Fact-checking humor

David Sedaris is a humor writer who has a standing gig at National Public Radio news shows.  His schtick is based on his array of personal experiences, such as the time he once worked in a department store as Santa’s elf.  But NPR got burned when it turned out that Mike Daisey’s expose of conditions at an Apple Computer factory in China was largely made up.  And now it has come out that some of Sedaris’s anecdotes–including his  time as an elf–did not, strictly speaking, actually happen.  Sedaris says his material is “real-ish.”  So now NPR is undergoing a crisis of conscience about the extent to which they should fact-check Sedaris’s funny stories.

The David Sedaris dilemma: A fine line between ‘realish’ and real – The Washington Post.

Fiction, of course, by definition is made up.  Sedaris presents his stories as experiences, though the nature of humor is going to require exaggerations, caricatures, and embellishments.

Do you think NPR is being responsible or over-scrupulous?  What is the difference between what Sedaris does and what Daisey did?  Could you propose some guidelines for NPR?

The two trees

Pastor Douthwaite, preaching from John 15:9-17 and 1 John 5:1-8:

And speaking of Adam, he’s another one God gave but a single command to, remember? Just: don’t eat from this one tree. Just this one! You can eat from all the others: apples, oranges, pears, pomagranites, figs, cherries, you name it – they’re all yours to eat and enjoy. Just not this one, please. Reserve this one for me.

Now, the scriptures don’t say what kind of fruit was on that tree. Was it a different fruit than all the others? Unique and special and one-of-a-kind, that God was holding back from Adam? I don’t think so. I think it was just one of many, let’s say, fig trees. So by not eating it, Adam isn’t missing out on anything. He’s not deprived of anything. He’s simply loving God by keeping, by honoring, this one request.

But he couldn’t do it. Eve was deceived; Adam did it willfully. Because he couldn’t have it, it was the tree he desired most of all. And the more time goes on, the harder it gets. For that’s the way of it with sin. We want what we can’t, or shouldn’t, have, or what has not been given to us. And taking it, going after it, or desiring it hurts our love for one another. Because we’re thinking of me, not them. Helping me, not them. Loving me, not them. And then Jesus’ command, His request: Love one another, which sounds so simple, becomes: what about me? And then it’s all about me, which is tyranny of the worst kind. It’s what Luther wrote of in the hymn we sang today (LSB #556, v. 2): Fast bound in satan’s chains I lay. When it’s all about me, what’s all about me, are chains. The chains of sin and death.

But Jesus said: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Jesus is not imposing on us. He wants us to have joy. But when we love only ourselves there is not this joy, not a joy that lasts anyway. But one that caves to the insatiable desire for more. For that one tree of which God said: please, no.

So what’s a God to do? Give us more rules, more laws, more commandments? That’s what some think, but that’s doesn’t work. For how you doing with that one: Love one another? If we can’t even keep one, how we gonna keep more? No, more rules, more laws, more commandments is the way of servants and slaves. But do you remember what Jesus said today instead? No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Friends, not slaves. Friends, not servants. Friends, to whom Jesus has revealed a better way, telling us not more that we have to do, but what He has come to do. That that one tree that Adam and all of us cannot resist, is now a one tree that Jesus cannot resist. But for Jesus it is not in sin, but in love. For that one tree that He cannot resist is the tree of the cross. For greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus is that someone, who has come to lay down His life for you. For what comes welling up from within His heart is not sin, but love. And so He comes to not only show us, but give us, the love we need. Calling us friends – not because we deserve it, ‘cuz we most certainly don’t! And calling us friends not because He’s describing us, but because that’s what He’s naming us; that’s what He’s making us, that’s what He’s doing in us. For what God calls something, that’s what it is. God’s Word does what it says. We did not choose Him, He chose us. Or in other words, we’re not His friends because of what we do – we’re His friends because of what He did. Because of His tree. Because of the cross.

That just as one tree made us all sinners, so one tree would make us all righteous again. As one tree made us slaves to sin, so one tree would set us free. As one tree brought death into the world, so one tree would bring life to the world.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 6 Sermon.

Read it all.

Epic fails

Do you read the mad-cap sports columnist Norman Chad?  His latest column is about the mystery of Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals superstar–who has hit an average of 40 home runs each season with a career .326 batting average–who can now do hardly anything (one home run, batting .196) after being paid a quarter of a billion dollars to join the California Angels.

Chad wonders if the Pujols deal might join his top five flops of all time:

●New Coke (1985): Was anybody complaining about Coca-Cola? What were they thinking? This was like adding skylights and terraces to the Pyramids.

●Chevy Chase’s talk show (1993): Magic Johnson’s talk show actually was worse, but he was a point guard; Chase is an entertainer.

●Ben-Gay Aspirin (1990s): Yes, Ben-Gay Aspirin. For real. I mean, I’ll smear that delightfully smelly stuff on my back, but do I care to swallow it?

●Dennis Miller on “Monday Night Football” (2000-01): I still have nightmares of the former funny guy referring to Coach Mike Shanahan as “Shanny” 37 times in four quarters.

●Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-81, 1999): Hey, I was as big a fan of women’s suffrage as the next guy, but I don’t want some feminist coin rolling around my pocket ruining the feng shui of my favorite quarters and dimes.

via Couch Slouch: Albert Pujols’s California dreams quickly turn to nightmares – The Washington Post.

