Battle of the Chicago Pizzas

Posted on: 11/13/08 9:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s? That’s really what it comes down to.

If you’re familiar with the Chicago area, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There are really only three places that Chicago dwellers talk about: Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, or Gino’s East (Sorry, Pizzeria Uno is good, but it’s not in league with the other three).

I fell in love with Giordano’s years ago when my cousin Wendy took Lori and I there. Since then, she’s been known to send me one via Fed Ex on special occasions. Over the years I have had Ginos East on several occasions and enjoyed it; it’s just no comparison to Giordano’s. But for whatever reason, I had never tried Lou Malnati’s. So I made it a priority to try it as I passed through Chicago this week.

Wednesday I flew into Chicago, stopped by my favorite Giordano’s restaurant, and headed up to Wisconsin where I was to teach a workshop for EV youth pastors in the district (fun group- we had a great time). After teaching the workshop Thursday, I headed back down to Chicago (only a few hours drive- worth it, rather than laying over in Chicago). This time I mapped out where a Lou Malnati’s restaurant was… and I stopped in for dinner.

You have to realize… Giordano’s is pure heaven to me. It would almost take a miracle for another pizza to surpass the “heaven sent” goodness of a Giordano’s pizza. So Lou Malnati’s had it’s work cut out for it.

The atmosphere of this particular Shaumburg location was really inviting. The booth was comfy and the waitress was nice. I told her that this was my first Lou Malnati’s experience. She told me that there was no comparison… Lou’s was the best. I was glad to hear it. I eagerly ordered my usual toppings (pepperoni and mushroom) and took the waitress’ advice by selecting Lou’s famous “butter crust.”

The pizza took 30 minutes, as do any good deep dish pizzas (Giordano’s actually takes 40 minutes because I always order the stuffed crust… drool, slobber…).

I was surprised how good the first bite was. My first thought, “Uh oh, Giordano’s has some competition.” Not that Lou’s was better mind you, but definitely in the same league. The sauce was what really caught my attention. Perfectly spicy. One of the best I’ve ever had.

As I dug deeper into the pizza, I realized that I wasn’t crazy about the crust. It’s good, mind you. But it’s no Giordano’s.

In Lou’s defense… it might be that I ordered the “butter crust.” I’m not a big fan of Gino’s East for that very reason. They literally have a yellow crust, very much like the buttery crust I tasted tonight at Lou’s. Next time I’m in Chicago, I’m going to have to give Lou’s a second chance, ordering the normal deep dish crust.

Well… there it is. Giordano’s maintains it’s position as #1 in my book. Not just #1 pizza place… #1 PLACE! (I’d take Giordano’s over Disneyland any day!)

Posted in Food, Personal, Travel |  | Leave A Comment

America’s Happiest People

Posted on: 11/12/08 4:31 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Do you wonder who enjoys their job the most?

A University of Chicago study offers a little insight into “Job Satisfaction in the United States.” And guess what came up as #1?


All you pastor and youth pastors, go ahead and celebrate… or maybe you already are… after all, you’re the happiest. You rate #1 for happiness with your occupation. You’re followed by firefighters, travel agents, architects, and special ed teachers.

Check out the whole article here.

(ht to David R. Smith)

Posted in Faith, News |  | Leave A Comment

Do Parents Really Know About Twilight?

Posted on: 11/10/08 8:26 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I was talking with a friend on Friday, a very conservative woman who homeschools her children. I asked her if her junior high daughter had expressed any interest in the Twilight books or upcoming movie.

She said, “What’s Twilight?”

I gave her the 5 second definition: “It’s the popular book series about a teenage girl falling in love with a vampire. The books have sold millions and it’s being released as a movie next week (with Midnight showings already sold out). Every teenage girl in the country is going crazy over it.” Even the movie’s soundtrack is hot.

She said, “I don’t think (my daughter) even knows about it. I know she hasn’t read it.”

I suggested that she ask her daughter.

She called her daughter over. “Have you heard of this Twilight?”

Her daughter paused for a second, glanced over at me, then back at her mother. “Yeah. I read a chapter over at Carly’s house.”

Trust me. Your kids have heard of Twilight, some have read Twilight, and most of them want to see the movie releasing a week from Friday. The question is… should they be reading Twilight? And is this movie okay?

Don’t get me wrong. If your daughter read a few chapters of one of these books over at her friend’s house, it’s not like she was playing Grand Theft Auto (something parents of girls usually don’t have to worry about). But I think parents should become familiar with exactly how sensual these books are. The books have been deemed “clean” by numerous moms groups because they don’t contain any sex. But is that line you want to use? (No sex… it must be fine then.)

What are the subtle messages of Twilight?

