Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cast your vote!

It's time for the Washington Post Peep Diorama Contest Peeple's Choice Awards!

This year, I have been closely following the fortunes of one entry, the National Cathedral in Peep form ("a house of prayer for all peeple") which has its own Facebook fan group

Here's their entry:

Note the Darth Vader Pez dispenser peeking out behind the pillar.  Fabulous.

But I would not wish to impose my partisanship on your free choice in a democratic system.  Therefore, you should go and look at all the Peep Dioramas on display at the Washington Post and make your choice.  They're all fantastic.

Quote of the Day

I merely think that declaring a homeless, apolitical, non-violent hippie in first century Palestine as someone who would bless a twenty-first century terrorist militia in North America is a bit of a stretch.

Andrew Sullivan, on the Hutaree Christian Militia's "Christianity."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, March 30

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!

I am just today starting Troublesome Young Men by Lynne Olson, part of my Britain in WWII reading.
One of the most outspoken supporters of Germany was the Prince of Wales, who told a German prince in 1933 that "it was no business of ours to interfere in Germany's internal affairs either [regarding] Jews or [regarding] anything else" and that "dictators are very popular these days and we might want one in England before long.' Indeed, the prince was so vociferous in his praise of the Nazis that on one occasion even his pro-German father thought he had gone too far and told him to tone it down.
The aforementioned quote wasn't going too far?

Previously on Teaser Tuesday:
I finished Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett which was good, but not his best. If you've never read Terry Pratchett you might want to start with Equal Rites or Wyrd Systers--some of the earlier ones. Still, he has more insights per page than most other authors I know, and does it with great good humor. Random example:

Why do we tell one another that the leopard cannot change his shorts? she mused as she watched him scurry away. Has anyone ever seen a leopard wearing shorts? And how would they be able to put them on if they had them? But we go on saying it as if it was some kind of holy truth, when it just means that we've run out of argument.


In other news, I'm now an Amazon Associate so if you buy any of the books I link here, there's a little kick-back in it for me. I didn't want you to think I was being altruistic, making all these convenient links.

Happy reading!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I love Theresa of Avila

I'm sorry to report that Theresa of Avila suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of George Herbert in the Final Four of Lent Madness. Who knew such a humble country parson was such a fierce competitor? My last-minute plea for the good Doctor came too late. Or maybe it was inevitable. Mr. Herbert did go on to defeat Julian of Norwich for the coveted Golden Halo.

And I like George Herbert. Truly I do. But Theresa is my hero as well as the person I'd like to be when I grow up.

I read The Interior Castle for the first time kind of on a whim as a Lenten discipline almost 20 years ago now. I thought to myself, "Won't it be nice to read a sweet little book written by a sweet little nun from the sweet little Middle Ages?" and she proceeded to kick my spiritual ass. I encountered a ferocious intelligence whose perception of the ways of heart and soul laid me bare. I've gone back to IC time and again just to get my head on straight. (I need to read more of her writings, actually.)

I also adore Theresa because of her administrative and organizational skills. You don't establish a ton of monasteries without some political and organizational savvy. Too often there seems to be a divide between the spiritual types and the practical types, but Theresa was certainly both spiritual and practical. Much like George Herbert, it seems to me.

There's one line of Theresa's that is a cornerstone for me, as follows: "The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so, do that which best stirs you to love." Not that she's not a thinker, but she understands at a fundamental level, as she says, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things." That's why I love Theresa.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday funnies

Click on it for an enlarged image.

The rest of the Facebook Passion can be found here.

(h/t Episcopal Cafe)

And just to mix in the crucifixion, because...I don't know why they do that on Palm Sunday, but they do:

(h/t Ship of Fools from their Twitter feed)

A blessed Holy Week to you all.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Theresa of Avila needs you!

Over at Clergy Family Confidential, we're down to the last of the match-ups before the finals: Theresa of Avila vs. George Herbert.

Meanwhile, on Seven Whole Days, my former friend Scott Gunn is talkin' smack against my girl T, saying, "She can’t make up her mind if there should be an “H” in Theresa. Which is it, Teresa or Theresa? This is worse than being shifty-eyed (a sure sign of suspicious behavior). She is shifty-named."

Can we let this happen? Can we let the good doctor T who led us through the Interior Castle get picked on by a panty-waist poet who arranges words to look like butterflies? My friends, this cannot be.

