Friday, June 29, 2012

Various & Sundry, June 29

Happy Friday, everyone! Are you ready for a miscellany? Let's get to it!

The only good thing to come out of the death of Nora Ephron is a bunch of Nora Ephron stories, such as this great tale she tells of seeing Steve Wynn accidentally destroy a Picasso. Not just any Picasso. This Picasso. I also appreciate a woman who likes to eat.

A couple of posts explore how to be a good do-gooder--or perhaps more accurately, what are some of its challenges. This article, titled Post-Humanitarian Advertising: Because You're Worth It! is a fascinating analysis of #Kony2012 in the larger context of how aid and development is now being marketed. Key quote:
Kony2012 did not spread like wildfire because it stood in opposition to individualism and consumerism, but because it managed to turn the pursuit of global justice into an individualistic, consumerist activity. It did not aim to inspire feelings of universal moral responsibility, but commodified ‘universal moral responsibility’ into a consumable product that can operate within the capitalist culture most people readily understand.
The second is called Why the word "missional" bugs me and raises some worthwhile concerns, such as what is the difference between being somebody's mission and somebody's friend?

I loved this brief article on why you should hire introverts, and why you should leave them alone.

I also loved this much longer article on why the House of Hufflepuff kicks ass. It made me want to be a Hufflepuff, I tell you what.

Pulling from the vault, I found (after last week's church service) that I had this brief examination of the David and Goliath story that I think is worth sharing again. It's not the story we've been told it is. As I said,"I noticed David took 5 stones for his sling. Five. He's a confident little twerp, but he's not stupid." I love the David saga.

And while we're doing Toepfer promotional stuff, my sister has a cool YouTube channel. You should check it out.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

On today's Supreme Court Ruling

When I heard the Supreme Court ruling, I said, "Holy crap!" When I heard that it was Chief Justice Roberts who had written the majority opinion, I said, "Hooooooly crap!" Strong language, I know, but that's the way I talk when I'm home alone.

Here's what was going on in my head between exclamation craps:

One day prior to Holy Craps #1 and #2: Boy, was I annoyed with all the speculation and predictions on Twitter, blogs, and in the news. Why make yourself look foolish like that? Why not just wait and see what actually happens? Well, I know why: because simply saying, "We'll find out tomorrow" isn't nearly as much fun (and won't get nearly as many hits) as wild speculation. I ignored the stores, but the speculative headlines still seeped into my brain and ratcheted up my anxiety--and I was only a half-hearted watcher!

Immediately prior to Holy Crap #1: I was sure the Affordable Care Act was a dead duck. Certain. Given what I'd heard of the arguments in March, and (especially) given all the predictions of the court watchers, I didn't think this thing had a chance.

Holy Crap #1: As I saw the NY Times headline, Health Care Law Stands, I couldn't believe how relieved I felt. Even though I didn't do a thing to get the ACA enacted, I found myself relaxing, and so happy that I didn't have to fight that battle again. As if I had done anything about it the first time. Would I have preferred a single payer system? I guess. But I'd rather have this in place than nothing. I'm just so glad for those folks who are no longer burdened by the fear of being unable to get health care.

Hoooooooly Crap #2: I saw the subhead to the same story, Roberts is Part of Majority Upholding Mandate and a jumble of things happened at once. First of all, I felt tremendously guilty for pigeonholing Chief Justice Roberts, assuming "He is a conservative; he will do X." This was an excellent reminder to me that people are individuals not types. I had been prejudiced and partial and I feel bad about that.

Secondly, oh boy (and I don't mean that in a gleeful way), what is this going to mean for the election this fall? I'll be curious to see how this all plays out.

In the car later, listening to the various reports, I have to say that I'm very pleased with the reasoning behind the ruling, insofar as I understand it. It seems fair, reasonable, and (dare I say) conservative. It makes me rest easier, thinking that important decisions such as this will be considered in a way that (to me at least) reads as prudent.

Also: I don't know what the heck I'm talking about.



