Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans Evacuated: Please Pray

  • for the safe evacuation of the city, and peace on the roads.

  • for comfort and consolation for all those who have lost loved ones, family and friends.

  • for peace of mind for all those who have yet to hear from or of family and friends in the city; may the best be true.

  • for all those who have lost homes and property, especially those who have lost what little they have.

  • for safe passage and hospitality towards all displaced by this calamity; may they have places to go and people to take them in, offer friendship, and demonstrate love.

  • for safety, synergy of purpose, and sharpened minds, hearts, and skills among all relief workers and engineers picking up the pieces.

  • for the well-being of 20,000 people taking refuge in the SuperDome, and their safe rescue.

  • for wisdom for pres. George Bush, gov. Kathleen Blanco, and all other government officials involved in responding to the hurricane.

  • for the church, specifically those in the gulf coast; wisdom, grace, mercy, and discernment as to how best to serve those who've felt the brunt of the waters, as well as the humility to serve in whatever capacity we're called to.

  • for preservation of life, and the well-being of all affected by this.

some of katrina's effects

interactive map>

by and large, i don't know what to say to god about this, other than 'bring your peace' and 'lord, have mercy.'
fasting and seeking god tomorrow seems apropos.
all who wish to join in, let's do this together.

lord, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Violent Pornography...and Mike Work

While watching the BBC news tonight, I was made aware of a proposed ban on violent pornography in the UK, in response to the murder of a special-needs teacher at the hands of a chap who was deeply into this stuff.

Since the statute of limitations on revealing crushes is five years, i figured that now's the time to share this story. During my senior year in high school, I re-developed a crush on Kim, who had dated one of my closest friends for some time the year prior, but was not with him at the time. Final semester began, and we had spanish and senior comp together (related memories flood back; more stories later), along with some other friends and acquaintances, one of whom, IIRC, gathered a group of ten to go to the movies one saturday night.

I believe the film people wanted to see was 'She's All That,' a teen movie which those adept at genre-bending might term a chick flick. Those who have seen my movie collection will tell you that neither of those categories predominates my library. Still, was Kim going to be there? Yes? Okay, I'm in.

So I get off work that night and drive down to the mall/theater area, and we gather/mingle for a while before heading to the box office to pick up tickets.

'We'd like tickets for 'She's All That,' please.'

And the movie's sold out. What else is playing? Someone noted the new Nic Cage flick, entitled 8mm. Okay, let's do that.

So we get enside, sit through the previews, and watch one of the most disturbing films i'd seen to that point in life. The synopsis: Cage stars as a private eye enlisted by a widow to investigate a film found in her late husband's wall safe, a film which showed a girl being murdered. The investigation of this snuff film takes him into the ever-seedy world of underground pornography, and the journey is profoundly shaking. An early draft of the script can be found here, and it's fairly close to what made the screen, although i recall some changes towards the end.

After we left the theater, conversation at Taco Bell was kind of awkward and mindless afterwards, for all parties present. After a movie about violent pornography, what do you say? I wound up giving a teammate a ride back to his car, listening to vitalogy, getting lost off sugarloaf parkway, and getting back in around 2.30, at which point mom had ceased waiting up, and had left me a note about getting up for work in the morning.

Nothing ever came of Kim and I. We both wound up at Clemson, chatted when we occasionally saw each other, but in the end, our circles diverged as we wound up in different time-consuming orbits, she in greek life, i in the football program. After college, I moved to LA, and I believe she headed back to Atlanta, but i'm not quite sure.

