The iPad and Imagination

Even before Apple pulled back the curtain on its new iPad--the iconoclast himself holding the brand new device and calling it "a truly magical and revolutionary" product--the anticipation for the Apple Tablet was enormous. The publishing world in particular was gaga in the days leading up to the announcement, a lot of industry leaders wondering whether or not the Apple tablet will revolutionize the distribution of newspapers, magazines, and books in the same the iPod transformed the music industry.

Whether the iPad ends up revolutionizing the way we buy and consume digital content of all kinds remains to be seen. But at first blush I do believe Steve Jobs has once again done something extraordinarily well. He hasn't just created a device; he has tapped into our imaginations. By calling the iPad "magical" rather than "useful" or "universal," Jobs has soared above the ordinary by placing this device--and let's face it, the iPad is just a device--into the realm of wonder rather than utility. If Steve Jobs is to be believed, the iPad isn't a device to merely help you do things more efficiently. It is device that will help you dream of doing things better.

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Lousy Christian Responses to the Problem of Evil

If you're a Christian, you have plenty of opportunities to respond to the problem of evil. The devastating earthquake in Haiti is only the most recent and pressing example of evil operating in the world. There's ongoing disease and starvation in Africa, terrorism in the Middle East, a shooting in Virginia (why do shooting always seem to happen in Virginia?), cancer in just about every family at one time or another. The opportunities to respond to evil are all around you. Unfortunately, most responses Christians give are lousy. Here are a few:

"Evil is necessary." This response comes out of the idea that a diamond sparkles when placed against a black background. In other words, good looks better when evil things happen. Or to push it further, good could not exist without evil. This is a really dumb response because it's based on a totally false premise. Good is an absolute property, and it can exist without evil. On the other hand, evil could not exist without good. Therefore, evil is unnecessary.

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Hume and Tiger: Good or Bad?

How do you ignite a firestorm of conversation about God? These days the best spark is a controversial statement, such as the one delivered by news pundit Britt Hume about Tiger Woods.

Of course, it helps that Hume is fairly well-known as a former national news anchor who is in "retirement" but still does occasional news analysis for Fox News. If you or I had made a plea for Tiger to embrace Christianity as Hume did on Fox News Sunday this week, few would have noticed or cared. But Hume made his remarks on a national stage about an already famous person whose bizarre encounter with a tree and a golf club--and whose subsequent submersion into a strange kind of Howard Hughesian privacy--has everyone talking.

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What If Christianity Were More Like Apple?

I bought an iPhone, the new 3Gs version that just came out.  It's my first iPhone.  I stood in line to buy it, which gave me plenty of time to think about this:  What if Christianity were more like Apple?

Everything about my iPhone purchase experience ran contrary to the way business is done these days.  With just about everything else I buy, it's all about expediency and anonymity.  Whether I'm buying books or groceries, whether online or in a store, the goal is to get in and get out with minimal effort and personal contact.  Not so with Apple.  Apple, especially the Apple Store, has created the ultimate hands on personal experience.

As I stood in line, I wasn't the least bit impatient (as I usually am in lines) because I really wanted what was inside the Apple Store.  At the same time, I reveled in the culture surrounding the transaction.  As I experienced the process of buying my iPhone, I couldn't  help but wonder if the experience of Christianity could be more like that.  Here are four observations I took from my Apple experience.

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LeBron James Media vs. Tiger Woods Media

Question:  What's the difference between LeBron James and Tiger Woods?  Answer:  One is vertical and the other is horizontal

LeBron James runs, jumps, leaps, flies.  He's vertical.  Tiger Woods drives, walks, putts, and occasionally pumps his fist.  He's horizontal.

Here's another way to look at it:  LeBron James is new media, while Tiger Woods is old media.  That's because new media is vertical, while old media is horizontal.

The idea that media can be vertical or horizontal has been around for a while.  Mike Shatzkin (aka "Mr. Vertical") has written extensively on the subject.  He says new media is characterized by "vertical, subject-specific organization.  It naturally facilitates clustering around subjects."  New media is Google, facebook, twitter, mogulus.  New Media is community, grassroots, bottom-up, messy, unpredictable, improvisational, tattoos, fun.  New media is LeBron.