Taking confirmation seriously

Cross-posted on the Confirm not Conform blog.

I suspect I am one of the few priests in the world whose prayer book falls open naturally to the Confirmation Service. And as someone who has spent a lot of time looking at the confirmation service, I want to know why in the world confirmation was ever allowed to become an exit rite.

You know what I'm talking about, right? That exodus that too often occurs after youth get confirmed; that gap we too often see between the ages of younger and adult members in the church. After doing a lot of thinking about confirmation, I have my suspicions about where this comes from.

I've heard stories of adults telling youth, "If you just get confirmed, you don't have to come to church any more." I've heard stories of church folks saying that seeing youth leave after confirmation is only natural. Does that seem...odd to you? To me, it's kind of like saying to someone, "If you just get married, you don't have to spend any more time with your intended spouse," and all the guests at the wedding thinking that's perfectly normal.

Here's what the Book of Common Prayer says "Concerning the service of Confirmation":
"In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop."
Sounds pretty serious to me. Public, mature, commitment. Sounds a lot like marriage. In fact, let's see here..."Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant." Yep. Sounds pretty similar to me. So why would we suggest to youth that confirmation is their opportunity to leave? Why has leaving been part of the youth confirmation DNA?

I've got to tell you, I don't think this is primarily due to the youth.

If we tell youth, "Just get confirmed and you never have to do another thing," we are betraying the sacrament of confirmation. If we watch them leave and think, "Well, that's just what happens after confirmation," we are complicit in devaluing its meaning. We are the ones who have belittled the service and made it a poor ragged little thing, a scrap of a ceremony with no worth whatsoever. We are telling youth, by word and example, "Make this commitment; it doesn't really mean anything anyway." What kind of witness is that?

The good news is, we can change that. If we change our attitude from "just get confirmed; whatever else you do doesn't matter" to "what you do matters; confirmation needs to be congruent with what you intend to do afterwards," then I firmly believe confirmation will no longer be an exit rite. We need to be willing to stand up and say, "If you aren't truly willing to make a commitment to the responsibilities of your Baptism, then don't get confirmed. If you do want to make the commitment, then take your part in the councils of the church. We take confirmation seriously and we take you seriously too."

I truly believe that confirmation is worthwhile and means something. Let's treat it like it does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quote of the day: Nora Ephron

I've been seeing lots of people tweet this quote from Nora Ephron to commemorate her: "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." And it's a fabulous and tweetable quote.

But it's part of a much larger and important piece, her wonderful 1996 commencement address to Wellesley.  Please read it in full. But here's the paragraph that leapt out at me, in light of the recent Atlantic article about how women can't have it all. (EXCELLENT rebuttal here, btw). 
So what are you going to do? This is the season when a clutch of successful women—who have it all —give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can't have it all. Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands. And this is something else I want to tell you, one of the hundreds of things I didn't know when I was sitting here so many years ago: you are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever....Did I say it was hard? Yes, but let me say it again so that none of you can ever say the words, nobody said it was so hard. But it's also incredibly interesting. You are so lucky to have that life as an option.
Oh, Nora! We are going to miss you so much. I already hate not having you around and I never even knew you.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Funnies, Euro 2012 edition



 h/t Laura T-G via Facebook, who unearthed this classic in time for the Germany/Greece Euro 2012 match. Which had a slightly different outcome.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Various & Sundry, mostly in England, ending in China

Well, let's see what we've got here as I shuffle through the ol' V&S pile today.  Hmmm...

Let's start with some hats. It was Royal Ascot this week and the fabulous hats were on full display. So hard to pick a favorite, but I'm going to have to go with this one.

Then again, in keeping with Toepfer family tradition, perhaps I should go with this one:


Oh, FIE on tradition, I say! I'm going with the classy summery number, if I can get my hands on it.

