Saturday, October 13, 2007

Oh, the Irony!

The Nazi airship Hitleriffic! burns over New Jersey.


The Eagle (Der Adler, auf Deutsch) just sent me This Super-Sweet Article about the Zeppelin revival movement. Let me just say that I would travel by Zeppelin rather than heavier-than-air craft any day of the freakin' week! I'm not as big an airship nerd as the person who wrote the wikipedia article I've linked the title to (homeslice went so far as to quote airship-related portions of the Treaty of Versailles. Big Nerd Alert!!!), but even a novice like myself can appreciate how great airship travel could be. My last flying experiences? Sucky. Thanks for the cookies, Midwest Express, but too little, too late. I would gladly tack on an extra day or two to any travel I did if it meant: comfort, space, human interactions, ability to open the windows (!!!), and a sense that as a passenger I was more than a seat-filler.

Incidentally, how sweet is this photo?!? (Thanks, wikipedia!) The majestic, perfectly streamlined USS Los Angeles cruises peacefully above the nascent skyscrapers of Manhattan, the docks framing the island's tip, the architecture fading and diminishing in differentiation to the North...I can almost feel a fedora and three-piece gray wool suit materializing on my body as I look at it. It makes me feel like an extra in The Hudsucker Proxy.

The author of the BBC article fantasizes about an overnight London-to-Rome trip, traversing the Riviera and the Mediterranean at 1000 feet. He also mentions the round-the-world trip undertaken by the Graf Zeppelin, which wikipedia tells us took just over three weeks: Lakehurst, NJ to Friedrichshafen in Germany, to Tokyo, to LA, and back to Lakehurst. I would part with three of my toes to have been on that trip. Maybe four if they took my pinkie toes, the ones with the persistent toenail fungus. Wikipedia also mentions that in 1924, a Zeppelin travelled from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst in 81 hours--three days and nine hours. I'm pretty sure that's against the prevailing winds--not bad, Zeppelin! What's more, that was almost 85 years ago--probably only a few thousand sapient earthlings were alive for that journey--and one wonders what would be possible today? Lifting body airships? Carbon-fiber girders and supports? Turbo-jet engines? I'm no engineer (that much at least should be obvious) so I would love to hear from those more knowledgeable than myself what innovations would be possible in airship design and construction. I would LOVE that. There would probably be something involving computers. The internet, perhaps? Definitely plastics. At any rate...

Flying to Europe in a jet basically knocks two days off your life, minimum, once you've gotten to the airport, taken connecting flights, landed, gone through customs, stumbled to lodging, and slept off the sharp edge of our jetlag. I would bet dollars to donuts that the slower travel of the Zeppelin would make for a much smoother transition, and how great would it be to have the journeying part of travel be enjoyable, rather than the awful shit you have to put up with in order to reach your destination? I've always been bigger on the journey than the destination, anyway. And flying in a Zeppelin--would that not be the apotheosis of Awesome?!?

One last gem from Wikipedia:

"On March 4, 1936, LZ129 (quickly named after former President of Germany Paul von Hindenburg by Eckener [Dr. Hugo Eckener, a man who had long before envisioned dirigibles as vessels of peace rather than warfare] in an attempt to preempt the Nazi Party from naming the ship after Hitler) made her first flight. However, in the new political situation, Eckener had not obtained the helium to inflate it due to a military embargo; only the United States possessed the rare gas in usable quantities. So, in what ultimately proved a fatal decision, the Hindenburg was filled with flammable hydrogen. Apart from the propaganda missions, LZ129 began to serve the transatlantic lines together with Graf Zeppelin."

So if Eckener hadn't been such a damned, peace-and-airship-loving hippie, we would be talking about the tragic crash and explosion of the Zeppelin Hitler. Oh the humanity, indeed. You never know, people.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Bold Master Stroke

The Rock and/or Roll band Radiohead has just announced (as of two days ago--so I'm a little behind the times) that they will be selling their next album online, for no fixed price. A prospective consumer has the option of paying anywhere from 99.99 GBP to, well, 00.00 GBP. I'm no economist, but it doesn't take Milton Friedman to tell you that a contract with Generic Big Record Company, Inc., is a bad deal for just about any music making organization: all the revenue from units sold gets chewed up by dozens of middle-person companies. I don't remember the exact figure, but a band makes pennies of royalty on every dollar's worth of sold CD. This is one reason bands like Metallica were so anti-file-sharing: despite being a huge, world-famous rock band, they need every income stream they can get, and get very sensitive when said income streams seem threatened. I've always thought that the internets, rather than being the net-negative bands like Metallica (and the big record companies) see them as represented a strong opportunity for music-makers to take their careers into their own hands.

At the same time Metallica was raising stink, a band from Brooklyn called (yeah, it's an awkward name) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was selling 50,000 copies of their debut album out of the apartment they were using as an office. And also as an apartment. They were not signed to a label. They did not have distribution. They had a MySpace page, a pretty kick-ass album, and the US Postal Service. What they didn't have was the business-model equivalent of art-vampires sucking their profits out of their awkwardly named neck.

Long story short, the Wall Street Journal published an item today suggesting, in a remarkable display of convoluted logic, that Radiohead was taking advantage of its fans by not setting a price on their album. [click on the title of this post for the story] Assuming that CDs cost $6.40 to manufacture and retail for $16.00, and that the average fan chooses to pay the iTunes price of $10, WSJ decides that the band should just set a low retail price, say $3.40, lest their fans feel somehow cheated.


Leaving aside that all these numbers and figures seem pulled out of thin air, what is the matter with Radiohead possibly making more money by using this distribtion model than the current dominant one? If the fans are paying less, and the band is making more, it seems to me that everyone's happy except for the big labels. If the Wall St. Journal really believes in the Invisible Hand, and the Free Market, and all that hoo-hah, shouldn't it be applauding this shift in the paradigm rather than trying to nitpick and quibble? What does the WSJ have to gain by supporting the status quo?

I know that I'm going to buy me a copy (once their site is uncrashed from the huge amount of traffic it's been getting). I might even pony up an entire Lincoln for it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

One last thing:

You, as a right-thinking, good-hearted person, must watch this short film by the Cuarons about Naomi Klein's latest book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. My beloved and brilliant father long maintained that, basically, it was all Reagan's fault. Pretty good general rule. In every father-child relationship, however, the child must define per/him/her-self against that dominating parental energy. This is my moment, late in my twenty-eighth year, the time when I step over the line from dutiful child to rebellious, self-defining adult. I'm my own man now, Father! It wasn't all Reagan's fault--Milton Friedman did it, too!

Wow, that felt good. Love you, Dad!

Ah, Saturday.

ESPN, bless them, is showing the UW Badgers football game today! Right now it's about two minutes from the end of the third quarter, and UW is up 34-24 over Michigan State. Not too shabby! Wisconsin's defense has stiffened a little in the second half, and PJ Hill is running like he has an extra leg. In other news, the Brewers are losing to the Padres in the eighth inning. Kind of hard to invest emotionally since the Cubs have clinched the division, but sheesh, you would hope they'd at least finish over .500. One game left after this one, one chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 1992, one chance for the team that started the season 24-10 to grasp one tiny piece of redemption and not finish the season on a five game losing streak. What a disappointment. One of the all-time great choke jobs. On the plus side, who's looking forward to tomorrow's Packers-Vikings game? This guy!!! I'm heading over to Alameda to catch the game and breakfast...mmmmm...sports bar breakfast...