David (our ministry’s director of content development) and I spend a ton of time last week researching Twilight and looking in to all of this hype. We found that many Christians were concerned about the vampire element. Most of the world, however, thinks that this is the next best thing since Harry Potter. David and I had totally different concerns: the main character’s emotional vulnerability and the graphic sensuality.

This week, our YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW article (the article on our front page in that big magnifying glass) provides our complete take on the books and the film, addressing these issues. I’m not gonna condemn any parent who lets their daughters read the books. I just am a big advocate of them investigating a little bit about the series and having conversations with their kids about it. Parents need to be the one to make that decision. Our article will provide parents with most of the research you need (we link numerous other articles). We even touch on the differences you might find in the first book and the film. After all, Twilight has no sex. But what would you do if you found your daughter in her underwear kissing a guy in the bedroom?


My Girls, Part II

Posted on: 11/7/08 2:09 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay… on October 22nd I posted a blog with a picture of my two daughters (so dang cute). Basically, my wife Lori and I had gone running, and my girls rode their bikes with us. They rode back early (bored of watching Lori and I huffing and puffing) and began playing in the front yard (who says that junior high girls don’t still “play?”)

The result was a creative little checkers game they made from bark, leaves, etc.

I thought it was cute so I blogged about it and posted the pic. They thought that was “so cool!”

Sure enough, next time we went running they wanted to go back to the house early again… this time with a new enthusiasm. When Lori and I got home, they had constructed a clever little billiards game.

(they used twigs as sticks and some weird acorns as pool balls)

Now they keep trying to come up with new things. Two days ago they created a Twister game.

(look at their little “spinner” they made with a twig in the upper right of the pic. And notice they didn’t have colors for the dots, so they used a variation of twirls, squiggles, stripes, etc. LOL)

My girls are cute!!!

Posted in Family, Personal |  | Leave A Comment

Trojan vs. Candies Foundation

Posted on: 11/6/08 10:34 AM | by Jonathan McKee

To condom, or not to condom… that is the question.

Last week, a new Candies Foundation PSA was released during Gossip Girl (I guess the Candies Foundation thought they might as well hit the audience most likely to be “hooking up“).  Here’s that PSA:

The Candies Foundation exists to educate America’s youth about the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy. Their approach is quite the opposite of Trojan (who coincidentally, would love to sell a bunch of condoms). Hmmmmmm.

Much of the world seems to be siding with Trojan’s approach. “Have sex… just be safe.” (an easy sell, mind you) USA Today even refused to post a full page ad for the Candies Foundation’s “America, Wake-up!” PSA campaign. chimed in on the issue on 10/29/08 with guest poster Libby Issendorf. She didn’t care for Candies’ PSA.

The ad doesn’t choose sides in the abstinence vs. contraceptives debate; it just presents pregnancy as the consequence of sex. This tactic might scare teens, but the ad won’t succeed without a viable solution to this fear. Candie’s needs to advocate a method of protection instead of preaching, “If you have sex, you’ll get pregnant!”

The way Jenny McCarthy pops in and the girl’s snobby attitude toward her turn Candie’s into a nagging parent. I half-expected her to add, “And clean your room, young lady!” before the commercial ended. Couple this tone with the unresolved scare tactic, and the commercial comes across as an empty threat that makes most teens roll their eyes.

I’m equally disappointed in the website.The first things to catch my eye are images of a lovely Jamie Lynn, a poised Bristol and Levi, and four teenage girls, two with bulging pregnant bellies, on a carefree stroll. The photos glamorize teen pregnancy more than condemn it, and the entire site is boring and unattractive. I can’t interact with it beyond joining a Facebook group, and the “tips for parents” section will make teens feel as though this isn’t their space.

In contrast to this lackluster effort, I love Trojan’s Evolve campaign that encourages teens to use a condom every time. The website is incredibly attractive and easy to use. My favorite part is the “donate 1,000,000 condoms” feature. Teens can take a quiz, comment, and pass videos on to friends. Then, for every action, Trojan donates condoms to Americans at risk. So cool!

Although Libby seems knowledgeable in marketing and teenage perception, I can’t say I agree with her knowledge about the spread of STDs. Her contention that “Candie’s needs to advocate a method of protection instead of preaching, ‘If you have sex, you’ll get pregnant!‘” reveals her bias. Libby obviously sees “protection” as the only option, since we live in a world that apparently just can’t wait for sex!

I’d like to Ask Libby a few questions:

1. What does Trojan provide to protect against a broken heart, seeing that eight out of ten first time teen sexual relationship last six months or less, and most teenagers who have sex, regret it later and wish they had waited?

2. How effective is a condom against chlamydia, which is one of the leading cause of sterility in women? Where are condoms in that assault?

3. What is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women? How effective are condoms against that?

4. Who are we to believe: a foundation that seems to care about the decisions teenagers are making? Or a condom company that wants to sell more condoms?

