Bobblehead Idea

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Larry Nance Jr. on February 8, 2018.

On February 18, 2018 — just ten days after his trade to Cleveland — Nance represented the Cavaliers in the All-Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest. One of his most notable dunks from the contest was an homage to his father, Larry Nance Sr., who won the first ever Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 (and who also eventually played for the Cavaliers from 1988 to 1994).

My boys and I have been Cavaliers fans for a long time. We loved the dunk, and we loved the connection that Larry Nance Jr. sparked with long-time Cavaliers fans, like us, through that performance in the 2018 All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. Not long after All-Star Weekend, Elliot (my oldest son) started talking about a brilliant idea for a Cavaliers bobblehead promotion that could tie into the father-son dunking legacy — and I thought the idea was good enough that I encouraged him to submit it to the team for consideration.

On March 9, 2018, Elliot wrote an e-mail to the Cavaliers Public Relations team, through a sort of online Suggestion Box. Here’s what he wrote:

I was thinking about all of the bobble head nights that you do and had an idea. What if you did a bobble head with two people on it? Larry Nance Jr. in his cavs #22 jersey, about to dunk, with his dad next to him, striking the same pose, in an old cavs blue jersey. If you do use this idea, I would really love to get 5 of the bobble heads, plus 4 tickets to a game (preferably playoff).

Elliot Asp, e-mail sent March 9, 2018 at 1:40 PM

On September 13, 2018, Elliot saw a new Cavaliers’ team schedule which included promotion plans for the upcoming season. It included mention of a Larry Nance Jr. / Sr. promotion. So Elliot wrote back to the e-mail address he had used the previous spring:

I’m so excited to see that you’re doing the Larry Nance Jr. / Senior promotion! Any chance I was a part of the inspiration? (See my e-mail below from March 2018). Any chance you could hook me up with some tickets like I asked back when I made my original suggestion? Thanks! Go Cavs!

Elliot Asp, e-mail sent September 13, 2018 at 5:41 PM

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not replied to any of Elliot’s communications, so they have “plausible deniability” that they ever received his idea at all. Still, this past week, on February 14, 2019, the Cavaliers Public Relations Team posted some new details and images related to the Larry Nance Jr. / Sr. Bobblehead Promotion on their Twitter account. And the similarities between the Cavaliers’ bobblehead idea and Elliot’s bobblehead idea are quite remarkable:

We’re choosing to believe that “Great minds think alike!” It may well have been pure coincidence that these ideas came about completely independently of each other. But even if that is the case, we’d love to celebrate this stroke of brilliance together with the Cavaliers, as Elliot originally requested.

Could you help us to get out the word of this brilliant Bobblehead Idea? We want to work with the Cavs, not against the Cavs, on this promotion — but we do think it would be nice for the Cavaliers to reach out to us and offer tickets to these upcoming Cavaliers games, where the Larry Nance Jr. / Sr. Bobblehead Promotion will be happening.

Please help us out by tweeting about this, referencing the Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs), Larry Nance Jr. (@Larrydn22), Key Bank (@KeyBank), and Car Parts Warehouse (@CarPartsWhse), the team’s preferred hashtag #BeTheFight and our preferred hashtag #BobbleheadIdea.

Posted in Children, Family, Ohio, Recreation, Sports | Leave a comment

Hall of Presidential Facial Hair

Of the 44 men to serve as President of the United States, as many as 20 of them (45 percent) featured some sort of facial hair, depending on how you count. With the President’s Day Weekend upon us, it seemed fun to put together a “Hall of Presidential Facial Hair.”


George Washington (our 1st President) barely makes the list of Presidential Facial Hair because of his Sideburns. Another seven presidents went on to feature Bottom-of-the-Earlobe (or lesser) Sideburns: mostly in the period between 1789 and 1837, and then again from 1968 to 1980.

Full Side-Whiskers

John Quincy Adams (our 6th President) took Sideburns to the next level, though. His facial hair was more serious. More prominent. And few other presidents took after his style of facial hair, between the years 1825 and 1850, including:

The “Abraham Lincoln”

Abraham Lincoln (our 16th President) was something special, both in terms of his historical impact and in terms of his facial hair. He was the only president to go with a full beard and no mustache, from 1861 to 1865. No other president has attempted this look, so he gets a category of his own.

