Thursday, December 30, 2004

Political diversity of Christians

The mainstream media seems to lump all Christians into the "Fundamentalist" Red-State Conservative mode.

I suppose it just makes for simpler story telling on their part and there are enough people who fit that mold that it is true to some limited extent.

But in my years of experience of talking with people of religious faith there is quite a bit of diversity of views on politics.

Just a few examples:

One person I knew was a fiscal conservative and socially liberal with the view that the government isn't in the business of morality.

Another friend is pro-life but doesn't have any strong feelings about economic matters.

A third example is a pro-lifer who is against the death penalty and usually votes democrat.

Then there is good friend who is pro-life but libertarian in economics and most other social issues.

And indeed, I have friends who are down the line conservative: pro-life, fiscal conservatives, in favor of the death penalty and will vote Republican no matter what.

In the end, I think they all have more or less the same views on personal morality; they differ on whether the government should impose or encourage those views. There clearly is a diversity of opinion on the role of government in economic matters that range from libertarian to government should redistribute the wealth.

So just as there isn't really "one voice" for the black community or the Asian-Pacific Islanders, there isn't a monolithic Christian political mindset.

Corporations step up

This CNN.com item tallies up how corporate America is stepping up to help.

The news stories often focus on direct government aid. Money and aid is going to SE Asia also through personal donations to non-profit groups like Americares, World Vision and many more and from corporations partnering with government agencies and NGOs.

Click here for a list of agencies and contribute what you can.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Relief agencies at work

Here is a larger list of agencies at work on relief to South East Asia. Hat tip to DP.

Amazon.com is collecting money for American Red Cross. As of this post, Wednesday 11:47AM PST, 39397 people have donated $2,211,086.53 to the ARC.

Return of the King - Extended Edition

During the Christmas holiday, I had the chance to watch for the 2nd time the newly released DVD for Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King.

My favorite new scenes - I hope I'm not spoiling it for people! - are: (1) Merry's conversation with Eowyn on the eve of the Riders of Rohan charge on the Orcs at Pelennor Fields. It was a little moment that shows the bond that forms between the two characters. Paraphrasing Merry: My lady you are fair and brave with much to live for and many who love you. I'm just a Hobbit and can't save Middle Earth. But I want to help my friends. How I wish I could see them again. (2) Pippin's conversation with Faramir. Pippen was wondering why in the world he offered his service to Denathor saying what could a Hobbit offer to great Lords of Men. Faramir overheard his remark and encouraged him by saying that a good act shouldn't be questioned by cold calculation. Pippen realized that the armor he was given to wear was Faramir's. Faramir admited that Boromir was always the strong one and the one meant to be a soldier. Pippen says, you have a strength of your own which your father will see. Again another little moment that understandably got lost to keep the pace of the movie going in the movie house. But in the DVD it fills out the characters admirably. (3) The additional footage of Eowyn and Merry fighting the Orcs!

There is one new scene that just eludes me: Gandalf's encounter with the Witch King of Angmar just prior to the charge of the Rohan Riders. I just don't get it. It doesn't add much to the story. I suppose it adds to other scenes that shows Gandalf is far from "all powerful." Or perhaps it is to show the Witch King's overconfidence. Dunno.

Anyway, I just love all three movies. The visual effects are great. The sound effects are amazing. The music score is super.

But in the end, what made it work for me was the characters. You really want to know what happens to them. You want to see them wrestle with their doubts and stand up against evil. I would like to believe that I would fight my personal demons as well as the evil that is outside that needs to be confronted.

Lastly, I love the bond the characters have with each other.

I sincerely hope that I would have that kind of loyalty and commitment to my friends. I'd like to believe that if it came down to it, I could be Sam going with Frodo all the way to the fires of Mt. Doom. I want to be like Merry and Pippin who despite their own doubts put their lives on the line for those they love. I hope I could be like Gimli and Legolas who would go into the darkest tunnel with a friend. And on and on... every character we admire stands up for those they love.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Strengthen the good

This little outpost in cyberspace has joined the Strengthen the Good network.

