Pop Culture

Why How I Met Your Mother Screwed Up The Ending

I love good storytelling. I'm drawn to it like a wayward moth toward a candle piercing the evening darkness . . . . . . and stuff.

Since 2005, the wife and I have enjoyed watching the CBS sit-com How I Met Your Mother on Monday evenings. Hoisting the baton left to them by NBC's Friends, the show's diverse cast of characters and witty writing made for good television; even when HIMYM wasn't at it's best, it was still great entertainment. So in light of my commitment, forgive me if I decided to spend part of my evening writing about last night's series finale.

Perhaps what made the show work best was the premise of the entire series: a father explaining to his teenage children how he and their mother got together. In the midst of the comedy, there was an underlying narrative—a continual guessing game if each woman that Ted (the storyteller) pursued could eventually be the mom.* This thread made the show a more compelling sit-com. Additionally, the writers brilliantly developed the other characters throughout the series. Robin, the original love-interest from the pilot, was immediately labeled the non-mother, but became a central character of the show. The relationship between couple Marshall and Lilly blossomed from their time dating, to getting engaged, to both marriage and family; their path of love was far from ideal, a relationship that wasn't perfect but still persevered. By the way, while this is the last I'll speak about Marshall and Lilly in this critique, it should be noted that theirs is one of TV's great relationships.

Yet the main comic relief of HIMYM is Barney. Cast after his role in the movie Harold and Kumer Goes to White Castle, he was the Über-womanizer, always dropping double entendres and getting caught in ridiculous situations. But the writers always unveiled that calloused façade of Barney with continual visions of his caring nature. Barney became the ultimate redemption story, most evident in his decision to marry Robin.

This is very interesting storytelling.

As the series lead, Ted is the anti-Barney, a virtuous character. Robin was Ted's ideal woman. The HIMYM writers played this whole Ross/Rachel relationship throughout the series but ultimately decided (inexplicably really) that it just shouldn't work out; again, they made it clear from the first episode that she was not the mother. Enter Barney: in no world should Barney and Robin be together. In order to win Robin, Barney would have to become virtuous. He could no longer be the promiscuous man that he prided himself on being. In their first go-round together, Barney suppressed his libido to date Robin, but it changes him negatively (as it did Robin), so they broke up. Yet in the last couple of seasons, the writers decided that this relationship should work out. Gradually, Barney changes. He's completely faithful to Robin and becomes a better man in the progress. The entire last season showed the week of their wedding.

SIDENOTE: And since last fall, this made me SO angry. A whole season covering a few days is just maddening. If I wanted to watch that, I'd get Jack Bauer on Netflicks. Still, the writers revealed the mother (well, actually, they did this at the end of the previous season) and through flashbacks and flashforwards, we get to see tidbits of Ted and the mother's relationship. So even though it was painful at times, the underlying hook of discovering how the two met kept the show interesting.

Anyway, throughout this final season, all the characters worked through their differences (including Ted and Robin working through any of their old emotions), and the two wed. Finally, after a whole season of drawing out a singular event, the wedding took place in the second to last episode, leaving the finale to wrap up the actual meeting of Ted and the mother of his children.

Here, in one hour of television, the writers of the show ruined nine years of shows.

A two-paragraph synopsis of the finale: as the relationship between Ted and the mother developed, Robin and Barney's marriage begins to disintegrate. Robin's job as a global-traveling news reporter leaves Barney in tow. As a result, Barney is restless, they're both miserable and, within three years of getting married, they're divorced. Even though it's an amicable split, there is implied blame on Robin; it's her career that ultimately ended their relationship. And just like that, Barney reverted to his promiscuous lifestyle. As Robin becomes more distant, Barney continues in sexual conquest until accidentally fathering a child. Confident that nothing will change him, his life instantaneously transforms upon seeing his daughter's face. As a result, Barney is a changed man, criticizing ladies at the bar for trying to hook-up with guys.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ted and the mother are shown having an amazing relationship. Still, they wait for five years and have two kids before getting married. At the end of the episode, as Ted describes their amazing life together, we learn that the mother was sick and died young (this was so predictable earlier in the season). Apparently, Ted's teenage kids see through their father's storytelling. They insist that the story he was telling them (throughout the whole series) had little to do with their mother, but was a guise for his affinity for their "Aunt Robin." They give him their blessing to date Robin and the series ends where it begins, with Ted wooing Robin.

Now I won't even argue that they messed up the ending. Having Ted and Robin end up together was totally acceptable for me. But in order to accomplish this, the writers chose to destroy nearly a decade of amazing character development.

ROBIN came off as unlikable in the finale. She was dehumanized and reverted. Throughout the series, Robin was presented as a man-like lady, with masculine proclivities. Her character flaw was that she was TOO independent, not believing that she needed anyone. It was her immersion into this group that changed who Robin was. In the finale, however, all the progress that Robin made over nine years was immediately dismissed. She became obsessed with herself and her career, even though she had previously conquered those temptations. In the end, she was plain unlikable. In fact, it wasn't until the end of the show that Ted's kids speak well of Robin, even though we never see it.

Compare that to TED and you get the complete opposite. Ted is shown as completely lovable in the finale. He meets the Mom. He becomes a dad. You almost have to wonder why he would want anything to do with the Robin of today. Still, I completely missed something else about Ted in this episode that Kelly said bothered here from the finale: Ted waits five years after getting engaged to actually get married to the mother. This is just not like Ted at all. Throughout the series, he was a true romantic. It made absolutely no sense in relation to anything else in the show for Ted to do this. It's as if the writers forgot who they were writing about.