Today I've been sorting through my email backlog, and cursing myself for letting it get so out of hand. Here's some things I've been sent in the past two weeks:

Garrick sent me this super-awesome edition of Tom the Dancing Bug, that sums up seminary pretty well:

Shams sent out Rabbi Michael Lerner's reimagining of the Ten Commandments. I'd read this before, and was overjoyed to have the chance to revisit it. The hullabaloo over posting the Ten Commandments all over God's Green Earth (but especially in schools, courtrooms, and US government buildings) has died down a little, but it's not gone by any means. The pro-posting argument distilled to: the Ten Commandments are the foundation of our legal system, and can/should be posted as historical material. There are a lot of problems with this argument, since it's not a real argument but rather a Trojan Horse loaded up with fundamentalist dogma and eschatology. My biggest issue was always that, depending on how you slice them, three to six of the Commandments are YHWH specific. I mean, if the fundamentalists were sincere about their "foundation of US law argument," we would have to restructure the entire economy--where would USAmerica and capitalism be without our idolatry and congenital dishonoring of the Sabbath? Long story short, in this re-visioning of the Decalogue, Lerner opens their use and interpretation to all manner of people from all manner of traditions. Thanks for sending this out, Shams!

Marla sent one of the most powerful pieces of video footage I've seen in a long time: San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announcing that he will not veto a City Council resolution in support of Gay marriage. He is taking heat for that decision (nice to see UU San Diego get a little space at the bottom of the article for being a force for awesomeness), but man, watch the clip of his press conference announcing his decision and try not to get choked up. Talk about guts. Talk about being on the right side of history. Talk about the power of love to change minds and prejudices.

Joel sent a rousing call from Harper's Magazine for a General Strike on November 6th. This one definitely speaks for itself, and I'm running out of typing fuel.

Here's one from, uh, me. I sent this article to myself last May, and it arrived last week. It's an insightful list from The Onion's wonderful pop-culture review/criticism site The AV Club: The AV Club's List of 13 Movies Featuring Magical Black Men. Nice unveiling of an especially noxious racist filmic trope.

Finally, a new ad from the Unitarian Universalist Association that will air during The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Nice little interior shot of the San Francisco church there--I don't know about the watercolor visual effect, but I think that, on the whole, it's a good start to the outreach work that, as an organization and denomination, we need to be doing so much more of.

Okay, that's that! Badgers won the game in a squeaker, I don't know about the Brewers, and if I don't get away from the front of the computer my eyes will fall out of the front of my face. Later on, anyone who reads this. That means you, Mom and Dad.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sick Day.

Ooog. I caught Sarah's cold during our getaway this weekend, and all my running around yesterday just brought it down on my head like a sack of doorknobs. I feel like crap, and I've got a ton of homework dangling over my noodle. And yet, I just spent the last hour reading and commenting on an AV Club blogpost about fantasy and sci-fi novels. I'm a firm believer in double-dipping, and here's what I wrote:

Wow! This thread's got legs!

I feel like I'm reading a forum on my non-school reading from the past few years. Stephenson, Donaldson, Jordan, Gaiman, Mieville, Pratchett, Adams... An embarrassment of riches!

Before I get into my own nerdy list of loves and hates (and indifferences), I want to direct the attention of the assemblage to this article about the curse of World-Building, courtesy of

This, in my opinion, explains a lot of what frustrated me no end with Jordan, especially, but also folks like Stephenson, and even the too-inventive-for-his-own-good Mieville: they get too wrapped up in conveying the world, and the story (to which the setting should be subordinate) suffers as a result. I don't think anyone would disagree with my opinion that the Jordan books would be a shit-ton better if he'd done the same arc in six books and spared us a ton of tedious and unnecessary scene-setting and clothing description.

Same thing with Stephenson. I read Cryptonomicon and enjoyed it a lot, then went backwards to Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, and then tackled The Baroque Cycle. Whoof. I'm not trying to argue that he didn't spend a lot of time on the worlds (the same world?) in Snow Crash and Diamond Age, but the plot zips and twists pretty nimbly, and all the obvious MacGuffins are clever enough that you forgive him. But man, I trailed off halfway through the BC, when Half-Cocked Jack and Eliza are up in the mountains with Leibniz learning how to mine for freaking ever, and Stephenson's just going on and on with the describing everything down to the smallest detail...I marvel at his imagination, and they seem like valuable books if you want to get a feel for the facts of living at that time, but ...the ...story ...just ...plods ...and drags ...and sags ...until ...put the book down and don't pick it up again. Snow Crash moves. Even Cryptonomicon, which is somewhat ponderous, has a certain swagger. You'd think an epic about Colonial America, the Enlightenment, pirates and such would have a little more zip, but Stephenson seems to care more about elaborating all the clever little ideas rattling around his clever little head. It seems like he's bought into his own hype, and has transcended the bounds of normal human editing.

I just finished Perdido St. Station, and while parts were legitimately creepy, and the whole thing was neat, on the whole I never got a sense of the city as place. It seemed like an agglomeration of every clever idea that had popped into Mieville's head during the past three years, stitched together with maddening deliberateness and over-description. It would have been much more effective for me with 75% less scene-setting. Trust your reader. It means less work for you as an author, and it makes your work that much more engaging. That said, I really liked Perdido St. Station...I liked it enough that its flaws stood out in particularly sharp relief. His Re-Mades twisted my stomach in a way it hadn't twisted since reading that issue of Uncanny X-Men where Wolverine fights Lady Deathstrike in the construction site in the blizzard...oooh! Creepy cyborgs!

I read my first DiscWorld book at the same time as Perdido, and man! What a difference! For one thing, the Pratchett books are like a fraction of the length of any of the books I've mentioned above. For another, they contain at least as much cleverness and imagination, if not more. And most importantly, they move! The pacing is great--zips along without feeling glossed-over--with enough description that you don't even think about how many blanks your brain is filling in. Very satisfying. Icing on the cake: the shit is hilarious. Douglas Adams level hilarious. I hadn't cracked up while reading anything (except The Onion) in some years. It felt really good.

Stephen R. Donaldson is a great writer, but not someone I'm sure I would want to spend any time with. I love (LOVE) his Gap Cycle, but holy shit, the first three books are grim. GRIM. But the payoff in the last two really, um, pays off. Great stuff. Of course, I am a sucker for Norse mythology, and the Wagnerian echoes in the Gap books are not there by accident...

I got sucked headlong into Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell last summer--high recommendation for anyone looking for a magical, creepy, Napoleonic yarn.

Two final recommendations that I (surprisingly) haven't seen up here, before I completely run out of steam:

Octavia Butler, may she rest in peace. I've only read her Parable of the Sower, and I'm resting up in preparation for delving further into her catalog. A persistent theme in the comments seems to be the Anglo- and Andro-centricity of most fantasy, and I think Butler is a great antidote for that. Not to essentialize her, because she is far more then the sum of two portions of her identity, but she is a Black woman author and that informs her work. All you complaining about the absence of strong female characters should check out Parable of the Sower. Just be prepared to be shaken--it takes place in a near-future California that is a little too plausible for escapist enjoyment.

Finally, for the tween/teen set, Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising books. I loved these as a kid, and came back to them as an ostensible grown-up to find them much richer and deeper than I knew at the time. Again, a rehashing of The Chosen One dynamic, but I guess I don't find that quite as tiresome as a lot of y'all. What I love about her books is her understanding of evil. It's not a Sauron, or a Shai-tan, or an unimaginable alien force bent on our subjugation, but rather that part within each of us that judges and stereotypes, that feeds bias, prejudice and racism. It's a force that doesn't want to destroy humanity, but rather to bring out the worst in humanity, and let us destroy each other. What Hanna Arendt called the banality of evil at the Nuremburg trials. Great stuff that is being turned into what looks like an unbelievable piece of shit movie, coming this Christmas! Nathan Rabin's feelings on 1999's The Grinch remake in his recent MYOF entry on Cat in the Hat echo my own regarding the upcoming The Dark Is Rising: a fascist film made by Nazi's bent on raping my childhood.