STG is the nexus of a network of bloggers committed to raising awareness for small charities around the world. Every three weeks this space highlights a new “micro-charity”—a small, inspiring charity, one with a real face and where $1 makes a difference—and the bloggers in the network link to that post, sending traffic, and awareness, the charity’s way.

Check out what charities they have profiled supporting by clicking on the button below.
stgbutton.png




People trying to do good in times of trouble

One cannot but feel horrible about the massive loss of life due to the tsunami in South East Asia. The death toll is 22,000 and climbing and more is likely because of the terrible conditions that now exist in those devestated areas.

If you want to help with a donation, go here for a round-up of agencies with the global reach and resources to make a significant difference right away.

I urge, request, beg, plead with you that if you have found this post because you are a regular visitor or are an accidental visitor go here and pick an organization to support. I know this sounds like an NPR pledge break but I make the challenge because it will make a difference.

Meanwhile, I want to point you to this heart warming story of some kids with a simply idea to help and made it happen. Excerpt:
For all the billions of dollars being spent on the war in Iraq, 14-year-old Brittany Bergquist is surprised that the U.S. military doesn't do what she and her little brother are doing: helping soldiers phone home free.
..............
With $14 from their piggy banks, she and 12-year-old brother Robbie started Cell Phones for Soldiers. In less than nine months, the organization has provided $250,000 worth of prepaid calling cards to American soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.

They raise money by collecting old cellular phones and selling them to companies that refurbish them for resale.

It all started in April, when the family heard about a Massachusetts soldier who ran up $7,600 in cell phone charges calling home from Iraq. T-Mobile forgave much of the bill. But Brittany and Robbie figured there must be other soldiers — including a cousin of theirs — who are stationed in Iraq and want to call home more often but cannot afford it.

The Bergquist kids pooled their money and got friends to kick in $7 more. They opened a bank account at South Shore Savings Bank, which was so impressed it contributed $500. Yard sales followed, along with newspaper articles and TV interviews. Hundreds of schools and organizations, from Hawaii to Georgia, have started local chapters and become drop-off centers for used cell phones.
If you want to help, check out their web page.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Larry King Show: Who Was Jesus?

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the conversation on Larry King's show tonight about "Who Was Jesus?"

I have to give props to all the guests and to the Larry King booking people as they chose people who have a point of view but who make them without acrimony. So often these kind of panels descend into shouting matches.

As a Christian, I accept the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John about the life of Jesus. I acknowledge there is an element of faith in believing the Gospel books of the Christian Scriptures.

However, it is a belief not without some basis in reason.

Why would one believe something written nearly 2000 years ago?

On what rational basis would confidence in something written so long ago not be foolish?

We can have confidence in these ancient texts because:
(1) they were written relatively close to the time of the actual events. Mark is generally believed to have been written soon after Jesus' resurrection and is the "bare bones" account of the life, deeds and words of Jesus as it is the shortest of the four Gospels. Matthew and Luke was written after Mark and analysts say they emphasize certain aspects of Jesus life. Matthew highlights the very Jewish aspects of Jesus while Luke's account is regarded at the more straightforward logical historical account to appeal to the Greek mind set. John is generally said to be the last of the Gospels to be written and the most different of the four because it probably was written to address questions about the divinity of Jesus.
(2) numerous copies that are consistent with each other exist. I have heard the number of old manuscripts of the gospels is in the thousands which indicates a serious effort was made by early Christians to preserve the words and deeds of Jesus.
(3) the lives of early Christians were transformed by these writings. Today, we think of Christianity as a mainstream religion. However, at the very beginning is was just a small group of people and persecuted at that. Yet, their faith persevered and grew. These ordinary disciples became people who preached the message of Jesus dying for our sin and raising from the dead to give life. The disciples of the disciples kept living it and preaching it and that message turned the world upside down.

