Would David Hasselhoff win America's Got Talent?

I don’t think so.

So why is he a judge?



Blogs I'm reading

A friend of mine asked me earlier in the week what blogs I’m reading these days; I told him I’d look at my list and post some recommendations here. So, here are some of the blogs I read and recommend:

  1. Craig Dunham
  2. Megan Dunham
  3. Jon Barlow
  4. Ann Barlow
  5. Adam Tisdale
  6. John Allen Bankson
  7. Paul Bankson
  8. Dane Ortlund
  9. Russell Smith
  10. Jeremy Jones
  11. Margie Haack
  12. Travis Scott
  13. Buffy Smith
  14. Nikki Sawyers
  15. Sam Murrell
  16. Jeff & Aubrey Tell

News (not really “blogs” but RSS feeds included)
  1. NY Times
  2. Slate
  3. Macworld
  4. byFaith

  1. Church Forward (Sam Rainer)
  2. Ed Stetzer
  3. The Sola Panel
  4. Jesus Creed (Scot McKnight)
  5. Seminary Survival Guide
  6. Internet Monk (Michael Spencer)
  7. Parchment & Pen
  8. Biblical Horizons
  9. Reformation21
  10. The Last Homely House
  11. The Rabbit Room
  12. PastorHacks

  1. 43 Folders (Merlin Mann)
  2. Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent
  3. From Where I Sit (Michael Hyatt)
  4. Unclutterer
  5. Rands in Repose
  6. GTD Times
  7. How to Change the World (Guy Kawasaki)

There it is. There’s something in there for almost everyone, I think. Have fun!


Family man

I’ve mentioned Andrew Peterson before; he’s a guy with a lot of talent whose book I reviewed a while back, and he’s also a talented musician, singer, and songwriter.

One of Andrew’s songs that I love is “Family Man”-- it’s one of those songs that I wonder at how he ever performs live, because I don’t understand how he doesn’t choke up with tears.

Well, others love this song too. One church staffer created a video for the song, and it’s a pretty incredible video. Take a look:

"Family Man" from Trevor Little on Vimeo.


Our bluegrass church

Some of you may not know that we have a professional bluegrass band in our congregation, called Cypress Creek. At least, we have a significant part of it-- two full members of the band (and one who regularly joins them) are members of our church.

They’re a lot of fun, and they’re also really good. They play gigs all over the mid-south, and every now and then we get a bluegrass number as an offertory or for special music during worship.

They’ll also be playing at the Vicky Williams Benefit that the church is holding and hosting in early August. If you’re able (and you’re in the area), come out on August 9th from 4-8pm and hear Cypress Creek.

Update: Sorry about the bad link from earlier; I was using an old link. To make up for it, I’ve posted THREE videos now!

Here they are in the studio:


A note to sitters about TV

For all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other babysitters out there, here’s a rule of thumb about appropriate TV shows:

Don’t assume that it’s safe or appropriate to watch just because it is animated or drawn.

We were recently at someone’s house for a visit, and they don’t have young children. (No, you don’t know them.) One of these adults turned on the TV for Jack and Molly while we (Marcie and I) were in another part of the house. When I came in, they were watching a show that was an animated cartoon-- so the assumption was that it would be a safe show for them. But, in fact, it was a show with a fair amount of violence and themes that we would prefer to introduce our children to more gradually and through a different channel (sorry about the pun) of communication other than television.

It is difficult to grasp the amount of animated TV available these days, especially if you don’t have children under 20. I can name six or seven distinct channels that show animated productions, and some show only animated stuff. There is plenty of stuff that is animated, but is not even marketed to very young children. There is at least as much stuff that
IS marketed to children Jack and Molly’s age, but that we don’t want them watching. Many of these shows regularly portray one or more of the following behaviors and/or ideas as both appropriate and acceptable:
  • Crude language/joking
  • Disrespect for other people/their possessions
  • Whining and complaining
  • Jokes/mischief at others’ expense
  • Moral relativism
  • An almost religious/spiritual environmentalism
  • Thoughtless foolishness
Now, it’s true that many of the above are common behaviors/ideas among even young children, and many of the shows that are on portray exactly that: children acting like children. But something changes when any of these are shown on a show that makes them seem normal and right, and even appealing. Marcie and I simply aren’t willing to expose our children to that; they’ll get enough of it without feeding it to them through the TV.

