Thursday, November 30, 2006

This or That?

This or That?

Two choices. Zero Context. Infinite fun!

My Internet buddy, Randy Cox, is about to restart his "internet game show", This or That? Thanks to the magic of blogging, you can join in. It cranks up tomorrow (December 1st). Be there or be square.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Of Zebras & Empires

I had one of those sweet gaming nights where, despite playing a game with the "wrong" number of people, I had an absolute blast. So, you kids get a little actual gaming content this time around.

Monday night gaming started with Braeden (my 5 year old son) playing Booby-Trap (my old wooden copy) and Break the Safe (we won with 2 minutes left!). Next David joined us for the ye olde Parker Brothers game, Pushover (man, those white hulking pawn guys creep me out.)

The final "appetizer" game was Droles de Zebres, a splendid little Bruno Cathala game that I taught David (and beat him - but it's one of those games you need to play once to see how things are going to work). BTW, I can't recommend Droles highly enough - it's a placement game with perfect information & a whimsical theme (creating a wild animal park for tourists) that plays in 20 minutes. (Also nice - the animal pieces have "special powers" that mirror their real-life roles, making it very easy to teach.)

Finally, we got to the "main event" of the night. Jim had just purchased the FF edition of Britannia, but I hadn't had time to read the rules & get ready to teach it. (Yes, you read that correctly - Jim bought the game & gave it to me to learn so I could teach it to him.) David & Jim both wanted something meat-y... and decided they were willing to learn History of the World. (I own & love the H/AHedition.)

Now, I realize that 3 players isn't the best number to show off HOTW... you can play with 2 colors each, but that's monstrously confusing for newbies to the game. Still, I don't get to play it much and it's a game I really enjoy, so... we managed to have an epic battles in a game about epic battles.

My early forays into China were overun by David's green horde - and by the late game, David had managed to pretty much overtake the entire Far East. Jim's early victories in the Middle East & N. Africa dwindled way in the late game. I managed to take S. Europe early - and then maintained a strong presences in N. Europe & the Americas. In fact, I had the Epoch 6-7 "one-two" punch of Portugal (w/Reallocation) andGermany (w/Leader) to put me back in contention.

The final scores (pre-Preminence markers) were:
  • David 200
  • Mark 200
  • Jim 190
And after adding the markers in:
  • David 209 (2 markers)
  • Jim 207 (4 markers)
  • Mark 200 (zero markers - my tie at the end of Epoch 7 kept David & I both from getting a marker)
Wowsa - we finished the game hooting & hollering... what a delightful way to spend an evening.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crackpipe Remote OR Yes, As A Matter of Fact, I Do Watch Too Much Network Television

t-shirt graphic is from glarkware

This show used to be cutting-edge political and social satire, but it's gotten lobotomized by a... broadcast network hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience. We were about to do a sketch you've seen already about five hundred times. Yeah, no one is going to confuse George Bush with George Plimpton. We get it. We're all being lobotomized by this country's most influential industry! It's just thrown in the towel on any endeavor to do anything that doesn't include the courting of twelve-year-old boys. Not even the smart twelve-year-olds - the stupid ones! The idiots - of which there are plenty, thanks in no small measure to this network! So why don't you just change the channel? Turn off the TV. Do it right now. Go ahead.

There's always been a struggle between art and commerce. But I'm telling you, right now art is getting its [butt] kicked, and it's making us mean... It's making us cheap punks and that's not who we are! People are having contests to see how much they can be like Donald Trump? We're eating worms for money. Who wants to screw my sister? Guys are getting killed in a war that's got theme music and a logo? That remote in your hands is a crack pipe.

Wes Mendel, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip


The Amazing Race

  • spiritual relevance: low (thankfully, there's no Christian contestants like the Weavers or the Fogles)
  • quality level: pretty darn good
  • warnings: language & people being mean to each other
  • network: CBS (8 pm Pacific)

Thankfully, The Amazing Race is once again amazing, as they've changed the non-elimination rules (now you get to keep your stuff/$ but you will take a 30 minute time penalty if you don't finish 1st on the next leg), made the clues back into clues rather than Mapquest directions, and found some interesting challenges again. It doesn't hurt that most of the contestants are reasonably likeable - with the notable exception of Peter.

If you gave up on The Amazing Race due to the debacle that was the Family season and/or the goofball fest that was last season, it's OK to come back now.


My prime viewing night... and also my gaming night. Thank goodness for my trusty VCR. (Yes, I realize that "hip" people would be using Tivo, but that would require our little town to be wired for cable - which it isn't.)

Prison Break

  • spiritual relevance: very low
  • quality level: pretty darn good (if you can ignore plot holes big enough to drive a prison bus through)
  • warnings: some language, drug use, and heaps o'violence
  • network: Fox (8 pm Pacific)

The second season of this soap opera crossed with every prison movie you've ever seen (and an added pinch of X-File-ish government conspiracy for flavoring) is actually bopping along at a reasonable pace. They've managed to kill off 4 major characters in the first 6-7 episodes, which means they must be getting notes from the same folks who are behind the last season of 24.