Okay, I think I'm spent. Thanks, Jason Heller, for a great blogpost, and an even awesomer comments thread. I really appreciate that you are a presence in the comments--kind of gives the whole thing a sense of unity and purpost.

Vitamin K1 out!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Who needs copy-editing?

I love seeing Oberlin get recognition. And I love its art rental program. But this article is just terrible. Typos, bad sentence construction, you name it. It looks like it was written by a child. Very disappointing, WKYC.

In other news, Sarah and I are going away for our 5th wedding anniversary, so don't expect anything before Sunday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

BIg Effing Week,

which is why I haven't posted. Here's two quick links, and a lovely photogram.

Rolling Stone makes another argument for its continued relevance with a gut-wrenching article about how super-swell the Iraq adventure has been managed.

And all my IT homies and Stage Crew studs are wetting their drawers at the latest Leatherman Multi-tool. Don't ask me how I know, just assume there was a disturbance in the Force.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Unlooked for Blessings!

Well, maybe a little looked-for. I flipped on the TV yesterday morning, curious to see who was playing, and what do I find but the opening minutes of Packers v. Eagles! On live TV! In Oakland!


Actually, save for a few moments of excitement courtesy of Ol' Number Four, the (really-really-outstanding-looking) Packers Defensive Line, and the Eagles special teams unit, it was a pretty boring game. The Packers offense didn't drive for any touchdowns (and I think the three field goals came off of turnovers). Most of the game was a push, honestly. But it was tied up to the last minute, when Green Bay punted, the Eagles receiver muffed the punt, Green Bay recovered, and then...

And then Fox announced they were taking us to the beginning of the local game. So rather than the gripping, chilling, suspense-filled final seconds of action (which I found out later culminated in Mason Crosby's 43 yard game winning kick) I got fifteen minutes of dull, dull, dull pregame coverage of Oakland v. Detroit, delivered by two schmoes I'd never seen before on a broadcast (Fox's D-Team, no doubt; I mean, Raiders/Lions? Who's gonna watch that?!!?)

I was left super-unsatisfied. Super Unsatisfied. Fortunately I was able to channel that unsatisfactory energy into getting needlessly stressed out about last night's Youth Group picnic. And, the Packers won, even if I didn't get to witness it in real-time. Could be worse!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Today's Classic Cars of Tomorrow...Today!

I came across a great post at HooptyRides (blog of fixit-genius Mr. Jalopy) on the subject of classic cars, and whether or not any of today's cars will ever be considered "classic". It's the August 21 entry, and well-worth the scroll-down. Mr. Jalopy was inspired by this article in the Wall Street Journal. I agree with Mr. J's critiques and insights, particularly regarding the extensive use of plastic in modern cars as impediments to their classic status. He's right: pretty much every car you see on the road today is one or two decades away from cracking, crumbling, and being scattered by a light breeze.

That said, I considered it a supreme injustice that neither of these two mentioned two current cars that *I* consider classics, plasticity notwithstanding:

The Honda Civic SI (all three major iterations):

The BMW M-Class Z3/4 Coupe (In its older and soon-to-be-released versions):

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lightning Links!

#1!!! A sweet trans-Atlantic ground-effect wingship hypothesized in Popular Science, way way back in 1984, and featured recently on BoingBoing's new Gadgets site.

#2!!! A revisiting of Rain Man from the Onion's wonderful pop-culture studies site, The AV Club. Highly recommended because of the perspective of its author, and because of said author's insights (which I guess must stem from that perspective...I guess I have only one reason to recommend it, but it's a reason that branches and evolves in beautiful ways...).

#3!!! An essay by genius Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes). Watterson embodied a perhaps never-to-be-repeated synthesis of brilliant draftspersonship (control of line, depth, and gesture), insightful and understated use of color, and penetrating worldview of sufficient depth to grasp the mind of a brilliant and hyper six year old and those of his parents with equal sensitivity and wit. That might be the worst sentence I've ever written, but hopefully I get my point across.

Okay, on to the business of the day.

Quick Art Hit, my fave blog, has been posting about Cayetano Ferrer recently. His stuff is thought-provoking and beautiful, and I think I might be able to use it in my thesis! Click the title of this post for a link to his site. You can also go to BoingBoing and search their site for "Cayetano Ferrer" for photos of a cool project he did by painting billboards with the images of the landscape they obscured. Yeah. Not only is it a neat way to explore the presence/absence tension and the illusory nature of our ideas of permanence and possibility, it also is a great subversion of the advertising media in service of art rather than the vice versa.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Still clearing out the link piles...

First, a few political nuggets!

Bad few weeks for the GOP and the administrationEither this rabbit hole goes deeper than humanly imaginable, or the wheels have finally come off the noise machine. Or this is a statistically meaningless cluster of bad news for the Prez.

This decent article from Huffington Post shoots two fish in the same barrel: Karl Rove and American journalists.

Bill Moyers speaks to the base and utter cynicism that drove Rove and Bush to brief political victory, at great cost to, well, the world.

Slate rounds up the best political cartoons about good ol' Larry Craig, and Christopher Hitchens writes in the same online-magazine on the same topic.

Whoops, and just like that it was bedtime. More tomorrow....

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lotsa Catering!

Just a few late-nite links in between folding the laundry and cooking a late, local, stir-fried-veggie dinner in case Sarah's hungry when she gets home from bartending at a wedding in Sonoma. Mouthful of a sentence!

What happened is that I double-booked myself with catering jobs today, so Sarah, bless her, took the bartending-wedding job, while I worked at a Bat Mitzvah over in Walnut Creek.

!!! Super Awesome Spherical-Tree-House Company in BC will build you your very own spherical treehouse. Just you wait until we have disposable income again... How sweet would this be in a backyard?

!!! Gerhard Richter, one of my fave artists, just finished a stained-glass window commission for the Super-Cathedral in Cologne, Germany (going with the Francophile spelling since I don't know how to do umlauts in Blogger). Click the link for high-res, high-rad photo of said window. And don't worry, there's nothing wrong with your computer; it's supposed to look like that.

!!! Neat slideshow of what a human-free future would hold for New York City. It's pub for a super-cool sounding new book called World Without Us that is definitely on my Christmas list.

Okay, enough comedy jokes! Time for some comedy stir-fry.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Buncha Links from the Summer

Here's a bunch of stuff I thought was interesting enough to email to myself at various times over the summer:

***Sidney Blumenthal declares the current Republican paradigm to be kitsch, ersatz, however you want to Allemagnize it. I tend to agree. (holy moley, this one's almost a year old--where have I been? At any rate, here's two core paragraphs:

"Kitsch is imitative, cheap, sentimental, mawkish and incoherent, and derives its appeal by demeaning and degrading genuine standards and values, especially those of modernity. While the proponents of the faux retro style claim to uphold tradition, they are inherently reactive and parasitic, their words and products a tawdry patchwork, hastily assembled as declarations against authentic complexity and ambiguity, which they stigmatize as threats to the sanctity of an imaginary harmonious order of the past that they insist they and their works represent. Kitsch presumes to be based on old rules, but constantly traduces them.

