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March 1, 2013

And Then There Were None: Farewell to Strangely Dim

A final post from David A. Zimmerman

I'm tired. So tired.

Strangely Dim has been a regular part of my week for nearly ten years now. In that time I've posted over five hundred times and deleted over twelve million spam comments (give or take a few million). I've also written two books and a booklet, started a personal blog and become a columnist at Burnside Writers Collective, with occasional articles at other outlets. Oh, and I've edited over a hundred books. That's a lot of words, and I fear I may be running out.

In the past ten years Strangely Dim has hosted a handful of guest-posters (a combination of authors and interns), and it's been a forum for five bloggers besides me: Suanne, Rebecca, Christa, Ann and Lisa. Four of the five have left InterVarsity Press in the past year and a half; I don't want to quit IVP, so I've decided it's time to quit Strangely Dim.

Stop crying, people! We'll all get through this together. You can still read my stuff here or here, and if you need something more tangible and permanent, you can always buy this, this or this.

Strangely Dim has been great fun for me from the beginning. I tested ideas here, profiled friends and trends here, and played a lot of writing games along the way. Here are a few of my personal favorite posts:

The first post ever to Strangely Dim, posted below, reflects the outlook of a much younger me, but I can still affirm it. I like that: with all the changes, both to the world around me and the world within me, that come over the course of ten years, it's nice to see that God is still there, still not silent, still endearingly ineffable.

Thanks for hanging out with me here over the past decade; even though the blog is now part of our history, I hope we can continue to be strange and dim together far into the future--world without end, Amen.

Oh, and one more thing: Rabbit!

***

Why Strangely Dim?

I have two cats. Wait, I also have a point.

I mention my cats because they, like you and I, are things of earth created by a watchful, careful God. They're also cuter than I am; you wouldn't have kept reading if I had opened with "I have a wart on my third knuckle."

But back to the cats. Such divinely inspired stuff doesn't grow dim without a catfight. And yet, Christians often disregard the things of earth. Some churches even sing about it:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full on his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

The insinuation is clear: nothing else warrants a close look once we've caught a glimpse of God. Fair enough. I can't imagine what could be more compelling than the face of our Maker.

But why, then, all this stuff? Surely a world could be fashioned in which all we could see was God, with no other people, institutions, animals, plants or minerals to distract us. But that's not the reality God created.

The prophet Isaiah once turned his eyes on God in full glory.

"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lofty. . . . The house filled with smoke. And I said, 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King.'"

Maybe we're better able to appreciate the glory of God after experiencing our failings and the failings of those around us. Prodigal creations celebrating God with clearer vision--that would be a happy ending. But Isaiah's encounter is far from an ending; in fact, it serves as a beginning for his project: "Go and say to these people . . ."

Isaiah encounters God, and God sends him back from whence he came. Something smells funny.

The apostle Paul tells us that "what can be known about God is plain. . . . His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made." We see all this stuff and recognize the glory of God. But if we are anything like Isaiah, God will quickly point us back toward the things he has made--the people who rub us wrong, the institutions we support or endure, the creation we steward or pollute.

The things of earth are important to God; they ought to be important to us as well. We each have a perspective limited by our location in space and time, but given that God created each of us from scratch and placed us where we are, when we are, who knows but that we were created for such a time and place as this?

So I propose that we explore the things of earth afresh, searching for what God has for us in them, and for them in us. God has created the things of earth--from cats to kids--for a purpose, and though they occasionally dim in the light of his glory, with his help we can see them more clearly than ever.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 12:35 PM | view full entry

June 10, 2011

Lungs

Next weekend I will attend a concert by one of my favorite musical artists. This feels, oddly, both momentous and mundane. In my life I've attended maybe a handful of concerts, and most of those were free (usually a prerequisite). One was logistically complicated, including a multicar caravan of college friends, an overnight stay, and some relationship nightmares--but at the time we felt that it was worth it to see both Jennifer Knapp and Third Day. (I'll let you do your own math on how long ago that might have been.) They billed it as a worship service, which was weird to me--I considered it a concert, since I'd paid for it.

 

This year I discovered Florence + the Machine. Who knows why certain artists capture our attention; I grew up on Willie Nelson and the Forester Sisters, then for a while listened to lots of "Contemporary Christian Music" in college. Artists like Florence, who represent a much broader range of music, have sometimes felt like a reward at the end of a long process. At any rate, I've been surprised by how strongly I connected to Lungs, Florence's debut album. In some ways, listening to it has felt like therapy. 