Hie ye over to Fr. Tim's place and vote for the saintly Spaniard. God will love you better if you do.

Ugandan update

Last week, I reported on the burning of the tombs at Kasubi. I thought I should do a follow-up on that.

First of all, my friend Joseline reports that her family is fine--and that she's about to graduate from beauty college, which is great news.

On the more global, newspaper level, the seven days of mourning ended badly with two people trampled to death and over a hundred hospitalized at the closing ceremonies. "The streets surrounding the Kasubi tombs were packed so tightly that it was almost impossible to move, with people who failed to find space on the ground hanging off trees and scaling buildings to catch a better view of things."

The picture below is captioned "A crowd mobs the Kabaka’s convoy at Kasubi on Friday" (the Kabaka being the ceremonial king of the Baganda tribe). Note the palm branch!

Also, in case you're wondering whatever happened with the anti-homosexuality bill that was headline news late last year,'s still floating around. GayUganda is keeping me up to date on developments and I will keep you posted.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baroness Park of Monmouth

Regular readers of this blog will know that, besides my obsession with obits, there is a particular subgenre to which I am drawn as a moth to the flame: the spy obit. There's something about all the skullduggery and/or derring-do suddenly being revealed that makes those obits particularly appealing.

Such a one is the life story of Baroness Park of Monmouth, which is an excellent name to begin with. On my reader feed, I then saw, "Highest-ranking female spy ever to work for MI6 who operated in Africa, Cold War Moscow, Hanoi and even Outer Mongolia," and I knew I had a total winner.

Born Daphne Park and raised in Africa, "Her drink of choice was Earl Grey tea, 'stirred not shaken', as she put it." Oh, lovely.

The quotes are probably the best part of the obit. A few highlights:

She was realistic about her capacity to conduct "honeytrap" operations, noting: "Do I look like Mata Hari?"

On one occasion, when living alone [in the Belgian Congo], she chased off an intruder by leaning out of her window and shouting: "I am a witch! And if you don't instantly go away your hands and feet will fall off!"

On another occasion she was driving a Land Rover when she saw a machete-wielding mob coming towards her. She jumped out, stuck her head under the bonnet and told her potential attackers: "Thank goodness you've come along – I think I have a problem with my carburettor." The men laid down their weapons and offered their assistance.

"I always looked just like a fat missionary, which was very useful," she said in later life. "Missionaries get around, you know."


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy feast of the Annunciation!

Image from the Brick Testament.

On food and fat

My friend Scott Gunn over at Seven Whole Days posted an entry yesterday about why your salad costs more than a BigMac. The chart below shows the amount of federal subsidies for various food groups compared with the recommended servings we should actually eat.

This reminded me of a very interesting video I had seen a while back with Michelle Obama talking about "food deserts." I'd never heard this term before. This refers to areas where people (23.5 million Americans according to this source) have limited access to grocery stores, requiring a greater dependence on convenience stores and fast food restaurants. The First Lady is spearheading an effort to eliminate food deserts in the U.S. over the next seven years, which would be really something.

Here's a video from the White House blog with Mrs. Obama talking about this:

Meanwhile, on another blog I read there was very thoughtful discussion on the topic of shaming the obese, asking how much obesity in this country is a systemic problem and how much is a cultural/personal responsibility issue.

Here's one thing I know: during the three months I was in Uganda, I lost 10 pounds. I was not trying to lose weight; it just happened. Partly because I was walking everywhere. Partly because I could buy fresh fruits and vegetables from vendors on the streets near my home. Partly because snacking simply wasn't an option. I can tell you one thing: it wasn't because I was a better person or more self-controlled. It was simply what happened.

I know full well that I am one of the lucky ones with access to healthy food options all the time and that I can do a lot better at eating healthfully. I guess I'm saying that I'm tired of having obesity viewed as simply a personal moral lapse. I'm glad to see that we are taking steps to address some of the causes of obesity on a structural level. I know I can do better. But I also know that I'm the same person who lost weight in Uganda. This gives me some confidence to know it's not just me.

Update: What do you know! Today's NY Times has an editorial about this very topic.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oscar Romero

It's the feast of Oscar Romero, archbishop of El Salvador, assassinated 30 years ago on this day.