Full Beard

Ulysses Grant (our 18th President) was the first president to go with a Full Beard with a Mustache. Grant’s was fairly short-cropped and close to his face. Subsequent presidents, from 1869 to 1893, went all-out in the growth of their facial hair — to even greater lengths. Our full-bearded presidents were:

The “Chester Arthur”

Chester Arthur (our 21st President) did not have nearly the level of historical impact held by Abraham Lincoln — holding office from 1881 to 1885 — but he did have one of the most unique forms of facial hair: sideburns that linked up directly with a mustache. For this, he also gets his own category of Presidential Facial Hair.

The Mustache

Grover Cleveland (our 22nd and 24th President) ushered in the Era of the Mustache, which ran roughly from 1885 to 1913.

What Comes Next?

I think it’s fascinating to observe the ways that fashion — both in Politics and in Facial Hair — has changed over time. Do you think it will ever become popular for a political figure to feature facial hair again? Is so, which style?

In the meantime, we’re left to reflect upon the past — and I’ve developed a habit of taking the week between President’s Day and my birthday (February 26th) to gradually lose my winter beard, with a new homage to a former president, every few days. This year, I think I’m going to salute Ohio presidents Ulysses S Grant and William Howard Taft on my way from fully-bearded to clean-shaven.

Happy President’s Day, in any event! I hope it’s a good weekend for you!

Posted in American Politics, Culture, Nostalgia, Politics, The United States of America | Leave a comment

The Feast Day of St. Eros

Kent Stater 2/14/19

Reading today’s copy of the Kent Stater was an educational experience for me. I learned that 56 percent of people believe in love at first sight (though I’m one of the 44 percent of others on this one)… I learned that I, a “vanilla” pastor and family man, whole-heartedly agree with some of the central tenets of Kent State’s K.I.N.K. chapter: namely, the strong need for communication in relationships and in sexual activity… I learned about the pantheon of apps designed to help college students hook up: Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Hinge… And I learned that Kent State University is #6 in the United States of America for “Sugar Babies,” which are defined as, “young people of any gender who get paid by older adults (sugar daddies and mommies) to provide a companionship.”

At the same time, this newspaper edition — and the general atmosphere of a place like Kent State University on Valentine’s Day — also reminded me of a piece I wrote a long time ago, which delved into some dynamics that have been around for decades, and even thousands of years. It seemed like it might be worth republishing today, so I’m copying it (with a few minor edits) here below:

It seems that most Christians who raise objections to the increasing sexualization of our culture (including issues ranging from teenage pregnancy to gay marriage) do so on the basis of the Seventh Commandment (“thou shalt not commit adultery”) and the Tenth Commandment (“thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”) of the Mosaic Law. I believe that a focus on the Ten Commandments bypasses the fundamental issue that every human stands condemned under Mosaic Law… However — if we’re going to be talking about the Ten Commandments anyway — I think we would actually do better to focus on the First and Second Commandments instead…

Without the awareness of almost all the parties in the discussion, a large part of the ideological conflict surrounding sexuality and spirituality comes down to who or what is worshiped in our lives. Is it God? Or is it something else (an idol)? Even though most people in our culture would not be able to articulate it in this way, it seems to me that the God of our culture is Eros.

Eros was the Greek God of lust, love, and intercourse. In addition, Eros was one of four Greek verbs distinguishing various emotions that are roughly equivalent to different uses of the English word “Love.”  As opposed to Phileos (φιλßα = friendship love), Agape (ἀγαπη = divine love), and Storge (στοργÞ = parental love) — Eros (ἔρως) indicates passionate love, with sensual desire and longing… Romantic love, sexual love, the love of dating relationships and marriage.

And frankly, I can’t think of any bigger idol in our culture today than Eros.

I don’t know exact figures, but it seems that the vast majority of films and television series today are centered around (or at least include a significant sub-plot of) some kind of love story (which is basically a form of Eros). It’s difficult to think of any popular songs on the radio that don’t essentially function as worship songs for Eros. I’ve heard that something like 80 percent of cyperspace has been developed and is being used for pornographic content (yet another form of Eros). Popular psychologists suggest that people think about sex on a virtually constant basis (Freudian psychology will even tie issues that we would typically consider to be asexual back in with some kind of repressed sexual desire). Eros is everywhere.

It’s interesting to note that our idolatry of Eros assumes different forms in different people. For men, the obsession is more typically related to sex and lust. For women, the obsession is more typically related to romance and relationships. But in any event, it all comes back to the questions of: Who or what do we trust to bring us salvation? Rescue? Hope? Meaning? Significance? Identity? Belonging? Acceptance? If we’re having a bad day, what is the drug that helps us cope (fantasy, masturbation, boyfriends / girlfriends, romantic comedies)?