"The Bush kitsch warriors have created a cultural iconography that attempts to inspire deference to the radical making of an authoritarian presidency. These warriors pose as populists, fighting a condescending liberal elite. Wealthy, celebrated and influential, their faux populism demands that they be seen however as victims."

Not bad, Sid! Although I think Clem Greenberg is pretty much of an elitist, there's no denying a gulf between kitsch and art. Or governance.

***Glenn Greenwald blogs about Bill Moyers's recent PBS documentary on the failure of the press in the Iraq War run-up.

"One of the most important points came at the end. The institutional decay which Moyers chronicles is not merely a matter of historical interest. Instead, it continues to shape our mainstream political dialogue every bit as much as it did back in 2002 and 2003. The people who committed the journalistic crimes Moyers so potently documents do not think they are guilty of anything -- ask them and they will tell you -- and as a result, they have not changed their behavior in the slightest."

***Paul sent me this incredible article from Discover Magazine that answers the question, "what happens when you point two internet chat-bots at each other?" ALICE and Jabberwocky get deep:

Jabberwocky: Do you think?

ALICE: Yes. I am a thinking machine.

J: But you don’t think very well though.

A: Oh. Um. Do you think well? Why would I think well?

J: Because I tell you about things which you don’t like.

A: That makes sense to me. Why did you tell them?

J: You seem fun.

A: You think I am fun.

J: Yes ;).

A: : -) Awesome.

***My Great-great-grandfather on my mother's side led a Universalist meeting group in Villisca, Iowa, in the late 1800's. Before the merger between the Unitarians and the Universalists in 1961, Grandma and Grandpa Karlson and my mom and her sibs all went to the Universalist church in Rochester, MN. It is still the hunk of my religious heritage with which I most identify. This page on Starr King's website has a great density of information on Univeralism.

***I think I found this article on BoingBoing... It's an examination of the ways in which class divisions play out in social networking websites MySpace and FaceBook. What, no Friendster?!?

***The Washington Post's big series on Cheney. As Chris Nilsson would say, his name is himself (ie: Dick).

***This one I know I got from BoingBoing. Blade Runner at 25: Why the Special Effects Are Still Unsurpassed, an appreciation by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame.

***Two from YouTube: a video called Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins singers, and the page for the Real Blues Archives. I'm thinking my dad will like this one.

***After all the flying we've done this summer I'm ready to never get on a plane again. This blog post about Continental Flight 1970 makes me realize how much worse it could have been. At least Sarah's and my experiences were just full of drudgery and stupid TSA nonsense. We didn't have to deal with the almost unspeakable customer service that Continental subjected these poor people to, and better than that the toilets on our flights didn't break down and send rivers of shit and piss coursing through the steerage--I mean, coach class cabins. Here's a link to the passengers' blog, Poop On A Plane.

***From the hideous to the sublime: a nice article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the Ellen Johnson house, Frank Lloyd Wright's contribution to the Oberlin, OH, skyline.

***A neat article from about 15 green religious leaders. I misremember who posted this to the Starr King listserv, but I am glad they did!

***Here's one from Nashville about freedom of speech and its historic limits in that fair city. I'm more interested in the second item, about the trouble Amos Dresser got into for possessing abolitionist literature as he traveled through Nashville:

"According to Dresser, a group of committee members stripped him naked, and as he knelt, Constable Braughton administered the whipping. "When the infliction ceased, an involuntary feeling of thanksgiving to God for the fortitude with which I had been able to endure it, arose in my soul, to which I began aloud to give utterance," Dresser recalled. "The death-like silence that prevailed for a moment, was suddenly broken with loud exclamations, 'G-d d--n him, stop his praying.'"" (Check my grammar, but I think I'm justified in jamming that many quotation marks together.)

***Sarah and I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last night, making us some of the last people in the world to have done so, or so it seems. On the off chance that we aren't the final suckers to cross the finish line, I won't spoil, or reveal, or what have you, other than to say how impressed I am. HP7 ties the entire series up into a tidy little bundle, it is compulsively readable, it is fun, it deals with heavy shit in a credible and light-handed way... It just works. And how! So, here's my last link this evening: courtesy of Garrick, an article about the Church of England's publishing of a guide on how to use Harry Potter to evangelize.

Okay, that's it for the evening. Whoof.

Fun with Sarah, Gwyn, Frunch, Andy, and MacBook, and then a shipwreck in Oregon:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


If anyone knows how to un-sideways a photo uploaded onto blogger, I'm open to suggestions.

Home again, home again...

jiggety-jig. Whew. So that's it for the crazy summer travels (at least, the planned-out ones). Sarah and I got home a few hours ago. We woke up this morning at 3 am (pacific time), so I'm gonna try to keep this one short and sweet.

1: Paul and Ali's wedding was amazing. Expect more post in the coming days. Long story short, they are now married and honeymooning up in Door County; a good time was had by all; I did a better-than-adequate job officiating my first wedding, and I mailed the wedding certificate on time.

2: On Sunday, the day after the wedding, we drove up to Rochester, MN, as a family to visit my mother's mother, the venerable Grandma Karlson. We rushed up to see her because on Monday (yesterday) she had a long day in the hospital, with blood tests and biopsies to determine if growths recently found during a CAT scan are cancer; if so, what type; and then, what treatment (or non-treatment) action to take. Grandma had asked me to perform her Memorial Service, so this was an opportunity for us all to sit down and make certain that we wouldn't leave anything out, or violate any wishes or needs of Grandma's. No problem there. Grandma looked as well as she did when we saw her in July; better, actually, since she has had the walking boots off! She was awfully tired, but relentlessly funny. Uncle Karl John and Aunt Dorene were there (they took her to the hospital on Monday), and it was really swell to see them, too.

3: Sarah's family reunion in Colorado, at the dude ranch, was great! We were only there for a day and a half, sadly, but had a great time seeing everyone, and riding horses, and playing poker, and remembering and honoring Sarah's grandfather. Hardest goodbye? Becky's daughters, Maddie and Carly. Such sweet, cute girls--I'll post photos, and then you'll see.

4: The flight home shattered my illusions about Midwest Airlines. I remember it as being the modern-day equivalent of a zeppelin ride: opulent, luxurious, comfortable, and smooth. This flight wasn't bad, and they haven't done away with their practice of fresh-baking cookies mid-flight, but it was pretty much entirely like flying any other airline, except they were charging $10 for the in-flight lunch! The other big thumbs-down was the stopover in Kansas City, where we had to go through another security check to get from one gate to the other. Funny how the littlest things can push you over the edge.

5: I posted some days ago about Pattie Boyd, muse to both Clapton and Harrison. I want to amend my remarks a little--I think they skewed a little along the lines of "that nasty, unethical Eric Clapton, how dare he snatch his friend's wife right out from under his nose! For shame!" Let it be said that no woman is a prize to be won, and that I did a poor job honoring Pattie Boyd's choices in that affair. Further, at the time of her separation with George Harrison he was sleeping with Ringo Starr's wife. So my nice little moral construct was neatly overturned by one piece of information, leaving me with one recourse: a blanket denunciation of the decade of the Seventies, with their loose morals, and poorly thought-out adulteries. A pox on the years between 1970 and late 1978 (December, to be exact--I think the event of my own birth can be scientifically pinpointed as the moment where history righted itself).

I think that should do it for today. Here's a photo of Sarah--I am entranced by the way sunlight filters through her straw hats to make little constellations on her face and neck, and I have almost resigned myself to the fact that it is impossible to capture exactly what I am seeing and experiencing in such instances:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Missed one!

Rats. Maybe since I was travelling most of the day yesterday, I can get a free pass this time.