And it's here I have to say God bless Jon Stewart who, with his patented mix of snark and righteous fury, showed something I didn't see anywhere else: the motion by the Texas Board of Curriculum Review that removed Oscar Romero from our textbooks.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Don't Mess With Textbooks
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

"And that is how Oscar Romero got disappeared by right wingers a second time," he says.

Meanwhile, in today's El Salvador, on the same day that Stewart aired this episode, an unknown assailant tried to assasinate the Primate of the Anglican Communion in Central America. Bishop Barahona was not hurt, but his driver was shot.

The blogger who posted the news asks this rhetorical question:

Why does Mary Glasspool's receiving consents garner a comment from the Archbishop of Canterbury almost instantaneously (they must have had the text pre-written for either scenario) whereas when one of the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion nearly loses his life in an assassination attempt that results in his driver being gravely injured we hear nothing?

All of which makes me think how much power there is in saying nothing, in keeping things quiet, or in making sure people can't talk. How if you don't say anything, it's as if it doesn't exist. And how if you say a lie over and over it's as if it's true.

I am still pondering this one.

As I recall, one of the reasons Oscar Romero was assassinated was not just because he preached against oppression, but because he preached on the radio where everyone could hear him. Ah, here we go: "His Sunday homilies were broadcast nationwide on live radio and heard by nearly everyone in the country. Letters poured in from every village, thanking him for his prophetic voice and confessing their own new found courage."

On March 23, Romero exploded with his most direct appeal to the members of the armed forces:

"I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!

He was killed the next day, shot while celebrating the Eucharist at the altar.

One of the great gifts of the resurrection is the assurance that death is not the end, which means (among other things) death does not have the power to silence us. At least that's what occurs to me today.

Much to think about.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

At Ted Kennedy's grave

In the top left corner is a note from Rep. Patrick Kennedy that reads: "Dad: The unfinished business is done."

Brief story here.

Teaser Tuesday March 23

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!

Today's teaser is from Terry Pratchett's--oh, excuse me, Sir Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld novel, Unseen Academicals (appropriate cover for this time of year, n'est-ce pas?).

Here's the teaser:

"The University Council at the time took the very decent view that it might be the moment for a leader who was not stupid, mad or dead. Admittedly, most of these are not exactly qualifications in the normal sense, but I like to think that the skill of leadership, tactics and creative cheating that I learned on the river also stood me in good stead."

Update: When I was adding the link to information about Sir Terry's knighthood, I learned he has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. Will these tragic things stop happening to my genre writers? Truly, very sad news. I wish him all the best as he battles the disease.

Previous Teaser update:
I didn't have a Teaser last week because I was still plowing through Michael Caine's 400+ page autobiography, which I finally finished last week. If you want to know about absolutely anybody celebrity-wise in Hollywood or London, then this is your book. He seemed to be in the middle of absolutely everything. All I know is that I'm now in the mood to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

James de Koven

So last week I wrote about how Diane Jardine Bruce was elected suffragan bishop of L.A. without a peep while the understandable news was that Mary Glasspool, who is openly gay, received the necessary consents (votes of approval) from diocesan Standing Committees and bishops? Oh, you skipped that post? Reasonably enough.

But I was struck today to read the bio of James de Koven who was elected bishop of Wisconsin in 1874 and of Illinois in 1875 "but because he was 'controversial' he failed both times to have his election ratified by a majority of Bishops and a majority of Standing Committees of Dioceses, as required by canon law."

What was the controversy? He was "the chief spokesman for the 'ritualists,' defending the use of candles, incense, bowing and kneeling, and the like."

This met opposition from other Christians who were suspicious (1) of anything that suggested Roman Catholicism, (2) of anything that seemed fancy and pretentious, as opposed to the plain, blunt, simplicity that was considered to be an American virtue as well as a virtue of the New Testament Church, and (3) of anything that varied from the practices they had become used to as children.

Oh how silly they were. Good thing we all know better now. Oh, wait.

And so I'd like to celebrate James de Koven, patron saint of "Someday we'll look back at this and laugh." In the meantime, I guess we'll keep feeling our way, perhaps with a candle to guide us.

Why this particular health care reform bill mattered to me

There was a time when I left a job because it was damaging my health. Before I resigned I saw a psychiatrist for anti-anxiety medication so that I could sleep at night in order to face the working environment from day to day. After a good-faith effort to change the situation, I eventually left with no other job lined up.

