Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Shame of a State

I'm breaking blog silence for one reason, and one reason alone, and that's to set the record straight. Let me go on the record to say that I'm currently laying out a "season" of blog posts which should include at least one post per week starting in late September. This post is not part of that season. You might call it a preseason teaser. I just call it venting.

Before I go much further it would behoof me to mention that I have been a Colts fan long before the Manning Era. Watching the Colts lose basically sums up my childhood. Not so in recent years. There has been a lot of good come from that, but also some bad...allow me to elaborate if I may.

There seems to be a general opinion in the rest of the league that the Colts are nothing without Manning. It would seem that former coach Dungy even shares this view. I would disagree.

There also seems to be an attitude among many - some might call recent - Colts fans that Manning is the singular reason for the Colts success in recent years. Well again, kind sir (or madam), I respectfully, yet heartily, disagree.

Both are similar views held by different people. The league is eager to write the Colts off, while these newby fans are ready to jump ship and root for a different team while Manning sits out. Either way, I think it stinks.

That's probably because, as I write this, the stench of defeat is still fresh in my nostrils following the dejecting loss in our season opener against Houston on September 11, 2011. While the loss was painful, it wasn't entirely unexpected. Yet some people - many fans included - are just a little too quick to assume the worst.

Reading some of the chatter on Facebook during the game, it occurred to me that most people suffer from a condition that I commonly refer to as not knowing what they're talking about. Admittedly, I may be one of those people at any given moment, but since this is my blog I'll proceed with the assumption I'm not one of those people.

Did anyone really expect a new backup quarterback to come in and offer a Manning-like performance? If you were even expecting a win I would like to say you were being a little foolish, but that would just sound rude...but true. Think about this:

  1. It's a well-documented fact that the Colt's offense is one of the most complicated offenses in the league. In fact, the whole system is designed around Manning's style of play.
  2. The Colts signed their new backup for Manning, Kerry Collins, just a little over two weeks ago. Now, Collins is no Manning...but he is a veteran player who knows how to win games. He took Carolina to the NFC championship, New York Giants to the Super Bowl, and led division rivals Tennessee to a 13-3 season just a few years ago. Having said all that, two weeks isn't nearly enough time to learn all the plays, let alone develop a familiarity with his teammates.
  3. The Colts have reduced their playbook by two-thirds to make it easier for Collins to learn the system. So basically, they went into the game with only a third of their plays ready to go. 
When you take all those things into consideration, it seems more realistic to simply hope the Colts come out and show some signs of progress...maybe demonstrate some positive building blocks to set them up for the rest of the season. What we discovered, however, is that the Colts have a LOT of work to do if they're going to have another winning season. Coming into this game, I had assumed most of the work would have been needed in the offense. Having watched the game, however, it seems the offense was the best thing going for the Colts...and it obviously wasn't great. Think about this:
  1. Collins connected on more than half his pass attempts, grabbing almost 200 yards, including one TD and no picks. That may not be a pro-bowl performance, but it's not too shabby...especially considering how little time he's had to work with the team. 
  2. Fourteen of the thirty-four points for Houston came from Indy fumbles, one of which was caused by a blindside sack on Collins that the offensive line allowed. The other was Collins' fault...chalk it up to new guy jitters. 
  3. Pass protection was a major issue...when Collins was getting time, he was completing passes. Even Manning, however, struggles to make passes when the pocket collapses around him.
  4. Another seven points were allowed against the Colts on a kick return. Special teams have been a long-time issue for the Colts.
  5. Another thirteen points were allowed simply because the Colts couldn't stop the Houston offense in the first half. Stopping the run has plagued the Colts defense for several years, but pass coverage was also a problem in the opener. 
Here's where I'm coming from: Manning or no Manning, I want to see the Colts succeed. So I'm officially pulling for Kerry Collins!

Does that mean I'm turning my back on our beloved quarterback in his greatest hour of need? Of course not! How dare you insinuate such sacrilege! But I want to teach the rest of the league that the Colts are a great football team, even if Manning has to sit out a season. For that to happen, the Colts need to be successful without him. And for the Colts to be successful, that means Collins has to be successful. If Collins succeeds, then the city of Indianapolis succeeds. And if the city of Indianapolis succeeds, then Peyton Manning succeeds. And if Peyton Manning succeeds, then all is right in the world once again. And then maybe...just maybe...the critics will be silenced once and for all.

Now, some will say that my views about Mr. Collins may have been skewed due to some personal conflicts of interest. Did I have a personal encounter with Kerry Collins that may or may not have inspired such sudden fondness? Maybe...more on that later. 

But if I could offer a few positive notes to close:
  1. The Colts held the Texans scoreless in the second half, and even posted a touchdown of their own.
  2. The Steelers lost to the Ravens today, 35-7, and they were playing with their starting quarterback. 
I knew I'd say too much, but this far exceeded my expectations.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Highlights

In honor of our day of memorial, I thought I'd offer a repost of some of my favorite posts that honor those who've served our country. Some may make you laugh, others might evoke tears. Still others will seem a complete waste of time. Regardless, I hope you enjoy a stroll through the archives in this special highlight post. May the Force be with say we all.

