Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mayonnaise


I thought of my friend DW as I saw this license plate the other day. Made me laugh. I mean, I know that there are mayo promoters and there are mayo loathers, but I didn't know one could loath a condiment so much that one would pay good money to announce it on one's car. Are there "IH8MAYO" license plates in every state, I wonder? And would they like it better if it were called "aioli"?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Diocese of San Joaquin in pictures

Well, it's been quite a while, I see. I've had things to comment upon, but no time. But today, I have time AND something I noticed. And here it is, a photo from the NY Times taken at the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin:


OK, first of all, it's very strange to me to be reading and hearing about the Episcopal Church in a national context; it was a top news story on the BBC, for pity's sake. I still have this underlying feeling that it's all just a little family affair. I'm not quite sure why all these other people are interested. But, heck, there's sex; there's money; there's a sense of the powerful elite brought low. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it is still odd to me.

Secondly, this picture interests me because it's a context I know well: a diocesan convention. Usually a rather amateurish thing, a diocesan convention, and again it is odd to me to see it and view it as this Big Thing. I could easily (well, not that easily) be a person in this picture. Well, people I know could be in this picture anyway.

That being said, I was struck by the age, gender, and ethnicity of all of the people in this picture. There might be a bit of a woman's head peeking through a couple of shoulders there in the middle, but by and large this is an image of White Males of a certain age.

Which begs the question: was this convention a preponderance of white males of a certain age? Or is this simply the image that the NY Times chose to present of the convention? Lord knows our own diocese is fairly pigment challenged, but we have some diversity. We have to strain a bit for it, but it's there. But we are definitely not estrogen challenged, and I suspect San Joaquin is. None of the clergy are going to be female, so that takes out a hundred folks right there. And it certainly seems unlikely that the majority of delegates would be women, though it's possible.

My point is that this image for me gives the impression of a diocese of old, mad white guys, no matter what the article tells me. The article is reasonable enough, but the picture suggests a certain caste of people holding on to power that was decided to be shared long ago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Myths we live by


I went to see "Enchanted" last week, which was OK, but not as great as I thought it would be given the preponderance of positive reviews. Amy Adams was a treat as Giselle, though, because I found her innocence completely believable, and that is no small feat.

One moment that struck me was just before the big production number in Central Park as Giselle reacts incredulously to the news that Patrick Dempsey's character does not sing to his beloved, and Patrick Dempsey looks completely mortified when Giselle bursts into song.

It made me think that men and women grow up with completely different myths about romance. Yes, sweeping generalization, here, and I don't know how men get away with not having the same myths, being exposed to the same popular culture, but it seems to me that women do get a certain myth of romance that, even if it does not involve production numbers, does involve a certain sense of drama.

I see it in ads particularly. Jewelers ads are a fine case in point. The man comes home with the Kay jeweler bag in hand, or hides it under a Christmas tree, or what have you. Now, are those ads directed towards men or towards women? I would suggest that those ads are for women. The jewelry ads directed at men are far more blunt: "Please the woman in your life with THESE DIAMOND EARRINGS which cost $X."

Meanwhile, there's an appalling ad directed towards men where the young dweeby kind of guy comes home where the tall blond goddess stands unloading dishes. The young man presses a button on her face, which folds back, and he places a new chip inside. Her face folds back into place and she asks, "Do you want to help?" "No, I'll just watch," he says. And I fear that is the myth men are given: the compliant and helpful woman unloading the dishwasher.

It seems to me that women are invariably disappointed when men are not romantic, and men are invariably disappointed when women have complaints. And we are fools if we think we are not influenced by these myths. They are potent and ubiquitous, and an excellent thing to watch out for in the Christmas ads that will bombard us over the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Starbucks taste and culture



I went to Starbucks today, something I don't normally do, mostly because I don't drink coffee and not because I am so high-minded or anti-corporate as to only purchase locally produced non-globalized products.

In part I went in reaction to an email forwarded on to me promoting an urban legend stating that Starbucks refused to send coffee to troops in Iraq because it refused to support anything to do with the war there. (Ironically, this urban legend was originally attributed to the Oscar Meyer company refusing to send hot dogs to troops.) It makes me mad when corporations are instantly considered to be The Bad Guys--especially given the level of military spending. I'm not sure why Starbucks should donate coffee to troops even if they DID support the war.

But I also wanted some hot chocolate and internet access and I figured both would be available there. I was partly right.

There's T-Mobile wifi access at the local Starbucks, but you have to pay for the privilege to use it. A day pass cost $9.99, which seems outrageous to me. I didn't buy it, but I did take a look at the wifi home page, a very clever arrangement upon which you can a) see the artist whose music is playing in the store at the time and then b) purchase the same on iTunes. How about that for integrated marketing!

I was a little disturbed to find that I already owned two of the songs I heard at Starbucks during the time I was there: Diana Krall sang "Peel me a Grape," and Holly Cole sang "I can see clearly now," songs and singers I like immensely. But what does that suggest about me? About my taste in music? Am I really a Starbucks kind of a person? Or does this suggest that I have a rather homogenized taste in music, bland but palatable to a bulk of the population? Or, to be more arrogant, perhaps this shows that I have good taste, and what's more that Starbucks has good taste in music, too. Certainly that could be possible.

But it was a bit disconcerting to hear such familiar songs in that setting, considering myself out of the mainstream as I do. And even more deeply disturbing to have those songs hawked to me almost instantaneously. And there is a sense that everything is for sale at Starbucks. At least there is for me. So perhaps that urban legend, though it is not based in truth, has some basis in experience.

Another disturbing aspect of the place is how hard it is to get an actual mug out of which to drink, even if you are staying there to drink your beverage. I ordered my peppermint hot chocolate, tall, for here, and the barista asked, "What was that last part again?" For. Here. Ah. And she did pull out a very lovely latte mug, heated it, and then stuck the order on with a specially designed post-it note for the drinks person to make for me. And it was lovely, quite frothy, with little red sprinkles on top of the whipped cream.

But as I looked around the place, I realized I was the only person with an actual cup in my hands; everyone else had disposible items as they sat at their tables, sipping slowly, reading the paper. I would hope that would be one part of the Starbucks corporate culture that could be changed.

There's a lot said about how Starbucks creates community. I'm not so sure. I think it creates something all right, but I'm not sure exactly what it is. I'll have to ponder this some more. Over a cup of tea this time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Paris commentary #2

Because I ought to be doing something else, I am going to post another photo on my blog. Here it is:



Is that not a beautiful sight? It raises a few questions, though. First of all, who buys and eats these pastries? I never saw any actual French people in possession of pastries of this nature, but then, one never knows what goes on behind closed doors. Or perhaps their pastry boxes are disguised as something else. Certainly I didn't see a lot of French people who seemed to over-indulge in these kinds of foods to the extent that I would, given half a chance.

Secondly, what happens to the pastries that are not eaten by the end of the day? Or the bread? Surely there is some. Where does all this amazing food go? Goodness knows there were enough patisseries and boulangeries per square inch to more than satisfy the population (I would think); so how do they all stay in business?

I'm guessing that absolutely no one, but no one, makes their own bread in Paris. I mean, that seems just redundant. Still, the reality of so many baked goods makes Paris seem more like a dream than reality.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cause of death

Reading the obituary for George Osmond yesterday, I learned that the Osmond family patriarch died "of complications related to old age," according to Valerie Nelson of the LA Times. Is that a real diagnosis, I wonder. I know that there are complications related to old age; I just didn't know you could die from them.

My dad is turning 70 tomorrow, which continually surprises me. I know this will sound dumb, but he was in his sixties for so long that 70 comes as a real shock. In part because 70 actually sounds like the age of someone who is old. And how can that be?

People who are in their 70s and 80s often tell me that getting old is a lousy business. Painful, too. My dad has had a hip done; my mom is recuperating from knee surgery. And it's not as though things continually improve from that point on. Still, I look at my parents and they have in many ways reached a point of equanimity that was not open to them in the prime of their life.

Goodness knows, it sounds like George Osmond had his ups and downs, but a decent life overall. I imagine there are worse ways to go than to die of old age.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Paris commentary #1

Sorry it's been so long, but first I was in Paris, and then I came back from Paris sick as well as having to catch up. But I am now going to be a total bore and present pictures from my trip along with commentary--not all at once, mind you, as I took photos everywhere, but from time to time and on different themes. Dogs of Paris, for example. Or war memorials. Or food. Or decorative chard. But here, just to get started, is a photo of a wall of a building just across from the Jardin du Luxembourg: (unfortunately, this is not my photo as mine wouldn't stick on the blog, but it looks almost identical)



OK, I realize it doesn't look like much. But talk about revolutionary! This is a meterstick, mounted on the wall. When the meter was announced as the standard of measure during the Revolution (and I want to know how that happened, exactly), people of course had no idea what a meter length was, so they had these standard meters posted all over the city. This is the only one left in its original position.

What is also interesting--to me, at any rate--is that divvying things up by 10 was completely foreign to people. If you had a piece of string for measuring something, you could divide it in half or fourths or eighths--but tenths? I'm not used to thinking of measuring instruments being hard to come by.

