Showing posts with label things I like. Show all posts
Showing posts with label things I like. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book review: The Darlings

OK, I got this entirely based on the title, seeing as I have married into the Darling family.

I bought it during a visit to Manhattan about a year ago, and it was featured prominently in the window of a small bookstore on the Upper East Side. Given the title, the cover, and the general quality of the hardback, I figured it would be a Serious Novel of a New York Family with lots of angst and soul searching. It was more like what you would get if John Grisham wrote for the New Yorker.

I found it tremendously satisfying to be able to sit in public with this novel and have everyone think I was engaged in Serious Reading when I was really savoring a financial thriller/keen skewering of the New York elite.

"Skewering" may be a bit harsh. The author, Cristina Alger, does a really good job of bringing you into the lives of these characters with both their struggles and their flaws. And she describes the sense of the financial bottom dropping out from under them in a way that made me feel it viscerally, as they suddenly realize there is no there there.

Then again, she doesn't pull any punches about what their lives are like or how her characters perceive them. One of her protagonists, Merrill Darling, thinks, "Manhattan children were like armadillos: sharp clawed and thick-skinned, deceptively quick moving."

Or maybe Alger thinks this. After all, she grew up in the Upper East Side, went to Harvard, worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, then as a lawyer, first in Mergers & Aquisitions, and quickly moving into Bankruptcy.

In short, she knows whereof she writes. I actually wondered if she could continue to live in New York after this book came out. I think it took guts to put much of this out on the page, even in fictional form.

It seems appropriate to write this review on 9/11. For all that it's not elaborated upon, the memories of 9/11 lurk throughout the book and jump out at unexpected moments. That seems about right, too.

I really enjoyed this book.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Frog Prince, muppet-style

I never saw this when I was growing up, but we had an LP (remember those?) with this on one side and the Muppet Musicians of Bremen on the other. My sister and I would often invoke the phrase, "Have a popover, froggy." It finally occurred to me to wonder if I could find that version once again. So if you want to sit around for a bit watching the muppets perform the Frog Prince, here you go. The famous popover scene is in Part 4. I've got to admit, the wicked witch is much more interesting than any of the nice characters who all seem rather insipid and somewhat stupid.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

I do not often go to first run movies, but I did hie me to the theater to see the latest film version of Much Ado About Nothing, and I'm mighty glad I did.

I've always loved the play. Well, I love the Beatrice and Benedick part of the play. That whole Claudio-Hero part? Just once I want to see the friar, or Hero's father, or Beatrice say "Dump him at the altar, babe. Find someone better."

But I have to say, in Joss Whedon's version, the shaming of Hero is less awful than it most often is. And it is to Whedon's credit that he made the villain Borachio's decision to recant his slander make much more sense.

Forgive me for leaping ahead with the assumption that you know what I'm talking about. In case you don't, Much Ado is a double love story: in the first, young Claudio returns from the war to find himself irresistibly drawn to the innocent Hero, the daughter and heir to Leonato. In the second, Beatrice and Benedick, who have known each other "of old", continue to protest how much they detest one another.   No one believes them and the group conspires to have them overcome their self-imposed obstacles.

It is the delight in watching Beatrice and Benedick overcome their defenses that makes the play the charmer it is. And in this version, and especially Amy Acker's performance, the painful and poignant mix of vulnerability and longing and wariness that plays on their faces is wonderful to behold.

Also wonderful to behold: Nathan Fillion's Dogberry, the Detective Malaprop of the play. He has the gestures of the TV detective down as he insists, "do not forget to specify, when time and place shall assert, that I am an ass." And then whips out his sunglasses and coolly places them on his face. Followed instantly by his assistant Verges. Dogberry is a difficult role to get right -- at least I have often found the role funny, but not memorable. This Dogberry is the best I've seen and one I will remember.

The film is all in a contemporary setting, which did jar with the first words of Shakespearean dialogue, and shot in black and white, which made it seem slightly harsh and edgy. But again the word that comes to me is delightful. It was delightful. And I would be delighted to see it again.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Various & Sundry: The Video

I love movie trailers. So what could be better than a movie trailer for a movie about movie trailers?

