Saturday, January 30, 2010

The best J.D. Salinger obit I've read from the incomparable Onion.

Bunch of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger

CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.


I think Mr. S. would approve.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Introducing...Ms. Beezle-Bubb

A new person has appeared in my life. Actually, she's been here a long time, but I'm beginning to hear her voice more clearly, and I wanted to introduce her to you. Here she is--the charming Ms. Beezle-Bubb.

Obviously very attractive, she takes care of herself, but is not vain--no, of course not. That's why she wears the heavy glasses. She only wants what's best for you, my dear, and anything she says is there to help you understand. She's particularly clear about grammar because grammar has very clear rules that anyone should be able to follow. Mostly, she hates it when you disappoint her, sweetie, because she knows you could do so much better than that. If you really tried and put your mind to it. Really, she just wants what's best for you.

I saw her posting a comment the other day on a blog under a pseudonym, but I knew right away it was really her. The post pointed out that God hates shellfish, calling them an abomination in Leviticus. I thought that was spot-on, but Miss Beezle-Bubb pointed out the error of anyone thinking that shellfish=abomination might have something to say about lying-with-a-man=abomination with this pithy reply:

I wonder why those on the episcopal left, after 7 years, have never really taken the time to understand why the shellfish argument is so embarrassingly bad? Really Scott, I expect better of you.

Indeed, the shame. Why haven't we taken the time when obviously those using Leviticus as a proof that homosexuality is sinful have clearly thought through all of the Biblical scholarship on the subject. Thank you, Ms. Beezle-Bubb, for shining the light of truth on the darkness and error of our ways.

I shall continue to share your wisdom whenever I hear your voice.

Update: She tells me that she prefers to be called Ms. I apologize for the error.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eddie Izzard LIVE!

Last Saturday night, I got to see Eddie Izzard live at the Oracle Arena--whoo hoo! There he is, that little speck on the big, big stage. He came on stage a little after 8:00, walked back and forth for an hour, making us laugh, took a 15 minute break, then came out and made us laugh for another hour, before sending us out into the night telling us to be good to one another.

It's just impressive as all get-out, what he is able to do. Characters would show up early in the show (e.g. a velociraptor wearing a porkpie hat) and would appear unexpectedly later on. And these characters were mostly developed through really amazing miming. He did a fantastic job of following through on the mime to its logical conclusion so if, say, a Spartan ends up on the end of an 18-foot spear, Eddie didn't just go on to the next thing without making sure that the Spartan didn't somehow logically (I use the word loosely) get off the spear. Fantastic.

Not once did he mention himself personally. Not once did he talk about running a marathon a day for six weeks. Instead, he told the entire history of the universe (with gaps). A large part of that was skewering Biblical literalism. I particularly liked his take-down of Intelligent Design in which he impersonated an appendix who, unless he was given some grass, was going to explode. He was talked down, though, by being given a place at the end of books.

The only problem as I saw it was that he took some cheap shots at the Bible in which he, perhaps deliberately, mangled some stories. I kept thinking, "Ummm....that's not what it says." I'm just too much of a Bible geek at times. Though I laughed my head off at the "covet your neighbor's ox" bit at the end.

He makes it quite clear he doesn't believe in God, but emphasizes over and over again, and quite overtly, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Not a bad message to get from a comedian.

Impressive, impressive, impressive, is what I have to say. And worth seeing all in one sitting just to admire how he puts this all together, all in a piece. Amazing. And lovely.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The governments and agencies pursuing these investigations had varying goals; but they were united on one issue. The Sloan was not, by a puerile insistence on its commercial rights, to imperil the unexpected accord which had suddenly emerged between East and West.

From Murder Against the Grain by Emma Lathen (written 1967).

You have to love a mystery writer that will use the word puerile.

And because I was playing by the rules and picked a page at random, I was not able to use this still-true sentence: "Banks do not expect to bear risks; they expect to fob them off onto their unfortunate customers." Nor was I able to talk about the troupe of trained otters. Ah well. Enjoy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Conversion of St. Paul, and still more thoughts on spiritual practice

Last weekend I went to a conference. When I registered, along with my information packet, I got a rock. A little brown landscaping rock. And on this rock was printed a name in permanent marker. And I was informed that this was the name of another person attending the conference for whom I was to pray. And I thought to myself, “I hate this spiritual crap.”

Later at lunch, there was a discussion about what age Godly Play stops being an effective Christian Education program. One person said she found that it loses its charm for kids at about fourth grade. The woman next to me announced that, no, it was great for kids all the way up to middle school, and in fact adults love the stories, too. “They quiet right down when the story starts.” If they’re like me, it’s because they’re biting their tongues to keep from screaming in agony. But I bit my tongue rather than say so.