But it was the actions of BARNEY in the finale that will grate on me whenever I watch reruns of the show again. His character trajectory was one of redemption. His past flaws were humorous, but he could still have been an interesting character without defaulting to a sleeze. But after years of growth, and an entire season where he seriously commits himself to a lifelong relationship with Robin, they send him back to the sewer. Even Lilly offers that what might have been cool when he was younger was just pathetic in his 40's. Sure, the writers try to turn it on a dime when he first views his newborn baby, but by then it's just ridiculous. What they developed over years, they ended in minutes. There was little reward for longtime viewers.

My theory on this is the real life persona of Neil Patrick Harris permitted the writers to write Barney like this. Harris was a child actor (loved me some Doogie Howser M.D.) who didn't have much of an adult acting career. His faux-role as himself in Harold and Kumar was humorous because he portrayed himself as a massive jerk. As his fame grew while in HIMYM, he took on the flattering role in Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Before long, he was hosting the Tony and Emmy Awards. NPH has emerged as one of the most likeable actors in Hollywood, making his role as Barney even more humorous. My opinion is that it was his immense likability that permitted the writers to treat Barney like that in the final episode. In the end, they figured that regardless of what he did, you'd still love Barney. But I just didn't. Any redemption they showed him claim in the last few seasons was stripped away in the final episode. His passionate pursuit of Robin meant nothing. In the end, I cared nothing for Barney.

The sad thing is that the writers still could have accomplished all they wanted without jettisoning the character development of the past nine years. They still could have given us a final episode with twists, turns, and surprises. With all of their old material and running gags, they could have stuffed the finale full of tributes to long-time fans. Even if they wanted to get Barney and Robin divorced, there were other ways it could have happened. But instead, they wanted to make their last episode something spectacular and they failed miserably. And even though they no longer need to care, they alienated their fanbase in the process.

As I look back at everything I've written here, even I find it insane that I've written this much about a series finale. But I'd suggest that this is the power of good storytelling. The HIMYM writers staff did so many things right over the years that they kept me coming back, even when they weren't at their best. The story was undeniably compelling. But it went so bad at the end, they deserve criticism. It shows that no matter how good your story is, it doesn't take much to ruin the entire thing.


*And by the way, why no reference to the Bob Saget narration at the end of the show? That reminds me: don't even get me started about the finale of Full House.

Top Tunes of 2011

I love year ending "best of" lists, but don't really feel qualified to write them. But this year,  I'm going to make an effort in music. Three things contributed to my developing a music swagger. First, the advent of Spotify gave me free access to more music than my Napster Days (of which I am now uber-repentant). And if the music industry is reading this (hopefully they'll ignore that Napster part), know that Spotify has encouraged my to purchase more music this year than I ever have. That leads me to the second contributing factor: my immersion into Amazon Digital Music. Five dollar (and sometimes even cheaper) albums have become my addiction. When we take our loose change to CoinStar, we'll get it in Amazon credit which translates into more music. And finally, we purchased an Apple TV, which can play songs through iTunes (including your iPhone), which has providing a soundtrack to our family reading time. Yep, I listened to a lot of music this year.

So in no particular order (yep, I'm copping out) here are my top songs of 2011.

Foo Fighters-Walk To me, this was Foo's year. Their band documentary came out, their tour (which Kelly and I witnessed firsthand was epic) and their album Wasting Light was one of the best of the year. The album is solid from front to finish, and I'll predict it earns a couple of Grammys. Dave Grohl said that this is the greatest song he's ever written and I'm hard pressed to disagree.

The Head and the Heart- Down in the Valley This band burst onto the national scene this year and I'm glad. Great harmonies (mixing a female voice among a couple of men), powerful piano, and driving melodies. I love all their stuff, but picked this one because it's a great sample of their work.

Manchester Orchestra- April Fool I've been huge on Manchester Orchestra, having the chance to hear them at the House of Blues in Boston this year. It was the same day their new album drop and it's another gem. Although I listen straight through all the tracks, April Fool is typical of their style. Try it out.

Typhoon- The Honest Truth Heard the live performance on a late night talk show and instantly loved it. I'm excited for the reemergence of horns in songs today. That combined with both the lyrics and the honest, choir singing makes this a song you should discover.

M83- Midnight City It's techno, not my normal style, but I have much respect for them. I'm not sure if it's my urban proclivities that make me like this song more (I don't nominate this song for sound urban theology), but it makes me happy listening to it.

Home- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Even though this song was released in 2009, it didn't reach traction in the U.S. until this year. Everything they do has a retro feel to it, and it was a constant jam as Kaelyn and I drove to school (who doesn't love whistling?).

JayZ and Kanye West-Otis I love JayZ and can tolerate Kanye's lack of humility, so I was excited about this release. Unless you prefer strong language repeated gratuitoulsy, do like I do and download the censored version. This tribute to Otis Redding will be on my marathon running playlist for years to come.

Fleet Foxes- Battery Kinzie Fleet Foxes blew up this year. Many people included them on their best albums of 2011 lists and it's well deserved. I think of them as the second coming of Simon and Garfunkel. Solid strings, deep emotion, and gorgeous harmonies make them a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Wye Oak- The Alter The duo just has a nice sound. I'm not sure I can explain it any better. Civilian was a great album and, again, this song is just a primer on their sound. Check them out.