This is where our culture creates a tension between sexuality and spirituality. Even though they were created by God for our good — love and sexuality have become distorted and elevated above their Creator! This phenomenon of idolatry seems to be well-described in the Bible. Romans 1:19-27, and 32, in particular, reads like a page out of this morning’s newspaper; it’s astonishing, really, to realize how accurately this section of the ancient Christian scriptures describes today’s idolatry of Eros.

Thus, in a good way (I guess), a lot of the conversation among Christians about sexuality is meant to deal with this blatantly obvious idol in our culture. Nevertheless, Christians also seem to often overdo it, in their attempts to point out the idol in our culture. It seems that perhaps we’ve come too far (though, admittedly, a good balance is very difficult to achieve). For many Christians, sexual sin is made out to be bigger or worse than other sin (like lying or gossip). Furthermore, we often fail to separate the sin (the behavior) from the sinner (the person). And because sexuality is so personal and so often tied up in a sense of identity, arguments about the issues surrounding sexuality and spirituality can become quickly elevated and emotional. Disagreements about viewpoints can feel like personal attacks and harsh, judgmental attitudes. And unfortunately, Christians don’t often do much to diffuse this tension…

For now, I would encourage us all to take a look at the world around us — and take a look at our own lives… Do you see the influence of Eros? Can you smell the burnt offerings smoldering on the embers of a thousand altars in our society? And can you confirm that we’ve got a problem that may be pointing us back to God?

Posted in Culture, Culture Shock, God, Recommended Reading, Sexuality, Social Issues, The Bible | Leave a comment

Twinning is Winning

Why is “twinning” so fun?

I’ve noticed and enjoyed the phenomenon since I was a kid. My brother and I would dress identically in an attempt to confuse people, and I suppose it was just silly childhood amusement. But I wonder if there’s something more fundamental at play. Why do we recognize and rejoice in repeating patterns (especially when they’re unintentional)?

Is twinning a sort of social reassurance in the face of insecurity? Like, “I can’t be all that weird or bad, if someone else has chosen to wear the same sort of clothing that I chose for today.” A kind of primal herd mentality? Is it a divine reminder that we’re not just creatures of blind, random chance? That there is some Intelligent Design at work in our universe, just as there is in our wardrobe selection? Or is it just a fondness for pattern recognition in the human brain?

I honestly don’t know the reasons why we say that “Twinning is winning,” but it’s been fun to notice and document several instances in the last week.

Posted in Introspection, Photography | Leave a comment

Prayer for Alpha

Our Life Group is starting a new Alpha Course tonight!

Please pray for us and with us, as we hope to start a semester-long dialogue: with new Christians, with people seriously considering the faith, and with people who would self-identify as non-Christians.

I believe there is strong reason for optimism and hope about this initiative. At the same time, we really have no idea what to expect for tonight or the rest of the semester. I’ve been sending a lot of text messages about the Alpha Course, and there was one interaction that was particularly unusual.

Texts with a Snarky Skeptic

I started with giving this person the same information that I texted out to everyone else in H2O Kent’s database who had indicated that they might have some Questions about Christianity at some point or another during this school year. I was surprised, actually, by how quickly he responded — and with an apparent interest in getting involved!

But as our interaction over text messaging continued, I began to sense that the other guy was more interested in using our text conversation for amusement or antagonism, as opposed to actual engagement.

Texts with a Snarky Skeptic

I chose to stick with “Dumb and Cheerful” as my response tactic. I honestly don’t know what sort of effect our interaction might have had, but I was praying that God might use it in some way (even if on a subconscious level).

Texts with a Snarky Skeptic

In the end, I took too long to respond to his last GIF that I felt it was probably best to let the interaction die. Still, I can’t completely get this guy out of my mind. Interactions like these are either “unfortunate” or “amusing,” depending on how you look at it (and I really think there are elements of both). Still, I believe that the spiritual battle at Kent State is real.

That’s why we’re putting it in God’s hands and we ask you do join us in doing the same.

Posted in Church, H2O Kent, Kent, Ministry, Prayer, Small Groups | Leave a comment

Basketball (And Other Things)

I recently finished reading Shea Serrano’s book, Basketball (And Other Things).

