Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Signs of a healthy parish

A friend of mine found this in the St. Paul's Benicia newsletter, which credits it to St. Paul's Shreveport. Wherever it originated, it deserves to be more widely known.

Signs of a healthy parish

• People are constantly expressing disagreement, and they do it right out in the open.
• The Rector is always behind in her work.
• The Vestry can never seem to make ends meet financially, and they are forever giving money away.
• New groups keep cropping up, bumping into each other over schedules, and competing over volunteers.
• A number of people miss meetings and insist on spending time with their families.
• The choir is filled with a lot of amateurs.
• The kids are noisy and all over the place, including the worship service.
• The Prayer Books are wearing out . . . the coffee hour is crowded and confusing . . . the front door is almost off its hinges . . . the electric bill is way over budget . . . and it seems that an awful lot of people have keys and all kinds of groups are coming and going.
• The place is full of losers. People who have lost their loved ones, people who know they can't make it on their own. People who are losing, but also finding their lives in receiving and giving a lot of love, for Christ's sake.

In short, a healthy, growing lively church!

What else would you add?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Body language watch

The man on the left is Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

This picture says it all, doesn't it?

Picture from this article. H/t Paul Crabtree.

Alicia de Larrocha

I was particularly touched to hear about the death of pianist Alicia de Larrocha.

I got to see her perform at least once, and I think twice. Is it fair to say she did not look like a concert pianist? She didn't look like a concert pianist. She looked like my grandmother. Grandmotherly. Being 4 ft. 9 inches will do that. My grandmother was tall in comparison.

Her performances of Mozart were a formative part of my musical upbringing; we had a recording of her on 8 track tape, which we played over and over on long car trips as a family. When that died, I bought cassettes. Now I'm going to have to buy some downloads for iTunes. Those interpretations are what I think of when I think of Mozart piano sonatas. What a grace and blessing to have that part of her forever.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Things I didn't write about this week

It's been a crazy week and I have missed blogging. I have missed writing inane opinions about unimportant topics, commenting on obscure people who have died or unknown saints or events, sharing bizarre or insightful comments from other people, or generally indulging my petty whims and interests.

I didn't write about the Emmys which fascinated me by its constant refrain of thanking cast and crew and its surprisingly common presentation of awards to large groups of people rather than individuals.

I didn't write about Philander Chase, whose feast day was Tuesday, and coincided with Hobbit Day, the joint birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins according to JRR Tolkien. Nor did I write about Tolkien Week.

I didn't write about Elizaveta Mukasei, Soviet Spy who died recently at the age of 97. (I love my spy obits.)

I didn't write about why Maureen Dowd's recent OpEd about unhappy women is bogus, the same kind of bogus that we heard in the 90's when it was easier for a woman to be killed by a terrorist than get married after 40. Remember that one?

I didn't write about National Punctuation Day or share the recipe for Punctuation Mark Meatloaf (unless you're on Facebook or Twitter, in which case I did). I didn't write at all.

And so you are getting it all at once. You'll have to fill in the blanks on my various opinions on all of these subjects, or perhaps just fill in your own. It's great to be busy working, but I'm sorry not to have been able to share all this with you all along. Enjoy. And more when I'm able.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Funnies

I'm not quite sure why so many of these entries are Star Wars related, but I could not resist this photo from the website (and I am not making this up) Animals with Lightsabers.

They even have a dealybob that allows you to doctor your own animal pictures with light sabers of various colors Which I Must Do Soon, so be prepared.

Of course I heard about this from The Bloggess. In return, I told her about Saint Agatha (ok, I left a comment about Saint Agatha on her blog because she wrote about finding a mushroom that looked like a boob). She retells the story of Saint Agatha and her many trials bee-yu-ti-fully here.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

“People say to us, ‘Oh, I grew up with your music,’ and we often say, sotto voce, ‘So did we.’ ”

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary who died today.

Doing small things well

Two obits that caught my eye in the past couple of days.

The first was for Norman Seaman, a "niche impressario," who spent his life scheduling concerts for new performers at odd hours in New York City venues such as Carnegie Hall.

If Mr. Seaman had a specialty, though, it was the debut recital...For a small fee — in 1961, when he produced 50 debut recitals, it was as little as $180 — he would arrange for a performance space, say Carnegie Recital Hall, in the late afternoon in midweek; put a small ad in the newspaper; handle the tickets and the staff; and invite reviewers. If enough tickets sold that a profit was to be had, Mr. Seaman and the performer split it.

