Monday, November 30, 2009

Resource Review - The Episcopal Church website

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You Home website of The Episcopal Church(TEC).

OVERALL - I've been holding off on doing this review because I'd been told that a new version of the web page was coming. Well they've missed two dates for completion so far. The latest word is that maybe for the New Year. SIGH. So I'm running the review I wrote originally for the current web site.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is primarily intended as an information source and touchstone on the internet. As for youth ministry it can be a real resource as our young people (and we very often) try to find out way along and figure out what it means to be an Episcopalian. Because the site is intended to be much more than that it can be overwhelming. My best advice is to start in the "Visitors' Center" and take a look around. The surveys which form the basis for several of the articles there were done just a couple years back and offer a great look at who we really are. Then click on the "Evangelism & Congregational Life Center" because under the latest reorganization (of the web page at least)that's where you'll find "Youth Formation". Along with LOTS of other things.

RESERVATIONS (If you want a better way to stay up to date on youth ministry in TEC go to "Episcoyouth". This is a blog that Bronwyn is using to improve communication especially as we wait for the larger web site to be updated. Bookmark it!) To be honest the youth pages haven't been updated in a while and much of the resources available there are rather old. Still of pretty high quality but somewhat dated. (As an example under resources you'll find a report on the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) from 2005. The last EYE was in 2008 but there's no report for it). The Youth office has undergone some major changes over the last year and the new person in that slot Bronwyn Clark Skov is working hard trying to figure out what to do first, next and whenever. (For transparency's sake I will admit proudly that I count Bronwyn as a friend. We worked together as Provincial Youth Ministry Coordinators for several years. She's a great and talented lady.)

RECOMMENDATION For the moment this site is what it is - clunky and outdated and behind schedule. I am biting my tongue to keep me from making any snarky comments but you can feel free to fill them in yourselves. If you're looking for information on TEC and what we believe and who we are and all kinds of resources there's no other place on the web to go. My hope is that the youth specific resources will be brought up to date as soon as possible. You should definitely have this site bookmarked.

Friday, November 27, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Santa's Mail

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Here I was all ready to leap into one of the great disputes of our age. Guaranteed to rally the cry of protest nationwide, the lead the fight for a great American value. Right up there with Truth, Justice and the American Way. Then the Post Office apparently rolled over and gave up. Even before I could work up a really good rant. Sigh. It's so hard being a talking head these days. Oh by the way, if you have any young people in the family who still believe in a certain right jolly old elf in the present delivery business now would be a good time to either get them out of earshot or turn down the radio for about two minutes.

OK, ready now?

Yes, the great Santa mail dispute apparently has died even before it got started. If you hadn't heard the U.S. Postal Service had announced it was discontinuing the annual mail to Santa routine. Since 1954 folks in the village of North Pole Alaska have been opening and responding to letters addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole. The program is a big deal in a small town where Christmas is a pretty big deal. The staff of volunteers numbers just over a dozen and they respond in the personas of Santa's helpers or elves. The Postal Service had run into a problem with a similar program in Maryland that ended up with a registered sex offender answering the children's mail. So they put in place new regulations to put an end to the practice. The new rules proposed would have created a massive amount of work for postal employees who would have had to redact (that's government talk for "black out") the children's names and remove the return address leaving only a computer code connected to each one.

Needless to say there were quite a few people who got cranky. The word of the moment, courtesy of Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski is that USPS has changed its mind. To be honest I'm amazed the Postal Service waded into this one at all. It has lose-lose written all over it. I have plenty of sympathy for the postal workers (hey, one of my best friends was a postal worker. Really, no joke, one of my best friends is a retired postal worker) and the Service has been struggling with deficits just like everyone else. But trying to balance the budget by taking out Santa's mail delivery? You just had to know that one would be "Returned to Sender".

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, November 26, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo week 3 (with audio!)

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

(I have to admit that this is the script of the show I was SUPPOSED to record. But my daughter Rachel was with me and so we decided to ad lib a program about NaNoWriMo instead. It went very well. We did it in one take, what you hear is everything that happened, no editting. And we hit the time right on the nose. You can check out what actually went down and out on the air at the bottom!)

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Well week three of the NaNoWriMo experiment is now behind me. At the start of this week I have only 8 days left in my attempt to write fifty thousand words of a novel in just 30 days. At the moment that prospect isn't looking too good. You see last week was a very bad week for writing.

The process of writing continues to interest me. With the "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" approach to the contest I've found that when I have the time to sit down and write I can crank out massive numbers of words relatively quickly. In an hours time I can easily do a thousand to about twelve hundred words. The sixteen hundred I need to keep pace for each day is always done in less than 90 minutes. So you'd think that I'd be able to finish this task quite easily. So far that hasn't been the case. Last week I came out of my weekend retreat just a few thousand short and I figured I'd get caught up quickly. I managed to eat into the deficit a little the first couple days but then I had another trip (it's been a busy time for your humble radio host), this time for a series of meetings in Chicago. First day I cranked out 18 hundred words, second day 17 hundred words and I'm thinking this is going pretty well. But the energy needed to pull off some fairly long days at the meetings (I would usually be back in my hotel room ready to write at 9:30 at night) finally caught up with me. The last day I got ZERO writing done. The next day I bounced back but with only a thousand words. So as of Sunday of this week my total is just under 29 thousand words. Which means I need to find 21 thousand words in the next 8 days. That's two thousand six hundred and twenty five words a day. The good news is that I have the rest of this week off. The bad news is that's still a lot of writing.

