The Monday Melange 05.31.10: L. Frank Baum, Rudyard Kipling, Rick Sund

–American children’s literature nowadays contains almost no violence of any sort, as I am sure you have all noticed.  So where did it all start?  It started with L. Frank Baum and the Oz books.  Notice that prior to this, the Brothers Grimm were not afraid to use violence in teaching the lessons that they wanted to teach through their stories.

–Rudyard Kipling was not afraid of a little blood and gore either.  In the story of Rikki-Tiki-Tavi in The Jungle Book, he has Rikki-Tiki-Tavi kill no less than three snakes in order to save the family that had adopted him.  But in a recent adaptation of the Rikki-Tiki-Tavi story that I had the opportunity to read, there is only one snake and there is no killing.

–Want to be Crocks general manager Rick Sund right now?  Actually, no you don’t, according to AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz.  Sure he makes a lot more money than most of us will ever see in the course of our lives.  But he is also under a lot more stress than most of us will ever see in the course of our lives.  Not only does he have to hire a new coach, but he has to make sure that Joe Johnson, one of the key pieces of the team, does not bolt when free agency comes up later this year.  And that may or may not happen, depending on who he gets for a new coach.

–Also note that Rick Sund has not been very adept at making good coaching hires.  Over the course of his career as general manager of the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, and Seattle Supersonics, he has made a couple of excellent hires, a couple of semi-decent hires, and a whole slew of dreadful failures.

–A little bit of history for you:  The northeast part of Tennessee, including Bristol and Johnson City, was once its own state.  This region seceded from North Carolina after the Revolution and existed as the state of Franklin from 1784 to 1790.  It tried to make a bid for statehood but could not garner enough votes.  It was eventually incorporated into Tennessee.  This short-lived state is commemorated by a major street in Johnson City called State of Franklin Road.

Chaplain Mike: A Lutheran Take on Baptism

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by “Chaplain Mike” Mercer over at internetmonk.com, in which he gives the reasons why he is on board with the Lutheran view of baptism.

Now I know that a lot of evangelicals out there are thinking “Infant baptism?  Ewww!!!!!  That’s too Catholic!!!!!”  To which I am tempted to respond, “Well, what do you call that ‘baby dedication’ thing that you do?  Let’s just be honest about this thing and call it what it really is!!!!!”  But that would be snarky.  And snarky is something which I do not desire to be to you, my loyal and faithful readers.

There have been many godly people on both sides of this issue.  There are many people out there who are a whole lot smarter than yours truly, who could present the case for believer’s baptism in a very articulate and convincing fashion.  Ditto for infant baptism.  As a matter of fact, I myself have wavered on this issue.  For the longest time since getting saved, I believed that infant baptism was just wrong.  Now, however, I am willing to consider it and may even be swayed to it.

Why?  Because infant baptism, as the Lutherans understand it, is a compelling picture of the Gospel.  Here is this helpless baby, with no capacity whatsoever to intelligently consider his/her options and freely choose the life which God bestows on all who are connected to Him through Jesus Christ.  We evangelicals are all about the idea that in order to become a Christian one must consciously and freely make the decision to accept Jesus Christ.  As the old gospel song says, “God ain’t never had a grandchild, only a child will do.”  But the truth of the matter is that we are all dead in our sins and transgressions.  Completely and totally dead, even though we sit, stand, walk, talk, eat, and think.  What power does a person who is physically dead have to bring himself or herself back to life?  None whatsoever.  In the same way, what power does a person who is spiritually dead have to take hold of the spiritual life which comes from God through Christ?  None whatsoever.  The only thing you can do is just sit back and receive it when it happens.  The infant is a splendid object lesson of this.