I was young and healthy and decided not to get COBRA but a less expensive private insurance. However, I was turned down by all the available agencies because of my pre-existing condition, the "mental health problems" I had duly reported on my application. The time to apply for COBRA had passed and I was without insurance for the first time in my life. I went through a bout of shingles--very minor--without any medical treatment. I was incredibly lucky that that's all that happened, and I did get another job before a year was over.

Two years ago, the parish where I was working cut my position due to budget woes. This time you can bet I got my COBRA insurance. This time I was unemployed for five months and then hired as an independent contractor. COBRA was over 10 percent of my gross pay. If you take out Social Security and taxes, it was more like 15. Again, I was incredibly lucky.

Most recently when I applied for personal insurance, I was very tempted to lie just to make sure I got coverage. Of course, had I done so and then developed a serious illness, the insurance company might have dropped me under a rescission policy. However, I answered honestly and got the policy I wanted. Again, I was incredibly lucky.

This bill is of course not perfect, but it would have made a difference for me in all of these situations. It is so great to know that a health issue caused by a job won't keep people from getting insurance. It is so great to know that buying health insurance won't take 20 or 30 or 40 percent of people's earnings. It is so great to know that health insurers won't be able to use rescission any more.

It may not be perfect, but it sure as heck is better. There was lots of comment in the various social media yesterday. I followed "health care reform" as a thread on Twitter for a little while and couldn't believe some of the comments. Some notable ones were, "No on health care reform. Not now. Not ever" and "Vote no on health care reform. Stand up for self-reliance." There were more sensible ones on both sides that talked about health care reform as as policy--what about its costs, what about abortion. But the most moving to me was a comment from a friend of mine on Facebook who said last night after the vote, "Maybe my family will now be able to get health care coverage." Amen to that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Funnies

Are you following March Madness? I haven't watched any of the tournament, though the upsets have been amazing. Northern Iowa?! Go, Northern Iowa! Some completely crazy bracket-maker is going to clean up big time.

I heard a report the other day about the loss of productivity during March Madness. Turns out CBS Sport commissioned Scott Adams of Dilbert fame to create a "Boss Button" so that something that looks like productive work will pop up on your screen should someone walk by your cubicle. Ah, the blessings of working from home!

A close-up:

Sorry I couldn't get it any bigger! You may have to use a magnifying glass on this one.

I think I may watch that Cal/Duke game today. Go, Cal!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hypocrisy exposed! Yet snarkiness continues

You may recall a couple of weeks ago I had a little mini-rant about the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar getting all shirty about the song Satisfaction.

I believe God heard my rant and has been punishing me by keeping two songs that drive me crazy running through my head.

So with the understanding that confession is good for the soul and may also release me from this terrible audioloop, and with hope that it won't infect you, here are the songs that have been pestering me.

Exhibit A: Don't lose my number by Phil Collins.

I hadn't thought about this song in years when it came on in a store one day. Catchy tune, I thought. But what's up with those lyrics?

Billy, don't you lose my number
cause you're not anywhere
that I can find you

The thing is, there's nothing technically wrong with this. It just drives me crazy. "You're not anywhere" just feels odd to me, rather than "You aren't anywhere" or even "You're nowhere..." And I KNOW it's better the way it is, catchier, stickier. But I keep wanting him to say...something else. Stop him! Stop him before he uses that convoluted grammatical structure again!

But at least it's reasonable for me to have this stuck in my head, having heard it. The other makes NO SENSE.

Exhibit B: Have You Seen Jesus My Lord? -- Sunday school chorus from waaaaaay back.

I haven't heard this in years--and certainly not in any store--and yet, as punishment for my snarkiness, I have been afflicted with this pablum. Pertinent annoying verse:

Have you ever looked at the sunset
with the sky mellowing red
and the clouds suspended like feathers?
Then I'd say (then I'd say)
you've seen Jesus my Lord.

OK, again, not a grammar problem per se, though I can quibble with the simile that clouds are not suspended like feathers, seeing as feathers actually do fall to the ground. More fundamentally (no pun intended) I am hard pressed to believe that beautiful sunset = Jesus. Seems pagan to me. But even worse, it's TRITE BEYOND BELIEF! Icky, make it stop! Make it go away!

I seem to keep getting myself in deeper and deeper snark-wise; I'm not sure I'm showing the proper contrition for mocking the SPOGG folks. I am forced now to concede that if Satisfaction drives them nuts, that's just a matter of taste.

