Search This Blog

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why Christian Bale Should Win the Oscar

Luke 19:8-10
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

(Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter)

(Disclaimer: If you don't care about movies or celebrities or the Academy Awards, you'll probably want to skip this post. Apologies for my shallow, superficial interest in pop culture.)

(Secondary disclaimer: This post does not constitute an endorsement by the author for the film in general, particularly for conservative audiences. Although it is an amazing movie, the language is pretty rough, plus the drug use, the violence... Let's just say it definitely earned its R rating. Consider yourself warned.)

Last night I dragged my husband (drug? drugged? nah, that sounds like a precursor to foul play)... Anyway, last night my husband and I went to the movies to see The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. It was his first time seeing it and my second time, and let me just say that a second viewing only cemented my feeling that Bale deserves some major recognition for this role.

Now, you may have heard that this boxing flick is up for several Oscar nominations, including best supporting actor for the phenomenally talented Bale. So, without further ado, here are 3 solid reasons why Christian Bale should win the Oscar:
  1. He's just that good—You know how when you were a kid and you watched movies with impossibly unrealistic stunts (i.e. Indiana Jones jumping from a plane with an inflatable raft and riding it down a snow-covered mountain... or pretty much any other Indy stunt) and you were so blissfully naive you just accepted it? Without even having to try and convince yourself? Without even employing that mental technique known (to lit nerds) as the "willing suspension of disbelief"? Ok, when you're watching Christian Bale in The Fighter, it's exactly like that. Just like when you're a kid and you don't have the commonsense to doubt that what you're seeing is real, Bale makes you forget it's only a movie. You're totally swept up in story... the character... the sheer power of the performance. Very few actors can transcend our desensitized minds and our jaded perspective on the stories we see play out on-screen. Bale is the exception. He breaks through and to such an extent that I found myself having difficulty even picturing him in his other roles. He is a force of nature in this film. He inhabits his character completely. Yes, he is that good.
  2. Physical transformation—For his role as Dicky Eklund, Bale dropped a significant amount of weight, roughly 30 pounds. The best part is that when asked how much he lost for the role, he replied that he didn't know, that he was "just going for a certain look." Now, you can't give a guy an Oscar solely for his physical transformation. (Case in point: Bale's 125-pound performance in The Machinist—not that I'm recommending it; very dark and disturbing. But just Google his name and that movie, and check out how much he looks like a concentration camp survivor. Scary.) So, losing or gaining weight alone does not merit an Oscar. But there has got to be some recognition of the ability to so immerse yourself as an actor in your character that you substantially alter your physicality for the role.
  3. Redemptive role—We need more movies that provide stories depicting true redemption, which I will define as someone in dire straits doing an about-face, turning his back on his problems and righting the wrongs in his life. You might think of it as the Zacchaeus Effect: a selfish, corrupt tax collector who undergoes a salvation experience—and proceeds to donate half his money to the poor and pay back quadruple whatever he'd extorted over the years. Similarly, Dicky Eklund's character in The Fighter leaves behind his crack-smoking, crime-addled days in favor of helping his kid brother make a final push to become a boxing champ, essentially helping his brother eclipse Dicky's own boxing legacy. While Dicky doesn't profess an overt statement of faith after his change of heart, there are several poignant moments showing him kneeling, with his head bowed, his eyes closed—a classic, childlike posture of prayer. And the change in his behavior is evidence enough that something (or Someone) saved him, redeemed him, from his addiction. Is he perfectly reformed? No. But he does make the changes that matter most, all in the spirit of (as he puts it) "trying to do something better" with his life. It's a practical, realistic show of redemption. And like I said, Hollywood needs more movies that portray that kind of change.
If these reasons aren't enough, I could mention how Christian Bale is such a versatile actor and how he doesn't take himself too seriously as an "artist" and... Ok, that's enough.