 

florence.jpgPerhaps one reason Florence's lyrics captured my imagination so fully is connected to my lifelong enjoyment of science fiction and fantasy literature--where a properly oriented sense of realism makes an image of Snow White stitching up a circuit board seem both shocking and even a bit blasé, as is the case in "Blinding." I'll even go so far as to admit my fascination with the Twilight and Harry Potter stories. Indeed, some of the lyrics from Florence's songs sound to me like attempts to get onto movie soundtracks. "Cosmic Love" is kind of a musical embodiment of the Twilight Saga's New Moon; "Rabbit Heart" reminds me very strongly of Alice in Wonderland; "Dog Days are Over" was a kind of theme song for the movie Eat, Pray, Love. And, in fact, I first encountered Florence on the Eclipse soundtrack, on which her song "Heavy in Your Arms" melded magic with tragedy in the depiction of a deeply troubling love--a dark compulsion that ultimately drags both lovers down--entirely appropriate for the story of Bella, Jacob and Edward. I'm pretty sure a werewolf is part of the scene in her song "Howl."


The way in which she combines her odd, disturbing, dark stories and images with whimsy is probably another reason I've kept returning to Lungs. Part of the whimsy is in the instrumentation (as especially heard in "Cosmic Love," "Rabbit Heart" and "Blinding"), which includes the use of flowing harp arpeggios--unusual in some music genres, especially in rock-esque music. The effect is lovely, ethereal, sobering, hopeful and lofty. In other words, she satisfies my intellectual need for realism and my ego's need for a bit of creative self-indulgence. For instance, when she sings "No more dreaming / like a girl so in love with the wrong world," I find myself questioning whether I need to change my perspective on things a little. When she sings about being a "rabbit-hearted girl" who needs to be "lion-hearted" I think of Alice in Wonderland and courage. And when she sings of the dog days being over and happiness hitting her "like a train on the tracks," I am conflicted--does such a violent happiness, when it happens, really make us happy? Are we sometimes afraid of embracing something good out of fear of losing the familiar? Is there a downside to being surprised by joy?


At the same time, it's bewitching to think of being hunted down by happiness, instead of endlessly seeking it out, only to be met by disappointment.


But much of what Florence writes about is visceral as well as ethereal, and the title of the album should be considered fair warning. Lungs, hearts, eyes, the cosmos, death, sex, depression, happiness, disillusionment and freedom all figure in. Even God makes an appearance at the end of the album. And while I have a feeling it's a strategic inclusion, the lyrics are also a simple yet worthy reminder: when things are rough, when "sometimes I feel like throwin' my hands up in the air, / I know I can count on you.../ you've got the love I need to see me through."


All that to say, seeing her live should be quite an experience.

Posted by Christa Countryman at 12:57 PM | view full entry

April 11, 2011

Bothering Habits

All this talk about rabbits--as well as numerous signs all over these western Chicago suburbs about where and when the Easter Bunny will be appearing (it appears he has a very full schedule in the next couple weeks)--has me thinking about the first poem I remember writing. I was in second grade, and in my best cursive, with all the creative force I could muster, I wrote a touching (at least, my mom thought so) account of a particular rabbit and her habit. (Lest you get the wrong picture in your mind and then later feel disappointed, my poem was not the tale of a Catholic hare garbed in black and white, like Maria in The Sound of Music, though that, no doubt, would have been a much more interesting poem than the one I actually wrote.) Budding wordsmith that I was, I'm pretty sure the poem started very originally with "There once was a rabbit that had a habit." And I'm pretty sure the next two lines went something like this:

The habit bothered the rabbit,

And the rabbit bothered the habit.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the rest of the poem (though I'm sure it was scintillating), so I'll have to leave you in suspense about what actually happened to the rabbit and its habit. But those few lines are enough to make me think that, even if my poetry skills were lacking a certain something, my theology may have been relatively advanced. Because, after all these years of thinking that the only two lines I remember don't even really make sense (though the rhyme scheme has a nice ring to it, you have to admit), it's struck me lately that they encapsulate Lent pretty well.

In Lent, we often name a habit that's bothering us by keeping us from God in some way. The habit might be a characteristic like our tendency toward anger or bitterness, or a propensity to lie. Or maybe it's an addiction: to food, exercise, television or affirmation from others, for example--things that can be good and healthy (and necessary) in moderation but that easily become idols, habits that hold a higher place in our lives than God.

