Thursday, March 31, 2011

Breaking news from Cote d'Ivoire

From the BBC:

Forces loyal to the UN-backed president of Ivory Coat, Alassane Ouattara, are pressing on the main city of Abidjan from several directions.

Their offensive threatens to make a battleground of the city, the last stronghold of presidential rival Laurent Gbagbo.

From Al Jazeera:

Cote d'Ivoire's Alassane Ouattara said forces under his command were "at the gates" of the country's main city Abidjan and called on the remaining loyalists of his rival Laurent Gbagbo to switch sides to prevent further suffering.

Heavy gunfire was heard throughout Abidjan on Thursday as pro-Ouattara forces advanced towards the city. It was not clear whether the troops had already entered Abidjan.
Guillaume Soro, the head of Ouattara's parallel government, told Reuters news agency that Gbagbo has just 2 to 3 hours left in power.

"Two or three hours and I think it will be finished … the game is over for Gbagbo. It is finished," Soro said in Yamoussoukro, the country's official capital which fell to pro-Ouattara forces on Wednesday.

I'll keep you posted. Prayers continue.

Letter to Lillian, July 13, 1922

Sampson Mine
Llanada Calif.
July 13th 1922

Dear Lillian - Although I wrote only last night, much has occurred since. I had just finished your letter and was writing to my aunt to tell her when to expect me, when I thought of my watermelon. I called the gang and we had melon. About 9 P.M. I was down at the bunk house sitting around just having finished eating when I heard a vehicle approaching. The road forks just as it enters camp and the truck stopped. Consequently we knew that it was a stranger. We called and directed them to come over on our side of the creek. He did so and we found that it was a carry all with eleven men including the cook. The driver said that he wanted to go back that night. I called the cook and the gang ate. I fixed them up with beds and then filled the truck and the carry all went back to San Francisco empty.

     About 11:30 AM today I was working in the laboratory and I heard a vehicle approaching. This time it was a Ford with the truckman driving and five new men including the cook. The first cook went to the upper camp which had been doing without a cook. The boss then fired the cook here and replaced her with the other one. I showed him around and then went back to the laboratory. The boss said that he would take the cook who was leaving to Idria, about two or three miles from here in a straight line or about 10 miles by auto. He had not figured on her trunk so I dug out the flivver and took the trunk. I eventually got there. One little pitch required three attempts to climb and another was so steep that I had to monkey with the engine to make it run on four cylinders instead of the customary 2 1/2 or 3. Coming back it saw that there was no further need of four cylinders, so only three ran. I stopped on the way back to put some water in the radiator and it was scarcely boiling.It is quite unusual to run any vehicle, including shank's mare, in this country without the engine getting hot.

     Judging by the influx of men I will leave here Friday noon, getting to town Friday night late or Saturday morning early. If I can convince the boss that there should be another person to look after the store I would have more time to myself, although lately I have not been very busy from a theoretical standpoint. I have certain ideas along that line but I guess that they will be discarded as impractical.

Mining tramway in Oregon
     My store has been doing a rushing business today. I sent a couple of thousand pounds of provisions, or at least it seemed that much, to the upper camp. It took three men the best part of an hour to carry the stuff to the tramway. Some of the material is still at the upper end of the tramway, not having been taken to the cookhouse yet. In addition I have to send more tomorrow, as I did not send some things. Now my job of getting supplies will be exciting as I will have from thirty to forty to feed. One fine thing though is that I have two good cooks, both men. Take that any way you like, but not personally. The one in the lower camp is well experienced in ordering, so he will know just what he wants.

     Tomorrow is mail day again and I have to flivver down. I wish that the flivver would run uphill as well as it does down.

     Well I must cease as I am quite tired tonight for a change. So write to

          Your Jim. B.

About 8 more days.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm so glad it's sunny

Things were starting to get too tall for the cold frame. I had to move them to the side porch.

What we've got here are tomatoes (five varieties), cosmos, jalapeno peppers, and the tall things are sunflowers. Can't wait to get digging!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday book blogging: Teaser Tuesday Two-fer

All ClearI still have about 200 pages to go in All Clear, volume 2 in Connie Willis' WWII time travel magnum opus. It's such a page turner, I am getting to bed way too late these days. But I have to finish before the anonymous historian oft seen commenting on this blog returns from France so we can spoil the plot to our heart's content. (The anonymous historian was FORCED to go to Paris to evaluate study abroad programs, poor thing.)

Here's a non-spoiler teaser:

"Absolutely not," Mary cut in before he could ruin things even more completely, "and I fail to see how making a wrong turn constitutes expert driving. And the reasons we met was because I couldn't tell a flying bomb from a motorcycle."

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreMeanwhile, in the mornings (once I finally wake up), I'm reading Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfections which is delightfully unsappy,a rarity in the "self help" genre. Here is your teaser:

I gasped the first time I stepped back from the poster paper and took it all in. It was the worst kind of sticker shock. I remember mumbling, "No. No. No. How can this be?"

By the by, I want to thank any of you who have been clicking on these book recommendations. I'm an Amazon associate, so if you buy books through this blog--or even look at them, apparently, I get a little credit. Yesterday I got a gift certificate from Amazon for $12.57! Whoo hoo! I'm rich, I tell you! Rich! Thank you all very much.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading where you can get all the details.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Morning Preacher: The Woman at the Well

Samaritan Woman at the Well by He Qi
I am so grateful to the preacher I heard yesterday for how she talked about the woman at the well. She talked about how often this woman has been labeled a sinner, a prostitute, a fallen woman, and how that seemed unnecessary and possibly cruel.

I remember one of those sermons. It was during a preaching class in seminary, all of us in the class women, and one preached on the woman at the well in just that way. Five husbands! The shock! The horror! The sin of it all! When we gave our critiques at the end, I remember saying that I could just imagine this woman, perhaps barren, being divorced or abandoned by husband after husband, expelled from her family, shamed by society, living on the absolute fringes--and then we preach about her as sinful. And I found myself crying.

I'd forgotten about that until yesterday.

A Facebook friend asked if anyone had made the connection between the woman and Elizabeth Taylor. I hadn't. She said, "I would have preached it in terms of how people remember women more for their scandals but not the work, the Woman for her witness and Elizabeth Taylor for her AIDS work." I think that's accurate, and that scandal is used to minimize the work that women do.

Liz Taylor has proved an amazingly rich mine for sermonizing. I loved Dirty Sexy Ministry's entry this morning, Big Girls Need Big Diamonds,which you need to read.

