Sunday, December 10, 2006

Orton Park, I miss your mighty oaks!

Spaightwood Galleries formerly occupied a large Victorian house at the corner of Spaight and Few, just across the street from Orton Park, and pretty much equidistant between Sarah's and my two Madison apartments.

I think the gallery has moved to New York--it's definitely not in Madison any more. The link above takes you to the prints from Rouault's Miserere series--really quality images.

New Post!

Of course I'll wait to update this damn thing until the end of the semester, when all the shit I've been putting off for the last few weeks and months is cascading down on me like a fountain of lukewarm Coors Light.

After Tuesday, things will be a little less hectic, but frankly I'm just looking ahead to the end of the week. If anyone has any ideas about applying a psychoanalytic method of art criticism to the devotional aspects of Georges Rouault's Miserere (in particular Plate 23, Rue des Solitaires) and the pros and cons of doing so, I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Caterpillars Eat Sweden!

I think my friend E-Fantastico's nightmares might look a little like this:



Carpet Caterpillars are apparently on a rampage in Sweden, relentlessly creating haunting, Christo-like tableaus for the aesthetic enjoyment of those cold, lonely Vikings. Thank you, Caterpillars, thank you for making the world a stranger place!

(I found the original post at boingboing.net)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A paragon for projects at Bill's Cabin in Bayfield...

My Dad and his buddies spend a couple of weekends a year up north at Bill's cabin in Bayfield, WI, puttering and being guys. They've started a Poplar-influencing project, bending saplings into art, which I think is way cool. So do these guys, who are making living houses out of bent trees. Here's a more recent post linking to an interview with arborsculptor Richard Reames:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Scale Matters.

Freaky Russian sculptures are the proof.

One more for my Theologically minded friends:


Bandai!

I was gonna write a few more posts...

But I think I need to take a couple minutes to let this news sit. In the meantime, here's something I found linked to on Boingboing.net: The Day the Cow Sneezed, one of my favorite books when I was a kid, is in fact a lost artistic treasure!

I'm Gonna Send You One by One

One for the little bitty baby who was born in Bethlehem. Sitting in my room in the early afternoon, listening to Nina Simone with bright California sun and cool breezes coming in the windows, and I got hit by a bolt of lightning. Our friends Keith and June just had their baby. Welcome to the world, Lillian Hayley. Wow.





The topic of Keith's email was "My daughter, Lillian Hayley Epstein" and when I saw it I thought, no, that can't be right--total cognitive dissonance. Then I read the text and saw the pictures, and started sobbing and laughing at the same time. Man oh man, what a thing. Congratulations, Keith and June--we are so happy for you!


Saturday, July 08, 2006

UPDATE!!!

One google later, I have spotted the elusive Frunchy lurking in the thickets of

PlayFeed.Com

He's easier to spot if you look for his distinctive markings, ie: his nom de blog "Michael Cardiff". Very cool stuff, and very psyched for tha Eff-Dawg.

Summer's here, and the time is right...

We leave Oakland tonight at 11:30 on a red-eye bound for Portland, Maine. Not so psyched. I'm feeling a little over-traveled, and under-quality-time-with-Sarah-ed. I couldn't even think of a less-awkward way to make that sentence happen (or this one, it would seem).

Sarah's school just had their Medicine Show yesterday, and the illustrious Frunch and I drove up to hang out and check out the proceedings. Sarah and all her classmates had the medicines and beers and wines and foods and products they'd been making all semester displayed on tables in the garden, and family, friends, and interested folks from the area came up to check out the scene and the items, and soak up the gemuetlichkeit (anyone know how to help a brother out with a little umlaut?). It was a lot of fun, and great in particular to A: hang out with Frunch, and B: watch Sarah tear it up selling medicines and the ginger beer we made. $60! She didn't expect to sell anything, and she made $60! Not too shabby, and a nice affirmation for her dreams of running a Farmer's Market stand.

After the show we tried to see the new Pirate Sequel, but it was sold out until the special 11:45 pm show the theater had added due to all the other shows being sold out. So we felt old and tired and drove back to the Bay, and Frunch headed back to Palo Alto. Gwyn isn't getting back from the Kamchatka Peninsula until Aug. 31, but he's working like a bastard, and also writing a video-games blog which I will link to as soon as I know the address. You hear me, Frunch?

So that's it. Time to pack, and then run, and then eat, and then leave. And maybe shower. Here's a picture or three:

Maddie and new-born Carly (neices!) in the Car.

Sarah's classmates in the field.

Me and Joe for some reason.

Babies in Bed.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Summer minus thunderstorms and fireflies