Adele-Rolling in The Deep When all is said and done, people will remember 2011 as Adele's year and I love it. Substance truly wins out over style here, with the isolation of a generational voice and the absence of Gaga-style antics. It's mind blowing that she's so young, leaving great hope that we'll have decades of her brilliance to enjoy. Even though Someone Like You is powerful, I'll admit to fatigue and opt for Rolling in the Deep.

Showcasing the City

If you're not watching TLC's Police Women of Cincinnati, I'd encourage you to set your DVRs accordingly. The new series (part of an older franchise which previously explored other metropolitan areas) follows the duties of four policewomen on the Cincinnati Police Department. I'm already hooked. Some of the positives I took away from episode one:

  • They selected interesting ladies to follow. They seem incredibly competent and their interviews segments are compelling. I know I've met one of the officers (in front of my house) and I think I met another one around the community.
  • My 1990's exposure to "COPS" wore me out on these reality cop shows. But this show has a totally different feel. It was much more human.
  • Thus far, they seem balanced in their representation of urban issues. I've met a couple CPD officers who possess absolute disdain for their beat. But I've met many who truly love the people they protect. I think we'll get to see that even more in future episodes.
  • HD viewers are rewarded with some absolutely stunning night images of the city. I'm not sure who did their aerial filming, but I haven't seen better . . . ever.

That said, I harbor some hesitation about this show. I don't fear how outsiders will perceive our town as a result of the show (previous installments covered Dallas, Memphis, and South Florida. Those places have survived). No, my concern is for how Greater Cincinnatians will think of our urban areas.

There is already a prevailing city verses the suburbs attitude here. Our local media does little to regulate that, quick to highlight crimes near the city center while virtually ignoring evils committed in the 'burbs (a recent armed robbery at the West Chester Kroger received minimal coverage). Unfortunately, this new TLC show will do nothing but reinforce the negative opinions harbored against the city by those from this area. Cincinnati is not overtly violent and dangerous. We have no more issues than any other city our size. But many local residents will tell you otherwise.

I'll give you an example. I was in our cafeteria earlier today talking to a CPD officer and I asked him if he watched the show. He said he did and enjoyed it. He then asked my opinion. I told him that I wasn't too excited that my street was featured about six times, but that it was interesting TV. As we wrapped up our conversation, he encouraged me to, "be safe around your neighborhood."

This CPD officer knew where I lived and thought I was crazy for living there. If this is how someone who knows my neighborhood feels, how much worse an opinion do those who have never been here have?

Friends, I live in a safe place. When things go bump in the night, I'm never more concerned than I was when the same happened at our house in the suburbs. Many of the "dangerous streets" highlighted in last night's episode are those I've traversed on foot many-a-time. I fully recognize that you might not want to live here, but don't disparage it just because you don't understand it. For every thug they on television, there are hundreds of right-living people in the community. Urban life can be messy and chaotic, but it can also be beautiful. There's diversity. There's uniqueness. There's a neighborhood that has it's own personality. These are things I've never felt in my suburban life.

So go ahead and watch this show but don't succumb to the lowest common denominator. There's no need to blow up the city and start over. There are good people here who are doing their best to eek out an existence. The city doesn't have a monopoly on lowlifes. They're all over the place.

And as for me, I'll keep watching the show too. Who knows, I just might see my house.

Livebloggin' the Grammys

What to do on a Sunday night where you're physically exhausted?

Live blog the Grammys of course.

Fortunately, we have the DVR, so I can go all the way through while skipping through the commercials [although I'm not sure if watching on delay allows me to label this as "live" blogging]. Let 'er rip.

1. Opening up with the new U2 song. Love the sound, will buy the CD, not sure about Bono's choreography, however. It starting to look more and more like he needs John Madden's [BOOM] tough actin' Tinactin.

2. I thought Bono was joking about Whitney Houston when he finished his song. He was actually introducing her. I'm not sure I give her a live microphone at K-Mart, let alone at the Grammy's. I keep hearing the Mad TV parody in my head of Whitney shouting, "Bobby!"

3. Glad that Jennifer Hudson is getting her life back on track. But you can't miss the obvious: her dress looks like she went to the dentist and forgot to take off her bib.

4. Remember when Boyz 2 Men were on top of the world? Now they're relegated to back up singer status. Wait a minute: Whitney Houston to Bobby Brown to Boyz 2 Men. What are we missing? Some Bell Biv Devoe!

5. Loves me some Hova with my Coldplay. When Jay-Z comes back wearin' the FOUR-FIVE, it ain't to play games with you. I will admit that I'm tiring of Coldplay right now. Feels like they've played this album live in every conceivable venue.

6. With Carrie Underwood we're thirty minutes in and two American Idol contestants. Wondering how high this total will go. Praying for a Sanjaya appearance.

7. Keeping everyone in the loop: Sheryl Crow is now a country music singer. I think Kid Rock is too . . . and George Jones is pissed. Speaking of Kid Rock, I need to know who's buying his albums. Full disclosure: I loved Bawitdaba, but he was a rapper then. Just like I'm not going to pay to Michael Phelps run, I'm not going to recognize Kid (nor Kanye West for that matter) as a legitimate singer. And now, listening to Miley Cyrus, I'm thinking she needs to added to that list. Going head-to-head with Taylor Swift was not a great idea. NOTE: the coolest thing about this previous paragraph is the "Bawitdaba" is actually in the Wordpress Spell Check.

8. So Robert Plant doesn't want a Led Zepplin reunion but he'll sing country music? I'm loosing my mind.

9. Admit it: the way the Jonas brothers were standing around Stevie Wonder, you were hoping they'd drop, "Jammin' on the One."

