Monday, November 26, 2007

Holy Idiot!

Very Short List turned me on to this online presentation of Dostoyevski's classic Crime and Punishment, refashioned as a 1950s-era Batman comic. It's immediately funny despite its somber subject matter and compelling despite its inherent silliness. Check it out here.

Batman comics and Russian novelists--two great tastes that go great together.

Ode to Endorsements

Matt Rogers, co-pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Blacksburg, Virginia, and author of two forthcoming books: When Answers Aren't Enough (Zondervan, April 08) and Losing God (IVP, October 08), was kind enough to offer the following endorsement of my book Deliver Us from Me-Ville (David C. Cook, June 08):

I would like to say our obsessively self-oriented fame-seeking culture needs this book. (It does.) But more the point, I need it. Dave Zimmerman draws the finest distinction I´ve read between a healthy sense of significance and insidious self-absorption.

I've had the pleasure of editing Matt's book Losing God and, in the process, getting to know him. Great guy with a really sensitive spirit. Both his books are going to be great.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Open Letter to Laffy Taffy™

Dear Mr. Wonka:
I have long admired the taste and texture of Laffy Taffy™. Having gone to school not far from one of your manufacturing plants, I was pleased for four years to have ready access to these chewy, gooey delights. The jokes on the wrappers were, of course, a happy bonus. Who could not smile reading, on the outside of the wrapper, “What do you say when the Statue of Liberty sneezes?” and then, on the inside of the wrapper, “God bless America!”

Imagine my disappointment, my confusion, when I eagerly opened a bag of Halloween edition Laffy Taffy™ and found the following joke:

Q: What happens to a pumpkin when it becomes rotten?
A: It turns into a green Jack-o-Lantern.

What?!? I like to think I have a good sense of humor, and I have devoted more time to this joke than could be called productive, and I must judge that in this instance you were heavy on the taffy, light on the laffy.

Oh, the opportunities you missed! Why not the following?

Q: What happens when a Jack-o-Lantern becomes rotten?
A: It turns into a punk-kin!


Q: What do you call a pumpkin that becomes rotten?
A: A jackal-lantern!

I admit, neither of these jokes represents my best work, but at least there’s nuance, plays on words, exclamation points. I might have kept silent about my frustration but my next piece of candy bore the following joke (and I emphasize the word bore):

Q: Why did they carve a big mouth into the pumpkin?
A: So he could scream and howl!

Again, what?!? I can’t work with that one at all!! At least it had an exclamation point, but I’ll be frank: this joke screams and howls an indictment against your joke editing department. I can only hope that you will audit your humor more carefully before the next candy-giving event on my calendar. I would hate to have my taffy-chewing experience sullied by something like the following:

Q: What did the Easter Bunny say to the Paschal Lamb?
A: Have a piece of chocolate!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Early Endorsements

Very nice comments from two very cool people about the forthcoming book, Deliver Us from Me-Ville. Don Everts, who's written four-soon-to-be-nine books and is the unofficial posterboy for Likewise books, read the draft and had this to say:

Selfishness has always been subtle and insidious. But Dave Zimmerman, with his keen eye on our culture, on scripture, and even (humorously) on himself, brings selfishness more into the light of day. Deliver Us From Me-Ville, with its wit and brutal honesty, helps me see selfishness as the ugly thing that it is and provides practical steps I can take away from its subtle, far-reaching clutches.
--Don Everts, author of Jesus with Dirty Feet, The Smell of Sin and God in the Flesh

Sean Gladding, copastor of Mercy Street in Houston, Texas, and one of the most delightful people I've ever met, wrote the following endorsement:

With his characteristic wit, Dave Zimmerman knocks on the front door of our comfortable home in Me-Ville. Before we know it he’s sitting in our living room, drinking coffee with us and gently – but insistently – inviting us to consider a move to a new home in the City of God.
--Sean Gladding, Co-pastor of Mercy Street, Houston, TX

They both, of course, had very incisive, insightful things to say about how the content can be improved, but these endorsement are nice pieces of eye candy until the book releases next June. So chew on that for a while, why don't you?

I am, by the way, working on discussion resources for the book, and presentations and retreats based on the book, so if you're looking for special content for some venue next year, let me know. I'd love to come meet your community.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Church Is A . . .

My wife has just joined the staff of our church, which means she now occasionally needs to use the church's tax-exemption number. Like today, for example, when she had to buy some supplies for the office. No big deal; the cashier simply enters the number, assigns the appropriate category and completes the transaction.

The question, however, of which category the purchase falls under is not so clear. Is the church a government agency, or is it a charity?

It struck me as a pretty simple question, actually, but it completely stymied our cashier, which I suspect offers a clue into the church's reputation in the broader culture. "It should be government, right? Because the church is a government agency."

"No, it should be charity, because the church is a charitable organization."

Any self-respecting churchgoing evangelical, such as myself, knows down to the bones that the church is most definitely not a government agency. The government, in fact, is out to get us--stripping away our God-given right to tax-free purchases and scheduling our children's park-district sporting events during our times of worship--all of which complicate our divine mandate to do charitable things like get together and eat donuts while we complain about taxes.

An outsider to the church, on the other hand--who has not been blessed with a parochial education that explains how the government has persecuted the American church and how the church has persevered in its charitable work of televangelism and lock-ins--might be inclined to perceive the church as a government agency, since every time a representative of the church is on TV he or she is telling people what to do and how to do it.

I should mention at this point that the cashier was a lovely young girl, showing no animosity whatsoever toward my wife for daring to work for such an oppressive organization as a church. No, I think she'd just never encountered the question of what a church is, and went with her gut.

I've started reading the book Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, which reports on a broad survey of non-Christians ages 16 to 29. I'm not too far into it, but what I've read thus far suggests that people see the church doing much more governing than charity work. I'm not sure what to do with that information--maybe it comes through in later chapters--but generating more press releases trumpeting the charity work our church is doing doesn't smell like the answer. It smells like something, that's for sure, but it doesn't smell like the answer.

Any thoughts? Read the book; so far it's interesting, and I suspect I'll post more about it before I'm done . . .

Friday, November 02, 2007

When We Kiss, Oooh, Fire

Apparently, Bruce Springsteen recognizes a good performance opportunity when he sees it. From Stereogum:

Remember when you first heard "Keep The Car Running" and thought, "That's the best Bruce Springsteen song not written by Bruce Springsteen"? Apparently so did the Boss!

Springsteen brought two members of Arcade Fire on stage in Ontario and performed their song together with the E-Street Band. As I heard it on the radio, "When Bruce Springsteen covers your song, you know it's good."

That's the song that did it for me with Neon Bible, and I wish they had led with that as a single rather than the more isolating "Black Mirror," because as I've suggested elsewhere, I'd like to see these guys take the mantle from performers like Springsteen and U2.

Download now: "Keep the Car Running" and "(Antichrist Television Blues)"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Light Humor

In my experience, there's always room for a little more G. K. Chesterton. I may have posted this in the past, but I was reminded of the following passage from his book Heretics recently, after an intriguingly complex office-wide conversation at work. I submit it for your pleasure, with hopes that you'll all become Chestertonians like me. For a further taste, click on the Daily Dose of Chesterton in the sidebar links.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good—” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.