Fine.  But isn’t infant baptism contrary to Scripture?  Those who support believers’ baptism generally point to the examples given in Acts.  There’s just one small problem here:  Almost all of the examples in Acts are of first-generation Christians.  What about second-generation Christians?  The Bible simply doesn’t speak to this.  At what point does the child of believing parents become a disciple of Christ?  Is it right to regard the child of believing parents as a heathen and a sinner bound for hell until he/she is old enough to make a fully intelligent, responsible, uncoerced profession of faith?  I don’t think so.

I strongly recommend that you read Chaplain Mike’s post on baptism.  Here you will find a very articulate presentation of the case for infant baptism as the Lutherans understand it.

My Thoughts on Les Miserables (the 1998 film)

With Valjean and Cosette situated safely in the Petit-Picpus convent, we are at a natural dividing point in the story’s action, so I thought we would take a little break.

I recently had the opportunity to watch one of the many film adaptations of Les Miserables.  This one was the 1998 version, which was directed by Bille August and which starred Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Uma Thurman as Fantine, and Claire Danes as Cosette.  Those of you who are familiar with the various film adaptations of Les Miserables that are running around out there, I would love to know your thoughts on this version and on which version is the best/most faithful to the text/whatever.

Here are my thoughts:

Liam Neeson delivers a strong performance as Valjean.  This is everything which you would expect from an actor of his stature.  Javert is well portrayed; we don’t see him as an arch-villain so much as someone who struggles with his own inner demons but fails to overcome them.

As for this film being faithful to the text, I give it low marks.  It is faithful to the text, if by that you mean that Bille August doesn’t replace Victor Hugo’s time-honored storyline with something like this:  “Jean Valjean and Cosette are the proprieters of a summer camp in the Transylvania mountains.  One summer this camp is terrorized by a serial killer, initially believed to be the psychopath Angela Baker who had terrorized a nearby summer camp several years before, but revealed in a shocking cinematic twist to be Joel Osteen.  Chief inspector Javert is called in to investigate, but when Jimmy Hoffa’s body is found among the victims he slits Valjean’s nostrils open, saws his legs off, nails Cosette’s head to the floor, and takes them both to an Atlanta Thrashers game.”

But there have been some significant changes to the story.  Some of the names have been changed:  the old man Fauchelevent is called Lafitte, and the town of Montreuil-sur-mer is called Vigau.  Presumably these changes were made for ease of pronunciation.  Marius is portrayed as the leader of the student insurrection; in the book and the musical Enjolras was the leader and Marius was merely a reluctant participant.  In the book and the musical Thenardier has a huge role in the story throughout Valjean and Cosette’s time in Paris; the movie cuts Thenardier out completely after Valjean fetches Cosette.  Also, the love triangle between Cosette, Marius, and Eponine receives no play at all because Eponine does not appear in the movie at all (except when she and Azelma are very briefly shown playing together at the inn during the scene where Valjean comes to fetch Cosette).

I get that shrinking a 1500-page novel down to fit into a two-hour film is a huge undertaking, and that some things had to be cut.  But in my view, the makers of this film cut out some pretty significant plot elements.

Those of you who have seen movie adaptations of Les Miserables, I would love to hear your thoughts.  What are your thoughts on this version (if you have seen it)?  Which version do you like the best?

The Monday Melange 05.24.10: Lane Kiffin, Reggie Bush

So I hear that Lane Kiffin is getting paid $4 million a year by Southern Cal.  There were a couple of times last year when Lane Kiffin said and did things that made me want to ask what on earth he was smoking.  Now the burning question is what on earth the people who HIRED him were smoking.  Lane Kiffin was toiling away in obscurity as an assistant at Southern Cal when Al Davis made him head coach of the Oakland Raiders.  He went 4-15 in two seasons and somehow parlayed that into a $2.375 million a year gig at Tennessee.  There he went 7-6 in one season and parlayed that into a $4 million gig at one of the premier football programs in the entire country.  Know how many other head coaches out there are making $4 million a year or better?  (Heads up:  They’ve all won at least one national championship.  Except for Lane Kiffin.)