Once we name the habit, Lent offers a built-in period of time during which we can intentionally engage in disciplines that "bother" that habit (though we can, and hopefully do, do this at other times of the year too). Essentially, Lent stirs things up; the disciplines we engage in upset the evil one's plans, and parry attacks from the likes of Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters. Moreover, facing, naming, mourning our bothersome, sinful habits as we ponder Christ's suffering can allow us to receive and experience his forgiveness and freedom. The writer of Hebrews offers us encouragement toward this end:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)

This is the hope of Lent that moves us forward toward Easter--the hope of his continued work in us that helps us persevere when we're tempted to believe that freedom from a particular sin [read: hindering habit] is impossible.

In second-grade-rabbit-poetry terms, I imagine the exhortation would sound something like this:

So the rabbit hatched a plan

To gain the upper hand [or foot, as the case may be].

Looking daily to her Maker,

She'd freely be a taker

Of his mercy and his love,

Flowing from his throne above.

From his suffering for her sin

She would find the strength to win,

Hopping on from this one habit

As a quicker, freer rabbit.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at 10:40 AM | view full entry

April 1, 2011

Friday Rabbits!

Lest you think we here at Strangely Dim take ourselves too seriously, we thought we'd ease your concern on that score and provide you with a lovely weekend project to enjoy. Or--go home early today, pick up the kids or some friends (it's Friday, after all, and raining--well . . . here in Chicagoland, anyway, and it's kind of a holiday) and try out this adorable bunny art project, which you can access by clicking here. The link will take you to a blog by Carla Sonheim, who has helpfully created a tutorial on how to do the project.


scaredbunny.jpg
(The bunny drawing is from Sonheim's blog; the link was helpfully provided by Sally Craft.)

Posted by Christa Countryman at 1:10 PM | view full entry

April 1, 2011

Following the Way of the Rabbit

uvic-rabbit.jpgIt is generally acknowledged that rabbits, being rather good eating, are not terribly good for conversation. They may seem skittish, running from what we think of as rather commonplace sounds (like cars driving past, or gunfire, or dogs running and barking at them), and they eat grass--which, as I am sure you will agree, is not very tasty, and, when chewed, tends to be a bit fibrous. Worse than celery, really.

But as with all good things, the wait is over for those who see rabbits as apt examples of what it truly means to live a fulfilled life--one of Christlike meekness, simplicity, contentment and awareness of the Way. Indeed, it is easier than you may think to walk this path, seeing the Way before you as one that, while not necessarily well-paved, is abundantly filled with the gracious provision of the One who leads us on it.

Ecila Lewoll's book begins with a story that may at first seem familiar to us, as we have all been on a path that has led to confusion and bewilderment, down dark rabbit trails, through knotted woods and deep into the abyss of false wonder. Any rabbit traveling alone through these desolate lands would understandably become fearful, desperate, and flee in the panic of being unprepared to face these trials. But Lewoll shows us the true way of the rabbit, describing the demeanor of one who, rather than being fearful and skittish, is confident in the face of danger and uncertainty, pure of heart in the midst of temptation, and focused on the leading of the Master who leads us through trails that our eyes may not yet be able to see.

Says Lewoll, "Rabbits are commonly seen as fearful, but a healthy sense of self-preservation never really did anyone any harm. And, if you ever really watch a rabbit, you will observe what careful attention they pay to their surroundings, no matter what task is in front of them. Usually, they are harvesting the abundant provision of foliage they encounter daily. But always are their eyes scanning the area for predators who may take advantage of an unsuspecting rabbit. Granted, not all rabbits are as careful as others (a lesson which we would do well to learn), but those who are attentive to the world around them will learn better what it is to be attentive to the One who gave them the ears to hear sounds of danger, and sounds of comfort.  . . . What's truly difficult for many people to comprehend is the unending satisfaction Rabbitkind derives from a mundane diet of fibrous greenery, generally plucked straight from the earth and chewed endlessly until, at last, it is of a consistency worthy of swallowing. It is this contentment that I seek--that my weak rabbit eyes may not be limited to the obvious, but that my perspective may be changed so that I see the grass for what it is--the gracious provision of a wonderful creator who loves me and has set it in great supply over such an expanse of the earth that I shall never be in want. The endless chewing is a tender reminder of the patience we are asked to have in all things, even as we traverse the path ahead of us. What people have previously, and derisively, labeled "rabbit trails" are really the faithful meanderings of creatures who, while seemingly unaware of their ultimate destination, are unfalteringly aware that it exists, and that they will arrive there safely."

