Monday, March 29, 2010

Spiel des Jahres: My Uneducated Guesses

According to BGGWiki, the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) is "the most prestigious award for board & card games" and "is awarded annually by a jury of German game critics." Some may debate the 'most prestigious' part (particularly your more hardcore capital "G" Gamer types) but the award has an amazing history.

I think it's a very good award for what we in the hobby call "family gamers" - folks who want something more than Phase 10 or Uno but aren't interested in devoting the rest of their natural life to learning the best opening moves for the various 18xx boards.

The nominees & recommended game will be announced at the end of May, with the winner announced at the end of June. (The Kinderspiel des Jahres - the Children's Game of the Year - will be announced in early August.)

Well, it's late March... and I'm going to attempt to predict which games will end up on the jury's lists. I'm doing this primarily on the strength of years of watching the jury and on my own gut feeling about the various games. Note: I haven't played very many of them - not even the kid games! But that won't stop me from trying to do this.

Special Award?

There's been some early talk about a Special Award (which they give on occasion) for Dungeon Lords... I think that's a distinct possibility. It's a bit too complicated to be on the regular nomination list, but it's a great game with one of the funniest rulebooks (esp. if you've ever played D&D) around. (It is, btw, a theme-heavy worker-placement game about building a dungeon & keeping those pesky adventurers from messing it up.)

Spiel des Jahres

Here are my picks (in alphabetical order) for the nominations/recommended list:
  • Abandon Ship (Knizia push-your-luck game with cute theme)
  • A Brief History of the World (this is really probably a dark horse... but it's a splendid new re-imagining of the original game)
  • Fresko (Queen - building frescoes game... looks very cool)
  • Jäger und Sammler (Knizia collecting game from Amigo)
  • Kamisado (abstract game now released by Huch & Friends)
  • Mosaix (Schmidt)
  • Power Grid Factory Manager
  • Ra: The Dice Game (I'm torn whether I like this better than the original game or not)
  • R-Oko (R-Eco released by Amigo)
  • Small World (another dark horse, mainly because of theme)
  • Snapshot (Rudiger Dorn flicking game in a box from Kosmos)
  • Seeland (Kramer game from Ravensburger, comes w/multiple ways to play/levels of difficulty)
  • Tobago (beautiful deduction game that's weighted for families rather than gamers)
Even though it's a good game, I don't think Endeavor will end up on the list... just a bit too fiddly. I think that goes double for Opera, Carson City & Vasco de Gama. And for Kinderspiel:
  • Burg der 1000 Spiegel (a memory game from Kosmos that uses mirrors inside the box)
  • Diego Drachezahn (Haba makes a racing game out of marble bowling - I think?!)
  • Nelly (another entry from Queen in the same line/box size as Enuk)
  • Gelini Nightlife (while technically not a kids game, the artwork is likely to throw it into this category - it works VERY well with kids, btw)
  • Heckmeck Junior (Zoch simplifies this great dice game about BBQ worms... the original game is known in the U.S. as Pickomino)
  • Kraken-Alaram (a dexterity + memory game from Kosmos)
  • Larry Lasso (Selecta now has us lassoing wooden pieces to score points... excellent)
  • Minotaurus (the best received entry from the new Lego games line... I'd be surprised if at least one of them wasn't mentioned)
  • Schatz der Kobold (from Drei Magier Spiele - it's got a weird crystal doodad that is almost enough to convince me to buy the game without a review)
  • Schatz der Mumie (a small memory-based game from Haba that's received very positive reviews)
  • Vampire der Nacht (Drei Magier Spiele's follow-up to the very popular Nacht der Magier)

BTW, we almost always forget here in the U.S. the influence of the stuff we won't see until the voting is pretty much done (the Spring releases)...