10. Metallica and Coldplay in the same Rock category? Considering neither James Hetfield nor Lars Ulrich showed up, I think they knew the inevitable.

11. Why does watching Katy Perry make me feel embarrassed for her? Her performance looked like they gave a twelve-year old girl four minutes to run around a stage. Kelly and I are still thoroughly confused by her obsession with fruit.

12. Kenny Chesney = Fastforward DVR.

13. I have a new dream: that my very pregnant wife will be able to rap with TI, Kanye, Lil' Wayne and Hova while wearing a polka-dot bikini type thing like M-I-A. It's tough to look thug when you look like a cartoon character.

14. I LOVE THE FOO!!!! Still confused: who was that old dude singing the Beatles tunes?

15. The live feed didn't appreciate John Mayer winning the award. I cannot disagree.

16. Love it when the recording academy dude comes out and talks. In the midst of so many cool people, his appearance is definitely the "one of these people is doing their own thing" moment. Using "Yes We Can" throughout his speech probably seemed like a good idea, but it was just out-of-touch awkward. And I love that he thinks he can give a serious speech asking for political concessions from the President immediately after TI just got bleeped for his potty mouth.

17. Neil Diamond, on the other hand, still incredibly relevant . . . creepy, but relevant. I'm stoked that they mic'd the audience because you could hear the "BA! BA! BAH!"

18. Justin Timberlake > Robin Thicke

19. This letter left over from the Super Bowl commercial they just ran:

Dear Pepsi,

Seriously, no matter how bad his current live show is, Bob Dylan will never be will.i.am's equal.

Sincerely, Steve

20. Sad: I fastforwarded through Robert Plant [w/Allison Kraus]. And they won album of the year? This leads me to believe that my grandmother has yet to relinquish her Grammy vote.

Stevie Wonder plays us off. We finally caught up to the broadcast at the very end, meaning that we were able to watch the program commerical free and finish before midnight. Overall, nice show. No matter how bad parts are, I always enjoy the Grammys. Now the real contest: will Neil Diamond make the top ten of downloaded songs on iTunes tomorrow?

Beware the Harpies!

A couple of Saturday mornings ago the family was lounging in bed. Kaelyn was reading some books and Kelly and I were trying to see if there was anything on television that could occupy our attention. After three or four cycles of flipping through the channels, we noticed Stephen Baldwin in a movie.

Believe it or not, this was enough to stop us in our tracks.

Besides his well-known born-again Christian lifestyle, the only exposure we had with the youngest Baldwin was his stint on Celebrity Apprentice. His appearance in the Trump's reality show [and, yes, I will DVR the newest edition of the show as I find it train-wreck-like fascinating] made us wonder how this guy can claim to have an acting career. Since The Usual Suspects was carried by an amazing script and Kevin Spacey, and since we missed out on Bio-Dome [or did we?], Kel and I decided to give this movie a try.

It took as a commercial break to determine what we were watching. It was actually on the Sci-Fi channel, a 2007 movie entitled: Stan Lee's The Harpies. If you are unfamiliar with Stan Lee [you probably have a life], he is the creator of such iconic comic book characters as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four. So you'd have to figure that even if Baldwin didn't have the acting chops, a Stan Lee script could redeem the film, right?

No. Not at all. In fact, I would have to nominate this as one of the worst movies ever.

Yet even though the blessing of digital cable provides us with almost 150 channels of entertainment, Kelly and I chose to watch the entire flick. We could not look away. It was so horrendously bad that it was thoroughly compelling. Do you doubt me? Feast on these clips from the movie here and here and become a believer.

It reeks of a rip-off of Bruce Campbell's Army of Darkness, as Baldwin's security officer character is teleported back to the mythological Middle Ages. He has access to a pistol and sawed-off shotgun, which he wields in a way that testifies to his unfamiliarity with firearms. His goal: to get back to the future. Of course, along the way, he's forced to fight an evil overlord and his harpies, which are described by someone somewhere [sorry, no citation] as flying Amy Winehouses. SPOILER ALERT: he makes it back and wins the girl.

While the CGI is painful to watch, the constant overacting by the cast and underacting by Baldwin overpower the lack of technology. Seriously, I've seen middle school plays that contain better dramatization. In short: it has everything needed to be deemed the worst movie ever, especially as it was somehow created to be a serious film.

Enticed? The block out 90 minutes of your life and watch it on Japanese YouTube here. I'm sure the subtitles could get annoying, but the quality of this movie's presentation will naturally cause them to fall by the wayside. I'd be delighted to hear from others who have seen this cinematographic masterpiece.

When The Family Business Falters

I'll admit that on most Sunday mornings we usually view at least some portion of the Hour of Power on TV. It's not really my style, although the architecture of the Crystal Cathedral should be enough for almost anyone to tune in. I actually own Robert Schuller's autobiography [bought at severe discount, mind you] and it is rather fascinating.

As a student of evangelical eccesiology I was wondering what would happen when Schuller had to finally step aside from the pulpit; I predicted the church would be OK through the transition, but the television ministry would probably suffer. Then, almost two years ago when Robert Schuller named Robert Schuller [his son] to replace him, I thought everything would be OK. The son of Schuller is very much like him, even sharing similar mannerisms, and should have been able to at least maintain the ministry of his father.