While we're in England, "An organization and methods engineer submitted this report after visiting the Royal Festival Hall:
There seems to be too much repetition of some musical passages. Scores should be drastically pruned. No useful purpose is served by repeating on the horns a passage which has already been handled by the strings. It is estimated that if all redundant passages were eliminated, the whole concert time of two hours could be reduced to twenty minutes, and there would be no need for an interval.
More practical suggestions here.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic Committee, preparing itself for the London games, is still trying to dig itself out of the hole it found itself in after picking on some social media-savvy knitters.  Here's the story:
Ravelry, a social network of knitting enthusiasts, planned to hold its “Ravelympics” this summer—with competitions such as an “afghan marathon”—to coincide with the London games.
The USOC noticed and sent the group a cease and desist letter, because the term “Olympics” and anything resembling are protected by a copyright...
The knitters didn’t appreciate the tone of the letter, so these savvy social networkers took to Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs in protest....
[One] asked: “You tell all recipients of your standard cease and desist letter that what they're doing is denigrating and disrespectful to Olympic athletes?”
And another said: “First we're denigrating, now we're stupid. We are supposed to believe a C&D form letter includes that kind of language?”
Lesson 1: don't annoy people who carry pointed sticks with them wherever they go.

Lesson 2: Consider throwing an apology party. You can do this now with this official Apology Party Kit. It includes an "I'm so so sorry" mini banner, wine bottle label, two coasters and apology card with envelope. To be honest, the apology card needs some serious work, but it's a nice idea.

Come to think of it, maybe the USOC did use the apology kit!

In more serious news, I thought this article from Relevant Magazine offers an important challenge to many of us who want to do good. As the author says, "People who are genuinely nice people can cause really bad things to happen if they get lost in a pursuit of greatness." She shows us how and why that is.

In obituary news, the one that touched me the most was the obituary for Otis Clark, who "survived Tulsa’s race riots to become butler to Joan Crawford; in later life became the world’s oldest travelling evangelist." I didn't know anything about the Tulsa race riots of 1921 until reading Rev. Clark's obituaries. Bad, bad stuff. My goodness, Rev. Clark saw a lot in his life.

The picture here is of him at the age of 103, the year when he went on a mission trip to Africa. "He liked to boast that he needed no medications and had kept all his teeth bar one ('the dentist tricked me out of it'). His longevity he attributed to 'holding on to the Big Boss upstairs'." Well, all right for you.

Let's end with a classic, the Wizard of Oz...in China. Isn't it beautiful? (h/t Anibundel)

There's also a Cowardly Tiger!





On the 40th anniversary of Title IX

I've been reading a lot of these commemorative articles about the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Title IX rather broadly "prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid." Who knew that the upshot would be that women played a lot more sports? (Fascinating history here.)

I'm not an athlete. I've never been an athlete. So what Title IX means to me is that it was all right to play sports badly as a girl. I tried softball, basketball, tennis, and swimming. I was lame at them all. But I never felt I shouldn't play them. I never felt it was because I was a girl that I was no good at them. I was no good at them because...well, mostly because I wasn't interested enough to make the effort to become good at them.




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

"I suggest that you preach truth and do righteousness as you have been taught, whereinsoever that teaching may commend itself to your consciences and your judgments. For your consciences and your judgments we have not sought to bind; and see you to it that no other institution, no political party, no social circle, no religious organization, no pet ambitions put such chains on you as would tempt you to sacrifice one iota of the moral freedom of your consciences or the intellectual freedom of your judgments."

Isaac Sharpless, president of Haverford College, from his 1888 Commencement Address

Review: Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art

Hmm...my copy shows more of the woman
So I finished Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore last night, and I still am not sure if, on balance, I liked it or not. Which is a very unsatisfying way to finish a book. Let me do a list of pros and cons and see what comes out on top.