Kid Game Reviews: Click Clack

Click Clack
  • designer: Birgit Hahnle
  • publisher: Rio Grande/Queen
  • date: 2008
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.15
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $22.99 (Troll & Toad)

This is a BIG game - not Fireball Island big, mind you, but certainly the box (and the game, which is one of those "game in a box" thingees) is large enough to use as an end table if you put some legs on it.

It's also got a BIG price tag, which is probably my only hesitation about recommending this game to families. The MSRP is $59.95... ouch. Note, however, that the price link above! Troll & Toad has six copies for $23, which is an incredible deal!

The game itself is pretty simple: players are squirrels trying to store up food for the winter. In turn, they roll the big, chunky custom die & move to the area indicated. In each section, there are four holes, which may or may not contain food (metal chips). The bottom of the squirrels are magnetized, so when you do place your piece on top of food, it makes a satisfying "click clack" sound - hence the name of the game.

After your squirrel is placed, you rotate the board one notch in either direction - the entire board is, btw, a giant turntable. If you (or anyone else) finds food - which will be clear from the "click clack" noise - you get to keep it & place it in your tree.

The first player to get 4 of the same kind of food or 7 food (regardless of type) wins the game.

There's one slight wrinkle: the pig can show up and chase your squirrel off the ground & into the trees. If a player rolls a pig, they move the pig to any area and all of the squirrels in that area are placed on the tree in the center of the board.

That's it. Really, no worker placement, no tile-laying, no 18xx-style stock investment. It's simply a roll'n'move with an amazing boards & wonderful bits.

And that's enough when you're four years old and you can play a game that not only has pieces large enough for you to manipulate easily but also has a big cool-looking board & makes noise when you get stuff. It's also enough when you're a parent who likes kid games that are simple enough for a four year old to enjoy while designed so that they have an ending in a reasonable (15 min or so) amount of time.

I think the age suggested by the publisher is for kids playing without adult supervision. With adults playing, it wouldn't surprise me to see bright 3 year olds enjoying this game.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Quotes That Make You Go "Hmmmm..."

from Jeffery Overstreet's Through A Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth & Evil in the Movies:
The reality of God is not bound to a particular earthly language, country or style. His spirit can speak through anything. But He is far more likely to be encountered in those things that are excellent rather than shoddy, particular rather than general, authentic rather than derivative.
from Paul Richardson's A Certain Risk: Living Your Faith at the Edge:
Perhaps the easiest way to understand faith is to identify it by what it is not. Those who lack faith tend to compartmentalize reality, mentally tearing apart the elements of reality and stuffing them into separate chambers as if they have nothing to do with each other. We see this compartmentalization running rampant in society. The objects & people we cherish are naturally given the places of honor. Everyone else is rounded up & crowded into another chamber. Joy & laughter live in the den. An addiction might be shoved under the bed. Other secrets are stuffed in the closet. Hurting & lonely people rent space in the garage. Our own sour attitude sits impatiently in the car waiting for the ride to church. The glory of God politely greets us as we pull into the church parking lot. God tends to be held at a distance & walled away from the rest of life. Everything is disjointed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Some Game Lists

Since my brain is still a bit foggy from the meds I'm using to fight the phlegm-based-evil which attacked me this week, I'll simply give you a rundown on what needs doing 'round these parts...

A List of Kid Games I Need To Review
  • Birds, Bugs and Beans
  • Burg der 1000 Spiegel
  • Click Clack
  • Das Magische Labyrinth
  • Enuk the Eskimo
  • Feed the Kitty
  • Gelini Nightlife
A List of Other Games I Need To Review (or at least comment extensively about)
  • A Brief History Of The World
  • Adios Amigos
  • Alea Iacta Est
  • Burger Joint
  • Ca$h 'n Gun$: Live
  • Dungeon Lords
  • Fightball: Aztecs vs. The Dark
  • Keltis: Der Weg der Steine
  • Marrakech
  • Piece o' Cake
  • The Adventurers
  • Tobago

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Book Review: Raven's Ladder

I'm never quite sure what to expect from fiction by an author of Christian faith... for every wonderful reading experience (like Stephen Lawhead's Celtic Crusades or C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia), there are numerous slogs through preachy & cliched schlock. (Insert obligatory reference to the Left Behind books here.) It's a little like Tim Burton films - you never know when an "Edward Scissorhands" is going to bloom amongst a field of weeds like "Batman Returns" and "Planet of the Apes."