But this morning's L.A. Times reports that the younger Robert Schuller has now been forced out of the pulpit by his father, citing "different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry." The elder Schuller states that the Hour of Power will now feature multiple speakers in an effort to present the best preaching in the world. He can spin it however he wants, but I'm now convinced that this signals the end of the Hour of Power program. With no definitive connection to the past, the show will fade into the sunset, yet another sign of changing times.

This may sound bad, but I almost hope there was a moral failing on the part of the son. Otherwise, it then becomes another case of an aging leader who just can't let go. I'm sure Schuller the younger was just doing what he felt he needed to do to attract a younger audience. After watching his shtick a few times, I wasn't impressed but you could at least see he was trying. But I'm sure his father was watching every one of these moves with a scowl, perhaps ever muttering, "that's not how we've always done it," until it finally became too much for him to bear.

As more and more of these megachurches attend to transition from the founding or established preacher to a new leader/vision, these incidents will become commonplace.  Sadly, this one happened on a national scale. And even more disturbing is that a father did it to his son, damaging that relationship forever.

I just hope that thirty-plus years down the road, I'll be able to step aside and let go at the appropriate time. I guess as long as no one screws with my television ministry it'll be no problem.


Apparently, the younger Schuller will remain the Senior Pastor. This move dealt only with the Hour of Power television program. Still, I'm not sure if that's less awkward.


And the younger Schuller speaks! His take is that the board of the church made this move, pulling rank on his father. So if this is true (which is still debatable), then dad then towed the party line, rolling over his son in order to please the board. I'm not sure which is worse at this point. Again, it's just a sad situation.

Pop Culture Paragraphs

Since I haven't blogged much in the past couple of weeks, I've been accumulating observations about stuff seen on the television and the interwebs. Too lazy to post about them in detail, I'll just collect them all here.

1. Finally saw Iron Man on DVD last week. I was very impressed, almost shocked at how well effectively Robert Downey Jr delivered his one-liners. I guess he's back on track to super-stardom.

2. Johnny Depp signs on for Pirates of the Carribean 4? Wonder if Trey Parker and Matt Stone will treat him with the same respect they had for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg . . .

3. The Office is back and I'm impressed. Even though some feared that the culmination of the Pam&Jim relationship would spell disaster for the show, thus far it is showing that the diversity of the characters are what really carries the story-lines. If you're not watching . . . why do you read my blog?

4. Speaking of things you should be watching, if you gave up on Saturday Night Live another chance. Even though the show is getting a lot of pub for Tina Fey's Sarah Palin imitation, there's much more going here. After a slow start [let's face it: Michael Phelps just isn't funny] the show has regained some of the ground lost since Will Ferrell's departure. This summer I was skeptical that the show would be able to keep it up once Amy Poehler leaves, but as things look now, this cast really is coming together and they should be OK. Kristen Wiig can fill her shoes.

5. How can Major League Baseball executives sleep at night when kids have to sleep instead of watching play-off games? Saturday night's Tampa Bay-Boston game ended near 1:30am. When an East Coast game, even one with a lot of scoring, goes that late, it's the future of the sport that loses. Say what you will about the NFL, but it's biggest game is usually concluded by 10pm. It's sad.

6. And since I'm talking sports, how far into the depths has Michigan football fallen? First there was last year's debacle losing at home to Appalachian State, and then they lose at home this past Saturday to 1-4 Toledo at home. As bad as the Buckeyes have been in national championship games, I'd much rather prefer those drubbings than what UM has gone through.

7. Not at all shocking: the fact that Howard Stern has become irrelevant. Sure, his move to satellite radio ensured that he has more money than he'll ever need, but nobody care. Even though the FCC limited what he said on the radio airwaves, it is what actually defined him as a "shock jock." So even though Stern most likely says even more controversial things now, there is nothing that prevents him from doing so and, therefore, the edge is gone. I think this ultimately proves that no matter how good satellite radio is, its popularity is limited to those hardcore business travelers/commuters. I doubt it will ever claim a preferred place among the many media options.

8. With the financial crisis, I've actually been watching CNBC. Yep, I'm a nerd.

9. Like the entire country, I'm eagerly anticipating November 5th when we'll be rid of the political commercials. While we're all sick of all these personal attacks, it's important to remember that McCain and Obama are actually upholding a time-honored political tradition in our country: mudslinging. My favorite: the journalist who called John Adams a hermaphrodite.

10. And finally, the best random quote I read recently: "I've gotten to the point where kittens and the internet have intertwined— you can't have one without the other."

Live Bloggin' The VMA's

The MTV Video Music Awards, that is.

Well, I'm running a little late, but Kelly and I are watching it on DVR delay. So if you're RSS'ing this one . . . you might have to click to the site to catch the full take.