It's not great TV, but I find the story interesting & unpredictable. It's also interesting how they are beginning to deal with Michael's guilt at the fallout from his plan. (This is one of my favorite things about good TV shows - they actually allow character's actions to resonate throughout their lives. For a great example of this, check out Boomtown on DVD... sigh, just one season.)


  • spiritual relevance: it's got potential
  • quality level: sweet (which is better than "pretty darn good")
  • warnings: occasionally violent and/or gruesome, generally kind of dark (except Hiro)
  • network: NBC (9 pm Pacific)

It's the X-Men meet the X-Files... which would only be mildly enjoyable - except that the guys plotting this thing are doing some creative stuff with that "high-concept" pitch. And they didn't hurt themselves with the character of Hiro, who is a complete delight. (Note: say "thank you" to Lost for making it cool to subtitle all of a character's dialogue.)

This one's doing well enough that is has a full season order already (that means the network is buying the whole season.) Don't miss out on the online graphic stories each week, too - on NBC's website. They add bits to the story that aren't in the episodes.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

  • spiritual relevance: extremely high (Harriet is the best written Christian character on television)
  • quality level: top notch
  • warnings: language, adult things discussed, lots of humor that will anger rabid right-wingers
  • network: NBC (10 pm Pacific)

Shari & I were huge fans of Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night"... and this feels like Sports Night, only twice as long & with lots more cash. It's a "dramedy", much like The West Wing was in it's best moments, all with the trademark Aaron Sorkin whiplash dialogue.

If you bailed out on the show after the second episode (the weakest so far), it's time to come back. The show has finally found a groove that is sweet & enjoyable & promises interesting things to come. And if you were worried about getting your heart broken when it got cancelled, don't. It now has a full-season order. (Yeah!)

Again, I want to make sure everyone is clear that my love for the show, the storylines & the characters does not necessarily extend to the political/cultural views expressed therein. What I do like, however, is that the debate doesn't feel one-sided... and not all of the "kicker" lines in the discussions are given to the folks on the Left.



  • spiritual relevance: none
  • quality level: decent (the acting is great, but it's standard So Cal cop show locations & direction)
  • warnings: language, some light violence, sexual situations
  • network: Fox (8 pm Pacific... for now - there's some talk of it moving again)

Shari compares this to the early episodes of Alias, which took a potentially serious thriller story & made it light & fluffy. What Alias did for spies, Standoff does for hostage negotiation. It works, mainly because of the likeability & chemistry of the two lead characters.

Over the last few weeks, it seems to be establishing a pretty comfortable vibe - a cop show with a dash of humor & romance. It's not gonna set the world on fire, but Shari likes it and I like watching it with her.

Veronica Mars

  • spiritual relevance: on occasion
  • quality level: pretty good (the writing & acting are great, but the set/location quality is just so-so)
  • language: language, alcohol & drug use, occasional violence, sexual situations
  • network: CW (9 pm Pacific)

I really like the oddball combination of noir, Buffy sans the supernatural & bits of The O.C. that makes up Veronica Mars... and after a rough start (the first three episodes were pretty weak), the show looks like it is back to the high standards of the first two seasons.

I'm hoping this season maybe cuts back on the "let's show teens having sex" thing... I understand it as a story element but that doesn't mean I want to watch.



  • spiritual relevance: high (predestination, freewill, where does evil come from, how do you forgive?, etc...)
  • quality level: astounding
  • warnings: violence, sexual situations, language
  • network: ABC (9 pm Pacific)

I watched the first season of this religiously... but the 2nd season started slow & when I missed taping a couple of episodes (about the time Ana Lucia shot Shannon), I gave up. Thanks to the magic of DVD & Netflix, I picked up where I left off - only to realize that I'd ditched the show just as it got REALLY good. Sigh.

So, I've been staying up with the third season... which is driving me crazy! Where are Sun & Jin? More Hurley, please! Who are the new pair that went to Pearl Station with Mr Eko, Desmond & John?

The Nine

  • spiritual relevance: potentially high (forgiveness, revenge, consequences of our actions, etc...)
  • quality level: pretty good
  • warnings: violence, sexual situations, language
  • network: ABC (10 pm Pacific)

The Nine is a pretty serious Lost-ish take on a bank robbery & the fallout in the lives of the hostages & hostage-takers. While the acting is very good & the ideas are interesting, they're going to have a problem on their hands if they don't pick up the pace of the story a bit.



  • spiritual relevance: mixed (while there are some interesting questions about trust & honor, they're all pretty much undercut by the game-ish nature of the show)
  • quality level: excellent
  • warnings: language, pixellated body parts
  • network: CBS (8 pm Pacific)

While the whole "racially divided tribes" thing got most of the early press, this has actually been a very interesting season of Survivor. There's been some intriguing people on the show, some good plans gone awry, and new elements (the jury starts at 12... and before "the merge"?!) that are making things harder to predict (and therefore more fun).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Fear & control are behind most decisions made by the leadership of North American churches. Reggie McNeal

Ouch - that cuts a bit close to the bone. Question for the day: what am I doing RIGHT NOW in my ministry that is primarily about the fear of other people and/or the need to control?

For more on Reggie McNeal, check out Missional Community