Help Mark Horvath Help Homeless Veterans

Update: Thank you. By the time Mark crossed the finish line, we raised $2,170 for homeless veterans. And that money will be tripled. Thank you!

My friend Mark Horvath is doing a 5K walk to help end veteran homelessness and he needs our help. He’s got a $5,000 match—so every dollar you donate gets doubled, up to $5,000 [plus another foundation match triples your donation]—yet he’s only raised $100 $645 so far. And the 5K is on Saturday.

So help me help Mark help veterans who are homeless. Donate now.'s Mark Horvath on’s Mark Horvath on

Who Is Mark?

Mark Horvath is the founder of, an nonprofit that gives people who are homeless a voice by telling their stories. Mark has worked tirelessly to end homelessness because he was once homeless himself.

I’ve supported Mark every chance I get, including a book project, a half-marathon fundraiser, interviews, articles and more. I love the guy, I love what he’s doing. Mark is the real deal.

Please donate to support Mark.

Mark Horvath Ready for Action

What’s the Charity?

Mark is participating in the United Way Home Walk, supporting the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. I think that’s a name we can trust.

Plus, Mark lived in Los Angeles. He knows what’s what and I trust that Mark would only raise money for organizations that are truly doing good.

Please donate to support the United Way.

Homeless Veterans?

Yeah. Like Dawn. She served in the Navy for seven years, came home to a difficult situation and found herself homeless. She lived out of her car for two years.

Our veterans deserve better. And thanks to the United Way, she now has a place to call home. Watch Dawn’s story.

Please donate to support Dawn and other veterans just like her.

Refugees vs. Veterans?

I don’t want to get too political on you, but lately all the garbage going back and forth on Facebook is making me twitchy. Seriously, I want to stab myself with a spork.

The one that makes me feel the most stabby is the meme pitting Syrian refugees against homeless veterans. It argues that we’re not taking care of our U.S. veterans, so how can we take care of Syrian refugees.

Let’s forget that the meme assumes we can’t do both. Let’s forget all the politics that so deeply divides us. I think we’re supposed to help people in need. It’s that simple.

Well, here’s an opportunity to help homeless veterans. So let’s help them.

Please donate to support a less stabby Internet.

Did You Say Matching?

Yes. Every dollar donated is matched. You donate $10, it becomes $20. You donate $50, it becomes $100. It’s magic!

Up to $5,000 will be matched. So if we can raise $5,000, that’ll be $10,000 to help homeless veterans. That’s a win.

Please donate to support magic doubling money for a good cause.

UPDATE: So Mark has a donor personally matching the $5,000 he raises, as I mentioned above. But also, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is offering the Hilton Challenge. For every team that raises $5,000, they’ll match it. So your contribution will not just be doubled, it will be tripled. Like money, money, money. It’s like exponential giving!

How Soon?

Now! The United Way HomeWalk is Saturday, Nov. 21. That’s like 36 hours from now. Time’s a wastin’! We need to raise that money today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Now.

Please donate right now.

Thank you.

Returning to Star Wars

I’ve been re-watching Star Wars with the kids in anticipation of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. We finished tonight with Return of the Jedi.

Ah, so good. I loved that movie as a kid. I don’t think I’ve loved it recently, but today I really enjoyed it again. I think the kids enjoyed it too, though they had more fun playing with the box of my 30-year-old Star Wars toys.

What Order?

So the big question was what order to watch the movies in. Prequels first? (Pshhh, nope.) Originals first?

I went with Machete Order—4, 5, 2, 3 and 6 (and you completely skip 1). Good choice. You skip all the useless stuff in number one (Jar Jar, midichlorians, boy Anakin and major characters that never show up again—Qui-Gon and Darth Maul). The only downside is that watching Episode I makes Episode II seem good by comparison. Continue reading Returning to Star Wars

Music I’m Listening to Lately

Spotify has been a constant work companion lately, a good way to sample music and it seems to work so much better than iTunes (which is really counter what you expect from Apple).

Though I still like to own music and every few months I hop over to iTunes to buy a bunch of my favorite tracks from Spotify to make CDs for the car and to have music on my phone.

Here are some recent tunes I’m enjoying:

  • Addie Zierman turned me on to Noah Gunderson today (I also stole this post format from her, albeit in an abbreviated style), and I’ve been listening to the whole catalog on repeat. He’s got a folk style with a bit of a country twang (but not too much—I don’t like country), and the lyrics are darkly spiritual. I’m still exploring, but “Poor Man’s Son” is a great track with snippets of “Down to the River to Pray.”
  • I discovered Liz Vice a while ago and she recently re-released her album. It sounds like old school Motown music (says the person with no musical education whatsoever). “Abide” is a pretty good representative track.
  • The Oh Hellos are a fun folk-rockish-praise band. “Lay Me Down” and “Trees” are good.
  • Elle King is kind of stomp rock with a little country twist. “Ex’s & Oh’s” is her big hit, but I think “America’s Sweetheart” is better.
  • “Is God Real?” by Kasey Chambers is one of those (not-so) rare songs about God that pops up on the radio and gets stuck in your head. Kind of reminds me of “What If God Was One of Us.”
  • Gary Clark Jr. is probably one of those musicians I would have discovered a long time ago if I had any musical knowledge. He has that ancient blues sound. “Church” from his new album is good and I really like the 7-minute live version of “When My Train Pulls In.”
  • “Stay” by Fallbrigade is an incredible track. Not sure who they are, but I really like this one.
  • And on my teenage girl kick, I’m enjoying “Ugly Heart” by G.R.L. and “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon.
  • If I have the story straight, Amanda Opelt is the sister of Rachel Held Evans and wrote a 7-song album about the sacraments that pairs with Rachel’s book, Searching for Sunday, which is organized around the sacraments. Amanda’s music is simple and pretty. It’s hard to pick a best track, but I think it’s “Harvest (Marriage).”

How to Find New Music

Finding music is always hard. My go-to sources are things people mention online (how I found Noah Gunderson, Liz Vice & Amanda Opelt), The Current (Elle King, Kasey Chambers, Gary Clark Jr.) and Spotify’s recommendations/browsing (The Oh Hellos, Fallbrigade, G.R.L. and Walk the Moon).

My most recent favorite feature of Spotify is their Discover Weekly playlist. Every week they make a new custom playlist of songs just for you. It’s about 30 songs and I assume they use some fancy algorithm based on what I listen to. It’s not full of songs I love, but I usually find a few songs I like and that gives me new artists to check out.

Turning on the Heat 2015

I caved and turned on the heat today. It’s cold and drizzly outside, 43 degrees right now and dropping, with no hope of sun. It’s been a really nice fall and we’ve had lots of sunny days that have kept it warm enough, but the dark and drizzly really does you in.

On the upside, this is the longest we’ve ever gone before turning on the heat. New record! So that’s something.

Summer Book Club With Lexi

This summer my daughter Lexi and I had a book club. My wife would pick a book for us to read (which avoided fights about what to read), we’d both read it, then go to a coffeeshop to talk about it.

It worked out pretty good, though I’m surprised we only got through four books. That’s probably more my fault, since I was reading so much I’d have to work our book club book into the queue.

Here are the books we read:

  • The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Lexi’s favorite: Wonder

My favorite: Counting by 7s

Lexi wants to keep doing the book club throughout the school year, so it must have been a success.

Diversity in Fantasy Books

I read a lot, obviously, and sci-fi is one of my favorite genres. But I like a very specific kind of sci-fi—generally realistic space adventures—and I’m not a big fan of fantasy.

There are always a few standout hits—Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, A Wrinkle in Time—but in general I don’t like fantasy. I think part of the problem is no clear delineation of the stakes. When you use magic,  suddenly anything is possible. Can that tiny guy beat the big guy? I don’t know. The drama is undermined because the rules of magic are unclear. With realistic space adventures at least they have to pretend to scientifically explain some new technology.

Sidebar: This is one of my frustrations with the Transformers movies (among many). There’s no sense of which robot is stronger. Optimus Prime is always able to pull out some new reserve or strength to fight back, even if he just had his arm chopped off (why didn’t you use that move to keep your arm?). It’s always used as a dramatic climax, but it actually undermines the tension. Continue reading Diversity in Fantasy Books

U2 Live in Chicago: Innocence & Experience Tour, June 28, 2015

U2 Innocence & Experience Show, Sunday, June 28, 2015, ChicagoLast weekend Abby and I traveled to Chicago to see U2’s Innocence and Experience tour at the United Center. We saw the Sunday, June 28 show and it was pretty amazing.

Stage Setup

It was our fourth U2 show, and while nothing can beat watching U2 during a rainstorm, this was pretty good. I’m continually amazed with their stage setup. They had a walkway down the middle of the arena, with a video screen/catwalk that could be raised and lowered.

So at one point The Edge is walking along the walkway while Bono is walking towards him on the catwalk, 10 feet higher in the air, with a video screen around him that makes it look like Bono was walking down the street.

U2 Innocence & Experience Show, Sunday, June 28, 2015, Chicago

You can see lots more pictures here.


U2 also played a great mix of songs, playing a lot from the new album (7 songs total) but also playing all the old favorites. I had a hard time coming up with a classic song they didn’t play (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is probably the one I missed the most, but they hit so many others and have so many classics, seems like a win to me).

They also included some they haven’t played much, including “Gloria” (not played live in 10 years) and “Lucifer’s Hands” (a b-side for the new album they’ve only played live once before).

I couldn’t help grabbing some video:

(I also got “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Every Breaking Wave,” and “All I Want Is You.”

Gay Pride

The show was on Sunday, June 28 and the Friday before the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its historic ruling on gay marriage. This was the first U2 show since the decision and it was referenced a coupled times.