Sometimes I forget that we're on foreign turf here...especially with the abnormally wet spring out here in California keeping things unusually green. But, alas, the dry and crustiness is setting in at last. We've been living here for almost a year already--unbelievable. Time goes faster and faster. And without the colors of fall, the snow of winter, the explosion of spring and the thunderstorms and fireflies of summer, time all seems to flow together and before you even noticed a year has gone by. It's a strange world out here. I wonder sometimes if the geologic unrest has somehow seeped its way into the people. This is a place of extremes. The one bedroom house across the street from us sold in a week for $600,000 and meanwhile, every Friday when we put out our recycling, there is a parade of people dragging their possessions down the street in grocery carts stopping to dig through our trash. The economy is dominated by computer professionals making six figures but the streets are full of aging hippies and minorities whacked out on drugs and people evicted from the mental institutions by the brilliancy of Ronald Reagan. The green of winter is lost in the brown of summer but you can only really notice when you leave this concrete jungle. Because even though there is always something blooming here in Oakland, there is also always the unending stream of roads and traffic and parking lots and down and out people begging for money...too many people, too little space. Too much money, too little money. Too much rain, too little rain. And yet people continue to flock here. I go to school an hour and a half north of here and I notice my shoulders relaxing as I begin to see the hills and the fields stretching out before me as the extremes of urban living fade away and the sun rises over apple trees and vineyards. And yet the stand-still traffic heading in towards the city reminds me that people will pay the price of four hours of commuting each day to avoid the reality of the city. Being faced with the desperation in people's lives every day is uncomfortable and humbling. It's so hard to know how to intervene. It starts to desensitize you after a while. And I don't want to be desensitized. I want to have enough energy and empathy left to work for change in this world somehow without burning myself into nothing in the process. What a strange world.
I went to the doctor the other day--met my primary care physician for the first time. She asked nothing more about me than my name. She was too busy, completely overworked, and exhausted. We pay $400 a month for insurance, yet it still cost me $65 for my visit. A visit that consisted of me asking for help diagnosing the rash on my hand and the overworked, overexhausted physician telling me she didn't know what it was and that I should go to a dermatologist. I'm lucky to be able to afford that, but I left furious. The people in our society who often need healthcare the most can nowhere NEAR afford that kind of visit. It made me feel hopeful that studying herbal medicine may be a way to empower people to take charge of their own health. To take care of themselves so they don't get sick in the first place. To reconnect with the earth that is hidden here under the streets and sidewalks and parking lots.
I have hope that things will change--change in the only constant. But I am so saddened by the cost. By the reality of the society we've created.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Live from the Correspondent's Dinner...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Josh Orton! How's about that! Former high school compadre Jorton is writing a blog for Huffington Post, and Executive Producer of The Majority Report With Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo! Josh attended the much-discussed Dinner, and filed this report from DC. A short excerpt:

"Here were some of the most dangerous men in recent US history, and everyone seemed content to glad-hand them, complement their tux, and ask for a snapshot. “Oh hey, haven’t seen you in forever, you look great!” says CNN blow-dry. “Thanks, thanks, I’m quite well. How are your kids?” responds war criminal."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Furthermore...

Housemate E-Fantastico has some great photos of our house Beltane celebration on her blog. Follow the above link--well worth the checking out.

During Class Today...

We were interrupted from our important work of finding queer readings of biblical texts by the cries of, "Back up! Back up! Back up! Back up--you're on my foooooooot!!!!"

The windows of the classroom were open to Ridge Rd. and Euclid Ave, and a young woman whose foot had just been run over.

During break, it was clear from the two police motorcycles, the firetruck, and the ambulance, that she was in good hands. Still, it was amazing to be inside of a room of potential ministers (myself included) who were all paralyzed by the prospect of another human in pain.

Walking home tonight I witnessed a confrontation between a young Black man, and an older White man pushing a shopping cart with a big American flag on the front. Do I minister, try to mediate? Do I save my safety and integrity for other conflicts? To what extent am I owned by my position as the child of the White middle class?

Also, I'm writing final papers. If anyone has thoughts on Andy Goldsworthy or The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon (or You Have Ravished My Heart, by Stephen Chatman)I would love to hear them. I promise to attribute any thoughts and insights.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One more thought...

about the David Byrne piece I quoted below: the phrase "Where we see difference they would see similarity," resonated with me like someone had hit me like I was a gong. I keep coming back to Chris Hedges' War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, and his insight into the generation of perception-of-difference/uniqueness as essential to nationalism and war-making.

It's a dynamic you also see in dysfunctional and/or alcoholic families, the sense that, "we're separate from the rest of the community because we're special/better-than-them; we're misunderstood, and oppressed at all sides so we have to stick together and be loyal to each other above all else."

What holds us separate? What keeps us separated? What, after all is done, still connects us?

David Byrne, Super-genius:

David Byrne, former Talking Head, current talking head, drops some serious knowledge in his journal entry of April 29, 2006. Here's an excerpt of the final paragraphs:

"Darwinists claim the opposite — that this common genetic base or framework proves that we all came from the same place. That to have needed real genetic additions evolution would have happened even more slowly than it did. So, in their opinion, this system was the way it had to happen. At least in the time scale we observe. And the genius of the design is that it uses simple building blocks but makes the absolute most out of them. One can make a simple brick, or a skyscraper, but the ingredients are identical.

"What that says to me then is that most life on Earth is, genetically speaking, one organism. I don’t mean this metaphorically, I mean it literally. The various shapes and forms that life takes are ways that it, the uber organism, has found to occupy every available niche — but it is the always the same genetic framework that is being propagated everywhere, more or less. Darwin would claim that a lineage exists from one primeval single celled creature to almost all the world’s bacteria, sloths, ants and people. There may be other primeval things that offer radically different genetic frameworks, but this one genetic model has prevailed, and did so well that it pretty much took over the planet. (I wonder if some viruses are the seeds of alternate genetic design possibilities, as yet unrealized?)

"So, to an alien species from another galaxy, all life on earth might appear almost as one organism, vast and shape shifting. Where we see difference they would see similarity. To them it would appear as if this one organism had not only flourished, but was so spread out across the planet and that the Earth itself might be seen as one seething being — an organism (of which we are just a part) filling every available nook and cranny. A creature that even created an environment conducive to itself. Oxygen, an atmosphere, soil — all, to some extent, made by life. The One that is All has a relationship with its host rock that is symbiotic."

Don't you hate it when someone else says so well something you had thought about and always known to be true, but had never had the chutzpah to put into words? Damn you, David Byrne, I love you.

Genius or Folly?