  • Apparently the awards are taking place in Miley Cyrus' closet this year.
  • Britney, Britney, Britney— despite what the paparazzi might tell you, we're over you.
  • Rihanna does a Thriller impression.
  • So here's Russell Brand. I read an interview about this being his chance to make it here in the US. After the opening monologue, I'm thinking we revoke his visa.
  • Ah, now I get it. MTV gives Brittney the first award to try to force her back into relevance. I'm not sure people will but that [did Viacom produce her latest album?]
  • First Lesson I Learned Tonight: Weezy = Lil' Wayne
  • [Kelly and I both surmise] the Jonas Brothers were relegated to the side lot because MTV wants their demographic but didn't want the teeny-boppers in the actual arena.
  • I can't believe that Katy Perry has any staying power. I'm thinking she'll be forgotten in a year.
  • Second Lesson I Learned Tonight: The Million Dollar Man = Lil' Wayne
  • I likes me some Paramore.
  • Russell Brand: still tired.
  • Not sure about Pink's outfits, but I think she's who Katy Perry wishes she could be.
  • Jordin Sparks stands up for promise rings [after Russell Brand spent the majority of his jokes have centered around the Jonas Brothers and theirs] and will probably get more publicity than his jokes.
  • About Christian Aguilera: First, the best singer in the house decides to lip sync. Second, she does a song that sounds like it was written for Rhianna. Third, I know she can't be thirty yet, but she almost seemed old.
  • How's about some L.L. Cool J Goin' Back to Cali?
  • Two awards for Britney? Fool me once, shame on you . . .
  • So is Kid Rock a country music performer now? I'm so confused . . .
  • OK, the fix is in: Britney wins video of the year. If MTV ever had any credibility, it's all used-up. See, everyone knows that their Movie Awards promote whomever shows up. But this network prided itself on being the musical authority but it's not getting killed by The Disney Channel and American Idol. Just put The Hills on a loop and take the rest of the year off.
  • Kanye should've picked another song to end on. It was kinda a letdown.

These things keep getting weaker and weaker. Remind me so I don't waste my time next year.

What's With This Guy?

O.K. ladies, help me out here.

I'm reading the day's headlines on Google news and glance to see that musician John Mayer has broken up with Jennifer Aniston.

First, I had no idea they were together.

Second, the article [which I shamefully read] listed off his former exploits which included [among others]: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jessica Simpson, and Cameron Diaz.

Holy crap, he has it going on! Now I'll always defer to a good looking man who can get the ladies [ex: Tom Brady], but I just don't get the allure of Mayer. Is he our generation's Neil Diamond?

So if any female readers [or "in-touch-with-their feminine" male readers] of my blog can explain this to me, I could use the enlightenment.

The Shack Book Review [Part One]

One of the blessings of my previous class at Xavier was the freedom to choose our own subjects for papers. Fortunately, my class was on views of the Trinity, so I tailor-made one of my papers so that I could read and examine The Shack.

As I mentioned here before, The Shack is a piece of fiction that is quickly becoming a best-seller and is said to be transforming the way that people are viewing their relationship with God. Originally I was skeptical, but I knew some good Christian people who enjoyed the book so I decided I would refrain from commenting any further until I read it myself. Well I have read it and studied it thoroughly. And after finally taking the time to type out my response, I am ready to unveil the following conclusion:

I do not like this book at all.

In my previous post on The Shack I gave a quick synopsis on the book. So as I continue here, I'm assuming you at least have a cursory understanding of what it's about. Quickly, The Shack is about a guy [named Mack] who is angry with God because his daughter was killed by a serial killer. So God chooses the location of her murder [the aforementioned shack] to be the site of His reconciliation with Mack. Mack spends the weekend with the Trinity [described as a black woman, an Arab man, and an Asian woman] who try to tell them "the truth" about God.

As I begin to critique, let me start here: to be fair, I don't know William Young [the book's author]. I don't fully understand the circumstances surrounding his life [which were apparently somewhat hellish] and I am not judging him directly. As I understand it, the book was supposed to be a therapeutic gesture written for his children, but Young later sought for the book to be published; from there it gained widespread popularity. So it's no longer a personal matter, but a public one, and people are going to this book for spiritual guidance, then it is then fair game for me to deconstruct its contents.

I'm assuming that Young had good intentions in getting this work out there to the masses, but there is objectionable content in it. And while some suggest that it's just an innocently written fictional book that shouldn't be over-examined, I disagree. There is power in the written word. And just because something was done with good intentions does not excuse it from scrutiny if it is, in fact, harmful.

As for its artistic merits, I found it lacking. I've admitted before that I'm not very big on fiction. That said, I can easily recognize good writing and The Shack isn't it. For example, while I disagreed with practically all of the "factual concepts" found in The DaVinci Code, I could definitely see why it is so popular— Dan Brown was a good storyteller. The Shack was not at all similar. Young vacillates between humor and seriousness to the point that it is uncomfortable. And much of the dialogue seemed forced, completely unnatural. It isn't good fiction.

So if I were merely a book critic, this would be reason enough alone for me not to recommend it. But even more than its literary attributes, this book attempts to speak authoritatively on theological issues. Again, Young can claim that it was never his intention to do so, but he does make statements about God and Christianity that are presented as fact, not opinion. So it must be examined from a theological perspective as well.

A roadblock to examining The Shack theologically is the fact that it speaks authoritatively under the veil of a rather emotional narrative. The catalyst behind Mack's weekend conversation with the Trinity is the brutal sexual assault and murder of his daughter. I would suggest that Young's use of the worst possible crime in our society [the violation/death of an innocent child] as a backdrop to this story is a method of deflecting any criticism towards his more controversial statements. Bolstering this observation, Young gives the illusion that this story could possibly be true by inserting himself into the story as narrator. While all of this might seem like no big deal, it creates a barrier for those who dare to criticize the content of the story; so if I question Young's assertions, I'm a heartless person who is unsympathetic towards parents who have lost their children. But the inclusion of such a horrific back-story works for Young by giving his statements strength. So if you are going to truly assess The Shack for what it is, you must immediately divorce the narrative from the given statements about God.

Like I said in my earlier post on The Shack, I am always skeptical of the theological fiction genre. One might counter that that's exactly what C.S. Lewis' classical writings were, but there is a distinct difference. Notice how Lewis worked theology into fiction— He never directly spoke through the Trinity, but always used different representations: The Screwtape Letters is very theological, but it is a conversation conducted between demons; in The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan was certainly a Christ-like character, but it was in a completely different world; in The Great Divorce, the heaven seen does not specifically involve the Three Persons. This is advantageous because if Lewis' theology [like all humans] isn't perfect, it does not suffer from putting definitive statements into the mouth of God.