Except maybe a few seconds of Gromit:

Or two guys who walk into a bar...which isn't quite what they expect.

Or this beautiful eulogy by Stephen Colbert for his mother.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Aunt Dimity's Death

I had a lovely Memorial Day weekend, and in part I have Aunt Dimity to thank for it. Actually, I have Nancy Atherton to thank for it because the first book in this series, Aunt Dimity's Death, was completely delightful.

There's a gentle mystery, and charming and eccentric characters, and a cottage with a beautiful garden, and a protagonist I root for, and a romance I could not wait to see happen, and it's all extremely well-written, but that's not what made this book delightful for me. 

There were two things: the first was the psychological authenticity of these people. Even though there was a great deal of sweetness, it was sweetness with a realistic amount of sorrow behind it. There is no brutal violence to give this book an edge, but there is an edge that keeps this from getting woolly: the edge that comes simply of being worn down with grief. Everybody in this book understood grief. And the grief had a ring of truth to it.

And the second thing that made this delightful was this: the resolution of the grief and sorrow did not come from vengeance or heroism, but from the patient and steady application of kindness over long periods of time. And that too struck me as authentic and true. Such a simple remedy. And so very hard to do.

Aunt Dimity's Death will not be what everyone is looking for in a mystery. But for me, for a quiet Memorial Day weekend, it was about as perfect as a book could get.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Various & Sundry: Because I couldn't avoid the news

It's been a hell of a week, hasn't it? And to think, just a week ago I pointed out that reading the news is bad for you and I was going to try to stop reading it so much. Yeah. I think the Onion said it best:
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, when reached for comment on this week, 93 percent of Americans responded “Okay, enough’s enough here, you have seriously got to be kidding me with this week,” with 84 percent saying “Is it Sunday yet? What? How in the hell are we only at Thursday? What the hell is going on?” and 100 percent of Americans responding “No, no, go ahead, just pile some more horrific shit on this hellish shitshow of a week. Have at it.”
Actually, I'd be just as happy not piling anything more on. But I've got to say, Tony Gwynn Jr.'s excellent response to a heckler is something that I can see being applicable to the nasty voices in the world -- and in one's head as well.

And this notecard captures the week perfectly, and in the most ladylike way:

I also drew some strength from this lovely reflection on breaking isolation.

And from this report from someone who was at the scene of the Boston bombing and saw many beautiful gestures of love and kindness.

And 20 Gentle Quotations from Mister Rogers.

And Patton Oswalt's perfect summation:

I hope you are well, wherever you are, and finding strength and courage within and love and support from the people around you. As Ellen DeGeneres says every day, be kind to one another.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Various & Sundry: Trying hard not to get depressed about things, Grace, and bacon.

It's the final day of the Saintly Kitsch round of Lent Madness and it looks like my man Luke is on to the Final Four, the first time I've had a saint I've written up go this far. Luke had some mighty fine kitsch, which inspired me to create this image.

Cuz that's how we roll round these parts. Booyah.

Let's see what else I've rounded up this week.

OK, I'm starting with the downers of democracy: what the HELL is going on with gun advocacy that, on the one hand says guns shouldn't be regulated so that women can protect themselves from being raped while on the other hand you can't demand that men surrender firearms in domestic abuse situations? IN THE SAME WEEK? Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?! OK, here's my opinion, which I think I've noted before: this has nothing to do with rights and everything to do with market share. This is about selling guns.

Meanwhile, a new gun regulation bill will be brought up in the Senate after the Easter recess "that seeks to enhance background checks for those who purchase guns, and to curb gun trafficking and increase money for school safety." So seriously people, now is the time to contact your representatives about gun control legislation. You need the link to your represetatives? Here you go.

You can also sign this petition to have the USDA set a recommended daily intake of bacon "so that all Americans can be guided on how best to participate in this amazing, nation building food." There are 98 signatures so far; only 99,902 left to go before the government responds!