Whoever gave Stephen Colbert 25 minutes at the White House Correspondent's Association dinner must have had some idea of what they were unleashing. I just watched it, and, well, it rocked my world. I, personally, think he killed. Even if you think he bombed, you have to admire the vast amounts of chutzpah it took to deliver this material, with the POTUS sitting ten feet from the podium. I'm talking about smelly oily gallons of guts.

Colbert's Finest Hour? We report, you decide.

I think I have a new American hero. Step aside, Kurt Angle.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ms. Hill

Whoa...Sitting here knitting and listening to the hip-hop, I just caught Talib Kweli reference Octavia Butler and her incredible book Parable of the Sower. I'm sure it will change, but at the moment it feels like the older I get, the more I understand, like there is hidden knowledge that ties the entire universe together. Of course, the search for that type of knowledge was what drove Smeagol under the Misty Mountains, what twisted him into Gollum. I think I'm up too late.

Warning Area 291?

Pardon my French, but what the fuck? Joe posted on my mysterious boom entry below with this link to the most recent local article in regards to boom:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20060427-9999-1n27boom.html

Personally, I bet you could catch some hella big marlin out there in Whiskey 291. Or get shot to death and turned into chum. Tax dollars at work indeed.

I just came from seeing Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Dir. Michel Gondry) at The Parkway Theater with Zsolt and Julia. If you're looking for a movie that's like the total Bizzaro-World mirror image of sub-sonic-boom-producing-US-military-black-ops-classified-top-secret-bullshit, go see this film. Dave Chappelle drives around southern Ohio inviting people to a concert in Brooklyn featuring all the extra-progressive hip-hop heads you care to name. Then he has lunch at HaHa motherfuckin' Pizza. I wish to God I still had that t-shirt. That was the best t-shirt of my life. The whole experience made me miss Brother Will in a fierce way. It also made me want him to burn me copies of all the Common, Mos Def, Roots, etc. cd's he's got. Coz I'm selfish like that.

And good news from Zsolt and Julia: they're engaged! Zsolt proposed to her at Stinson Beach yesterday evening as the sun set over the Pacific. Come on! Very happy news.

It's after midnight in Oakland, and I'm not a pumpkin yet, so I must be doing something right. Time to see about cracking a few of the books I need for my final paper.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Best short film in recent memory...

and it's a VW Jetta commercial. Theoretically the province of hot sorority chicks and gay guys (thanks, Joe and Derek), this commercial deepened my appreciation for the humble Jetta. I was watching an inning of the Giants/Mets game before walking to school for work, and it played during a pitching change. Or the inning break, whichever. I love the way it plays with expectations and complacency. A good reminder about the reality of driving.

Go Brewers!

So I mentioned about the play-by-play going silent when Bob or Jim weren't speaking. I think it must be some kind of bandwidth-saving situation (Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about yet?), where the broadcast of the audio cuts out based on the volume level picked up by the microphone. I'm guessing this because last inning, during a bases-loaded situation, the audio stopped cutting out during the pauses. I think the ambient noise in the stadium increased due to excitement, and also probably drunkenness, and so I was treated to the full auditory experience. Bliss!

This seems like the kind of thing my Dad thinks about.

Oh, one more thing...

Boingboing.net has picked up on the San Diego mysterious boom issue. Validation! I'm telling you, mysterious booms, huge chunks of sky-ice, the guy in the fedora across the cafe carrying three turned-on flashlights and talking to himself... Are you ready for the end times? Look to the East! Get Jesus-ed up! Or, you know, don't.
By the Way, our friend Amy has moved from near campus to just up Telegraph from us! She and Josh are moved from a two-bedroom apartment to one room in a house of six. Sounds familiar. Or, vis my typo, familial. At any rate, their new digs are right by Oakland's Bushrod Park, site of the famed ice fall of a few weeks ago! We tromped around the park looking for the crater last Saturday, to no avail. It's a pretty big park, mostly a huge overgrown field. We found a few small depressions that could have been craters, but more likely were just small depressions.

Wednesday Morning, 11am (-ish)

I am taking a little bit of a slow morning today. I had two presentations yesterday, and I feel like I've been running on full burners the past days preparing for them. So today, I'm sitting anti-socially at the Temescal Cafe on Telegraph Ave., knitting and listening to Jim Powell and Bob Uecker calling the Braves vs. the Brewers via the computer-internet. It's turning into a beautiful day outside, but I am very happy at the moment to be sittin' and knittin' and rootin' (and a little tootin', but don't tell the other patrons).
I can't listen to baseball games without thinking about my family, whether it's Brewers' games as a kid with Mom and Dad and Aunt Julie, or talking about the Indians with Cousins Andy and Marty, or watching the Twinkies with Grandma Karlson... The very definition of bittersweet. Sometimes California feels very very far away, and listening to the familiar voice of Bob Uecker, describing a perfect spring day at the Park, just emphasizes that distance.
Ben Sheets is pitching a pretty good game--9 K's in five innings, so far--and the Brewers are providing some run support, which is a refreshing change from, oh, ever. The only detraction from this seemingly idyllic setup is that the internet radio feed cuts out every 25 minutes or so, and I have to reload the player. Also, the audio cuts out whenever Bob or Jim isn't speaking, so there're these jarring silences in between bits of commentary instead of the ambient noise of the ballpark. Two distractions. I gotta say, it could be a lot worse.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happy Quake Day!

Walking home from the BART station tonight, I saw a police helicopter circling over my neighborhood, spotlight fixed on the center of its rotation. It reminded me of a certain type of toy airplane I remember from my aviation-crazed youth, the kind of motor-powered plane that didn't do anything but "fly" in a big circle around your small hand, holding the line attached to the plane. The helicopter was tethered to the earth by the visible beam of its searchlight, fixed on a spot about a block from my house. I could hear it for almost an hour after I got home, spinning that same circle, as I sat in the living room with Barb and Leon.