On the other hand, the best shows deal with many of the same themes in a way that is good and helpful. Disney produced a show called “Recess” for a few years that frequently portrayed authoritative adults (usually school teachers) in a foreboding and somewhat intimidating manner; however, the show also regularly added in a plot development where the adults that appeared fearsome were shown to be caring, likeable people with normal lives. A show that our kids watch, called “Max and Ruby,” has older sister Ruby displaying a condescending and bossy attitude to her little brother Max in almost every episode; the resolution of every plotline, though, has Ruby realizing that there was something she didn’t know at work, and humility and appreciation were in order.

There are good shows on for children, and I appreciate that many production houses that market to younger children strive to offer some vallue in their shows, even if it is something on the order of a portrayal of decision-making in social circumstances. But it’s a safe bet that the parents of children you know have some distinct preferences about what their kids watch. If you don’t know what these preferences are, be sure to ask before you reach for the clicker.

Cheesy lawyer ads

Do you get as tired of seeing these guys on TV hawking their “law services” to any of us who might remotely fall into an action class? This modern-day version of ambulance chasing gets under my skin. Consider this an open response to these hucksters.

First of all: why would I hire you instead of calling someone I actually know (who is at least remotely connected to the field of law) and asking for a referral? If your answer is, “because you know my face from TV” then you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid too long.

Second: how did you decide that this-- marketing yourself as someone who takes advantage of others’ difficulties-- was a good career for you? Are you aware that you come across as slimy and opportunist, and most people (if they don’t ignore you) consider you and the services you offer to be about two notches lower than the seedy used car salesman stereotype? Surely someone has cared enough to tell you this before, but if not, I’m Simon Cowell enough to do so now.

Finally: you should be aware that I (and, hopefully, others like me) will urge anyone I know NOT to employ your services. As a Pastor, I’m convicted that the biblical passages that urge Christians not to take one another to court applies today; further, I believe that when legal action is necessary, it should be as uncontentious as possible. My instincts tell me that your approach would be at the far-opposite end of the spectrum, and you would go for as much contention as you could muster. I generally believe that our culture is far too letigious, and I think the positions and attitudes that you represent have greatly contributed to that.

In closing, I offer the excellent commentary from my man Remy, who astutely points out everything that is wrong with your commercials. Watch and learn:


Not taking ourselves too seriously

At the recommendation of my St. Louis friend Steve Hughes, I started watching Last Comic Standing on NBC this summer. Funny stuff-- I’ve always enjoyed stand-up comedy, and this is a fun reality show.

On the first show, a pair came on that really hit on something good. They present themselves as a “Christian folk duo with a message” and (after looking them up on the web) I think they really are Christians who are also comedians and want to poke fun at the sub-culture that has, sadly, emerged as perhaps representative of Christianity in our world. Here’s their first clip:


So, I entered a drawing...

There's a contest (or drawing... is there a difference?) that I entered on another blog. The idea is this: this other blogger is giving away 20 sets of 18 CDs, apparently provided to her by WOW-- which is a group that produces compilation CDs of Christian music. (HT: Megan)

Who knows if I'll win? But if I do, it'll be an interesting experiment. I haven't listened to very much "Christian" music for years. The only musicians who market themselves as "Christian music" that I've bought in the last decade are: Wes King, Andrew Peterson, Bob Bennett, Michael Card, and Bebo Norman.

I'm sure there's some decent stuff out there, but I can't bring myself to listen to the local Christian music radio station to find it-- and there wasn't a Christian music radio station in St. Louis, even if I had wanted to. (I know-- hard to believe, isn't it?) So this is an opportunity for me to be re-introduced to what's worth listening to.

