Thinking Out Loud

April 9, 2016

Podcasts and the Migration from Literacy to Orality

Filed under: children, Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

Keyboard from steampunkworship dot com

There was a pastor whose blog I enjoyed reading about ten years ago. About five years ago, I think his keyboard stopped working. The blog still exists, but only to post video clips from his sermons. Other bloggers are using their blog solely to post their weekly podcast.

Inherent in podcasting is the right to ramble. Listeners get the nuance that’s missing in a traditional blog post (and this is one of the great liabilities of email) but they have to take the time to wade through the host(s) stream-of-consciousness narration. There’s no concision, a quality that decades ago Noam Chomsky had predicted would be, moving forward, a key asset in communications. A great concept that’s probably a seven or eight paragraph blog post instead becomes a 53 minute podcast.  Andy Warhol’s comment that “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes;” might be modified to, “In the 21st century, everyone will have their own talk show or be the host of their own radio station.” 

Nobody writes, ergo nobody reads.

Our discretionary time is spent on our screens: The one we carry in our pocket; the tablet, laptop or PC; and the 42-inch one in the living room. Our discretionary income goes to the various service providers who make these devices possible. 

Books? The problem isn’t eBooks, the problem is that nobody is reading. Especially men. The time has been used up on screens. The money has been spent on screens.

Add to this the damage being done to the written word due to:

  • texting
  • spell check
  • predictive text
  • visual media: Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.
  • diminished attention spans
  • screen fatigue
  • reduced educational standards

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but if that’s true, a picture also replaces a thousand world.

Facebook, 2006: We just picked up a great deal on a used car. 5-years old. 4-door sedan. Only 40,000 miles. The body is in great shape, and we love the aquamarine color. Powerful 6-cyl engine. And we literally got it for a song.

Facebook, 2016: Look what we got! [posts picture]

English is eroding, and I suspect other languages in technology-infused countries in western Europe, Asia and South America aren’t faring much better.

Dads: When is the last time your kids saw you sitting in a chair reading a book?

I want to develop several aspects of this theme in some different ways over the next few days, we’ll consider this a brief introduction. Feel free to leave comments here or via email if you want to weigh in on this one.


December 15, 2014

Communications Breakdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:08 am

I love this story. This is from Paul Pastor who has been my editor at PARSE for 18 months now and will be moving into some new areas of ministry in the new year. I didn’t actually ask his permission to run this, but you know the saying, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Thanks, Paul, for a great working relationship the past year-and-a-half.

Ever been part of a communications breakdown? We had a similar situation occur with our kids involving, coincidentally, Prince Edward Island, but unfortunately it’s not fit to print here! So we’ll use Paul’s story instead…

We ate that night at a white-tablecloth restaurant in a re-purposed funeral chapel. Candles flickered beneath a vaulted ceiling, and couples savored red wine. Under an antique stained glass window (Christ conquering Death), my wife and I drank post-feast coffee and chipped into brittle crème brulee.

Steamed MusselsWe’d had a hard time with the menu. There were so many good choices. A coastal couple, we love seafood, so this stood out: “Prince Edward Island Black Mussels—steamed with white wine and garlic shallot butter.” Mmmmm.

Foolishly, we chose against them.

As our meal was ending, a waiter carried a platter of the shellfish to the table across the room. They steamed and crackled in their buttery abundance, hissing to be savored, to be devoured.

“Oh, the mussels! Just look at those mussels!” I sighed with loud desire.

I don’t know who all heard it, but the two that mattered were my wife and the bodybuilder in training (stuffed into a dress shirt and slacks) who was walking in front of me on his way out. Mussels. Muscles. Just look at them!

Hearing my adoration, he walked taller, flexing his way out of the restaurant into the spring night. My wife only stared. At me, at him, at me.

:: :: :: ::

Sometimes people hear things that we aren’t saying. Sometimes we say things that people aren’t hearing. Sometimes language gets in its own way, context gets twisted, and your date hears your comment on seafood as the appreciation of some guy’s physique. Sometimes we preach and sing and discuss Jesus without realizing that nothing we’re saying is connecting with those around us. Something’s in the way.