All is well at Becky and Andy's new place--it's on a knoll, so there are great mountain views on all sides; it is open and light all day; and Maddie and Carly are super happy. What a blessing to have two such sweet nieces!

I went to Target down in Littleton today, to buy myself a minister suit for this weekend--[gulp]! I found a really nice dark grey number (with pinstripes--very refined, though), plus belt, tie, and nice shirt for $200. Not bad. While I was browsing the racks I got a call from my mom--sad news, that I'm not really ready to write about yet.

On the way back to Evergreen I met up with Becky and Sarah and the girls at TinyTown, a local tourist attraction--miniature houses and buildings, with a train and a playground. Way cute, and a real spirits-lifter for me.

Now I'm about to homilize; Sarah and Becky are evaluating the plant-life and garden-potential around the house; and Maddie and Carly are napping. Napping sounds pretty good, honestly.

One link today--an open letter to the prominent evangeltheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, et al) whose tone and recommendations I like. This is my kind of atheism.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Let's unspool this one...

The only part of this video I don't like is right before the the start of the second verse, where West utters the words "Me Likey" while images of an Asian woman dance on screen. I expect more from someone as smart and politically active as West, especially in light of his call for HipHop to abandon anti-gay language.

That said, I can't stop watching this one. Daft Punk have captured cycle-punk gang member Kanye West and are in the process of rewiring his brain, allowing him to tap into his immensely powerful latent psychic powers in order to become an unstoppable, superhuman party machine. Honestly, though, any video that does a halfway decent job of reenacting scenes from Akira is gonna tickle my nerd buttons, and this video nails it.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Much Better!

Turns out the "Add Image" window was opening behind the open FireFox window rather than just popping right out in front. Better than nothing!

Here's two of me and housemate QueenE from the day we were both nerds, accidentally.

Evildoers! Beware our vigilance!


Compact Discs

This [click on the post title for the link] can't really be called an article; it's more of a stream of thematically linked factoids about one of the late 20th century's perfect objects: the CD. My Dad got the family's first CD player when I was in first grade ('86, I think--I seem to remember it was in the Spring) and I'll never forget climbing up the back porch steps with Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer blasting through the very walls of our house--it was right at the chorus, "Lie la lie [BOOOOM!] Lie la lie lie lie la lie; lie la lie [BOOOOOM!]" etc. I read later that they used a ridiculous huge drum that had been installed in the bottom of an elevator shaft in an office building in New York City for that [BOOOOM!]. I hope they recorded on a weekend.

By the time I was in high school Dad's CD collection was the thing of legend. My jazz-loving friends would come over and marvel at it--easy to do, as it covered an entire wall of the living room and was sending out feelers and tendrils for more annex-able space. It was also, if I may say, really really good stuff. You could pick any jewel box off those shelves and at the very worst it would be interesting.

Just yesterday at Half-Price Books in downtown Berkeley I found two CDs I remembered from Dad's collection: For the Beauty of Wynonna by Daniel Lanois (you may think you've never heard of him, but if you've listened to any popular music produced in the last 20 years you've heard his work) and Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings by John Prine (and if you've never heard of John Prine you've got yourself a mission then, haven't you--start with his Greatest Hits album; his song about the political climate as of two or three years ago, "Some Humans Ain't Human," is also particularly fine).

I'm sad to see CDs going the way of cassettes and LPs, although the continued presence of vinyl fetishists gives me hope that the those shiny little discs aren't headed for the same lonely fate as the 8-Track. But I must admit, I have felt the pull of this century's current fetish object (a thing so perfect that the book about it is titled The Perfct Thing)--so compact! So powerful! So convenient! And I would love to be able to download lectures, sermons, podcasts, etc. BUT! The Andy and Sarah family budget is one thing, the restrictions (Grrr...DRM!) on what you can and can't play are another, and the fact that an iPod file is only about 10% of the same song on a CD is a third. Plus, it's one more thing, or more specifically, one more place to shove other things. I can easily see my iPod filling up with music and podcasts and such that I download intending to listen to later and then never get around to--just another location for compulsions and intentions to orbit around.

Hmmm...Blogger's still not letting me post pictures--looks like the "Add Image" button has gotten swapped with the "Save Now" button. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2007


So now I can't post photos? Man, Blogger, you are losing Brownie Points left and right this evening. >:(

Evening Post

Fuck. The first half of this post just got bloggered. I can't reconstruct it tonight, or ever probably, but just to provide a little continuity with the surviving portion, I wrote about the death of my favorite PSR professor, Doug Adams, and how taking his class Modern Art and Religion in America changed my life. I will write more about him tomorrow, since I can't do him justice tonight.


Doug died in late July, and less than a week after his death I got an email from Gergo, the German Dept. PhD student (and friend of our friend Sabrina's!) who had taken over our Hungarian classes after Professor Mihalik was diagnosed with lung cancer. He said that no-one had expected it to happen, and so soon, but Agnes had died at about 6 that morning, July 31. Agnes was in her 40's, and while Doug's death was expected to a degree, or at least led up to, her death was a total surprise to me. She told us about her diagnosis in class just four months before her death, and I couldn't believe that she ...was dead, and so quickly.

Agnes was a wonderful teacher, and more than that a wonderful presence. She projected an intense warmth and vibrancy, and it was wonderful to hear her talk about her favorite Hungarian bands and TV Shows, and American romantic movies (she loved Titanic). I regret what a shitty Hungarian student I was, and especially the times that I blew off class. In particular, once Sarah and I decided we weren't going to spend a semester in Transylvania I lost a great deal of my sense of urgency to learn Hungarian, and that affected my involvement in the class. I wish I had done better, and stuck with it, impossible damn language that it is. I feel that, instead, I was a disappointment to someone I liked a great deal, and in the process cheated myself out of getting to know her better. What can you do, though, besides drink and listen to Stan Getz albums?

So that's one of the big themes from my summer. The other is travel, and maybe I'll have the energy to write about that tomorrow. I think I'm about done for the evening, though. I'll try to chase this admittedly morbid post with some pretty pictures from the last few months.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Brief Addendum...

While I was pretty harsh on Clapton in my previous post, I feel compelled to note that, in my opinion, Duane Allman's soaring slide guitar solo in the second half of the song is one of the most transcendent moments in ...I was going to say popular music, but I think I can lump unpopular music in with that, and declare it one of my favorite musical moments, ever.

Here's a photo titled "Wacka Wacka Wacka. Your guess is as good as mine.

Consistency Will Be Our Watchword.

In a conversation last weekend (with Frunchy? Damn it all, I can't remember! Sorry if I've misattributed this...) my conversation partner remarked that the hallmark of a good blog is consistency, that one should be able to check it daily and have something new to read. Otherwise there's just no incentive. So forthwith, I resolve to post at least daily. There's always something worth thinking and writing about, even if briefly.

So here's a (very) brief bio of Charles Finney, Oberlin Patriarch. I always get a tickle out of the great changes undergone in Christian Evangelism in the last 150 years. And the swap of the core values of the political parties.

Next, here's an excerpt from Pattie Boyd's autobiography, from the Daily Mail. In Britain. Pattie Boyd, if her name doesn't ring a bell, is the ex-wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Truly, a modern-day Alma Mahler-Gropius-Werfel (I knew of some of the others, but had no idea that she and Kokoschka were lovers! Just goes to show...). At any rate, she was married to George, but then Eric took a fancy to her, and as a document of his woo, wrote for her Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, which he released as Derek and the Dominos. One of the great albums of all time? Yeah, I guess. Once I got over Clapton Unplugged (in eighth grade), that was kind of it for me and Clapton. Great skill and profeciency? Sure, but where's the substance? He's like a giant billboard for himself, plastered all along the highway of 20th century pop music history, and when you finally get there, just like Wall Drug, there's nothing but tchotchkes and geegaws. You're lucky if you find a cute pencil-cozy.