But, if justice does not prevail and if Bale does not win an Oscar this coming Sunday, I—to quote one of my favorite movies—shall be very put out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Proverbs 17:22 "A cheerful heart is good medicine, 
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

I heard on the radio today that some huge majority (I'm bad with numbers and can't remember whether it was 75% or 90%) of chronic diseases are rooted in psychological/emotional distress. Well, I can't say I'm surprised. They say the worst thing for your body is stress, and nothing stresses the flesh and bones quite like a broken heart.

In other words, sickness of the mind or heart can easily translate to sickness of the body. The term used on the radio was "psychogenesis," meaning that physical illnesses can (and often do) originate from psychological elements.

So, heartache equals... what? headaches? migraines? ulcers? heart disease? cancer? What are the limits of this equation?

Not being a medical doctor or a pyschologist, I have no answer, but I find the possibilities fascinating—and frightening. Can you literally die of a broken heart, like the old stories say? Or is that a semantic shortcut for what really happens? Perhaps your brokenhearted condition causes your immune system to weaken, thus opening your body to increased danger from viruses and airborne diseases. Or maybe you're so depressed you forsake the habits of good health. You're too tired (read: emotionally spent) to exercise and not hungry for anything, except perhaps some comfort food (which, unfortunately, doesn't tend to have great nutritional value).

Whatever the case, psychogenesis describes a reality that perhaps too many of us are unaware of. If we get sick, we blame the weather, snotty-nosed kids, or "catching a bug." And when someone has a heart attack or cancer or a stroke, we look at the hard evidence and say it must have been that he was smoking/drinking/eating too much. Or maybe he just had bad genes. But what if the cause of many illnesses comes not from without but from within?

This begs the question: do you believe in psychogenesis of disease? And if so, to what extent? It's not an established or accepted theory in the medical field. In fact, I think psychologists are the only ones who use it with any regularity. I realize that many reasonable folks do not subscribe to this theory, preferring to accept the more traditional scientific explanations for what ails us. But to me, psychogenesis just makes sense. A lot more sense than the idea that our emotions aren't powerful enough to affect our health. Really, I haven't heard anything that made this much sense in a long time.

But I am curious whether this "broken heart-broken body" equation strikes a chord in anyone else. So... what do you think? Is psychogenesis real?

Monday, February 21, 2011

From the Ashes

Luke 17:12-19, Ten Healed of Leprosy
As [Jesus] was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked,  Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
(The front porch of my aunt and uncle's house;
picture taken in 2008 at our annual 4th of July party)

I took a Greek Mythology course in college, and of all the things we studied, I don't remember ever hearing the story of the phoenix and its ability to "rise from the ashes" into new life. But somewhere along the way, perhaps in the thousands of movies and TV shows I have ingested over the years, I heard this ancient myth and have come to appreciate its symbolism for those situations in life where a tragedy transforms into a resurgence.

Back on January 31, my aunt and uncle had a house fire. I've been wanting to give you an update, but I wanted to wait until we knew exactly how bad it was. As it turns out, the interior of the house will have to be gutted. The fire began in the basement and reached all the bedrooms, the kitchen, the living room—basically every room in the house. Fortunately, most of their pictures, keepsakes, etc. were not burned and only suffered smoke damage. The paintings especially they are hoping to clean and restore to their pre-fire condition. The couches, kitchen cabinets, floors, and other non-wooden furniture, however, will have to be completely replaced. All told, it's expected to take until September to make the necessary repairs. In other words, my aunt and uncle will be out of their home for the next seven months.

But, in the midst of all this, God answered our prayers.

The day of the fire—the first hour we heard the news, in fact—my grandma began praying that the Lord would bring something good out of this. That it would be a blessing in disguise. That God would prove that there was indeed a reason for allowing this awful thing to happen. Our family took up my grandma's request and asked God many times over the past few weeks that He would do all these things and, literally, bring something new out of the ashes.