Tonight after washing dishes and before diving into schoolwork in the library, I sat on the back steps of the PSR lawn, looking out over the bay towards the Golden Gate, as the sun set over Mt. Tamalpais. A guy sitting on the balustrade across the stairs from me took a break from spinning the wheels on his skateboard to tell me, in a thick Eastern European accent, "One hundred years ago it happened, right? The earth split open, crash! Crazy!" Hard to argue with that. Hard to believe it, too, looking out on downtown San Francisco, with the setting sun turning the very air incandescent and a cloudless blue sky overhead. The part of me that thinks I could hit the lottery by persistently playing my birthdate, height, and head circumference (which is also the same part of me that thinks I could make a living by playing online poker) spent the day convinced that, in some kind of perverse reverse meaning-denying-by-wish-fulfilling gesture, we were certain to have a huge earthquake today precisely because 100 years is such an arbitrary measure, such an expression of our insatiable need to assign meaning and order in a world that ...sorry, my google.calendar just interrupted to tell me that the end of Starr King's Semester is in precisely ten minutes. I think I have a little April/May confusion to work out. We try so hard to live inside of meaning-filled systems, where we can relate cause to effect, and all of a sudden your computer can't tell one month from the next. What's to be done?

Friday, April 14, 2006

FOONT!

Spring has Sprung! Check out This Great Cartoon over at Alec's website, alec-longstreth.com. Extra bonus points for use of the classic "foont" sound-effect! Thanks Alec!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

At Long Last...

What a glorious day! At long last, a warm sunny day. Not quite 70 degrees, a little breezy, occasional small clouds, and all the sweet clean smells of spring. Trees starting to leaf out, making pools of shade on the sidewalks and roads, lots of people out and about, walking and riding bikes...Hallelujah!

Everyone was already out of the house by the time I was up and off on my run--and I thought I'd gotten up early. I went on a long run, up into the Oakland Hills a little, up and down footpaths, feeling (guiltily) pleased with myself that I finally know the terrain enough to explore a little and end up where I figured I would. It was great to have the house to myself all day. I put RJD2's Ghostwriter on the downstairs stereo, and blasted it...Douglas Adams (the science fiction author, not the Professor of Art and Religion at PSR) described drinking a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster (an invented cocktail that features prominently in his novels) as like having your brains smashed out by a twist of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick. That's how I felt about listening to Ghostwriter this morning, loud on the speakers and the sun coming into the living room. Bitchin'.

I feel like I'm getting adjusted to Sarah being up at school half of every week. Still a little off-kilter, but getting my sea legs back. I'm trying to decide if I want to spend the summer shuttling between Oakland and Forestville with her. It depends on finding work up there for Tuesday thru Thursday. Okay, enough comedy jokes! Time to dive into homework. I hope that the rest of the world had at least as good a day as I had.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mysterious Booms, Ice Falling from the Sky...

Are these signs of the Apocalypse? Check out this article from BoingBoing:

What In the Hell, Guys?

It's been cloudy and raining here since February, with no signs of letting up. On the plus side, the occasional sunny day (there have been ...three? Three and a half?) really stands out. Sarah and I spent a gorgeous Sunday two and a half weeks ago sitting by the bay down at the Berkeley Marina (okay, it's a reclaimed garbage dump, but it's genuinely beautiful) reading, flying our kite, playing catch, and watching the boats out in bay, with Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the Golden Gate framing the afternoon sun. Really a great day. Today the sky is a flat, headachey gray, and the world feels hungover from being drowned in rain all yesterday. I am listening to Beth Orton's Central Reservation (Thanks Josh!) and doing some computer work I've been meaning to do for, oh, the last three years? All those Word files don't just organize themselves, ya know. I don't have anything until dishwashing this evening, and I have no class (ha ha) tomorrow, nor any work, being that it's Maundy Thursday. I'm starting (I think and hope) to adjust to Sarah being gone up at school half the week. It's a big change, and I think it's going to work out for the best.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

“There was a boom and we don't know what it is,”

I got a call from Joseph tonight about what he (and his classroom full of children) thought was an earthquake: Loud "BRRMMRMMRMMRMMMM"-type noise, shaking, about four seconds long, you know, earthquake. Turns out that it was mysterious "boom" of unknown origin. No plane crash, no missile attack, no seismic event...just a boom that shook the entire county. Weird. Maybe Dick Cheney has moved his undisclosed location to SD? Or it was somehow related to Barry Bonds (in town to play the Padres: rained out)? My guess is the airborne explosion of a largish meteor. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Plus, I was out of town at the time. In Oakland like a mug.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Engagements!

Congratulations to Paul and Ali! Paul casually let slip that he and Ali have officially engaged each other! They got their ring back from Burnie's Rock Shop on Wednesday, and that was that! OOf--three exclamation points in a row...I gotta slow down.

In other happy news, David and Michana, my great friend Alex's folks, have engaged as well after a 19 year courtship. Here's the photo Dad sent me of the article from the paper (easier than clipping it out and mailing it, he says; what kind of crazy world-of-the-future is this?!?):



I'm very happy for both of these couples, and nice to see Al get a little pub, too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Note to Joseph:

I'm not scared of earthquakes, just interested. And secretly excited. Also, what's the Cleveland Steamer again?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Oh no. Oh Sweet Merciful God, no!

I ran into this item over at BoingBoing, and I died. From laughter. I've sent my spirit, my anima, back to earth to post a link to this, that my friends and colleagues may also perish from hilarity and join me in the Land of Wind and Ghosts. So we can start a volleyball team.