Band of Brothers
I think by now, this being my twenty-second post, it's fairly common knowledge that my writing tends to be a little cheeky, if you will. Admittedly so... such was the intent. Having embraced that fact, it's with a certain amount of trepidation that I walk into this post. How can I be true to the character of this blog, while simultaneously conveying my utmost respect for the subject matter at hand? Well, let it be known that, while I may insert the usual over-stated dramatic sarcasm here and there, this post is for reals. Read More >

Blackhawk Down
Consider this my second post in a series of three in which I expose the best war movies in the last one thousand years. That's right, a millennium of war movies... most of which being made within the last eighty years. My list, however, only accounts for the last ten years... because those are the years that count. Read More >

The Pacific
This past winter we changed our cable company and took advantage of a promotional package that boasts the best rates... of course, those rates only apply for a year. After that they show up at your front door and demand your firstborn. I've seen it a hundred times.... Anyway, along with this promotional package came a complimentary subscription to HBO. This was about the same time they were just starting to promote The Pacific - their epic follow up to Band of Brothers. Tears were streaming down my face just watching the promos. Read More >

My Brief Life In the Navy
Occasionally, life throws a little curve ball at your face - like, for instance, when the other day my wife dropped a glowing ember of knowledge on my lap that rocked me to the core. As I recall, we were perched at one of the many fine dining establishments we frequent - of course, I'm referring to the food court. And as I'm enjoying my Chick-fil-a, the wife of my youth - so alive and so carefree - whimsically reveals her affinity for a man in uniform - specifically, a man in a Navy uniform. Read More >

Feathers May Be Ruffled Upon Reading
Okay, I have something to say... and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid to say it. Truth is that what I'm about to share very well may offend some people that I deeply respect - friends, colleagues, and even family members. But this is, after all, an opinion post. Am I not entitled to my opinions? Now that I feel completely justified, here it goes. Read More >

If I've said it once, I've said too much.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Sociological Deconstructing of Swearing

A wise man once said, and I paraphrase, "Why blog when you can write a book?" Whoever that wise man was, I heard him...and I listened. Hence the overwhelming neglect to this blog over recent weeks. I'm happy to report, however, that I'm now almost 44,000 words (which translates into roughly 100 pages) into a book I'm writing. You're welcome to read it when it's finished, though I'm sure it isn't any good...just a bunch of nonsense about a really short person who discovers a magic ring, but then gets captured by a bad guy who lives on a huge space station that resembles a small moon, but then gets rescued by a loving Lion, only to discover that the Bad Guy (mentioned earlier) is his father. I'm calling it The Chronicles of the Warlord in the Stars, vol. 1 (due this Christmas).

With that behind us, allow me to delve into what many will consider my most shocking expose of human behavior. The very topic alone would make any white-haired church lady weep for shame. It has to do with swearing. That's right, cursing, as some would call it. Let's just be honest, we've all done it. Sometimes we do it without even knowing it. We stub a toe, break a dish, or drop a baby, and out of our mouths come words of four letters, steeped with stigma and vulgarity.

Let me ask you this: what makes a curse word profane? Who decided the "D" word was a cuss word? Or the "A" word?

What if I came up to you and said the word beshnookah? Would that mean anything to you? Probably not. What if I told you that beshnookah is a foreign word that, when literally translated, means flopper? Would that mean anything to you now? Of course not. Now, what if I told you that the term flopper in that country was synonymous with a certain phrase that involves the "A" word? Now would it mean something? What it would probably mean for a lot of us, unfortunately, is that we'd start calling each other floppers, thinking we'd just gotten away with something.

Here's where I'm going with this. Swearing isn't so much about what I say, it's what you hear. The sin of swearing isn't about the words I say, it's about the offense I cause those who hear me. I can say bloody all I want, and have no concern of offending those around me. As soon as I go to England, however, and use that word, I'm cursing.

So what if we all just decided that the "S" word was an acceptable word? On the other hand, what if we all decided that brownies was a very offensive word? I think we can all agree - no matter what country you may live in - that none of us want to live in that kind of world.

I've said too much.

For the record, let it be known that I choose not to swear on a regular basis, as I've discovered more intelligent words to use.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Motivational Music

Several years ago we ventured into the whole potty training world, and did so with staggering success. How is that, you may ask. I'd love to tell you. It is, in fact, why I brought it up in the first place. Here it is - music. For our German readers, that's musik. Und ich liebe es... es ist gut. And that's about all the German I know. Why was I speaking German again? I have no idea.

Here comes the point - even though we've successfully potty trained two and a half kids (and three dogs), we did face a few challenges along the way. For example, long after our oldest daughters were sleeping in their big girl panties we had a hard time getting them to go potty before bed time. Our second was especially challenging. So to make it a little more interesting, I started singing them the "PeePee Tonight" song. It started as just a simple refrain with a catchy hook that I came up with on the spot. Not only did they start going potty before bedtime, but they would also sing the song to themselves all the time. That's when I realized I had stumbled onto something big.

Years after the fact, I have recorded the PeePee song, along with a first verse, for your pleasure... and for your parenting, should you choose to use it (a small royalty does apply).

Before you listen to the video below, here are a few production notes you may find interesting. The song was recorded entirely on my iPad in an afternoon. In addition to that, no live instruments were used (other than my voice), nor were any pre-recorded loops used. Every track is an original part recorded with virtual instruments. I know... mind blowing. Also, keep in mind that the pictures were added to the video to provide some visual substance. The video was strictly intended to feature the song... so, you know, just listen. I probably should have used uglier children...