–Speaking of Southern Cal, I hear that the NCAA investigators are getting ready to come out with their findings.  This is going to be interesting.  Because if the NCAA finds that Reggie Bush was ineligible, would he be stripped of his Heisman?  And would Southern Cal have to give up its 2004 national championship?  Of course the NCAA could not strip Southern Cal of a national championship because it does not award national championships in Division 1-A college football.  But the BCS might, if the NCAA proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Southern Cal cheated.  And what if, after all these years, the NCAA investigators find nothing?  What if they decide to let Southern Cal walk with nothing more than a slap on the wrist because they simply don’t have the same righteous indignation for lack of institutional control out in Caly as they do for lack of institutional control at Alabama?

Rumor has it that the Big 10 has extended offers to Missouri, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Rutgers.  All of the schools in question have responded by saying, “That’s news to us.”  Now with a story like this you have to understand that we won’t know anything for certain until the whole thing is ready to go down.  The Big 10 will not publicly extend invitations to any school until and unless it is certain that those invitations will be accepted.  There is just too much at stake in the way of PR for them to extend an invitation to, say, Notre Dame or Missouri, and say “Take your time on this.  Do your due diligence and get back with us.”  They cannot and will not take the chance of this thing dragging out in the media for weeks and possibly months, only to end with the invited schools saying no.  So any negotiations, any due diligence that has to happen, is going to stay strictly on the DL.  If the invited schools decide to pass, then there was never a story there to begin with and everyone walks away with no bad PR stain.  But if it gets to the point where the schools decide to join the Big 10, THEN we will hear all about it.  Get used to it, people; this is how college football operates nowadays.

–All this talk about Mark Richt being on the hot seat just doesn’t seem to go away.  The latest report comes from columnist Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel.  Which is kind of ironic:  Considering all the success Florida has had against Mark Richt, wouldn’t Florida fans want Georgia go keep Mark Richt for as long as possible?  (That post was part two of a five-part series on coaches on the hot seat.  Here is part one, which looks at Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez.)

All-Skate: What If Your Pastor Were to Avail Himself of Liturgical Resources?

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I figured I would have another go at this today.

Now the idea behind these “All-Skate” posts is that I am looking for feedback from you, my loyal readers.  While this blog is called “Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion”, I do NOT want it to be just my opinion.  Joe is not a lone wolf or a loose cannon.  Joe is part of a community of believers who are doing life together and trying to work out what it means to live as a Christian in our world today.  My wish is that this would be a community project and that you, my loyal readers, would take ownership of this and become involved.

The “All-Skate” posts are an opportunity for you, my loyal readers, to do precisely that.  These posts are called “All-Skate” because everyone is required to skate.  In other words, it is not enough to simply sit on the sidelines and stare at these words on your computer screen and allow them to pass into and out of your mind.  Rather, the expectation is that you would engage with the question which I am about to pose and offer your response.  Any response will do.

Those of you who do not respond:  I have ways of finding you.  I will track your computer’s IP address, reach out through your computer screen, and strangle you by the neck until you start to write bad checks.  You don’t want to take a chance on that.  So I would suggest that you respond.

The question which I am throwing out there today is addressed specifically to my fellow evangelicals:  How would you feel if you were to find out that the pastor of your church was accessing some of the resources of the broader, deeper, more catholic (with a little “c”) Christian tradition?

For example:  What would your reaction be if you found out that your pastor had skipped off to the Ash Wednesday service at the Anglican church down the street because there is nothing like that going on at your church?  Or if he had skipped off to a retreat at a nearby monastery, and there had sat in on the monks’ morning Mass or Liturgy of the Hours service?  What if you found out he was reading Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen?

Here is a more challenging question:  What if your pastor were to attempt to implement such things in your church?  How well do you think that would go over?

