Martin W. Bender
Last week I was able to take the kids to the mountains for a few days and we decided to go camping with my sister and her family. North Georgia has a ton of great places to camp, hike, and explore so we made the most of the opportunity. I love camping but haven’t been deliberate in going since I’ve started having kids, but now that they are a little older it’s time to get back into it.
One thing I wanted to try on this trip was using a hammock instead of a tent. Hammock camping is becoming the norm for backpackers and the like which makes sense, a hammock and rain fly are a lot lighter than any tent. So I stopped off at the Bargain Barn (it’s like a Bass Pro but without all the fuss) and picked up an Eno Single Nest, some tree straps, and a tarp for cover.
We camped at Doll Mountain. It’s a great place to camp with a bunch of sites, access to Carter’s Lake, and even a bathroom with running water. I know it isn’t very hardcore but cut me some slack, one of my kids was not into the camping idea at all.
Setting up the hammock was remarkably easy. A strap around a tree followed by a carabiner, repeat the process, and the hammock is ready for sleeping. I also ran some 550 cord over the hammock to support my tarp. The tarp took longer than the hammock, but it all took less than ten minutes, not too shabby for the first time trying it out. It wouldn’t be long before I was snoozing away in the ultralight campsite.
At least that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I’m very much a stomach sleeper. I had a really difficult time falling asleep in the hammock because I couldn’t turn over onto my back. I was perfectly comfortable but just couldn’t seem to drift off into dreamland. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances as well. Leia had been out of town for a while by this point and I hadn’t been sleeping that great. Due to the heat, I had been drinking a lot of water (if you get my meaning). And I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sights and sounds. All that might have added to the trouble I had falling asleep.
The second day we spent in the water swimming, making rafts, and the ever popular ice cream run. By the time the kids had gone down for the night and the fire was burning low I was sure I’d knock out almost immediately. This time I was sure to do a few things: first, I put my flip flops in the hammock pocket. This meant I would be able to find them quickly without getting up. Second, I used a sheet to keep myself a little warmer (even though it was wicked hot during the day I got pretty chilled as the night wore on). Third, I turned to sleep almost totally on my side. These little changes made a huge difference in my ability to sleep in the hammock. The second night I was out like a light.
So, will I do hammock camping again? Absolutely. There’s a minimal learning curve to get things just right, but now that the first trip is out of the way I think it’ll get much easier. Some things that I’ll do a little differently are using a ratchet strap to hang my tarp, bringing a flat pillow, and maybe setting up some sort of mosquito netting. All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and think Leia will be willing to try it herself. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Episode 43 is here and the Two Bearded Preachers get into it a little bit over a subject that reasonable men wouldn't argue over. They talk about Justin's vacation, higher education, and procreation in one of their most heated discussions to date. Should preachers focus their education on theological subjects or focus on practicality? You'll hear them both weigh in and make bad arguments for both positions. They also discuss the possibility of Pokemon Go becoming a dating app. This episode has it all including koalas, so be sure to share it.
You probably anticipated a show where the two bearded brothers talk about the greatest augmented reality game ever: Pokemon Go. But did you think they would tie their conversation into the greater issue of racial violence in the same episode? And who could have anticipated that Arnold would be able to bring the apocalypse to a close after the hot mess we got ourselves into? Only true fans, that's who. Justin and Martin discuss it all in this week's wonderful episode. Enjoy.
NES Classic has been announced and it is none too soon.
Quick on the heels of Pokémon Go’s ridiculously successful release comes the announcement bound to thrill old school gamers and leave their children wondering what all the fuss is about. The NES Classic is a mini version of the NES that introduced an entire generation to video gaming. This new old system will have none of the frustration caused by the original system (remember blowing into the cartridges?), but will also have a remarkably reduced library as it is being released with only thirty games. The bonus, however, is that it comes with a controller with the same look and feel as its now ancient counterpart.
