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Poll results: who’s reading Haley’s Halo?

22 May

I discovered that unless I’m willing to fork over some cash, I have a limit of 200 responses.  Since I’m not willing to part with money for a survey, I have closed the poll for now.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

The results confirmed what I had always suspected, but here’s the breakdown:

1.  Males were 75% of the respondents; females 25%.

2.  Suburban readers were 56% of respondents; urban, 31%; rural, 14%.

3.  Almost 2/3 of respondents (65%), sit on their butts all day at work in an office.  22% work from home or have some other nontraditional job.  13% are blue collar/labor intensive workers.  I realized after I created the poll that I neglected to provide an option to select “student.”  I’m guessing that the students and SAHMs marked themselves in the work from home/nontraditional category.

4.  As I expected, the majority of readers (65%) who responded attend a casual-style church.  29% attend a dressy/upscale church, and 6% admitted that their church is full of superfrumps.

Overall, the results describe a pretty average contemporary American Christian person – you work in an office, you wear jeans to church (and probably sing songs about rivers that flow to God, or how God takes your breath away, or something like that), and you don’t live in the bowels of a major city.  What this means as far as my comments about fashion is:  the average reader probably doesn’t have to push it as far as I recommend in order to get good results.  It really all depends on what level your community generally plays at.  If wearing non-sandals qualifies as dressy in your area, then wear those.  Just aim for a notch above what the rest of the guys are doing.  If your officemates are still wearing the ’90s cube-dweller uniform of pleated khakis and a blousey blue button-down shirt, then wear some slim flat-front pants and a colorful plaid shirt.  It’s still the same basic outfit, but in a more attention-grabbing way.  And GET IN SHAPE.  The clothes often do make the man, but the body often makes the clothes.  Clothes look better on better bodies.

 

Give them something real.

2 Mar

Hey, guys, writing my first post from my new laptop!  The old one finally crapped out after six years, and now I’m trying to figure out if Windows 8 is a brilliant innovation or a brilliant disaster.

I’ve had this post on my mind for a while, and it sort of has to do with the usual around here, but it also applies to life in general.  My boss recently celebrated her birthday.  I’m not a gift person, but I felt that a card was not enough (and then I found out that she isn’t a card person anyway, which mooted the card idea), so I decided to bake some cupcakes for her.  Not cupcakes from a box – cupcakes from scratch, with frosting from scratch.**

When I brought in the cupcakes the next day, my boss acted like I had roped the stars and laid them on her desk.  She then proudly handed out cupcakes to everyone on the floor.  Afterward I had several people rave about the cupcakes to me – and look completely shocked to find out they were made from scratch.

The whole experience hammered home that people are starved for realness – not just food, but from people.  Our world is so fast and fake, and I think a lot of adults spend much of their time feeling overwhelmed to some degree.  So when someone injects some simple realness and simple consideration into their lives, they can hardly believe it.

Maybe in the church community we take realness for granted, because churches are all about building community and meeting together and eating (seriously, how many church events do NOT include eating?).  But people who aren’t plugged into a church community are often very isolated, especially if they don’t have family nearby or are estranged from their families.  I think that as Christians we sometimes, as a result of being in a community, get very myopic and spend a lot of time tending mainly to ourselves.  Some of this is natural, but even as we take collections for missionaries and do specific missions activities, we forget that there are people we associate with every day who are in need of simple acts of real love.  And I know that this blog mainly exists because church culture gets a lot wrong, especially in the area of dating and romance, but as Christians we do have something very real to offer the people in our lives.  We have the chance to pass on the love that transformed our lives to others.  I think we too often forget how profound that is, because we’re too busy measuring ourselves against the super-Christianity of Joe Worship Leader or Sir-Prays-Out-Loud all the time.

So, give the people in your life something real this week.  People are looking for the genuine article.  The small things, in the end, are often the biggest things.

**I used the Betty Crocker carrot cake recipe.

What do you say about ugly babies?

28 Jul

My church small group has been going through the Ten Commandments, based on our church’s sermon series.  This week we discussed the ninth Commandment, “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” which is most commonly translated into “don’t tell lies, you lying liar.”