On purity, Ecila says, "Of course, the color most associated with purity is white--being white as snow, and so forth. This is difficult with rabbits because they come in such an array of wondrously diverse colors. The rabbit embodiment of cleanliness is clearly an invitation to purify oneself even as we are invited to travel the Way of Truth. As it has been said, "follow the White Rabbit." What this means is that those who choose to follow the Way, who desire to be purified, will take it upon themselves to diligently cleanse every part of their spiritual life--even as a rabbit methodically cleans its fur. Of particular importance is the cleaning of the spiritual ears--as these are the primary way with which we receive and comprehend the direction of the One who takes us safely along trails ahead of us."

Lewoll's controversial and trailblazing new spiritual guide is nicely completed with spiritual exercises that will help us see how following the Way of the Rabbit can be easily incorporated into our daily life. Perfect for Easter, this book carefully debunks notions of rabbits as mere purveyors of seasonally decorated eggs (which, as we are all aware, come from poultry, not rabbits). When you have completed this book, you will come to a new understanding of the Rabbit as a creature of serious devotion to the search for the Truth that comes only in attentiveness to the Way.

Posted by Christa Countryman at 10:50 AM | view full entry

June 18, 2010

Faith and Our Fathers

By now you're probably aware that, here at Strangely Dim, we like to celebrate things. Months, donkeys, friends. And books, of course. In this post we're celebrating books and an actual holiday (can you handle that much partying all at once?). Yes, kiddos, this Sunday is Father's Day. I for one would like to say thanks to my dad--for his love, support and wisdom. Also for reading my blog posts. And I would like to say to all you readers: if you haven't bought a card yet, there's still time. But you should go soon, because if you wait till Saturday night or Sunday morning, the only cards left will be the ones that whistle "Yankee Doodle Dandy" when you open them. If you haven't bought a gift yet--no problem. We just happen to have a suggestion.

Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet is a book about fathers and sons, about the struggle to love and be loved, about the struggle to accept ourselves as we are. And it's written by Nathan Foster, son of spiritual formation leader and bestselling author Richard Foster--a designation Nathan would not have appreciated a few years ago. Though known and revered by many for years, Richard was largely a mystery--and even a source of anger and bitterness--to Nathan, who couldn't understand what the big deal was about his father, and who resented the work that kept him from their family. Nathan writes:

For the first two decades of my life, I didn't really know my father. He was like a serious, silent ghost. . . . The world seemed to know more of the man I grew up with than I did. . . . As I became a young adult, my father and I seemed to have no time or interest in getting to know one each other. We had nothing in common.

 

But then, on a whim of Nathan's, they started to climb mountains together. Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains--the Fourteeners--to be exact. In the process, Nathan navigated his twenties, including marriage, career choices and some major pitfalls, and learned a lot about himself and his father. Here's a peek:

The whole notion of pacing myself was so simple, yet it sparked a revolution, a cosmic shift in the way in which I attempted to love my life. My string of failures was about to end. I was learning how to hike. I was learning how to live from a man I had determined had nothing to teach me.

Wisdom Chaser celebrates the unique (read: sometimes awkward, sometimes tumultuous but powerful and loving) relationship between fathers and their children, and Nathan's funny, brutally honest writing makes it an inspiring read. It's a great gift to say thanks to your dad for the wisdom he's given, and apologize for all the times you failed to appreciate that wisdom. (Unless, of course, your dad hates to read. Then this is probably not a good gift idea. In that case, I suggest a set of steak knives.)

Of course, while we do love to celebrate at Strangely Dim, and while we are big fans of dads, we also recognize that in this broken world, Father's Day is not always a happy day. For those of you grieving an unreconciled or abusive relationship, or mourning the death of a really wonderful father, we are so sorry for your pain. I'm particularly reminded of this this week, as a friend of mine passed away; Father's Day comes just eleven days after her death, and will no doubt be a day of sadness for her dad, instead of celebration.

For those who are hurting, and for all of us, Father's Day can ultimately point us to our true, perfect Father: the one who is always for us, who teaches us with perfect wisdom, who never fails. Margot Starbuck, Likewise author and one for whom Father's Day has not always been the happiest of days, gives us some good perspective in The Girl in the Orange Dress:

Like Israel, I had deduced from my difficult human circumstances that my Father had forsaken me. Hopeless, I had cried out with Zion, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me" (Isaiah 49:14).
     Straight-faced, the Father asked me, "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?" (Isaiah 49:15). It sure felt that way. "Even these may forget [the Lord assured me], yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands" (Isaiah 49:15-16).