We have now learned that my aunt and uncle's insurance company has not only agreed to pay for ALL the necessary structural repairs, furniture replacement, and personal property loss, but they also decided to pay for the seven months' rent at a temporary apartment! Plus, because of the fire damage, they will be installing a brand new furnace. The old one was on its last legs. In fact, before the fire, my uncle had been worried about how they would pay for a new one when it finally went out.

It is my opinion that we don't hear enough of these stories of answered prayer, perhaps because we are not as quick to share them as we should be. It's easy to ask for prayer when someone is sick or there's an emergency or a tragedy or some urgent, dire need. But somehow, it's harder to offer up prayers of thanksgiving when those original requests are answered with health, healing, and resolution. Perhaps we get too busy. Perhaps we forget. Perhaps we figure God already knows we are grateful—we don't really need to say it.

If God has answered a prayer for you, either recently or anytime in your life, take the time to thank Him... and to share your joy with others. Some things ought to be kept secret. But an answered prayer is not one of them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Food Made with Love

Proverbs 15:17 "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred."

I would propose a corollary: cooking for others is better than cooking for yourself.

Growing up, I never cooked much. Meals were always provided free of charge and free of effort, and honestly, my help wasn't particularly welcome in the kitchen. When I lived with roommates, we often had crazy schedules that didn't allow us to eat many meals together... and even when we did, it was usually something quick and easy, without much effort (or actual cooking) involved.

Being married now has given me not only someone to cook for consistently (someone with a healthy appetite to boot), but also a place in which to entertain guests. And with that comes the lovely temptation to try out new recipes.

So, having nothing particularly philosphical or poigant to write about today, I thought you would enjoy a pictoral summary of my latest culinary successes.

First, the Super Bowl party appetizers:
  • Pigs in a blanket, with parmesan cheese and garlic salt toppings...
  • Lil' smokies sausages in the Crock Pot with barbecue sauce and brown sugar...
  • Rice Krispies treats (chocolate and regular). I thought I made these "for the kids," but actually the guys ended up eating most of them.

Then, the blue frosted cupcakes from my coworker's baby shower. I frosted them, added a blue spray coloring, and topped them with these cool blue-foiled Hershey's kisses (complete with "It's a Boy!" streamers). If you've never used spray frosting coating, I highly recommend it—very fun to play with and adds a distinctive flair to the finished product.

This past Monday, I opted for the traditional "chocolate = love" approach and gifted my husband with this double-layered, heart-shaped chocolate cake. Yeah, I know. It's overly cutesy, even a tad schmaltzy, but... eh. That's how we roll.

And tonight, I baked my very first homemade pizza. Despite destroying the dough before reconstructing it into a semi-circular shape, and not using "pizza grade" shredded cheese, it was pretty tasty. Next time, however, I think we'll opt for less than a pound of sausage on a twelve inch pizza. But, if you're gonna go overkill on toppings, meat-heavy is the way to go.

So there you have it. Cupcakes, chocolate cake, and lots of meat. Ok, so I'm no Julia Child. But it's been fun trying new recipes.

Anyone else been attempting any fun cooking projects lately?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Future of Publishing (or Why I Hate eBooks)

Ecclesiastes 3:1 "There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven."

(Photo courtesy of's homepage)

Today I had a rousing intellectual discussion about the future of the publishing industry in light of ebooks, author self-promotion, and other technology-fueled changes in the world of words. I came away feeling...
  • depressed, mostly because I am an old-school purist who thinks technology should be considered guilty until proven innocent, and that ebooks are one of the least appealing inventions of all time (just based on my personal hatred for anything that threatens the printed book)
  • excited, because it's fun to discuss the future, even if it's full of "I don't know"s and "what if"s and other scary questions
  • privileged, because how many people get to dialogue with other people about something they really care about, something they are passionately invested in, both as a career and as a lifelong obsession?
Other interesting parts of the (lengthy but awesome) conversation included:

Borders' bankruptcy - In case you haven't heard, Borders filed today for chapter 11. Soon this once-mammoth corporation will close one-third of its physical bookstores and close up shop indefinitely in order to "restructure" its way back to (hopefully) bare survival in a savage jungle of an industry. It's sad, because 1) I always liked Borders better than Barnes & Noble, 2) Amazon will probably put them both out of business in 15-20 years anyway, and 3) I love books and hate to see any book-based business fail... even if they shot themselves in the foot by not keeping up with the latest trends.