It also makes me realize how hard it would be to get the US to change over completely to metric. I think we would have to do it (as we have been doing it) in a very gradual and somewhat underhanded way. Get used to seeing 2 liter bottles, for example. Use metersticks in schools so that kids become more used to that unit of measure than inches. But a complete change will be difficult unless done by fiat with the threat of heads rolling, and I don't see that happening any time soon.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Saint Francis, seriously

A friend of mine died this morning. Another friend of mine was there with him when he died and told me of the experience. He died while she and other friends of his were saying Morning Prayer around his bedside. My friend reports that he was still alive as they read the gospel appointed for the Feast of St. Francis: "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

My friend who died was a third order Franciscan; he took that seriously. He is the only person I know who truly embraced voluntary poverty while still living as part of the world rather than in a religious order.

What a peculiar and wondrous blessing that he should die today and join St. Francis in the company of saints on this day, the feast of his patron. What a peculiar and wondrous blessing that he died in the presence of the gospel that promises rest to the weary.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

St. Francis, somewhat frivolously


St. Francis and me: worms together. From the Prayers of St. Francis, the 3rd Consideration on the Sacred Stigmata,

"One night, before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in the year 1224, Brother Leo overheard Francis endlessly repeating the following words:

"Who are you,
O my most sweet God,
and who am I,
most vile worm
and your worthless servant?

"When the astonished brother asked for an explanation, the saint replied, 'I was shown two lights and realized who the Creator is and who I am. I saw the depths of the infinite goodness of God and the deplorable depths of my own nothingness. That is why I said:

'Who are you,
Lord of infinite goodness,
wisdom and power,
who deign to visit me,
a vile and abominable worm?'"

***
Vile and abominable worm. Not traitorous, though. God knows I have never fully recognized the difference in magnitude between God and myself. St. Francis, help me to recognize my vermisimilitude.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sharper than a serpent's tooth

I have just been called a "traitorous worm" for admitting I want to see the Cubs and the Indians in the World Series. These Red Sox fans are vicious, I tell you what.

Mostly I wanted to report that I have now seen the play King Lear for the first time in my life and I have this horrible and sneaking suspicion that it's a pretty dumb plot. And we'll see if any ravening Shakespeare scholars come to stab my eyes out.

I had read it before and studied it (and read A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, a terrific book) and so I had expected to enjoy the play, even if I didn't like the production. But the play's the thing--at least I think it's the thing--that ended up rubbing me the wrong way.

Here's the thing: from the get-go, I feel sorry for Regan and Goneril and think Cordelia is not doing herself any favors. Would it hurt her to say, "Dad, you know I love you very much," rather than respond, "Nothing." Ummm...I would wonder, too, and ask for a fuller report. And as Lear promptly kicks her out, I can't help but think that R&G have very good reason for a) dissembling and b) not much caring for the guy. I sympathize with them, too, as he hangs about the house with 100 followers.

And I know everyone will think I am a Philistine when I say the subplot of Edgar caring for his blind father and not saying, "It's me!" really annoyed me. It did not pass the "Would anyone act this way in real life?" test. Yes, yes, yes, drama is not real life but a heightened version of it. Still.

Nothing in the action was able to convince me that people would want to be loyal to Lear. Kent is a faithful retainer indeed, but why? What is the appeal in this man? Certainly it was not clear what he once was or whether he had been anything more than a powerful man.

As the bodies piled up at the end, it made me wonder, "Is Shakespeare just trying to get out of this thing? Is this all about the spectacle of it?"

Was it just a bad production? Perhaps. Have to admit that derisive laughter was probably not the response they were going for. Also have to admit I seemed to be the only one laughing. Still...Lear is going to have to do some very heavy lifting before I see his play again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Law and the Classroom, part 2

Back in May, I wrote about a woman who had been dismissed from her teaching job because, when asked what she thought about war protesters, she replied, "I honk for peace." She was taking that case to the Supreme Court.

Today, I read an article headlined "Supreme Court denies hearing for fired 'Honk for Peace' teacher."

Yes, indeed, they are denying a hearing. "Mayer, who now teaches sixth grade in Florida, was distraught.

"I don't know why anybody would want to be a teacher if you can be fired for saying four little words," she said Monday. 'I'm supposed to teach the Constitution to my students. I'm supposed to tell them that the Constitution guarantees free speech. How am I going to justify that?'"

The thing that makes me sad about this is, yes, teachers do have a captive audience and yes, students should be protected from some kinds of speech; but at the same time, there's something powerful and important about hearing opinions different from your own. That is what opens MY mind, anyway, to an expanded view of the world. It is beneficial to me when I venture beyond my comfort zone of assumptions.

Besides which, for Pete's sake, "I honk for peace" is about as mild a statement as I can imagine. She didn't say, "and you should too," much less that this war is a shame and a shambles. I still find it hard to fathom that a parent would complain that a teacher prefers peace to war.

And it's terribly distressing that the direction of our educational system is towards a strict separation between the prescribed curriculum and anything else. What could be more deadening to a creative and exciting learning environment.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Talk about eating to live or living to eat!


I'm reading this fabulous book called "Paris in the Fifties" by Stanley Kurnow who has a chapter on Curnonsky, The Prince of Gastronomes, who literally wrote the book on French cooking, "France Gastronomique, which ultimately appeared in twenty-eight volumes late in the 1920's."

"He ate only one full meal a day, always in a restaurant except when he was required to attend a function. Following dinner, he would work at his littered desk until dawn, then bathe, go to sleep, awake at three or four in the afternoon, breakfast on a boiled egg and a glass of warm milk, receive visitors and wait for his acolytes to appear for the nightly ritual."

Alas, eventually by the mid-50's, "His health, once so robust, was failing, and he had been forbidden everything but toast and milk. In 1956, depressed by the gloomy diet, he jumped to his death from his apartment window. Addressing a suicide note to a friend, he cautioned, 'Avoid the left leg of the partridge, since it perches on that limb, which makes the blood circulation sluggish.'"

Now, that is FRENCH!

San Francisco headlines

I'm not saying this could only be in San Francisco, but I'm saying it doesn't hurt that it's in San Francisco:

Left side, above the fold:
Leather and Corsets and Whips, oh my

Right side, beneath the fold:
In S.F., Episcopal
bishop defiantly
backs gay unions


Not sure about the word "defiantly." "Continues to" works better for me, knowing the Presiding Bishop's ongoing calm steadiness. "Defiantly" suggests anger and contention, and that is not her style.

Did like the juxtaposition of the two pieces, though.

Baseball postseason

Baseball season ended yesterday--not that baseball is over, what with all the postseason fun to come. And the season not quite over at that, as San Diego and Colorado (!) duke it out today.

I feel for the Mets fans, I surely do, but I'm glad to see the Phillies in the post-season, just because I like to see the postseason showcase different teams. I'm rooting for the Rockies to get to the playoffs. Of course I'm rooting for the Cubs; it's their turn. I'm pleased that Boston got the division and look forward to seeing the Yankees eliminated by Cleveland. Diamondbacks...well, they won the whole thing not too long ago, but OK. And Angels...I must admit they deserve to be there.

In my heart, I want the Cubs to win. In my head, I suspect the Angels will do very well. But this is baseball, and you never know. I'd love to see a Cleveland/Cubs World Series, which has nothing to do with my own knowledge or love of the teams, and all to do with wanting to see them play.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

dressing the part

Walking my dog this morning, I saw a man in a very good suit getting into his banged up old car after leaving his small house, evidently on his way to work. The suit didn't match the car or the house, but I have a feeling it matched the surroundings of the office. And I wonder if the trappings of our corporate culture allow people the daily illusion that their lives are full of richness and elegance. I'll have to think about that some more because of course many people go to soul-deadening jobs and don't see any elegance to it at all, but there's a way in which the swankiness of the surroundings seems at odds with people's lives.

I remember when the company of a friend of mine had their annual holiday party or anniversary party and they had ordered a cake in the shape of the company logo from a fancy bakery--3 dimensional, not just the logo on top. There's something about all this, I can't get my mind around it. There's some seduction going on here, that "in my office I can be rich and elegant" while struggling to make ends meet. There was something about that man leaving his house before it was fully light, carefully wiping off the back windshield without messing up his fabulous suit that made me think that business is offering a fantasy of wealth that makes it hard to recognize where the truth lies.

More on this later, perhaps, as this thought is clearly only partially digested.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reading Scripture

Of course I've got half an eye on New Orleans where the Archbishop of Canterbury is meeting with the House of Bishops (doesn't everyone?). The article in the Chronicle today sums up the situation as follows: "The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States and has a more liberal view of Scripture than most Anglicans overseas. Tensions over Bible interpretation erupted in 2003, when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire." (emphasis my own, of course)

First of all, I find it interesting that your basic secular newspaper a) capitalizes Scripture and b) clearly makes the assumption that by Scripture we mean what many other denominations refer to as the Bible.

Now, secondly, I'm not sure that it is correct to say that the Episcopal Church has a more liberal view of Scripture than others. For one thing, the Episcopal Church does not have a single perspective on Scripture; there are some who read Scripture very literally and narrowly, and others who read Scripture with a particular emphasis on its cultural and historical relevance and place.