Some new characters have popped up and with them come some interesting possibilities for my poor beleaguered main character (he just had a nasty but not serious accident). The part that worries me is I'm still in the dark as to what is causing all this uproar for these people. I hope one of them tells me soon. Down the final stretch. Next week I'll be able to tell you my final word count (or close to it) and see how I did.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

View From the Phlipside - IPhone Users

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Apparently I'm a bad person. I never realized it, it just happened one day. After that day I must have been pretty bad. One decision is all it took. My days as a nice guy came to a crashing halt on that fateful day. The day I bought an iPhone.

I actually went in with the idea of getting a Blackberry. But the slim lines of the iPhone, the low price and a little salesmanship from my AT&T rep all pushed into the arms of the iPhone. Which I happen to really love and enjoy using. So what's with all the emo moaning about being a bad person?

That actually comes from a study done by the folks at a company called Retrevo who were doing what they called a "Gadgetry Survey". They were trying to collect some data on just who it was who were buying these snazzy little gadgets. The results were pretty ugly. For example - one out of three have broken up with their significant other by either text message or by email. Which I have to admit is a pretty scummy thing. Of course the good news is that if this is the way they choose to break up with up you then you're better off with out them anyway. It gets worse from there. A third of us would prefer a significant other with all the coolest gadgets over one with a college degree. And not surprisingly you're likely to get dumped if you don't have the latest gadgets. Also if YOU spend too much time with your electronic gadgets. There's probably an app for that on my iPhone. iPhone users are twice as likely to look at shall we say "inappropriate material" on our phones as Blackberry users are.

Along the way we think pretty highly of ourselves too. iPhone users view ourselves as media buffs and intellectuals. On the whole not a particularly choice snapshot of who we are as iPhone owners.

Of course as I take a look at all that I realize maybe I'm OK. I've never broken up with someone via text or whatever. Of course it helps that I've been in the same relationship for 30 years now. I definitely prefer the college degree over the gadgets and I don't much care about how current your gadgets are because I don't much care how current MY gadgets are. I don't look at stuff I don't need to be looking at. Besides why do it on a two inch square monitor? So I guess I'm that OTHER percentage of iPhone users. I think I can live with that.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, November 23, 2009

Resource Review - Free Serif Software

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Free Serif Software - High quality free software for desktop publishing, drawing, photos and more

OVERALL - A chance to download top quality software for no cost. Serif Software is based in England and makes the previous generation of their software available for free. A great selection of programs including Photos, Documents, Web Sites, Art, even Crafts and Scrapbooking.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Why use something other than the latest and greatest? The simple answer is that most of us don't need the latest and greatest. Add in the budgetary restraints most of us work under and this is a great solution. I've been using PhotoPlus, PagePlus and DrawPlus for the last several years and really like them. If you want the latest versions they are very versatile and usually cost much less than the big name brands. There's also pay versions of things like video editing software too.

RESERVATIONS The one thing you don't get is the manual so there's certain element of trial by error. I've found most of the functions I've needed fairly quickly however and have started branching out into more complicated work.

RECOMMENDATION It's very high quality and it's free. What more needs saying?

Friday, November 20, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Nigerian Scams

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Sometimes you come across a story that just makes you smile. A story that you realize you've been waiting for, hoping for but never dreaming that you would ever see it come true. And yet here it is, in black and white, Project Eagle Claw has been launched and is making some in roads on one of the great annoyances (for most of us) or online problems (for a few of us) out there.

What's Project Eagle Claw you ask? Project Eagle Claw is an ongoing effort by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to shut down Nigerian based e-mail scammers. Yes, it's really true. The Nigerian government reports that in just the first couple months of the program they've shut down close to a thousand web sites and have made 18 arrests. And that's with the project really just getting under way. Nigeria is working with Microsoft and hopes to have Project Eagle Claw running full speed sometime next year. The announcement was made here in the U.S. in the last 30 days.

It seems Nigeria is tired of being the butt of international jokes. They are tired of being best known at this point in their history as the home of scum bag scammers who rip off people for their life's savings. It's bad for the national image and bad for business. We may consider the Nigerian scams a joke but in reality they are anything but a joke. The toll in just the last few years is measured in millions of dollars and some of the scams have been sophisticated enough to nearly drag even some banks into them.

And Nigeria is tired of it. So the new program, which should be fully online before the middle of next year, is expected to nail up to five thousand scam emails a DAY and will be able to warn people who might receive them that the Nigerian government has doubts about the origin of them. It's not as if the Nigerians hadn't been trying before. The problem was the old system was slow and simply couldn't keep up with the rapidly changing digital environment. Nigeria is currently in the top ten for countries associated with internet fraud. By making the business environment a whole lot tougher for the scammers they hope to drop out of that particular elite. Now THAT'S a Nigerian offer I'd be willing to take.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Perfect expression of my geekiness

This pretty much covers most of what makes me a geek. I love it!