In news from governments in a parallel universe, the Ministry of Magic brings you this Public Service Announcement:

Might be helpful in our world too. h/t Anibundel

In Race Telations, the historical perspectives edition, Ta-Nehisi Coates reviews Beryl Satter's book Family Properties, which looks at the policies that surrounded the development of the American urban ghetto, focusing on Chicago. Lest you think this is just an issue for poor blacks, he notes that "In the interest of racism, the American taxpayer ended up bankrolling a massive fraud perpetrated on black communities in Chicago."

And on the same topic, one of the most compelling obituaries I read this week was of Dr. Jerome Williams who worked to desegregate St. Louis. "It began in 1963 when Dr. Williams led protest marches of hundreds of fellow physicians as well as other black professionals who were tired of the two-tiered social system in Missouri’s largest city."
His efforts came at a cost. Already limited to practice in the two black hospitals in St. Louis where the state allocated less funds per patient than at white hospitals, he was then rejected from membership in the St. Louis Medical Society because of his role in the protests.
By the 1970s, Dr. Williams was named the first African American on the board of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the State Healing Arts Board, and was selected as the first black president of the St. Louis Community College Board. In 1979, his daughter was the first black woman selected as a maid of honor in the Veiled Prophet Parade which was formally for whites only.
You've heard about the recalled yoga pants, right? The ones that were unfortunately more transparent than wearers bending over might wish? Well, Kevin Roose thinks the company that makes them, Lululemon, handled this recall all wrong.
Lululemon was famously founded on the ideals of Ayn Rand. You think Ayn would have apologized for some see-through Spandex? Hell no. She would have defended the integrity of those pants with her life. "An inventor is a man who asks 'Why?' of the universe and lets nothing stand between the answer and his mind," she wrote in Atlas Shrugged. 
A real Objectivist yoga company would have looked at that sentence, replaced "the answer" with "sheer-bottom yoga pants" and "his mind" with "record-breaking profits," and sold the damn things like hotcakes.
And last but certainly not least, I strongly encourage you to read this wonderful essay on The Lesson of Grace in Teaching by Francis Su, a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd. It doesn't matter if you're a teacher or not. You need to know this lesson of grace that he shares so beautifully:

  • Your accomplishments are NOT what make you a worthy human being. 
  •  You learn this lesson when someone shows you GRACE: good things you didn't earn or deserve, but you're getting them anyway.
May you have a grace-filled weekend. No need to bend over backwards.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Various & Sundry: Hitler, the Vicar of Dibley, Kurt Vonnegut, Schopenhauer, and three amazing women

I learned the other day that Google Reader, from which I get all my blog feeds, will be eliminated in July. I feel a bit like Hitler about that.

On the plus side, though, there's a new Vicar of Dibley sketch coming out! I can't wait to see it.

Are you preaching this Sunday? Are you wondering why Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you"? Kurt Vonnegut, in his one and only sermon, has a persuasive take on that.

I've been thinking a lot about health and medical issues recently, and this article about the history of cardiac care was eye-opening. It did not say anything that I expected it to say regarding clinical trials on many common cardiac procedures, like bypasses and angioplasty.
The results raise a philosophical question of the goal of medical treatment: alleviating symptoms or lengthening lives? “How much is it worth investing in a surgical procedure, with all its risks,” he asks, “if all you’re doing is relieving symptoms?”
In philosophical news, I highly recommend this imagined conversation drawn from the writings of Megachurch Positivity Pastor Joel Osteen and Megadepressing Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Unless you are inclined to despair. In which case you might want to skip the next pull-out quote.
OSTEEN: Well, guess what, Arthur! Our life is a gift from God, and the appropriate response to His gift is joy.

SCHOPENHAUER: Human existence, far from bearing the character of a gift, has entirely the character of a debt that has been contracted. The calling in of this debt appears in the form of the pressing wants, tormenting desires, and endless misery established through this existence.
Thank you for coming this morning, Arthur. Continue to be a sunbeam for Jesus.

I have to say, though, speaking of cheery things, this week had a bumper crop of obituaries of fascinating women who lived long and amazing lives.