My grandpa used to say “the first mistake in communication is the assumption that you’ve communicated.” Mussels. Muscles. Just look at them.

May what you say and what people hear always be one and the same. May the findings below prompt thought in that direction. And may I just order the mussels next time.



July 8, 2012

Information You Need to Know

Filed under: family, personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:40 am

So Saturday night dinner was running a bit late, and I walked into the kitchen and picked up a nearly empty package of potato chips, or as they say in the UK, a package of crisps.

The package had been folded over and sealed with a clothespin, but they were getting a bit stale.  I shook a few of the small bits in my hand and ate them, and then repeated this; the second time noticing something in my hand that looked like a dead ant.

Panicked, I said to my wife, “I think I’ve just swallowed some ants.”

Of course, I have no reason to believe this; it just existed as a possibility. 

I quickly tore the package apart and there was in fact, evidence of some other dark thing among the crushed chip bits that remained.

Mrs. W. continued quietly cooking dinner.

And that’s when it hit me.

If I had a Twitter account, I could simply say something like, “I think I accidentally swallowed some ants.”

Surely that would garner the sympathy I was looking for.

And then something else hit me.

This is exactly why people have Twitter accounts. To share the minutia of their lives with people who for some reason have decided to follow them because there is in fact some perceived value in knowing the minutia of their lives.

Like the intern who decides to shadow the Kramer character in the television series Seinfeld, large numbers of us apparently want to thought-monitor both friends and people we will never meet in person; and equally large numbers feel compelled to share this information. Our interactions are now thousands of miles wide and a millimeter deep.

(Note: The previous sentence mixes metric and non-metric measurements and uses a spelling of the word millimeter that is largely unacceptable to people who actually use the word on a regular basis.) (Wow! What an astute observation. I could totally Tweet that.)

All this to share one very important principle:

You should look at what’s in your hands before you put it in your mouth.

(…Of course if you spell it millimetre, then you also spell it minutiae.)

September 2, 2011

CT Comments on Bible Translation Long on Emotion, Short on Rationality

When the piece says “A Christianity Today Editorial,” you know that it was the joint product of the editorial staff, not one rogue writer.  It also means, “this is serious.” In this case, it’s a thoughtful piece that explains the balance that one finds in the 2011 edition of the New International Version (NIV) and the total hypocrisy of the SBC in proposing to ban the translation from its churches, while its bookstore chain is ringing copy after copy after copy through its cash registers.

However, over in the comments section, here’s some of the venom and misinformation that’s out there [with some responses from myself]:

  • Translations, like NIV2011, that distort the original language to facilitate a theological agenda that is contrary to God’s Word should not be promoted, encouraged, or tolerated in the church.  [actually, the Committee on Bible Translation represents scholars from various churches]
  • Well, this article is deceptive with it’s generalizations rather than specifics with its closing statements … [no actually the closing paragraph is fairly specific, the SBC as a whole is talking one thing and doing another]
  • Bible sales have gone up, but what is the major translation that has flooded the market? NOT the NIV spoken of in this article, but the NKJV & the ESV [actually some people in the publishing industry would care to differ with your interpretation of the ESV stats — if you have any — and the NKJV is fairly flat right now as well]
  • I am even more concerned that there seems to be no author credited for this editorial.  [see my comment in the introduction…don’t you just hate it when there’s no individual to attack?…]
  • The dissatisfaction with this latest, “gender-accurate” translation of the NIV is widespread, crossing denominational lines.  [uh, actually it’s relatively limited to the SBC]
  • I will not use the NIV 2011 version in our ministries and I’m afraid the NIV folks have lost many people like myself. Simply put, they have lost my trust.  [but did you actually read a single chapter of it?]
  • The NLT and NCV never made themselves out to be anything but paraphrases with a more gender inclusive nature. [first of all, there’s no such word in linguistics as ‘paraphrase;’ secondly, with 128 translators — not paraphrasers — the NLT is the most translated Bible on the market.]
  • …As a pastor, I will not allow a TNIV nor an NIV2011 cross the threshold of my home or office. They are theological poison! Personally I’m a KJV kind of guy… The KJV presents to us the perfect and finished work of the cross. Other translations make faith an outward working which leads us into bondage. [and I hope when you get to heaven, you get to meet people who were saved through the new NIV — this ‘poisonous’ translation — because they will certainly be there…]
  • An example is Romans 1:17. The NIV translates that in the gospel “a righteousness from God is revealed.”  [talk about missing the point…yes the 1984 edition does say that, but the NIV 2011 moves much closer to what the author of the comment wants — too bad he didn’t bother to check before posting the comment]
  • The author must have attended the same seminary as Brian McLaren- Oh wait, he never went to seminary and has no theological education of any kind. Why do we let people like this represent us. Christianity Today is out of touch with what Christians believe. This is not about translation methodology, but politically correct tinkering with the text to sell more Bibles to liberal denominations.  [this comment is a fail on so many grounds: (a) the senior staff at CT have sufficient training — including seminary — to do their job and (b) the NIV market has always been Evangelicals; the “liberals” the author describes aren’t going to touch it no matter how hard anyone tries]
  • For a critique of modern translation theory and practice, see Leland Ryken’s… pamphlet, Choosing a Bible. [probably one of the most overt examples of ESV propaganda out there, and published by the ESV’s publisher within weeks of the ESV translation’s release]
  • I’m most worried about the true motivations of publishing houses feeding the 80-90% of the world where we already have reliable modern translations with newer translations when those same scholars and publishing houses could be actively partnering to translate and publish for unreached and under-reached people groups.  [on the surface, a good point, but you have to have learned those languages to do that work; instead English translators wrestle with issues that provide background to foreign language translators]
  • …Tinkering with one thing today is a prelude to tinkering with many more things later depending on one’s own interpretation.  [but actually, if you read Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee’s How to Choose a Translation for All It’s Worth — admittedly published by Zondervan — you learn that with the TNIV, the translators actually reverted back to older forms and poetic structures]
  • Are we going to rename “Manchester” to “Personchester”? (and any way Chester is a man’s name….)  [Manchester. Yes. That’s where all this has been heading all along]
  • …more to follow, I’m sure…

With all of this taking place, there’s been little notice of a quietly growing — now in its third printing — new translation, The Common English Bible (CEB).  Has anyone taken any time to look at the same issues in the CEB? 

January 2, 2011

Gutenberg’s Motivation

Filed under: bible, internet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:43 pm

Though the internet was hardly on the radar in its early days, during the last few years, we’ve watched the explosion of a medium that gives us an insight into what it must have been like to live in those days when the printing press burst on the scene.

Some will know that Gutenberg’s first project was the edition of the Bible that bears his name, but few realize that it was this project that really drove the invention itself:

“Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men!  Through it, God will spread His Word.  A spring of truth shall flow from it: Like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.”

Johannes Gutenberg

Wikipedia fills in the story of that early Bible:

The Bible sold for 30 florins each, which was roughly three years’ wages for an average clerk.  Nonetheless, it was significantly cheaper than a handwritten Bible that could take a single scribe over a year to prepare.  After printing the text portions, each book was hand illustrated in the same elegant way as manuscript Bibles from the same period written by scribes.

Our world has seen an equally paradigm-smashing development with the internet.    If you haven’t seen it already, take a moment to visit Gary’s Social Media Count.

September 14, 2010

Special Message for Subscribers

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:39 am

…and everyone else.

This is a post about the importance of poofreading.  Er, sorry make that prooofreading.  No, that should be proofreeding.

I always feel bad for the subscribers to this blog because just seconds after I hit the “publish” button and see the finished product posted, I notice all of the errors in spelling and syntax.