"All of us have our big diamonds, our jewels within our souls that can gleam and glitter in the world - our gifts, our passions, our vocations. We all have jewels within our souls, those treasures that God has mined and entrusted to us. We are born with them, and our life experiences, our delving into the abyss where we stumble and recover the treasures of our life, give us access to them to share with the world."

Easier said than done, I'm afraid. And the women of DSM know the consternation that faces women when they claim for themselves that they are more precious than jewels, husband or no husband.

All of this comes with a backdrop of a phone conversation I had on Saturday with a friend who has recently gotten out of an abusive marriage and who is getting, oh, let's just say no help from the church. Over and over she said, "I need to heal. I need to heal." I'm afraid I didn't have much to offer her. I hope she finds Jesus at the well. I hope she gets some of that living water.

Church, dear church, so often you talk a good game about helping the oppressed. So often you fail to recognize them, much less help. I think that's why I cried that day in seminary. It's why I'm crying now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

Regarding potential Republican presidential candidates:

These days you don’t just throw your hat in the ring. You put the hat on a coat rack in the general vicinity of the ring, and then you have your supporters move the coat rack closer and closer, until it is finally time to take the hat down, put it right next to the ring and wait for a strong gust of wind.

I can't believe it's already time to gear up for another presidential campaign. Can you? Oy vey.

Friday, March 25, 2011

On the Feast of the Annunciation

Cross posted from the Confirm not Conform blog.

It’s the feast of the Annunciation, exactly nine months before Christmas, when we mark the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will bear a child, the son of the Most High.

I think we all know intellectually that Mary was a teenager when this happened. I’m just not as sure that it occurs to us that Mary was, you know, a teenager. You know she must be, though. Here’s this angel standing in front of her and she has questions.

I do not get the “meekly bowed her head” image of Mary as she says, “Let it be with me according to your word.” It sounds rather imperious, if you ask me. What I fear is that we have created an image of meek acquiescence because we wish to promote that behavior in our own teens (or congregation members!). Meek acquiescence is easier to deal with than a teenager who upsets the status quo. But what teen did more to upset the status quo than Mary?

Mary shows us that when a teenager says yes to God what results may take a form that breaks the rules and changes everything. And all generations will call her blessed.

P.S. Happy birthday to Keisha Castle-Hughes who played Mary in The Nativity Story and who turned 21 yesterday!

Various and Sundry, March 25

Just a friendly public service reminder: one week until opening day.

A couple of infographics for you this week. First, a reassuring infographic on radiation doses (words I never thought I'd put together)from xkcd. (click for larger)

Second, a flow chart on how to have a rational discussion from Simoleon Sense. I'd love to see these printed up on handy 3 X 5 cards for ease of distribution.

These guidelines might have helped those who felt the need to respond to Rob Bell's new book Love Wins before they read it. This imbroglio has been kind of odd and painful to watch from the sidelines as a former evangelical. If you haven't heard the news about this, this is the book in which Bell, the pastor of a highly influential emergent church in Michigan, suggests that maybe God, being loving and all, doesn't automatically send unbelievers (such as Gandhi) to hell, and he was quickly branded a dangerous heretic. I might blog about this in future, but in the meantime, here's one blog entry about the kerfuffle I greatly appreciated, partly because I felt I could have written it. So, hey, maybe I don't need to write about this after all.

Meanwhile, there was an excellent example of a discussion in action in the news this week. It was one of those neighborhood spats, and the solution was...the neighbors talked TO EACH OTHER rather than send nasty official screeds. And here they are! Don't they look friendly and not scary and mean? It was a very encouraging story in the middle of a lot of bad news. Sermon fodder, people!

Finally, my favorite obit of the week: Dorothy Young, the last surviving stage assistant of Harry Houdini who never revealed his secrets. In 1924, "she was spotted by Houdini and his manager, who asked her to dance the Charleston; she signed a year’s contract and was sworn to secrecy about the mysteries of Houdini’s act. She then had to persuade her parents that joining the great illusionist was a suitable career move." Isn't that always the way with parents?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Letter to Lillian, July 11, 1922

Sampson Mine
Llanada Calif.
July 11, 1922

Dear Lillian--I failed to recieve [sic] a letter from you in the last mail. Don't let that occur too often or I will think that you do not care to correspond with yours truly. "We'll excuse you this time but don't let it happen again," to use the words of Blackie.

     The kilns have stopped operations. They shut down Sunday morning as I remember, or maybe it was earlier. Sunday I did my last analysis. Yesterday I took stock in the store and this morning calculated the inventory to July 1. This afternoon I visited the Quarry and later planted flowers and washed clothes. I don't expect the flowers to grow as the seeds are three or four years old.

     I took my wireless aerial down this afternoon. I intend to put it on a nearby hill to get the tuning and then I may try it in the canyon again. I took my camera to the Quarry today but I did not take any pictures.

     Last Monday I did not go for the mail. The boss had to do some telephoning so he went in place of me. He went to Hollister this morning, taking Mrs. Blackie and the kids home. He expects to get some men, which is the main lack in the camp at present.

     I have been figuring about coming down next week. Only ten days. I will leave here Friday noon on the truck hauling magnesite, that is if truck is running by then. The truck is here now, the truck driver staying with me tonight, so he wants to see the boss when he returns. I will get to Mendota about 4:30, taking a stage to Tracy about 6. I will get to Oakland about midnight or later. My schedule is not checked yet and may not work. I have to get more information about that stage. The regular stage to Tres Pinos goes up on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

     I do not think that I had better leave as early as Thursday morning, and Saturday morning would not get me in until about 6 Saturday night. But if the kilns are not running, I may come Thursday. I would like to have the extra time in the city, particularly Friday Evening with you. I get quite lonesome for you lately--

     I recieved a letter from home yesterday, telling me that my kid brother had left for San Francisco. I want to see him when I am down.

Next night same week, same place.

     Well I took another flivver trip and am safely back. My gas held out all right today but I went off the road twice. Today I went further than usual going to another ranch for eggs. Coming back, one of the cylinders was missing and the old hack would not pull good anyway. I came to a little gully in the road and took a run down into it so as to get up the other side. The dust was about six or eight inches deep in the bottom and when I hit it, the hind end of the flivver went off the road. It went back on again but nearly turned over in so doing. A great cloud of dust went up and came down on me. I piled out and cranked up. I could not get up the hill so I had to back up and try it again. When I came to Tom Ashurst's place I cleaned a spark plug, which caused the engine to hit on all four. I think that the mixture is too rich as the engine would not pull well even then. I started up the road and about a third of the way up I met a four horse team. I got off the road, having considerable difficultly in so doing. The road is entirely single track from the mine to the main road five miles down.