Pros:

  • Incorporates lots of wonderful Impressionist paintings, including many I love and many I didn't know at all.
  • Prominently features Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who is a wonderful character.
  • Has a really interesting premise and a very strong opening.
  • Thoroughly and wonderfully researched, incorporating lots of historical people and events in fun and interesting ways. Made me consider the history of painting in a new way.
  • I deeply enjoyed the first 2/3 of the novel.
Cons:
  • The mysterious process by which the Sacre Bleu is made never worked for me.
  • The prostitutes were all amazingly happy with their lot in life. Not that I don't want prostitutes to be happy. They just seemed...suspiciously happy. 
  • Let me put that another way: I did not buy the female characters. But why am I grousing? It's a Christopher Moore novel. I almost never buy the female characters.
  • I honestly didn't care much what was going on in the last 1/3 of the novel. I just wanted to see more pretty pictures.
As you see, more pros than cons, and 2/3 of the book get a thumbs up while only 1/3 gets a thumbs down. Toulouse-Lautrec, despite being painted in garish colors, gets my approval, while the womenfolk do not. The interesting premise is canceled out for me by the resolution of that premise. Aaaand...that's it, really. 

If you'd asked me when I was halfway through the book, I would have said, Read it! Absolutely! One of Moore's best! Now that I've finished, I've got to say...eh. Read it, if you want to. It's all right.

Sorry, Chris. Love you. Don't know what happened in that last third there, but...no.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garden update update

Harper and Gromit report that a Masked Intruder entered the garden early Monday morning and cruelly snatched the top 12 inches off of the coreopsises (coreopses?) in the back bed.



They further report that they valiantly attempted to defend the yard, accidentally digging up some of the dahlias in the process. They were at last able to chase off the intruder who left behind the severed remains of the assaulted plants.

They are very sorry about that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Morning Preacher: Cheesy Preacher Voice

Oh dear oh dear. A decent sermon dreadfully undermined by Cheesy Preacher Voice.

I hope that does not sound cruel.

Let me start by confessing to you that I used to write poetry. A lot of poetry. I was an English major with a Creative Writing emphasis, and the Creative Writing emphasized poetry. Mostly very bad poetry, I can say with a great deal of confidence and a measure of chagrin. But as an English major with a Creative Writing emphasis, emphasizing poetry, I did a Senior Reading to which friends and family were invited. Before my Senior Reading, a friend of mine said, with an anxious tone, "You're not going to use a Cheesy Poet Voice, are you?" Well, I did my best.

And so I am highly attuned to the Cheesy Preacher Voice: a voice with - pregnant - pauses and...dramatically hushed tones. It's a voice that says, to me, anyway, "I am trying to sound like a preacher now." Much like the Cheesy Poet Voice is a voice of a person who is trying to sound like a poet.

Cheesy Preacher Voice, I believe, is spread virally. One preacher uses the Cheesy Preacher Voice where it is heard by an aspiring preacher who catches it and passes it on. And on. And on. Because that's what everyone now believes a preacher is supposed to sound like.

I wish I could figure out a way to stop the contagion from spreading. I wish there were a pill to prevent the unwanted pregnant pause. I wish people would stop trying to use a certain speaking style to sound preacherly and instead simply believe that if you're preaching, you're a preacher. You've really got nothing to prove. Just preach.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Garden Update, June 2012

I was feeling somewhat depressed about the garden, and then I went and looked at the May update and felt much better.

It is true that the sweet peas are pooping out, and earlier than I expected.
Bleah.

But the beans and tomatoes, which were as nothing a month ago, are flourishing.


Yay! Little tomatoes!
Although we tragically lost the passionflower vine, almost everything we planted in the back bed seems to be taking off.

Sorry for the bad morning lighting.


This is the aptly named Harlequin marigold. Very fun.

Here's a zucchini squatting in the middle of the flowers, trying to look casual.
The side bed running along the house is in this strange phase, with some things finishing blooming and others not yet ready to bust out. It looks a little puny to me.


The aptly named Love-In-A-Mist is still blooming a little, but mostly it's got these maracas-like seed pods, getting ready to burst and spread Love-In-A-Mist everywhere.


And this coreopsis is one tall straggly stalk with buds on it. Bloom! Bloom!


Meanwhile, back in the front yard, the hydrangea that I tried hard to kill by pruning last winter?


Maybe I need to drive a stake through its heart.