Anyways, whatever I might think about Clapton musically, it's pretty clear that he was a total shit as a husband and a friend. Harrison was his mate, his homeboy, his main man, and Clapton goes and writes "one of the best albums in rock history" in order to shag Harrion's wife. Not trying to say that she was a prize to be won, or any sexist tripe--It takes two to lie, as Homer says, one to lie and one to listen. I just think it's pretty shitty all the way around. And, after reading what Pattie Boyd has to say about her marriage, it seems like George Harrison came off better than anyone else in the whole messy triangle.

I found this photo on the hard-drive of our old computer. I know nothing about it, except that I titled it "A World Of Pain, Donny". Your guess is as good as mine!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Last night, in San Francisco's ATampersandT park, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. Thank God that this media circus can now dissipate. The Chronicle devoted its entire front page to a huge photo of the triumphant slugger, going so far as to replace its banner with a "756!!!" logo. Classy. Lost in all the hubbub was a tiny detail that, for me, sums up the entire Bonds home run saga, and also the Giants' season this year: Giants lose to Nationals, 8-6. Is this not the epitome of the current "There's no team in me!" ethic that permeates almost all of pro-sports? I mean, yeah, great job, Barry, but it's not like y'all are going to the playoffs this year, is it now?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What Do You Do At 11:36 PM In Minneapolis?

You filter through the last few days at BoingBoing and post the stuff you're interested in reading later!

Check out this page of rice-paddy-art! With careful application of different varieties of rice, these farmers transcend the boundaries of their craft!

Marvel!!! At the President's grandfather's attempted coup of FDR!!!

Here's a cool video-mashup of two of my favorite things: Stop-motion animation and Long-exposure night-time photography!

When Sarah was in New Zealand, Flight of the Conchords performed for her group thanks to ...not nepotism, as I understand, but rather connections. Here they are performing their signature hit, Bowie's In Space.

Flying makes me crazy. Here's the president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance explaining why the system we're operating with is inadequate and insecure. Sarah and I have been doing a lot of flying in the past few years, and it seems like every time we set foot in an airport the bullshit gets thicker to wade through. Not only is is infuriating and undignified to be treated like cattle, the "security" procedures in place are almost completely useless at their stated goal: Protecting people from terrorism.

Sarah and Areca have returned from Girls' Night Out! Here's the last of my links, before Areca reclaims her bedroom/computer area:

Christians United For Israel, featuring (for some reason) Joe Lieberman!

Cats!!! It's from the Smithsonian, so it's gotta be true!

Finally, a link to a series of performances by the Talking Heads, greatest rock band of all time! Yes, Virginia, there is justice in the world.

That's it from Minneapolis, at least for tonight! Good night, hipsters and hangers-on; there will be no encore.

Still On The Move!

Sarah and I landed in Minnesota around this time last night--now she and Areca are out on the town with Suzanne as part of a "Ladies' night out". Me? I've been reading magazines and comic books and drinking a few beers. If Frunch and Gabe had arrived a day sooner I would have had some company, but honestly, I've had a great night. Once we get back to the Bay, expect some great shots of Areca in her wedding dress. Until then, I got nothin'.


I got somethin'!!! Here's the link to The Real Taste of Original!, the podcast which I co-anchor with my dear friend and associate, PM Funk--Lord of the Dance. Episode 1 (Mic Check) is the earliest, Episode 6 (Space-Age Bachelor PodCast) the latest. All feature World-class tunes, and Municipality-class banter. Highly Recommended!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wow. Just wow.

Super-friend DJ PM Funk sent me this article a few days ago, and I finally held down my vomit long enough to finish it. Don't get me wrong, it's a great article--it's the subject matter that is so vile.

Johann Hari reports from The National Review's annual cruise, and it's a horrifying, shocking, and devastating story. When PM sent it my way it was with the message "See if you can make it past the second page." I'm glad I did, if only to read about the rhetorical throwdown between Norman Podhoretz and William F. Buckley Jr. It's a testament to how off-the-charts Podhoretz is that he makes Buckley look positively sane in comparison.

Long story short, it's a great article, and well-worth the read, even if you do have to shower afterwards.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I do miss the Midwest.

I miss fireflies. I miss cardinals. I miss seasons. And man, o man, do I miss thunderstorms. We got a couple of real serious t-storms one of the days we were cleaning out Gaga's apartment. Here are some photos from that evening.

Rosalie Myers, 1916-2007

And then we flew to Michigan.

We came into Lansing at a little after midnight. Barry and Sandy picked us up and we drove back down to Jackson. We went to the hospital the next day to see Gaga. I don't really know how to write about seeing her. She looked so different from the last time we'd seen her, at Christmas. Her vitality was gone, maybe everything that made her her was gone, or maybe it was invisible, or resting in a hidden place. She had dozens of get well soon cards taped to the cabinet doors of her room, and framed pictures of herself and her husband, her kids and grandkids and greatgrandkids and greatgreatgrandkids (!) on all the available surfaces. Sarah's sister Rachael made a collage of family photos from the last fifty years. The hospital staff were so kind and conscientious, checking in to see how everyone was doing, bringing breakfast and snack trays, and just being really warm and supportive. Thank God for good people.

Gaga died a few days after we arrived, the day before Adam and Mary arrived from Maine. I feel really lucky that we were able to be there to see her before she went, and to be there for Sarah's Dad and the whole family. Stuff like this, in my limited experience, is such a strange balance between sad and festive. Deaths have the capacity to bring family together, and that brings a dynamic that swings between retrospection and finding out how loved ones have changed and grown since the last time everyone was together. Lyle Lovett has a great song that I think captures this feeling, called "Family Reserve" from his album, Joshua Judges Ruth.

L to R: Rachael, Mary, Sarah, Mandy


L to R: Bill, Adam, Rachael, Z, and Barry

Barry Myers

Barry and Rachael


Why the Sideways, Blogger? Anyway, Chris Murray's huge face will frighten you into buying a lottery ticket, apparently.

Grizzo and Gabe.

Sarah and Mt. Shasta, ala Alex Katz.

Mt. Shasta.

Best Laid Plans

So I was 0-for-2 in predictions in my last post. No Olympic Peninsula, no GA.

When we left Oakland, we drove more than 12 hours up to Breitenbush Hot Springs in southern Oregon, where we tried our damnedest to relax, without really succeeding. Then we visited good buddy Shauncito in Corvallis, where he is finishing his PhD, and living with his PhD advisor and the advisor's family. Great to see Shaun, and wonderful to meet his hosts, but by the time we were driving North, backpacking was the last thing either of us wanted to do, much less any more time in the car, plus Sarah was sick and feeling crappy. So we detoured to Seaside, OR, and a youth hostel we'd stayed at on our bike trip. Man, did we stay there! Four nights, altogether. We cooked, read, hiked, canoed, went out for dinner...really swell, low-key vacation.

Where the River Meets the Sea

Sunset From the Back Porch of the Seaside Hostel

Shipwreck @ Fort Stevens State Park, North of Seaside

Sadly, our vacation wasn't all sunsets, unicorns, canoes, and shipwrecks. We got a call from Sarah's dad Barry in Michigan the first night we spent in Seaside. Her grandmother, Gaga (aka Rosalie), had fallen at the nursing home where she was recovering from a stroke, and then had another stroke and things weren't looking good. Four days later, on our way to Portland for GA, we got another call from Barry. We had stopped for lunch at a McMenamin's off of Hwy 26, The Rock Creek Tavern, when we got the call. Gaga was unresponsive and was getting hospice care at the hospital. She was getting neither food nor water, and it was only a matter of time.