I just said too much.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Saturday Morning Episode

This morning we were graced with the presence of a film crew (me and a digital camera) who captured what is quite possibly a typical Saturday morning at the Dunaway house. The resulting docudramedy will move you to both tears and laughter, while simultaneously inspiring you to take a good long look at your own Saturday morning routines. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Humiliation Archives, File #2: Guitar

The BPS (Blog Protective Services) showed up at my door today, and threatened to take OtR away from me. Well I looked them in the eye and said, "You're not taking my baby!" In their defense, I have been more than a little negligent over the past couple of weeks. But it's not my fault... it's my addiction to TV and sleep... and my kids.
It appears that any reader to this blog finds great pleasure in the experiences which have brought me deep shame. So I pull yet another file from the humiliation archives, this one being a much more recent occurrence in my life.

And now for the setup: As a young lad, I had once dreamed of donning the flannel and spandex that marked a true rock star. As a fourteen year old, I received my first real axe (rock star speak for guitar... also known as a six-string). And yes, I played it 'till my fingers bled... back in the winter of '92. In the fall of '94 I let my hair grow out... the photo above is a picture of me in the fall of '96. My transformation into rock-stardom was nearly complete.

Then I got married.

Fast forward about twelve years and enter the era of being a husband, dad and pastor. How can I put all that pent-up rock star mojo to use for the good of mankind? Why, play in the worship band at church, of course! And that's what I do. I'm not exaggerating when I say I love to play! God gave me a gift and a guitar, and I intend to use them both.

And that actually leads me to the events detailed in the aforementioned H.A.,F.#2 (I know, that was a lot of setup). It was a Saturday night show (service) sometime in the past couple of years. We were rocking through our set, as usual. Me being a "professional" (volunteer) I had opted out of having the "set list" (service order) on the floor in front me... didn't need it; I had every song memorized and I knew exactly where each one belonged. I did, however, demand (ask for politely) some bottled water, and caviar before the show (worship service)... the caviar never came.

We did our typical opener, then three songs, followed by a video. Once we got to the video, I thought the set was over. I gingerly unstrapped my guitar and hung it on the stand, simultaneously noticing that a young man near the front row had literally collapsed onto the floor (seriously - he passed out). I then went a step further and turned off my amp (which goes to eleven) and my effects processor before rushing off the stage to assist the affirmed youth. The medical staff was already there - tragedy averted. Feeling pretty good about myself, I moseyed on back to the far side of the venue (worship center) where I figured I might take in the rest of the service.

To my surprise, the lights came up and revealed that the band was still on stage minus one guitar player. At this point, you might think that I would realize something had gone horribly wrong, and I was in the wrong place. No. I stood there thinking to myself, "What are those bozos doing on the stage? How embarrassing!"

Then our front man (worship pastor) said something like this: "Hey guys. I know this might be an awkward transition, but we have one more song we'd like to play, but our guitarist appears to have quit the band. I was just hoping he'd come back up here and finish the set with us."

THAT'S when the lights came on in my head, and I remembered the last song we were supposed to play: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2 (it was a cover tune). That's when I had to endure the long lonely walk of loneliness from the back of the worship center to the stage - all eyes on me. The room was quiet, save for one enthusiastic cricket that seemed to mock me in my shame. Upon reaching the stage, I then had to turn on my pedal and my amp. Guitarists know that tube amps take a good twenty seconds, or so, to warm up. So I stood there for twenty seconds, which felt like a thousand world tours... and then timidly played through the last song and finished the set.

The fact that I played the song to near perfection did little to make up for the embarrassment. All I can say is that I was thankful it was a Saturday service.

But then I've said too much.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Humiliation Archives, File #1: Basketball

I was a basketball player once. People came from all around to see me play. That's a lie. The truth is that I spent most of the games on the bench... ridin' the pine... keepin' my legs fresh, and drinking all the water. Occasionally we would play cards, the other bench warmers and me. Now THAT was a good time.

In all seriousness, my basketball career peaked during my Freshmen year season, when I was pretty close to being considered the "sixth man" on the team. That's like being the best bench warmer... it's actually one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was also during this season that all rationale and logic for my presence on the team would be called to serious questioning. And that was all because of one play that has been neatly tucked away in my humiliation archives.

It was early in the season, and I was actually in the game. This being somewhat unfamiliar territory for me, I was pretty much just running around in circles until something happened. In this particular case, "something" did happen and I found myself lined up under the basket in typical free-throw fashion. This is when my superior mental skills kicked in. My mind began to run through a series of possible scenarios that could follow this attempted free-throw. Either it would go in, the ball would be dead, and I would resume running aimlessly. In the event it would miss, however, I began to play out a scene in my mind of me, a ball-hungry beast, leaping into the air, grabbing the rebound with the ferocity of a mongoose, bursting toward the basket with all the tenacity of a caged gazelle, and successfully scoring two more points for my team. This was the kind of stuff legends were made of. This could be my defining moment, and I wasn't about to let it pass.