And this is exactly where Young makes his initial [and crucial] mistake— he puts words into God's mouth. Fiction or not, that makes huge statements and you must ensure that you make no mistakes. And I'm afraid Young is mistaken.

In the next part of this review, I'll give specific instance from the book that I find problematic.


Benefits of a Blogging Wife

The last couple of days we took a mini-vacation that centered around the state of Kentucky. The highlight was our front-row viewing of the Swell Season [the Academy Award winning couple featured in the movie Once] at the Brown Theatre in Louisville. IT . . . WAS . . . EPIC. But, in the immortal words of one LaVar Burton, "don't take my word for it." Read Kelly's description here, as well as her detailed account of our other  activities including two hours we will never get back.

I did bring along our little Canon Powershot camera to the concert and, as a result of our close proximity to the stage, was able to capture some pretty nice pics. They're a tad noisy, but it makes the seem a little gritty. Check them out on my Flickr page.

I Have Reached A New Low

I voted for American Idol tonight. Never before have I been motivated to call in and support a contestant. Until now.

Jason Castro is not very good. At all. Tonight the dread-locked performer did some Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. I'm not really into Marley so I didn't care much for "I Shot the Sheriff." But I do loves me some Dylan so I was looking forward to some "Tambourine Man" and it was OK.

Until he forgot like half a verse. And he filled the void with humming.

And it was then I knew:

I must vote for him.

Face it, this is one of the worst seasons ever and I feel like I've invested in it. I want something in return: I WANT A TRAIN WRECK.

So in my first foray into Idol voting I discovered that you can vote more than once. So I picked up the church cell phone, along with my own and, fully appreciating free calls after 9pm, I started hitting redial.

How many times did I call, you ask.


Yes, I want this to happen.

Unfortunately, the mere fact that I was able to get in so many times probably means Jason is gone, but at least I did my part.

I urge you . . . nay, I IMPLORE YOU, grab your phone and give Jason a vote at 866 . . . whatever-the-crap that-number-is-since-I'm-invested-enough-to-vote-and-blog-it-but-not-enough-to-reach-over-a-little-and-check-the-number-on-my-phone and give him your vote.

And join me in increasing the population of Loser-ville.

Disappointing . . .

 . . . that no one's chimed in about Derby horses. A little too high-brow for y'all? Well let's bring it back to the people and go where I've seldom gone yet this year:

American Idol.

Talk about disappointing.

This is absolutely the worst season I can ever remember. All of the hype about how good this season would be was just that— hype. Just look at the front runners to win this thing:

David Archeleta [not even caring if I spelled it right]: Sure, the kid has a decent voice [not as fantastic as everyone thinks], but his awkwardness makes Taylor Hicks look normal. Can you tell Simon is secretly rooting for him to lose because he knows that no one will buy those albums?

The other David [no, I haven't bothered learning his last name]: Yeah, he's had some good performances, but it's feast or famine. He can be really bad. I think he's popular because he reminds people of Daughtry, but he's no Daughtry. I'm not sure he'll have much of a career either.

In short, this season's been a waste. As I've testified before, the DVR hooks us into this show, but I'm at the point where I'm ready to quit. Doesn't really matter who wins. It's starting to feel like the Reds:

Wait 'till next year.

So pick a Derby horse already.

Pop Culture, Pitchers, and Preaching

If you've ever listened to me preach, you know I have quite an affinity for including pop culture references into my sermon. I do it rather deliberately. Sometimes it's just in passing, for a select few to enjoy for themselves. Even if they only catch one every couple of weeks, I think expecting the unexpected forces the listener to pay close attention to the message, not wanting to miss out on something. That's one of the reasons I enjoy people like Dennis Miller, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, who have the knack of making obscure, dated pop culture references. Sure, they don't always attract boisterous laughs, but they definitely pay-off when done well.

That takes me back to the Reds game I attended yesterday when young phenom Johnny Cueto pitched a masterful game. It was a miserable day so there weren't many people in the stands [unless the seats were covered by an overhang]. In the row next to us were three guys in their early twenties, and one of them was hoisting the only sign I spotted all afternoon. Written in Sharpie on a white board, the sign simply read, "CUETO LIVES!" I didn't think to much of it until today while reading up about things from the game. An obscure Reds blog noted the sign. Apparently it was an obscure pop-culture reference.

It goes back to the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger* film Total Recall. Directed by Paul Verhoeven [a member of the Jesus Seminar?], the academy award winning sci-fi movie [seriously] features Arnold as a secret agent who gets a mind swap and becomes a construction worker. As information about his previously life starts to reappear, the powers-that-be want him dead so he heads to Mars to discover more. While on Mars, his finds an underground resistance group headed by a sage named Kuato. Come to find out, Kuato isn't a guy, but someone's mutated stomach [looks like this if you're interested].** Hijynxs ensue, Kuato is killed, but so are the bad-guys and Arnold saves the day.***

Anyway, the rally cry on Mars for the resistance movement was "KUATO LIVES!" So the twenty-somethings brandishing the sign were making a Total Recall reference. In retrospect, I'm very impressed with the sign, especially considering those guys were probably toddlers when the movie was released.

So very creative pop-culture reference there. And now we see have a Schwarzenegger/Reds connection.