Lorin has already put me on this road with her spirited defense of how bad grammar in songs can drive one crazy. Me, I'm hoping I don't go mad. Help me out, here. What songs drive you nuts?

Jesus? Jesus is that you?

Brigadier the Reverend David Whiteford

Isn't that a fabulous title? Not easy to come by, though.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Episcopal Church News

Man, I'm a blogging fool today!

The Episcopal Church grapevine is full of the news that Rev. Mary Glasspool, openly partnered with another woman, has received the necessary consents from both standing committees and bishops (churchy lingo for "OK by us") and will be consecrated a bishop on May 15. Understandably so since there was very real doubt that she would receive the consents needed.

What has truly caught my notice, however, is that absolutely NOTHING has been made of the fact that another woman was elected bishop in LA that day. Diane Jardine Bruce (that's her picture, there) was approved with pretty much a yawn.

Does anyone else remember the huge kerfuffle when Barbara Harris was elected bishop in Massachusetts a mere 20 years ago? The protests? The End Of The Church As We Know It pronouncements? And now it's not even news.

I especially appreciated Mark Harris' take(s) on these events over at Preludium.

News about her election and now about the consents for her election, almost always carry the banner that includes the word 'lesbian.' She is touted as the first partnered lesbian elected bishop, the first lesbian bishop (how do they know), the second homosexual partnered bishop (lesbian subset), and so on....It seems that almost everyone looks at this election as one filled with 'portent' because of her being put in a category of persons.... Apparently, no one in the world of ecclesial news and views gives a damn about who anyone is, but only what category of persons they belong to.

But look at how far we've come. I imagine it might be galling for Rev. Jardine to have no one notice that she too was elected bishop; but isn't it a tremendous development that we don't first place her in a category of persons. She's been overlooked, and that is good news.

Congratulations to you both.

Eva Zeisel

OK, so you don't actually have to be dead to have an interesting life story. Case in point: Eva Zeisel, featured in this months O magazine. It was the part where I read about all these amazing adventures she'd had growing up in Hungary, learning her craft as a potter, moving to Germany "where she became one of the first people to apply contemporary mass production techniques to the ceramic arts." Then Paris, then back to Germany, then Russia in 1932. "She got one job and then another, until after nearly four years of impressive promotions, at the age of 29, Eva Ziesel was appointed art director of the porcelain and glass industry for the entire republic."

At the age of 29???? My God!

Then, of course, there's the part where she's jailed by Stalin for 16 months, then Austria, then Germany, then fleeing from Germany in 1938 and emigrating to America...I'm exhausted just reading about it.

She's now 103 and is still making furniture, glass, bronze castings--absolutely beautiful. You can see it here. (below: Eva Zeisel teapot from Crate and Barrel)

Update on Uganda

Not a lot to report, mercifully. Apparently, only (!) three people were killed when President Museveni visited the tomb, though others were in critical condition. Museveni has ordered a probe into the cause of the fire. The Kabaka, the traditional king of the Buganda, also visited the tombs yesterday. The council elders have declared a seven day period of mourning. And the remains of the four kings buried at the site are intact.

And can I just say YouTube is amazing? Here's a short video of the Kabaka visiting the tombs. You can get a little sense of the pandemonium and the press of people.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick

Did you know he is the patron saint of engineers? Also the diocese of Sacramento, California. Also, and I love this, of excluded people. Personally, I think he should be the patron saint of non-traditional learners since he often expresses in his confession his sensitivity about his lack of education (what with being kidnapped and sold into slavery as a kid and all, he didn't have the traditional priestly education).

While it's still morning, I'll include this prayer of his.

As I arise today, may the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, the wisdom of God guide me. May the eye of God look before me, the ear of God hear me, the word of God speak for me. May the hand of God protect me, the way of God lie before me, the shield of God defend me, the host of God save me. May Christ shield me today...Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit, Christ when I stand, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Headline from Uganda

When I was in Uganda, I went to visit the Royal Tombs (of course I would) in Kasubi, a Kampala neighborhood. This is the historic burial grounds of the Bugandan royalty. Seeing this spot was one of the highlights of my trip, tourist-wise. It was amazing. You can see part of the main tomb here, with people leaving for scale.
Posted by Picasa

This morning, GayUganda reports that the tombs were burnt, source of fire unknown, and links to this newspaper report. The huts were burnt to ash, it says, and the fire brigade couldn't access the site due to the crowds. "The main hut was completely destroyed as the surging crowd wailed in disbelief, hampering further the Police efforts to stop the inferno from spreading."