So I stood there in anticipation. My eyes were fixed, my knees bent and poised - ready to strike. The shot was up, and I plotted its trajectory. It would certainly miss, and I jumped in expectation. It was all playing out exactly as I had seen it in my mind. For a split second I thought to myself, There really is something to this "mental preparation" thing after all. With precision, I wrestled the ball out of mid air, landing securely on my feet; the landing softened by my NIKE Air pads (it was like landing on air). And with a savagery that shocked even me, I surged upward, determined to put that orange leather ball through the hoop where it belonged.

It wasn't until I was mid-release that it occurred to me: I was actually shooting... on the other team's basket.

Thankfully, I missed (keep in mind it was a layup).

In a feeble attempt to redeem myself, I pulled down my own rebound, dribbled down the court, and scored on our basket. I can still see the coach shaking his head as I resumed my all too familiar position on the bench. I can also still hear the laughing and joking from the people in the stands. Needless to say, I was thoroughly humiliated.

If someone would have told me then, "In 20 years, you'll be blogging about this, and we'll all have a good laugh at your expense," I would have told them, "You shut your mouth!" But here we are.

And I've said too much.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Personal Discoveries

I guess you could say I echo the sentiments of the season uttered by my friends and esteemed colleagues at 200lb Man and One Million Reasons. Winter in general has a way of bringing me down. My theory is that February is just that point in the season when our subconscious says enough is enough!, and our moods stage their full-on rebellion. I've been there... am there. In light of that, I've done some soul-searching over the past couple of days, and have actually come across a few discoveries.

First of all, I've discovered that I connect with God through nature. Part of my soul-searching took place over a three mile hike through the wilderness of Northern Indiana, and I can't begin to describe how soothing it was to my soul. Perhaps this is why the winter months take such a toll on me - I can't get outside as much as I'd like to. Nevertheless, I spent nearly two hours in the barren wilderness yesterday, and my spirits lifted. And by the way, I'm happy to report that on my trek through the woods I saw several woodland creatures, as well as a few bugs. I'm taking this as a positive sign that spring is here. Never mind the remnants of snow on the ground.

Second of all, I discovered that fire renews me. Maybe not in the literal sense, like fire renews gold. I haven't been burned by fire, or anything. But even now I'm sitting in front of a roaring blaze in a majestic stone fireplace, and the affect is inspiring. Watching the flames flicker and dance, it reminded me of the countless times I just felt the need to sit around a campsite and bask in the warmth of a fire, and how comforting it was. At this point, I'd like to point out to my mother that those years of playing with fire as a kid really have shaped me, and I now have a solid justification for my pyromaniac tendencies. This discovery also explained why I was so excited to get that fireplace DVD, being that our home lacks an actual fireplace. It has served us well through two winters, now.

Finally (for this blog, anyway), I've discovered the therapy of writing. This is primarily the reason for this post. I just finished a book in which the author posed this question: If you could retire right now with 10 million dollars, what would you do? My response: Live near water and spend my days writing. And just so we're clear, rivers don't qualify as water... at least not in my fantasy retirement scenario.

Well, there you have it. I know this might have been a startling departure from my typical prose, which has happened a lot lately. Don't get too used it... I'm sure I'll have more nonsense to share in the coming weeks. But I've gone on long enough, so I'll end this post now...

... though I actually had more to say.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Snow Shovel Training Mishap

I, like my parents before me, and their parents before them, adhere to the philosophy that children are never more a blessing than when they can serve a practical purpose. For example, I'm counting down the days until my son can mow the yard. What a glorious day that will be.

Well, in preparation for this dream to come true, I draw on another time honored tradition that dates back to my ancestors, and that's the philosophy that it's never too early to start getting them ready. Why wait until their "old enough" before we start their training? Nonsense. That's why I recently decided to initiate training for my one-year-old on how to shovel snow from the driveway. Sadly, as this video shows, it went horribly wrong.

There's always next year.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deadleaf Chronicles

Many winds, many rains, and many snow falls have passed since the days of the fallen leaf. And who would really care? Many rejoice that we have moved on beyond the raking and removal of those pesky deciduous garments. But at what cost? Are the frozen days of winter better? Is shoveling driveways preferred to raking? I daresay not. So let us turn our thoughts back to the days of autumn. And many will find that those crisp, cool, sun-drenched days of hay rides and bonfires bring back more than memories of a perennial season. Instead, they call to our minds memories of a season in our lives when a pile of leaves was more than a chore.

These tales will carry our hearts and minds not merely back to warmer days of harvest, but to the simpler and carefree days of childhood. These are the The Deadleaf Chronicles.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Great Moments in Sports

I have waited agonizing months to shine the spotlight of acclaim on one of the greatest athletic achievements in my sports-recognition-starved life. I take you back to Thanksgiving, 2010. It happened in my brother-in-law's basement, where there stands a basketball shootout game, my instrument of glory, my vehicle to infamy.

As we basked in the afterglow of turkey and brownies, this machine beckoned me. I answered its call. And for two days I gave myself completely to the dream of domination - a shimmering jewel of bragging rights to dangle above the heads of my father, two brother-in-laws... and my children. With a fixed gaze, and stone-like resolve, I entered the zone again and again. Time and time over I raised the bar for a 60 second score. First it was 60. Soon I was breaching the 70's. It wasn't long before I shattered the 80's. The 90's, however, took some time. But that, too, was a milestone I claimed for my own, reaching a score of 94 in just 60 short seconds. That's 47 buckets in a minute!