So whether you're celebrating or grieving on this Father's Day, know that you are loved by the Father of us all. In that sense, happy Father's Day, from all of us at Strangely Dim.
Posted by Lisa Rieck at 7:19 AM | view full entry

March 12, 2010

We Interrupt Our Lenten Reflections . . .

By Lisa Rieck

As we've mentioned at Strangely Dim, we're posting old and new Lenten reflections to aid your journey through Lent, as well as thoughts from the women of Likewise in honor of Women's History Month. But March, I learned recently, is not just Women's History Month, not just a time of Lenten reflection and contemplation. It is, in fact, National Frozen Food Month.

Really.

As if we need a special month to highlight the convenience of frozen food. As if we wouldn't have thought to buy it on our own anyway. (What? Frozen food? What a good idea!)

Nevertheless, so as not to be discriminatory in our celebration and contemplation, I offer you, for your rumination and jollification, an ode to one of my favorite frozen foods, the ever-savvy, simple but satisfying Boca pattie. (You might imagine a violin playing in the background, serenading you as you read. They're that classy.)

Ode to Boca Chik'n Meatless Patties

Versatile, versatile,
easy and quick,
of frozen food options
these are my top pick!

They're tasty, and healthy,
and kind to the chicks
(not a feather was harmed
when these patties were mixed!).

They go well on salad,
in wraps or on bread.
Add dressing and cheeses,
or mustard instead.

Packed full of good soy,
then breaded and cooked,
just one taste of these and
I bet you'll be hooked.

Ninety seconds on high
in a good microwave
and you're ready to eat--
oh the time you will save!

So rush out and buy some
they're worth every buck.
(If I beat you there,
you might be out of luck.)

Try them with couscous,
make one for a friend,
the options are endless.
Soon you will depend

on Boca's fine patties
for dinner each night.
Even if you can't cook
they'll turn out just right!

I'm confident soon
with me you'll agree
they're simply fantastic--
just try them and see!

So there you have it, friends. Happy National Frozen Food Month. Let me know what you think of the Boca patties. Or leave us a comment (an ode, even!) letting us know what your favorite frozen food is.

But (you'll be relieved to know) we now return you to our thoughtfully oriented, fascinatingly interesting (though not quite so mouth-watering) posts on Lent and the women of Likewise . . .
Posted by Lisa Rieck at 4:33 PM | view full entry

March 1, 2010

In Like a Rabbit

OK, first things first: "Rabbit." With that one word I win this month's installment in an ongoing competition here at Strangely Dim: Be the first to say or write "Rabbit" on the first of the month. To be honest, we tried to pull the plug on this game months ago, but every time we think we're out, someone pulls us back in. So if you can't beat em, join em.

In other news, we find ourselves here at Strangely Dim with a collision of significant events. We're smack in the midst of Lent, that annual season of preparation in the Christian calendar that culminates in Resurrection Sunday, aka Easter. In addition, today marks the beginning of Women's History Month, an opportunity each year to acknowledge the particular contribution of women to the history of the universe. In previous years we've not attempted so audacious a task as taking on both Lent and Women's History Month at the same time, but this year we think we're up to the challenge.

So for the month of March you can expect to see new and revisited posts from the Strangely Dim archives, selected for their relevance to the traditional disciplines and thought experiments associated with Lent. You can also expect to be introduced or reintroduced to the women who through their writings have helped us shape Likewise Books over the past several years. You'll hear what these authors are up to, what inspired them to write their books, and what's going through their minds as they navigate this content-rich March in the year of our Lord 2010.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:23 AM | view full entry

December 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Birthday Boy

Reposted by David A. Zimmerman

Today is the birthday of longtime friend and icon of Likewise Books, Don Everts (his friends call him Donaldo). Two years ago we were in the throes of a fit of creativity here at Strangely Dim, and Don's birthday (which is today--occasioned the following, one of my all-time favorite posts. I re-present it here for your amusement. Celebrate Don's birthday by buying one or several of his books--they make great stocking stuffers. (Some of them actually do fit in socks; some of them are even about feet!)

***

Today is the first of the month, which means that once again we're participating in our friendly <a href="Rabbit'>http://strangelydim.ivpress.com/rabbit/">Rabbit competition.</a> Today also, however, falls within our Fortnight of Odes, so that ups the ante a bit. And to top it off, today is the birthday of <a href="Don'>http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/author.pl/author_id=1029">Don Everts,</a> author of four-soon-to-be-nine books. So I hope you'll forgive my infelicities as I try to marry these three phenomena together in today's post.