I don't know if it will work here but on the home page for XKCD if you hover your cursor over the comic you get a pop up window that reads : "Moments later, the White Witch rolls up and, confused, tries to tempt the probe with a firmware upgrade"

Which just makes the whole thing that much better.

Yes, I'm a geek.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Suggestive Youth

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

About 18 months ago a lot of the media talking head world of which I'm a part climbed up on our soap boxes to make whatever point we felt needed to be made about the photographs of teen media star Miley Cyrus taken by Annie Liebovitz for Vanity Fair. I came down pretty hard on Liebovitz and Miley's dad Billy Ray Cyrus for allowing his 15 year old daughter to be placed in that kind of a sexualized setting. We are teaching our children that it really IS all about sex and that you're never too young to start. As someone who works with young people and sees the damage created by that media message I was and am very much opposed to those kinds of images of and for our young people.

And that puts me in an interesting and admittedly uncomfortable position today. You see there's another instance of an underage young person being presented in very sexy photographs in the national media. Unlike the previous flap there is virtually no outrage about this case. In this case they are shirtless photos of 17 year old Taylor Rautner. In case the name means nothing to you (I will admit it didn't to me at first) Rautner plays the character Jacob Black in the current "Twilight" movies. The new movie and its promotional materials show him with less clothing on than anything in the Cyrus photos.

And no one has said a word. Why? Well 17 versus 15 certainly makes a difference. But at 17 he's still a minor and that should make a difference or we should get rid of the legal distinction. No, the more important reason is because he's a guy and there's a double standard. And that bothers me and I believe it should bother us all. If a 40 year old man has an affair with an 16 year old girl we are all outraged. If a 40 year old woman has an affair with a 16 year old boy there's a whole lot more people who just think the young man pretty darn lucky.

The reality is that sexually suggestive images are out of control in the media. That's neither new nor news. And yes, I'm a firm believer that adults are perfectly capable of making up their own minds on how to deal with it. But this ever more casual attitude towards suggestive images of young people needs to stop. It encourages inappropriate views of our kids both by outsiders and the young people themselves. The damage to self image, the glorification of shallow life choices have potentially devastating and long term effects. If it's wrong for Miley Cyrus it should be wrong for Taylor Rautner. And we should say so.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo week 2

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Week two from the NaNoWriMo experiment here on the Phlipside. NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month and your humble radio host decided to take a shot at the project. The goal is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in just thirty days. That's a mere sixteen hundred words or so A DAY for thirty days. It didn't seem that hard.

Week one was pretty good. We averaged about two thousand words a day which kept us well ahead of the curve. Now among the NaNoWriMo aficionados they warn about week two. Week two is where would be novelists hit the wall, run out of steam, decided that what they are writing is utter rubbish and quit. All the experts agree, you can not give in to week two. You must push through week two. In the words of Captain Peter Quincy Taggert (If you haven't seen Galaxy Quest you must) - Never Give Up, And Never Surrender!"

Yeah, like it's that easy. Week two was particularly hard for me because I would be away and unable to write for three days of the week. So I needed those two thousand words a day just to make up the ground I'd lose over the weekend. So how'd I do? Weeeeeeellllllll...... The week began pretty well. I was still nailing those two thousand word limits. OK, I did it ONCE this week. Then one day I only hit fifteen hundred. Below the minimum but still OK because I'd created a little bit of a pad. Then there was the nine hundred word day. Really not good. By the time I had to pack my bags and get away for the weekend I had only written twenty thousand words. Now in the reality of things that wasn't bad. But by Sunday morning I needed to be at the twenty five thousand word mark since it was half way. Five thou short. Not good.

I think I did come up with a solution for a problem that had been looming and I still have ideas that I need to get down into the computer. So I'm not quitting. But now I've got no choice I need to average just OVER two thousand words a day if I'm going to make the deadline.

And of course I keep reminding myself that at fifty thousand words I'm probably not done. That's a very short novel, more of a novella really, which means I'll still have plenty of writing left to do after November thirtieth comes and goes. But I don't have time to worry about that right now. Gotta write.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, November 16, 2009

Resouce Review - Taize

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Taize Home website of The Taize community in France. (My apologies for not giving the final "e" in their name but I can't figure out how to do it in the software)

OVERALL - Taize is an international, ecumenical community founded in France in 1940 by a Protestant monk named Brother Roger. Over the years the community there has drawn large numbers of young adults to weekly meetings. And there has grown up a Taize style of contemplative worship. This website will not only give you great background on the movement and it's wide range of work but can also help you figure out how to bring some of that worship style to your youth.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The basic outline and underlying logic of such a service are laid out under the "Prayer and Song" heading along with information about how to get copies of the music. The music is very simple and can be learned quite easily. Information on how and when to visit is available, plus contacts with folks already doing similar things inspired by the Taize community here in the U.S. Taize is not a movement that you join, in fact the more I look at the site the more I realize how virtually impossible it is to sum up quickly and concisely. Start from the place that says this is a resource for contemplative prayer and then explore from there.

RESERVATIONS As just mentioned part of the problem is simply that there's TOO much information. What the site desperately needs is a "Taize for beginners" option.