Okay, this is from Rahoi.com, from his post of March 2nd (May I Take Your Order). A hideously translated menu couldn't be that funny, could it?

Exhibit A:

http://www.rahoi.com/2006/03/may-i-take-your-order.php

Exhibit B:

http://www.rahoi.com/2006/03/may-i-take-your-order.php

I'm not trying to say I've never created hilariously bad translations with internet language dictionaries. Quite the opposite. I am, however, trying to say that things are damn funny.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spilling the Beans...

Last night was a hard night. Actually, the whole day was kind of the pits, which is why we went hiking in Muir Woods.

I'm a little sick of thinking about it, so here's the short version: the Balazs Committee, which is sort of in charge of Starr King's visiting Transylvanian scholarship program, decided to offer a program next year that would send an American Starr King student to Transylvania for six months to experience the life of a Taransylvanian village minister. Sarah and I applied and felt really really good about our chances.

The committee met yesterday morning, and we couldn't take the tension of waiting around to hear the news so we went for a ten mile hike. We met with one of the selection committee members last night, and got the bad news: they awarded the internship to a third-year student at school. A big bummer, but it could be worse! And there may very well be a next year.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

PS!

Muir Woods is where, on May 19, 1945, leaders from all around the world met to sign the charter that created The United Nations! This (in my opinion) incredible salient and significant bit of triviana is totally absent from the website I linked to below, and appears only scantingly in the official US Parks Services website. Go figure. Sign of the times, or accurate reflection of the UN's political significance? I leave it to you, gentle reader, to determine the truth.

Visit Muir Woods?

Don't mind if I do!

Sarah and took the day for a hike in beautiful Muir Woods National Monument, just a bit south of her old San Rafael stomping grounds. I don't have any Wednesday classes, and we both needed to blow off some steam. Seriously.

We started in the old growth at the trailhead--really crowded for a Wednesday. We had to park in the overflow lot, and I've heard it's incredibly zooey on the weekends. For what it's worth. We were feeling saucy, so we hiked to the end of the paved main loop, and crossed a bridge over the river to the Ben Johnson trail. It was a gorgeous, slightly hazy day, but we still got a lot of sun (so cloudy and rainy the last few days--really lucky to get nice weather when we could enjoy it). When we started out, it was chilly enough for longsleeves, and we could see our breath. Steam rose off the trail and the trunks of the trees at the occasional patch of sunshine. Every cranny and gully seemed to have a stream running through it, and the whole countryside is much greener than I've seen it before. The clean smell of the air, the breeze and the little spots of sun, and the sound of the running water were such a contrast to all the city noises in Oakland, the dry dusty air, the traffic and stress. I feel like I've had the same low-grade cold/allergies for months, the same wheezy feeling in my chest. Yuck.

The trail met up with the Dipsea trail at the top of the ridge, and the forest cleared out so we could see Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond on the far side of the bay; Angel Island and all the shi-shi burbs huddled at the feet of the Marin Headlands; past the headlands we could see San Francisco itself, and then the Pacific off to the west. We could see it all, and it was really stunning. After a half-mile through the scrub the trail dipped back down into mixed Redwood, Doug Fir, and California Bay Laurel (whose leaves make the most incredible spicy, gummy, sweet smell between your fingers). We walked down hundreds of steps into the canyon, alongside small waterfalls and through soggy patches of trail. In an open area above Stinson Beach we saw a Kestrel kiting, or trying to--it was really gusty out, and the kestrel seemed to be having trouble figuring out where the wind was coming from. The trail was dotted with coyote scat, gray and fuzzy with fur. Some of the fumets had broken apart a little, and you could see the jumbled architecture of tiny mouse bones poking out.

We were going to eat lunch on the beach, but the wind was getting stronger and the clouds rolling in, so we retreated to a picnic bench. Simple lunch: bread and cheese. It's nice not to eat fancy when you're out and about.

On the way back we saw two guys up the hill from us, clambering to the top of a outcropping carrying what looked like small red surfboards. Getting closer we realized they were each toting a radio controlled sailplane. Before we hiked past their aerodrome we got to watch one of 'em try his luck in the bluster: I really thought he was going to eat it at one point, but he pulled it out at the last second. He landed it during the next pause of the wind--didn't want to press his luck, I guess.

The hike back seemed a lot quicker--similar scenery, but in reverse and cloudier. We got really chilled coming back into the Redwoods, but were soon in our car and up and over the nauseatingly winding headlands road and into traffic on highway 101. {sigh}.

Sarah is washing dishes at PSR tonight, and I will go over to retrieve her soon. Then the two of us, Zsolt, and KT are going to get blastoid, Transylvanian-style, somewhere in San Francisco. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 06, 2006

What Garrick just sent me:

mattbors.com
Thank you, Garrick! And expecially thank you Matt Bors, for this awesome comic!

Maybe I meant to say refresh...

And that earthquake last hour was weak! We didn't even feel it up here! Weak earthquakes are worse than no earthquakes at all!

Hi Shauncito!

Welcome to my blog. Of course, you won't see this unless you hit reload...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

And if you were curious...

All my friends in California have this website linked on their bookmarks. A neat way to keep up on the latest earth-shaking action!

Trying to flex my brain.

It's a windy, rainy, chilly, funky day, and Sarah and I are parked at The Temescal Cafe, the best coffeshop in our zone. When we got here, a trio of guitar and banjo playing women were singing and playing bluegrass songs, and the joint was crammed with people. The music was a great counterpoint to the weather, and the energy in the room was really reinvigorating. We worked at a luncheon yesterday at CDSP (Church Divinity School of the Pacific,the Episcopalian/Anglican school in the GTU), walking there and back from our house in Oakland, and watched the first two Indiana Jones movies in the evening. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was maybe the most exhausting thing we did all day--not the chill-out space-out we'd been hoping for. Just a boring, shrill, senseless, racist shell of a movie. I'd heard that the Indian gov't refused to let Spielberg and Lucas shoot on Indian soil, and after watching the terrible banquet dinner scene (Snake Surprise? Chilled Monkeybrains? Come on!) I could understand their reasoning. Just preposterous and unnecessary, and fundamentally insulting.