Author self-promotion - Authors are now expected not only to write, but to market themselves and their products, to be endlessly, tirelessly "loud and proud" about their work. It might go without saying (but I'll say it anyway because, well, I'm good at stating the obvious) that this dichotomy rubs most authors the wrong way. Most (not all, but most) writers are not energized by interacting with people but by extended periods of solitude, time to think and sort out their ideas and let the creative juices flow uninterrupted. Do you know how much energy it must take to blog (tell me about it) and tweet and e-blast and book-sign your way to financial success as a writer? Not being a published author, I couldn't answer that, but I'm sure it takes an awful lot of energy... valuable, precious energy that would have gone toward actual writing but instead will be redirected toward telling the world how great you and your writing is (and why everybody and their dog should own a hardcover copy of your latest book—preorder on Amazon now!).

Am I the only one who sees the fundamental problem with this newfangled insistence of publishers that their authors also serve as their own marketers? Frankly, it's insane. Creative types, if you want to call them that, are usually really good at being creative because they tap into something other people don't... because instead of watching TV or going to basketball games or wasting time on Facebook, they sit in a quiet room all alone and organize and compose and ponder and write out all the thoughts and stories strewn about their brains like starry dots in a constellation. How can you expect someone to do all that and then also self-promote the heck out of their authorial "brand"?

Well, it's obvious where I stand on this issue, so we'll leave it at that.

As for the whole Borders fiasco and the future of the publishing/book retail industry as a whole, whatever happens I just hope we don't lose sight of where we have come from, that we continue to read (whether on a screen or in a dusty, dog-earred paperback) the classics... which are classics for a good reason.

To close, a short poem (with apologies to Dr. Seuss):

I do not like these new ebooks
I do not like Kindles or Nooks
I do not like to read on screen
I do not like that glossy sheen
Digital books I will not read
Pulp and ink are all I need

Monday, February 14, 2011

All You Need Is Love... and a Little Compassion

1 Peter 3:8 " sympathetic... be compassionate."

Valentine's Day... a dreaded "Hallmark holiday" for some, a lovely excuse to dote on your sweetheart for others... Whichever side of the rosy-red fence you fall on, you have to admit the polarizing effect of this fourteenth day of February. You either love it or hate it.

Today I got to hear all the adorable details of how one of my coworkers got engaged over the weekend. I was ridiculously excited, gushing and cooing and ooohing and aaahing. Of course, it was easier to be happy for her since I already have a sweetheart of my own. But if this engagement had happened several (read: five) years ago, I would have probably been all bitter and jealous and turned about twenty shades of green with envy, thinking it would never happen to me, and why wasn't I lovable? Was it the violent mood swings or my deep-seated psychological issues? Was it my obsessive fear of commitment or my lack of clothing and makeup skills? Or all of the above? What was keeping me from being that girl sporting the diamond ring?

Well, now that I'm an old married woman (of almost seven months), I realize more than ever that humans in every imaginable life situation have it harder than most people ever realize. It is hard being single, let alone on Valentine's Day. It is also hard being engaged. Weddings do not plan themselves. And finally, although the single folks might dispute this point, it is hard being married. My point is that nobody has it easy. We each have a battle to fight, and a little compassion can go a long way.

I have always loved this quote: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." While the source is disputed, the truth is not.