RECOMMENDATION I had never even heard of this community or style of worship before the first time I was exposed to it. It hit me like a thunder clap that day. Contemplative worship isn't for everyone but I'm a firm believer that teaching our young people ways to slow down and center themselves is a vital role that the church can play. I highly recommend this site.

Friday, November 13, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NBC

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

It's not easy being NBC these days. The peacock network finds itself in a position that few companies, let alone media companies would ever want to be.

Let's start with that most basic of TV yardsticks the ratings. The days of "Must See TV" are long gone apparently. Overall NBC is now the number four network in the land and it's a fairly comfortable number four. Number three ABC has a reasonable margin over the peacock folks and NBC is in no danger of falling into the grasp of the CW Network. The very concept of which has got to feature hugely in the nightmares of the networks executives. The only place that NBC sees any kind of bright spot is in the 18-34 year old range where, at least in the latest ratings available they climb to number three. Astoundingly CBS, the overall number one unsurprisingly, falls to the number 4 slot. Of course everyone in this particular demographic trails Fox by a huge margin so it's really a race for second best. And NBC loses even that.

On the corporate front you have the fact that your current corporate parent, General Electric, seems VERY interested in getting rid of you as soon as possible. Maybe even worse the company most interested in buying you, Comcast, isn't really interested in you at all. Comcast wants the Universal movie slash media group to create programming for their cable channels. One rumor has it that Comcast would prefer to buy the whole group then dump the TV network and the TV stations as quickly as possible. Talk about being the ugly sister.

Finally we have the Jay Leno experiment. Leno's show five nights a week isn't doing well. Worse yet it's killing the programs that follow it. Given that the show that immediately follows Leno's lead in is the local 11 o'clock news, usually a money maker for the local affiliates that's very bad news. It doesn't get any better for the Conan O'Brien show or the Jimmy Fallon show. Both of them have taken HUGE rating hits as well.

So is there ANY good news for the bird network? Curiously yes. Among the network online sites NBC recently moved into the number one spot. That's right the number four TV network has the web site with the most viewers for the month of September. Close to double the next highest network. The newly re-designed site offered lots of special programming including looks at the wedding on "The Office" plus the return of Jay Leno's Garage (Leno is an avid car collector). We'll have to see if they can continue to hold on to that one small light in the otherwise long dark night of the National Broadcasting Corporation.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, November 12, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Sesame Street and Rolling Stone

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

If you believe that there is a higher power in control of the cosmos sometimes you have to wonder at their sense of humor. For example this week was chosen as the birth date for two media icons that in many ways couldn't be much different yet in some ways are quite similar. It was 42 years ago on Monday that Jann Wenner founded the first mainstream entry in counter culture journalism - "Rolling Stone" magazine. And it was 40 years ago on Tuesday that Sesame Street started counting and spelling its way through our collective consciousnesses.

Sesame Street is so mainstream these days it's easy to forget how revolutionary it was at the time. We accept that children's TV should be smart, well written and with top of the line production values. That was something totally new forty years ago. We accept that the characters of children's programming should be media stars in their own right (just like Howdy Doody and Capt Kangaroo) but that they should be ready and able to take on serious subjects in ways that even our youngest children can understand and not be frightened by. The death of a long time actor on the show was a landmark in children's TV when the show took on the subject of his loss head on. And Sesame Street has a world wide acceptance and syndication that would make virtually any other show in the history of TV blush at their shortcomings. The best part for me is that the producers of Sesame Street are smart enough to hold on to the important parts while letting the local version adapt to the local cultural norms.

For Rolling Stone the start was not so auspicious. Wenner raised money by soliciting people on a mailing list he'd stolen from a local radio station. 34,000 of his first 40,000 issues were returned unsold even with John Lennon on the cover. Wenner adopted one very important aspect of the mainstream media for his counter culture effort, he got good writers. In fact he landed some of the most brilliant writers of his generation. Writers like Hunter S. Thompson who were going to find it hard to get started anywhere else. Maybe that's why the good doctor showed up to ask for a job with a case of beer under his arm. You may not agree with the politics (or even the music reviews) but Rolling Stone was well written and always worth reading.

Times have changed for both these media icons. Rolling Stone has changed the look and size of their print version and like everyone else is moving heavily into digital. Sesame Street keeps plugging away and has to take a certain guilty parenthood for things like the Broadway hit Avenue Q which certainly never would have had a chance if we weren't all so familiar with Oscar the Grouch and Bert and Ernie.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Things That I Do

A moment to catch up. It's been pretty hectic and to be honest a couple projects are really weighing me down. They don't really play to my strengths so I'm especially aware that I'm under performing. All I can say is I've done what I can and if it falls down, it falls down. I don't have the time or the energy for intense worry.

Let's see, what else is going on? Volleyball team continues to be pretty bad. Still have only won once this session I think. Came close last week, could have easily doubled or tripled our win total. It remains mostly a good time.

I'm supposed to be learning to play guitar. I must confess my practice time has dropped to zero. Just too many other things right now. But my faithful musical friends awaits with perfect patience if probably less than perfect tune at the moment.