This led into a quite energetic discussion about what to say when someone asks you to agree that their (ugly) baby is cute.  I was actually shocked that some people blew this off as a trivial issue, because to me this is one of those rubber meets the road things.  If you’re going to condemn white lies, then the ugly baby issue is smack dab in the middle of that.  And if you’re going to insist that whatever you speak is not only truthful but INSPIRING and KIND, then the ugly baby issue presents a serious conundrum.

Maybe this is more of an issue to someone like myself, with a strong need for ideological congruence, than for someone who is more of a feelings person.  A feelings person would probably not think it important or necessary to delineate what is and is not appropriate to say when presented with an ugly baby issue.  If the receiver of the reply is content, then all is well, no harm, no foul.  I think a feelings person would feel that the overall INTENT of the words was what was important, not the actual words.  So if a feelings person said, “Oh, she’s adorable,” then that would not be a lie because the person wasn’t intending to deceive, per se, but to speak to the subtext of the actual question, which is that the asker is seeking approval.  On the other hand, an analytical person in the same situation suddenly gets thrust into the horrible pressure cooker of trying to be truthful yet not commit the sin of saying something that will upset the other person.  The thought process goes something like:  “This baby is UGLY, it looks like a giant prune, maybe its face will sort itself out when it becomes a toddler, OH CRAP WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO SAY?  I can’t say, ‘No, I don’t think your baby is cute,’ but I can’t say, ‘Yes, your baby is cute’ because that is a LIE and as a Christian I can’t tell LIES but what compliment can I actually give this potato-shaped poop machine without sounding like an ogre?”  Then you make a rapid judgment call, weighing possible positive outcomes versus possible negative outcomes, and you either mumble, “Yes, very,” or you try to deflect, saying, “You must be very proud,” (this was one of the proffered suggestions in small group) and hope that Mommy doesn’t dig into your subtext.  But then if you’re subtexting to a subtextual question,  aren’t you BOTH being deceptive, therefore liars, and horribly in need of forgiveness?

I have a hard time when Christians issue hard-line edicts about stuff like this, because an analytical person will feel that the edict goes right up to the most absurd scenario.  (Well, unless that person also has an extremely strong practical mind, as well.)  I mean, if you’re going to tell other Christians that anything with even a whiff of not 100% genuine, heartfelt, objective truthfulness delivered in absolute love and kindness, is SIN SIN SIN SIN SIN, then you need to be prepared for some awkward pauses and hurt feelings.  If you’re implying that people are sinning if they answer “fine” to a coworker’s perfunctory “How are you doing?” question, then people need to be prepared to hear things they don’t want to hear.  (This is why I rarely ever ask people how they are doing, and I often don’t answer the question when it is posed to me.  Most of the time, I do not genuinely care how the other person is doing, so I don’t ask.  PERSON:  “How are you doing?”  ME:  “Hello.”  Of course, a feelings person would probably consider this rude.  Actually, a NO LIE EVER person would probably also consider this rude, because it’s not treating the other person with love and kindness, and it is certainly trying to wiggle out of something.)

I think this ties in to why Christians are horrible at comedy.  A lot of comedy (and basically all great drama, for that matter) LIVES in subtext.  But when you have Christians being instructed to say ONLY EXACTLY what they mean, and only do it in the nicest of ways, then most comedy and most drama will fail.  But ironically, most Christians fall into using subtext precisely because of this enjoinder.  They KNOW they can’t say certain things, so they just find ways to talk around it, and because everyone knows that certain words and phrases and voiced thoughts are off-limits, everyone knows what everyone else means.  My devoutly Christian grandmother is an expert at this.  I remember one time when I was at breakfast with her and my mom, and my grandma wanted to trash my cousin’s wife’s outfit that she had worn to a family gathering.  My grandma, as a Christian, obviously could not say, “I thought J looked like whorish white trash.”  So instead, she asked, “What did you think of J’s outfit?”  Which, to any practiced Christian listener, meant “TRASH WHORE!”  But by bringing the subject up the way she did, she had plausible deniability of trashing, PLUS she had the added advantage of letting someone else do the trashing first.

I’m not saying that we should all go super-spergy and forgo any semblance of tact in our pursuit of truth in speech.  I think the best tactic is to try to choose our battles wisely and try to recuse ourselves from conversations where we have nothing to add.