He did this for more than 30 years.

The second was yesterday's obit for Francis Betters, noted fly fisherman.

Mr. Betters was the opposite of the glamorous professional fisherman who travels from one exotic place to another to write, photograph or be filmed. He stayed close to home, going to his shop every day, building fly rods, making trout flies, writing Adirondack-infused books and articles, and providing customers with instruction, fishing guides, advice and encouragement.

He did this for more than 40 years. Last year, he was inducted into the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame--who knew there was such a thing?

I guess I am intrigued by niches, by people who focus on one area and do that one thing well for a very long time. I think I find the concentration appealing in a time where attention is so scattered. Maybe I'm reading more into this than is there; these men were as likely to be distracted by daily life and by the siren call of the media as I am. But the sum of it all seems so clear. I suppose that is the nature of obituaries. Still, I find it very appealing.

Explosive Graphite at the Riled Marmot Film Festival

On Sunday, I got to go to the Riled Marmot Film Festival, an event sponsored by my former parish which used to be more about showing movies that youth would probably find interesting and has become a time for youth to showcase their own blockbusters.

This year's festival was particularly spectacular. It was in one of the stadium-seating theaters of the local cineplex (theater 3) and featured a film more than a year in the making and more than 30 minutes long called Explosive Graphite.

The thing I found most wonderful about this movie was the participation of so many adults of the parish. The choir director played the nefarious criminal mastermind (a real stretch for him, though the shades help), the youth activities director plays his henchwoman Janine, the children's and youth education director plays a rather forbidding secretary (heard on the phone in the clip below. Completely out of character, she does not call anyone angel).

But besides the church staff, there were adults who put themselves in service to this project. One former vestry member was the Stunt Coordinator. On Sunday, when asked about it, he said he'd always wanted to do that. In the video below, you see a former senior warden, first in the credits chasing someone down a hall, and then in the clip trundling a box labeled "explosives."

The thing that was so great about this was that this was not about adults having the youth participate in church events. It was about the youth having the adults participate in a church event.

I also have to say I'm impressed as all get-out at Spenser Linney and the other youth who took on this huge project and saw it through to completion. This was no small effort.

Enjoy the clip below. When it's posted, I'm going to put up the segment with the GREAT fight scene. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Congratulations, Eddie!

43 marathons in 52 days. Truly remarkable. Blessings upon you and get some sleep.

You can still sponsor Eddie Izzard for his hard, hard work for charity here.

Video of him crossing the finish line here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

Kalundi Serumaga was arrested last Friday

You know how at the end of articles there's the blurb that says, 'So and so is the editor of The Gremlin Review' or whatever? Well, the above is the blurb at the end of this article that tries to explain what is going on in Uganda.

It's one person's opinion, of course, and just as obviously has a very particular slant, seeing as he was arrested and all. But it's worth a read. It ominously ends with the sentence, "As of now, everything suggests that the country has returned to the well-worn path to constitutional breakdown." Here's hoping that's not true.

On idealism and pragmatism

I'd post this on the website where this was first posted, but the comment section is turned off.

The always thought-provoking MadPriest wrote:

I am not ashamed of being an idealist.

Ideally we would all be idealists.

"Pragmatism" is just a fancy word for giving in and letting them get away with it again.

This got posted (I believe) in part in response to an ongoing discussion about health care reform in the U.S. with me (among others) thinking that the proposed legislation isn't ideal but probably pragmatic, given our current political climate.

Personally, I think idealism is at its most powerful--in fact, I think it is only effective--when it is married to pragmatism. Idealism is where do we want to get to; pragmatism is what steps do we need to take to get there. Otherwise, idealism is just wishful thinking.

Idealism by itself is not guarantee that the goal is either good or achievable. I think George W. Bush was an idealist. He wanted to export American(-style) democracy to the Middle East. Pragmatically, I'm not sure bombing the crap out of locals is the best way to get there.

MadPriest is a great example of a person who has connected his idealism with pragmatism. His blog is an incredible forum for changing hearts and minds, for bringing to the fore both flaws and heroes. He personally went to the trouble of contacting church leaders to ask what they plan to do to stop the implementation of the Anglican covenant (which would make some churches second class citizens) and has done a lot to see that progressing church leaders "get off their arses pretty damn quick and do something to stop the covenant now." I don't think pragmatism is a fancy word for giving in; I think it's a fancy work for getting off your arse and doing something about it.