There's Princess Lilian of Sweden, born Lillian May Davies in Swansea. "She originally spelt her name with two “l”s, but changed to Lilian when she adopted a career variously described as fashion model, ballerina and singer." Doesn't she look fabulous?

Then there's Lady Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton (103), the New York Socialite who started Bundles for Britain at the outbreak of World War II and is the only non-British woman to receive an honorary Commander of the British Empire. The 13th Duke of Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, was her fourth husband. (The obit notes she was a devout Christian and a member of St. Thomas' on 5th Avenue. "The fashionable St. Thomas' church," it says.)

And finally, there's Dorothy DeBolt who had six children of her own, and then adopted 14 more, most of them with special needs. She also started the organization Adopt a Special Kid (AASK), which is in nearby Oakland, CA, and was part of an Academy-award winning documentary about the family.

I especially loved the final paragraph of the obit:
Two children, J.R. and Twe, died as adults. Along with her husband, Dorothy DeBolt's survivors include her children, Mike, Mimi, Stephanie, Noel, Kim, Marty, Melanie, Doni, Ly, Dat, Trang, Phong, Tich, Anh, Reynaldo, Sunee, Karen and Wendy, 27 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and her brother, Art Nortier.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Various & Sundry: People to avoid, theologians to watch, magicians to mislead

Oh, I give up. I'm not getting anything else done today, so I might as well move on to the snips and snails of the blogging week that I wanted to share with you.

The White House has gotten some push back on its recent proposal...not to build a death star. The Mischiefs of Faction debate the estimated cost of building the Death Star, the intergalactic politics of blowing up planets, and the technical work-arounds for the thermal exhaust port problem. And Galactic Empire Public Relations also posted a response: Planet Earth Abandons Death Star Project In Face Of Superior Galactic Imperial Power. Our planet is such a wuss.

In school shooting news, I'm surprised we haven't heard more about the fact that it wasn't an armed guard that stopped a shooting in Bakersfield, but an unarmed teacher who talked a student into putting down his weapon. Of course it may have helped that this was a shotgun and not a semi-automatic.

I doubt I would be able to stand up to someone holding a shotgun. On the other hand, I would do well to remember these 5 types of people to run like heck from: Distract-o-matics, Grillers, Status Claimers, Narcissists, and Non-Learners.
I just finished a huge and hard project in 2012, and I realize the people that made that project successful were exactly the opposite of this list of five-to-avoid: They were collaborators who were open and willing to explore ideas together, inherently curious people, and ones who didn’t grade our relationship on some hierarchical scale but based on our shared interests.
Good to remember.

Impressive news from the world of theology: 10 theologians under the age of 10, inspired by works as varied as Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? to Toy Story. Here's Derrick, age 10:
Author of Why I want to be an Archeologist
What was the first piece that had an impact on your theology?
The Missing Piece. I’m not sure you can say anything definitive about salvation and self-understanding if you’ve not read that book. This idea we have that we are somehow deficient, and need to spend our lives searching for that one piece that will make us whole is so destructive. Shel Silverstein did the world a great service.
Tell us a bit about the piece included for this list.
“Searching” is a theme in my life. Clarifying what our gifts and skills are is the first step to understanding who God has called and created us to be.
What makes good theology “good theology”?
I need it to do something new. Listen, we’ve all read Barth and Moltmann. Those guys are old hat. I want you to push a few boundaries. Make me see something I hadn’t before.
What is your current project?
I’m working on a lost treasure story. I’m thinking of calling it Seek and Ye Shall Find. Do you think that’s too on the nose?
Name one of your favorite theologians over 10.
I gotta go with Tony Jones. A Better Atonement is the best thing I read last year.
Suzannah Paul wrote a really great post on Privilege and the Emerging Church. Whitney Johnson and Tara Mohr remind women that work isn't school. And illusionist Derren Brown explains why you are deceived.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I found this in the Interpreter's Bible when I was prepping for the sermon on Mark 13. It's from the Book of Common Prayer, I assume the 1928 book, since I didn't know it at all. I thought it was lovely and wanted to share it.
Eternal God, who committest to us the swift and solemn trust of life; since we do not know what a day may bring forth, but only that the hour for serving thee is always present, may we wake to the instant claims of thy holy will, not waiting for tomorrow, but yielding today.
As I tried to find the exact source of that prayer, I found the Pastor's Prayer Book from 1960, which includes this fabulous prayer For a Committee:
Bless, we beseech thee, O God, the work of this committee; grant to its members clarity of thought, evenness of temper, and willingness to persevere in thy service; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
That's a keeper.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Funnies, November 18