Why? Because it would be rude, wouldn’t it? to say I hate this stuff. Worse still, maybe it shows I’m not really spiritual at all because my spiritual practice doesn’t look like it ought to. My daily spiritual practice looks a lot like writing snarky posts on my blog and on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m still having trouble believing that this is OK, that it’s all right that I don’t do what looks like a daily devotion either of the liberal/spiritual or evangelical/religious sort.

I can’t help but think that the rock/prayer partner spirituality was used, not because anybody planning the conference genuinely felt deeply moved by that practice, but because the planners thought they ought to feel deeply moved and spiritually empowered by that sort of exercise.

It’s the feast of the Conversion of Paul. He had a dramatic experience, of course: bright lights, falling to the ground, hearing voices, and doing a 180 turn from persecutor to church founder. I wonder (to use a Godly Play term) how much of the emphasis on conversion stories in many churches is based on Paul’s story and the belief that that’s the way a conversion ought to happen. I wonder how long it will take us to realize that God meets us where we are, not where someone thinks we ought to be.

[Image is from the Brick Testament, which has a darn good representation of Paul's whole conversion story.]

Several pieces of wisdom from the blogosphere

I am working on a longer post, but I wanted to share these three tidbits from blogs I read that I liked very much.

First, from Lionel Deimel's blog, a question for the third Sunday after the Epiphany: "If Jesus died for our sins, what did he live for?"

Second, from Tobias Haller, BSG, a thought from retreat:

The quickest way to kill the truth is simply to speak it, and then not act upon it. If you really want to bury it for good, inscribe it on the walls of your temple, where you can bow to it and do it reverence, then turn your back upon it and walk away from it. Thus you will be able to act in ways contrary to it, but always point to the temple on the hill.

And finally, and most encouragingly, from Jim Vining, a freeing reminder:

I keep small paper from my counselor as a reminder to keep a realistic outlook on life.
I am posting it in hope that it might be freeing to some of you.

I am Responsible for:
* how I treat myself
* how I treat others

I am Not Responsible for:
* how others treat me
* how others treat others
* how others treat themselves

That's a keeper for sure.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hurt Locker

I watched The Hurt Locker on DVD a couple of days ago, and I'm glad I did. I'm glad I saw the movie because it is fantastic. And I'm glad I saw it on DVD because it was so damn stressful I had to keep turning it off to recover.

If you do not know, this is a movie about a bomb squad in Iraq, Bravo Company. Before each mission, you see a caption explaining how many more days team Bravo has in its rotation, starting at (I believe) 36. Just over a month and they get to go home. If they manage to get through the next bomb. And the next one.

One of the things I loved about this movie is that it conveyed how confusing the situation on the ground is. Gradually, people gather to watch the bomb squad do their work; is one of them the bomber? Which one? How can you tell? There's no clear-cut movie villain. The ticking time bomb is firmly in place, but there's no way to know who to torture to get the information on where it is or who put it there.

And the characters are so clear and distinct. There's not a lot of dialogue and you don't need it to know what's going on in people's heads They are three-dimensional, not simply good or bad, but a mix of things. Human, in other words.

There's lots of silence, very little in the way of dramatic music, not much to tell you what you ought to do or how you ought to feel. It's a movie that makes you work a little. It's worth the work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Robert B. Parker

You can tell I've been busy because I hadn't even seen the obit for Robert B. Parker until my mom told me about it last night.

Robert Parker dead! "This is just wrong," a fellow mystery-loving friend told me when I emailed her the obit. It is, just plain wrong.

At the last diocesan convention, I'd taken a Spenser novel with me to while away the downtime. Some ignoramus, seeing it on the table said, "Whose trashy novel is that?" and was shocked, SHOCKED!, that I was reading it. I still wish I'd said, "Clearly, you've never read a Spenser novel."

Trashy? I don't think so. "Mr. Parker’s regular readers became familiar with the things that provoke Spenser’s suspicion: showy glamour, ostentatious wealth, self-aggrandizement, fern bars, fancy sports clubs and any kind of haughtiness or presumption." Like the presumption that the content between the covers of a paperback pocket book are trash.

The man wrote five pages a day, six days a week. He also had a PhD in literature from Boston University. I wish I had a Spenser-esque response to people who don't understand that just because a lot of people like it doesn't mean it's trash. But then maybe Spenser, and Parker, don't need my protection.

Update The obituary in the London Telegraph, though slightly disdainful, notes two things: 1) that Parker reported "he typically wrote 10 pages a day" and 2) his dissertation was on Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Open -- Andre Agassi

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!

"I hate all the junior tournaments, but I hate nationals most of all, because the stakes are higher, and they're held in other states, which means airfare, motels, rental cars, restaurant meals. My father is shelling out money, investing in me, and when I lose, there goes another piece of his investment."

From Open by Andre Agassi, which I started last night during the first round of the Australian Open.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Helping Haiti

I appear to be taking a break from blogging. I didn't intend to take a break from blogging; I just didn't have anything to say. Somehow I think that's a good plan: if you don't have anything to say, then don't say it.