Sunday Funnies, Father's Day bluegrass stylings

Happy Father's Day! I'd be celebrating with my dad but he and mom up and absconded to Grass Valley for the Father's Day Bluegrass Festival there. So I thought I'd post a couple of bluegrass songs I find amusing. Enjoy.





Friday, June 15, 2012

Various & Sundry: A Vertitable Buffet of Fabulous Tidbits

I am, for the moment, caught up in the editing I need to do on the revised Confirm not Conform curriculum and will take advantage of the opportunity to post a veritable buffet of fabulous tidbits.

Let's start with the Baroness Gisela Josephine von Krieger's 1936 Mercedes, shall we? The tale of the forgotten roadster is full of romance, tragedy, and triumph. But mostly that is one cool car! H/t to the Anonymous Historian who sent me the link.

After reading some of the reminiscences about Ray Bradbury, I think I'm going to have to go back and read some more of his work. I haven't read any since I was in high school, I think. I particularly loved this piece about him. Here's a snippet:
Bradbury's favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John, which is filled with references to love.  
"At the center of religion is love," Bradbury says from his home, which is painted dandelion yellow in honor of his favorite book, "Dandelion Wine."  
"I love you and I forgive you. I am like you and you are like me. I love all people. I love the world. I love creating. ... Everything in our life should be based on love."
I had no idea. Not that we should base our life on love, but that this was the basis of his work. Any recommendations on what to read?

Meanwhile, in a less charitable state of mind, I love the first sentence of the book Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality Makes Us Stupid, Selfish, and Unhappy. To wit:
When someone tells me that they are “Not religious, but very spiritual,” I want to punch them in the face. 
Hard…
Interesting interview with the author here.

With news of the President's announcement allowing some illegal immigrants who were brought here as children to remain, I hope there is a happier ending for Heydi Mejia whose story was featured in the Washington Post this week.

I thought the obituary for Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win a Nobel in Economics (in 2009!) was as interesting for the economic principle she outlined as anything else. It is succinctly explained in the obituary, but too complicated to repeat here. It has to do with what conditions best lead to communities taking care of communal property, and relates to things like climate change. Also fascinating: she's a political scientist, not an economist (which burned some people's wicks when she won the Nobel, poor boo boos).

My friend Andee Zetterbaum, who founded the World In Prayer ministry, had a terrific reflection last week on the contentious issue (in some circles) of whether or not to allow those who are not yet baptized to receive communion. She approached it from a radically different perspective, saying (I paraphrase) it doesn't really matter what we're trying to say; what we need to know first is what message people are receiving through our actions. If this is a topic that's on your mind, I heartily recommend you read what she has to say. It may change how we as a church approach this issue.

It's a bit like a watermelon dinosaur shark, isn't it?


Or maybe not.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

Various & Sundry, Revisions and Remixes

Whew! I have a couple little things left to do for the (first round of) Confirm not Conform revisions, but the bulk of the work I needed to hand in is IN, the last will go in today. So I'm starting the day off right, with a Various & Sundry blog entry.

Because I was typing away like mad last week, I didn't get to services for Trinity Sunday. Twitter to the rescue! Jill Cox forwarded on the fabulous sermon from her church in Little Rock (her tweet: "Our priest talked about squirrels and/or zuchinnis falling out of trees...his best EVER!" You know that's going to be good). And Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee member Tim Schenck provided the Definitive Trinity Sunday Sermon, ending with the immortal words,“Blah, blah, blah Unity, blah, blah, blah Godhead, blah, blah, blah Essence.” You're all set for next year.

I loved these postage stamps of British fashion, issued in honor of the Queen's Jubilee--but really, do you need an occasion?

In the world of tea, this week I learned that Dr. Horrible has a signature tea blend: Dr. Horrible's Tea of Evil Tea! I realize this won't be interesting to anyone who doesn't know about Dr. Horrible. Or likes tea. But too bad. I think it will be excellent for those days when you can't quite find your evil laugh. Or death whinny. Yeah, you need to check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for this to make any sense.