So on this Christmas Eve and Christmas holiday time. Dust off that old Bible and read the Christmas story as described in Matthew and Luke. Read from all four Gospels about the amazing life, deeds and works of one called Jesus. I hope you will choose to believe him like the disciples of old and the disciples of today. But even if not, I think you will nonetheless find inspiration for life in His life described in that good old book.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Blogging the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl

No, I'm not in Las Vegas. I'm not in a sports bar watching ESPN. I'm listening to the radio in Los Angeles, AM 1150.

I've been listening to the game on and off this evening as I ran some errands and baked some cookies. For the record, I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with walnuts!

Anyway, to reset the game. The Bruins came out flat and promptly fell behind 10-0.

Eventually, UCLA got its act together and cut the lead 10-7.

I didn't hear what happened but all of a sudden, I hear the announcer say the UCLA QB was David Koral. I would later find out that starter Drew Olsen got injured and the backup had to take over. Koral got a TD pass to make it a Bruin lead of 14-10.

In the second half, the Bruins under Koral got it to 21-10 and things were looking good.

However, it seems the Bruins are trying real hard to LOSE this thing. If I read the stat sheet right as of the late fourth quarter, the Bruins have had FOUR fumbles.

The Cowboys scored to make it 21-17.

The Bruins just missed a field goal that would have pushed the lead to seven. Wyoming now has the ball in good field position to drive down the field to get the winning TD.

It is now up to the defense to turn them aside with a three and out or an INT.

Bramlett has been lighting up the Bruin defense with nearly 300 yards.

3:12 left, completed pass for a first down at the UCLA 37...

2:53 left, completed pass to the UCLA 29 ...

Wyoming rush but didn't get the first down ...

1:52 left, 3rd and 1, timeout Wyoming ...

Wyoming run ... 1:25 left ... chains coming out to see if they got the first down ...

It is 4th down, QB sneak ... officials are bringing out the chains ...

First down by a nose of a football ...

Bramlett throws pass incomplete but flags thrown ...

Ball spotted at the 12, 1st and 10, 1:01 left ...

TD, Wyoming has taken the lead, 24-21 and only 57 seconds left.

Now, it is up to the backup QB to try to pull off a miracle with 3 timeouts left.

Wyoming kicks off ... low line kick and stopped at the 22 and only 53 seconds left.

Short pass to sideline ... 47 seconds left ...

Koral scrambles for first down at the 37 and stops the clock with 39 seconds ...

Koral sacked ... timeout 33 seconds left back at the 28 ...

Koral incomplete pass ... 3rd down and long ... short completion ...

18 seconds left ... 4th and 16, time out called ...

Incomplete and that is it ... Bruins manage to snatch defeat from the jaw of victory ...

After the dramatic battle against USC where UCLA showed they can play, they come out to this bowl game and play awful.

Karl Dorrell and the Bruins are going to be torn limb from limb in the newspapers tomorrow and on sport talk radio tonight.

But then again... the sad reality is that maybe nobody cares anymore.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

politics and Christian faith

A serious or even casual reader of this blog will detect that I'm a Christian and that I have center-right political inclinations.

So at one level, I fit the "stereotypical" religious voter that the media says was a part of why Bush won.

Stereotypes persist because there is probably some truth to it. However, stereotypes rarely give the full picture of a person or even the group being stereotyped.

Here is an item that caught my eye in my nearly daily visits at AS's Daily Dish which is currently under guest blog management. Excerpt:
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

AN EVANGELICAL LEFT: About a month ago, William Stuntz wrote this piece about political common ground between red-state evangelicals and blue-state liberals: "Helping the poor is supposed to be the left's central commitment, going back to the days of FDR and the New Deal. In practice, the commitment has all but disappeared from national politics... I can't prove it, but I think there is a large, latent pro-redistribution evangelical vote, ready to get behind the first politician to tap into it."
I have friends who are both on the left and on the right politically. Some on the left indeed are secular and don't think well of religion. But some on the left are religious folks and I can see what it is in the left the appeals to them. However, I have found the left to hold far too many views I disagree with.