I've got to write a sermon for class tomorrow, and I'm kind of spinning my wheels. I want to write about anomie, and how community seems to be dying, or at least taking on a new form and a diminished status in our country. I'm thinking of talking about my experiences building decks in the exurbs, and how the neighborhoods felt like dead zones in so many ways, and then move on to cars and how driving (and internet chat rooms) lets people behave in ways they never would face to face. Okay, fine, but where to go from there? How do you bring back community after it's been exiled?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

One other thing

Earthquake! This one was only a 2.9. Still, three in a day...

Trivial Pursuits

On Saturday, consumed with cabin fever, Sarah and I went down to The Albatross, a board-games themed bar in Berkeley. It's not The Weary Traveler, but pretty great nonetheless. We sat in front of the fireplace and played Trivial Pursuit and drank Sierra Nevada and ate complimentary popcorn. Pretty idyllic.

One of the questions Sarah got was "What was Adolf Hitler's favorite movie?" Her guess was Gone with the Wind, which I thought was pretty good--it was the first thought in my mind, too. The answer, though, was King Kong. Hitler's favorite movie was King Kong. It gave us both a shiver, a twisted little glimpse inside one of humanity's greatest preversions.

On a happier note, Earthquake!!! The whole house just flexed and shook for a second, and everyone at home said, with one voice, "Earthquake!" Pretty cool! 11:35 am PST. Just a small one, though. Nothing fell off the shelves or anything.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Separated at Birth?

Two Battle Scarred Veterans... who do you want on *your* fantasy football team?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who would win in a fight between...

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny looks to address the eternal issue of Mortal Kombat-style fights between ...well, whoever. In my experience, the question of who would win in a fight between... stayed in the realm of the animal world, ie: puma vs. cheetah, weight-lifting gorilla vs. black bear, grizzly bear vs. polar bear, great white shark vs. grizzly bear/puma tag team, etc. This Flash video is still pretty damn funny. Mom, you probably won't enjoy this one.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Big Monkey!

It's been a little more than a week since Sarah returned from Denver, and we are finally starting to settle back in. I picked her up at San Francisco Airport last Tuesday night, and whisked her off to Wilbur Hot Springs for a few R&R days. The waters were a little too stinky for our tastes (and very very salty--even the filtered water for showering and drinking left our pores filled with sulfur-y odors for days afterward, which was gross) and a little too hot for protracted bathing, but the lodgings were gorgeous--we stayed in the Loft Room, which you ascend spiral staircase to get to--and the communal kitchen was a great common space. The other highlight was tromping around the 1800 acres of private land around the springs. The whole area supported a pretty intense mining industry around the turn of the last century, and the land is dotted with collapsed mines and smeltery ruins, and zigzagged with old mining roads. Next time I bring a camera.

The transition from such free personal time to sharing a house with four other people, with me getting back into classes and Sarah feeling like she had no context, was a little rough. I felt like last week was the first week of school, which is bad because SKSM's semester was two weeks old already, and UCBerkeley's was a month in. I hope I haven't dug myself too deep a hole, but nothing to do now but plug my nose and dive in.

We watched King Kong yesterday afternoon at The Parkway--$3 Saturday Matinee is unbeatable in the Bay Area--and feeling a little aimless and not wanting to waste money, we watched Gosford Park last night at home (with a lot of pauses to dissect motivations and character). So lots of movie time, with two very different films.

I agree with what seems to be the CW on King Kong, that it was a ninety-minute movie over-padded with a lot of indulgent twaddle. Especially the scene with all the giant bugs and toothed-foreskin worms at the bottom of the canyon. Yuck. I liked Kong (great facial expressions--nice work again, Andy Serkis[aka Gollum]), in particular the way his jaw was lopsided, and all the scars of battles past he bore. The sense of him being old and nearing the end of his road was the only thing that made his inevitable end bearable. When I was a kid, I had such a hard time at movies--I had to cover my eyes during the climactic Lightning-Striking-the-Clock-Tower moment of Back to the Future--and I feel like after a brief respite, I am again emotionally investing myself in movies to a degree that I no longer enjoy them. I mean, I was almost sobbing during the end of King Kong, even with all my efforts at detachment and my understanding of the flaws in the acting and plot, just because the giant ape was doomed from the start, had no chance, was infected by America and sacrificed to it just as surely as all the girls presented to him had been. Tragedy, as Mel Brooks said, is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole and die. That said, I couldn't stop think about Homer and Bart watching Gorilla the Conqueror (as part of Million Dollar Movies' Big Gorilla Week) and Homer sobbing at the end, "It's so unfair! Just because he's different..." That said, the big gorilla floating off to sea in a cage at least leaves hope alive, versus the journalists clambering over Kong's corpse sprawled out in front of the Empire State Building angling for a face shot. Just because he's different indeed.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A cunning ruse...

Elizabeth took these great pictures and more at Joel and Stephanie's moustache party Saturday night! Total satisfaction. Oh yeah, the photos:

You have been naughty and must be dealt with...

Joe Barry and Andy Karlson: Fighting Ninja Cyborgs in a World They Never Made

Holy Anamorphosis, Batman!