For another thing, I'm not sure it's so much a liberal view of Scripture than it is a liberal view of people and issues that then inform the reading of Scripture. Likewise with a conservative view of Scripture: which came first? The reading of Scripture, or the reading of issues?

I'm speaking as a convert, someone who started from a more conservative position and found that the people and issues didn't match the position. I read Scriptures differently because of my understanding of the issues, not because I so much changed the way I read Scriptures.

The most painful thing for me in all of the arguments in the Anglican Communion is the constant refrain that the liberal side of the issues doesn't respect Scripture. Perhaps other things should be more hurtful, but it is this dismissal of my love of Scripture that I find hardest to bear.

Autumn sets in

After the first flurry of the start of the program year, I'm starting to feel the wonderful rhythm of fall, my favorite season of the year. This year, I have the opportunity to do some gardening, an activity I haven't been able to indulge in for at least eight years. I had forgotten what an active season fall is, such a season of promise, as I bought bags of bulbs and prepare to tuck them away until springtime. The whole season of fall seems to suggest digging in. It's not at all a passive season, but it's a season to start when results are still far off and full of potential. And for whatever reason, I feel very good about this year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paris Dreams

I am going to Paris in a couple of weeks and suddenly it seems that Paris shows up all over the place. Views of Paris, references to Paris, things from Paris. Here I am in my usual cafe having tea and a croissant (and I plan to have tea and a croissant in a cafe every morning I am in Paris) and on the walls are large paintings of scenes of Paris. Were they here before? I have no idea. Perhaps they are not here now, just showing up in my minds eye because I see Paris everywhere. An imaginary city, lurking everywhere.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The limits of loyalty

Through a series of circumstances too long and unimportant to relate, I found myself looking up the Schutzstaffel, aka the SS of Nazi Germany. What a horrid history they have, not that that surprises me, but other than thinking "Nazi SS--bad," I hadn't really considered them before.

I was particularly struck by their motto: "Meine Ehre hei├čt Treue", which is translated "My honour is loyalty." I'm beginning to grow suspicious of the virtue of loyalty. Suspicious anyway of the virtue of loyalty to a particular group, organization, or party, as opposed to loyalty to certain values. Loyalty for loyalty's sake, and loyalty being tested by acts of loyalty, no matter what the act. That's what's scary to me.

Loyalty is a pretty easy virtue, it seems to me. It can excuse one from the hard work of independent thought while supporting one's own sense of virtue: I am being loyal. And in so many cases, it seems to be a dangerous virtue, keeping people in situations and having them take actions that under other circumstances they would most certainly find abhorrent.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gone with the Wind

Rhett Butler died this week in Iraq. He was a corporal, not a captain, and he was 22 years old, and he was from Fort Worth, Texas. He died in an IED attack in Khan Bani Saad in the Diyala province of Iraq.

Each week, we include the names of those killed the prior week in Iraq, thanks to a website called icasualties.org. We include the names of soldiers killed and as many Iraqis whose names are reported. Most often, the names just slip past me. I often will note the women, at least their first names, and linger over them a minute. When I see a name that is the same as someone I know, I will say a special prayer. Rhett Butler really caught my eye. God's blessing and peace be upon you and all who love you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How hard can this be?

Just read an article in the Chronicle about a study that shows eating more fruits and vegetables doesn't reduce the risk of breast cancer returning. "The results weren't what researchers had expected or hoped for," says the article, which goes to show how easy it is to fall into the "more is better" fallacy. Five servings of fruits and vegetables are good for you; more must be even better!

Call me crazy, but I simply think eating a variety of healthy foods with a goodly amount of fruits and vegetables is really all that is called for. Not that I do it, mind you. But I'm not sure it's all that complicated. Not really a news flash either.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Venus de Wimbledon



She looked magnificent today, striding about the court, beating what I couldn't help but think was "poor, little" Marion Bartoli in a two-set blitz, despite the fact that poor little Marion Bartoli had beat Justine Henin and was, in fact, seeded higher than Venus.

But I was pleased for Venus anyway and rooted for her to win despite the fact that I hardly consider her the underdog.

And then came the interview after the match.

WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL VENUS NOT TO THANK HER FRIENDS AND FAMILY DURING THE INTERVIEW ON COURT?

I mean, there's nothing wrong with thanking friends and family, and why not do it publicly in that venue? But it just sounds unprofessional. Not only does it sound unprofessional, it makes Venus seem small in comparison with "poor little" Marion Bartoli. Girlish, I guess is the word I'm looking for. Bartoli looked poised and sounded like not only a professional but an adult. Venus in comparison looked like a little girl.

I suppose if you've won four Wimbledons you get to say whatever you want. Who am I to gripe? But I want her to look good, and it just doesn't make her look good to me when she uses the post-match interview to say Hi, just as if she were a casual baseball fan who found herself on the jumbotron at the ballpark. I want her to act like the grown-up professional that she is.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Fourth of July

My heart wasn't in it this year. We had the annual parade and it seemed so commercial to me. It wasn't just realtors sponsoring floats for civic organizations. It was realtors sponsoring floats for realtors. The best thing as far as I was concerned was the middle school drum cadet corps, making a lot of glorious noise as they walked down the street.

What happened to the precision lawn chair brigade that I remember from my youth? Too many people handing out flyers for things, and I can't blame them. It's a free country, and what a great opportunity to get your message out to the community. But still...I had hoped the Fourth of July parade would be about something else. When they wrote about a land of opportunity, I didn't think that meant we should be opportunistic.

I was driving somewhere when I heard the soundbyte from President Bush's speech to the West Virginia Air National Guard, when he said that "Victory in this struggle will require more patience, more courage, and more sacrifice." And the tone of voice when he said that, so defensive and so condescending, I couldn't take it. Paul Krugman in the Times today asked what sacrifice Bush has made, and I can't agree more.

To get the exact quote, I read through Bush's speech. It's highly inflammatory and deeply offensive. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070704.html

Here are some excerpts:
"We were a small band of freedom-loving patriots taking on the most powerful empire in the world." Who was this "we" Kemo Sabe? And do we not see any irony in the phrase "taking on the most powerful empire in the world"?

And then, "You're the successors of those brave men. Those who wear the uniform are the successors of those who dropped their pitchforks and picked up their muskets to fight for liberty. Like those early patriots, you're fighting a new and unprecedented war -- pledging your lives and honor to defend our freedom and way of life." Ah, now it's "You" not "we."

"We believe in an Almighty, we believe in the freedom for people to worship that Almighty. They don't. They don't believe you should worship the way you choose. They believe the only way you should worship is the way they choose. And, therefore -- and, therefore, they will do anything they can to spread that ideology. And it's our charge, it's our calling to keep the pressure on these people, to defend America and to spread an ideology of hope and an ideology of peace so that the kids who came up here to give the Pledge of Allegiance will be able to live in peace and security. (Applause.)" Again with the "we," but with the pernicious "they" attached. This monolithic "they"--and how exactly are they going to force us in the US to worship in the way "they" choose? I never heard that this was a war about freedom of worship; if that's so, then bring the troops home immediately. I feel perfectly free to worship the way I choose.

verse 2 of O beautiful for spacious skies comes to mind:

"O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law."

Makes me want to weep.

Struck dumb

I have often thought of adding my 2 cents to the world, but then I thought, why? I could have chimed in on Paris Hilton, or Scooter Libby, or the 4th of July. I could have written about Irenaeus or Evelyn Underhill. But I have been mum. The truth is, I feel like anything I could have added these past few weeks would have been superficial at best. Today is the first morning I've felt I could sit down--away from the computer, that is--and contemplate for a good long while. Not that this makes me any more insightful, mind you, but it at least gives me a basis for thought beyond the obvious. As I promised up front, I require steepage in order to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

Onward, fully brewed tea in hand.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Bible study

The daily lectionary reading for this morning was Luke 19:11-27, the Parable of the Pounds, as opposed to the Parable of the Talents as related by Matthew. Here it is, in case you don't have it handy in your brain:


As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” ’


Here's the thing: I don't think the Lord in the parable is Jesus. This is not a "yoke is easy" kind of a guy. Jesus is not known for telling people "from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away;" that's a quote from the master in the story, not Jesus' words. Jesus's words are "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven" and "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." (Luke 6;20, 24)

Jesus is telling this parable in Luke right before he enters Jerusalem before his crucifixion. If we are going to equate Jesus with anyone in this parable, shouldn't we equate him with the "wicked slave" who doesn't please the tyrannical master, but instead tells him to his face that he is a harsh man? Then again, it's not an allegory, but a parable; there's a lot more here than who is good and who is bad. I just resist the notion that we ought to be slaves to someone who is as clearly cruel as the master in this story.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Obituary update


It's been a long time since I've come across a wonderful obit. I'm sure there have been many that I simply missed, and that makes me sad. But today--oh joy! oh rapture!--a lovely obit of someone I should have known existed: the co-creator of Cheez Whiz, who also helped make McDonald's french fries what they are today.

The headline alone is a glorious thing: Edwin Traisman--french fry innovator.