I hope I am an idealistic pragmatist--or a pragmatic idealist. I'm not sure I really care, just as long as I can help move things forward so that they more resemble the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Update on Kampala

The AP reports that things are calmer today. However, 14 people have died, 95 wounded and more than 500 detained. I'm a bit worried because this seems to have boiled up unexpectedly. I'm not sure what this is about--or more honestly, if there's more to come because there's more underneath. Here's hoping I'm overreacting.

Eddie Izzard update

Eddie seems a bit more upbeat in this video now that there are only a few more marathons to go (7 when he made the video, but actually 3 more as of today).

However, there's still a ways to go. The report on his blog says, "He had a twinge in his ankle which held him up. It turned out to be a medial deltoid ligament in his right ankle. There is a lot of tenderness on it which means if he doesn’t ease off it could turn into a tear or rupture. Jo has put ice on it and a compression bandage. Eddie is walking for 5 miles to test it and if it’s all ok he can keep running!" Yikes!

You can sponsor him here.

Go, Eddie, go!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meanwhile, in Uganda...

I don't have anything noteworthy to add about the 9/11 commemorations going on today. Instead, I'd like to bring your attention to some riots that are currently going on in Kampala.

Apparently, the President is not allowing the Kabaka, the traditional king of the Buganda people, to visit an area in Kampala, saying there is no way he can guarantee his safety. This has led to riots which have killed reportedly 10 people by this time. The police have been using live rounds as well as tear gas to disperse crowds. The latest I hear is that the military have started directing several news channels and editing their reporting.

If you're on Twitter, you can find out more by following the #kampala hashtag.

Happy birthday!

David Ellis Dickerson, a former greeting card writer whose memoir House of Cards is due out very soon (and I'm looking forward to reading it), has been doing these video logs on "Greeting Card Emergencies." His most recent one was to write a birthday card for people with 9/11 birthdays. I thought I'd pass it along.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Best. Lead. Ever!

Norman Crider, a former baton-twirling champion whose internationally known Ballet Shop near Lincoln Center became a mecca for both superstars and dance fans seeking out rare ballet books, prints, videotapes and posters for more than 20 years, died on Aug. 19 in Indianapolis, where he lived.

Then there's this quote: “'Baton twirling is the reason I’m here today,' he said."

read it all here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Excellent advice

...or "Why didn't I think of that?" Enjoy.


· Dear Bloggess: My boss goes on and on about how HER daughter makes her own baby food and her daughter's baby sleeps through the night and blah blah blah . . . how do I deflect that crap since i'm lucky to even see my baby at the end of the day? ~ Roo

Anybody's baby will sleep through the night if you give it enough whiskey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. Also, baby food tastes awful. Have you ever tried it? It tastes like vomit. So, yeah. Your boss’s daughter is really good at making food that tastes like vomit. She must be so proud. Sadly, you can’t win at this game so just give up and try a new angle. Start mentioning to your boss how amazing your mom’s boss is. Mention that your mom’s boss brings in home-grown organic lunches for all her employees and lets them work from home every Friday to increase productivity and that your mom’s boss also has a naturally high metabolism and once saved a baby kitten from a fire. It probably won’t help but it’ll make you feel better.

Read more fabulous advice from The Bloggess.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thoughts on penitence

The Bark, the dog culture magazine, has several articles, as you might imagine, about Michael Vick and his recent reinstatement to the NFL after serving time for a truly horrible dogfighting operation.

One thing that struck me in one of the articles was how many people thought that Vick doesn't deserve a second chance because they don't think he's truly sorry for what he did.

Why is it that being told, "I'm sorry" isn't satisfying? Even if the person never does the action that hurt you (or in this case a lot of dogs) ever again? The person may even mean it, but it seems to me there's something different between an apology and penitence. When is "sorry" coming from the heart? I don't know. I don't think we can always tell. And it may not be up to us to judge.

In Vick's case, I think that paying his dues is all that ought to be required of him. If he were an accountant, say, I doubt he would get this amount of opprobrium. Of course he would not be in the public eye this way, nor get the same remuneration. And that, I'm sure, is part of our distaste in his reinstatement: very few people get the rewards that Vick will get in playing for the NFL, even if they led the most virtuous life. But he has fulfilled his obligations under the law and I personally have no problem with him playing football. Now, endorsements? That's a different deal as far as I'm concerned. I am being inconsistent. But there you go.