Today is Valentine's Day. Whether you enjoy every minute of the sweet, candy-hearted chaos or think the whole thing is a bitter reminder of sour grapes, remember to be kind and considerate of those around you. For the married folks, this means don't endlessly flaunt your Valentine gifts. For the single folks, this means don't begrudge others the pleasure of a romantic holiday. There are no "easy" lives. Everyone has his own battle to fight. Whether this day has been awesome or awful for you, be kind. Be sympathetic. Be compassionate.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Confessions of an Introverted Hostess

1 Peter 4:9-10 "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."
(Photo (of the shirt, not me—duh) courtesy of

Newsflash: I like hosting parties.

I know, I know. Here you thought I was this shy, introverted, wouldn't-mind-being-locked-in-a-library-for-a-month-alone type of recluse. Be that as it may, I have come to discover that there is this dark, twisted, crazed inner part of me that thrives on the adrenaline rush of playing host. In sum, I like to throw a good party.

First it was just a casual get-together. A couple from church here, the in-laws for dinner there. Maybe even the occasional four-to-five friend gathering at my house, only because it was "convenient" (or so I told myself. Incidentally, I'm really good at lying to myself. Seriously, if there were an Olympic event for self-deception... gold medal, right here.)

But soon all these small gatherings were not enough. I began to crave more, bigger, better hosting opportunities. Before I knew it, I had my husband's entire family over for dinner one night. Several months later, my grandparents and in-laws. Then came the Super Bowl party. Just last weekend, I hosted a shindig of epic proportions. Somewhere between painstakingly crafting those cheesy pigs-in-a-blanket and welcoming 10 people (including 4 kids!) into my home, I realized I had gone too far for someone who proclaimed to be a people-avoiding introvert. These people were not in my living room as annoying out-of-town guests I couldn't get rid of. They were there because I had invited them, because some irrepressible part of me actually wanted them to come invade my sacred, quiet sanctuary (aka, my cozy basement lair).

Whoa. When did I start enjoying hosting parties?

Today we hosted a baby shower for one of my coworkers. It was cute in about twelve distinct ways, from the hanging clothesline of onesies to the candy-filled baby bottle guessing game to the sparkling "Mom To Be" tiara we made our guest of honor wear. My contributions included climbing onto a chair on top of a table (in order to string said clothesline from the seven-foot ceiling), filling the helium balloons just prior to the party, and baking approximately 48 chocolate and funfetti cupcakes, then decorating them with white frosting, blue spray coloring, and "It's a Boy!" baby blue Hershey's kisses. Was I proud of these accomplishments? Perhaps it would be better to ask whether I was even able to enjoy the party despite the effervescent glowing pride inside my heart. *sigh*

So, apparently this introvert is slowly shucking her long-held generic "people are evil" mentality in favor of something approaching normal social interaction or even—gasp!—hospitality.

This may not sound like much of a revelation to you, but boy, it sure was to me. Perhaps I'm unobservant when it comes to detecting changing trends in my personality. Ok, fine, I'm uber-unobservant in that area. But the fact that I have come to terms with this new facet of myself, without employing my killer self-deception skillz... well, I guess it's a good thing.

Does all this mean I now have the so-called spiritual gift of hospitality? That remains to be seen. But at least I'm about 1000% better at hosting than my painfully shy former self would have ever imagined.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winter Rant

Psalm 74:17 "It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter."

God may have made both summer and winter, but in my opinion He did not create them equally. I have never had a high tolerance for winter, and it's only gotten worse the last few years.