However, today I do have something to say and that's to pass along to you a couple of good resources I have found for selecting charities for disaster relief in Haiti.

First is this article from AidWatch that gives general advice and lots of links.

Second is this very helpful article that gives a better sense of what will be helpful when. One helpful tip: "Donations of in-kind clothing and food often are less useful than monetary donations given to organizations who can then assess need."

Another thing I'm using is the Charity Navigator. I typed in "Haiti" as a keyword and came up with this list. You can get a better sense of how much bang you'll get for your buck.

With all that in mind, my very small donation is going to Partners in Health, Paul Farmer's organization (if you've read Mountains Beyond Mountains, you know who I mean). They're already on the ground in Haiti; they are set up to deal with the needs of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake; and they have a great rating from Charity Navigator.

So that's my reasoning. Blessings to you as you decide on your own response.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Merry Christmas!

That's at least 12 accordianists accordianing, isn't it?

I would just like to say merry Christmas one last time while I still can and before the kings arrive.

[pic is from's Day in Pictures]

Merry Christmas!

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!

Here's the teaser:

I could just make out, through the darkness, that peculiar stain or smudge--and then my heart sank as I spotted, a yard or so from it, a similar mark. Further off I thought I saw another.

It's from The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, and all I have to say is I'm glad I have a good fun murder mystery waiting for me at the end of it because this book is creeping me out. But I have to find out what's going on.

You might also want to check out Lorin's Teaser Tuesdays at Arch Thinking.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The future isn't what it used to be

Loved this blog entry this morning from Obsidian Wings. It starts by linking to a news article that announces Iran will have a nuclear weapon within 10 years. And then points out the article was written in 1995.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday funnies

OK, so this from my favorite time waster circa 2009: Twitter. Earlier this week, someone somewhere started a hashtag on twitter called #19thcenturyraplyrics which has amused me greatly. Some of my favorites are compiled below into a simulacrum of someone really white and musically conservative (i.e. me) might consider rap:

19th century rap lyrics (compiled from Twitter)

So, you wish to be a nonpareil,
living the high life in a large manor and five coaches.
Listen and forthwith I shall reveal the spectacle of fame
to the beglamoured and the fond.

Cease! Fall upon the ground!
Stop everything in order to start selling.
Forsooth, this is how uncouth passengers act.
Life consists of little more
than personages of the gentler sex and the coin of the realm.
Cease! Fall upon the ground!
Life consists of little more
than personages of the gentler sex and the coin of the realm.

It is I who is the king of the rock. There is none higher.
Foolish composers shall call me sire.
Verily, the temperatures within this room begin to exceed acceptable levels.
I intend to disrobe forthwith.

Good sir, your conduct has been most vexing and confusing
for this God fearing gentlewoman. I say, speak plainly sir!

Do not lay your hands upon me, my compatriot,
for you may injure yourself due to my high temperature.

Cease! Fall upon the ground! & cetera

I rather enjoy looking at large posteriors and I cannot lie.
My brothers, you cannot deny this as well.
Tis TRUE, my boasts of virility
for I have various women of ill repute in a myriad of villages.

Allow me to extend my condolences, young sir.
I have 99 problems, but fortunately, nary a harlot is among their number

Cease! Fall upon the ground! & cetera

[The photo is from The Impious Digest (subtitle: "In Hell, there is nothing else to read").]

Friday, January 1, 2010

Year-end obit round-up by the numbers

It happened again. Women did not die in 2009 at the same rate as men. At least according to the obituaries.

I wrote about this last year when the ratio was 36 notable men to 7 notable women. In the Notable Deaths of 2009, it was 41 notable men and 12 notable women, which is an improvement in representation (22.6 percent in 2009; 16.2 in 2008) and scope (including a basketball coach, a choreographer, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, one of two Kennedys in the list).

Apparently, being a person of color is even better guard against death, as only four non-whites were in this list: one Asian (Kim Dae-Jung, former president of South Korea), one Latin American (Ricardo Montalban), and two African-Americans (historian John Hope Franklin, and Michael Jackson).

The decade-end round up also showed these disparities with 150 men to 35 women (19%) and (as best I could tell) 30 non-whites in the total (16.2%). Of the 16 African Americans represented over the course of the decade, nine were singers.

Last year, I wrote, "I will be curious to see as the years go by if these proportions change: if we'll start seeing more notable women politicians, business leaders, and scientists; if African-Americans will be recognized for a greater spectrum of achievements. I expect that we will see this changing before our eyes. I look forward to it."

I still do.

Happy National Hot Tea Month!

Yes, my friends, January is National Hot Tea Month. Says who? Well, the Tea Council of the USA, for one, so you KNOW that's official.

The question I have is, is this a strictly American observance or is Tea Month observed elsewhere?

As for me, I think it's important to celebrate Hot Tea Month all year long. May the spirit of hot tea infuse your being now and always.