It helps, of course, when you trust the author as someone who appreciates story & subtlety, which is certainly true of Jeffery Overstreet. As a long-time reader of his articles & reviews at and his blog,, I was excited to find his first book, Through A Screen Darkly, which is a series of essays on movie-going & faith.

So when Mr. Overstreet released the first book in The Auralia Thread series, Auralia's Colors, I... checked it out from the library & felt really guilty about not reading it. Yeah, I know, that wasn't the story I wanted to tell either, but it's the truth. I'm not sure what kept me from digging into the first novel - some of the reviews I'd read made it sound "artsy" and I never managed to pick it up and get into it before I had to return it.

Fast forward a couple of years to the early part of 2010 when I agreed to blog/review Raven's Ladder, the third book in the series. I quickly realized that I didn't want to read book 3 before I read the first two books. So, for the past couple of weeks, I've carted around The Auralia Thread books and read them whenever I could... waiting for my boys at the park, taking a break at work, even squinting at them by the light of a bedside lamp.

Yes, the books are that good.

It's my assignment to review Raven's Ladder... a task which I'm finding daunting. I want to try & paint a picture of the book (and the series that leads up to it) without spoiling the joy of discovery that comes from reading a fantasy series set in a new world. I hope to get you to pick up Auralia's Colors and find yourself swept up by Jeffery Overstreet's beautifully crafted descriptions & plotting... leading inexorably to you buying all three books.

As I've thought about how to do this, I realized that The Auralia Thread reminds me of the TV series, "Lost." No, there's not an airline crash or a smoke monster or even a four-toed statue... but Mr. Overstreet uses the same kind of cinematic style of storytelling to move his plot forward. We get to see important moments from the viewpoints of different characters. Hints are dropped & questions are raised at odd moments that pay off chapters (or sometimes even books) later. The author, much like the writers on "Lost," isn't afraid to kill off characters or radically alter their lives rather than simply pander to our desires for things to be tied up in a simplistic package.

And while the story has definite philosophical & spiritual themes (esp. the relationship of art & faith), those themes don't seem to drive the plot. Instead, they flow out of the natural development of the characters and their lives.

Importantly for me, this is NOT a Christian allegory. Playing the "who's the Christ figure?" game with Christian-penned fantasy novels quickly grows tiresome and takes me out of the book and into "theology debate" mode. Jeffery Overstreet deftly avoids this while still dealing with questions about blind faith, the relationship of art & theology, legalism & freedom, desire as the arbiter of truth, and a plethora of other important themes.

I realize that writing about "serious themes" is likely to turn off some readers. I wonder if my initial hesitation to read Auralia's Colors has to do with other reviewers writing similar things. Pleased, give the story a chance... let the wonder & mystery of this fascinating fantasy world pull you in.

Some specific notes about Raven's Ladder:
  • The prologue tells a story that I was sure would be the first half of the book (based on what had gone before). In other words, Jeffery Overstreet managed to both fulfill my expectations and take the story in some wild new directions in just a few pages.
  • The book covers even more of The Expanse in vivid detail.
  • There's a story (told by Krawg) that absolutely blew me away near the middle of the book... and the implications of what happens to that story speaks volumes about the way we deal with truth & art in our culture.
  • Some key story lines are resolved here, while others are advanced and left hanging... thankfully, there is at least one more book coming!
It's probably no surprise that I recommend this book (well, the whole series) heartily!

Parenting is Hard

These are the times that try men's souls.