So, in the absence of any flashes of inspiration for weighty topics or intelligent discussion of current affairs, instead let's talk about why I hate winters in Chicago.
  1. It continues after Christmas. WHY? We only need snow, as far as I'm concerned, to make the Christmas lights look prettier and to add to the holiday spirit. Beyond December, I see no need for snow or cold. Period.
  2. It makes my hands perpetually cold to the point that I can't activate the touch screen on the ATM because apparently I have the circulation equivalent of a corpse or some sort of cold-blooded reptile. Salamanders come to mind. And really, salamander skin? How attractive is that? Correct answer: not very.
  3. I can't drive with the windows down. I love to drive with the windows down. If it were up to me, I would drive with the windows down 98% of the time, the 2% exception being those rare occasions when I'm on my way to a formal social event (i.e. wedding) where windblown hair is generally frowned upon, or at least shot disapproving looks from across the church sanctuary and/or ballroom.
  4. Nobody is tan. Aside from those who go to tanning beds, we are all pasty white albinos, which (skin cancer notwithstanding) is really not a good look for anyone.
  5. I have to wear socks. All the time. Even in bed, so my feet don't spout frigid little toecicles and scare my husband and/or cats when they think there's a random ice cube tray under the covers. Summertime means going barefoot, which is a truly awesome sensory experience and one that I really miss from October to May every year.
  6. There's no baseball, either to play outside under beautiful blue skies or to watch on TV or listen to on the radio in the car (with windows down, 'natch). This is depressing enough on its own, but even worse is the fact that everyone talks about football and basketball, which are fun sports to play, but to watch? I'm sorry. They just don't hold a candle to baseball in my book.
  7. It's too easy to gain weight. Maybe it's the fact that swimsuit season is "still five months away" (at least that's what I tell myself as I down another plate of pasta alfredo and wash it down with an ice cream sundae). Not really (most of the time). But for whatever reason (most likely the ridiculous cold) my body decides every winter that I really could use an extra layer of fat. The problem, of course, is that by the time this fat builds up to a level that could provide any degree of insulation against the winter cold, it's March... which means I'm stuck working it off well into April/May, and exercise really cuts into my social calendar, y'know?
  8. Nobody gets together as often in the winter. Sure, there's Christmas and New Year's and Super Bowl parties, but after that? Dead air until St. Patrick's Day, which is on the cusp of spring anyway.
  9. Finally, I hate winter in this region because, as you may have heard, Chicago has only two seasons: winter and construction.
This concludes my rant on the evils of this cold, dark, depressing season.

So, how do you deal with winter? If you're lucky enough to live someplace where "winter" means it gets down to the 40s at night (maybe), I'm sorry but you're automatically disqualified from complaining. And if you're one of those people who actually like this season... please give me some tips to surviving until March 21. Because right now I feel like my soul is getting hypothermia. Brrrr....

Monday, February 7, 2011

"That's so gay!"

Genesis 19:5 "Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.'"

I’m about to say something politically incorrect. Unpopular. Intolerant. Maybe even inflammatory. That last part depends on your reaction.

I recently saw this commercial with comedian Wanda Sykes discouraging a group of teenage boys from using the expression “That’s so gay” in a derogatory fashion, as a synonym for “lame” or “stupid.”

Here's the worst part: The argument is presented so politely and reasonably. "Please don't say that. It's insulting," explains Wanda in an even, matter-of-fact tone. She's so earnest and well spoken, you almost want to believe she's doing this just to be nice, to educate some poor ignorant teenagers. (Watching this, I was struck with the sad reality that Christians often miss opportunities like this to correct people who misuse the phrase "Oh my god" or "OMG" as an exclamation of surprise rather than a prayer to the Almighty Lord. Why don't churches run public service announcements pointing that out?) Don't be fooled by this respectful veneer. Wanda isn't doing this commercial to be nice. She's doing it to push an agenda and to indoctrinate young minds into believing that homosexuality is something worthy of respect. 

The odd thing is that, had I seen this commercial ten years ago, I would have been on Wanda’s side. Few things annoy me as much as inaccurate vernacular expressions. (Case in point: don't say "I could care less," when you really mean, "I couldn't care less." If you could care less, you're admitting to caring to some degree already. It only makes sense to say you could not care less if you literally do not care at all.) So, I would have agreed that substituting "gay" for "stupid" was inaccurate and therefore bad form, linguistically speaking.