The thing that I wonder about penitence is if penitence, like conversion, may be something that happens once, but also can happen over and over again. This is not about wallowing in guilt, mind you, but about becoming more compassionate, more empathetic, gaining a greater understanding of ourselves and others. Penitence as a road to humility.

That is my hope for Michael Vick, that his story doesn't end with I'm sorry. And it's my hope for myself as well. I want to learn from my mistakes, not just avoid making them again, but become a better person because of what I have gained from my penitence.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A couple of fun Labor Day obits

I love spy obits. Well, I love all sorts of obits, but I find spy obits particularly intriguing. Here's an obit for Edward Ryan (any relation to Jack?) who was a station chief for the CIA and also chaired the CIA's fine arts commission. Fine Arts Commission?! Who knew? He also "amassed one of the largest collections of paper toy soldiers in the United States." I'm not sure how much competition there is for that distinction. It's pretty impressive, though, isn't it?

My other favorite obit of the weekend was for Francis Rogallo, "the Father of Hang Gliding," mostly for the way he and his wife seemed, in this article at least, to be a real partnership. "Mr. Rogallo’s wife, Gertrude, helped him develop his ideas for a flexible, ultralight aircraft. She used her sewing machine and a flowered chintz kitchen curtain to give substance to the vision, a sort of cross between a boat sail and a parachute." And later on, it reports "he and his wife used table fans and cardboard to erect wind tunnels at home." I'm thinking not a lot of wives set up wind tunnels in the house. At least I don't think I would.

Prayers for Labor Day

I'm sitting here trying to think about all the people whose labor I depend upon just so I can sit in an armchair, watching the U.S. Open, drinking my tea, and writing this blog. It's an amazing list. I'm glad to be reminded of it.

The collect for today is quite lovely. (As are the readings, all found here.)

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This year, I'm particularly thinking about those who are unemployed. This is from the Book of Common Prayer.

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Finally, one of my favorite prayers, from Compline.

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live. Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The picture is of two women picking tea leaves.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday funnies

I love Dave Walker's cartoons. I can't believe I'm only posting one now.

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Eddie Izzard update

"Only ten more marathons to go" was the latest news. For those of you who have not heard, Eddie Izzard is running a marathon a day to raise money for Comic Relief. Thus far, he's run more than the distance from London to Milan.

Bless his heart.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Martyrs of New Guinea

I'm catching up on my saints this morning.

OK, so there's sacrifice and then there's stupid. For the Martyrs of New Guinea, given what I've read about them, I'm leaning towards stupid. God forgive me, for I don't know what I'm doing.

But here's the thing: these folks were missionaries in New Guinea who could leave before the Japanese invasion of New Guinea. But their bishop said, ""We must endeavour to carry on our work. God expects this of us. The church at home, which sent us out, will surely expect it of us. The universal church expects it of us. The people whom we serve expect it of us. We could never hold up our faces again if, for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled, when the shadows of the Passion began to gather around Him in His spiritual and mystical body, the Church in Papua."

Point 1: Is staying in New Guinea the best work that these folks could do on behalf of the people they are serving?

Point 2: If the missionaries have done their job, can not the church carry on its work without them?

Point 3: Does their staying and association with locals put the locals in any danger?

(All three of which are really the same point: what's the best way they can serve the people they are trying to serve?)

Point 4: Is this about doing what's right or not looking like a coward?

Point 5: Where was the bishop during this invasion?

I read this story and I just get mad. I know that there's a lot of the story I do not know. Maybe staying in New Guinea really was the best thing for these people to do, the best way they could love God and their neighbor.

But I also believe that getting yourself killed is not always martyrdom. Sometimes it's just dumb.

David Pendleton Oakerhater

Yesterday was the feast of David Pendleton Oakerhater. You can, perhaps, think of him as a terrorist. He fought against the U.S. government and was imprisoned, sent off to a military post. He was Cheyenne and this was the 1800's, but I can see the similarities.

There the similarities end. "There [in the military prison], thanks to the efforts of a concerned Army captain, they learned English, were encouraged to earn money by giving art and archery lessons to visitors, and encountered the Christian faith. David and three others were moved to become Christians and to go north to study for the ministry. David was baptized in Syracuse, New York, in 1878, and ordained to the diaconate in 1881. He returned to Oklahoma and there founded schools and missions, and continued to work among his people until his death on 31 August 1931." (From the bio by James Kiefer.)

I want to know who that Army captain was.