And I quote: "'Ed Traisman made a major, major contribution to McDonald's and french fries as we know them today,' said Lisa McComb, a McDonald's spokewoman."

OK, first of all: A McDonald's spokeswoman? What is her job, really? Are there really that many public statements that need to be made? Is she one of many McDonald's spokespeople?

Secondly, let's hear how Mr. Traisman changed french fries:

"All the french fries in McDonald's restaurants originally were made fresh in each restaurant, with employees peeling, cutting and washing the potatoes before frying them." But there were problems with getting potatoes year-round, so Mr. Traisman, who owned the first Mickey D franchise in Madison, Wisconsin, "created a process of reducing moisture in the potato prior to freezing." No more of those fresh-made french fries for us, no sirree bob.

Now, mind you, I've eaten my share of frozen french fries, not to mention a ton of tater tots, so I'm not one to throw spuds. Back in the day, food efficiency was going to save the world and make everyone happier and healthier. Lord knows "food innovations" are still going on all the time, still with the promise that it's going to make us happier and healthier.

I still remember being in a class where the teacher talked about pre-packaged salad greens, as opposed to buying heads of lettuce. He had worked in the industry and talked about how this so-called "convenience food" was really the sweepings from the floor, generally filthy and of the lowest quality. But it is efficient. Pre-peeled carrots, pre-sliced apples, pre-shredded cheese. The death of Mr. Traisman reminds me, at least, of how many things we will look back on and say with amazement, "This was an advance???"

Friday, June 8, 2007

No-nos

I've got a cup of tea and the day off so it's time to opine.

Confess, actually, because there is a part of me that wishes Shannon Stewart had not gotten a hit yesterday off of Curt Shilling who was so close! to getting a no-hitter, he could taste it. Two outs in the 9th, and Shannon Stewart slaps a single to right field and the A's lose anyway, 1-0. I don't think I'm the only A's fan who would have liked to see Schilling get a no-hitter.

I have no idea what the man is like in person, but I have fond memories of Schilling in the ALCS and World Series of 2004, bloody sock and all. But especially when he was being interviewed in the team locker room after a game, wearing a shirt that said, "Why not us?" There was just something so endearing about the Red Sox that year, and I've had a soft spot for Schilling ever since.

So how does Stewart feel about breaking up a no-hitter like that? He had to hit, of course, but still, I imagine there's something satisfying about being part of a terrific no-hitter, even if you're on the losing end.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Dennis Lehane & neo noir

I've gotten hooked on Dennis Lehane's novels these days--not "Mystic River" (yet), but his Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennero novels that all the blurbs insist on calling "neo noir." I'm not sure what's "neo" about this particular "noir" except that it is set in contemporary times and the woman is just as capable of shooting people as the guy is. Though I don't see how that is different, or any more noir, than VI Warshawski.

Also picked up "The Maltese Falcon" because I've never read it and it was there, and as a point of comparison. Haven't gotten far enough to make a decent comparison, except to note that both are noir: flawed heroes dealing with thoroughly venal adversaries, and the suggestion that only the flawed can face what is truly awful.

But even I know not to believe the people who come into your office entirely, and you'd think these private eyes would know that by now. A long time ago I read a biography of a private detective who stated that up front: the people who hire you are never telling the whole truth. Even the hardest boiled of this literary detectives, though, seem eager to believe. And I, as a reader, am eager to believe everything the narrator tells me, so I guess I'm not much different.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Kids these days...

Reading about the National Spelling Bee this morning made me think about my own wasted childhood of underachieving sloth. OK, so I was a straight-A student and played the flute and was on the staff of the school newspaper, big deal. That could hardly get me into a state school these days.

I can't help but think they must be exhausted, these kids who must strive and strive in order to get into a good school. And what do they do then? What is it like after college for these wunderkids when it is no longer a matter of traveling from accomplishment to accomplishment, but a slow, steady stream of doing your best?

I suppose I was one of them, for the time, expected to go on to Great Things, and I certainly feel I have adjusted to the routine with a measure of contentment. But I still look at these bright young things and think, "Why are you working so hard?" Life seems to happen in the pauses and the steady forward movement, not the Accomplishments with a capital A.

I still remember with tremendous chagrin the pointed truth of the novel "All Is Vanity" when the narrator realizes at the end, "I thought I was brilliant, but I was merely smart." Oh, that is so true. There are so many of us out there who had been prompted into brilliance and I suspect will have to settle for smart in the end.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Driving down the street today and saw a house festooned with stars and stripes balloons and a banner that said "Welcome Home Daniel." My assumption is that Daniel is home from Iraq, though of course it could be another posting, or college for that matter. But so few of these returns are marked and labeled on the outside. Who knew that someone just down my street had been gone? Not me.

And in how many of these houses have people lost a loved one? Especially in the Bay Area where we tend to assume that everyone is against the war and no one we know is there. I wonder how many degrees of separation there are between any one person and the war in Iraq, and how that affects us.

For me, the separation is enough to keep it mostly theoretical, but not entirely. My cousin's daughter and her husband are both in the Army; he has been sent to Iraq at least twice that I know of.

I wish for Memorial Day that everyone had a sign outside the house saying who they know that's in, or has been to, Iraq. The talk is so often limited to the theory; what difference would it make in the conversation if we brought it to our experience?

Friday, May 25, 2007

More on Lola Montez


Heavens to Betsy! Who knew? Born in Ireland in 1821 (christened Eliza Rosanna Gilbert); moved to India as a child; eloped with a soldier at age 16--and that's the boring bit.

Then there's the part with Franz Liszt, and Ludwig I of Bavaria (who eventually abdicated).

And she died at age 40 of pneumonia. Packed a lot in before that, though.

http://www.zpub.com/sf/history/lola.html

Lola Montez

I cannot resist any longer, but must share this quote from the 1939 American Guide series on California, regarding a renowned citizen of Grass Valley:

"At the corner of Mill and Walsh Sts. is the Home of Lola Montez, to which the famous beauty, who was born Maria Dolores Porris Gilbert and lived to become Countess of Lansfeld, returned from her triumphs in Europe and America. Here she lived in retirement from 1852 to 1854, with a pet bear, some dogs, and a husband. The husband she later divorced because he killed her bear when it clawed and bit him. The beautiful and daring Lola brought with her a reputation that made her the talk of two continents, fame for public performances of the Spider Dance, and friendships with the great. In her modest cottage--since altered by the addition of a second story--she entertained at soirees, held mainly for the benefit of the younger miners, that became the talk of the Mother Lode."

Now I'm going to have to find out more about Lola Montez, Countess of Lansfeld.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Acts of Toleration

Got my Episcopal Life Online update today and saw that on this date in 1689, English Parliament passed the Act of Toleration. Wouldn't that be a pleasant thing for this day and age?

The Anglican blogosphere being awash in opinions about who's been invited to Lambeth and who hasn't, I will not add my own here. I just note that today is the feast of Jackson Kemper, first missionary bishop in the United States who laid foundations for the Episcopal Church in Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas, "and made extensive missionary tours in the South and Southwest." I point this out because I find it very strange that the Anglican Communion seems to be working very hard to make itself smaller.

Really, I have nothing to contribute to the discussion; I will just add my prayers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The laborers are few

Last night, at a parish meeting, we looked at the passage from Luke where Jesus says, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;" and I realized for the first time that the next part is not "Therefore, you should work much, much harder." Instead, Jesus says, "therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

I've always heard this passage interpreted with the "harvest" being souls in need of saving. But that doesn't make sense to me, looking at the full statement. It sounds to me like the harvest is some other good thing, and that the more people to make that harvest happen, the better. I'm not sure saving anyone has anything to do with it--not the other laborers, not the harvest. It was just interesting to me. I'll have to ponder this.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More pettiness

The reason I was feeling especially overwhelmed and humbled by another more insightful blog is because the thing that prompted me to want to post this morning was an invitation I got in the mail that I thought was silly in the extreme and raised my hackles du snark.

I was invited (because I am special) to attend a celebration of ministry for the co-rectors of St. Gregory of Nyssa parish in San Francisco. Well and good. I thought, sure, I could go congratulate them on their 30 years of ministry and their respective retirements. But, silly me, no! This was not a party; this is a fleecing.

I could buy
*An individual ticket (limited availability) for $150
*A supporter ticket for $250
(now we start getting into guffawable language)
*Lady Godiva's Horse (I'm not making this up) -- an event sponsor -- for $5,500 and over
* Francis' Wolf (table sponsor-10 seats) $5,000
* Sadi's Persian Tiger (!) (table sponsor, another 10 seats) for $2,500
or
*Seraphim's Bear (premium seating for one) for $500.

The proceeds from the event will be used to complete the Dancing Saints Icon, which is mighty beautiful, and it will be good to see it completed. But "Lady Godiva's Horse"? I'm afraid it sounds like a joke.

That had better be an awfully good dinner.

Blog envy

Sigh! Finished reading Preludium this morning and was overwhelmed with a sense of a) ineffectualness; b) intellectual poverty; and c) general green-eyed envy. It's such a chewy blog with deep things to think about it makes me feel like a total toad. Why don't I have a brilliant blog with lots of deep thoughts and insightful analysis? Could it be that I'm not deep, thoughtful, or insightful? The likelihood seems frighteningly high.