In the end, if we take Christianity seriously, we are probably not going to feel too at home in either party. Christians who are part of the left will feel uneasy at the secularism of the left. Christians who are part of the right will feel uneasy at the cold calculations of the business friendliness of the right.

So, as in much of life, we try to make do the best we can.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Flew, leading atheist, thinks there might be a god afterall

Got email from a couple of people about the news that Anthony Flew, a renown atheist is reconsidering his views. Excerpt:
The first hint of Flew’s turn was a letter in the August-September issue of Britain’s Philosophy Now magazine. “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism,” he wrote.

The letter commended arguments in Schroeder’s “The Hidden Face of God” and “The Wonder of the World” by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.

This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his “God and Philosophy,” scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Books.

Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well, “that’s too bad,” Flew said. “My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”
It will be interesting to see how the atheistic community reacts to Flew's re-evaluation. The journey to belief in god is not an irrational process as some atheists would claim. There are plenty of smart people who believe in god despite the common notion that religion is the opiate of the masses and anti-intellectual.

As I see it, there are four philosophical positions one can take on god: (1) atheism = there is no god (2) agnosticism = can't know if there is or isn't god (3) deism = god exists but doesn't do anything except kick start the universe (4) theism = god exists and is active.

We can have these four positions intellectually but ethically, we only have two views since positions 1-3 collapse into a view that there is no moral authority beyond self and society while position 4 leads to ethical monotheism where god cares about how we live our lives.

I'm not sure why people like to be atheists. I suppose in some cases an individual may have experienced a terrible event personally or to someone they love and they can't believe in god anymore. Some will cite science and evolution as proof that god is not necessary. Thus, in one case, it is an intellectual-emotional issue and in the latter case, an intellectual one.

Indeed, the problem of evil is probably the toughest problem for theism. The traditional formulation is (1) if god is good (2) if god is powerful (3) if evil exists then all three can't be true. Theoretically, one can say evil is an illusion but I don't know if one can really live out in that belief. If anything, the reality of evil is one of the few "certainties" around if you ask me. With evil accepted then the conclusion is that god isn't good or very powerful or both and such an entity can't be called god.

The traditional response to the problem of evil is the Free Will Defense where evil is a function of human free will which god is unwilling to tamper with. This leads to the following construction: (1) god is good (2) god is powerful (3) god grants humanity free will thus evil can co-exist with a god.

Atheists counter by attacking the existance of free will. The recent usage ideas from evolutionary psychology and neurochemistry are brought to bear in an attempt to eliminate free will.

The other attack is to cite that some evil is non-volitional like natural calamities.

The theist is forced to give ground by saying that evil not only had consequences on the "soul" of humans but also the physical world leading to death and destruction by accidents and other forces of nature or to assign disasters to non-human evil entities. Neither is entirely satisfactory to me.

Science and evolution is cited by some atheists as the reason for their atheism. However, I suspect that that path to atheism is not as well traveled as the problem of evil. And despite the claim of atheists, there are many thinking people, like Flew, who concede that a naturalistic mechanism might not be enough to account for life and that science is not the end all and be all of knowledge.

Agnosticism is perhaps more intellectually honest than atheism as it acknowledges the finitude of human reason. In the end, one may claim to not know about god one way or another but one lives life as if there is one or isn't. An agnostic is often a functional atheist. I suppose an agnostic could take up Pascal's Wager and say: well, I don't know if there is a god but I might as well live like there is one just in case there actually is!

Deism, according to one of my friends, is an unstable position. My friend says this because the deist acknowledges that god acted at least once in our world: bringing the universe into existence. The deist god may have also had a role in bringing life into existence on the earth. Thus, if god can act in these ways, what is to prevent god from acting again?

The question of the intervention of god into human affairs is a tricky one because it gets into the nature of god and the nature of god's relationship to humanity. If god is some cosmic engineer then god could conceivably make the universe and then let it run on its own without intervention after flipping the on switch.

However, engineers are always tinkering with their machines.