GayUganda says, "it is like someone is dead. The traditional Ganda greeting on a death in the family, on the village- that is the greeting this morning."

You may remember the riots in Kampala late last year. That was due to a (perceived/real) conflict (I'm simplifying hugely here) between the Kabaka (the ceremonial king of the Buganda) and the government/President Museveni.

So there are rumors swirling that this fire was set by the government.

I'm very worried about this and what kind of reaction this is going to get. So is GayUganda, who has far more reason to be.

Those of you who remember my friend Joseline from my time in Uganda, her family lives near the tombs in Kasubi. I'm going to check in with her and see what's up.

I'll keep you posted. Please keep Kampala in your prayers.

Updated: GayUganda reports seven people were killed by army deployed to protect President Museveni as he visited the tombs.

In the face of what they had lost, it is inconceivable that the Baganda would have rioted. But, the army was deployed. And, of course, they threw stones at these oppressors. That is what they saw.

Museveni goes there.
Who doesn’t know that he is the president? And, who doesn’t know that despite the fear of the man, the angry traditionalists would be hurling insults at the president? It was their day of moaning. The King’s Tombs had been burnt down. They suspected the government. And, the personification of the government came….

So, seven lives lost. To bullet wounds. Which only the security forces had. The guns.

Monday, March 15, 2010

There's a wideness in God's mercy

Courtesy of Scott at Seven Whole Days, I'm getting a hymn for each day of Lent that relates one way or another to the reading of the day. "There's a wideness in God's mercy" was the hymn for yesterday when the story of the prodigal son was the gospel of the day.

One of the great things Scott is doing is giving all the original verses and exploring different hymn tunes. I personally love the contemporary setting of "Wideness" in the hymnal and wish we sang it more often. The more familiar tune is, shall we say, a bit of a clunker.

I hadn't realized how much was missing of the original text in both of these settings, or how much the original text had been mixed and matched to fit the tune. What a pity that one of the verses that got left out was this one:

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

How different our church would be if this verse had worked its way into our collective understanding. Though you'd think Jesus' teachings might be enough. Seems that was kind of a theme, there. Somehow it's more catchy when you set it to music.

I had never thought to pair this hymn with the prodigal son before now, but when you see the whole text, it really is quite perfect.

Roll credits

In honor of Peter Graves who died yesterday at the age of 83.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Funnies

I don't think I can do better than recommend you read The Bloggess' story of being stabbed by a chicken.


Went to the ER this morning. Explained the situation. They wrote “Stabbed by chicken” on my chart. Then they asked if I had any “psych issues” and I thought they said “psychic issues” and I was all “Like, can I read your thoughts?” Then they put me in a private room. Lesson here? If you fake mental illness you’ll get better service.

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

From the world of saintly sports

I have been watching with great interest the Lent Madness brackets over on Clergy Family Confidential (thanks to Scott Gunn who pointed me to it from his blog, Seven Whole Days).

Here’s how it will work. There will be 32 saints signed up for the tournament. Each day I’ll print some information about two of them and then we’ll take a vote. We’ll continue Lent Madness until we have crowned a saintly champion.

VERY exciting for a saint junkie like me. And it finally occurred to me to pass it on to you.

We're now in the Round of Saintly Sixteen with today's fierce battle between Theresa of Avila and Richard Hooker. You can vote to get your favorite ever closer to the Golden Halo (which is not coveted because that would be a sin). I'm betting on Theresa to go to the final four at least. What say you?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stephanie Plum wants one of these


taken in downtown Sacramento yesterday.

Update: In answer to your question, Who is Stephanie Plum? First, shock! Amazement! You haven't heard of Stephanie Plum? Second, she's a character in a series of mysteries (I use the term loosely) and hilarious. As Wikipedia puts it, "She is a spunky combination of Nancy Drew and Dirty Harry." And if you don't know her, I would love to introduce you.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Internet Monk

I'm not sure why I don't have Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, in my blogroll to the left, there, since I read him regularly and refer to him frequently. You may remember the book Jesus Girls that I read in the latter part of 2009; that was a recommendation from him. I also see that I referenced him in a sermon I gave back in October. There have been other instances too that I can't recall at the moment.