The author’s own abstract is a pretty helpful summary: “This book is made up of thirty-three chapters. Each chapter is a different basketball question that needs to be answered. Some of them are obviously crucial (Example: What’s the Most Important NBA Championship?) and some of them are secretly crucial (Example: Was Kobe Bryant a Dork?). But all of them are approached in ways that (I hope you think) are smart and fun and nuanced. There are illustrations throughout the book and there are some charts in it, too. Also, you should know ahead of time that some of the pieces go a bit sideways at times, like the chapter that ends up just being the script of an action movie, or the other chapter that’s actually just a bunch of lists and nothing else. Basketball is fun.”

It’s an irreverent book. Seranno uses lots of foul language, demonstrates some disrespectful views of sexuality, and talks some trash toward others. As a pastor, I feel like I have to mention these “Un-Christian” elements. But I also recognize that the language, sexuality, and trash-talking are largely a product of his subject material; a great deal of basketball culture is street culture. But if you love basketball (especially NBA basketball) — as I do — it’s hard not to love this book.

I like Serrano’s sense of humor. There were moments when I laughed out loud, as I read his snarky comments. I respect his take on the sport of basketball and its history. I appreciate the fact that he ranks Cleveland’s 2016 NBA Championship in his Top Three Championships of All Time. I don’t expect this book will be winning any literary prizes any time soon, nor do I feel like there’s some deep meaning to be gleaned from the book. Still, there’s something to be said for the fact that reading this book was genuinely recreational for me.

Posted in Recommendations, Recommended Reading, Sports | Leave a comment


My family recently watched the series finale from Parks and Recreation. Have you ever seen it (the series or the finale)? The show’s final episode is a series of “Flash-Forward” events for each character, projecting their lives into the future in a really fun and unique take on the idea of a “happy ending.”

Leslie, Ben, and Jerry/Garry each end up serving long, distinguished careers in high political office (with some insinuation that one of them even ended up in the White House).

Donna and Craig ended up fabulously-wealthy and happily married to their respective soul mates, living lives of leisure and philanthropy.

Tom and Andy both experience great creative fulfillment and fame.

And Ron gets appointed as the superintendent for the new National Park established just outside of Pawnee, spending his days roaming the park by foot and canoe.

I know that they’re fictional characters and story-lines, but they seem to be representative of various paths to “happiness” and “fulfillment.” So, it’s gotten me thinking about “success.” And in all honesty, I’ve started getting discouraged. “What am I doing as a middle-aged support-based missionary to students at Kent State University, here in the suburbs of northeast Ohio?!?

Then I remembered John 13. I recently re-read this chapter and wrote in my journal: “A choice to follow Jesus is a choice to wash feet, do slave labor, and lead with love — not power or money or fame or personal comfort.” Do you remember this passage from the Bible? How Jesus started off with washing his disciples’ feet? How he talked through all the ways that his closest companions were going to let him down through betrayal and denial? And then he instructed them to lead with love?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it looks like for me to live out the New Commandment here in Kent. It’s a focus for our church this year. And I would hope this focus would lend itself to a bunch of happy, smiley group portraits that you guys will smile at, when you see the picture again 20 years from now… I love the thought of road trips together as friends: fully loaded with snacks and supplies, good music playing on the car’s audio system (maybe on the way to ManMaker or Women’s Weekend)… And of course, I also think of intimate, heart-to-heart connections over coffee at Bent Tree…

But I’ve also been challenged to think of some of the more challenging, radical, foot-washing aspects of John 13 living, like practicing good conflict management (Matthew 5 and Matthew 18)… Or making selfless decisions (Philippians 2)… If we’re going to effectively live out the New Commandment, I think we’re going to have to get especially good at loving the people around us especially when they’re being difficult… If we’re faithful to the principles of John 13, I imagine we will need to open ourselves up to constructive criticism… We’ll need to build skills in empathy and listening… We’ll need to reach out of our comfort zones to interact with people who are different from us…

I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will be active in our midst this year, creating a palpable sense of love among us, so that we can bring God’s love to others, as well… I’m praying that we will receive what we need — through prayer, through worship, through conversation, through Scripture — to feel fully empowered as agents of reconciliation and peace and servant-leadership here in Kent.

But I’m also praying that I will keep my eyes on a sort of “Flash-Forward” to the Great Banquet described in the New Testament of the Bible. Where no one has to worry about position or privilege anymore, and everyone can just rejoice that we get to be with Jesus in His Kingdom.