Or one could make the metaphor to god the artist in which case there is tinkering with the art work as it is being produced.

These metaphors are interesting but do have their limits if you sit and think about them.

I am a theist. I believe god exists and can occasionally act in human history. If one believes in the full meaning of Christmas then one has to be a theist because Christmas is about God entering history in Jesus.

I freely acknowledge that theism is not without intellectual and emotional difficulities.

But that is true of the other positions as well.

However, I believe the worldview of Christian theism seems to best fit the reality we experience in the day-to-day. At a personal level, Christian theism provides hope in life. And finally, I think Christian theism provides an ethical framework and a theological basis for the existence of morality.

big trade for big unit collapses

Just turned on the radio to get ready for the UCLA basketball game and the top news item was from Newsday.

The report says the Dodgers opted out of the massive deal that would have moved 4 Dodgers out to Arizona and the Yankees and Johnson to the Yankees.

Fans in LA may just shrug their shoulders as they have seen Finely, Beltre, Cora, Lima, LoDuca, Roberts all let go during the season and in the post-season. Fans are thinking the new ownership is just cutting payroll.

It is going to take a lot for McCourt to regain the fans in LA.

DePodesta is just doing the job McCourt has set the dollar amounts at.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Dodgers fans on a ledge

What is going on?

Dodgers give up Green, Penny and Brazoban to Arizona while Arizona sends Randy Johnson to the Yankees and the Yankees send to the Dodgers one pitcher, catcher, third baseman and two minor leagers.

Dodgers do not re-sign Beltre giving him up to Seattle who paid $64 million over 5 years for the 3rd base slugger.

Dodgers lose the bidding battle for pitcher Tim Hudson.

The new management is continuing to cut payroll. They didn't re-sign Steve Finley who hit the grand slam to clinch the division. They didn't re-sign Jose Lima who was the most consistent pitcher down the stretch and who shut out the Cards in the NLDS for the first playoff win for the Dodgers in a very long time.

Will fans turn out next season to see a team that looks very different than last year's West division champs? Will this team even play .500 ball?

LA Scene: The Los Angeles Master Chorale

People in Los Angeles know that the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the hot cultural ticket in town. When people think of the building, they think of Frank Gehry because he is the architect. When people think of the music, they think of the Los Angeles Philharmonic because they play there. When people think of the LA Phil, they think of Esa-Pekka Salonen because he is the music director.

What people might not know is that Disney Hall is the home of the Los Angeles Master Chorale which is under the leadership of LAMC music director Grant Gershon.

If one wants to see an event inside the Disney Hall with the LA Phil or organized by the LA Phil Association, check this page out for events with tickets remaining.

My impression is that this list is longer than last year's. Last year being the first year of the Disney Hall, everything was pretty much sold out; even the obscure modern works. The novelty maybe wearing off now that the Hall is a year old and so perhaps ticket sales aren't as brisk. I wonder what will happen in year three, five and beyond?

Will the splash of attention garnered by the glam building wear off? We shall see. Ironically, the building may literally lose some of its luster because of complaints of glare from its neighbors which will be resolved by sandblasting some portions of the building.

In any case, if one can't find a ticket to an LA Phil event or none of what is available strikes your fancy, be sure to check out the Master Chorale as their events don't always sell out or don't sell out as quickly.

Recently went with five friends to my first Chorale event when they hosted the Messiah Sing Along. It was also the first time I got to hear the brand new organ.

One of my friends is an excellent singer and has performed solos with the Angel City Chorale and had her own score of the Messiah. Another friend sings bass in my church choir and he bought a score at the Disney Hall. Another friend is studying music in college; thus, I was in the company of some good voices who know music!

I looked over to the score my bass friend had ... and ... umm ... attempted to sing? My goodness there are a LOT OF NOTES!

Since the event, I've been playing my CD of the Messiah at home and have copied it over onto my iPOD.