* I find it fascinating that of all the words that spell-check chooses to highlight, Schwarzenegger is not one of them. So his name is so much a part of American vernacular that people who design spell-check include it in their programming.

** Saturday Night Live did a spoof on Kuato that you can watch here.

*** As I wrote out that movie plot I kept thinking, "this movie won an Oscar?" I guess that's why the Academy Awards aren't as cool as they used to be.

Breaking Backstreet's Back

After last night's Xavier game we watched the Celebrity Apprentice finale on DVR. The final task was a fund-raiser concert featuring the Backstreet Boys. It was the responsibility of country singer Trace Adkins to take care of the group, which included fulfilling the requirements of their rider. A "rider" is a list of contractual demands that a band has that needs to be fulfilled when they perform live. I've worked a couple of these out before with Christian bands. Fortunately, none of them were nearly as involved as that of the BSB.

If you have a couple of minutes, you need to watch this video of Trace working with the group. I think what really sets him off is Nick Carter's request for wheat grass; the good ole' country boy looks like he's ready to collectively choke the entire band. This scene was just one of many things [including Gene Simmons] that helped make this one of the most entertaining seasons of The Apprentice in years.

By the way, the footage I linked to was from last week's show. I need to find some from the finale, because Trace goes on an even longer tirade about the boy band, noting how he performed a show while needing major surgery and they want wheat grass; he was absolutely killing them. If I'm the publicity agent for Backstreet Boys, I have to question if this TV appearance really helped their comeback [then again, if I'm their publicity agent, I would probably reevaluate my life's priorities and perhaps go all samurai on myself].

FYI, Trace lost the competition but surely gained a following of non-country fans in the process because the guy is a class act.

Why Do I Watch This?

American Idol, that is. I guess it's because we like music. But if we didn't have DVR, I couldn't stomach it.

Take, for instance, the past two weeks. When they opened up the Beatles catalog I was worried. I didn't want these kids butchering some of my favorite songs, but they did amazingly well. I remarked to Kelly that it was one of the best weeks I've ever watched. Apparently the producers enjoyed it too, as they decided to stick with the Beatles for a second consecutive week.

Big mistake.

Tuesday night's edition was some of the worst two hours of television I've ever witnessed. Absolutely horrible.

And the tonight the Irish chick [I refuse to learn their real names until it's almost over] is in the bottom three? That's just ridiculous.

With new episodes of other shows ready to start up [see: The Office], I could drop A.I. like a bad habit.

Don't make me do it, Seacrest.

Full Disclosure

We're watching Randy Jackson's America's Best Dance Crew on MTV. We're probably not their base demographic, but the combination of DVR and the continued effects of the writer's strike pulled us in. Now we can't stop.

Anyway, the two groups we've loved throughout the show are the JabbaWockeez and Kaba Modern. Unfortunately Kaba Modern almost got kicked off tonight and both Kelly and I were rather angry. So much so that we violated the dreaded "we're-too-into-reality-television" line and voted for them online.

Guess what I'm looking for here is does anyone else watch this? And while I'm at it, how about the Celebrity Apprentice? I've been thoroughly embarrassed at Stephen Baldwin's attempt to be the poster-child of American Evangelicalism. But then again, I wasn't too worried as it seems we're the only people watching it anyway.

Man, I can't wait for The Office to come back.

The Best At Beit [Tunes]

Finished my paper tonight so I'm feeling good. So in a mini-celebration, I played my favorite song of 2007. What is that, you ask? I'll let you know. But why stop at one? Here at the home office, we don't do elevator music. We do not discriminate between musical genres. If a song is good, we'll support it. So here is the Beit Carr top 16 list [just because] of songs from 2007.

16. Regina Spektor- Fidelity 

Kaelyn likes it. Kelly likes it. She's Russian. It makes the list

15. Girlfriend- Avril Lavigne

She's crazy, but I like her music. Total bubble-gum, but who doesn't like gum? 

14. Hey There Delilah- Plain White T's 

We were into this before it over-saturated the world. Apparently the guy wrote the song for a girl who didn't even like, who already had a boyfriend. Wonder what it's like to hear a song on the radio about you . . .  

13. Umbrella- Rihanna

Kaelyn's song of the year. The best part is listening to her sing "'ela, ela, A! A! A!" 

12. 1,2,3,4- Feist

Blame it on the iPod commercial.  

11. This Is Why I Rock- Mims featuring Purple Popcorn

The rock version of this redundant rap song is actually rather good. 

10. Stolen- Dashboard Confessional

Emo, but likeable. 

9. The End of History- Fionn Regan 

More emo, but a great accoustic guitar. All his stuff is awesome. 

8. How Far We've Come- Matchbox Twenty

Late to the party, but a Matchbox song worth the download. 

7. Grace Kelly- Mika

Freddie Mecury back from the dead? Sounds like it. 

6. Lip Gloss- Little Mama

"Whatchu know 'bout me?" High school rap is awesome.

5. Boston- Augustana

The piano: Coldplay invented it, Augustana carries the torch. 

4. Cupid's Chokehold- Gym Class Heroes

I'm just sayin', this song does not get old. 

3. Stronger- Kanye West

Kanye is good for one hit song an album. This is it.

2. Icky Thump- The White Stripes

Jack White is masterful. This song is proof. 

1. The Pretender- Foo Fighters 

Mr T might want to go fight some foo's, but it's this song the bears all the competition. The Foo Fighters know how to make albums and this one does not disappoint. Get . . . This . . . Song.