      While I was coming back from the ranch where I went for eggs, a woman approached me and asked my aid in loading a freezerful of ice cream into her automobile, the reward being a dish of it. I readily consented to help. I eat ice cream up here when I can get it, which has been twice to date.

     Yesterday the boss went to Hollister. I had him bring me back a watermelon and we intend to eat it after a bit.

      I recieved two letters from you today. Fine work, keep it up. That was quite a good joke on Violet [Lillian's sister] in my opinion. I was surprized to hear of Ellsworth Wiley jumping off.

      I was sorry to hear of Mr. Wittner dying. I have news in the same class. One of my uncles, whome you had not met, died recently, and I just heard of it in the last mail. The strange part of it was that I had a feeling that all was not well for a couple of days before I heard.

     Carmen, the cook's daughter, is leaving tomorrow morning for San Francisco. The oldest girl in camp will then be about 6 years. Well, there will be less to remind me of you, so I won't get so lonesome.

     Carmen just came around to get some cookies to eat on her trip so I had to quit for a while.

     I have spoken to the boss about coming down and it seems that I can come down Thursday all right. I will see you Thursday evening if I do, as I expect to get in about 6 PM. I will leave here about 5:30 AM, afoot for five miles and then more or less rapid conveyances the rest of the way.

      Well if I don't close pretty quick you will not read this letter through. So, so long for 8 days, or by the time you get this letter about 5 days.

                Your Jim.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Georgia, Minister of Joy, 2003-2011


It was completely out of the blue. As you saw, she was running around at the park on Thursday. On Friday, we thought she tweaked her back. On Saturday, we took her to the vet who said, yes, she'd tweaked her back. On Sunday, she refused her food and her meds. (One of the cats knocked the bottle of Rimadyl off the counter and Andy ate 10 of them, so we spent the evening at the Emergency vets with him.) On Monday, she refused to drink and hid under the back porch steps.

We took her back to the vet who took X-rays and saw what looked like a tumor. Or maybe an abscess. Back to the emergency vet for ultrasound, but the tentative diagnosis was a hemangiosarcoma, a tumor of the blood vessel. Odds were not good in any event, and as it happens, she died during the night.

She was an incredibly sweet dog. Very patient (except about food) and gentle. She loved her down pillows. She loved her Mr. Potato Head. She loved the water. She dug up a number of plants I wish she hadn't and tracked more dirt on the bed than I would have thought possible. She was my alarm clock for several years now and often knew before I did the exact moment when I woke up (so it was clearly time for breakfast). She ate, slept, and played with gusto and incredible joy. I will miss her.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Funnies

Got this from Mad Priest who blames "that wicked priest from Suffolk." I blame Mad Priest.

Happy post-St. Patrick's Day.

A golfer playing in Ireland hooked his drive into the woods.

Looking for his ball, he found a little Leprechaun flat on his back, a big bump on his head and the golfer's ball beside him.

Horrified, the golfer got his water bottle from the cart and poured it over the little guy, reviving him.

'Arrgh! What happened?' the Leprechaun asked.

'I'm afraid I hit you with my golf ball,' the golfer says.

'Oh, I see. Well, ye got me fair and square.Ye get three wishes, so whaddya want?'

'Thank God, you're all right!' the golfer answers in relief. 'I don't want anything, I'm just glad you're OK, and I apologize.'

And the golfer walks off.

'What a nice guy,' the Leprechaun says to himself. I have to do something for him. I'll give him the three things I would want... a great golf game, all the money he ever needs, and a fantastic sex life.'

A year goes by and the golfer is back. On the same hole, he again hits a bad drive into the woods and the Leprechaun is there waiting for him.

'Twas me that made ye hit the ball here,' the little guy says. 'I just want to ask ye, how's yer golf game?'

'My game is fantastic!' the golfer answers. I'm an internationally famous golfer now.' He adds, 'By the way, it's good to see you're all right.'

'Oh, I'm fine now, thank ye. I did that fer yer golf game, you know. And tell me, how's yer money situation?'

'Why, it's just wonderful!' the golfer states.

'When I need cash, I just reach in my pocket and pull out $100 bills I didn't even know were there!'

'I did that fer ye also. And tell me, how's yer sex life?'

The golfer blushes, turns his head away in embarrassment, and says shyly, 'It's OK.'

C'mon, c'mon now,' urged the Leprechaun, 'I'm wanting to know if I did a good job. How many times a week?'

Blushing even more, the golfer looks around then whispers, 'Once, sometimes twice a week.'

'What??' responds the Leprechaun in shock. 'That's all? Only once or twice a week?'

'Well, 'says the golfer, 'I figure that's not bad for a Catholic priest in a small parish...'

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Update on Cote d'Ivoire

I really don't know why I initially noticed the story about the contested presidential election in the Ivory Coast, which has now been going on for about four months. I've never been there. I don't plan to go. I don't know anyone there. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to keep up with this story.

Ivorians at a refugee camp in Liberia (photo: MSF)
I heard a report from the BBC this week on the Africa Today podcast from a refugee camp in Liberia, reporting that now thousands of people are fleeing the fighting in the Ivory Coast. This report gives a more general sense of the desperate situation in Abidjan.

Sahel blog has a roundup of news related to Cote d'Ivoire, discouragingly but probably correctly titled Renewed Civil War. Reuters reports that Alessane Ouattara (proclaimed the winner of the presidential election by most observers) has now established an army. "The move puts gunmen who still control the north and have launched a number of pushes south, as well as any members of the security forces who defect, under his command." Officially two armies and two leaders? Sounds like a Civil War to me.

The NY Times had an editorial yesterday calling for the UN and the African Union to (I paraphrase) "do something." So that settles it, then.

If you clicked through to the GiveWell blog entry that talked about not giving for Japan relief at the moment, you may remember that they suggested giving to Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) to support disaster relief in general. Today, Medicins Sans Frontieres reports on what they are doing in Cote d'Ivoire. The UN is also asking for money for humanitarian aid.

What surprises me is that no one is talking about chocolate! You'd think that would be a natural way to get our attention, seeing as Ivory Coast produces 43 percent of the world's cocoa, by far the largest producer. (The next largest, Ghana, produces 14 percent.) If we can't appeal to the better angels of our natures, you'd think at least we could appeal to our addiction to chocolate.