Although the random off-the-cuffness of my areas of interest don't help. It seems to me that having a specific area of focus aids in a blog's coherence and general pithiness, rather than random thoughts. PeaceBang also has that--I mean, how more specific can you get than fashion tips for ministers. They both have very clear spotlights; I'm kind of shining a flashlight around in the middle of the wilderness.

I could play the game of "keeping up with the bloggers," I suppose, but I think I'm just going to aim for humility, and there's nothing more humbling than writing for no one specifically about nothing in particular, hoping that no one will notice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The wisdom of the group

I actually like meetings. Not individual meetings, but I do like a well-run, productive meeting. But the thing that struck me yesterday, after attending a meeting with a bright and articulate group of people, was how much wiser the group is than any individual. Time and again I heard someone make a comment and thought, "I would never have come up with that on my own." Since I tend to love my independence, I was glad for the reminder that, although I was a help to the group, the group was even more a help to me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell

A quote from the AP report on Jerry Falwell's death today:

"I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved," he said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.

One shudders to think, indeed.

Kind of wish he could be resurrected, just so he could say how wrong he was on how many things (assuming of course that he was wrong).

Appreciated a friend's comment, that he's probably having a hard time right now. Got some 'splainin' to do.

The law and the classroom

Yes, indeed, I saw and was disturbed by the article in the Chronicle yesterday about the primary school teacher in Indiana who was dismissed from her position for telling her students, when asked, that when she passed a protester carrying a sign saying "Honk for peace" that she did so.

I found it hard to buy that this could really be the whole reason for her dismissal, but according to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, "we must accept Mayer’s version of events—which is that she answered a pupil’s question about whether she participated in political demonstrations by saying that, when she passed a demonstration against this nation’s military operations in Iraq and saw a placard saying “Honk for Peace”, she honked her car’s horn to show support for the demonstrators. Some parents complained, and the school’s principal told all teachers not to take sides in any political controversy. Mayer believes that this incident led the school system to dismiss her; we must assume that this is so."

You have got to be kidding me.

The ruling goes on to say that this is like another case in which a creationist wanted to teach creationism alongside evolution in the classroom. OK, something to note, here: that was a matter of science; this was CURRENT EVENTS! And it seems to me that part of current events is analyzing and holding an informed opinion about said events! Am I crazy for thinking this?

A far better argument from the ruling is this one: "Children who attend school because they must ought not be subject to teachers’ idiosyncratic perspectives." But here's the thing: people are idiosyncratic; they just are. If we really want to keep all our children safe from idiosyncratic perspectives, we shouldn't let them meet other people at all.

The court's decision also says: "Expression is a teacher’s stock in trade, the commodity she sells to her employer in exchange for a salary. A teacher hired to lead a social-studies class can’t use it as a platform for a revisionist perspective that Benedict Arnold wasn’t really a traitor, when the approved program calls him one; a high-school teacher hired to explicate Moby-Dick in a literature class can’t use Cry, The Beloved Country instead, even if Paton’s book better suits the instructor’s style and point of view; a math teacher can’t decide that calculus is more important than trigonometry and decide to let Hipparchus and Ptolemy slide in favor of Newton and Leibniz."

This sounds like a terrific topic for a high school debate: "Expression is a commodity the teacher sells to her employer in exchange for a salary." If it is, then "freedom of expression" is meaningless in the classroom. However, if the teacher is selling something else--such as the ability to impart information and create an environment in which students can attain certain levels of mastery and competence (which seems more reasonable to me), then what is the level of freedom for expression for a teacher?

Surely there is some difference between answering a student's question honestly from a personal perspective and wishing to add one's belief to the curriculum. I cannot believe that this opinion will do teaching any good.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Addictions

Must...stop...reading...Anglican blogs....

It's incredible how many there are, and how they all quote one another. Fr. Jake quotes the Mad Priest, both of whom I found thanks to CartoonChurch.com whose cartoon was on Telling-Secrets, and on and on. But they're all so damn clever and interesting that I'm completely hooked. Anglican Scotist is particularly good, as is Titus One Ten (that's as opposed to Titus One Nine), but I can see how this will go. I'll read them all obsessively all the time, forwarding things on to Episcopal friends, and then all the commentary will curdle in my brain and I will become embittered and cynical and need to enter a blog rehab center where I won't have access to the web. Or I'll be out on the street, begging passersby for "just one Mad Priest entry! Just one!" It's truly depressing.

I have noticed that a level of snarkiness does help keep blogs entertaining, snarkiness being the bastard child of edge and a sense of humor, it seems. Sincerity doesn't seem to go over well in the blogosphere, at least not from what I've seen (which is too bad since many Morning Prayer addicts have spent a good month basking in the hope of "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Let's hope for truth, anyway).

I'm very worried now at my level of earnestness. And can I just say that if NO ONE is reading this, that's fine with me. Thank you for not stopping by. I'm suitably self-conscious about my opinions and expressing them publicly, not that that means I'm going to stop.

Another recently developed addiction: Veronica Mars. It's the public library's fault. They had season 1 on DVD, and I thought I'd get one--ONE--DVD just to see what it's like, and I've become a hopeless case. What's worse is the library doesn't have seasons two or three; nor does my local video store. Here's hoping NetFlix will come to my aid, but maybe it's just as well if there's no more supply.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Must be the altitude

Holy guacamole! What is up with this pie-throwing incident in Colorado Springs? I've been mucking about on various Episcopal blogs and they are all a-twitter with the story of the 18-year-old chucking a banana cream pie at the rector of Grace Church.

There are layers upon layers in this pie story, so to speak, and I won't go into it here, but the main thing that interests me are the rhetorical pies flying about. One side says "this is a legitimate form of street theater/protest." Another says "this is a hate crime." The thing that gets my goat about it is that no one seems to be applying the rather basic biblical principle of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You will notice that I have not mentioned the political/theological stance of either side of this incident, in hopes that people might approach it with fresh eyes, putting themselves in the shoes of both sides (probably size 23 clown shoes on one side) to see what they think.

I ask you, what would Gregory Nazianzus do?

Am I missing something?

So tell me something: wouldn't President Bush have been better off with a bill that funds the war in Iraq until March 2008 than with a bill that funds the war in Iraq for the next two months?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Clean up your room day

Can you believe it? Today is national Clean Up Your Room day! Well, I for one am not going to celebrate.

Gregory Nazianzus and rhetoric

Yes, yes, I know, another post about another saint, but they're interesting! That's why they are saints!

Ol' Greggo, there, had his feast day yesterday, a week after our buddy Athanasius, whom I wrote about in an earlier posting. Greg came from a similar world though a generation later, attending the Council of Constantinople in 381 as the star attraction, while Athanasius was at Nicaea in 325. Those darn Arians were pesky and persistent! Well, understandably, since their doctrine is a lot easier to grasp than this whole Trinitarian thing.

Greg's main claim to fame rests on his five sermons on the Trinity, delivered at the Council of Constantinople, but I was particularly touched by his retirement address at the same council, when he pretty much begged to be let off the hook of his position of Bishop so he could retire back to his country place.

In particular, I appreciated his comments on how to have a civil argument. He was, after all, a master of rhetoric (and I do wish we had more of those these days). He said: "For we are not undisciplined in our exercise of discipline, nor do we hurl insults, as many do, who assail not the argument but the speaker, and sometimes strive by their invective to hide the weakness of their reasoning...but we show that our warfare is in behalf of Christ by fighting as Christ, the peaceable and meek, Who has borne our infirmaties, fought." Wouldn't that be nice?

Speaking of rhetoric, there's a great entry on the Rhetorica blog about Don Imus and freedom of speech. (http://www.rhetorica.net/ April 26)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Great obit, great hat!

How I did love the obituary on Isabella Blow: "British fashionista, style icon"!

They got me with the lead: "Isabella Blow, the flamboyant British fashion editor who championed rising design talents Alexander McQueen and John Galliano while creating her own memorable look from metal corsets, one-legged pantsuits, antler headdresses and other novelties, has died." And they sealed the deal with these two sentences: "She also held consulting jobs with various companies including Swarovski, which is best known for its small crystal animals. For one of her first meetings with company executives, Ms. Blow wore a crystal-encrusted lobster hat to suggest new possibilities."

Crystal-encrusted lobster hat! What more do you need in life?

She was 48, was Isabella, suffering from cancer and severe depression. May there be crystal beads wherever you go, you fashionista, you.

Julian of Norwich


I missed posting on the feast of Julian of Norwich yesterday, and I hope it doesn't make me a tea-sipping librarian to post something now. Not that there's anything wrong with being a tea-sipping librarian; it's more the image thing.

Because there seems to be something sissy about a saint with a cat, and a girl saint at that. Especially one who says "All things shall all be very well." How Pollyanna can you get?

Also, I don't know, it's something about her being British. It adds to the tea-sippingness. I mean, Therese of Lisieux was particularly genteel, but at least she was French.