I say all this because he has been ill for some time, and I learned a couple of days ago that he probably has six months to live. His wife writes:

Michael went through a period of depression, as I’m sure you would expect. He seems to have come through that now, for the most part. He knows he is dying, and he says he is at peace. Though he will still say with unashamed honesty, “I don’t want it to all be over at age 53!” he has the confidence of knowing that he has run the race God set out for him. He believes he has done the work our Lord intended for him to do, and if the last task God has for him in this life is dying, then he will do that to the best of his ability.

I apologize for not introducing you to this thoughtful and challenging writer earlier.

If you would keep him and his family in your prayers, that would be mighty lovely.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Andree Peel

Yesterday, I said that I found myself drawn to WWII books these days, and later on I think I discovered why: it's the obits! Especially the British ones which seem to feature amazing WWII veterans and survivors every day. I feel immersed in these stories from that period because many of the actors from that time are now dying.

Yesterday, I read the story of Andree Peel who ran a beauty salon in Breton when the Germans invaded. She didn't stay in her shop quietly.

Her first act of defiance took place as German troops entered the town, when she gave shelter to a group of fleeing French soldiers and begged her neighbours for civilian clothes for them so they would not be captured.

And, oh, by far was that not her last defiant act. She joined the Resistance and

Within weeks she was made head of an under-section of the organisation, responsible for sending information to the Allies...By establishing contacts in the dockyard, Andrée was able to pass on information about naval installations, as well as about troop movements and the results of Allied aerial attacks. [snip]

During her three years with the Resistance – during which she was known first as Agent X and then as Agent Rose – Andrée helped save the lives of more than 100 Allied pilots. Her team used torches [flashlights] to guide Allied planes to improvised landing strips and smuggled fugitive airmen aboard submarines and gunboats on remote parts of the coast, often feeling their way in the dark past German coastal shelters.

Fleeing to Paris after D-Day,

She was arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters where she was stripped naked, interrogated and subjected to a series of tortures, including simulated drowning and being savagely beaten around the throat.

Was that a bit of a smackdown of so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques?

The stories of her narrow escapes--plural--from execution are incredible.

As a firing squad drew near, she wrote later, the terrified prisoners heard a telephone ringing in the camp commandant's office. It was a message from the Americans to the effect that the firing squad had been seen entering the camp and that if they wanted to live, they would spare the lives of the prisoners. The soldiers fled.

After the war, she opened a restaurant in Paris. Again I am struck by the incredible stories of derring-do that exist in ordinary places. I'm just sorry to be missing so many of them.

Andree's advice for a good life? "The secret to a happy life, she observed, was a good companion – and eating the main meal of the day at lunchtime." She died at the age of 105.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, March 9

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!

Having just watched the movie Alfie, I am reading the autobiography of Maurice Micklewhite, aka Michael Caine, called What's It All About? Here's the teaser:

When I first started to date girls, our heavy petting was always done in the darkness and privacy of these bomb sites. I am probably the only man in the world to whom the smell of burning rubbish is an aphrodisiac.

Love. Him.

Update of previous teasers:

I quickly finished The Girl who Ran Off With Daddy (3/2), which was Handler's usual noirish, dishy self; but for the life of me, I could not get through Eva Moves the Furniture (2/23). I think that was partly due to the fact that I had only a month earlier read a ghost story set in post-WWII England in which the doctor fiance doesn't believe something supernatural is happening (The Little Stranger, TT 1/5). Who knew that was such a common plot? Clearly, though, I am drawn to WWII England; I expect to be reading more set in this period.

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, and how lovely to be able to celebrate it with Kathryn Bigelow's win for Best Director last night--much deserved, as far as I'm concerned (as if I knew what I was talking about). TERRIBLE Oscar program last night, saved only by Sandra Bullock's fabulous acceptance speech and the triumph of The Hurt Locker over Avatar/FernGully.

It was an amazing night, though, for images of how far we've come from the first International Women's Day in 1911. I love this picture of Barbra Streisand, the presenter for best director, with Kathryn Bigelow, who won it. I remember when Barbra presented for best director before, back in 1994 when Jane Campion was up for the award. So sixteen years have gone by with only one other woman nominated (Sofia Coppola in 2003) when Barbra opened the envelope, waited a beat, and said, "Well, the time has come." Beautiful moment.