Do please continue to keep the Ivory Coast in your thoughts and prayers. I'll keep reporting.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Various and Sundry, March 18

Back many, many news cycles ago, eons ago, Newt Gingrich explained that he cheated on his wives because, and I quote, "at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate." The hot and heavy affair he has with America is given a pulpy treatment by Jeffrey Goldberg. I know it's old news, but it's still so funny. I mean, listen:

Sure, I noticed her purple mountain majesties as soon as she walked in the room. I mean, who didn't? Believe me, in a sweater, those purple mountains sure were majestic.

In sports news, it's March Madness, and there are lots of great brackets out there, including this Mass Madness that I found at A Church for Starving Artists

Personally, I'm picking Stay after mass to socialize loudly, Dirty lookers when kids cry, the Confused by song book numbering scheme, and Same Spot Every Week for the Faithful Four.

It is also only two weeks until opening day. I just needed to say that.

Finally, in entertainment, I watched This Is Spinal Tap for the umpteenth time the other day. It's still so funny. I have a habit, when rewatching movies, of keeping, the Internet Movie Database, open in front of me to look up actors and get trivia about the movie. That paid off in spades for Spinal Tap. I learned, for example, that Christopher Guest is a baron, that one of the groupies in the movie was a member of the original Runaways and became a filmmaker because of being part of the movie, that Tony Hendra had attempted suicide just before filming started, but credits the joy of making the film to bringing him out of his depression.

And I learned about Wonderful Smith. Wonderful Smith is the janitor in this clip. I simply cannot do his story justice. The L.A. Times obit does a good job. Wonderful Smith died in 2008 at the age of 97. That whole thing about "there are no small parts"? I think it's backwards. There's no doubt this is a small part, but the person inhabiting it is huge.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The one that got away

Georgia (black)  and Andy (orange) try to catch a paraglider (also orange) at the Carquinez Strait.
Posted by Picasa

Letters to Lillian, July 4, 1922

Introduction to Letters to Lillian

Sampson Mine,
Llanada, Calif,
July 4, 1922

Dear Lillian--The grand and glorious Fourth has arrived. That is, I suppose it is grand and glorious. I know that it is hot. It was 104 today. That is not unusual, as we have had hotter days lately. I do not mind the heat now as I prepare for it. The afternoon is of course hotter than the morning, but in spite of that I run my furnace afternoons. The hard part is that I do my grinding at noon. I have a fairly well established schedule now.

     I get up about 5:30 or 6. Lately I have been working on my store books, so I work on them before breakfast. This morning I also took a shower before breakfast. I don't intend to make a practice of that however. The water is heated by the sun only and the sun don't get very hot before breakfast. We eat at 7:30. Then I put up my store orders for the kitchen and upper camp. From 8 to 11 I have for miscellaneous duties, lately working on my store books. I did not hire out for a bookkeeper and I make a punk one. I have my June books nearly done now and I intend to try and get them ready to send in tomorrow. I wish we had a stenographer here to type my work. I am referring to one certain San Francisco stenographer, not the one in the Sampson Magnesite office either.

     Well, to get back to my program, I had gotten to 11 A.M. About that time Geo. Agers comes in from Mendota. I meet him and get any supplies that he might bring. He always brings fuel oil, which does not concern me. I go to the loading bin and wait for him. As he fills his truck I fill my sample can. I take about 30 pounds of sample. Then I proceed back to the lab. I start to grind the sample and generally have to quit for lunch.

     I come right back and finish it if I do not get done, taking about 25 minutes to eat. In case I get the sample ground before lunch, I weigh out my lab. sample. Immediately after dinner I start my analysis. I aim to finish about 5. That gives me a half hour to clean up the lab. before supper. We eat at 5:30. Tonight I did not get done until 6, as George was late this morning, arriving about 11:30. In addition I spent 20 minutes making a sieve.

     About 4 o'clock or a little earlier I precipitate the lime. It has to stand 30 minutes, so while it is standing I take a shower bath. I have to let the water run a little as it is too hot at first. It is connected to the same branch as my lab water and generally runs a little hotter. It gets about 140 degrees on a hot afternoon. I like it about 90 so I have to let it run.

     When I am analyzing I take off my shoes and socks and put on slippers. I keep the floor good and wet and both windows open. Today I made some temperature tests. I took the lab. temp. at 1 P.M. It was 104 degrees. I wet the floor thoroughly and in about 15 or 20 minutes took the temp. again. It was 101. Then I started the furnace. It went back to 104 and stayed there. The doors and windows were open all the time.

     Last night I obtained a newspaper and proceeded to read it. I see about one paper in two weeks, so I get very little news. Haycraft was telling me last time he was up that there was quite a fire at the University. Just my luck not to see it. I haven't seen a good fire for years.

     Blackie was quite cheerful this morning. He recieved [sic] word that his wife would be up to spend a few days. I would like to have my wife up too, that is if I had a wife.

     Well it is 17 more days, but I have to get some sleep now, so I must close. It is after 9 P.M. already. So write to

          Your Jim

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Help Japan: Don't Give

Last week, I posted the link to Dos and Don'ts of Disaster Donations from an aid blog I respect called Good Intentions are Not Enough. Since then, this blog has been tracking the opinions of various aid providers and watchdog groups about how to help Japan, and the interesting thing is many are saying--and emphatically--please don't do anything. Don't send money. For the love of God, don't send any stuff. Do not go there. Pray and wait.

GiveWell lays the argument out most clearly and thoroughly. They find significant evidence that Japan is not requesting additional funding for disaster relief. This includes the Japanese Red Cross which states on its own website/bulletin that they are "not seeking funding or other assistance from donors at this time."

GiveWell's bottom line is "you as a donor do not have the power to improve the relief and recovery effort in Japan. If you do give, your gift will probably be used (a) by the charity you give it to, for activities in a different country; (b) for non-disaster-relief-and-recovery efforts in Japan." They of course support charitable giving and the charitable impulse as long as you understand your money will more than likely go to other needs.

There's another approach. Brigid Slipka makes the practical suggestion of setting aside an amount that you would like to go to the recovery effort and donating it in a month's time, or six months, or whenever it seems clear that the money will be useful. "There’s so many ways to convince oneself not to be philanthropic, not least of which is just inertia. So when the spark is there, follow your emotions and set aside a generous amount. Then, as the information shifts from stories to facts, follow your head and designate the gift wisely." Such a good idea.