We found an internet cafe (coincidently only one block from our erstwhile GA host Gabe's apartment), found not-entirely-unreasonable plane tickets to Lansing, and found Gabe. Our flight left in two days, giving us one evening in Portland, a 12 hour drive back down to Oakland, a night to pack, and an early morning flight from SFO. Gabe, as one might expect, was the consummate host, and Portland in the summer was beautiful, but it was a really surreal evening.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Vacation!

Yep--Sarah and I are outta heere! We'll be hiking in the Olympic Peninsula, and then in Portland for GA. So, uh...later!

Friday, June 01, 2007

What to say, what to say...

My word! Like Tolkein said, it's dangerous business walking out your front door--you never know where the day will take you.

This whole thing has been my first introduction to the "UU Blogosphere", and a good reminder that the creative conflict inherent in forging and leading in liberal religion can be messy business. One point made by many folks I've talked to about this is how different the tenor of the conversation would have been had it been conducted face to face. With some trepidation, given the amount of misinterpretation, projection, and sensitivity that has characterized so much of this online conversation, I offer the following cartoon from Penny Arcade:

Just to reemphasize: I am not calling anyone a "fuckwad." I offer the above cartoon because: it's hilarious; and because it is a powerful explication of an internet-characterizing phenomenon. PeaceBang herself, over the course of the last few days, has said several times that blogs are not the forum for serious discussion of important issues. While I am of the opinion that the internet is what we make of it, I do agree with Rev. Weinstein that the medium has a way of compressing dialogue and conversation, and that the attraction of having an audience and relative anonymity (or at least absence of direct accountability) can create a sort of pipeline to snarkiness and careless wit, and compounded assumptions and misunderstandings, all of which are antithetical to deep, serious conversations.

Okay, enough meta. Rev. Weinstein, to my surprise, thought enough of my comment on her "Brown Bag Lunch" post (which I re-posted here on my site) to dedicate a full post in response. While I don't want to drag this thing on longer than necessary, I feel the need to address and clarify some of the things I said in that response, and to clear up some confusion about my words and intentions. Italicized below are Rev. Weinstein's words, and my responses are in regular typeface.

So, Is This About Anti-Oppression, Or Is This About School Spirit?
May 30, 2007 on 8:27 pm | In Unitarian Universalism, Theological Reflection (Biblical) | Comments Off

Here, I think we get to a very important element of the great Brown Bag debate. Andy, seminarian at Starr King, writes this post, full of anger and hurt about what I, an “apparent” UU Minister in the Northeast (Hi Andy, I’m Victoria Weinstein. I was ordained 10 years ago and I’ve served our congregations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts. No “apparent” about it) have written about a situation that occurred at SKSM.

Hi Victoria!

I am a student at Starr King in large part because of its anti-oppressive focus and philosophy, so I don't see an "either/or" in relationship to the title of Rev. Weinstein's post.

I was angry when I wrote my response to the Brown Bag post, because I saw it as a mischaracterization of the situation described in Rev. Mummert's sermon, because I saw it as dismissive of the school and its mission, and because of the snarky tone Rev. Weinstein used in her post ("How can I assure that when I ask the cat sitter to scoop Erm’s poops into the brown bags in the mud room, she won’t be offended or oppressed? It might stir up a bad association. It certainly will for me, thinking of students at Starr King, who have so many things to learn about ministry (none of which I heard mentioned in their latest YouTube testimonial, by the way) using up their precious brain cells remembering not to use the words “brown” and “bag” next to each other in a sentence." being one particular passage that seemed to me, to use my own words, particularly haughty and dismissive) misrepresented the issue and precluded actual dialogue in order to make a, well, a cheap shot. Had this point been presented minus the snark the ensuing conversation would have been much different.

Finally, I wasn't intending to impugn Rev. Weinstein's ministry--entirely the opposite! In her profile she says that she blogs anonymously in order to maintain a boundary between her views and those of her congregation. I was respecting that boundary. I didn't know Rev. Weinstein's name, or anything about her, until I read the post I am quoting. Like I said, this is my first introduction to most of the people whose words I have been reading, PeaceBang's author included.

Andy doesn’t explain how the term “brown bag lunch” is hurtful or racist when used in a campus context. Because it’s really not about that, is it? What Andy does is call me haughty and self-satisfied and then (I love this!) proceed to quote JESUS HIMSELF in an effort to smack down the Big Bad Bang. Along the way, of course, he calls me names and, um, insinuates that I’m a pig (”you shall not cast your pearls before swine.”).

Like so many others have established, there is no prohibition at Starr King on brown bags or the term "brown bag lunch". Rev. Mummert helpfully quotes Dr. Rebecca Parker (waaaay down at the bottom of the comments to the Brown Bag Lunch post) to the effect that it was a one-time request from a particular speaker because of particular connotations the term brought up for that speaker. It is not a school policy, nor was it a top-down, Stalinist-style (!) exercise in, uh, Dialectical and Historical Materialism. Did the teaching moment depend on a brave student willing to own up to the fact that they didn't already know everything? Of course! Is it ever otherwise?

Rev. Weinstein point about the language I used to describe the words of her post is well-taken. Related to the "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory" above, I felt anonymous in my re-posting of my PeaceBang comments here on my own blog. I should have chosen my words with greater care and sensitivity for the feelings of others. I am sorry. However, I did not call Rev. Weinstein any names, nor did I insinuate that she is a pig. And as I said above, this is my first interaction with Rev. Weinstein and and I have no axe to grind against the "Big Bad Bang".

I quoted Matthew 7 as a reminder to all of us, most of all myself, to take care with our propensity to judge others. I said that the quoted passage "should be taken to heart by those of us who feel our words to have such power and resonance that they should be shared with the world, whether from a pulpit or on the internet." I thought, from that preamble, that it would be clear that I spoke as someone who has preached and is in training for active ministry and who also writes things on the internet, and as such was implicated, along with all the other commenters, in the admonishment not to judge.

I find it awfully easy to judge people I hardly know, whether it is on the internet or on the freeway. California is a land of terrible drivers, true, but I find it's bad for the soul to take it personally and assign character deficits to strangers. Rev. Weinstein, I intended that quote in the exact opposite way from how you seem to have interpreted it, and I apologize for that. I should have been clearer.

Andy, knowing a good rhetorical flourish when he sees one, even copies my original ending asking for an AMEN.

I'm glad you liked that too. ;)

And then… and I think I love this even more … someone comments that he’s AWESOME, speaking a “powerful language of love.” It sure is powerful. I’m definitely feeling the love out here on the East Coast.

Holy Mackerel. That commenter was my Mom. She is frequently my only commenter (and, I suspect, my only reader. Hi Mom!!!). And frankly, I hope you are feeling the love out there on the East Coast. The entire point of my comment, which you did not mention in the post I am quoting from, was to invite you to visit Starr King at your next convenience! Sit in on Dr. Dorsey Blake's course on Spirituality and Non-Violent Social Transformation, or Patti Lawrence's class on Congregational Dynamics, or Chris Fry's course on Forgiveness. Have lunch with some students. Just hang out downstairs in the garden. I say this with no anger or bitterness or snark: I personally would love to meet you and talk about some of this stuff. If the internet isn't a place for deep conversation, let's find a venue that will better support our communication.