This is a great decision by Nintendo as third parties have been producing emulators and secondary systems to play those old games for years. There’s something really nice about playing the games that were so exciting to us as children with our own kids. As I write this, my Anna, Dave, and Sarah are taking turns playing battle mode on Mario Kart 64 through the Wii (I was playing them for a while, but they are no competition). These games hold up. They are still fun and come November we’ll be able to wax nostalgic about killing Ganon for the first time or explain how building an Excite Bike track is way better than playing the canned courses. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
The Two Bearded Preachers talk about how Hillary Clinton is above the law, they aren't, and how the church should help those who suffer from addiction in this episode. Justin explains how he can maintain his innocence in prison, Martin worries about how his rights are being removed socially, and they both reminisce about their time in Bible college. It isn't nearly as convoluted a conversation as it sounds. They just talk about Ross running for mayor, Hillary escaping justice, Justin escaping rape, recovering from addiction, and ordering weed through the mail. It all makes perfect sense if you think about it. Check out this great edition of your favorite podcast.
Martin W. Bender
Yesterday, Dave and I played a little Pokémon Go. The concept of the game is simple: walk around, find some Pokémon, train them, dominate your enemies. On our outing around the block we missed some of the critters that were nearby, but eventually found a Pinsir, Doduo, and a Rattata. Sure they’re all fairly common, but going out and catching Pokémon just like Ash and the gang was pretty fun.
Pokémon Go is practically just a skin over Ingress. The game mechanics and graphics are nearly identical, but with Pokémon characters added in. PG will almost definitely be more popular as it allows the millennial generation to live out their childhood dreams of catching them all. I’ve always liked the Pokémon video games and this one certainly has a similar feel. It may hold my interest a little longer than Ingress because there is the possibility of catching a Pikachu.
Pokémon Go is the first bit of augmented reality to have mass appeal. This means you will probably see people walking around your neighborhood staring at their phones talking about imaginary animals and looking around desperately for something they lost. I realized I must look crazy to my neighbors as I was walking back and forth on the road gazing intently at my phone screen. It was worth it to get that Pinsir, though.
This game may mark a change in casual gaming (I realize at the moment it isn’t very casual) that puts people in contact with one another who otherwise wouldn’t meet. As I play around with the game more I hope to meet some folks in real life and whoop up on them with my ferocious team of digital mons. In the same way the Wii and mobile gaming appealed to a huge audience of casual gamers I hope games like Pokémon Go will shift our understanding of gaming from the isolated event it largely is today to a far more social interaction.
Martin W. Bender
Today I took the kids up to Statesboro to watch Finding Dory. I hadn’t looked at any reviews or seen trailers for the film, but I knew the general story line: the gang from the first movie try to find Dory. Simple enough.
What I didn’t know was how much the story would develop the fairly one-dimensional character from the first film. Let’s face it, Finding Nemo is half coming of age story, half rescue mission. Imagine a Pixar produced mashup of Stand by Me and Taken. Dory does little more in the original than provide comic relief and an alternative perspective to nudge Marlin away from his tendency toward pessimism to a more optimistic view of the world. Finding Dory takes a decidedly different approach to storytelling, focusing almost solely on Dory with little help from Marlin and Nemo. In fact, Marlin and Nemo essentially become the damsel in distress to be rescued by Dory and her newly found friends. This significant difference keeps the story fresh and avoids the pitfalls of what could have easily been a simple rehash of the original.
Finding Dory feels more like a detective story than a rescue mission. Dory begins her search prompted by dreams of her parents and finds that her short term memory loss seems to be helped by having some family stability in her life. The journey she took between being lost and finding Marlin is exceptionally tragic and terrifying. The imagery of her being alone in the vast ocean is startlingly bleak, both in the scenes where she is a child and later as an adult. My sweet little daughter cried as Dory found herself alone in deep trying desperately to remember where she was and what she was doing. This makes her relationship with her parents and friends all the more important and real for the movie goer. There is a true sense of dread in the film that rivals many modern horror movies. In fact, if one were to remove the shells at the end of the second act it would be a horror film.