A number of other relevant links can be found here.

Blessings in your discernment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Book Blogging: Teaser Tuesday

I don't know what's up with me that my tolerance for books is so low these days. I started Time and Again last week and gave up fairly quickly. It was too slow for my taste. Too much description. I'm a plot girl, me. Then I hoovered down an early Spenser book, which was fine, but I was surprised to find him tiresome this time around. Maybe we've known each other too long.

BlackoutSo I'm very glad that I have now dived into a book I'm enjoying immensely: Blackout by Connie Willis. I need to read more of her books. I've enjoyed all the ones I've read. And I'm happy that this is part 1 of 2. I learned about it because the second book, All Clear, was on the new book table at the library.

Apparently, it wasn't supposed to be two books, but I don't mind. Maybe I'm not totally book-averse after all.

At any rate, here's the teaser:

"You are not going to St. Paul's or World War II or the World Trade Center. You are going back to school. After you've passed your A-levels and been admitted to Oxford and the history program, then we'll discuss your going to--"

"By then, it'll be too late," Colin muttered.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading where you can find all the details.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Oh, I'd love to go to the party but I'm absolutely dead."

While I was down in SoCal for the wedding, I went to a gallery showing the Secret Art of Dr. Seuss and fell in love.

Is that not wonderful? I plan to use that excuse at every opportunity.

A wedding rant

One of the things I think is hard about blogging is not that I'm vulnerable when I express my opinion, but that I might hurt other people when I do so. Do I hate it because I don't want to hurt others, or do I hate it because I don't want to be seen as mean? A bit of both, and probably more the latter.

That being said, I'm plowing ahead with my opinion which is: weddings. Ugh. All that money and effort and more often than not it seems you get a bad ceremony and a bad party.

How's that for snarky over-generalization and unfair tarring with a broad brush?

Let me be clear that I'm not talking about this particular wedding. I am talking about weddings generally and this one just happened to get in my sights. If I were kindly disposed, I'd talk about all the things I liked about the wedding I attended, and there were a lot of things that were lovely. But no. I'm on a tear and will instead focus on the negative out of spite and spleen in order to score cheap points and validate my personal position on the matter.

The wedding I went to last weekend was particularly noteworthy in that it combined Episcopal and East Indian traditions which highlighted some of the weaknesses of each. The Christian part of the service seemed so vapid and the Indian part so patriarchal. I found myself sitting there sending the psychic message to the bride and groom: "You just need to sit through this religious fol-de-rol in order to get married. You don't need to pay attention to it." OK, when you're a religious professional and you think the religious part is just a formality to be endured, that's a bad sign.

And how many people are thinking that? How many people say to themselves, "I need to go through the motions of a religious ceremony in order to get married. It doesn't mean anything"? I shudder to think.

One way in which these two traditions did not mesh--and clarified a weakness in many weddings I've seen--is that in the Indian tradition, the groom is the center of attention. He has a huge and raucous procession involving lots of dancing and a ritual welcome of the groom by the bride's mother. It was wonderful and very fun, but it made the bride seem like an afterthought. Of course what I'm used to is the tradition that the wedding is the bride's day with the groom a fairly passive bystander. I don't care for that either. What would it take to make a wedding an expression of the partnership that I imagine most of us hope a marriage will be?

I think part of it will be thinning things out. The friend I was complaining bitterly to talking to about weddings pointed out that weddings seem to have accreted more and more traditions over time without losing any old ones, and all of the traditions got codified so that they MUST be included.

Initially, you had a wedding ceremony. And then maybe you had a dinner afterward. And then someone proposed a toast. And then someone thought it would be nice to have a cake. And then a bouquet of flowers for the bride. And then you needed someone to help hold the flowers for the bride. And the groom needed someone to hold the rings for him. And then if you were going to include one friend, you couldn't not include these other friends. And it would look silly if they dressed differently...and on and on. And each piece got more and more elaborate and indispensable. How could you NOT have flowers or a three-tiered cake or a hairdresser or groomsmen in tuxes with matching cummerbunds...

I wish we could get back to basics so that each and every couple getting married understood there were two things involved in this event: a wedding ceremony and a party. That's it. Forget the traditions. Forget them all. Wipe your brain clean. Now: what do you want your marriage to be? What words convey what you believe about what you're doing? What ceremonial actions will symbolize that? Forget the religious traditions for a moment. Start with a discussion about what it is you think you are actually doing.

And then when you have done that, and only then, think about the hospitality you want to show to your guests. That's what the reception is all about: you have guests; how will you serve them? What do you think will be enjoyable for them? What will make for a fun party? Plan accordingly. All else is moot.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Dos and Don'ts of Disaster Donations

In light of the earthquake and tsunami, the blog Good Intentions are Not Enough has reposted its list of dos and don'ts for disaster relief. I encourage you to take a look.

Various and Sundry, March 11

So strange to be writing this ahead of time. I'm probably missing all sorts of good obits and things major natural disasters that make everything else pale in comparison. At any rate, here are a couple of items I noted before I left town.

As I look for a position in marketing using social media, I've started following a ton of social media blogs. I kind of lost it the day I saw the blog entry, "22 new social media platforms you must know about if you dare call yourself anything other than a brain-dead Luddite." OK, I'm kidding about the second half of the title, but I'm not kidding about the number 22.

Thank heavens for The Anti-Social Media, a blog that is keeping me sane with its no b.s. perspective. I particularly liked this entry, How To Use _________ For Marketing, subtitled "The easy way to use to use any social network to sell crap." Nailed it. Thank you, Anti-Social Media! Oh, wait, he's flown off to tackle another platform.

I loved this infographic comparing apples to oranges. Because apparently you can, and the results will shock you.

Fans of the movie Up and nerds in general will appreciate that "The National Geographic Channel and a team of scientists, engineers, and two world-class balloon pilots successfully launched a 16' X 16' house 18' tall with 300 8' colored weather balloons from a private airfield east of Los Angeles, and set a new world record for the largest balloon cluster flight ever attempted. The entire experimental aircraft was more than 10 stories high, reached an altitude of over 10,000 feet, and flew for approximately one hour." h/t Design Fetish, where there are lots of great photos.

Finally, if you're still looking for something to do this Lent, I really liked this idea of Praying Facebook, a group started by a woman who has used this as a spiritual practice. "What I have done in the past is spend about a half hour each morning and a half hour each evening going through my news feed and praying for each person by name. If there is something specific they mention in a post I pray that too...I invite you to join me on the journey, post if you want to, share with others and see how we can get our Lent on this year."