Getting ready for my first meeting as a member of the Standing Commission on Ministry Development, a national body of the Episcopal Church. (And before anyone jumps on me for the "national" I am well aware that we are in fact an international denomination, a fact which I cherish and proclaim. There's just no easy term I can think of to represent that this body is drawn from the larger church. It's quick and easy and understandable if not perfectly precise. Bear with me). This is something of a big deal (there's a limited number of these Commissions with a limited number of seats and lots of people who want them) and it's a six year commitment. To a large degree I enjoy this kind of work and it matches my gifts as well. So I'm excited. Plus it involves at least some travel and I LIKE travel! Next week I go to Chicago. Don't know if I'll have any time to see various friends while I'm there. Since this is a first trip and a training/community building trip I'm going to work on committing most of my time to the task at hand.

I WILL be very interested in seeing what the Commission does. A quick (very, very quick) look seems to indicate LOTS of stuff for clergy and very little if any for the laity. I'm fairly certain I don't like that balance. We'll see.

You see how I am? Put me on a board and I walk through the door planning on making waves. [Evil Grin]

The current soap opera of my life concerns my cars. Two very LONG stories that I'll spare you here. The short version has a buck deer taking out the entire right side of my SUV and a flat tire on the other car (plus news that we need a new battery). The flat tire would normally only get a foot note except along the way I discovered that my car lacks a tire iron. Not sure how that happens but it makes trying to change a flat rather problematic. Borrowed one, discovered the mini-spare was almost flat. Plus a 50 mile mini-spare when you're 90+ miles from home...not real useful. So we had to try and find an open tire store on a Sunday afternoon.

Thank you Wal-Mart. I will have nothing but good things to say about them for 6 months.

The big thing right now is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where I am trying to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. It is day 11 and I've written 18,500+. That's ahead of the minimum to stay on target but a little behind my personal goals. So I should really be writing on the novel, not on the blog. I think I've hit part of the dreaded week two slump. I'll get at least 1,000 words on the virtual page today and I have hopes of hitting 2,000. We'll see. It has been a very interesting experience, some of which I've already written about.

My immediate goal is to survive the next 10 days. Then my trip will be over, that project that is not working so well will be over and I'll hopefully be well on my way to 50,000 words. Hey, the volleyball team might just win a game too!


View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

It's week number two of the NaNoWriMo experiment here at the Phlipside. In case you missed it I have been bullied into trying my hand at the National Novel Writing Month by my college aged, writing studies major daughter. The idea of the contest is write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Presumably because I'm easily bullied I agreed.

So after 7 full days of writing I can tell you that I've managed to put down just over fifteen thousand words of my book. That actually puts me ahead of the curve when it comes to hitting the goal by the end of the month. I'm pretty happy with that I must admit. When I started a week ago I had a vague idea for the story (more on that in a second) and I knew that there were two definite characters in this book and almost certainly a couple more about whom I knew nothing. That was pretty much everything I had. Seriously.

My daughter shook her head a little I think at my lack of pre-planning. As the major writer in the family she had complete biographies of her major characters (I'm talking thousands of words here people) and at least sketches of the important minor ones. She talked about outlining chapters and preparing all kinds of thing. She formed a group of students at her university and started giving writing exercises and cheer leading them to prepare them for the event. Me, I got nothin'. Let's just say I'm not the teacher's pet.

As for my book the concept is this - what if vampires really exist but everything we think we know about them is wrong? And what if one of them came to you and asked your help in preserving their race from extinction? Pretty cool idea, right? So far I have a main character named Dan, two vampire characters named Helena and Guy (with that European pronunciation Hell ayna and Gee), a secretary, an ex-wife, a best friend a I still have no idea what it is that's threatening the vampires which means I have no idea what ole' Dan is going to have to do to save them. Or himself. I have this sneaking suspicion that even my vampires aren't to be trusted.

My biggest challenge this week is to try and write well ahead of schedule. Unfortunately I have to be on a retreat Friday Saturday and Sunday when I won't be able to do ANY writing. So my fifteen thousand plus in seven days is actually not too bad. I need to average around two thousand words a day. And they tell me week two is the hardest week of the contest.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Is and Why do Youth Ministry in the Episcopal Church?

A fun little quick video done by a group of the Provincial Youth Ministry Coordinators this fall. The second person to speak (tall guy with glasses) will be the next bishop of Minnesota. Really! They elected him and everything! Enjoy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Resource Review - Rotation Workshop Sunday School

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

OVERALL - Workshop Rotation Sunday School website and resource center for a complete (and completely customizable) Sunday School curriculum.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Rotation workshop got its start in the Chicago area around 1990. The idea was to try and overcome the challenges of traditional Sunday school - student boredom, trouble recruiting and keeping teachers, expensive curricula that was often only partially used. Sound familiar? What grew out of it was a Sunday school curriculum that was designed to be interactive, teach students using all the major learning methodologies. Here's their description of the program:
Teach major Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops: an Art workshop, Drama, Music, Games, A-V, Puppets, Storytelling, Computers, and any other educational media you can get your hands on. Teach the same Bible story in all of the workshops for four or five weeks rotating the kids to a different workshop each week. And here comes the extremely teacher friendly part: Keep the same teacher in each workshop for all five weeks -teaching the same lesson week after week (with some age appropriate adjustments) to each new class coming in.