But 60 seconds is for boys. Last time I checked the dictionary, I'm a man. It was time for me to compete in the man's game: a five-minute round. Or as some have called it, The Widow Maker. This is where winners become champions, where mortals become giants. This was my destiny.

With blisters on my fingers, and stuffing in my stomach, I stepped up to the shootout and picked my poison. The Widow Maker awaited. "5:00" appeared on the clock, and the signal sounded. Furiously, I sent those miniature basketballs to their netted hoop home. Five minutes went by like mere seconds, and my round was brought to an end at the sound of the buzzer. I looked at my score: 450.

That's an average of 90 points per minute. Those who dared to witness this feat informed me that I hit 96 in one of those minutes. This is truly a monumental achievement of athletic prowess. Did it happen over night? Actually, it did. Nonetheless, it's a record that has stood the test of time.  Now I know exactly how Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, and other legendary champions feel. And it feels good.

But I've said too much.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Fruit of Heaven

Legend tells of an age when mankind was suffering. Their lands were desolate, their stomachs were empty. What little food they found was bitter, like the earth, eaten only for sustenance, no joy was to be had in it. Then God, in the midst of their tribulation, heard their cries for help. He reached down to them and eased their misery with the perfect sandwich, the Philadelphia Cheesesteak from Penn Station. And the people rejoiced.

But then some of them began to grumble. Some cried out for chicken, others for ham. "We want to eat fresh!" they cried in their insolence. And so God afflicted them with Subway. After countless lettuce-filled foot-longs on Italian bread, Penn Station faded from memory. Stories turned to rumors, rumors turned to legend. And some things that should never be forgotten passed from memory. And everyone died.

I just made that up.

But here's a fact: the cheesesteak from Penn is the greatest sandwich on the planet. True story: sometime in the not so distant past, I discovered that you could get an 8" cheesesteak for under $3. The results were almost disastrous. Nevertheless, it remains my favorite sandwich. If there was any possible way to literally live inside food, I would live inside a Philly Cheesesteak from Penn. If I could name my children after a food item, they would be Philly for a girl, and Cheese Steak for a boy. If I were elected the president of health and nutrition for America, I would designate a whole new food group: The Cheesesteak group. It would be the best food group of them all.

I'm still trying to convince my wife, however, that Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania.

I said too much.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Coolest Graphic I'll Never Use

In my past life, I was a bit of a graphic designer. And before you go and label me a Hindu, you need to understand that past life is simply a playful reference to my years as a woman living in Bangalore during the turn of the nineteenth century.

I kid.

In all seriousness, however, there was a time in my present life when I earned an honest man's wages designing graphics - and thus, I became a graphic designer. Actually, my titles were web designer and art director, which are both occupations in which graphic design is put to use.

Now that I'm a man of the cloth, however, I find that my dabbling in the graphic arts is a skill that is still put to good use... and I find immense enjoyment in that. But this post isn't about that... well, to be fair, this post is about that. More specifically, this post is about one of the many occupational hazards inherent to the role of graphic designer: hair loss associated with Sudden Rage Syndrome (SRS to those in the field). Allow me to illuminate you on this, if I may.

Graphic designers are, by nature of their trade, artists who revel in all that is creative. In fact, many of them are artists who simply want to not starve, and so they enter the world as graphic designers with dreams of using their creative prowess to dazzle consumers. What they find, however, is an industry that is ruled by the corporate man, wrought with "identity standards," and subject to finicky marketing directors who may or may not have a clue what real creative genius looks like.

I'm starting to digress. Let me cut to the chase.

It's fairly common for the graphically inclined to be commissioned with a project - say, a new logo, a magazine ad, or a graphic for an upcoming series at church (purely hypothetical) - and then to invest hours of artistic exertion and masterful designery on said hypothetical project, only to have it take a sudden and tragic new direction that leaves all your hard work for not.

Rage! Hair loss! Gnashing of teeth!

And so I present to you a graphic that was designed for our Christmas Eve service. So much work went into taking the tree from one photo, and adding it to prison cell (that's what that is... a prison cell). Hours were spent in Photoshop to make this look as real as possible. Shadows were simulated, lighting effects were rendered, heart and soul were poured out... only to be dashed to pieces in the final hours with a sudden change of direction. Good or bad, it was mine... and now, however fleeting it may be, it will have it's glory day in the hot sun.

I've said too much.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

Countless hours of watching BSG on Netflix (that's right... I used the authentic colonial military abbreviation for Battlestar Galactica) has left me postless, and therefore readerless... and, incidentally, wondering if I'm a Cylon... or married to one.

So say we all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'm Spitting Angry - Or At Least Very Irritated

SERIOUS ALERT: This post is serious. You've been warned.

Before you read this post, stop what you're doing, and read this blog post. If you fail to do so, the following won't make much sense at all... which would make it just another post on a blog founded upon a strong value in all that is nonsense. Regardless, my response to said blog (click link above) is below.