Thomas Paine was actually talking about the American colonies fighting for independence from British rule... but it's the first quote that popped into my head when I thought about being a parent.

Parenting is hard. For those of you who are parents, this is not a surprise. There are so many competing needs, expectations & dreams bouncing around in our brains, both for our kids and for ourselves. It's a wonder anybody survives the 18 or so years it takes to raise a child, let alone two or three kids. (Those of you with 4+ children are either saints of incredible patience or gluttons for punishment... or both.)

Some of us had great parenting models from our families that balanced wise discipline with gracious love. We had families that showed interest in our lives & hearts and encouraged us to make good choices regarding spiritual truth & moral/ethical choices. Others of us had families of origin that were replete with all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors: verbal & physical abuse, neglect, addictions & codependcy... the list could go on & on.

Either way, it's pretty common for parents to latch onto some kind of resource to act as a guide for their parenting - when you're tired & frustrated & overwhelmed, it's a lot easier to read a book and follow what it says.

This explains, in earlier generations, the popularity of Dr. Spock & his book "Baby & Child Care" (and, no, this isn't the "live long & prosper" Spock, btw)... and in the last few years, the cultural impact of folks like Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura. (Interesting side observation: we like to listen to people who sound like they are well-educated.)

In Christian circles, the "go-to" guy has been Dr. James Dobson (there is that doctor title again!). While I don't agree with every political crusade that Dr. Dobson has undertaken, I've found his parenting books & the materials he recommends to be helpful.

But there are more folks out there who have teaching ministries, purporting to have THE Biblical way to parent your child(ren) most effectively. Some of those ministries go beyond the bounds of what you can legitimately claim from Scripture to support their particular (usually legalistic) version of parenting.

Without going into major detail, I want to refer you to a couple of sites that talk about two of these ministries:
  • The checkered history of Gary Ezzo and the variety of resources he has published (including Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way) is worth a very careful look - does a great job of compiling articles & responses.
  • The "teaching" that set me off to write this post comes from Michael & Debi Pearl and their No Greater Joy ministry - TulipGirl's blog has an excellent list of warnings & critiques of what they teach and the horrific consequences
For me, any kind of useful parenting advice is going to lead me to balance grace & truth, to show both justice & mercy, to use discipline in order to build up the character of my boys rather than break their spirits. It will not affirm my cultural preconceptions but instead inspire me to treat my family (and esp. my children) as gifts entrusted to me & my wife. Good parenting techniques will not necessarily make my life easier. In fact, they will focus on helping me raise adults rather than control children.

When the advice goes the other way - and particularly when the advice purports to be "God's way" - I need to call it what it is... a lie.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Math is Magic... Really

You didn't know this? All you have to do is watch read/watch the news to figure it out.

For example, did you know that Avatar is the "highest grossing film of all time"? Really - of course, that means you don't take inflation into account... or currency fluctuation... or the premium charge that most theaters levy for watching films in 3-D and/or IMAX. Nah, math is magic, remember? If you can add up the numbers, it's A-OK.

Or another example, this one a bit more serious. Did you know that the current war in Iraq (which, on March 20th of this year, will have lasted 7 years) is longer than World War Two? Granted, that depends on when you count WW2 as starting.

See, if you date it by American involvement, it's not quite 3 years & 9 months from the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to the surrender of Japan in August 1945. The traditional start of the war, however, is September 1, 1939, with the Nazi invasion of Poland (which makes the war almost 6 years long)... and I would suggest that you could make a case for the starting date being the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (September 13, 1931) which means the war lasted 14 years.

But what really cheesed me off about NBC's comparison of the Iraq War last week was the length comparison to WWII followed by a list of Americans killed & wounded in Iraq. In nearly 7 years of fighting & occupation,
4380 American soldiers have been killed and approximately 30,000 troops have been wounded. Those are tough numbers - no one wants to see that kind of grief & pain visited on families & friends.

