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.

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
*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


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 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. ( 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.