I read McCracken's article several weeks ago, and haven't stopped thinking about it since. It really bothered me, to be honest. The truth is that I agree with him at the root of his argument - if we're only trying to be cool, then we're wasting a lot of time, energy, and money - all of which precious kingdom resources that shouldn't be squandered. But what bothered me was how presumptuous and judgmental his article was. 
In my opinion, the reason why young people leave the church today is because - if they've spent any amount of time in the church - they've likely been exposed to the two-faced, infighting, backstabbing, judgmental legalism that sadly prevails in many of American churches, where we can be more concerned about the color of the carpet or the style of music than about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm afraid that McCracken's post only proves that point. 
I would have been fine if he spoke more to the principal. But when he started naming pastors and churches and reducing their ministries to mere "shock tactics" and attempts at being cool, he lost me. 
The truth of the matter is that I don't lead a church in Seattle, or L.A., or Vegas... but God has entrusted that role to guys like Driscol and Wilhite and McManus - all of whom I would first assume are leading their congregations according to the Holy Spirit's prompting... and are doing the best they can to be masters within their context. I love the fact that Mosaic meets in a night club. Can you imagine how many people attend that church who would never step foot in a church otherwise? I honestly believe that's the kind of church Jesus himself would go to... didn't he intentionally spend time among the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the lepers? I love it when I hear of churches incorporating Twitter and text messaging into their worship services... it's the language of the day! To refuse it and look down on it is like trying to spread the gospel in China, but refusing to speak Chinese! 
The reality is that any time we place ourselves in a position of presuming the motives, the heart, and the intent with which another godly man is leading, then we're no better off than the Pharisees... and I believe that's why young people are leaving the church... too many Pharisees. 
In my opinion, McCracken said that we need churches that are real... but he criticized the churches that are doing it.

Monday, January 31, 2011


For so long - my entire life, in fact - I've used a common abbreviation to appeal for a swift delivery. For example, if we need it in a hurry, we might say, "I need that ASAP (pronounced ae-sap)!" Of course, we know this to mean as quickly as you can. Or, in the strictest sense, as soon as possible. I wonder, however, what else could this fascinating acronym stand for? Perhaps you never entertain such trivialities. Clearly, I do... and I have.

A Serious Alien Problem
Animals Squatting And Pooping
Angels Singing Audacious Parodies
Android Staging: Amphibians Prohibited
Automated System for Artillery Protocol
Angry Scribes Altering Plots
Andean Spitting Alpacas Parade
Acrobatic Spinning Abolition Pact
Acting Seriously Accident Prone
Apes Staring At Puppies
Astronauts Stabbing Awesome Pimples

I could go on... but I've Already Said A Plenty.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Friend, the 200lb Man

Once in a lifetime, you find a true friend. And in this true friend, you find a comrade. And in this comrade, you find a brother. And once in a while, that friend-comrade-brother is someone special enough that you remember to wish them a belated birthday.

So happy birthday, 200lb Man... who turned 1... yesterday. And while I may be a day late in my birthday well-wishes, it's never too late for you to jog on over to the 200lb Man and watch a special celebratory video. It's pretty funny, so don't miss out. If you need more enticing to motivate the clicking of the links provided, just know that the video includes a birthday party of fellow blogs... including this one. [Off the Record... just in case you weren't sure which one I was referring to... thank you... that's all]

The 200lb Man, one year later...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Crap My Wife Says

Those who know me will tell you there's no question that I love my wife. Let it go down in history that a wife has never been loved by her husband more than Amanda is loved by me. I make special effort to mention this so as to not let the reader draw inaccurate speculation on this matter, given the title, and subject matter, of this post. Will I share some things that could paint my wife in a less than intelligent light? Yes. Is this meant to provoke laughter? Of course. Is this laughter inspired at her expense. Absolutely... not. Those who know my wife will tell you that she's a great sport with a wonderful sense of humor. Even as I write this, I imagine her laughing right along, not embarrassed in the least bit. She has, after all, embraced all that makes her so easy to laugh with. This, of course, being one of her most lovable qualities.

Having dispensed with the formalities, allow me to share some of the more hilarious things my wife has been known to say. Some of these have been uttered in the past few weeks, while others - the "classics," as we call them - were spoken years ago. Allow me to run down the short, but powerful, list.
  • Recently, while trying to convey that she was on top of a situation, my wife boldly declared that she was on it like a "herd on poop." This statement was, in fact, the inspiration for this post.
  • I have tried to establish a water conservation campaign within our household that is targeted at reducing the amount of times we flush. The campaign was launched under the slogan, "If it's yellow, let it mellow." My wife's protest was as follows: "I don't like to pee on other people's urine." Fair enough.
  • Upon being invited to a party recently, my wife wanted to make it clear that she intended to arrive at said party, "With bells and whistles on."
  • Upon leaving this same party, while still in high-spirits, and probably caught up in the residual buzz of caffeine, she stated that it was, "Off the chiz-ack." It's safe to assume this was a positive remark.
  • One evening, my wife felt the need to announce that "Science Central is doing all kinds of science things." This was exclaimed with so much elation that she nearly failed to finish her thought, which was to include "for homeschoolers." Still, a pretty funny statement.
  • Most recently, my wife informed me that she had misplaced her cell phone with it in the "silent mode." We searched for two days, only to discover that it was plugged into the wall. While nothing was said, it was still pretty funny.
  • Finally, the "classic" which has become the iconic phrase that encompasses all silly statements, was uttered when a friend of mine came to visit several years ago. When we offered him a drink, he insisted on getting one himself. My wife, being the hospitible hostess she is, instructed my friend that, "The ice is in the freezer."  
I'm sure many of you will agree... I've said too much.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Father's Desperate Attempt to Salvage the Innocence of His Children

After forty-six posts, this one dons the distinction of having the longest title. In light of that, I seem to have exhausted what writing skill I had in me, and I'm feeling quite sleepy. I hope you won't be expecting too much from this point. To be painfully truthful, I've given serious thought to just ending with that. However, I know I'd only regret it in the morning. So I'll splash some cold water on my face and keep on, keepin' on.