However, I must say there is nothing quite like hearing nearly 2000 voices sing the Hallelujah Chorus in person. Simply amazing. Simply heavenly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

LA Dining: Tesoro Trattoria

Had dinner with four friends at Tesoro Trattoria.

Food:
Terrific Italian food. I had the Sorano ($13.95) which is farfalle with eggplant, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, pine nuts with extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Delicious and well presented.

Service:
Friendly and timely service with a smile.

Atmosphere:
Very nice setting. Located walking distance to MOCA, WDCH and the other Music Center venues. Definitely a good option for the business meal, celebration dinner and the more serious date.

Price:
Entrees are around $20 with some in mid-teens. Our party of five with tips got out paying $100 because we all ate pretty lightly. The menu is a la carte so the bill would be higher if we opted in for salads, appetizers, desserts and drinks.

Location:
300 South Grand Avenue
Downtown Los Angeles
Telephone: 213-680-0000

One nice feature is that one can park in the California Plaza parking lot, get a validation from the restaurant and show the attendant your concert ticket as you exit and parking is FREE!

Another organization I'm supporting...

Christmas is a time to count our blessings and to give to others who have needs.

I've been blogging about different groups I'm sending contributions to. So here is another one for you to consider.

There aren't many things more difficult than being a woman who is pregnant and without support. Some would counsel abortion to "solve" the problem. But for some, abortion is not the solution. I'll leave the abortion debate for another blog post.

As a pro-lifer who wants to give support to people who are offering real alternatives, I've been supporting organizations that support women who decide to bring their child into this world.

One such group is The Harvest Home in Santa Monica.

What is their mission?

It is right on their web page:
The purpose of the Harvest Home is to provide love and care to each woman, offering a stable environment where her physical, emotional and spiritual needs can be met.  The ultimate goal is to have each woman  leave the Home spiritually stronger, with a greater sense of self-worth and better prepared to support and care for herself and her child.
My friend recently participated in the 2005 Christmas Run/Walk on behalf of Harvest Home and asked for a pledge which I gladly gave. You can still support their work by going to their web donation page.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Join us in supporting Iraq through Spirit of America



I participated with the Bear Flag League.

Team Statement:
California Bloggers uniting to make a difference across the world.

Team members

Calblog
DeoDuce
MasterOfNone
Miller's Time
Moxie
Patterico's Pontifications
Pearly Gates
Rene's Ramblings
Selected Pete
SoCal Law Blog
The Education Wonks
The Window Manager
Tired of Liberal BS
Tonecluster
Xrlq
irishlass
the Pirate

Heisman should go to Reggie Bush

I haven't seen enough of Oklahoma to know their potential candidates. But among U$C players... you got to say Reggie Bush is the #1 guy.

No Bush, no victory over UCLA last Saturday.

U$C would have had success even without Leinart. I'm not so sure how good they would be if they didn't have Bush.

Bush, the big play threat, and Bush, the guy who catches, runs and returns helps them win. Leinart and the receiving corp helps run up the scores.

That's this Bruin analysis!

Meanwhile, GO BRUINS in the Las Vegas Bowl!!

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Christmas Season: a time for giving

With Christmas just around the corner, I want to encourage readers of this humble blog both regular and accidental to find ways to give to those who need help.

So below, I'll mention two groups I've just donated to.

Spirit of America: Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge

Check out the Spirit of America: Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge.

They are raising money to support various projects in Iraq. That country has been under decades of oppression and now that it is on the verge of breathing free it is being hit by violence from the old forces that used to be in power. It is an indication of their evil that they would rather burn 1/2 a house down than allow the long suffering people to rebuild.

I decided to donate with the Bear Flag League which is a California blog team.

I was tempted to join Hugh Hewitt's team, Northern Alliance of Blogs, because I occasionally listen to his show. But I am not a Minnesota person and have only been to Minn-e-so-cold just once.

The TTLB Eco Team was a possibility as I do occasionally check my standing in the TTLB Blog Ecosystem. This blog is in the "Flippery Fish" status.

Hope you consider donating to this cause or to some other one.