I had a boss once who said, “A mistake isn’t a mistake if it’s caught.”  There are times that is true, but probably more times — especially with verbal speech — that we don’t get a chance to retract what’s already out there.

The written text needs to be carefully crafted before it goes public.

There’s the classic story of the newspaper who published that “A” had won a presidential election, when in fact “B” was actually the winner the next morning.

Somewhere in my house I have an old copy of USAToday which announces that twelve trapped miners are okay and one died, when in fact it turned out to be the other way around.

Blogging daily, a discipline I am enjoying, is like publishing a newspaper.   While the deadline is artificial — I have skipped a day here and there — if it’s taken seriously, there is a pressure to get something out, and in that pressure mistakes can happen.

This morning I received a comment on a post that went out from here over the summer implying that all of the facts are wrong.   I checked with the original source, and they haven’t retracted anything to this point.   So as with a newspaper there is always a certain amount of fact-checking that has to take place.

Last week, on a blog I write which is not faith-related, I even had someone threaten legal action.    I pulled the post, but with the intention of re-posting it this week with a higher profile, because I believe in the principle of being able to post opinion pieces.   I want to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed.

So to all of you, especially subscribers, thanks for your patience when things are rushed.     My aim is for excellence, but sometimes, the busy-ness of life crowds out the checking of details.

Of course, if I were getting paid to do this, then, it would be incumbent upon me to take the extra time to do more of the necessary poofreading.   Or prooofreading.   Or proofreeding.

What are the most glaring errors on blogs that irritate you?

September 12, 2009

Flickering Pixels – How Our Screens Reshape Us

flickering pixelsBorrowing several times from Marshall McLuhan’s writing, Shane Hipps carefully demonstrates that not only is the media the message, but that technology is changing us both individually and as a society.

Although Flickering Pixels has been out for several months, it finally surfaced to the top of the review pile for which I am thankful.   In an extended form, this could be a textbook for either a course on media and communications, or a course on the psychology of modern life.

Instead, in 17 concise and highly focused chapters, readers are given an opportunity to consider different aspects of media shaping culture, beginning with the printing press, radio and television, and of course, computers and the internet.    Each has changed the way we perceive and understand our world and our role in it.

Shane Hipps is no stranger to this discussion.   Before making a career change and entering into pastoral ministry, he worked in advertising; a field dedicated to shaping and re-shaping our felt needs and personal consumption.   Some chapters are purely technical, historical and psychological; while in others he integrates Christian thought and scriptures into the discussion.

While it’s well known now that placing a child in front of a video screen before age two can essentially re-wire the neural pathways of the brain, Hipps would argue that this process is continuing throughout our lives, modifying with each new complexity of communications and social media.

And reshaping our faith.   Hipps won’t answer your question as to whether or not your local church should put the the day’s Bible reading on the PowerPoint screen, rather than have people turning to it in the pew copies.   It’s not that kind of book.  Though it might help you understand your reaction to the evening news:

The human psyche isn’t designed to withstand the full gravity of planetary suffering.   Numbness and exhaustion are natural reactions.   Feeling  helpless and hopeless is nearly inevitable.  The heart can only stretch so far so many times before it is worn thin and wrung dry.  This is empathy at a distance.

Over time, if unchecked, this numbness undermines our ability to extend compassion to those in our own city, neighborhood, or even our own homes.  The pain of the world, experienced through television can keep us from understanding and alleviating the pain we encounter in our daily lives.   The task of recalibrating our psyche and reigniting compassion must begin with local relationships.

But Flickering Pixels really doesn’t go beyond the understanding of the common reader.    This topic cuts so deeply into our everyday lives that not one person can say that are not impacted by the media under consideration.   It’s a book that should be bought by adults, and then passed on to their media savvy older teenagers with an encouragement to check out specific chapters and ‘tell me what you think.’

You might also enjoy hearing Shane speak.   Sermon audio from Trinity Mennonite Church in Arizona is available here.   We especially enjoyed an April 26th/09 message entitled “Thirsty.”

Blog at