You may or may not know that I turned thirty-three years of age earlier this month.

Recently I was disturbed by a comment that my eldest daughter made whilst engaging in some cooperative Lego Star Wars. As we were reeking havoc on the "Ewok" level, I felt, being the responsible and loving father that I am, that I should offer a warning upon seeing some storm troopers approaching. What I heard in response shocked me as much as it saddened me. "Do you mean the evil storm troopers, daddy?"

How could I have let this happen? Yes, I completely blame myself for allowing my nine-year-old daughter to grow up in a world of confusion and chaos, where her child-like brain can scarce distinguish between the true storm trooper... and the unfortunate clone trooper, who she has been deceived into thinking is one of the good guys. Curse my negligence and my weak resolve!

I am happy to say, however, that I swiftly took measures into my own hands. I made sure that my children will never again be exposed to the darkness of that despicable thing they called the prequel. Nevermore will that farse of a trilogy lighten the eyes of my offspring. I have made it so.

Just days ago, I walked into a certain used book store in town where I was offered just six measly dollars for the three DVDs that shall not be named... along with some Steven King books. I gladly accepted the offer... and once more made right the universe. Now, when my children ask to watch Star Wars, they will see only the true Star Wars, full of Millennium Falcon shenanigans, and really bad light saber fights (because all the really good Jedi had been killed off in the prequels).

If you're having trouble making the right choice for you and your kids, I urge you to watch this short video. It very well may have saved my family... and my life.

That says it all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Landfill Parable

And now, a parable to awe and inspire you.

Steve never really cared much for recycling. In fact, most of his friends and family were just your typical American overconsumers who found great comfort in the assumption that all the used plastic in the world magically disappeared through the cosmic portal in the back of the garbage truck. Then one day, as he was admiring his styrofoam collection, a mysterious neighbor invited Steve to join a group of friends on an errand that would change their lives. Naturally, Steve had always dreamed of far away life-changing experiences, but thought they'd never happen to him. Without hesitation, he accepted the neighbor's offer.

Moments later, Steve and the rest of group arrived at the local landfill. There, for the first time, Steve was impacted by the reality of all the garbage that was taking over our world. This is terrible! Steve thought. I think this might change my life! Then he and his newfound friends watched WALL-E... and Steve was convinced. His life had been changed. He vowed to never look at trash the same way again... and to burn his styrofoam collection immediately.

Upon his return, he was anxious to tell all his friends and family about all that he had seen and learned. He shared pictures and video with passionate narration on each scene. He shared his journal, and even wept as he recounted his favorite scene in WALL-E. He was sure that others would sense his passion and change their careless consumer ways. Imagine his shock and sadness when he discovered that his friends - even his family - didn't care... he watched in horror as they continued to drink bottled water, and never clipped the ringlets from their six-packs of soda. He scoffed as can after aluminum can was hatefully thrown into the trash. Why! he cried in desperation. Why don't they care? He didn't understand.

The landfill, Steve thought. I was just like them until I visited the landfill! Steve hadn't cared about the environment at all until his "life-changing experience"... and that experience ignited an awareness and a passion in him that suddenly made him appreciate things like conservation and Jack Johnson music. How could he suddenly expect everyone else to care when they hadn't shared his experience? And oh, how he was even tempted to look down on his friends and family for not caring like he did! I'm such a fool! he screamed into the night.

Throwing off his disappointment, Steve determined to allow the landfill to do its work in his life, if no one else's. With steadfast determination, he started reducing, reusing, and recycling. He made his own deodorant, wore clothes made of hemp, and started using bamboo in all of his decorating. He even made the decision to buy a car that runs entirely on raw sewage. After months of implementing these changes in Steve's lifestyle, others started taking notice. And before long, a few of his friends started asking questions about the environment, natural products, and even his trip to the landfill. It wasn't long before those closest to Steve started to care more about their carbon footprints, as well. And pretty soon, they all smelled like patchouli oil and stopped shaving.

And now I've said way too much.

NOTE: This parable is not about recycling.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Childhood Memories Lost

So what do you do when you've just moved offices, but have no internet or network access at the new office? Why, blog, of course. I was always told there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. Well, THAT... was a stupid question. AND a stupid answer, ironically. Pressing on...

This may be one of the saddest posts you'll read today [or the next fifteen minutes, whichever comes first]. If there are tissues in the vicinity, have them at the ready. If no tissues are to be had, sleeves will work just fine. If you're not wearing sleeves, try your neighbor's... I'm sure they won't mind. If they do mind, however, then it may be time to reconsider how you pick your neighbors.

While I could play that out even further, I'll move on for the sake of time. I'm no psychologist, but I have a theory on personal development. That theory is this: much of who we are is shaped in our childhood. Specifically, in high school and college. And like you, I'm sure, I have so many memories from both stages of life - some good, some bad, some frightening... but most humiliating.