This is a pet peeve of mine because, when it comes to language, I’m a traditionalist. “Gay” used to mean “happy, merry, lively”—and I for one think it ought to stay that way. Why should a perfectly honorable word like “gay” be used and abused in this way? Why should one fringe group of society get to redefine a word that has had a positive connotation for hundreds of years and transform it into a synonym for a deviant sexual lifestyle? (Same thing goes for rainbows, but I’ll save that for a different blog post.) Frankly, I despise (and find it literally sickening) the way homosexuals have hijacked the use of the word “gay” and repeated it to the point that it has all but lost its original meaning. “That’s the evolution of language,” you might argue. Perhaps. But more importantly—and more disturbingly—that’s the evolution of postmodern ethics reaching new moral lows every day.

As I said, ten years ago I would have agreed with Wanda Syke’s argument that “gay” shouldn’t be used as a negative adjective. Call me a purist, a linguistic classicist, but when I sing “Don we now our gay apparel” at Christmastime, I want to picture festive red and green attire, not anything resembling the flamboyant fashions that have come to symbolize—and even, one could argue, caricature—the homosexual lifestyle. So, although we came from different camps, Wanda and I would have shared the same stance that “gay” is not an appropriate, nor an accurate, word choice for an insult.

But alas, today we are living in a world where being “gay” is no longer the closeted secret it once was. Homosexuals and lesbians everywhere are throwing open the doors and proclaiming proudly to the world their addiction to same-sex relationships. (Permit me a brief aside: I use the word “addiction” here purposefully, as I believe homosexual feelings to be a sinful desire, the indulgence of which constitutes a sinful action and eventually a sinful habit that becomes increasingly hard to break. It is no better or worse than addiction to other sins: gossiping about your coworkers or beating your spouse or cheating on your tax return. We would do well to remember that temporarily “good” feelings—what a drug addict would call “highs”— can come from completely evil behaviors.)

So, homosexuality is more culturally acceptable today than ever before, except perhaps in the last decadent days of the Roman empire (notably, shortly before its demise). Americans, especially those under 30, have come to see it as “no big deal” and merely a “personal choice,” akin to vegetarianism or hair length. Where does this leave the controversial expression “That’s so gay”? In a shady grey area.

Based on the current cultural climate—the subtle (but forceful) infusion of “gay” characters into sitcoms and movies everywhere, the constant whispering pressure from all sides to accept homosexuality as a viable option, an equal (and equally healthy) personal alternative to heterosexuality—I now feel I have little choice but to cling to whatever negative connotations may still be attached to homosexuals. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Do I personally like the expression “That’s so gay”? No. I find it a slightly vulgar and superbly lazy figure of speech. It lacks creativity and has the ring of laughable adolescent insults like “You’re so dumb” or “[insert insult-worthy object/person here] sucks!” Do I think it’s a particularly intelligent argument against the rising tide of cultural homosexual acceptance? Of course not. But I do think it’s worth keeping in the lexicon, if only to make people question how one word’s meaning could go from “happy” to “homosexual” to “inferior.”

Will saying “That’s so gay” change people’s minds about whether homosexuality is wrong? Probably not. Will it curb the power of the tolerance police to persecute anyone who dares use politically incorrect language? Doubtful. But it’s better than nothing. And at this point, anything that preserves an inherent negative reaction to homosexuals is, in my opinion, worth using.

If you’ve gotten this far, take a second to identify which group you fall into. Having read this post, do you… 1) agree with me that homosexuality is morally wrong, 2) think I’m an intolerant religious bigot, or 3) think there’s nothing wrong with letting homosexuals do their own thing "as long as they’re not hurting anyone else." 

So, which group are you in? This is a controversial topic to say the least (if not less), and I welcome your reaction to this totally un-PC post.

By the way, did you hear Christina Aguilera screw up during the Super Bowl? Forgetting the words to your country’s national anthem in front of millions of people—that’s so gay! Seriously, if you’re gonna perform in a venue like that, at least take the time to memorize the words to the song.  