However, NBC failed to provide context to those numbers... particularly since they had JUST made the length comparison to the Second World War. Over
400,000 US soldiers were killed during our involvement in WWII. 670,000 plus were wounded. In fact, over 19,000 US troops were killed during the Battle of the Bulge, which lasted just over 6 weeks.

Look, I'm not arguing for or against the Iraq War... or the success of a 3D movie, for that matter. What drives me crazy is that by refusing to set our pronouncements in historical context, we make decisions based on our visceral reaction rather than on good sense... and that is exacerbated when we imply false comparisons of data.

OK, I'll climb down off my soapbox & start working on my sermon for this week now...

2010 Oscar Birdbath Results

I posted a bit yesterday about my Annual Oscar Birdbath... and so, as promised, the results. Well, I'm a bit embarassed... I won. Not a commanding win, mind you - I got sixteen correct (out of 24) and FOUR 2nd place finishers each got fifteen correct! They are:
  • Elizabeth Arneson (oh-so-patient & loving wife of Erik Arneson, my friend who runs the Games site)
  • Gigi Johnson (who was nice to me back in high school & not just because her sister & I share the same birthday)
  • Margaret Kellar (1/4 of the much-missed Kellar clan... her husband was our worship/youth pastor here at NewLife)
  • Susan Rozmiarek (Ed & Susan are gamers, friends, and - sadly - Aggies)

Congratulations also go to the two 3rd place finishers (with 14 correct)... Bob Trezise & Keith Monaghan.

Here are the final scores...
  • 16 - Mark Jackson
  • 15 - Elizabeth Arneson, Gigi Johnson, Margaret Kellar, Susan Rozmiarek
  • 14 - Bob Trezise, Keith Monaghan
  • 12 - the "collective mind", Erik Arneson, Jeff Monaghan, Rebecca Becknal
  • 11 - Jason Bullion
  • 10 - Greg Thatcher, J. Hunter, Josh Bussell, Shane Oakley
  • 9 - Crystal Bussell
  • 8 - Jennifer Collier Madon, Wayne Hansen
  • 7 - Ray Mulford
  • 5 - Jim Christiansen, Joe Huber
  • 4 - Darrell
  • 3 - Tony
Our predictions as a "collective mind" were OK if not spectacular... 12 correct.
  • BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker (we picked Avatar)
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Katheryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (we picked James Cameron)
  • BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) - correct!
  • BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) - correct!
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) - correct!
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique (Precious) - correct!
  • ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: The Hurt Locker (we picked Inglorious Basterds)
  • ADAPATED SCREENPLAY: Precious - correct!
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY: Avatar - correct!
  • FILM EDITING: The Hurt Locker (we picked Avatar)
  • ART DIRECTION: Avatar - correct!
  • COSTUME DESIGN: The Young Victoria (we picked Nine)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "The Weary Kind" (Crazy Heart) - correct!
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP: Star Trek - correct!
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING: The Hurt Locker (we picked Avatar OR Star Trek)
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING: The Hurt Locker (we picked Avatar)
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: El Secreto de Sus Ojos - Argentina (we picked Das weisse Band - Germany OR Un prophète - France)
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY: The Cove (we picked Food, Inc.)
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: Music by Prudence (we picked The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant)... btw, Jason Bullion was the only one to get this one correct!
  • BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT: The New Tenants (we picked Miracle Fish)
  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Logorama (we picked A Matter of Loaf & Death)... NONE of us got this correct!