This is a video my sister made. In case you're wondering what's going on, "An elf and a mouse battle over a flower in a field of Xmas tinsel." Because that's what happens when you own a gift shop in Portland, Maine.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Daring Greatly

I'm stuck at home with a cold which is no fun, but at least gives me added time to read, and blog.

Readers of the blog know that I'm a huge Brene Brown fan and will not be surprised that I think her new book is terrific. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead draws on her many years of research studying shame and vulnerability to offer insights into how we can use that information to live a more Wholehearted life.

One thing I deeply appreciate about Brown's work is how research-based it is. Even more compelling, the answers she found were not the ones she was initially looking for. This is not a light-hearted feel-good kind of a project. I was glad she included a section at the end of the book in which she explains the research process and how she collected her data. There are moments in the book where she says, "We don't have the data to back this up yet," as she offers a hypothesis and makes it clear that she is waiting for the data to bear that out. But overall, the theses in this book are backed up by data and research, not a wishy-washy "you should feel good about yourself" sentimentality.

I also appreciate that Brown offers very practical suggestions of how to apply what she has discovered about shame and vulnerability to become, as she terms it, "shame-resilient" (since there is no way to completely avoid shame). She looks at some common areas where we can apply these techniques, such as in leading or parenting, with a lot of case studies and examples.

Many of which are her own life. And this I appreciate as well. She is learning to do these things as well. Brown is well aware of her own imperfections and is not speaking from the point of view of "I've got it all together and you can too!" Instead, as she shared in her initial TED talk, she's coming to all of this information from the perspective of a person who hated the thought of being vulnerable, but has come to see that this is the way to live a whole-hearted, courageous, and joyful life.

There's a lot of information to take in, and I think this is a book that I'll need to revisit. But I think this is an excellent resource, worth adding to your arsenal of life skills.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Various & Sundry: Dairy Products for President

Is it nice to be nice? The Dish offers several points of view on the subject, including noting that "nice" used to be an insult. I especially appreciated Edward Champion's perspective: "If you’re 'being nice' to someone, you’re not being honest. You’re humoring a person you don’t want to be with and I don’t think I can trust you."

Meanwhile, on the nasty side of the ledger, Jamelle Bouie suggests that the mudslinging of this presidential campaign is actually a good sign.
If this were truly a trivial contest over inconsequential things, the campaigns would be less vitriolic in their approach. But because it isn’t, and so much rides on this election, it’s only natural that both campaigns would eventually fight it out in the gutter. Or, put another way, the negativity of this election is simply a sign that both sides are deeply serious about the consequences of victory or defeat.
Hmm...I'm willing to consider that.

One thing's for certain: no one is electing this clown mayor of Alameda any time soon. Not after this story came out:
"Families waiting for San Francisco's cable cars on a recent morning couldn't help but notice Kenny the Clown, who wore a curly rainbow wig as he twisted brightly colored balloons into animal shapes for visitors, blasting Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" from an iPad at his feet.

"Little did the clown know that the tablet doubling as his stereo would turn out to have been stolen from the home of the late Steve Jobs."
Of course it might be better to simply let the yogurt take over, as John Scalzi wrote in an older post I only just discovered. No one argues with the yogurt.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Last Saturday, I went to see Wes Anderson's new movie Moonrise Kingdom, and I'm still mulling it over.