So that's six degrees of Mike Work. Anyone else got a story spawned by today's news?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Yesterday's paper: What I've learned from the Writings
Today's Blog: What I've learned from writing about the Writings

1. Writer's block really, really, really sucks.
2. When stressed out over deadlines, chat with classmates who aren't as stressed. You might discover that the paper is actually due three days later.
3. Don't change your topic 'week of,' especially if your new proposal only constitutes half of the paper option.
4. When you've spent the bulk of the paper writing about your life, in stream of consciousness conversational format (which is really fun, and valid), don't throw in bullshit about boundary experiences in your conclusions to make it seem more scholarly. write a conclusion to the paper you've written.
5. when throwing out said conclusion and reprinting, make sure to delete the footnote where you apologize for such a haphazard conclusion.
6. It's okay to have fewer footnotes than pages.
(whether this is a lesson or a mistake, i'll find out in a few weeks)
7. okay, you missed the due time of 5:00. don't scheme about ways to sneak it through, either into the office or over the email. and getting called into work isn't an excuse that'd hold up, if you work on campus, and have wireless available, and have the paper on a flash drive.
8. okay, ecclesiastes ends with 'fear god and keep his commandments.' i'm pretty sure there's something in there about lying and deceiving.
so does that make me the fool?
9. generally, professors who've written old testament theology textbooks have taught long enough that they've seen everything, and have planned/prepared their syllabus accordingly.
couldn't stop by campus? there's email.
computer access lacking? postal mail is also accepted, provided it's postmarked by the due date.
10. pasadena's main post office is open until 7, leaving enough time to rewrite conclusions, print, and put the paper in the mail, even if one doesn't realize this until 6.
11. it's okay to ask for help when you need it. in fact, it's often not nearly as big a deal for the giver as for the asker.
12. writing can be therapeutic...even when it's for a class.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Going into the summer, I figured that my hebrew exegesis class would be the bane of my existence. I did well in Hebrew this past winter, especially when it came to translation, although I had a definite weak spot: vocabulary. Still, it'd been six months, and the lack of vocab-aptitude meant that I'd be spending a lot of time with the lexicon, looking up words and figuring out roots and parsings. All this to read the book of Judges, in hebrew.

We're now seven of ten classes in, and while the translation has been time-consuming, and the identification of important textual and grammatical issues eludes me, it's been a good experience, especially of late. Last Thursday evening was spent with Gideon's call narrative, and we spent a chunk of class in groups talking about point of view, and the POVs of both Gideon and the messenger of the Lord. Quite illuminating, and my classmates offered perspectives and possibilities that got me thinking about aspects of the story that I hadn't considered.

Tonight's class began with more lecture on Gideon, and the rest of his story, and a friend was overheard at the break, saying ‘that was the best preaching I’ve ever heard on Gideon.’

I've gotta agree, and the time we've spent with him has been quite illuminating. Gideon's story is chock-full of insights on the use and abuse of power, leadership, and other such issues that come up in life. The guy starts out from humble beginnings within an oppressed people, and when he first hears a word of affirmation from God, he double-takes, misunderstands, and protests, telling the angel of the lord, 'You've got the wrong guy. First off, wrong family, wrong tribe, no influence at all here. And furthermore, even if you're right on that front, you'd be better served to go check in with my siblings.'

'But I will be with you.' That enough assurance?

'Okay, do something for me. Show me a sign.'

'Fine, let's see. What if I use that rock over there to burn your dinner?'

'That'll do! Wait a minute...oh wow, i've just seen the angel of the Lord. Please don't kill me!'

And what's God say to him?
'Peace to you.'

So Gideon goes and takes down his family's altar to a foreign god, not even the town's, but his family's, and he goes at night, because he's afraid of family and everyone in town who knows him. He's going to deliver Israel, yet God starts with something small, as Athena put it, a confidence-builder for a guy who we might classify as really insecure.

So this's gone down, and now the Midianites are revved up and ready to go take downthese upstarts. We might think Gideon's ready to lead the people into battle, but what does he do? He asks for more signs, and given the elaborate details that he lays out for God, they bear a close resemblance to parlor games and magic tricks.

'Okay, Gideon, a couple more things to build your confidence. In fact, I'll go even further with you. I'll let you visit the Midianite camp, and hear from their own lips that you're going to beat them. But one thing I will not do, and that's give you a powerful army, so that you can take the credit. Maybe 10% of the group you've got together, at best. Now go.'