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I'm Not Authentic

Everybody wants to be authentic these days.  Not me.  I'm not authentic, and I'm not even trying to be authentic.  It's not that I want to be fake and phony.  I just know I'm not authentic, because I know as hard as I try to be authentic, I just can't do it, and neither can you.  Here's why.

To be truly authentic, you have to be a true original.  By definition, something that's authentic has a "claimed and verifiable origin or authorship."  An authentic Rembrandt sketch is one-of-a-kind.  It's not a copy.  it's the first one.  Even if you take "authentic" to mean something other than "original," you're still faced with something that's "fully trustworthy."  Sorry.  I'm trustworthy most of the time, but fully?  Not a chance.

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Why Miracles Matter

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of those historic events theologians and Christian apologists have worked very hard to "prove."  And rightly so.  No less a biblical authority than the apostle Paul says the faith of all who follow Christ is "futile" if Christ has not been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:17).  So it's not enough to believe Jesus is some kind of life force that fills all people, and it's certainly not acceptable to conjecture that God is going to rescue humanity apart from the risen Christ.  Either Jesus is alive today  and the Christian faith is true, or Jesus is still dead and the Christianity is a joke.

The good news is that there is enough historic evidence to reasonably believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ took place as the Bible describes.  There's the proof of the empty tomb, the proof of hundreds of eyewitnesses, and the proof of transformed believers who sacrificed everything for what they knew to be true.

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The Beatles Are Back, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Selling records in big numbers these days is tough to do.  Actually, nobody sells records anymore.  Heck, they aren't even selling CDs.  When SoundScan reveals the week's top selling records or albums or songs or whatever, they really mean "downloads."  Still, the numbers aren't impressive:  200,000 of Miley Cyrus this week, or 150,000 Lady GaGa last week.  Big deal.  The Beatles first record released in America, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," sold a million copies in the first 10 days.  By 1985, one billion Beatles records had been sold worldwide.  And that's when people had to actually walk, bicycle, or drive to a store to make a purchase.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Beatles.  Big deal, you may be saying.  Get over it.  You're stuck in the 60s, man.  Actually, I haven't thought about the 60s for a while, but when I saw the announcement that all 12 of the Fab Four's studio recordings are going to be reissued on September 9 in remastered versions with original album artwork and liner notes, I got more than a little nostalgic.  I got downright excited. 

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Amazed at Jesus

I'm a little slow on some things, like the latest YouTube videos.  I just came across this clip called, "Everything's amazing, nobody's happy," featuring the comedian Louis CK on Conan a couple of months ago.  If you haven't already seen it, take a look.  It's hilarious.  He talks about the cynicism most of us have at one time or another over some of the amazing devices we routinely use--such as cell phones and airplanes--that should utterly amaze us.  Like when we experience poor service on airpline, we complain, not fully appreciating the fact that we're SITTING IN A CHAIR IN THE SKY!! 

After watching the Louis CK clip, i had an epiphany of sorts about amazement.  And it wasn't just about the need to be amazed at things like cell phones and airplanes.  I'm all for that, but ultimately these are just objects we invent and then produce.  They may start out amazing, but they quickly and inevitably become commonplace.  Heck, even the bread slicer was amazing at some point in time.  (Why do you think we sill use the expression, "That's the best thing since sliced bread"?)  No, my epiphany had more to do with being amazed at things over which we have no control, things that exist apart from us.

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More Bonehead Economics

Between the economic shenanigans of Bernie Madoff and AIG, it's hard not to become completely cynical about the current state of the American money system.  I won't go so far as to suggest, as Sen. Charles Grassley did, that the offenders should do the honorable thing:  resign or go commit suicide.  But when I think about the outlandish acts of these financial miscreants--acts that just keep coming despite the best efforts of government officials to shut them down--I can't help but feel more than a tinge of frustration and resentment. 

Consider first the unfolding saga of Bernie Madoff and his family, who have been the target of a lot of scorn lately:

Bernie Madoff stole $50 billion from thousands of trusting individuals and charities, including $15 million from Holocaust surivor Elie Wiesel's Foundation for Humanity.  As John Stewart wryly observed, even Adolph Hitler would have said, "Bernie, enough already."

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.