Responses to this are probably going to vary significantly.  Within evangelicalism, there tends to be a pretty strong prejudice against the resources of the broader, deeper, more ancient Christian tradition, as these things are typically associated (erroneously) with the Roman Catholic Church.  And many of the more strongly conservative evangelicals would push back from these things because they would believe them to be tied to the New Age.  But in a large city like Atlanta, there is probably a much greater level of openness to such things.

Okay, discuss.  Please try to keep it civil.

Jono’s Guide to Conference Expansion and Realignment

Conference expansion and realignment is something which happens in the world of college football every ten years or thereabouts.  Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you are no doubt aware that the issue of conference realignment is about to come front and center once again, in a big bad ugly way.

Some of you out there may be hopelessly confused trying to keep track of all the changes and realignments that have swept across the college football landscape over the last couple of decades.  And it is a daunting task, to be sure.  So as a public service, your ever-faithful Jono and the staff here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion have done some research (Believe it or not, that actually happens around here from time to time.  Who knew?) and put together this guide to help you keep track of how the college football landscape has changed over the last couple of decades, and how it may change in the next year or thereabouts. Continue reading “Jono’s Guide to Conference Expansion and Realignment”

The Monday Melange 05.17.10: Les Miles, Mark Richt, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

–Somebody up in Massachusetts was cited for running over Jesus Christ in a crosswalk.  No, really.

–According to Paul Finebaum of the Press-Register (I think that’s Mobile but I can’t swear to it), LSU’s Les Miles and Georgia’s Mark Richt are both headed for a fall.  His reasoning is that both coaches have rivals in their respective divisions that have won one of the past two national championships.  Both coaches have had early success in their respective tenures, only to have disastrous results (by comparison) in the last two seasons.

But according to the AJC’s Tony Barnhart, the situations of Les Miles and Mark Richt couldn’t be more different.  If you dig a little deeper, you will see that in Baton Rouge, there is the pervasively nagging feeling that Les Miles is not maximizing the resources at his disposal, and LSU has offensive issues galore.  Les Miles has never exactly felt the love from the peeps down in the BTR, and it took a national championship in 2007 just to take a little of the heat off.  Mark Richt has issues of his own, on both offense and defense.  In the past two seasons his teams have done an awful lot of things that well-coached teams just don’t do.  However, with the hiring of Todd Grantham and two other new defensive coaches, Richt has moved decisively to address the issues on that side of the ball.  Hopefully these changes will result in significant improvement in the years to come.  But if Georgia should finish 7-5 again this year, the most that will happen to Mark Richt is that he may feel pressure to make some more staff changes.  As for Les Miles, however, let’s just say that he had better beat North Carolina here in the ATL in September.  If he doesn’t, life will be extremely miserable for him.

–Those crazy Anglicans are at it again.  As if what you have seen already to this point hasn’t convinced you that they are certifiably crazy, here they are going on record that Australians should have fewer children.

–This whole overpopulation thing is so overrated, people.  I mean, think about it.  If you were to take all the people on the face of the earth right now and gather them all together in a single spot, standing room only, such that each person was allowed an area of two square feet upon which to stand, they would fill up an area of 445 square miles.  That’s about 21 miles by 21 miles, which is about the same as the area inside of I-285.

Or think of it like this:  If you were to provide each person on the face of the earth with a 3,000-square-foot apartment, you would need to build a single-story building of approximately 667,000 square miles (800 miles by 800 miles).  That’s about the size of the state of Texas.  If you were to build a two-story building, it would have to be about 600 miles by 600 miles.  If you were to build a five-story building, it would be about 350 miles by 350 miles, or about the size of Alabama and Georgia put together.

–Seems the Braves may have actually gotten the better end of that deal a couple of years back where they gave up Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a whole slew of other prospects for Mark Teixeira.  You see, Saltalamacchia is stuck in the minors in Oklahoma City.  Seems he’s forgotten how to throw a baseball.  Back to the pitcher.  Reminds you of something out of Charlie Brown, doesn’t it?