And then, finally, the problem is that so many of the people who appropriate Julian seem so very tea-sipping themselves. Julian seems to me to be tamed, much in the way that Jesus gets tamed, except that Julian doesn't have many contemporary Christian songs aimed at her. I mean, this icon, lovely as it is, does not suggest a woman who lived during the Plague, does it?

Point being, I like Julian. I don't think she's a wuss with a cat. I don't think she's a girly saint. And when she says "All will be well," that's not a cop-out. That's hard won belief.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Equal Time

It's only fair to take a look at Republican posture and see what that says. Here's the picture from the NY Times this morning:




My goodness, how different! I don't know if this was before or after the debate, or what the context was, but that's almost not worth considering because one of the questions is: what image does the media choose to present? And the image here of the 10 Republican candidates (I only recognized one, though I think I should be able to recognize two) is far more static and monolithic than the picture of the Democratic candidates. There is no one who stands out.

On the other hand, there's no one who looks like he's about to fall off the edge of the stage, or be pushed. Everyone looks like he belongs there. The even spacing, the easy stance. There's less anxiety and less gung-ho-iness. Being so evenly spaced, they don't look like they're clinging to one another for support. Standing with their hands at their sides, they don't look unsure of what to do with themselves.

But, man, are they monochromatic! Put them in a police line-up with patriotic bunting and see who can pick the eventual nominee out of the bunch! I think the Republican race is going to be far more interesting than the Democrats, sage pundit that I am.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

St. Athanasius


Let's hear it for St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, whose feast day was yesterday. Although he is called the "Father of Orthodoxy," I wonder if he would much care for the title today, given the way orthodoxy is used--can be used--to oppress those who are suffering.

I doubt Athanasius would have put up with that. The rather conservative New Advent online encyclopedia (RC) says "he was conspicuous for two other [qualities] to which even his enemies bore unwilling testimony. He was endowed with a sense of humour that could be as mordant--we had almost said as sardonic--as it seems to have been spontaneous and unfailing; and his courage was of the sort that never falters, even in the most disheartening hour of defeat."

I glanced at some of his Easter letters yesterday as well, and particularly loved the ones that said something along the lines of "Sorry this letter is late; I'm in exile." Being exiled five times does put a crimp on one's correspondence.

Sense of humor. Courage. Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Turning a triple play

OK, I've wanted to post this for a while but just haven't gotten to it, but I am still thinking about the unassisted triple play that Troy Tulowitzki turned the other day. I watched the replays both on Sports Center and on Baseball Tonight, and I found myself thinking, "Wait...that's it?" It happened so fast: catch the ball, step on base, tag runner (and then he stepped on the base again and threw to first, saying afterwards that he was trying to make five outs in the inning).

Only the 13th time in baseball history that there's been an unassisted triple play, and it looked so easy. The movements were simple and natural to the game--a catch, a run, a tag--that I really didn't know that it had happened or that it was so unusual. But so many things needed to be in place for that to happen. Runners at first and second, no outs in the inning, a two-strike count so runners were going on the pitch...I know it seems sentimental and overwrought to say it, but it was a beautiful and miraculous thing, and I was glad I got to see it, even in the highlight reel.

Friday, April 27, 2007

What does this picture say to you?



OK, let's look at this picture, shall we? (photo from Reuters)

Here we have our eight presidential candidates from the Democratic party before their debate on Thursday. How many of them do you recognize by sight? Personally, I recognized two immediately and one more when I looked closely.

But aside from my own political ignorance, I was struck by the composition of the photo and a variety of messages it conveys.

First of all, there are the groupings. Off to stage right is former Senator Mike Gravel, of whom I had never heard, looking a bit uncomfortable and isolated, standing with his hands behind his back, not smiling, looking down. Next to him is Barack Obama, also singled out, but looking very confident and comfortable with his hands resting at his sides, smiling, looking up and out.

Then we begin to see clumping. Note that our next two candidates (unidentified in the caption on Reuters, but they are, I believe, Senators Chris Dodd and John Edwards) are leaning in towards each other. What is Edwards pointing at, I wonder, or is it just something to do with his hands?

In our next grouping, clapping appears to be a useful activity, so you don't just stand there feeling silly. In this group we have Kucinich, Biden, Richardson, and Clinton, standing together, but engaging the audience, pointedly looking in different directions.

Next, note the attire. What does it say that all the suits are the same color? Except for Clinton's, of course. But the men look pretty much identical. Why? How is it that dark navy is the presidential color this year?

Regarding Clinton: a) she is wearing trousers; b) her light-colored suit does set her off from the rest of the field; c) she is standing to the far side of the group, as if she doesn't quite fit into the field. Of course, setting oneself apart from the rest of the field would be the point in an election. But there's something in the image that suggests to me she is not really accepted as a player on the team. Because she is part of a clump, but on the edge of the clump.

Barack Obama is the other one set apart, but in this image, at least, it makes him look like the leader of the group.

That's a lot to read into a photo, but that's what images do. Incidentally, Obama is not my candidate--at the moment--but I'm not saying who my candidate is--at the moment.

Academic credentials

OK, so I'm utterly fascinated by the story of the Dean of Admissions at MIT who never got a college degree, lied about it, wrote a book about how important integrity is in the admissions process, was found out (how, exactly?), and has, understandably, resigned. And, yes, she couldn't have done anything else, and it's a classic tragedy where the seeds of her undoing were there from her own actions. Many other things, too. The thing that's fascinating to me right now, though, is I haven't yet heard anyone talk about how a person can do a terrific job without a college degree. At MIT, no less.

I remember a friend of mine in college talking about getting a PhD--not because she was driven to learn about her subject to that depth, but because she thought she couldn't get a job without one. Personally, it seems to me that it's harder to get a job WITH a PhD, but the fear was real. Lord knows I'm not knocking advanced degrees; I'm just saying that the fear, which is part of what this dean was fighting against, is crippling.

Strange, too, because I'd never heard of this "guru" of calming down admissions frenzy until her resignation, but I'm glad to hear someone was saying, "You don't have to be perfect to go to college."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Book reviews

What with being on vacation and all, I actually did a little reading, though not all that much. The vacation being in Hawaii, with snorkeling and activities galore, I ended each day thoroughly pooped, and only completed one novel in my time away.

Pooped like bear, I was, and that would make more sense to you if you read "A Dirty Job" by Christopher Moore. Not only does the book have a cover that glows in the dark, not only is there a Russian neighbor who is "possessed of an atavistic compulsion toward ursine simile," not only does it have an engaging plot about death, not only does it make me laugh out loud on almost every page, but it also contains the immortal line, "I like my men like I like my tea: green and weak." Don't we all wish we'd thought that up ourselves? I certainly do.

Before vacation, I read "The Polysyllabic Spree" by Nick Hornby, which is a book full of book reviews, making me feel unworthy and slow, but I loved it nevertheless. I now am possessed of an atavistic compulsion toward reading David Copperfield, but I think it will fade soon.

Because, let's face it, that's two--two!--relatively worthy books in under a month. I'm not sure I can keep this up.

Cheek

OK, so I've been gone again, but I've been on vacation. That's my excuse.

I left just after the tragedy at Virginia Tech and feel I have not given it the attention and grief that it is due, and so I have been reading NY Times articles from the previous week about it. The cheek comes from President Bush who was quoted as follows:

In previous cases like that of Virginia Tech, “there have been warning signals that if an adult, for example, had taken those signals seriously, perhaps tragedy could have been avoided,” Mr. Bush said at a town meeting in Tipp City, Ohio.

Hello? 9/11, anyone? If anyone should have some sympathy over whether or not those in authority should take a warning sign seriously, it should be the president. And all the second-guessing in the world is not helpful at this point.

My hearts and prayers go out to all those killed, and especially to their families.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Died in Iraq

Wrote up the list of those killed in Iraq this week, and it was painfully long. Included two young women, Eleanor Dlugosz (19) and Joanna Dyer (23), both British, from the Duke of Lancasters Regiment (they have such great sounding troop names), killed along with two men and a civilian interpreter in Basra.

The women's names still stand out to me when I'm typing up the lists, whether right or wrong. What are they doing there, I tend to wonder. One of these young women was a nurse; the other in intelligence. The ages also upset me. I have trouble seeing that teenagers are being killed.

Not that older is better. I didn't like seeing the 42-year-old Naval officer's name on the list this week. Not that there is a good age at which to die in this war, but between 23 and 39 I tend not to notice the age so much.

On the Iraqi side, looking at the news reports of those killed, I was particularly affected by the article reporting "Police discovered the body of an 11-year-old boy with his throat slit in Sab al Bor, north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. A local al Qaeda cell was suspected." And that is the extent of the report. Also can't say I was thrilled to hear "Bodies of six goat-herders were found shot west of Kerbala, 110 km (70 miles) south of Baghdad, police said." What is wrong with people?

Prayers of the People

I was preparing the Prayers of the People for this Sunday's service today and in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer for this Sunday, April 15, we pray for the Bishop of New Hampshire--that is, Gene Robinson, the man so many blame for the conflict that is in the Anglican Communion today. Oh, if only he hadn't run for bishop, people wouldn't be upset, so it's all his fault, the thinking goes. In which case, we should more likely blame the clergy and delegates of the diocese of New Hampshire who elected him.