First, U2 played “Bullet the Blue Sky” and Bono referenced “Don’t Shoot” and “Can’t Breathe” from the Black Lives Matter movement, before doing a snippet of “The Hands That Built America” and then launching into “Pride (In the Name of Love).”

During “Pride” a rainbow flag landed on the stage that Bono twirled around before shouting, “Gay pride in the name of love!” Then he urged the crowd to sing for Baltimore, Ferguson and Charleston, referring to the on-going racial violence in the U.S.

While introducing the final song, “One,” Bono again returned to gay marriage: “Why would you be against anyone committing their lives to each other?” He dedicated the song to Chicago’s Pride parade that happened that day and put in a little dig that Ireland passed gay marriage before the U.S. (“We put the gay in Gaelic”).

All in all it was a pretty amazing show. Lots of energy, lots of heart, lots of rock.

From Ferguson to Charleston: Institutional Racism

In the past year racism has been in the spotlight more than any time I remember in my life. From Ferguson to Cleveland to Baltimore to McKinney to Charleston, from police brutality to a white supremacist terrorist. It’s prompting some honest and difficult conversations. I hope you’re joining them.

These events and conversations are important to me. The fact is systemic racism continues to be a problem in America today. It’s not overt like it was during Jim Crow. It’s often subconscious. It’s often systemic. It’s often something we (I) don’t even realize we’re doing. But it’s there.

What’s so amazing about this moment right now is that we’re actually having those conversations. I’m completely shocked that the Charleston shooting has turned into a reexamination of the Confederate flag. In some ways that’s getting lost in the weeds, and if we think removing one symbol is going to change much we’d be mistaken. But it’s a small step of progress to recognize the oppression of our past.

People much smarter than I are weighing in on this issue and saying much smarter things than I ever could. So rather than ramble on, I’m going to link to them.

I’ll just close by saying I think we’re watching history happen. Something is changing in America right now. Let’s be a part of making that a change for the good of all people.

I doubt I’ve lived this out very well this past week (or even months as this conversation has gone on), but it’s a powerful prayer to live up to:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
(St. Francis)

Mad Max Is Just a Movie

I watched Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday and it’s all kinds of ridiculous. Who waits 30 years to continue a franchise? Who makes an entire movie one long car chase? Who threatens a boycott of an an action movie because it’s too feminist?

Mad Max is all kinds of absurd. And it’s awesome.

The best example of its absurdity: Bringing your own theme music along on a chase scene, complete with a rock ‘n roll car, fronted by an insane guitar player who can—wait for it—shoot fire from his guitar.



That flame-throwing guitar is real, by the way. No CGI involved.

If anyone expected Mad Max to make a lot of sense, you’re in the wrong movie. It’s just a lot of crazy action and some bad ass people.

What is perhaps the most absurd thing about the movie is how everyone is calling it a feminist movie. Yes, there are strong female characters. Yes, Charlize Theron’s character totally overshadows Mad Max. Yes, there’s a crew of old-aged biker chicks with the mantra, “One man, one bullet.” (78-year-old Melissa Jaffer did her own stunts.) And yes, the damsels in distress are pretty well rescuing themselves.

So what?

It’s awesome. It fits perfectly in the post-apocalyptic world to have women reduced to objects and pushed to the point they fight back. Girl power isn’t exactly new in Mad Max. Tina Turner was quite the bad ass in charge. There was even the Warrior Woman in Road Warrior, fighting off the horde to the death.

It’s refreshing to see an action movie that takes women seriously. But do we really need to call it feminist? Can’t we just call it a movie?

The Age of the Movie Saga

We’ve entered the age of the movie saga. Movies no longer come with one or two sequels, instead it’s an entire series. It’s a big shift from when I grew up and makes things interesting for my kids.

My kids don’t watch a ton of TV (we make them earn TV time with optional chores, which means they usually opt to play outside instead), but over spring break we relaxed a little. Knowing the next Avengers movie is coming out soon, I got a pile of DVDs from the library.

Both kids have seen and like the Avengers, but they haven’t watched all the other movies. I hadn’t even seen them all. So over break we watched Captain America 1,  Thor 1 & 2 as well as X-Men 1.

To truly catch the kids up on the Marvel series they’d also have to see Iron Man 1, 2 & 3 (not sure about that… I remember Iron Man 1 being awfully violent for a 6-year-old) and Hulk. Plus the Agents of Shield TV show. Thankfully none of it is required watching—Marvel does a nice job of stringing things loosely together (you could enjoy Avengers without having seen any of the other movies… I had only seen Iron Man 1 & 2 and Thor 1).

When you try to put the entire saga together to date, there are 10 movies: Hulk, Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, Captain America 1, Thor 1, Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy (so the last one is very loosely connected… but the post-credits scene at the end of Thor 2 shows they are connected, and will be more connected in the future). There are even marathon screenings of all the movies leading up to Avengers 2. At 27 hours, we’ve moved beyond the movie marathon. And it’s only going to grow. Marvel has a roll-out plan into 2019 that will nearly double the number of movies. Continue reading The Age of the Movie Saga

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.