I was saddened recently as I took a drive down memory lane - which, incidentally, is a figurative street name referring to West Thompson and High School Roads in Indianapolis, and Rudisill Blvd. in Fort Wayne. It was on this literal drive, or drives, when I discovered that most of all I knew in those formative years has been completely destroyed - wiped from the face of the earth, much like Alderaan was reduced to a meteor shower by the Death Star. While I don't believe the Empire was behind the erasing of my childhood, it was a dark force at work, in deed.

The hidden gully I discovered as a child - one which could only be accessed by traversing through a drainage culvert, has been cruelly deforested, leaving it exposed for the whole world to see. The hallowed halls of my high school were leveled to make way for a newer, better one. As I toured this alleged improved facility, I struggled to remember what my high school hallways had looked like only fifteen years ago. As if that wasn't enough, the college campus where I was instructed in my calling, met my wife, and grew into a responsible young adult, was sold. It is a college no more.

So much of what has shaped me into the person I am is gone. Memories are all I have left... and those are slowly being replaced by movie quotes and Facebook statuses.

If I said anything at all, I said too much.

NOTE: I feel I owe the reader an explanation that while my work computer is trapped at the aforementioned office awaiting it's internet and network connection, I stole away to a local coffee shop with my home computer. So, if you've been perplexed as to how blogging is possible under the conditions stated earlier, now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Random Pluralization Epidemic

As I write this, I am sitting at my computers. While that may not surprise you, it is quite worth mentioning that I'm wearing the only piece of OtR merchandise in existence. It is, in fact, a t-shirt. You might be wondering to yourself what occasion would bring forth such a coveted article of clothing. That, my devoted reader, is top secrets - but it involves a global media event that will go public near the end of this month. Incidentally, that has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

The real reason for writing this (when I could be playing online multiplayer shoot-'em-up video games) is that there has been a rash of incidents throughout my life in which the "plural" designation has been added to various brand names, catch phrases, or words in general, in the most inappropriate manners. This is so prolific that many of us have assumed that the pluralization of the word is the right way of saying it - to drop the sinister "S" almost sounds sillies. Well, I'm here to set the record straight... off the record.

For example, when someone refers to their brains, don't they realize they have but one brain? And that's if they're lucky. Have you ever shopped at Aldies? No you haven't. It's called Aldi. Or how about the great deal you just saw at Meijers. That's funny, I've never been to Meijers... but I have been to a Meijer. Does spicy food give you the diarrheas? I'm not even going there. When was the last time you picked up a gallon of milk at Krogers? I dare say never. Perhaps you're referring to Kroger. I do enjoy the salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays, though. Or was it Ruby's Tuesday? Now I'm confused.

Maybe you'd like to come visit my church sometime... just look for the sign that says "Pathways."

You'll never find it.

That's because it's called Pathway.

I've said too muchs.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pulling Teeth

I have a few legitimate fears in life, and I'm only mildly ashamed to admit it. Which is actually a major breakthrough for me, as admitting my fears is a fear of mine... or was, as it were. Anyway, one of these fears is starting to weigh on me like a... well, like something heavy, I guess. And I don't like it. Not one BIT!

So here it is. I'm just going to lay it out there. Gonna shoot straight with ya... from the hip... right atcha. Okay... I'm stalling.

Here it goes (deep breath)... I'm afraid of the dentist.

You know what, that really didn't feel as good as I'd hoped. Actually, now I'm just embarrassed. That's the opposite of what I was hoping for. Regardless, it's true. It really isn't difficult for me to trace the origin of these fears. I think it pretty much stems from the fact that most dental work requires some level of pain. And since we're being honest, I'll just tell you that I'm not a big fan of pain.

Lately, however, I've begun to fear that my fear of dentists is catching up with me... I've been haunted for the past several months with a recurring toothache. And every time it resurfaces, I have the same nagging realization - one of these days, I'm just gonna have to cave and go see a stinkin' dentist. I'll have to face the music, as they say. Of course, I've never really understood that phrase. If you want to make it really dreadful, you should just say, "Time to face the dentist." That's dreadful in both a figurative and literal sense. 'Cause my time's comin'... and it's comin' soon.

But you can be sure that when it does, I will be brave. After all, having dental work can't be half as bad as having a vasectomy.

And now I've said too much.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Feathers May be Ruffled Upon Reading

Okay, I have something to say... and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid to say it. Truth is that what I'm about to share very well may offend some people that I deeply respect - friends, colleagues, and even family members. But this is, after all, an opinion post. Am I not entitled to my opinions? Now that I feel completely justified, here it goes.

I don't like Glen Beck.

It's nothing personal, Glen. I just think you're a little weird. And obnoxious. And maybe a little insane. Incidentally, I don't want to watch your show. Or read your books. But that's just me.

I've said too much.

DISCLAIMER: Off the Record, it's creator, or anyone associated with it, is NOT making a political statement with this post. The opinions expressed in this post are strictly directed toward the television persona of said individual, and in no way reflect a political agenda. At least one person at OtR headquarters may or may not have voted Republican in the 2008 presidential election. Be that as it may, those at OtR firmly believe, and practice, the principles set forth in Romans 13:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:13-14. OtR loves America.