The film works so well because it plays on a different set of fears than the original. In Finding Nemo the great fear is the loss of family. This is seen in both the death of Nemo’s mother as well as the kidnapping. In Finding Dory the great fear is the loss of self, as Dory only understands who she is within the context of her relationships. This is why it is so satisfying to see her develop relationships wherever she goes. Certainly, she needs Hank, Destiny, and other’s help to get around the aquarium, but working with them helps her to remain on task to regain that sense of self she loses as a result of her condition. Her continual search for community reflects humanity’s innately social nature and forces consideration of the communal nature of human interaction.
In a world where sequels are so often an attempt to make a second pile of money using the success of the original film, Finding Dory stands soundly on its own as an exceptional character study. The use of 3D avoided the temptation of having random objects flying at the screen and instead simply adds a field of depth that gives the viewer the experience of looking into an actual aquarium. Generally, I don’t like 3D, but Pixar used the technology well to fully immerse the audience in its undersea landscape. The animation is stellar and the short, Piper, shown before the film shows just how incredible animation and 3D technology has become since Avatar made 3D viable.
Finding Dory is an exceptional film. I loved it. I may go see it again tomorrow.
Is it ok for a preacher to run for mayor? Should the Forth of July only be called Independence Day? Can pets survive on their own? These and other riveting questions are answered in the 40th episode of Two Bearded Preachers! You'll hear tales of celebration, woe, and triumph as Justin explains his hairdo, Martin tells of Ham the porch dog, and both recount the high tempo summer. An amazing episode.
Martin W. Bender
I find myself a little torn on what to blog about today. I feel like I should say something about the Fourth of July since its Independence Day and all, but I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it. Most of my thoughts on the subject are probably pretty obvious from the conversations I’ve had with Justin on faith and politics. So I’ll skip the whole patriotism and American evangelicalism discussion for now.
Another topic that interests me is the current debate on eternal functional subordination taking place in the blogosphere. The argument is essentially about whether Jesus’ subordination is an eternal position within the Trinity or if it is limited to the incarnation. My initial thoughts are that it is eternal because I hold to the impassibility of God. It seems that a change in position, whether functional or otherwise, would violate the concept of God never changing. I’ll probably write a little about it later after I have read more on the subject, but at first glance, it certainly seems Jesus eternally maintains a functionally subordinate position to the Father.
Lastly, I’m interested in talking a little bit about how Leia is doing in her work in China. As many of you know, Leia had the rare opportunity to go to China to teach conversational English for a few weeks. She’s just started and is having a good time with it thus far, but at the time of writing, she’s only had one day in the classroom. I hope to write a little about how she’s doing in a week or two since her absence is pretty heavy on my mind.
I’ll probably get to all these issues soon enough, but for right now I’m going to spend a little time with the kids before we run off to another Fourth of July party and then record and episode or two with Justin later on this evening.
Martin W. Bender
If you've listened to the podcast for any length of time you've probably heard Justin and I express our mutual love for Serial, a podcast created by the folks from This American Life. Season Two explored the situation and people surrounding the Bowe Bergdahl return, you can listen to our conversation about that here (while we disagreed fairly strongly we're still friends). Season One reviewed the murder trial of Adnan Syed, a young man convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend.
Most people who listen to podcasts are very familiar with season one. It is the starting point for the majority of people when they begin listening to podcasts and has set the standard for quality content generation. What's amazing is that the popularity of Serial is the likely reason for the recent decision to allow further appeals to be made by Adnan despite previous failures. It turns out if you can get enough people interested in your story you have greater opportunity for aquital.
I'm glad he's getting another shot. Not because I think justice has been perverted, but because it means additional episodes of Serial will almost definitely be aired as additional appeals are made. If you haven't listened to Serial season one yet I highly recommend it as it seems to be the gold standard for podcasting right after the Two Bearded Preachers.