In all the obits that I read this week, the one that stood out for sheer loveliness of life was that of Andy Hamilton, a tenor saxophonist from Jamaica who was "a leading figure in Birmingham’s [UK] West Indian community for more than 60 years."
In 1949 Hamilton decided to try making it in the British jazz scene. While staying with friends in Birmingham, he met his future wife, married, took a job in a factory and settled down. He played for weddings and parties at weekends and, in 1953, formed a band, the Blue Notes, with the pianist and fellow Jamaican Sam Brown. He also went into promotion, putting on bands at ballrooms and clubs across the city. 
At the same time, he was informally teaching young would-be musicians who came to him for advice. He preferred to describe it not as “teaching” but as “helping”, and he had his own unique method, which began with getting the pupil to relax and listen.
He recorded his first album at the age of 73. It was one of the year's best sellers. Alongside Kathryn Joosten, it's been a week for recognizing people late in life.

On the other end of the life spectrum, the baby hawks that I've been watching through the HawkCam have up and flown away! Here's a great video of one of the young hawks fledging.



And finally, for your listening pleasure, the new hit from Mr. Rogers: The Garden of Your Mind. It's mighty catchy! (h/t Anibundel) Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On the death of the midweek Bible study

Doesn't every church look like this?
A couple of people I know on Facebook have posted a link to an article in the Christian Century from an Episcopal priest in Minnesota who finally threw in the towel and stopped offering midweek Bible studies and programs and worship. I was totally with her up until the point where she diagnoses the issue.

First she writes,
When I ask why people don’t come, the answer almost always is time. They have good intentions, but their lives are so full. So they tend to use their precious free time only for things that they really care about, which tend to be things that offer immediate good feelings. They flock to tutor at the local elementary school, to work for civil rights for LGBT people, to serve free meals for the hungry. And they love to eat with friends—the church’s social calendar is filled with dinners, dances and parties. The congregation is also growing, and quickly. 
But the idea of having leisurely conversations about Jesus is just, well, too slow. The only adult formation things that have been in any way successful are sermon podcasts and daily e-mailed bits of wisdom, prayer or scripture. 
Ummm...excuse me, but didn't, you know, Jesus eat with friends? Didn't his followers generally "do things they really care about"? Does, perhaps, healing people offer "immediate good feelings"? Does she notice who, in the gospels, spent all of their time in "leisurely conversations" about the Scriptures?

And what's this about "good intentions," as if the things these folks are doing do not measure up? Does she really think that working for civil rights for LGBT people offers "immediate good feelings"? Is it really a problem that they use their "precious free time" to tutor rather than attend another church service? Can she not see that if they are tutoring children, working for justice, or feeding the hungry, they are living the gospel? Why is she so concerned that they're not coming to mid-week Bible study when it seems they have clearly absorbed what the Bible teaches and what Jesus calls us to do?

She writes that she is working hard "to give up the picture I have in my head about what a church is supposed to look like: people sitting around on couches in the parish hall, Bibles open." Where does this picture come from? It doesn't match any actual experience of church I've ever had, and I grew up Evangelical with an expectation of Daily Quiet Times.

But then it hit me: This is her dream and the picture in her head because THIS IS WHAT SHE LIKES AND WANTS TO DO! And that, I think, is the core problem many of us in the church have. The people who enjoy these types of programs and midweek services are, you know, pastors. That's why we went to seminary. That's what feeds our souls (and, I dare say, offers us "immediate good feelings"). Most people are not pastors and we keep thinking that if we just offer them THIS, they'll suddenly get how wonderful it is. THEY'RE NOT GOING TO! These programs and services and Bible studies feed the people in our parish who are like us, who are pastors. I believe there's something in that Bible we study about how "not all are called to be pastors." Maybe we should pay attention.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Who's talking about women's issues?

No comment.

via Upworthy. h/t Dave Dickerson.

Update: OK, some comment.