I guess it's time to get our Lent on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Letter to Lillian, July 2, 1922

Introduction to Letters to Lillian

Sampson Mine
Llanada Calif.
July 2, 1922.

Dear Lillian--Your brief epistle was brought in by the boss in the last mail, causing an interruption in my pipefitting. I am referring to the shower bath I mentioned in my last letter. It is now complete and in good running order.

     Well, the time is passing and in less than three weeks I will see you again. That is, if I don't get fired and see you sooner. Cooper, one of the men in the quarry, was fired today. This letter is being written in the laboratory, with one eye on the furnace and the other on the hotplate.

     I have come to the conclusion that my wireless won't work. I think that the trouble is with the aerial, so I am going to tear it down tonight and put a couple of insulators in it.

     I sent my last letter down with Mr. Haycraft. He noticed the name and asked if it was the Knowles in the real estate business. He said that he is acquainted with your dad.

Next day--same week--same place.

     About that time the boss came in and my evaporation was finished.

     Last night I took my aerial down and put it up again. It was about 8:15 when I finished so I did not get a chance to try it out. It was grounded on both ends so I am not surprized that it failed to work.

     Lately I have been sleeping away from home. I have been sleeping at the place Dennis left. The boss wanted someone to stay there a few nights.

     I brought my blankets back this morning. There is a spring near there. I brought a sample of the water with me this morning to test as to its fitness for drinking. The water here contains too much magnesia for me. I remove most of it by boiling the water, but boiled water is none too good.

     Well, the mail is going out so I must close

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vulnerable Wednesday

Just for the record, I'm traveling today and will be in LA this weekend for a wedding. (Hard core Episcopalians are GASPING at this point. A wedding in Lent? Well, there you go.)

In the meantime, I've scheduled some blog posts while I'm gone. The letter to Lillian should arrive on Thursday as usual. Also there are a few fun things for the Friday V&S, and a little silliness for Sunday. If all goes well, they will post when I want them to.

In the meantime, it's Ash Wednesday and I will be flying down south instead of getting marked up as I normally would. So strange.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine sent me the link to the Ted talk embedded below. It made me think that Ash Wednesday is not so much about being miserable as being vulnerable, allowing the world to see that I'm not perfect, that I'm flawed and messed up and yet would like to be loved anyway.

I am hoping to be more vulnerable this Lent. That is my discipline and my goal and it's going to be very hard for me. Part of it will be through the blog, allowing myself to say more often what I really think, even though it may be wrong.

I need your help, too. I'm not sure how to be vulnerable. How do I go about this in my daily life? If you have some insights, I would be glad to hear them.

I wish you a blessed Ash Wednesday and a holy Lent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quick update on Cote d'Ivoire

I noticed this story in the NY Times this evening and wanted to highlight it.

At least four demonstrators, including a 19-year-old woman, were shot dead by riot police officers on Tuesday as they protested the shooting deaths of women who marched last week, witnesses said.

The neighborhood where the women were killed last week is now autonomous, according to the article, "thanks to the shadowy young men with stolen Kalashnikov rifles who have waged an armed campaign against Mr. Gbagbo — the Invisible Commando, as the group is known in the neighborhood."

Laurent Gbagbo, most of you reading this blog will know, is the president of Cote d'Ivoire who is generally believed to have lost the election there last November to Alassane Ouattara. He, however, has refused to concede the election despite economic and other pressures applied to get him to go.

When Mr. Gbagbo’s security forces penetrate here [in the neighborhood where the women were killed], they do so only in armored vehicles, often spraying bullets on either side as they go through, residents said. Many civilians have been killed in this rough Ouattara-supporting neighborhood of Muslim immigrants from northern Ivory Coast, but so have some of Mr. Gbagbo’s security forces. It is the one neighborhood that has taken up arms against him.

This is not pretty.

Tuesday book blogging, March 8

I absolutely loved Miss Julia and will be continuing the series directly. One quotation in particular stuck in my mind: "Any time a preacher starts talking about stewardship, he's talking about your money and his plans." I found myself lying awake on Saturday night, imagining the tract I will write entitled The Snarky Christian's Guide to Stewardship that will have this quote as its frontispiece. At any rate, the book was a pleasure.

I am now reading Time and Again by Jack Finney which is great but actually has some substance to it. I don't know that I hold with substance these days.

Time and AgainHere's the teaser:

"Would I have to go away?"
"In time. With some story for your friends. We couldn't have anyone wondering where or why Si Morley disappeared."
"Is this dangerous?"
"We don't think so. But I can't truthfully say we really know."

I still have no clue what's going on.

In other book-related stuff, I am getting a big kick out of watching Ta-Nehisi Coates read Jane Austen for the first time--fall in love with her, actually. "Awesome Jane" he calls her.

He normally blogs about hip-hop, the Civil War, the NFL, comic books, as well as politics, race, and current events. Here's where he starts Pride and Prejudice, but it's TNC's ongoing delight in Jane Austen that I love, as in this post, Jane Austen Just Dissed You, or this, She Eats Writers Like Part of a Complete Breakfast.

He still claims to be in control of himself; however, "I do believe were it not for the Civil War, I should be in some danger." Oh, you are in trouble, my man.

If you wish to join in Teaser Tuesday, you can find the details at Should Be Reading where MizB is your gracious host.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Plain clothes clergy member

Cartoon courtesy of Dave Walker who is also taking notes for use at
I have more to say about preaching, but I find I have things to say about church generally, so I'm thinking Monday will be church day here at The Infusion. It will be a mix of things, but in my new and peculiar role of a priest in the pews, I thought I'd try to report regularly on what I see there.

Personally, I'm in a very unsettled place church-wise. I don't have a regular place of worship. I haven't found a church I really want to attend. I find myself twitchy during services and tend to come home grumpy. And all of those factors mean I don't go every Sunday, that's for sure. It's a good thing I have Saint Laika's which is what I consider my home congregation for now. I go there almost every day.

Yesterday, I went to a church where there was a baptism. When I arrived, the usher greeted me with the news that "We've run out of bulletins, but I can give you the baptism leaflet." Well, fine. I can manage.

Except it turns out that everyone was supposed to get both a bulletin AND a baptism leaflet. In front of me were two men, sitting separately, who had received just the bulletin. When it was announced for people to turn to the baptism leaflet, one looked madly through the pile of pages for such a thing while the other went to the back and got a copy.