Ode to a Rabbit Named Don Everts

He hops in beauty as the knight
Hops to duty and sits down to write
All the ideas living in his head
This knight writes nightly; he'll sleep when he's dead.

He's heard everything in his short little life--
From "I did . . ." from his students to "I do" from his wife.
His feet may be dirty, but they're covered in luck--
For example, book contracts seem to fall off the truck

Into his laptop, where he mines all his senses
For a way to convey best our cosmic offenses.
And just when you think he's said all that needs saying,
He twitches his nose and continues conveying.

So here's to Don Everts, our favorite bunny;
He's cute, warm and friendly, decidedly funny.
A preacher, a writer, who's highly regarded;
Here's hoping he's still only just getting started.

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Don . . .
Happy birthday to you!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 5:22 AM | view full entry

April 1, 2009

The Devil Is in the Deodorant

I tend to think of myself as a connoisseur of deodorant. I won't get into the whys and wherefores, but I have been around the block a few times with a variety of brands and formulas, and I like to think I've learned a thing or two along the way. That being said, one of the main things that attracts me to particular products is not their effectiveness but their packaging.

For whatever reason, for example, deodorant manufacturers like stickers--stickers that conveniently peel off the product without tearing, stickers that communicate messages that make no sense whatsoever out of the context of their product. I've blogged about such stickers before, actually (a sticker that read "The Unscented Leader" shaped my understanding of what it means to offer leadership to a group without succumbing to self-congratulation). Some stickers aren't so insightful but are entertaining nonetheless. I currently have the sticker "Powered by Baking Soda" affixed to my phone, and it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Like now--ha ha.

Mitchum is my default deodorant--or should I say the deodorant my wife encourages me to use. We assign different values to Mitchum. She thinks it makes me smell less repulsive, while I find its identity crisis entertaining: the container says one thing; the cap, another.

My current Mitchum cap reads, "If your favorite vegetable is a corn dog, you're a Mitchum(R) man." Who could say no to that? Someone went to the trouble of coming up with something nonsensical and macho as an acknowledgment that many men make purchasing decisions the way I do: they're looking for a laugh wherever they can find one.

(More humorous to me than the joke itself, incidentally, is its context. I associate such silliness with certain themes--the colors and characters, say, of a Captain Morgan rum bottle--not with the austere green and silver, the strong lines and magisterial fonts of a Mitchum container. If Mitchum really wants to win over the unrepentant juvenile, it needs to worry less about creating online armpit orchestras and more about redesigning its logo and signature product. But I digress.)

In my research, I've noticed that if you want to get to know Mitchum, you'd better put on your reading glasses first. They're pretty wordy over there. My current Mitchum product--Smart Solid(TM)--brags about its formula: "With the maximum level of active ingredient." Seven words tucked between the formula name and the scent. Add that to the corn dog joke on the cap and you very nearly run out of fingers and toes to count words with. I suppose, in Mitchum's defense, it's fair to say that if you entertain yourself by doing word counts of deodorant containers, you're probably not a Mitchum man.

Nevertheless, the converse is true: if you're a Mitchum man, you probably don't want to have to read a lot before donning your deodorant. Mitchum, I'd like to suggest, needs an editor. So, how to whittle away at that word count? And how to match the tone on the container that they achieve on their cap?

Here's what I might do. By "maximum level" they probably mean that higher levels would require a prescription, that they would no longer be able to sell their product over the counter if they went any higher, that adding any more active ingredient would violate some law on the books. I can think of two words that communicate that message in significantly edgier terms: "Barely legal."

Titillating, no? I certainly hope that Mitchum doesn't take my advice, but I fear that they might. Nothing captures the unrepentant juvenile imagination quite like the offer of something that is technically not forbidden but the spirit of which clearly is. If I'm reading the powers that be at Mitchum correctly, I suspect they'd agree: if you like being titillated, you're a Mitchum man.

"Barely legal" hardly seems like a value that a Christian sweater such as myself ought to embrace. Really, though, where else could I turn for my hygienic needs? I heard a joke once about a Christian deodorant: "Aglow--the Holy Roll-on." With Aglow you could raise your hands in worship without causing your pewmate to mutter "Pee-ewww." Ha ha. But just using Christian nomenclature doesn't make roll-on holy any more than using the maximum active ingredient makes Mitchum borderline contraband. I think the deodorant that is truly Christian would be distinctly distinct: a Christian deodorant would live in the truth, wouldn't encourage such inane self-identification ("I love corn dogs; this must be the deodorant for me") or make arcane, extreme pronouncements about itself ("Oooh, barely legal; I gotta smear this on my pits"). A truly Christian deodorant would let its "Yes" be "Yes" and its "No" be "No." Any other deodorant is from the devil.