RESERVATIONS - The only real reservation I can find is I don't like their introductory flash presentations. I think they are GREAT ideas but they are executed a little poorly. The audio is uneven and clearly to my ears (which worked in radio for almost 20 years) these are not professional voice over announcers. The presentations suffer from stilted reads and uneven sound levels. Hey, it's the only complaint I could think of, lol!

RECOMMENDATION I know this system has been in use for several years at my home congregation and it seems to be a big success. The burden on the teachers is much smaller, they get to feel like they've got a real grasp of what they're doing and the time requests is much more manageable. The kids really seem to be getting into it too. Oh and did I mention - all of this stuff is free? You make it fit your congregation, your kids and the gifts of your teachers. It's a great resource.

This is really aimed a bit younger than most of what I normally work with but I regularly get recommendations for Sunday school curricula. This is one I can recommend with few reservations.

Sermon - November 8 2009

Children are a heritage from the Lord.

I love it when I get a really good piece of Scripture when I come for a visit like this. I like the translation in the Message version of the Bible as well:

Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!

Oh Blessed are you congregations that have children for you will blessed again and again and again for many years to come.
Not surprisingly I'm a big fan of young people in church. I like it because it is wonderful to share the message of the Gospel with young people. They keep me on my toes, they force me to consider and re-consider answers that I thought I had finally nailed. When the Spirit catches fire in them it burns so wonderfully bright. I love it because I know how good it is for the congregation too. That the Spirit of God is lifted up that little extra bit, that the energy of a faith community goes up and that the life of the congregation itself is strengthened.

My calling, my job, my duty as your youth missioner is to help all that happen to the very best of my ability.

Over the last 9 years that's I've served our diocese in this role I've come to realize that there are three basic reports on the youth ministry of the diocese to be made. There's the simple status update of the programs. If you were at Convention a week ago you heard me give exactly that report as I do each year. This many campers, that many at Bishop's Ball. The second kind of report is the one where I ask/tell you how you can support those programs. I've done that one a lot over the years too. I'll probably slide a little of that one in before I'm done but the story I really want to tell you is one we overlook sometimes. In part because it can seem kind of uncomfortable for the church. I call the “What's in it for us?” report. You see what the bottom line comes down to very often for congregations is that while they may agree that diocesan youth ministry is quite probably a very good idea it's not as if you don't have enough on your plates already. In a time of strained resources across much of our church and nation I think the question of what's in it for you is perfectly reasonable. And it deserves a response.

I'll offer my answer in two parts. The benefits for the members of the congregation – youth, parents, folks in the pews, and the benefits for the congregation as a whole.

This generation of young people has two particular, historic distinctions. They are the busiest generation and they just may be the most stressed generation of young people ever in the history of the world. Certainly they are busy. When I talk with them I commonly hear stories of days that start early with chores, practice or homework first thing in the morning, followed by school all day, then more practices, extra curricular activities, outside classes in music or dance or whatever, a quick dinner then sports, rehearsals, tutoring and homework often literally right up to bed time. When I was in high school the idea that I might need a Day Planner would have been laughable. Today many schools hand out personal calendars at the start of every year.

As for stress if that lifestyle wasn't stressful enough our young people worry about the financial situation of their family, possible job loss by their parents, divorce, school related social stress, plus all the stress of just having your body work it's way through all the things that are going on during this time of life – social, physical and mental changes.

Against all that is what your diocesan youth ministry can offer them and their parents. A time away from all of that stuff, a time to be cared for, a time for worship and spiritual reflection appropriate to their age and development, a time of calm, of quiet and of decompression. The word you hear most often these days is Sabbath. Not just our weekly sabbath here in church together but a sabbath that extends beyond this place and time.

During this Sabbath time the young people get the chance to explore faith beyond their Sunday community. This is a faith community that they share with their parents. In my own life the church where I grew up was in fact “my parent's church”. I have seen, even in my own household, the effect of experiencing a faith community that is wholly their own. My daughter attends her church, St. Luke's in Jamestown. Her parents just happen to attend there as well. The difference in her experience of church and mine I believe to be profound. This time away gives young people a chance to explore and develop as leaders. In fact this past summer saw the Senior High Conference we began to improve our ability to offer those leadership roles. During the course of the week young people worked along side members of the staff to help make decisions for the conference community. They worked with me as camp director, recorded the events of the day, worked with the clergy on worship, cared for one another and the place we stayed. Youth Commission plans to expand the leadership training down into the Junior High age group over the next couple years. Our youth are given the chance to extend that leadership through Youth Commission, Happening Board and as delegates to Diocesan Convention where they have both seat and voice. Out of these experiences we can help our younger brothers and sisters in Christ, the young people of this congregation find a deeper relationship with God and help them discover and explore the gifts that God has given them.

For the congregation the benefits flow from all of that. Our goal is to return to this community of faith young people who are a little father along their journey of faith, who are more excited about that journey and who are looking for ways to express that faith life in this the wider community. You receive youth back who are headed now towards greater engagement as members, who bring with them a better feel for taking on roles within the Body, who bring that incredible energy of young people into everything you do with them. And last but certainly not least don't forget that this generation also has a fair handle on discretionary funds either in themselves or through their influence with their parents. Young people invested in their home congregation are far more likely to want to return that investment.