I feel kind of cheap biting this from the great Mark Evanier's News From ME
, but it's just too much. This man, Julian Beever is a genius. Chalk and a sidewalk, and an incredible mind, hand and eye. Here's his website. It is incredibly beautiful here today--sunny, a little hazy, and such intensely refreshing cool breezes. Ahhhh.

Lots of complaining on the internets about the officiating during the Super Bowl, and the usual blah blah blah about Oh, it's so boring. Whatever. It's football. In my opinion, the ratio of truly exciting, competitive Super Bowls to boring ones is about the same as for regular season games. Football games tend to have a pretty steady low state of action/interest, punctuated by moments of senses-shattering transcendence. Kind of like life.

My Otis Redding Pandora station has gone all rock-and-or-roll on me: from North Mississippi AllStars to a great John Hiatt song I hadn't heard (Straight Outta Time) to John Mayer covering Jimi Hendrix's Wait Til Tomorrow, to Sunny Day Real Estate. Wild! Speaking of waiting until tomorrow, Sarah's plane lands tomorrow night at 7:25. I am all atingle! It's been a really long three-and-a-half weeks, and well, I barely know what to do with myself. Fortunately I've got a long to-do list.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A very good day

Today has been a very good day. It still is a very good day, as I sit and reflect on it. I spent the morning and early afternoon cleaning up the house and my room and car a bit in preparation of Sarah's return, and the afternoon and evening enjoying the Super Bowl at the Parkway Theater and the company of my friend Josh. It's early enough in the semester that I don't feel guilty about skimping on the reading for my classes, or that I'm going to miss a bunch of classes this week taking Sarah to Wilbur Hot Springs as a wind down from nanny-ing for Becky and Andy Potter the last three-and-a-half weeks. Of course, Sarah doesn't know about this yet, so if you see her before Tuesday, please keep it under your hat.

I'm listening to the Otis Redding station on Pandora.com as I write this, which plugs me into such a great variety of classic soul music and like great blues channels pain and loneliness into defiant joy and perseverance, steadfastness. Night Train by James Brown just came on, one of my favorite renditions of one of my favorite songs. It takes me back to DJ-ing on WOBC, the college radio station at Oberlin College.

This Holiday season, Sarah's brother Adam told us about his job in Louisville, KY, working with at-risk kids and teaching them life skills while leading them in construction jobs in low-income housing projects. Is that clear? Hopefully I can sum it up a little better tomorrow morning. At any rate, Adam told us about a meeting he had with the kids he was working with and an Ojibway Elder. This man said that colleagues (for lack of a better word) of his had been monitoring Yellowstone National Park and the San Francisco Bay Area, and that these colleagues were predicting catastrophic events in both areas within the next six months. His suggestions were that we say prayers each morning and smoke our tobacco.

These warnings hit very close to home for me. As a recent emigrant to the Bay Area, I feel very vulnerable to seismic uncertainty. I am living with a dog and two cats, and every time they seem to be acting odd I brace myself for imminent earthquake. This happens maybe four or five times every day. Our house is located very near the Hayward Fault, which has been pinpointed by many as the likely source of "The Big One," which does great things for my paranoia. When Sarah and I first moved here we were woken by small earthquakes a few times, but I guess we must have gotten used to them--haven't noticed any lately, though I'm sure they're still happening.

This paranoia has also been honed by my reading of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which has a lot to say about the seismic potential of Yellowstone Nat'l Park. For real, in-depth grad-school info, you should really talk to our friend Gwyn, the vulcanologist. The best I can do is to tell you that Yellowstone is what is known as a super-volcano, responsible for many of the most intense volcanic eruptions of the last few million years. Long story short, seismic uncertainty undergirds pretty much every moment of my life out here in California. It's beautiful and expensive, but the knowledge that total catastrophe is just a quick shake away is never far from my mind.

The Elder that Adam talked to said that we should smoke our tobacco and say our prayers. Talking about this a week-and-a-half ago with Neal and Garrick helped me understand what those prayers might sound like. Praying to affect plate tectonics is ludicrous, egotistical and naive. The crust of the Earth will shift and move without regard to the impact it has on our puny human settlements, and no prayer or entreaty will change that. All we can pray for, all we can think about as we smoke our tobacco, is that we are able. Please, God, Great Spirit, whoever hears this prayer, please let us be strong and flexible enough to meet this change and help as many people as we can.

I know that my personal desires and goals dissolve in the face of these impersonal, global changes. All I ask is that I have the presence and strength to meet this change as it comes, and to help my brethren through these changes. It is impossible to know if the huge earthquake we fear will come during my time in California, or even during my lifetime. All I can ask is that I use my gifts to make a difference.

This is a little more morbid than I intended, but it's honest. The frailty of our existence out here is something that I think about a lot, and that it's important to honor. Who knows when everything we know will be obliterated by an unlooked-for asteroid, or a catastrophic super-volcanic eruption, or an internet-obliterating solar flare. We have a lot less control over our environment than we like to think, and saying our prayers and smoking our tobacco makes as much sense as watching the seismometer or listening to the scientific experts who try to predict mysteries that Mother Earth will reveal to us in her own sweet time.

This is why it is so important to enjoy onesself, one's existence. Respect your fellow humans, but know that life is delicate and must be savored. Savor the spices, as an old crawfish-eating cartoon suggests (I tried to find that cartoon via Google, but was rebuffed! Shock!)

At Long Last!!!

Hooray!!! James Is Cute dot Blogspot dot Com has finally arrived! I have been waiting many a long month to see my favorite canine get his internet-y due. Here's a taste of what awaits you at jamesiscute.blogspot.com:



What an awesome James, and what an awesome Ali and Paul!!! A person is incredibly lucky to have such great friends.