***

Of course I know deodorant is soulless and so can't be Christian. And I'm not making any pronouncements. It's a joke, people. Ha ha. Oh, and congratulations to Mark Eddy Smith for winning this month's "Rabbit" competition, honoring his craft, and acknowledging April Fool's Day all in one pop. You can read his poem at the Rabbit Uber Alles! Facebook group.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 5:24 AM | view full entry

February 1, 2009

Groundhogs, Cardinals, Steelers, Rabbit

The game that's sweeping the nation came up against stiff competition this week, with our attention diverted from Rabbits toward today's conflict between the Cardinals and the Steelers, and tomorrow's conflict between groundhogs and the weather. Consequently, Dan Webster waited till late morning and still managed to be first to archive his "Rabbit!" at the Rabbit Uber Alles page on Facebook.

Maybe next month will be your month!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:01 PM | view full entry

January 1, 2009

New Year, New Rabbit

I hope you don't think we forgot that the first of every month is our monthly "Rabbit" challenge. So let me be the first to welcome you to 2009, and let me also be the first to wrest victory from your hands this new year. Rabbit! Rabbit! Happy new year!
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:42 AM | view full entry

December 1, 2008

The Rabbit Hopped; The Writer, Flu

It's nearly noon where I live, and I just dragged myself out of bed after an epic night of the flu. To be honest, I had thought it was just bad donuts. Anyway, I'm home sick today, but I couldn't let the first of the month pass without acknowledging our monthly game of "Rabbit," or "Rabbit Rabbit" if you're so inclined. Each month we strive to be the first in our little network to say "Rabbit" on the first of the month, and it appears that this month goes to Andy Crouch, who posted to the "Rabbit Uber Alles" Facebook group at 5:23 a.m. Eastern time, or approximately seven hours before I woke up. Congratulations, Andy! Runner up: Web, with a subtle post to my wall at Facebook.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 11:33 AM | view full entry

November 1, 2008

Forget the Donkeys and Elephants; I Vote for Rabbit!

Today is the first of the month, which means today we once again play our monthly game of Rabbit. And because I'm the only one with remote write access to Strangely Dim, I'm the only one who can create this entry. Hooray for me!

It's not often, actually, that Lisa or I win the Rabbit competition. For the uninitiated, one wins Rabbit by saying, texting, e-mailing or otherwise communicating the word "Rabbit" before anyone else on the first of the month. It's demented and sad, but social.

We also have a Facebook group for this game, of course (Rabbit Uber Alles!), which means we wage our little rabbit battle on multiple fronts. This month avid blogger and longtime friend of Strangely Dim, Rick Stilwell, pulled off a stunning victory from, of all places, the happiest place on earth. Maybe all those giant mice and ducks and nondescript animals walking around the theme park jogged his memory. In any event, congratulations, Rick!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:29 AM | view full entry

October 2, 2008

Donkeys, Rabbits and Leaps of Faith

Today's entry in the Fortnight of Donkey Tales follows up on our ongoing competition, "Rabbit."

Earlier in our Fortnight of Donkey Tales, Lisa established that, according to the Levitical law, eating donkeys is a no-no. Today we find that eating rabbits is likewise unacceptable.

You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud. . . . The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:3, 6)

The donkey, though not explicitly present in Leviticus 11, is implicitly included. Like rabbits, donkeys don't have split hooves, and so observant Jews don't eat them. So be it.

It's interesting to me that Leviticus articulates all kinds of unacceptable foods with only the barest of rationales. Followers of kosher laws are left to wonder what makes an unsplit hoof so unacceptable, or what makes chewing the cud so appealing. Some cite health reasons, while others argue that modern food storage and preparation makes any health concerns obsolete. Some cite utilitarian reasons, such as the relative cost of feeding pigs versus their provision of human food, for example, or the better use of camels as beasts of burden rather than lunch and dinner. But these folks are countered once again by the question of obsolescence: if I don't need a donkey to get me from point A to point B anymore, why can't I just eat it?