P.S. During this same small group meeting, we got on the subject of Abraham lying to Pharoah about Sarah being his wife, not just his sister.  Group leader asked, “What did Abraham learn from this experience?”  I said, “That his wife was a liar!”  WOW, did that get a shriek of denial from some of the other women in the group.  Their reasoning was that Sarah was under Abraham’s command.  My comment was, “So are you saying that Sarah had no moral agency?  If your husband asks you to lie and you do it, are you also excused because your husband told you to?”  That line of discussion got scuppered VERY quickly.

 

Funny women.

6 Jul

[I guess this is the topic du jour?  I began this draft a few days ago….]

Recently Adam Carolla caused women (and other people) to get ruffled because he said that women aren’t funny and, even worse, pointed out that female comedy writers are especially not funny and are more or less only kept on writing staffs because of affirmative action.  Predictably, female voices were raised in chorus to cry, “BUT! BUT! ELLEN!!  And there used to be some lady named Carol Burnett!  And Lucy Ricardo!”  There was also a lot of “Adam Carolla isn’t funny so he can’t possibly be a good judge of what is funny!” , which is like saying that only directors who have made a good movie can correctly judge if a movie is good or not.

In my experience, very few women are genuinely funny.  If you’re bristling at Carolla’s ~misogynistic injustice~, ask yourself how many women you know who can:

  • consistently make people, including complete strangers, laugh with their stories
  • tell jokes and deliver a killer punchline
  • are witty

It’s probably not more than a handful, if that.  Among beautiful women, the number starts approaching zero.  (And I mean actually beautiful, not “Kristin Wiig isn’t fat so let’s put her in the HOTTTT category!” beautiful.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean that men on the whole are funny.  Most men aren’t funny, either.  But chances are, the person in school who cracked you up all the time was a guy.  The person at work who cracks you up all the time is a guy.  In your friend circle, the person who brings the most laughs is a guy.

I think this disparity largely boils down to differences in the natures of the sexes.  Men have to impress women to keep their company, whereas women just have to have boobs.  So being funny is a boon to men, but neutral for women.  Being funny can actually be a negative for women.  If she’s funnier than most of the guys around her, they’ll laugh, but they’d rather be around a woman who laughs at their jokes, not a woman who can make them laugh.  If they can sense that the woman isn’t going to laugh too much at anything they say, they’ll move on to a woman who will.  So while being funny can make a woman popular among female peers, it can alienate her from men.  Men generally prefer women who are amusing (as in, “lololol, aren’t women just the silliest?? Their precious li’l minds aren’t concerned about anything important, the dears!  Thank goodness I’m a man and therefore brilliant!”), as opposed to women who are funny.

Also, comedy, at its roots, is uncomfortable.  It requires you to make observations about human nature that people don’t want to acknowledge under a sober light.  It can be antagonistic.  It requires a certain boldness and lack of inhibition – you have to be willing to go for the joke and see it through.  This goes against the nature of women.  Women, most of the time, would rather be a part of the pack than stand apart from it.  They would rather have the comfort of consensus than be an outlier.  Men, meanwhile, don’t have the same social strictures as women, so the social cost of being daring isn’t nearly as high.  Men don’t boot out a peer because he had a different thought or did/said something vulgar.

Comedy just works against social expectations of women and feminity.  Can anyone imagine a woman doing a Chris Rock-like stand-up?  She’d be eviscerated for her vulgarity.  All of the conservative moms and Boundless readers of the world would call for her head.  (Then the makers of Fireproof would write a new movie featuring a beautiful, lapsed Christian comedian who sometimes says “crap” but is mostly an alcoholic who has implied sex with jerks, but then meets a highly attractive, super manly, ultra intentional Christian comedian who has Scars Of The Past and was once a cop and/or a firefighter and/or a high school football coach, who, after breaking through her walls of cynicism, leads her to renounce her trashy comedy and to recommit herself to the Lord and also marry the Christian comedian in a covenant ceremony.)  Likewise, does anyone want to see a female version of Chris Farley’s “I’m Matt Foley, and I live in a VAN down by the RIVER!” bit?  Are women in drag even a fraction as funny as men in drag?  I mean, men in drag = HI-LARIOUS!, while women in drag = uh-oh, smells like lesbians.  Basically:  much of what works for men in comedy doesn’t work for women.  A woman has to be much better than just OK to pull off a lot of typical male comedy stuff.