Go Steelers!!!!

Hooray!!! Triumph! The experience of watching the Super Bowl at The Parkway Theater was completely fantastic. I got to meet cool new folks, hang out with old friends, and be completely engaged in a pretty decent football game! Also, I knocked over Two, count 'em, Two completely full beers on consecutive exciting plays during the second half of the game, which was embarassing and cool. Long story short, a helluva game, and the viewing experience was entirely satisfactory. And good on the Steelers.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

PartiallyClips.com

This comic runs in one of the local free tabloids. Kind of hit or miss, but this week's edition killed me:



Well done, Robert T. Balder! I may finally be ready to, as it has been said, rock.

I thought California would be different...



True, I didn't think California would be like this, but I don't know how it could be different, either. Sitting on the deck tonight, hearing the resonant tones of the metal wind chimes, and the sorrowful plunks of the bamboo ones, and smelling the jasmine on the breeze; hearing the constant low roar of the highway (even at three in the morning), but also the distant lament of the train horn; and seeing a few stars through the orange-purple night sky...I thought California would be different, but I didn't expect it to be this much the same.


{EdNote: This image is of a print by Raymond Pettibon, one that I had the privelege to live with for a semester of college thanks to Oberlin's Art Rental program and my excellent housemate Josh Adler. I think about it every time the thought "Wow, California isn't how I thought it would be," crosses my mind. Kind of grim, no?}

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Mmmm...Sweet...

Pleasing taste; some monster-ism.

The Great Twitch

Funny that I should have spent so much of yesterday writing about All the King's Men, and spent all of today being driven slowly nuts by a facial tic above the left side of my lip. Seriously, it's making me crazy. In the novel, The Great Twitch was Jack Burden's (ultimately failed) metaphor for the senselessness of life, that life is so random that all our behaviors and interactions might as well be random twitches of muscle fiber. I don't think that what I've got constitutes a Great Twitch, but it certainly is a persistent one.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Suspicious? What month is it?

So I had a great post written on questions of agency and identity as explored through Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men and High Fidelity (I focussed more on the film by Stephen Frears than on the original Nick Hornby book), and it mysteriously disappeared. I, of course, blame the government.

The crux of my post was that letting outside events and relationships with other people shape your life is fundamentally selfish, and that each of us bears responsibility for claiming our own agency. One of my favorite lines from Richard Linklater's Waking Life is an offhanded remark by a passerby, late in the movie, who tells the nameless protagonist (played by Wiley Wiggins) "As the pattern becomes more complex, it is no longer sufficient to be swept along," or something like the same. The patterns are becoming more complex, and we face peril if we are satisfied with passivity. But, like I said, that post got erased, so here's a BMW z3 Coupe, my current dream car.



Of course, like Paul and my housemate Leon, I covet the new Honda Civic SI. Who wouldn't? But the z3 Coupe is like the hybrid love child of a Mini Cooper, my beloved '93 Civic SI Hatchback, and four gorillas. If I were a person like me, that person could be very happy driving a z3 Coupe around. Very happy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Etiquette?

What pleases God? What offends God? To what is God indifferent? Shaykh Yassir Chadly at Starr King told me at the start of the last semester that proper etiquette was important because it pleases God. I'm not a Muslim, nor do I believe in God in a firm, definite sense. Something about the idea of etiquette being important to God really stuck with me, though, and I'm still mulling it over. What are the rules that govern our relationships with one another? Where do ethics come from? Are they pragmatic constructs, or do they come from a deeper source? Just idle thoughts from an early morning walk home from a late-night beer and bs session with Garrick and Neal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Oh My Goodness

Pandora has just helped me create a Josh Ritter radio station. If you were curious, the music-genomic traits of Josh Ritter are mellow rock instrumentation, mild rhythmic syncopation, repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, and major key tonality. Must be why he's such a hit in Ireland--those leprechauns are suckers for vamping.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Back in the Saddle!!!

For what it's worth, I am resurrecting my blog! Cause everyone else is, that's why. I'm listening to the Flaming Lips Radio station from pandora.com which is playing a song called Magic Finger by James Kochalka Superstar. The chorus, and I'm not joking, is "It's my dick! It's my dick! It's a magic finger, pointing at all the pretty girls!" Actually, that's pretty much the whole song. Kochalka is a cartoonist of some repute, most recently for Super F*ckers. Get your mind out of the gutter, James!

I figured out how to resurrect the posts from me and Sarah's bike trip, and I'm working on getting the photos back up, so hold yer horses, you bastids. I have been meaning to write more, and this is sort of a step up from journaling. I do, yes, need the practice. I haven't bicycled across the country since the last time, so no real significant two-wheeled news. I am relocated from Madison, WI, to Oakland, CA, to attend seminary at Starr King School for the Ministry. Sarah is at the moment in Conifer, CO, helping to look after our niece while Sister Becky is on bedrest, but most of the time we are living together in a big ol' house near the MacArthur BART station with four other seminary students. Sarah and I got the room with the private bath. I am loving being back in school, and feeling a sense of direction in my life again.

What's getting it done for me:

The Pittsburgh Steelers! They're like my fantasy of what I wish the Green Bay Packers had been this year.

Talking Heads: BRICK All eight studio albums, neatly packaged into one bludgeony lump, and devastatingly remastered. It's all eight in one big box, so it can count as my desert island album, right?

pandora.com The music genome project is happy to introduce you to music surprisingly congruent to your tastes (and occasionally not).

Knitting Yeah, I was knitting before it was cool for boys to knit.

Firefly I'm definitely between three and four years behind the curve on this one, but it is the business. I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar...

Thomas Hart Benton Regionalism!

And there's some other stuff too...