Posted in Church, H2O Kent, Introspection, Kent, Leadership, Recommended Viewing, The Bible | Comments Off on Flash-Forward

February 2019 Prayer Letter

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14)

Greetings from Kent! It’s been a good week for us here in northeast Ohio. The weather bounced from a low of -35℉ (factoring in wind-chill) last Thursday to a high of 60℉ on Monday. Elliot was awarded first place in a school Marketing competition, after a lot of work to prepare for his presentation. Olivia found out that she made it into the the more advanced large-group choir at the high school for next year, after stressing about her audition for days. I can’t say that Marci, Cor, or I have received any special commendations, but I’d say we’ve been doing pretty well, too. Our lives aren’t perfect, and we can almost certainly expect some setbacks in the weeks to come. But it’s nice to have a good week every now and then, isn’t it?!?

Anyway: Do you want to hear something crazy (almost as crazy as a 95℉ temperature swing over the space of five days)?!? I recently realized that I’ve now been doing full-time support-based ministry for over twenty years!

When we first went to New Staff Training in January of 1999, Marci and I had no idea about where God would take us over the next two decades. We didn’t know if or how it would be possible to raise children on the salary of a support-based missionary. We didn’t know that God would use our family to help plant a church in Amsterdam, over the course a decade in Europe. We didn’t know that our one little H2O Church at Bowling Green State University would multiply to become a network of ten H2O Churches at ten campuses across the region (including Kent State University) — plus two other campuses outside of the region! Wow! It’s amazing to think of everything God has done over the past two decades!

Thank you for your partnership in our ministry! You are an essential part of the ministry team that allows all of this to happen, whether you have been involved for all twenty years (I’m amazed to realize that there are a few of you who fall into that category!), or you just joined our ministry team within the past twenty days (I’m also very encouraged that we’re getting some much-needed “fresh legs” to sustain us as we get started on Decade #3!). I could say “Thank you” twenty times in a row, and it still wouldn’t adequately convey our hearts’ appreciation for walking with us in this journey of faith. Seriously, though: Thank you.

It seems fitting to use this month’s prayer letter to recruit your prayer support for a strategic outreach initiative which we’re launching in Kent this week. It’s called the Alpha Course, and this happens to be the third time I’ve helped to lead an Alpha Course in my last twenty years of ministry. Previous experience gives me great reason for hope and anticipation. I recently found a prayer letter I wrote in October 2005, which described an experience with a student from Japan who visited our small group Bible study in Amsterdam. At this particular small group meeting, we started to prepare for a time of praying together, at which point this visiting student interrupted and asked simply “How do I pray?” In that October 2005 prayer letter, I wrote the following description for how this motivated us to launch an Alpha Course under circumstances that are shockingly similar to dynamics playing out in Kent this semester:

Believe it or not, he represents the majority—not the minority—of people in the world today.. It can be almost overwhelming to realize that 98 percent of the population is equally unfamiliar (if not even more clueless) regarding the basics of the Christian faith. And believe it or not, my experience has led me to believe that it’s typically not antagonism or apathy toward the message of Christ — in fact most people think very positively of Jesus, and they seem very curious to learn more about him — rather, it seems to be a simple lack of exposure that prevents understanding and response… Consequently, our home group recently made a decision together to sponsor an “Alpha course.”

In case you’ve never heard of Alpha before, it’s a series of talks addressing key issues relating to the Christian faith: Who Is Jesus? Why Did He Die? Why and How Should I Read the Bible? Why and How Do I Pray? Who Is the Holy Spirit? What about the Church? Several such topics are explored over the course of an eleven-week period… Each session starts with eating together, which gives people a chance to get to know each other. Then, there is an introduction to a particular subject, and the group breaks down into smaller discussion groups to interact on the topic of the evening, ask questions and express opinions — one of the main rules being that Alpha is a place where no question is too simple or too hostile.

Starting this week, our Alpha course will run through the remainder of the Spring Semester at Kent State University. Every Thursday evening, we’ll gather in an apartment on the south-west side of campus for the sessions. Five of us from H2O’s Off-Campus Life Group (Jake, David, Zoe, Peter, and I) will serve as leaders for the course, and we will be joined by others — including new Christians, people seriously considering the faith, and people who are self-proclaimed non-Christians. Everyone involved seems to be very excited to see what will happen through this process, and we’re really praying that God will use this Alpha course to draw all of the course participants closer to Him.