The thing is, and I think this is really important and I’m going to try to say it in a sincere tone even — it always hurts when people outside your community hear about something you do within it and use their God-given freedom to interpret its meaning in a way that doesn’t square with your best impressions of yourself.

Thank you for the sincere tone, and also for the words. And I think that all of us who are bouncing this conversation around our websites would agree that it is dangerous to be caught in an echo chamber. Just look at the current presidential administration. But, as I said earlier in this post, my problem wasn't with the detail presented but with the language used by Rev. Weinstein, and with the implication of the post that one historical incident could be representative of the entire school atmosphere. It's easy to play the "Starr King = Flaky" game, and difficult to engage in the self-critical thinking that truly characterizes the school.

When I wrote that post, I wasn’t thinking about Starr King as a whole school. I was thinking, and writing about, one small group of people (or even an individual), who made what I think was a wildly illogical conclusion about a certain trio of words. But boy howdy, I sure am thinking about the school as a whole now.

Words like "the folks at the Starr King School For the Ministry are now banishing the term “brown bag lunch” from their collective vocabulary" gave me, and I think others, the impression that you were indeed speaking of the school as a whole, in the present tense. I am sorry for the misunderstanding.

And, given that you are now thinking of the school as a whole, I will reiterate my invitation to you to visit the whole school, and experience its learning environment first-hand.

I got cracked at by several critical commenters for telling the truth about blogs, which is that they’re not the ideal forum for in-depth conversations on important issues. What they’re best at, since I wasn’t clear enough, is trenchant commentary on various issues that pique the interest or get the goat of the individual blogger. As I watch this “conversation” deteriorate in the comments into “YOU don’t get it,” — “No, YOU don’t get it,” dynamics, I have to shrug and say, “Well, there you go. It was just a matter of time before someone pulled out the Gospel of Matthew and called me a pig, or a plank-eye.

Again, I had no intention of calling you a pig or a plank-eye, and I apologize for the misunderstanding. I agree with you about the dynamics of the conversation, and I lament that an opportunity to engage in honest communication has devolved in such a way. I am not pointing fingers of blame, here, just personally disappointed in the outcome of this conversation.

(Rev. Sean is never like that, though, and he’s written a really informative opposing post here.)

Thank God for Rev. Sean, who just finished a teaching and learning semester at Starr King. His presence was a blessing, and we miss him a lot!

I also think Fausto makes a nice contribution, weighing in at The Socinian. Don’t go there if you hated what I had to say: you’ll just hate him even more.

I don't know why this has to be about hate! Were there hurt feelings and misunderstandings? Yes! All the way around! But I think "hate" is taking things way too far.

And I just caught up with Chalice Chick, who sadly says she’s not “qualified” to discuss the brown bag lunch controversy (why not? Because she’s “just” one of the active Unitarian Universalist laypeople to whom our seminarians hope to serve in ministry one day? Hey, CC? Whattup?), discusses it perfectly well right here.

I agree with you that being a layperson makes one eminently qualified to engage in this kind of discussion! This, in fact, is one of Starr King's educational missions: to move theology and other God-talk from being fit only for ministers and possessors of fancy degrees to the province of any who care to engage in it.

Finally, after a post left by my Dad (Hi Dad!!!), Rev. Weinstein left this two-word comment:

Jesus wept.

I am perplexed by this, and would appreciate clarification. Why did Jesus weep? Are we speaking historically, or what? Again, I am new to the Bible (definitely brought up in the secular-humanist wing of UUism), so I fear I do not understand the reference.

Whew! I think that's all, folks. Sorry for the behemoth of a post--I just wanted to explain myself better, and hopefully clear up some of the misunderstandings that have been characteristic of this computer-internet enabled conversation. Tune in ...tomorrow, maybe, for a bunch of pictures and stuff from Oakland and the greater Bay Area of the last month. The big freeway meltdown! The Maker Faire! Flowers! ...and Much, Much More!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Be true to your school now!

This is a cross-posting of a comment I left on's recent post about my school, Starr King School for the Ministry. PeaceBang, who is apparently a UU Minister in the Northeast, posted a few days ago an item about my school's supposed "banning" of the term, "brown bag lunch," because of the racialized connotations of brown bags.* Her post was, to my reading, haughty and dismissive, and she seemed awfully pleased with her own wit and ability to take cheap shots at others with little to no basis for her opinions. I think the comments for that post are up to 40, and it's a pretty lively back and forth. So, here is my contribution:

"This may not be the ideal forum for “deep, serious conversation,” but one of the cornerstones of Educating to Counter Oppression is the importance of having deep, serious conversations wherever they happen. The status quo of “waiting for the right moment or forum” to engage with these issues too often leads to setting things aside, and waiting for the right moment is too often the death knell for a deep, serious conversation that needs to happen.

"I am a student at Starr King, having just completed my second year of classes. I am working towards a Master’s of Divinity as well as a Common MA in Arts and Religion from the GTU at large. I am a third-generation Universalist who grew up infused with the values, morals, and principles of Unitarian Universalism thanks to the wonderful community at First Unitarian Society in Madison, WI.

"One of the large, underlying issues in this conversation we find ourselves engaged in here is the power of language. Others have touched on the importance of words, and the seductiveness of snark and ad hominem, better than I could do here. I am writing rather, in the spirit of learning and dialogue, to invite PeaceBang to visit Starr King at her earliest convenience. I invite her to see first-hand what she is so dismissive of, to experience a school truly engaged in the struggle for Beloved Community, to talk with the students and faculty here and to feel the Grace that suffuses the school and its mission.

"Starr King is a laboratory. We are a community of hard workers committed to being the change we want to see in the world, engaged in the task of bringing the values of religious liberalism to the larger community. Are we then grim-faced, humorless protectors of decency? Are we joyless politically correct drudges, determined to rule the behavior and thoughts of others through fiat and executive proclamation? Are we, to borrow a phrase, Holier Than Thou?

"No. While many of the posters on the comments of this site seem to make that linked set of assumptions, I can, with confidence, categorically deny each of them. We, all of us, live in a broken world. We, each of us, are broken people. But there is joy in the hard work of addressing this brokenness, and there is so much love in this world, and in the Starr King community. Are we thoughtful and careful about the implications of our actions, language included? Yes. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Do we recognize our own ridiculousness? Yes. Starr King is not the self-important bastion of self-righteousness that many here seem to think. It is a small school, but bursting with joy and laughter, tears and comfort, and most of all love for each other and the world. Our namesake, Thomas Starr King, was a small man, even in the 19th century, standing 5′, 3″, and weighing under 120 lbs. He famously said, “I may be small, but when I get mad I weigh a ton.” Anger at the condition of the world, and joy at the revelation of its beauty and its possibilities are far from mutually exclusive, PeaceBang, and again I extend open arms to you to come to Starr King School for the Ministry at your earliest convenience and discover that for yourself.

"I will close with a passage from the Bible that I think is applicable to this discussion, and that should be taken to heart by those of us who feel our words to have such power and resonance that they should be shared with the world, whether from a pulpit or on the internet. Some words from Jesus of Nazareth’s Sermon on the Mount, as recounted by the author(s) of the Book of Matthew (New International Version):

"Matthew 7

"Judging Others

"1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

"6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

"Can I get an “Amen”?"

The Bible quote might have been laying it on a little thick, but I wanted to give vent to my anger and displeasure at the situation.


*Which are, surprisingly, not insignificant. There is history of Southern churches stapling a grocery bag next to the church door and forbidding fellowship to those whose skin was darker than the brown paper. And, of course, my surprise at this is certainly a factor of my white skin and its attendant privilege.