But I really am pleased that he is going to be the subject of prayer throughout the Anglican Communion on a Sunday. I'll be curious what kind of reaction that gets. But I also think it's a wonderful thing that we must pray for others, even when we disagree. Of course, I'm kind of chortling to myself, but it's a lesson to me as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The 600 Club

Yesterday, I was driving behind a car that had a license plate holder that read "600" on the top, and beneath it said, "HE IS IN ME." Couldn't make it out for the longest time. What was this mysterious 600 that was in the driver of the car? Puzzled about it for a good long block, tailgating the driver mercilessly and racking my brain for some 600 cult or extra meaning that would make sense of the thing. Finally figured out that 600 was, in fact, the letters G-O-D in very blocky font. A worthless story, but it amused me nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Back to work

Long time, no blog! First I was away and then I was sick and then it was Holy Week. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. And so many things have gone by with no comment. I was particularly sad not to wax eloquent on the headline, "8,000 pot plants found; two arrested."

But for now, I just want to add my two cents to the rightful denunciation of Don Imus' truly offensive comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team. What really got my blood boiling was his comment quoted in the NY Times this morning when he said on Al Sharpton's program, "I think what makes a difference, a crucial difference is: What was my intent?”

Ah, yes, the "in my heart, I'm a good and decent person" defense. But as Jesus said, "it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45b) Imus would not have said what he said had it not been somewhere in his heart. It may be expedient to deny that in public, but I hope he's taking a good, hard look at himself.

And two weeks suspension? NBC should be ashamed. I don't understand why Imus and his ilk are not pariahs in the media world. But that's just me.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gunfight at the DC corral

I wish I could find the picture that's on the front page of the SF Chronicle today; it's not on their online version, drat them. It shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a sand-colored suit, striding through the halls of Congress, flanked on both sides men in dark-colored suits, slightly behind her. She looks fabulous, in the way that power can look fabulous. I swear it looks like those publicity stills you see for old Westerns with the sheriff/Henry Fonda in the middle surrounded by other B-list gunslingers. Whether or not the photographer meant to convey that iconography, it certainly is reminiscent of a showdown.

Strangely, the picture the Chronicle does have online makes Speaker Pelosi look old, tired, and somewhat bored. There's a hand blocking her face and she looks small compared to the men surrounding her. Just goes to show what a picture can convey.

Now, the truth of the matter...well, that's another thing entirely.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You can only do what you can do

This being my mantra against perfectionism. I saw it reflected this morning in a NY Times editorial on our policies in Iraq, written by Rory Stewart. A friend of mine raves about his book "The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq," but at the moment I'm still catching up on the Best Political Writing of 2006.

Stewart's article begins "We must acknowledge the limits of our power and knowledge in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and concentrate on what is achievable. The question is not 'What ought we to do?' but 'What can we do?'" That seems eminently sensible.

But it is his closing sentence that blew my mind: "We have no moral obligation to do what we cannot do."

Of course, all of this begs the question of what is possible and what is achievable. That requires a great deal of self-knowledge--both humility to accept that I may not be able to do as much as I think, and also courage to accept that I may be able to do more than I would like. But it is still a revelation to take the moral obligation out of achieving what is not possible.

Along the same lines of a William Stafford poem I read in a literary magazine and have not found elsewhere that ends this way (or close to it):

After you've done what you can, you just have to wait. That's the way the trees do it, and the rocks and the stars.

I'll need to think about all this some more as I drink some overdone jasmine tea.

Uninformed opinions on current events

Still thinking about the Edwards family, as if I had any say in the matter, and have finally decided that it's none of my business whether they should or should not continue in the presidential race. My job as a voter is to decide for whom to vote based on what I know and what I learn. Which means I'd better pay more attention to people's positions, even though it's so much less fun than speculating on how and why the Edwards decided to continue campaigning.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A true connoisseur

Having now looked up the spelling of "connoisseur" at bartleby.com (which was rather roundabout, since I looked it up via the thesaurus by typing in "expert"), I need now to pass along a quotation from Lord Champion of Pontypridd, mostly for his name, which I am not making up, who said, in reference to fish and chips wrapped in newspapers, "I am such a great connoisseur that I can tell the difference between the tang of the Beaverbrook Daily Express and the mellow flavor of the Times."

You may now return to more important things.

Tea in Seattle

I have returned from the rainy Northwest to the rainy Bay Area absolutely awash in fabulous Seattle tea. My friends there indulged me to a high degree, taking me to the Queen Mary Tearoom in the U district, a place with high levels of free-floating estrogen, sustained by caffeine and carbohydrates.

We had lunch accompanied by Golden Monkey tea, selected primarily for the name, although the tea descriptions spoke to the true tea snob. I'm sure there's a name for a tea sommalier, but I don't know what it is. I also wish at this point I were sure of the spelling of "connaisseur," but I am not. So I will simply say these descriptions were for those who actually have a good palate, and I am not one of those.

For example, should I get Darjeeling, "the champagne of teas," "A high mountain, second flush tea, picked from small gardens in the foothills of the Himalayas"? Or perhaps Jasmine Pearl, "A fragrant and tantalizing hand-rolled green tea from the Fujian province of mainland China. Scented more than five times with night-blooming jasmine."

I want to know who writes these descriptions.

As it is, as I said, we went for Golden Monkey, "A gold-red tipped, hand processed tea from the Fujian prvince of China. It is a smooth and delectable tea with a caramel finish." Our server arrived with teapots for each of us, saying, "Two Golden Monkeys," which had a festively simian quality to it, wouldn't you say? Our server, too, attested to Golden Monkey's caramel overtones, which were lost on me, probably drowned in the added milk and smothered in the granulated sugar with the rainbow-colored flecks. Yes, it was all tremendously precious. Mighty fine tea, though.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seattle, ho!

Don't you call me a Seattle ho. But I am going to be there for the weekend. Bye!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A lack of sympathy

There's a great line in the movie "Laura" where Waldo Leydecker sarcastically says, "I would be distinctly sorry to see my neighbor's children eaten by wolves." That's about my level of sympathy in the case of the 12-year-old boy scout lost for four days in the North Carolina mountains.

Well, I do have some sympathy: for the leader of the boy scout troop. Would that be a troop leader's worst nightmare, or what? I did like this quote from the AP report: a scout named Griffin Prufer, who got on the Today show out of all of this, said "I noticed my dad going into the woods yelling and screaming [the missing scout's] name and blowing whistles and stuff."

Oh, I bet he was. I notice Griffin's dad isn't listed as going on the Today show. Probably still furious. The kid wasn't having a good time? So he was going to hitchhike home?

I'm not sure what to make of the lost-now-found scout's dad's comment: “We're going to have our lectures about hitchhiking again,” the father said. “We've had them in the past, but with a special vigor, we'll go over that again with Michael.” Ya think? And what do you mean, AGAIN? How often has this happened?

I have to say that when the kid's MO is that "The boy had asked his dad if he would give him $5 if he didn't have a good time," I'm thinking this is a kid I would not like. OK, so I didn't HAVE to say that, but I'm going to anyway. I'm glad he's not dead, but that's for the scoutmaster's sake. Even after his traumatic experience, the kid gets no sympathy from me.

Bach-handed compliments

Perhaps my mind turned to baseball yesterday because spring was in the air, even though I hadn't recalled that today would be the first day of spring. I hadn't recalled that today is Bach's birthday either. Didn't send him a card or anything. Heard "Sleepers, Wake" this morning on the radio, and how appropriate was that! Well, not really appropriate for the liturgical season, being more of an Advent tune, but certainly appropriate for my state of mind, which would be soporific.

And doesn't that sound like it should be a compliment? As in "Man, that baseball game was totally soporific!" I'm sure that in the right crowd one could slip that in and get away with it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

baseball on my mind

Here I am, drinking an herbal infusion, delivered by a friend of mine to aid me in my Womanly Complaint (though it does not appear to have chocolate (the herbal infusion, that is, not the Womanly Complaint) and so, of course, my mind turns to baseball.

Perhaps it was the email update on the A's. Perhaps it was the table of baseball books at the bookstore I browsed during lunch. Perhaps it's because I don't want to be working (and, why, look, I'm not!). Perhaps it's because I've got home opener tickets in my wallet. But I'm thinking about baseball. About its pace and its persistence. About how hard it is and how easy it looks.

The season starts the Monday of Holy Week, but the A's are away until Easter. The tickets are an Easter Monday treat I got myself. He is risen, and the season has started. And really, what could be better than that?

More later, but in the meantime Palm Sunday beckons.