Here's what's distressing: the man who got a copy did not share with the man who didn't have one--and was clearly a visitor who did not know what was happening. I tapped him on the shoulder and gave him my copy.

At the passing of the peace, the stranger said to me, "Is the service over?" Just the intermission, I told him. Time for announcements. Turns out the man next to the stranger, the one who hadn't shared his bulletin, was the senior warden.

And then...Eucharistic Prayer C which is the prayer that requires lots of congregational responses. This poor man flipped back and forth: was it in the bulletin, the baptism leaflet, the readings? I gave him a copy of the prayer book and pointed out where we were.

What was particularly heartbreaking was that this church had obviously taken some trouble to make the service visitor-friendly. They had a person in the front whose job was to announce the hymn numbers and to invite people to stand, which I thought was a very nice touch. And the rector extended an invitation at communion which explained the process of receiving the elements. Also lovely.

But it was hampered by the paperwork. I know it's a pain, but when you know you're going to have visitors, making an all-in-one bulletin is the gracious thing to do. Yes, it's more expensive. Yes, it takes more time. However, the church is not supposed to exist for the church's convenience, but for those who are not-church.

People aren't mean; we just get stuck in our patterns.  The problem is I think we forget our fundamental reason to be as we look for our comfortable weekly rituals. How do we keep our fundamental principles always in front of us in everything we do?

Obit du jour: Doyald Young, prominent typefact designer

A sample of font "Home Run"
Besides getting to read an interesting life story about a man who went from leaving home at 15 and working as a bellhop, usher, and railroad brakeman to being a renowned teacher and creator of typeface, there are two other things I appreciate about today's obituary of Doyald Young.

The first is the fonts themselves. I have a soft spot in my heart for interesting fonts since I was the sign language interpreter for a class on the subject and saw what went into it. In Young's case, he created Home Run, Young Gallant, Young Finesse, and Young Baroque, all of which you can see here.

But the thing that makes me happiest is seeing the sentences used to display these fonts in all their glory, A to Z. Sentences like

Will Major Douglas be expected to take this true-false quiz very soon?
My expensive quartz watch once belonged to JFK.
New job: fix Mr. Gluck's hazy TV, PDQ.
Mozart's pawing quickly vexed a fat bishop.
Baroque? Hell, just mix a dozen wacky pi fonts & you've got it.
Packing five dozen waxy liquor jugs? Must be a typophile.

Must be!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happy blogoversary to me

I started this blog four years ago today, calling it The Teabags Infusion, back before tea bagger had any other connotation for me, sexual or political. I think my very first entry is still a pretty accurate description of my motives and methods, if more a little more tentative and self-conscious than I am now.

That first year, I wrote all of 76 entries; I've already written more than that this year. I had no idea where it was going--still don't, actually. And goodness knows those first couple of years I was writing almost entirely for myself and my parents (hi there!). I'm amazed that there are 29 people Out There reading what I say on a regular basis.

This is a very little blog, I know, but I enjoy doing it. Thank you for joining me.

Next year, for number 5, we'll have a party! It will involve tea, I suspect.

Sunday Funnies, March 6

Friday, March 4, 2011

Various and Sundry, March 4

Are you a quadragesimarian? Well, before that happens, you might want to check out Jim's Pancakes, which are amazing. Remember the dinosaur skeleton one? Very cool.

My favorite obituary this week was this crazy story from the Telegraph about Jay Landesman who, and I quote, "was a parent whose capacity to embarrass knew no bounds." I think the deceased would have been very pleased by the obituary.

I really liked this blog entry for its ambiguity. In a world with so much certainty about the Right Thing To Do About Africa, this uncertainty and tentativeness was refreshing.

The radio program/podcast This American Life is always compelling, but last week's episode was edge-of-your-seat amazing! I heartily recommend it to you. Seriously. It's a mystery and a fight for justice and an amazing story of persistence and of forgiveness. You will not regret it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

World In Prayer

It was my week to write the World In Prayer prayers. Lots to pray for, that's for sure. Here they are.

Ever-present God, your Son went up to the mountain to pray and was joined by the shining examples of the Law and the Prophets: illuminate us by your word and example as we bring before you our concerns for the world:

We pray for Libya where fighting between rebels and Qaddafi loyalists continues. We pray for refugees fleeing their homes and for those trapped in the conflict. We pray for all those countries where uprisings have established new leadership and authority: Tunisia and Egypt among them. We pray for wisdom and clear thinking for diplomats and international aid workers, and courage, grace and peace for the citizens of these countries.

We pray for Cote d’Ivoire where a crisis over the November presidential election remains unresolved, and where a reported 200,000 people have fled violence and unrest.

We pray for Afghanistan where 9 boys collecting firewood were mistakenly killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents. We pray for clear eyes to see the world around us and for a world in which all may live without fear.

As we observe the continued conflicts in Wisconsin (USA) between the governor and public sector workers, we pray for governments who seek to balance their budgets and for unions who advocate for their members. We pray that all may be enlightened by love and charity as they search for solutions. We also pray for all workers who struggle to make ends meet, and for those who are unemployed.

We pray for Christchurch New Zealand as they mourn those killed in an earthquake on February 22 and as they make plans to rebuild the city.

As we mark Women’s History Month, we pray for women throughout the world. We pray for those affected by domestic abuse at the hands of those who should love and care for them. We pray for those impacted by inequality in the workplace. We give thanks for those women, living and dead, who have been examples for us of strength and compassion, remembering especially Mary and Martha, Lydia and Priscilla, and other foremothers in our faith.

We remember also in our prayers the Reverend Peter J. Gomes, pastor, preacher and teacher who spent his life opening the Bible and opening minds as well. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

And as we return to the plains and enter the stretch of wilderness known as Lent, may we find your encouragement and presence on our journey and in our world, O God, through your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ who dwells among us and is revealed to us day by day. Amen.

Situation in Cote d'Ivoire

It seems to be deteriorating.

Here's the latest from the BBC:

Security forces in Ivory Coast have shot dead at least six women marching in support of Alassane Ouattara in the main city of Abidjan, witnesses say.

Mr Ouattara is recognised by the UN as the winner of November's election, but Laurent Gbagbo has refused to concede power.

The shooting took place in Abobo, a pro-Ouattara stronghold which has seen violent clashes for more than a week.

The UN says around 200,000 people have fled the recent unrest in the district.


