Thank you

a Dios



Messed Up Church Camp


I was going to share a nice church camp story (I have a lot), but I thought of this one as I was sharing a couple clips of Jesus Christ Superstar with the kids. This was at a big camp in Kansas City. They had motorbikes, horses, and a water slide. But they said things like this–I believe there is a special place in hell for pastors who puff on their pipes and say that Jesus Christ Superstar was a moving experience for them. Yeah. The guy really said that. To teenagers. He condemned to hell pipe smoking pastors who liked a movie that he didn’t like. I had a great time at that camp. Went with a bunch of my friends. But looking back, it was pretty messed up.

Friend Carrie: It was really messed up. Really, really.

Brother Mike: I don’t know if I would agree with the term “messed up”. I mean, ” a special place in hell” may be a little strong, but let’s face it, JCS was no Evita or Phantom.

Happy 60th B-Day



Aren’t kids funny.  I mean, aren’t they just hilarious.

When you’re old like me (not 60 yet), and working with kids, or even I think if you’re just a few years older than the kids you are teaching, I think it’s common to feel that you are in a tricky balancing act. We need, it seems, to be a little hip, a little relevant, in order to for the kids to relate to us.  We also need, more importantly, to keep a separation between us and the kids, to maintain our role as authority figure and in charge.

The secret that I think all successful teachers figure out, some sooner, some later, is that we don’t have to stay hip at all.  If you treat your students with respect and expect them to treat you the same, the classroom with be a pleasant place, kids will like you, and just by being around them, you’ll stay more hip that most adults your age.  But not so hip the kids won’t laugh at you attempts to be cool.  And not so hip that the kids won’t overestimate your age, on purpose or as a joke, by about 20 years.

You don’t have to be down with the street for your high school kids to want to make you a birthday card.  You feel me? Boyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!