A moving moment also when Mo'nique accepted her award and thanked Hattie McDaniel, who had won in 1940, while seated at a segregated table. She thanked her "for enduring all that you had to so that I would not have to."

It will be an even better moment, though, when women and people of color winning these awards is of no notice whatsoever, and when we don't need an International Women's Day at all. We've got a ways to go.

Sunday funnies (belated)

Next year's best picture Oscar winner.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Grammar Day

Ms. Beezle-Bubb wants you to know that today is National Grammar Day, brought to you by the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG).

From the website:
Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It's not only a date, it's an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!

I can't tell you how uptight this makes me as I worry about using the proper form of "there" and "its." I'm just not cut out for this grammar stuff in all its particular glory.

Then again, I don't think I'm the worse off for the occasional lapse in grammar. And I'm not the only one. The SPOGG folks posted one mighty deadly yet grammatically correct song on the National Grammar Day website while mocking the grammar of, for example, "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. Mick's sure sorry now.

"Satisfaction" is in their Grammar Hall of Shame musical playlist, along with such dreadful grammatical examples as "What if God was one of us" (properly the subjunctive "were") and Bo Diddley's travesty, "Who do you love," which would sound so much better as "whom." Good thing SPOGG is there to protect us from This Sort Of Thing.

Which would you rather sing along to? I mean, to which along with would you rather sing? Give me the grammatically correct version every time, don't you know. Mr. Tweedly would be proud.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gardening lessons

It's March and I want to plant stuff real bad. It feels springy and the birds are chirping and there are blossoms on trees and certain anonymous readers in Rochester are hating me right now, but I can't help it, can I? It's gorgeous here!

And yet all my gardening books say DON'T DO IT! Oh, but it's so tempting. And it made me realize that one of the temptations I face is not doing the wrong thing but doing the right thing at the wrong time--in particular before the ground is ready.

Last year, I planted a bunch of stuff in the front yard that quickly withered up and died, while other stuff just a yard away did well. So this year, I spent some time digging up the dirt, putting in compost, and we'll see. Because if there's one thing I've learned it's that it's not the plant's fault when the plant doesn't grow.

In the meantime, I am very proud about the fact that I built a coldframe using an old window and have started a few seedlings in a place where they can be safe and warm. By the time they're ready to be planted, I hope the dirt will be ready for them.

Here's the coldframe:

These are some sunflower seedlings popping up.

And here are some sweet peas and zinnias and cosmos.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

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 teaser this week is from The Girl Who Ran Off With Daddy by David Handler. I've read a number of his mysteries and like his hard-boiled celebrity ghostwriter sleuth, Stewart "Hoagy" Hoag ("As in Carmichael?" everyone asks. "As in the cheesesteak," Hoagy always answers).

I'm reading it in part because this week is National Ghostwriter Week, as I'm sure you knew. Seems like a good week to see The Ghost Writer as well.

At any rate, and finally, here's the teaser:

"By God, woman," Thor exclaimed, his voice booming, "you get prettier every time I see you!"

"And you, Mr. Gibbs," she said airily, "get more and more full of baked beans."

Happy reading!

Monday, March 1, 2010


I've grown more skeptical of media narratives about sports personalities since reading Andre Agassi's memoir. One person who seems to have gotten marked with a certain story is Shani Davis, the speedskater, who was touchy and aloof and not part of the team, at least according to the stories we saw.

One thing Davis did do on record was call Stephen Colbert a jerk. Colbert, as you may know, rounded up financial support for US Speedskating when one of their corporate sponsors went belly-up. Before the Olympics, Colbert talked with Al Michaels and asked him what it would take to get him to say again, "Do you believe in miracles?" A la doubting Thomas, Michaels said, "If Shani Davis thanks you for getting him a gold medal, then I'll say I believe in miracles."

[It's a long clip, so you might want to skip to 6:10--or the very end from 8:08, which is what I really hope you'll see.]

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Freud Rage - The Iceman Counseleth - Shani Davis
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

In case you didn't get to it, what I loved was that Colbert invites Davis to say, "Stephen, you're a jerk!" and in so doing takes away any sting those words might have had. I thought that was such a beautiful moment, turning what had been divisive upside-down into an opportunity for reconciliation.

It also, for me, changed the narrative about Davis from a cold and prickly person into merely a normal one, human and unscripted. And in what was clearly a planned moment, to me it appeared that Davis was set free from the story the media has created for him.