If you like Wes Anderson movies, then you will like Moonrise Kingdom. If you do not like Wes Anderson movies, well, this is a Wes Anderson movie. If you don't know what a Wes Anderson movie is and wonder if you will like it or not, then here are some things to know.

In my opinion, Wes Anderson does sweet melancholy better than anyone in movies. His characters often seem disconnected from one another as they try to work out some secret sorrow. One of the things I liked about this movie is that our young heroes, Sam and Suzy, decide to support one another, decide that sharing the sorrow makes it more bearable. And in doing so, they break open the secrets of the characters around them. By the end of the movie, those secret sorrows that kept people apart have been to a great extent ameliorated as they make new and unexpected connections.

The point of view is fascinating. Clearly, the film shows us things the adults are doing and saying that the young protagonists cannot see, but I still get the sense throughout that the film is told from the point of view of the protagonists, an adolescent's perspective on adult behavior and motivation. The police chief is known only as "Captain Sharp." The scoutmaster is "Scoutmaster Ward." The social worker is "Social Services." They are known by function not name, the way as a kid you never know the name of your first-grade teacher.

As with many of Anderson's films, the young people in it are trying to piece together from the people around them how to be an adult, and the adults aren't really helping all that much. Actually, the adults are trying to figure it out, too.

As I think about it, this illuminates one of the things I loved about the movie: the constant return of the musical theme and composition The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten. Here's a piece designed to make sense of the "adult" world of classical music by breaking it into smaller pieces and explaining it section by section, then putting it all back together again in a new way. Which is pretty much what the movie does.

A couple more things to note: the movie is very stylized, no doubt. It makes the acting seem quite stiff when you're used to a more naturalized style. The standout in the movie--well, the standouts are the young leads, who are phenomenal--but among the big names in the movie, the standout is Bruce Willis who seems completely at home on the Island of New Penzance, like he's lived there all his life.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Various & Sundry, July 13

Oh my goodness! A plethora of goodies has piled up over the past week. Let me see if I can place them in any coherent Can't. So here they are all jumbled for you to pick through at your leisure.

What would you name a SuperPAC? is one of the questions being asked by Andrew Sullivan's blog. Good luck finding any combination of "future" and "America" that isn't already claimed. Readers came up with some excellent suggestions, my favorite being the "I can't believe it's not coordinated PAC."

Jonathan Feldman scoffed at the World Domination Summit...until he went. He loved it. Then he wrote a very interesting article about the Corporate Drain Brain that happens as a result of (to use a word that should be used as frequently as possible) pettifogging. He calls it "the inflexible and unyielding thumb of corporate America." I say it's pettifogging. Pettifogging, pettifogging, pettifogging. Oh, and I think a lot of what he has to say can be applied to why people leave the church as well.

Is there anything Campbell Whalley didn't do? I mean, he showed Jane Goodall how chimps use tools; he witnessed the H-bomb test at Christmas Island; he showed Ernest Hemingway around big game preserves; he taught Australian Aboriginal students about their culture; he posed for a cricket manual. Oh, and
He was known for his affinity with the camels introduced to that region by 19th-century Afghan railway builders, for his storytelling and playful humour, and for teaching both his white and Aboriginal pupils to make teddy bears, more than 4,500 of which have now been given as a source of comfort to those in need, from cancer patients to impoverished children as far away as Haiti and Zimbabwe.
Anything else you forgot to mention?

But let's leave overachieving behind for a while. This Harvard student wrote a gorgeous essay on Effortless Perfection that I strongly encourage you to read in full. "My duty to the world isn't to be perfect," she says. Instead, looking at an imperfect report card,
As the sting of that first transcript faded, I looked back on what I had done with my semester, and I acknowledged its worth. Before, I had thought not working my hardest selfish. Now I saw it was the other way around. By taking away time from being perfect, I built in time for others.
How wonderful that she learned it now. I'm certain she has a much better life in store as a result.

In case you were wondering, here are 10 signs you shouldn't be getting married in a church.