So this guy is finally convinced enough to go into battle, yet when he preps the troops, what's the battle cry? 'For the Lord...and for Gideon!' Just great.

And as the story progresses, we see Gideon go from one end of the spectrum to the other, from a complete lack of confidence to a desire to share the spotlight with God. Then by the end, he goes back to Israel, and burns down the cities of everyone who mocked him, a 'so there' gesture. And while he refuses the offer of kingship, what's he name his son? 'My father is king.'

And I really resonate with him, and see all sorts of commonality with the way I go through life. From inexplicable insecurities to overconfidence and glory-hogging, to how I handle leadership, responsibility and authority, dealing with criticism and petty grudge-holding taken to absurdity.

Seems like that's how we humans tend to operate. We start humbly, experience success, and then become arrogant and lord it over others, forgetting our beginnings...yep, there's a screenplay or twenty there. I know this type of stuff pretty well, and my response is a mixture of shock, fear, and relief. 'Oh my god...I'm like this guy, yet he's like me,' and there's a bit of comfort in that, and in witnessing God's dealings with and workings through Gideon.

As I read the Old Testament, I'm struck by the way these stories are told, and the lack of apologies for these characters' lives, complete with their Class A screw-ups. These tales are a lot more descriptive than prescriptive, not really saying 'be like this guy,' but 'here's a flesh-and-blood person, with whom our God was involved.' Sometimes the calls are made for us on the part of the narrator, sometimes they're not. And when they are, they have a tendency to be really disturbing, like the introduction to the book of Judges. 'God did this to teach the Israelites war.' Okay, now what in the world are we to do with THIS part of our sacred text???

Those've been some of the thoughts and goings-on of the past month, and there's been much life in the midst of them. Shalom.
I just looked up and saw a possum sitting in my open window. Time to close the windows, so that we don't have another uninvited guest on the heels of our last tenant who didn't chip in on utilities, the rat that we finally caught yesterday evening.

To fully appreciate the magnitude of this unanticipated event, consider that I live on the second floor of the Raymond House, and that hopping into my window from the outside is no easy feat, but requires limber and agile parties.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

These next two weeks are going to be somewhat of a busy stretch. With a coworker out of town, I'm covering two of his shifts at security, so i'll be working four nights a week, plus two nights a week of hebrew exegesis, which keeps me on campus until 9.30-10 pm. doesn't look like friends and housemates will see much of me this side of eleven until the end of the month.

on the flipside, I may get some open weekends come september, which will be nice, as will a new schedule in october. since i'll only be in class two nights a week, there's a chance that i'll get one of the weekend nights off for fall quarter. it's been six months...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another reason why I love baseball...
Sometimes, if rarely, Chan Ho Park will outpitch Pedro Martinez.

Their lines from Monday:
P. Martinez (L, 12-4) 5.0 9 5 5 0 4 2 3.00
C. Park (W, 1-0) 5.2 6 2 2 1 8 0 6.30
Padres 8, Mets 3

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

New venture of the week: learning to play the piano

This year, more than any other in memory, I've tracked my life by song. I've had a few spells where i've wanted to pick up an instrument, be it the bass, violin, or piano, and both write and play music. Problem is, I know nothing about those instruments, and buying one and paying for lessons would be awful pricey, especially when I consider past lack of success in this department. So nothing's come of it until this week, when the southern california heat motivated a search for climate-controlled study environs which don't rely heavily on flourescent light.

My friend Khalid has taken to studying in Fuller's 'intimate public lecture/town hall' setting on campus, and the room contains a piano, which i've heard several people play while working the switchboard. So now I've got a setting to begin learning, and will begin with some lessons i've tracked down online, orienting myself to the instrument and getting the basic chords down.

So if anyone's in central campus and hears something which sounds like a beginning pianist over the next few months, that'd likely be one Mike Work.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Story from Boston that caught my attention:

Prayer Breaches 'Hell Zone'

Also covered in the LA Times:
Street Ministering in the Hell Zone