What are some other epic failures?

Ron Paul ends campaign

And then there was one.  Ron Paul has suspended his campaign.  Mitt Romney is the last Republican standing.

Paul did better than he did four years ago, and he continues to accumulate delegates at state conventions.  But he was a long way from winning.

Do you see any prospects for Paul or his son or his libertarian philosophy in the future?  In the Republican party?


Ron Paul effectively ending presidential campaign – latimes.com.

Vampires vs. the Blood of Christ

James R. Rogers, a Texas A&M professor and board member of the LCSM Texas District, has an intriguing post at First Things about how the vampire craze can become an occasion to help people understand about the Blood of Christ:

Here’s a report [link at the site] about Danish teens using modern Vampire stories as platforms to think of spiritual matters. Given their immense popularity in the U.S., I also think that these stories can be drawn on to consider theological concepts with teens (and teens at heart) such as the Real Presence in the Supper, the relationship between the New and Old Testaments, and the work of Jesus Christ.

Both Vampire stories and the Christ story center on the identification of life with blood. This starts with Noah in the Old Testament. God tells Noah that he can eat animal flesh, but not animal blood, “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gn 9.4). Still, even in the OT, fallen humanity desperately needs the life that is in the blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Lev 17.11, cf., Lev 11.14, Dt 12.23).

While the Old Testament flatly prohibits the eating of blood with the flesh, with the coming of Jesus Christ, the New Testament commands the practice, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6.53-54).

Vampire stories invert this picture. Rather than the resurrected Lord who willingly offers his own sacrificed body and blood to give humans eternal life, Vampires are resurrected lords who sacrifice unwilling humans to take their blood for eternal life for themselves. The pivot around which both stories turn is the affirmation that the life of the flesh is in the blood.

via Vampire Stories and the Real Presence » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

He goes on.  (Also, see comment #2 by Mary.)

Married to the state

Behind the rhetoric of “the war on women” and the “Julia” website is a strategy of Democrats to turn single women–sorry, unmarried women, I mean, “women on their own”–into the militant voting bloc that evangelicals are for Republicans.  While it is true that single mothers and divorced women are the most consistent  Democratic demographic, a funny thing happens when these very women get married:  They turn into Republicans.  So says Jessica Gavora in the Washington Post:

“The Life of Julia,” the Obama campaign’s new interactive Web ad, follows a cartoon everywoman, Julia, through the milestones of a middle-class American life: education, work, motherhood, retirement. One milestone is pointedly missing: marriage.

But, then again, why should Julia get married? She doesn’t need to. Like a growing number of single women with children, Julia is married to the state.

As a character drawn and focus-grouped by political consultants, Julia is designed to remind voters of the government programs President Obama champions and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney is ostensibly intent on taking away. Julia goes to school (with help from Headstart and federal student loans), she works (thank you, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Small Business Administration), she has a son (free health screenings brought to her by Obamacare) and she retires (Social Security and Medicare pay the bills while she volunteers in a community garden).

But Julia is a more artful and nuanced creation than a simple tour guide to the utopia that awaits under a second Obama term. She is designed to appeal to a narrow but deep demographic: single women, especially single women with kids.

In 2007, the United States passed a significant demographic milestone, when the census reported that the majority of American households were headed by unmarried people. It was the crest of a wave that had been building for some time. Since 1960, the percentage of the population that is over age 15 and unmarried increased from 32 percent to 45 percent. If this trend continues, singles (including unmarried people who are cohabiting) will make up the majority of Americans in less than 15 years.

And in this nation of swinging singles, women are dominant. . . .

Until the 2000 presidential election, Democrats generally wrote off the single female vote as not worth the effort. But in that razor-thin contest, strategists noticed for the first time that 22 million members of their most reliable cohort of voters did not go to the polls. If single women had cast ballots in the same proportions as married women, Al Gore probably would have received the punched chads of an additional 6 million voters, more than enough to have won him the White House.

The Democratic Party’s answer to this missed opportunity has been to attempt to make singlehood cool and fresh and new in an attempt to court this demographic. When focus groups told them that unmarried women regard the word “single” as a depressing term, strategists renamed them simply “unmarried” or, even better, “women on their own.”. . .

Whereas government benefits were once the state’s compassionate response to women who had lost their husbands, in Julia’s world they are the unquestionable entitlement of women who never married. The decline of marriage and Democratic political opportunism have combined to transform what used to be a situation to be avoided — single motherhood — into a new and proud American demographic, citizens of Obama’s Hubby State.. . .

Strategists talk breathlessly of unmarried women becoming for the Democratic Party what evangelical Christians are for the Republicans: a large, awakened, reliable force for liberal social change.. . .

The Democratic project to coax single women to the polls is given urgency by an interesting political fact: Although single women vote overwhelmingly Democratic, their condition is not permanent. According to the work of University of Chicago demographer Tom Smith, once divorced people remarry, they start to vote like married people again. In 2004, George W. Bush had a 12-point advantage over John Kerry among married people. Kerry won divorced voters by three points and separated and never-married voters by 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively. But among remarried voters, Bush was back on top by 15 percent. It seems something about the institution of marriage makes people vote Republican.

via Obama’s ‘Julia’ ad and the new Hubby State – The Washington Post.