Imagine My Surprise

Posted on: 11/5/08 9:20 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My dad and I were hanging out my house last week and I looked over on the kitchen counter and saw the new issue of GROUP Magazine. The cover said, “The Seven Deadly Sins” and had a subtitle about “Volunteer Recruiting Efforts.”

We both looked at each other perplexed and said, “Wow, that sounds a whole lot like THE NEW BREED!”

Dad and I wrote a book together that was released by GROUP last year called THE NEW BREED… a book on recruiting, managing and leading today’s ‘new breed’ of volunteers. One of the chapters is titled The Seven Sins of Volunteer Recruiting… so you can imagine our surprise seeing it on the cover of a magazine. We didn’t know whether we had been plagerized or what.

I quickly thumbed through the magazine falling on the article, only to find our key points in the article (this happened all in a matter of seconds). As my dad and I both started to wonder what the heck was going on (had someone copied our stuff?)… I looked at the title page of the article and saw the words, “By Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee.”


We both laughed… then looked at each other and said, “Did you know about this?”

Funny… we both didn’t mind having the cover article of GROUP magazine. Just… no one told us!  🙂

Posted in Personal |  | Leave A Comment

Sexy TV Linked to Teen Pregnancy

Posted on: 11/4/08 9:07 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week I was watching a fairly clean prime time show with my entire family (not a lot of prime time that my 11, 13 and 15 year old can all watch anymore). The star of the show made a quick comment to his nerd friend that was spending time on the web on comic book sites. He said, “Why can’t you just watch porn like everyone else.” A subtle comment, but packed with meaning. Anyone normal looks at porn. It’s no big deal.

The week prior we were watching a show and one of the lead girls confessed, “I haven’t been laid in six months!” Everyone else gasped! The underlying message was clear. If you haven’t slept with someone in six months, something’s wrong!

The sad fact is… these were pretty clean shows. This wasn’t Gossip Girl, Desperate Housewives, or the O.C.

T.V.’s effect on our youth is nothing new to this blog (just click on the “sexuality” category on the left hand side bar , or do a search for “TV” and see how many blogs are dedicated to the topic). It’s a fact that TV shows and movies are getting blatantly more raunchy. I just was chatting with my friend Todd, our THE SOURCE Movie Review guy, about this. He recently reviewed the popular Adam Sandler movie, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Todd described this PG-13 movie as a “raunch-fest.” He’s right. This movie was a PG-13 Borat. I thnk my biggest concern here is the PG-13 rating. Again… the subtle message that this content is okay for 13-year-olds. The entire film was not only loaded with over the top sexual humor… it presented abundant female roles who had no problem with these male “pigs” and their consistent crude sexual gestures. Our young girls are learning that sex is simply “no big deal.”

Yesterday I received numerous emails from people about the research just released by the Journal of Pediatrics. Numerous articles are reporting the “Teens who watch television shows that have a lot of sexual content are more likely to become pregnant- or to get someone pregnant- by the time they turn 20.”

This research is what I call “Duh.” Think about it. If our kids are coached by shows like Gossip Girl or Tila Tequila every week, they’re going to respond in the way they’ve been taught. it’s that simple.

Perhaps parents need to say, “You can’t watch this.”


Big Room… One Bed

Posted on: 11/2/08 8:29 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Life has been a whirlwind for the last few days- a mix of cross country travel, meetings and podcast recordings. Currently, I’m sitting in my Pittsburg hotel room, preparing for a podcast, putting last minute touches on the seminar I teach at 3:30 today, and connecting with a couple guys about a future podcast. (This weekend I’m at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention, connecting with youth workers and teaching a couple workshops- see my last blog if you’re lost)

It was funny when we checked in this hotel. We’re at the Pittsburgh Hilton downtown and I booked a cheap room. But I have so many Hilton points from my travel… we got bumped up to the executive floor in a junior suite. Todd and I are enjoying all the food in the exutive lounge, sitting in two seats by the window. It’s on the 24th floor overlooking the Ohio river and Heinz field… for those Steeler’s fans.

When we first checked in they asked me if I wanted the free room upgrade I said, “Sure!” But they said, “Well there’s only one bed.” Todd and I shrugged our shoulders and said, “We’ll take it!”  🙂  (I hope they don’t mind our Sharpie marker line down the middle of the bed!)

This convention has been a lot of fun. It has a similar feel programatically to the Sacramento Convention. If you listen to Brandon and my “Road Trip Podcast” that we just recorded three weeks ago, the current episode on our Podcast Page, then you’ll get a feel for the convention (and a 10 minute excerpt from my seminar, etc.) But I really like the “feel” at this convention better. Maybe it’s just the Pittsburgh downtown… not sure. But it’s a fun group.

I’ll keep you posted more after my seminar and some meetings today!

Posted in Personal, Travel |  | Leave A Comment