That I believe is the best answer that I can give to the question of “What's in it for us?”. Our programs, Sleep Away camp for elementary age, Junior High, Senior High, Happening, Youth Commission, the Bishop's Ball, plus special events like mission trips and the national Episcopal Youth Event, known as EYE, offer you and your youth a wonderful array of experiences. A quiet time to grow faith. Most especially a time away, a time to re-consider the order of priorities, a time to draw nearer to God. Sabbath time.

I warned you that I would be sneaking in just a little of how you can support those programs. They can not exist without a connection between them and you.

First and foremost I always ask you to to pray for us. Pray for the young people we hope to serve, pray for those of us who answer that call to service, remember us when these events are under way. This coming weekend is Happening weekend number 25, when a team of over 20 youth and adults will gather together to offer a special spiritual retreat for teens led entirely by teens. It will be my great privilege and honor to work for the weekend's rector Matthew Seufert as the Head Pop.

Second, please make sure you youth know that you notice them, that you care about them. Remember that they are not a junior auxiliary of the church but brothers and sisters, baptized members of the Body of Christ. When we do not overtly recognize their place in the body we run a terrible gamble for them and for ourselves.

Speaking of those kids, Third, send us your kids. The best program never gets off the ground if we have no one to participate in it. I've told this story over and over that the very first time we wanted send my daughter Rachel to camp, it would have been Junior High, she absolutely didn't want to go. She wouldn't know anyone, she wouldn't have any fun, she knew they had a dance which she considered to be the most horrible thing imaginable. We sent her anyway. At the end of the week as we drove away from camp she turned to me and said “When does camp start again?”. If you believe that your child, or that the children of this congregation need that sabbath time, that they would benefit from this experience it is vital that you urge them in the strongest terms to go at least once. I will admit that camp isn't for everyone. If they come and don't enjoy themselves we will return them with our blessing. I'm happy to say the number that don't enjoy themselves is very small.

Fourthly I would ask you to consider how you may be able to support the programs in other ways. Our budget is tight just like everyone else's. But amazingly small amounts of money can make a difference. One of the things we do to keep the cost of Happening down for instance is to ask congregations to take a “shopping list” made up of about 15 simple items, cereal, napkins,things like that and donate them to the weekend. That way more of the money can go to the program itself. There are always specific items to be covered – the nurse's golf cart at Junior High. The camp at Dunkirk is quite large and to insure that our nurse can get from one end to the other in an emergency we rent a golf cart. Pizza for the beginning of Senior High, snacks for that pesky dance at junior high. There's an amazing list that starts as low as 25 dollars or so but which can make a real difference. Finally I would note that several groups in the diocese just send us a check to be used as it's needed best.

In the end if you can pray for us and send us some young people it's more than enough. If you can find a way to help us a little more than we will be able to better help you.

There is one final part of the diocesan youth ministry that I have glossed over so far. I will mention it now only quickly. That is the office and person of the diocesan youth missioner. You know, me. I am always available to come out and work with congregations as they work on their home grown youth ministries too. There's no cost, the dioceses covers it all. I enjoy driving and really enjoy working with both young people and adults. I hope that you will free to call upon me as often as you need.

Let us never forget that our children are a gift and heritage of God in our midst. Let us care for that heritage together.


St. Mark's Episcopal Orchard Park NY

Friday, November 06, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Losing It

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

If you've listened to this program for more than a few months you know about my media man crush on the show "The Biggest Loser". Over the last 18 months I've been on a journey of getting healthier and losing over 40 pounds. "The Biggest Loser" has been and continues to be a great inspiration in my journey towards better health and my final goal weight. So you would think I'd be excited about a spin off from the show.

Truth be told I'm a little worried about it. The show features workout monster in chief Jillian Michaels and is rather ironically called "Losing It with Jillian". If you've never seen the show then you've avoided Jillian's legendary screaming slash intimidation style of coaching. It's not at all uncommon in the gyms of the world but it's usually done by big, muscle bound male trainers rather than rather attractive, diminutive female trainers. Jillian screams, curses, questions your intelligence, your courage, everything short of your parentage. To be honest it's my least favorite part of the show. Yes, a fair number of us need more than gentle persuasion to get up off our enormous American lard butts and make a change in our lives. I just find abusive language to be uninspiring.

So the concept of Jillian "invading homes" as the network puts it to help families get healthy doesn't strike me as a good idea. Somehow she's going to come into their home for a week, identify their problems and help them fix it all - in a week. For me that's the fatal flaw in all this. It's yet another quick fix for a problem that didn't happen quickly. Changing your lifestyle is hard. Learning new ways to eat is hard. Trust me I still struggle with it. So to pretend that a week with a high powered trainer and celebrity chef Curtis Stone is going to make everything all right is just fatuous. The idea that deep seated family problems can be rooted out in a week's time should be offensive to families that are struggling with these issues and the professionals who work with families. And when you reach the point that your health as a family is bad enough to consider calling in an outside expert, let alone a TV show, then you are looking at some deeply ingrained problems.