Here's an interesting twist: of the 17 artists listed in the give-away, five of them are names that I have bought before (over a decade ago): Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, Third Day, and Point of Grace. They either have aged well, or the Christian music being offered today sounds surprisingly like early 90s pop. You decide...

What's on TV?

A few weeks ago, a blog I read had a post about turning off the TV. The gist of the post was highlighting the fact that Americans watch too much TV (an average of four hours a day, says this blog) and how watching less reclaims that time for other things (like, in this case, de-cluttering your home). Many commenters chimed in with vehement agreement, claiming that TV was "a waste of time" and that there is nothing really worth watching.

While I agree that there is a problem of watching too much TV-- and that there are often better ways to spend time-- I also agree with one commenter who boldly spoke up in defense of television. His argument was that the claim, "There's nothing good on TV" is typical of those who, ironically, don't watch TV (and if you didn't catch the irony: if they don't watch TV, then they won't really know whether there's anything good on, will they?).

His point is a good one: some have argued that we're in something of a "golden age" of television. Cable channels (including premium channels like HBO and Showtime) have invested heavily for the last 10 years or so to gain a place in the primetime and serial TV market. Network TV-- long the dominant play-callers of the industry-- is fighting to maintain even a share of the viewers they once had, who are flying out the door to the cable and premium channels and their programming. This level of competition fell during a fortuitous point (for viewers, at least) in the timeline for the Internet: it was established enough to be a buzz-creator and discussion venue about new shows, but immature enough to not offer a competitive element of its own. So folks could talk about what they liked-- and savvy producers could learn from those discussions-- on the 'Net while returning to the "tube" to watch.

The result is an abundance of creativity and innovation in programming that has been unmatched in any form of media until very recently (more on that in a moment). There are good, engaging serials and dramas (
Lost, 24, Heroes, not to mention the huge successes in the realm of crime dramas, like the CSI: and Law & Order franchises); quirky and clever comedies (The Office appeals to MANY; shows like Rules of Engagement and The New Adventures of Old Christine, though a bit racy, include smart humor instead of simple crass punchlines); and a world of gameshows like we never dreamed when we used to settle for Wheel of Fortune and The Price Is Right (in addition to full-on gameshows, like Deal or No Deal, many of the so-called reality shows are really just elaborate gameshows).

Sure, some "reality" TV is lousy-- but a lot of it is a lot of fun, with emotional, relational, and psychological elements that are surprisingly engrossing (think
Survivor and The Apprentice). Many of the truly successful ones are an elaborate hybrid of The Gong Show and Star Search at a level that we always hoped was possible (maybe on par with The Ed Sullivan Show at times) when we watched those shows faithfully. (I'm thinking American Idol and Last Comic Standing.)

Add to all of that the immense variety of niche programming in the form of
entire channels devoted to things like gardening, history, home improvement, cooking, financial investment, and educational endeavors. "Nothing good on TV"-- have you ever watched the Discovery Channel? You could conceivably watch movies all day long for a week and not watch a repeat-- with a basic satellite subscription. Nostalgic for the old stuff? There are several channels that show re-runs of I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie regularly.

As another commenter (on the Unclutterer post) mentions: much of the quality of writing on TV meets or surpasses most of the contemporary fiction for sale, and much of the screenwriting done for film. Americans may watch too much TV, but the snobbish dismissal of TV as a media genre is misplaced.

Watch while you can: I predict that this "golden age" of TV will only last another handful of years. While the 'Net wasn't mature enough to be a competitor as the current TV era was coming of age, it is now: video over Internet is becoming so common as to be passe. Technology in general is "democratizing" media creativity; soon you'll see YouTube filled with independently-produced videos that rival TV in their writing and production. Over the next 5-10 years, video on the Internet will do to TV what blogging has done to printed news; it's not put out of business, but it's certainly not the go-to source for current events that it used to be. Just as every blogger is ostensibly a reporter (if they want to be), soon every amateur videographer will be a producer (if they want to be).