Also in religious news, Bible-believing Christians should be concerned about the overwhelming conspiracy to undermine your faith with the heretical notion that the moon does not emit its own light. Can you believe that? As the writer of this satire notes, "Not only is it ridiculous to believe that a rock could reflect the light of a sun millions of miles away, but it’s also unbiblical!" Horrors! To think I have been led astray! Next you'll be saying it isn't made of cheese.

Which is a very bad segue into marking the untimely death of Daphne Zepos who is one of the people who made it possible for us to eat fabulous artisan cheeses today. Just last week I was eating a Cowgirl Creamery Mount Tam and thinking I owe this to you, Daphne. Thanks for the cheese. May you rest in peace.

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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Various & Sundry, April 20

I'll have to be brief today since I'm headed out before long to hear The Bloggess Live and In Person read from her new memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

I'm going to have to pretend that the book I pre-ordered in February arrived since Amazon didn't let me know until Tuesday that they needed a new charge card since the one I placed the order with expired in February. You know, the month I thought I bought the book. THANKS SO MUCH, AMAZON! Oh well, at least I've got my autographed book plate.

I'll try not to be as tongue-tied as I was the last time I met a celebrity author.  Yeah, fat chance. Will it help that I am bringing her a gift from the one-of-a-kind Barbie store? I hope so.

ANYway, what else have I got here?

I don't think I posted this original Muppet Show pitch last week. Well, even if I did, it's worth posting again.

In the world of Biblical scholarship, The Lark reported that a Scroll reveals Proverbs 32 woman was a lazy bum. I always wondered about her.

Two fabulous stories from the elementary school set.  First, kudos to 3rd Grader Sam who used a science fair project to reverse the discriminatory policy in his classroom. What was the policy? He couldn't count comic books towards his daily reading log.  Kudos also to the teacher who changed the policy in the face of the scientific evidence. As I learned when I read The Watchmen, reading graphic novels is hard work!

Finally, I encourage you to watch this video about Caine's Arcade.  Such an upper. Especially knowing that this video has raised over $180,000 for a scholarship fund for Caine. AND, I just saw, he'll be at the Exploratorium in San Francisco tomorrow, April 21.  Awesome. Enjoy.

Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Various & Sundry

Whew! Lots to share.  Let's get to it.

The voting continues at Lent Madness, but more pressing matters are at hand: The Peeples Choice Awards for the Washington Post Peep Diorama Contest is on, and there's still time for you to vote for your favorite!

I saw this article courtesy of Word Boy Dave: memoirists' mothers review the memoirs written by their children! Brave mothers and children both.  And such good motherly advice, too! For example, when asked, "Any advice for Sara [Benincasa] about writing her next memoir?" the answer was, "I think she needs to put in more vulgarity in the next one; this one was way too innocent!" Coming right up, I'm sure.

If the book The Righteous Mind is anywhere nearly as informative as this review of The Righteous Mind, then I think it's something I'm going to have to read. Here's one snippet from the review:
To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided.
Here's another: "The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours."  Isn't that amazing? And so obvious when you think about it. It makes me wonder what other insights I'll get if I read the whole book. And if it will change the way I talk and listen to others.

Speaking of reviews, PeaceBang wrote a perceptive review of the new Muppets movie this week that is worth a read for the critique that begins about a third of the way in.

In my ongoing resolution (now Lenten discipline) to give up shame, I appreciated this blog post on Perfectionism and Claiming Shame from Brene Brown from a few years back.  She defined perfectionism thusly:
Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Well, when you put it that way...

In contrast, take a look at 43 lessons from 43 years.  For example, lesson 31: "The perfect is the enemy of the good. Too many people never get started toward their goals because they don’t know that the “best” first step is. Don’t worry about getting things exactly right — just choose a good option and do something to get started."

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here is the Red-Tailed Hawk Cam from Cornell University. I find it very soothing to keep this up on my computer screen for a quick break during the day. Enjoy.

Watch live streaming video from cornellhawks at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage."

Brene Brown is an academic who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  But what she has learned is incredible--and how she herself has changed from her studies underlines her point.

If you didn't see her first Ted talk that she references, here's the link. So good.