Monday, March 19, 2007

War anniversary/purgatory

Here it is, the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Isn’t that a cheery thought? I don’t exactly want to send George Bush and co. to hell, but I find myself hoping that there’s such a place as purgatory where they will have to apologize person by person, face to face, to everyone who has been in any way hurt by our presence there: Iraqis, troops, families--everyone. And none of this “mistakes were made” crap (which one announcer I heard describe as the “past exonerative”); deeply, humbly, sincerely apologize with genuine contrition. That’s what I want.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick

No green on me today, not being in any way Irish, but I thought a little bit about St. Patrick and his story of being sold as a slave to Ireland, escaping back to Britain and then returning to Ireland despite that. In his "Confessio" he seems sane enough, not given to the intense self-loathing that many of our saints seem to have. Hard to tell, and even if I could tell, I would probably be wrong, not being in his skin or of his time.

I have a quote from his Confessio on my refrigerator to keep me humble: "Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the least of his ministers." Because Ireland WAS obscure. That's not where the up and coming clerics would go. And yet whom do we remember today?

And yet how many more are there who have performed their mission in obscurity? This just to say it's hard to gauge the impact of a ministry, and as always success is less the point than love of God and neighbor. God is no respecter of persons in that all are equal before God. Patrick certainly seemed to learn that in a deep way, that he could return to love and care for the very people who enslaved him.

Happy St. Patrick's day to you all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

God on Nightline

Yawn. Stayed up late last night to watch "Nightline" for the first time ever because our dear PeaceBang of "PeaceBang's Beauty Tips for Ministers" was featured as a Sign of the Times. Not that she knows that she is "Our Dear PB" in my mind because I am a total lurker on her blog, but there you are. She's special to me. She made me get rid of all my jumpers--now that's love. And that's power because I loved my comfy jumpers.

(She's also the one who inspired me to start this blog--that and blogger's tempting little "create a blog" link in the upper right hand corner. Who knew it was so easy to spout ignorant opinions in a public forum?)

Of course PB's segment was on last, requiring me to stay up until midnight, if you can believe it. The first segment was on a project called "The GodMen," trying to reclaim the masculinity of Christianity. The announcer kept referring to "muscular Christianity," which has historical resonances thta I don't think he quite understood.

And so in a 30-minute program, we saw two segments on two extremely different slices of Christianity, and I've got to tell you, I think both of them made people of faith look a little ridiculous to people outside the charmed circle. They fed into stereotypes I suspect people already hold about Christianity in this country.

The Godmen seminar was meeting in a mall in Tennessee. The part of the presentation we saw was very conservative in flavor and suggestively patriarchal, meeting in a dark room, high tech, multimedia, drums. They particularly focused on a presentation about pornography, because of course those conservatives are totally obsessed with sex. And then, on the other hand, you've got the UU minister in Massachusetts, and they showed a large whitewalled church that was largely empty, I was so sorry to see. Stodgy mainline is what it projected. And the suggestion that all PB is interested in is how she looks, which is not what she's about at all.

I suspect the non-religious watching either one of those would see them and say, "Thank God I'm not like these people." And settle back into the couch, congratulating themselves on their wisdom.

The comments on PB's blog today included a couple of people saying, "Godmen--creepy." Well, guess what? The Godmen folk were watching the segment on PB and criticizing her, which makes me sad. Hellooo people! Let's not cast stones. Neither one of you appeared as you truly are because hellooo! the Nightline people decided how you would look. Pray that God will use this for good and move on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Death of a piano teacher

So, there I was with my Hawaiian pizza and my beer, glancing through the local newspaper with its SCANDALOUS headline about how they are going to start distributing condoms at the local high school when I turned the page to glance at the obituaries and, my God! It was my piano teacher!

Back when I was in middle school, I would walk the couple of blocks to Mrs. V's little house around the corner for my weekly piano lessons. They weren't very good, as I recall. But then, I wasn't very good either. I remember playing the Maple Leaf Rag and Babes in Toyland (what a creepy song that is! "Once you pass its borders, you may never return again"--which sounds like you'd be trapped there forever--but I digress). That's about it. Didn't get very far studying with her. But she was kind and patient, which I imagine is a job requirement.

She died a week ago Monday, two years younger than my parents, and the photo in the paper is just how I remembered her. The memorial is tonight, donations to be made to the Alzheimer's Foundation. No mention as to cause of death, so I don't know if that was her disease or a cause close to her heart.

Her obituary talks about how she "touched many with her singing and music leadership." And I guess that's how she touched me, too. It's been years since I thought of her, but it takes me right back. Blessings, Mrs. V. Rest in peace.

Greek myth

Sitting down with a strong cup of Chinese Breakfast tea, thinking about the flap at DuPauw over the Delta Zeta sorority. Just went to the Delta Zeta website where they are hunkered down in a big way, saying "That's not what we meant! That's not what we did!"

Which was to evict most of the members of the chapter house in DuPauw, allegedly because of looks. The pretty ones were invited to stay; the overweight, the awkward, or the geeky were asked to go. The only minority members have all left, either voluntarily or as part of the same purge. The main office contends this is not true, that this was entirely based on a commitment to recruit. And what else can they say, really?

The Delta Zeta website has a lovely green background with a picture in the upper left corner of a pink rose just beginning to bloom, and the Greek letters Delta Zeta superimposed upon it. As you roll over the menu bar, the words turn from green to pink. The preciousness of that is a peculiar contrast with the wall of defensiveness of the statements on the home page. Why am I thinking they didn't know this would become the most emailed article in the NY Times when the story broke? Just a little local thing they were doing at little old DuPauw in the middle of Greencastle, Indiana. Who is going to pay attention to that?

Why do I have a feeling that there was unexamined bias in the national chapter's selection of who would be willing to recruit and who wouldn't? No newsflash there. I have a feeling they believe every word of their PR, that commitment to recruitment was the only factor in their eviction process.

After the purge, only 12 young women were left in the sorority. Kudos to the six who left in outrage after that. Of the six remaining, four were seniors, and I can appreciate not wanting to leave your house when you have four months left of school. I am most curious about the two who remained. What do they think about all of this?

Of course, I've never much liked sororities and went to a school that didn't have any. I have a strong anti-Greek bias that's relatively unexamined in itself, but I think is in part due to the belief that recruitment WAS largely based on being "conventionally pretty," as the remaining Delts are described. I would have been one of the recruits for the creepy, dark, and socially hopeless Gumma Gumma Dope or other low-on-the-totem-pole house, and why set yourself up for that? It's the ranking and pecking order bit of it that gets under my skin; but how much of that is because I don't think I would be in the top rank? Not for a social organization like that.

Unfortunately for DZHQ, every woman in the country (I would be willing to bet) has had someone disparage her appearance and use that to gauge her worth. People are going to believe that DZ evicted the girls on appearance because many people have had something of that nature happen to her.

At least I believe it because something of that nature happened to me. I was in middle school and I got glasses and I was told I would not be invited to a party because of it. And the thing is, the girls with the party were girls I didn't like, so it's not like this was a huge trauma. But still, the message was clear: looks influence status, no matter what you do.

And so there is something incredibly satisfying about the conventionally pretty girls getting their comeuppance in the popular press. Mythic, even. DZHQ may not deserve all the bad press they are getting, but I can't say I mind.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Godspell and 9/11

I watched the movie "Godspell" for the first time in a long time a little over a week ago with the youth group at church, and since the movie and thoughts about it are sticking with me, I'm posting my thoughts.

There's the great production number "It's all for the best" about halfway through the film, when Jesus and Judas do a little softshoe about why oppression is not the end of the world: "Who is the land for? the sun and the sand for? You guessed: it's all for the best." And behind them the rest of the cast dances along. It ends with them all on top of a skyscraper and the camera pans back to show...that they are on top of the World Trade Center before it had even been completed. I thought I was going to cry.

That Sunday at church we sang "All my hope on God is founded," one of my favorite hymns, but I cannot sing it any more without thinking of 9/11. One of the verses includes the line "though with care and toil we build them, tower and temple fall to dust." And continues "But God's power hour by hour is my temple and my tower." All the same, I can't help but be reminded how terrible that was.

The gospel for Sunday (yesterday) includes Jesus talking about the fall of the tower of Siloam when 18 people died. Were they bad people? Jesus asks. And his answer is confounding. Basically, it's "They're no worse than you are." Neither a eulogy nor a condemnation, but instead an answer to the people asking the question. You don't know when and how your life will end: get your act in gear.

Watching "Godspell" was the youth group made me realize how time had passed. Most of those attending are 11 or 12 years old; they were 5, 6, 7 in 2001. Do they even remember it? And if so, how?

At the same time, another member of our parish and his family had their last Sunday yesterday as they prepare to move to Honduras. This member, the father, had been in the building across from the towers as the planes flew into them, and it changed him utterly and completely. He accompanied our youth on a camping trip last Spring, and his question to them in the dark around the campfire was "Where was God when the towers fell?" His own answer, as I remember, wasn't about where God was, but about where he ended up: drinking at least a six-pack a night in order to sleep, spending time away from his family in the wilderness, trying to sort things out. And his prayer was "I can't handle this by myself," which he says turned things around for him. This move to Honduras is part of it, I would imagine. And can I say that I think his wife is a saint.

I was amazed that seeing the towers again moved me so deeply. I've never even been to New York City. But it was like seeing a picture of a loved one who has died, coming across it unexpectedly, showing when she was young and hopeful. All the people in the buildings that day were murdered, it finally hit me, and the buildings were murdered, too.