And some final thoughts on the Oscar ceremony and a couple of the films:

  • The category explanations were much more concise & "spot on" than in previous years... and the lame jokes by presenters were kept to a minimum - thank you.
  • Hollywood, if you're listening, John Lasseter told you the secret to making great films during his short film introduction blurb. Hint: it's not the tools.
  • Ben Stiller is to Oscar night as John Ratzenberger is to Pixar films.
  • The dual host thing worked OK - not bad but not great.
  • Please don't waste Neil Patrick Harris again - if you're going to let him sing, turn him loose in something besides a Vegas showgirls number.
  • Didn't listen to the majority of the acceptance speeches thanks to Tivo - probably missed a good moment or two but also missed a lot of dreck.
  • What was up with George Clooney? Who put a thumbtack in his chair?
  • I guess I need to see "The Hurt Locker" now. And "Avatar."
  • The memorial for John Hughes was very classy... thanks, Academy. "The Breakfast Club" is still one of the best films ever about the social dynamics & rabid insecurities of high school.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Collective Mind of the Birdbath Predicts the Oscars (2010 Edition)

Each year since 2000, I've hosted what I jokingly call "Mark's Oscar Birdbath"... it's just not right to call it an Oscar Pool when there's no money involved. I invite folks from throughout my life (past & present churches, high school friends, family, gamer buddies, etc.) to participate. (Don't be miffed if you weren't asked to join - what with the compiling of the Five & Dime reports and life in general, I don't want to get too big a crowd playing.)

This year, 23 folks are participating... and here's what THEY think will be the winners this year. (This is based on their entries - when the voting is tight, I'm listing multiple entries.)
  • BEST PICTURE: Avatar
  • BEST DIRECTOR: James Cameron
  • BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique, (Precious)
  • ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Inglorious Basterds
  • ADAPATED SCREENPLAY: Precious OR Up in the Air
  • FILM EDITING: Avatar
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "The Weary Kind" (Crazy Heart)
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (Germany) OR Un prophète (France)
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: A Matter of Loaf & Death
Come back on Monday & see how the collective mind of "my friends" did this time around... and find out who won the Birdbath! A couple of "I'd like to thank the Academy"-ish kind of things to close this post out:
  • Thanks to Steve Stigler & his buddies from high school (especially Chris Newcomb), who first introduced me to Oscar Pools and the musical stylings of Stephen Sondheim when we were students together at Baylor University
  • Thanks to Matt Baldwin, whose website, Defective Yeti, is the one who makes it so darn easy for me to maintain the Birdbath

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cultural Utility Belt

As some of you remember, one of my favorite blogs is NPR's pop culture mash-up, Monkey See. What follows is from a post from there by Linda Holmes - it's actually about pop culture & science education, but see if it doesn't apply equally well to ministry...
Neil deGrasse Tyson: At the end, I said, "Just by a show of hands, how many among you do not own a television?" These are people who teach physics. Half the hands went up.

I said, "Of those who remain, who own a television, how many of you don't watch it except maybe you put a movie on it?" Half the hands went up. Which meant three-quarters of that audience had no access to the single greatest force on the thinking of the people who it is that they're trying to teach. And I said to them: you cannot call yourself an educator if you have no insights into the tangled mental pathways that exist in the people who you are trying to teach.

It's not just a lesson plan you're handing people. You've got to get in the head and find out how they're going to misthink what it is you're saying. You've got to get in the head and find out what excites them to care about what it is you're saying. And if you don't, you're just simply lecturing. You're not an educator, you're a lecturer, and they either get it or they don't. If that's what you are, fine, but don't pretend you're anything else.

So the average kid watches 30 hours of TV a week. You should at least know what it is. I'm not saying watch it every night. But if there's a hit show, know what the hit show is. Take a minute, watch American Idol. Watch NOVA. Watch the movie of the week. Watch the football game. Watch Janet Jackson's left breast. Find out what people are talking about. Because that will matter to them, whether or not it matters to you.

You know something? You're not the subject of that class -- they are...

Not all television programming lends itself to that analysis, but nonetheless, there could have been an episode that had an interesting twist, a plot that you can tap. In fact, I view those tools as features on the utility belt that I carry with me every day. I'll call that my cultural utility belt...