As a result, a lot of female comedians make one of two mistakes:  either they (a) resort to unimaginative riffing on menstruation/PMS, jerks, bad sex, bad sex with jerks, their completely unrelated inability to find love, and being fat/hating skinny chicks, OR (b) they overdo it on sarcasm and/or monotone hipster irony.  It’s rare to come across a female comedian who doesn’t employ either of these strategies.  Being funny is hard, but being a funny woman is even harder because there’s just more to balance.

By the way, I wish that more comedians and people attempting to be funny in general would figure out that being funny has very little to do with being quirky, and very much to do about timing and delivery.  Some people think that being funny means acting large or having a shtick.  You know, like, “I”m wild, unpredictable party guy!” or “I’m such a spaz!  I totally made a fool of myself in front of a really hot guy!” girl or the Reliable Ironic Quip friend.  Sure, those things can get you attention and even make people laugh, but they don’t make you funny.  They’re just you playing a part.  Real comedy is really just telling people the truth in a way that makes them lower all of their defenses without even realizing it.

Social experiment vote!

26 Nov

I’ve been thinking about trying a little matchmaking through the blog.  Chances are, if you’re reading this blog regularly, you’re single, intelligent, educated, and a Christian of some stripe.  You’re also more savvy to the realities of the SMP than the average Boundless reader, and you’re not a sensitive church hipster who likes to drink expensive coffee and say “awesome” a lot while trying to get your family members to buy tiny woven baskets made by women in third world countries.  And you’re trying to meet people of the opposite sex, at least a little.  When you think about it, you’re a part of a pretty select group.

Given that, I had this idea that we could do a sort of Secret Santa matchmaking thingy.  You would email me your answers to a list of questions to help customize the matching (such as age, location, denomination, interests), and I would make the matches and then email you your match and that person’s details.  Then it’s up to you to get in touch.  Think of it as the poor man’s eHarmz.  At the very least, you’ll have the opportunity to meet a new single person of the opposite sex.

Weigh in below – if there’s enough interest, we’ll move ahead. :)

Stuff Christians like: Sign language.

21 Nov

If there’s one thing that Christians, especially evangelicals, LOVE, it’s other languages.  No one laps up African children’s choirs or a missionary on furlough opening his guest sermon in his missional language quite like Christians do.  Sometimes Christians even like to wear traditional clothing of other nations during Missions Week to show their solidarity with countries they went to once on a missions trip back in the ’90s.

However, there is one language that Christians love above nearly all others, probably because you don’t even have to be able to hear to enjoy it.  That language is SIGN LANGUAGE.

Despite the fact that I have never attended a service where a plural number of people was both hearing impaired and sign-language literate, Christians just LOVE LOVE LOVE singing with their hands.  “Jesus Loves Me”?  SIGNED.  “Awesome God”?  SIGNED.  Anything by Hillsong?  SIGNED.  And if you’ve grown up in church, chances are you performed at least one signed song with the kiddie choir.  Even my church got into the act not that long ago, with a small choir busting out the S.L. and the worship leader exhorting everyone to sing to God in “another language.”

I think the popularity of sign language stems from a couple of different places.  For conservative, non-charismatic Christians, this gives them the opportunity to raise their arms above their heads and not feel like a threatening Pentecostal.  Think of it as the White Christian’s Gospel Hands, or the White Christian’s Dancing From The Waist Up.  For more liberal Christians, sign language gives them the satisfaction of “reaching out” while placating lack-of-diversity guilt at the same time.  Basically, it’s all win from whatever angle you’re coming at it from.

So if you know signing, or even just one song that you learned at another church, don’t be shy.  Let your worship leader know.  Ten bucks says you’ll be doing a solo on Sunday morning in no time flat, or even teaching the choir to sign, and then just watch the hearts be blessed by your rare and special talent.

So SIGN ON, BRETHREN.  SIGN ON.

P.S.  It is not very easy to find videos of men signing while singing.

OT: search terms.

5 Apr

WordPress keeps track of the search terms that people use to find the blog.  Most search terms have something to do with the blog title or my name.  Sometimes there will be searches for specific topics I’ve blogged about.  And sometimes people do searches for specific commenters.  But occasionally I’ll get hits from unrelated things, such as this one that I saw today:

Okay, fess up:  which one of you was this?