So, I wanted to get this prayer letter out today to ask you to join us in prayer for our Alpha Course. We need a coordinated prayer effort to support the leaders and participants involved. And this is where I realize, with a fresh sense of awe and encouragement, that we have a dedicated team of over 100 people who support our family’s involvement in the ministry of H2O Kent! It’s such a privilege to recruit yourprayer support for the Alpha course! So please pray that God would empower us as leaders, “that whenever we open our mouths, words may be given us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which we are ambassadors” (Ephesians 6:19-20). And of course, please pray for the participants in the course that they may have soft and open hearts to the message of God’s truth. Without a doubt, we face a spiritual battle in sponsoring a course like this — and your prayer support is a vital ministry, especially in these upcoming eleven weeks.

Thanks, again, for everything! We’ll be in touch…

Posted in Amsterdam50, Church, God, H2O Kent, Kent, Ministry, Nostalgia, Prayer, Prayer Letters, The Bible | Comments Off on February 2019 Prayer Letter

Quick Reference Guide to Bad-Asp Points for Running

I’ve written at length about my system of “Bad-Asp” Points for Running, but for those who would appreciate a quick reference guide, I’ve assembled a table that summarizes everything as concisely as possible.

You can remember the categories with the acronym, “I’M SO BAD ASP!

(blisters, blackened toenails, chafing, frostbite, etc.)
15 points each
(every mile beyond the 3-7 mile threshold)
3 points per mile
Surface Conditions
(trail, snow, ice, etc.)
10 points
(ice beard, mud splatter, etc.)
25 points
(any bleeding or oozing wound)
25 points each
(every 25′ of gain beyond 300′ threshold)
1 pt. per 25′
(every 10 min. pre-sunrise or post-sunset)
1 pt. per 10 min.
Atmospheric Conditions
(for every degree Fahrenheit, including wind chill or
heat index, outside of the 35-75° threshold)
1 pt. per degree
Slips and Falls
(getting knocked off one’s feet by surface conditions)
10 points each
(any steady, unpleasant precipitation,
at any temperature)
10 points

Today, I earned 97 Bad-Asp Points for Running! How about you?

Posted in Recreation, Running, Weather | Comments Off on Quick Reference Guide to Bad-Asp Points for Running


My Dutch language skills have been diminishing gradually since 2012, when our family moved back to Ohio after a decade in Amsterdam. I recently subscribed to a Dutch podcast, however, as a way to counteract that erosion. I expected that this decision would be kind of like “eating my audio vegetables” — but to my surprise and delight, this podcast has ended up becoming one of my favorite podcasts of the year.

It’s a six-part series called “Bob.” It’s not an acronym. It’s a person’s name — and kind of a funny one at that, especially when Dutch-speakers say it with their more rounded “o” sound. There are a couple of places where the producers actually play around a bit with the regular repetition of the name “Bob” — so I think they appreciate the sound of the name, too — too but the story itself is not funny or flippant.

It’s a story about an 84-year-old woman dealing with the onset of dementia.

The narrative plays out in a way that’s reminiscent of more established podcasts like “This American Life” or “Serial” or “S-Town” — but something about the subject matter and the circumstances surrounding the story makes everything extra-evocative. I’ve done my best to translate the introduction supplied on the podcast website (with a bit of artistic license):

From her room in a nursing home in Antwerp, Elisa starts talking about a boy named Bob, from her neighborhood back in 1947. She says that they sometimes met in the garden of an empty house. To talk, to share secrets, and to give each other kisses…

But when Elisa becomes pregnant, her father sends her to a convent — away from the curious eyes of their neighbors and away from the hands of Bob. She goes into the convent with a baby in her belly, and when she emerges her hands were empty.

Elisa never doubts her own story. But her three daughters, who had never previously heard the name Bob escape her lips, didn’t know what to believe. Was their mother revealing a great family secret, or was she no longer capable of separating fact from fiction?

In six episodes, Nele Eeckhout, Siona Houthuys, and Mirke Kist set out to discover the truth. But how, they ask, do you find someone who may have never existed?

I love the way this story is woven, ducking and diving through issues of family dysfunction, societal attitudes towards unplanned pregnancies, feelings of shame, fears of suicide, aging, mental health, and rights to privacy. The podcast borrows from some techniques from some great American podcasts I’ve come to love, but it also puts its unique Dutch / Belgian perspective on things.

I was worried about how much the language might get in the way of my understanding when I heard the producers’ southern accents and how much they were relying on interviews with a scratchy-voiced senior-citizen with dementia. But the story was so strong that I was able to work through the linguistic challenges.

I’m really glad that I discovered this podcast, and if anyone else would be able to recommend any further Dutch-language podcasts like it, I would be very eager to hear them!

Posted in Culture, Language, Nederlands, Recommendations, Recommended Listening, The Netherlands | Comments Off on Bob