Friday, February 4, 2011

No Rest for the Wicked

Isaiah 57:20-21 "But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. 'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked.'"

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have insomnia? Not just for a night, but for weeks, months, years on end? To try over and over and over again to turn off your brain after a long day, only to find the switch stuck in the "on" position?

I've been researching characters afflicted with insomnia recently, and it's amazing the correlation between sleep and a clear conscience—and conversely, between lack of sleep and a guilty conscience. There must be something in the science of guilt, the chemical reaction of the brain, that is tied to sleep. It's times like this I wish I was a doctor (specifically a neurosurgeon) so I could better explain, with all the proper terms and everything, what I am trying to say. But you get the idea. Somewhere inside our minds, there is a spark between neurons. When we are innocent, that spark functions as normal, off and on in perfect, daily cycles (circadium rhythms), and we sleep like little lambs. (Take small children or animals—such as my adorable kitten Blake, pictured above—as an example, their bodies limp as overcooked spaghetti, their mouths hanging open in oblivious, serene breathing.) When we are guilty, there is a continous spark... and no true rest. The neurons keep firing, day and night.

That's all my metaphorical interpretation, of course, and it probably has no bearing on the actual psycho-biological reality. But for some reason, my mind continues to be fascinated by this idea, this correlation between rest and righteousness.

They say there is no rest for the weary... or for the wicked. Perhaps because they are often one and the same. The weary—at least those weary with guilt—do not deserve rest.

By that rule, none of us deserves rest. And in truth, none of us gains it, save through surrender to one man, to He who said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What blizzard? It's a couple of flakes!

Proverbs 27:8 "Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home."

*Today's post's title comes (appropriately enough) from a cult classic—none other than Groundhog Day, starring comic genius Bill Murray. On a related note, don't drive angry!

Call me a stay-in-the-nest kind of bird. At least for today. Snowpocalypse 2011 left me little choice, but stilll... I think I'm making real progress towards being content to stay home now and again. And not just when there are four foot snow drifts in my driveway.  (See photo above, taken this morning. In case you were wondering, that chainlink fence is about five feet high.)

I used to hate staying home all day. It made me feel claustrophobic, to the point of literally pacing the house looking for things to keep me busy and distracted from the fact that whatever uber-exciting action was going on outside the walls of my house, I was missing it! Call it cabin fever. Or the affliction of a "restless" spirit. Or maybe, until now, I just never had a place that felt enough like "home" that I actually wanted to stay there.

Things are different now. Today was a snow day from work. And while the blizzardy conditions forced me to stay in, I loved every minute of it. Here's what I did today:
  • Not sleep in. This might sound like a complaint, but actually, it amazes me how awake I (ever the night owl, never the morning person) can be at 6:45 a.m. when I don't have to get ready for work.
  • Watched the weather (easy since it was on every single channel), whilst marveling at the insanely high snow drifts around our house, cars, and every other object unlucky enough to be stuck outside during last night's momentous Snowmageddon/Groundhog's Eve Blizzard.
  • Made chocolate chip pancakes—essential nourishment for shoveling.
  • Attacked the wall of snow outside our house and helped my husband unbury our two snow-encrusted vehicles. We also took time to document the ridiculous snow drifts—mostly to send to my in-laws in Florida.
  • Argued with my husband about why he shouldn't go to work. My sentiment (if not my exact words) was something along the lines of "don't be a hero."
  • Sighed heavily as I watched him leave for work. Guess heroism is in his blood or something.
  • Resumed shoveling sans husband.
  • Warmed up with some hot chocolate and marshmallows.
  • Did laundry, ate tomato soup, and watched a lot of random TV.
  • Caught up on my blog reading (and writing).
  • Watched Groundhog Day.
As you can see, nothing spectacular happened today—and maybe that was what I loved about it.

Happy post-blizzard/Groundhog Day!