My family is slowly making our way through our eating problems. We're doing it through exercise, better eating habits and mutual support. I think we'll pass on the side order of hyperventilating media trainer. And maybe her TV show too.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Carpe Diem by Shaun Mayfield

Shaun Mayfield does a LOT of things. One of them is write the blog - "an introspective view of life and the meaning of it" which is a regular on my blog feed. His latest post is the perfect example of why : "Carpe Diem - What Does Your Life Mean?" In it he gives four straight forward ideas on how to live your life, not somebody else's. While there is no mention of God anywhere in the post (Shaun is a youth minister in Arizona) I think the message is perfectly in line with a life in faith. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Baby Einstein

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

There are days when I am truly puzzled by the thinking of my fellow human beings. Days when I look at some of the rest of us (certainly not you dear listener) and wonder just what they are using for brains. For example we have the current flap over the Baby Einstein videos and their effect on our children.

If you haven't heard the wonderful folks at Disney, the parent company for the Baby Einstein people, are offering a refund if you bought any of the Baby Einstein DVDs between June of 2004 and September of this year. Seems some folks felt that the DVDs didn't live up to the advertising claims that watching them would make our children smarter.

Watching DVDs to make your kids smarter. You must be joking.

Actually no. A lot of this problem rose out of a recent study from the University of Washington that said that kids who watch videos have smaller vocabularies and they develop their vocabularies slower than kids who don't watch. Which has set some child raising pundits up on their high horses about kids and TV and all the usual hysteria that seems to go along with it. What happens is that people don't bother paying attention and leap to conclusions without any basis. The study doesn't say the kids never catch up, in fact it appears that most of them do. It just says that their development is delayed by watching the videos. Which is not surprising since other studies show that what benefits kids speech development is actually interacting with real people. You know, like their parents.

I know why most parents plop their kids down in front of the boob tube. It's just to get a break so you can get something else done! We did it in my house and my daughter is a Dean's List student at a very nice catholic university. The real problem is parents who think they can leave their kids in front of the TV and abdicate their parental responsibilities to Baby Einstein or Mr Rogers or Dora the Explorer. The best learning experience a child can have is with their parents. Parents who interact with them, talk to them, read to them.

Thinking that watching a DVD is going to make your kid smarter is just dumb. Expecting a company to pay you a refund because you're dumb is even dumber. The media can do a lot of great things in our lives. Take a parent's place isn't one of them.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

(Sunday) I began an interesting experiment that actually involves me working in media. I'm interested to see how it all turns out. It's not a short experiment first of all. It's called NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in one month's time. And that's what I'm going to try and do.

First some background on NaNoWriMo. They describe themselves as a "seat of the pants approach to novel writing" that "valu(es) enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft", "quantity over quality" through a "...kamikaze approach (that) forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly". For someone who is prone to complain about low quality in the media this may sound like some kind of brain fade. In fact I think it's a great idea. If you've ever thought about writing but it seemed too intimidating then this is the contest for you. All you have to do is write. And keep on writing. Don't edit, don't worry about lapses of logic or plot holes. That's why God made 11 other months of the year. For one month you just...write. About 1,600 words a day will keep you on track.

I've played around with writing since I was in high school. Some poetry, a fair number of short stories. There have been ideas for books racing around my brain for years just like lots of other people. A couple years ago my much more prolific writing daughter discovered NaNoWriMo and took a shot. Last year she tried again and completed the task. And she has badgered and bullied me into trying it this year. (She must get that from her mother. Mine is a gentle soul) So I've signed up at the official site ( and on Sunday I sat down to begin the task.

In the end what I'm really hoping for is just to jump start my writing process again. If I get a novel out of it great. If there's anyone out there who has also decided to give it a try please feel free to get in touch with me through WRFA. I'd love to get together and encourage others along the way of creating. What do any of us have to lose? An hour or two of NCIS re-runs on USA Network?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, November 02, 2009

Resource Review - getting students to show up

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

OVERALL - "getting students to show up - Practical Ideas for Any Outreach event - from 10 to 10,000" by Jonathan McKee, 190 pages, 2007 Zondervan

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Looking for a direct education on creating outreach events for young people? Jonathan McKee gives a no BS look at what to do and what NOT to do. This book is aimed specifically at outreach events for non-church kids. And I love that it makes very clear - putting on a great "Christian" event is a TERRIBLE way to try and reach unchurched kids. If this is the field you're looking to dive into this book should be in your backpack.

RESERVATIONS - There are some assumptions here that pulled me up short at first till I realized they're not really important. For example all his "model" events inevitably include an altar call. In most Episcopal events the likelihood of including an altar call is close to zero. It's just not part of our tradition or approach to faith. Consequently I don't know that I'd use his outline necessarily for an Episcopal based outreach event. Which is fine, you'll still learn plenty about what to do right for any such event from this book.

RECOMMENDATION I'll be honest and say these kinds of events do NOT fall into my general practice. So like a lot of people I feel a little intimidated. After reading the book I'm feeling somewhat more at home if I ever end up doing one. I like it when youth ministry authors take the gloves off and get honest about what really does and doesn't work. Even when it may gore some one's prize ox (metaphorically). I found myself shaking my head in amusement when I realized that I probably would have fallen into several of the traps he mentions. Nicely written, quite comprehensive and definitely a vital resource if your outreach events are flopping or you want to do one and have no prior experience.