Young Life

Another cause I gave to is Young Life.

Specifically, I gave to Young Life Hollywood.

There are few things more important than helping kids grow into good people. Yet, we all know how much tougher it is these days especially in the mean streets of a big city. Go to the web page and see if there is one in your community that you can support.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Author Iris Chang, 1968-2004

I was shocked to hear the news that author, Iris Chang was found dead of an apparent suicide. She was 36.

I had the chance to hear her speak at the 2004 UCLA-Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I wrote these two blog posts about the sessions she was involved with.

She was passionate about bringing to the light aspects of Chinese history that were little in the public consciousness. As I watched her speak, she was so full of life.

Yet, as I read the news item about her death, it was reported that she was recently hospitalized for depression and one would guess was probably still being treated for it after being released.

If you or you think a loved one is suffering from depression, please check this web page from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Additional information can be found at the Prozac web page.

After reading those pages, if necessary, get help for yourself or your loved one.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Culture: Wineblogging - Weinrieder 2001 Eiswein Riesling

Wow! I bought this wine many months ago from Blue Danube Wines. I had emailed the owner of this wine importer for suggestions and he raved about this wine and recommended it highly.

Well, I'm glad I finally got around to trying it.

By eye a deep gold color, pleasant aroma is intoxicating already even before you taste it and then you taste it ... it is like nectar with a consistency somewhere between juice and syrup.

Read more about Weinrieder and below is an excerpt about this wine.
This wine was chosen to be the crowning soloist at the Masters of Wine gala dinner in Vienna, July 2002. Recently it tied for first place with Canada’s Pilletteri Vidal 2001 ice wine at the Hamburg Wine Salon. Peter Moser writes in the Falstaff 2002 guide, "Enticing nose, redolent of canned yellow peaches; tastes like peach nectar, shows an brilliant acid structure; a racy and classy wine, yet with so much elegance that it is already drinkable. Great." 94-96 points. We should add this beauty has an everlasting crisp finish!"
This intense and dense white wine is a perfect dessert wine all by itself. Just enjoy slowly savoring every sip!

LA Dining: Ngoma Restaurant

Shared dinner with some friends at Ngoma Restaurant.

Food:
African restaurant with a menu divided into West African and East African sections. Tonight, 4 of us went to the East side and 1 of us went to the West side. 2 of us had chicken stew and 2 of us had beef stew while one had a fried fish. There is lamb mafe on the menu that I hope to try next time I'm there. Good straightforward food. The menu provides descriptions of the items and some do sound more exotic than others! I confess I went with something that sounded familar and what could be more familiar than stew!

Service:
I have eaten here a few times before but it has been awhile. Previously service was a bit slow but this outing the service was quite attentive. One neat ritual is the handwashing. The host brings a bowl of water and a bowl as a catch basin. She poured the water over our hands so we can wash. The water was nice and warm!

Atmosphere:
It is a cute little place on Wilshire in the Miracle Mile area. Probably okay for kids when it isn't crowded. Good date place for those looking for something atypical as it is different. The atmosphere is generally good for conversation. One time I went they had African music going so it was a little louder than usual but not overly so.

Price:
Entrees are mostly less than $15. Our party of five with tips got out paying $105.

Location:
5358 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.
Cross Street: Detroit Avenue
Telephone: 323-934-1595
Fax: 323 934-1565

Opening Hours:
Tue.-Thu., 11AM.-10 PM
Fri. 11:00 am-11:00 PM
Sat. 12 Noon AM.-11 PM
Sun.12:00 Noon- 7:00 PM

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Seen on the web ...

A thumbnail of some noted evangelical Christians can be found here.

A NY Times article about John Stott by Brooks.

HT to AS.

What is a good and happy life?

Is a good life and a happy life inevitably linked?

One challenge (which the postmodern skeptic would agree) is that we are bound in this time and place and so a definition for either may be pointless.

However, can one come up with a definition that is applicable to us here in modern Western society and to poorer parts of the world and to someone who lived in the distant past?