After seeing this, I sent the link on to the New York Times and NPR ombudspeople, since those are the two  news sources cited that I use. I asked:
Would you care to comment on this chart? What is [your organization] going to do to increase the parity (at least) in quoting men and women -- particularly on issues with a strong women's interest? Thank you for your attention and answer.

Answer from NPR:
Dear Laura ,

Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman.

As for your email, we appreciate your comments regarding the perceived lack of female voices in stories concerning women's issues. The Ombudsman has written on gender, racial and ethnic diversity, both at NPR specifically and with respect to specific issues. Below are some links that may be of interest:

Where are the Women?
Black, Latino, Asian and White: Diversity at NPR
The Contraception Mandate: Where are the Women?
And then some boilerplate about NPR.

Kudos, NPR, for at least acknowledging the issue!

Here's what I got from the NY Times:
I can't really comment on this because I have no idea how these findings were calculated. The reason I say that is that I find it incredibly difficult to be able calculate what is suggested in this article. If you can get me more information on how this calculated, or the raw data that was used, I would be much more willing to take a look.
 Best,
Joseph Burgess Joseph Burgess | Office of the Public Editor |
NYT Note: The public editor's opinions are his own and do not represent those of The New York Times.
Well, OK then. You do realize, Joseph Burgess, that this chart is circulating around out there. I didn't make it up.  Apparently you're not interested in learning whether this is accurate or not. Oh, heck, let's go further: apparently, the NY Times thinks the burden of proof is on me personally to fact check data about the Times.

This is as much about how you are perceived as it is about the data. I'm not sure it's my job to do your public relations for you. And for all that little note, there, I'm assuming this is the attitude of the NY Times.

I think I'll just believe this data is accurate until it's proven otherwise. By, say, a reporter. Who is willing to investigate. Because it's their job.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kathryn Joosten

I haven't seen an official obituary yet, but I learned via Twitter that Kathryn Joosten died. I got ridiculously choked up about it, given that I only know her as Mrs. Landingham from the West Wing.

Then I read her bio and was more impressed than ever.

She started out as a psychiatric nurse (probably came in handy), married a psychiatrist, had a couple of kids, lived in Lake Forest, Illinois...then the marriage fell apart because her husband was an alcoholic. She's a single mom, she's doing community theater in Illinois, and she decides at the age of 42 she wants to act professionally. How gutsy is that!

She supports herself by hanging wallpaper and painting houses while acting semi-professionally. She gets a gig at DisneyWorld and moves to Orlando where she's able to keep acting--while also bartending and catering. In 1995 (by which time she's 55), she moves to Hollywood, knocks on doors like crazy and starts getting small parts. And this is the woman who became Jed Bartlett's Miss Moneypenny on The West Wing.

I don't know about you, but I find this story impressive as hell. That, and what she's able to do here without seeming to do much at all.

Update: Here's the scene I really wanted to post yesterday. Thanks to the person who pulled it up for YouTube.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Various & Sundry, the "I'm on deadline" edition

So I thought I'd take a break from revising Confirm not Conform (which is why blogging has been so sparse) and do a Various & Sundry post. And then I realized that I haven't been collecting items for the V&S post either. So this is going to be sparse as well.

Best obituary, hands down, goes to Artisanal, Reluctant Branding Pioneer, Dies at Age 474. "He is survived by his wife, Organic, and their two small boys, Natural and Green, as well as his cousin Hipster, though the two had fallen out in the '70s and were no longer on speaking terms." Oh, do read it.

Church Geek Alert! Scott Gunn has been writing a series of posts on the resolutions coming up before this summer's General Convention. My personal favorite related to the general principle he offers for proposing political resolutions. Namely, "Let us tell the world what we are going to do about political problems, rather than telling the world what they should do about political problems." Amen to that. Oh, and some lovely snark in that post.

I think the exhibit on A Girl and Her Room is fascinating. I wish there were photos from even more countries.

Finally, and for no particular reason, try to find the real cat in this photo:

Then ask yourself what kind of destruction he has on his mind.

Back to work for me.