And therein, I think, should be the tool kit of the educator. Little bit of pop culture, little bit of sports, little bit of politics, little bit of everything that's not in your field, because it's going to be in everybody else's portfolio of interests. It allows you to go places undreamt of if all you did was speak to the line-by-line notes of your curriculum.
Read the whole thing at Why Educators Need A Cultural Utility Belt.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

More Popular Than Jesus

44 years ago today, John Lennon opened his mouth during a magazine interview in England and this is what tumbled out:
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
A few months later, the American magazine Datebook reprinted the quote... and things went a bit nuts. There were record burnings, death threats, and even the KKK got involved. By the way, important safety tip: you can figure out when you've probably gone off the deep end in your reactions when the Ku Klux Klan agrees with you. (You can read more details about it on Wikipedia.)

John offered this half-hearted apology:
Lennon: I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have gotten away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I think - as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way.

Reporter: Some teenagers have repeated your statements - "I like the Beatles more than Jesus Christ." What do you think about that?

Lennon: Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this.

Reporter: But are you prepared to apologise?

Lennon: I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologise if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry.
So, this morning, my friend, game designer Stephen Glenn, decided to use his Facebook status update to mock the Beatles tune, "All You Need Is Love" - and then I commented about the anniversary... and we were off to the races.

After a bit of conversation, Stephen said something pretty profound:
Let's say, for sake of argument, that at any given time the Beatles *were* more popular than Jesus. In the big False American Idol contest, Jesus comes in third behind money and The Beatles. Why would that even matter to someone who had chosen to dedicate their life to Christ? Are they so insecure and threatened if someone/thing happens to be more "popular" than their guy?
First, ouch. Score one point for the snarky game designer with the Spiel des Jahres nomination under his belt.

Second, duh. I attended seminary for a reason, right? I was forced to respond with:
Biblically, Jesus was a "man of no reputation" (Philippians 2:7) and "despised & rejected by men" (Isaiah 53)... so I must humbly admit that you, Stephen Glenn, are correct.

Dang, I hate it when you're right - and that False American Idol thing is genius... I'm gonna steal that & use it in a sermon.
So, I didn't use it in a sermon - though that may still happen. It became a blog post. (Stephen graciously OK'd my use of this so I didn't have to steal & therefore missed breaking a commandment tonight - thanks, dude!)

Look, if Jesus really was a man of no reputation - a guy who managed to cheese off both the government & the religious leadership - why are we who call ourselves followers of Christ so concerned about polishing his image? Isn't the objective to be more like Him rather than to make the world like Him?

And if that's our goal, our vision, our pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, why do we waste so much of our time & energy trying to force other people to pay respect to God, like we were some kind of enforcers for a spiritual mob boss or a ministers of protocol to some tinpot dictator? If God doesn't care that much about his Q rating, why should we?

I'll let singer/songwriter
Rick Elias have the last word(s) with his song, "Man of No Reputation":

It was said this man was of no reputation

Yet He could stop the rising storm

With a gesture of His hand

But He chose to use His hands to heal

Hearts of darkness, hearts of stone

Just like mine would be revealed

He was a man of no reputation

And by the wise, considered a fool

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness

In a time when the strongest arms ruled

But this man of no reputation

Loved the weak with relentless affection

And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were

He was a man of no reputation

It was said this man brought only confusion

That He'd achieve his ends by any means

And the truth that it brings revolution

And for once they were right

The truth set us free

The hearts of the captive were his only concern

And the powerful knew their days were ending

One day soon the gates of heaven will open wide

And the Prince of Peace will come back for His bride

But for now we live on these streets

Forbidding and tough

Where push always comes to shove

And it's said love's never enough

Where a prophet in rags gives hope to a fearful world

No injustice, no heart of darkness

Will keep this voice from being heard

He was a man of no reputation

And by the wise, considered a fool

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness

In a time when the strongest arms ruled

But this man of no reputation

Loves us all with relentless affection

And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are

To the man of no reputation