Anyway, more questions than answers?

I think living in the USA does provide benefits (and how) but also lots of distractions!

The question of a "good life," I think, is hard for us because the postmodern skeptical view of the world is so prevalent here in the USA. If "truth" is unknowable or relativistic than the notion of some objective good is hard to find. So people default to finding a "happy life."

But do American's really know what a "happy life" is?

I think we confuse "excitement" for happiness. We are a nation of "adrenaline junkies." Extreme sports and TV shows like Fear Factor and the confusion of activity for significance is a part of life here in the USA. Does a series of experiences that are exciting constitute happiness?

I think we also confuse "pleasure" for happiness. "Happy Hour" on a Friday evening is a time for eating and drinking and flirting. All things well and good but if that is the end all and be all of life then that would seem a poor life indeed. And then there is the whole "do it if it feels good" ethic. This is problematic without an anchor for what is good. Yet, the basis for advertising on TV, magazines, etc. is our pleasure. But the pleasure from getting what we claim to want fades and we look for more.

As humans, we do enjoy the adrenaline high? And if god made us than isn't that a good thing? God made us with such powerful sensory capacity that pleasure is wired into us? So I'm not going to run in the other direction and say pleasure is sinful.

So what is the linkage between our notions of good and our experience of happiness?

Now, if one doesn't believe in god then these good feelings are an accident of evolution and doing good is irrelevant as survival is the prime directive of evolution.

Yet, Michael Shermer, an ardent evolutionist and evangelistic atheist argues that happiness is the evolutionary method to support "good societal ethics." His reasoning is that individual ethical choices which may diminish self-preservation enhances societal survival. Thus, how would such choices be encouraged? He argues evolution selects for "goodness" by linking it to happiness in doing good. Happy people do more good and even if that may reduce self-preservation it enhances the overall success of a population.

Thus, in his naturalistic world view, goodness and happiness are linked. In his view, of course, goodness is the collection of values that help a society survive in the evolutionary sense. In his analysis, isolated populations may not come up with identical ethical systems but it would appear that there are some ethical imperatives that all populations would eventually evolve.

As a theist, I believe goodness and happiness are linked as well but for different reasons.

I think the personal search for happiness should move us into the realm for the search for significance and to our search for the good because I think deep down God has wired us with a desire for the good?

How can one account for the exasperated feeling we get at seeing the triumph of evil?

We say, that isn't the way it is supposed to be! In our "soul" there is a faint echo of what is good and we still hear it and when we see evil we recoil against it because we still have a sense of what is good.

My personal experience tells me that when I do "good" or see "good" being done, the impact on my being is (1) emotional at that moment but (2) imprinted into my being and thus transformative. Experiencing the good leaves an impact and it is not as transient an experience as excitement and pleasure. Experiencing the good, if you will, leaves me happy, at a place I want to be.

I believe it is God's nature to do good and thus God is happy (does this sound strange?) when God does good. Hence, God's statement during the creation, and God saw that it was good. Is it too much to read into the text that God was happy with creation?

And then, of course, God is happy when creatures of free will (us) also do good. I think of some of the parables of Jesus and in particular I wonder, is there happiness within God when God confers the blessing, well done good and faithful servant? Thus, for God, goodness and happiness are linked. And to the extent we are made in God's image it is true for us as well.

For now, as a Christian, I define a good life as one that is in concert with what Jesus taught. I see "the good life" as putting into action the collective wisdom found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. I see "the happy life" as having a relationship with Jesus and the sense of satisfaction and serenity that comes from doing the good God desires and knowing the grace of forgiveness when I fall short of doing the good God desires.

I know a postmodern skeptic would find my view too absolutist and exclusive.

The key thing I would point out is that this ethical system places a high regard for doing good to all and so I may disagree with those of other belief systems, I am nonetheless to love them and treat them with respect.

The Christian worldview also places a high regard on liberty and that includes respecting the freedom of others to reject the claims of Christianity. Christianity's emphasis on free will means coercion to belief is not condoned.