The short answer, say observant Jews, is "because the Torah says so. . . . We show our obedience to G-d by following these laws even though we do not know the reason." That argument itself sounds anachronistic; we live in the age of reason and in a world of democracy, in which laws are changed whenever it becomes expedient or presumably profitable to do so. But it's possible that, among its many other cultural benefits, such defiance of convenience or comfort or even "enlightenment" is one of the more important offerings of a religion that is bound by its holy book. We are invited by God into a world made up not of mechanistic rules and cause-effect logic but of faith and trust and dynamic leaps of faith.

Leaps of faith bring to mind snake handling and job quitting and other such blind acts of radical and even absurd behavior in the name of God. But Soren Kierkegaard describes the leap of faith primarily as a check against the hubris of human rationalism. To Abraham--who assumes first that God can't override the conventions of nature regarding childbirth and then that this one child must be protected at all costs from all harm so that he can deliver on God's promise--God says, "Sacrifice your son." And so Abraham must chasten his enlightenment by practicing obedience. Even then he assumes, according to the letter to the Hebrews, "that God could raise the dead"--a logic that God once again defies in favor of relationship, to Abraham's great relief.

The axiom "Laws are meant to be broken" is often a helpful check against the ritualistic assumption that laws are meant to be slavishly followed. But in an age in which people rationalize whatever decisions seem right in their own eyes, such self-serving impulses can be indulged to the point that laws are enacted that are clearly unjust and so clearly in defiance of the will of God. Such an age is divided, by the rules of cold logic, between the eaters and the eaten. God looks down on such an age and tells us instead to trust him, to obey him--to look where he leaps, and to go and do likewise.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:11 AM | view full entry

October 1, 2008

Rabbit!

Well, Dave happens to be out of town for a work retreat, which is the only reason I won our Strangely Dim rabbit contest of being the first to post the word on the first of the month. I don't even remember the last time I won. Not that I'm bitter about it. But it feels good to be the winner once again.

Also, on this day of, um, mentioning rabbits (I'm not sure I'd say we celebrate them), I'd like to give a shout-out to South Dakota State University, whose esteemed mascot, I just learned, is, in fact, the jackrabbit (though they apparently like to think of themselves as the killer rabbits). To the jackrabbits, and to all of you, happy October.
Posted by Lisa Rieck at 8:05 AM | view full entry

September 1, 2008

Rabbit!

As is our custom, we celebrate the beginning of each month by racing one another to be the first to say "Rabbit." If you're reading this, you lost. Ha ha.

Congratulations to Dan, who couldn't sleep and so beat everyone to the Rabbit Uber Alles group on Facebook. Better luck next month, everybody!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:09 AM | view full entry

August 1, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer Feature One Day of Rabbit

As is our custom, we mark the first of every month by shouting "Rabbit!" (or, if you're the author of the critically acclaimed and eagerly anticipated Culture Making, "Rabbit Rabbit!") at the top of our lungs toward any random passerby. As is his custom, friend of Strangely Dim "Web" beat us all to the punch in a communications blitzkrieg: e-mail, text message, Facebook message--curiously enough, no phone call. Better luck next time, everybunny.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:36 AM | view full entry

July 1, 2008

Rabbit Rage

This morning, as is often the case on the first day of a month, I had the double pleasure of saying "Rabbit" to Lisa before she could say it to me, and of actually seeing a rabbit bounding across my driveway before I came to work. That's right, folks: today's the day wherein countless friends of Strangely Dim develop a funky case of rabbit rage.

For the uninitiated, "Rabbit" is a game I learned from my brother and then forced Lisa and my other coworkers to play with me. It's now sweeping the nation, complete with a group on Facebook--"Rabbit Uber Alles"--and late-night phone calls, text messages and e-mails. The first to say "Rabbit" on the first of the month wins, well, nothing actually, except the fleeting satisfaction of a hollow victory.

We've now, however, had to adapt the game thanks to all these eager beavers. From here on out we'll acknowledge two winners: the night owl, who stays up late enough to be closest to midnight with their communique, and the early bird, who achieves mental acuity first in the morning. So now, on to this month's big winners:

The Night Owl: Dan Webster, who also gets props for his multimedia and multiple-persona assault.

The Early Bird: Andy Crouch, who thinks the game's so nice he says it twice.

Better luck next time, losers!

Oh, that didn't come out like I meant it . . .

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:57 AM | view full entry

June 1, 2008

I Interrupt This Four-Day Weekend . . .

Rabbit! You all knew it was coming. If you didn't, you can read up on the tradition here. I took Thursday and Friday off for a road trip to Indiana, but I didn't want the weekend to pass without me schooling all of you in our little tradition.

Anyway, happy June. Better luck next month.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:42 AM | view full entry