On Wednesday, international radio stations, including the BBC, were taken off air without explanation.

Electricity and water were then cut off in northern Ivory Coast - a region traditionally opposed to Mr Gbagbo.

In an official statement, the electricity company has denied any responsibility for the power cuts, saying they were a direct result of armed men taking control of the distribution centre on Monday.

Our correspondent says few of the millions of Ivorians who live in the north have any other means of generating electricity in a country that normally has very reliable supplies.

Hospitals are already reported to be struggling and humanitarian agencies are working out how to respond.

I'm thinking prayers are also in order.

Letter to Lillian, posted June 30, 1922

Introduction to Letters to Lillian

Sampson Mine
Llanada Calif.
June 29, 1922

Dear Lillian--Your most welcome letter came last night, at least I suppose that it was from you. Your address was on it but not your name. But considering who it is we will excuse you this time. To quote Blackie "But don't let it happen again."

     This letter is being written in the laboratory. The bosses from San Francisco are down today and I hope to get enough written between analytical procedures to send with them.

    You asked if there are any pine trees or creeks around. Larios creek runs through camp and pine trees abound. One pine tree leans over the laboratory. My wireless aerial stretches between two pines. Oak and juniper abound too. There is considerable sagebrush and mewquite on the hills around here.

Same day--later. Evening has arrived and I take my pen in hand again. It is practically useless to try to use a fountain pen on account of the heat and dry air. The heat makes it leak and the ink then evaporates resulting in the pen being empty most of the time.

    I finished the analysis and obtained pretty good results. I just now noticed that my neck was warm so I looked at my lamp. It had taken its customary jump. The soot is now settling.

    This evening I did some pipefitting. Blackie, Pete the Wop, and I are putting in a shower bath. I am doing the piping, Blackie is carpenter and Pete does the standing around.

    The cook and the storekeeper had a row today. About the fourth time that supplies were called for, the chemist said nothing doing. Later the cook came around to climb my neck. Haycraft and Moore, the bosses from Frisco, took it all in. I intend to avoid future arguments as a new cook is expected soon.

    I asked Haycraft when he was going to bring his daughter down again. He said that he expected to bring them next time he came. Sara, my friend, is quite anxious to come down.

    But to get down to facts, it is only 3 weeks and 2 days until we will meet again.

    This morning I had a couple of adventures with fire. I set my hand afire the first time and nearly set the lab. afire the second. Both were gasoline fires. The first time I struck a match with my hand covered with gasoline. I put it out rather promptly and soon forgot it. A little later I was starting the furnace and went outside to see Blackie about that time. The gasoline was burning quite strongly when I went back. But the lab is still OK and so am I.

    This morning I slept late. I did not get up until 6. Tomorrow I have to get up at 5 to work in the lab. Tomorrow is the 30th too. I have to make up my store books. One thing that I have to do is to write a new set of prices. The old ones need revision.

    Well it is after 9 o'clock so I must close.

          Your         Jim x

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Peter J. Gomes

Very nice obituary for the Rev. Peter J. Gomes in the Times yesterday. I thought it contained the best brief summary of faithful scripture reading I've yet seen, something that would have pleased him, I imagine. I'm impressed by the telling quotes the writer was able to pull into a very brief space. They certainly seem to cover the span of Gomes' stance on scripture. A graciously written obituary for a dignified man.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Yoohoo, Hollywood!

This morning a friend of mine emailed me her thoughts about the damage done to personal relationships and lives in the light of the critique of certain political ideologies and asked if I had any brilliant insights. I told her, no, I had far more important business to attend to: critiquing the Oscars.

Yes, indeed, Hollywood is waiting to hear my pronouncement on this year's Oscar broadcast, a show that Roger Ebert called "the worst Oscarcast I've ever endured. It's time for the Board of Governors to have a long, sad talk with itself."

Well, Board of Governors, I am here for you. With just a few simple tweaks, you CAN make the Oscarcast bearable without strong drink. Trust me. I'm a liturgist.

First, a few commendations:
Choreography and I don't mean dancing. I mean year in and year out, people get on and off that stage at the right time in the right way without stumbling. Believe me, that is not nothing.
Huge high marks to your orchestra which is always spectacular and always helps move people on and off that stage without drawing (much) attention to itself.
This year's set design was fantastic. Just like art direction, set design is only noticed when it's bad. This year was pretty amazing.

Now. Here's six simple steps to a better Oscar show.

1) Always, always, always have a stand-up comedian host. This is not because you need someone funny (though that helps). This is because you need someone who can feel and work the crowd, who can adjust on the fly, who is not scared of dead air--or at least knows what to do when it happens.

2) Do NOT have two hosts. Here's the thing: if you have one host, that person has to engage and interact with the audience. If you have two hosts, they have to first and foremost interact with each other.

3) Your hosts don't need to use witty banter to present the hosts who will be using witty banter to present the nominees. Got that? In fact, I think just a voice-over as they enter, "And now to present the award for excellence in sound..."

4) Witty banter in general is overrated. When you're reading from a teleprompter, it's hard to sound witty. Cut the witty and go with things that make sense as pronouncements. Leave the witty to your comedian host.

5)Present all nominees at the same time. I'm looking at you, best song award. I know you're thinking, "We need some musical numbers in there." No, no you don't. You know what? We don't need to hear all the best song nominees all the way through. Just announce 'em with a bit of the song in the background, and give 'em the award. Really. It's better that way.

6) Five nominees for best picture is enough. It was a good thought. But no.

I would also like to say that I miss the Thalberg award, Humanitarian award and honorary Oscars. Those speeches, from people who knows they're getting the awards and have time to prepare and reflect, tend to be the best. And they go to giants in the field. Why on earth did you take them out? Knock out the song performances and you have time for at least one.

Board of Governors, I await your call.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday book blogging

In my ongoing quest to find books that don't tax my brain but don't make me feel totally stupid, I am currently reading Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross, an excellent recommendation, thank you. Just the ticket.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind: A NovelHere's a teaser:

"Thank you," I whispered. What else could I say? The Presbyterian Women's Prayer Chain transmitted news of sickness, accident, death, divorce, pregnancy, teenage problems, bankruptcy, and anything else you could name, and did it faster than a streak of summer lightning. Well, it was no more than I expected, having activated the prayer chain myself any number of times when I'd heard something that needed to be prayed over and passed on.


In other book news, courtesy of Jenny Lawson, here is the strangest book trailer I've ever seen. Well, first, let's note the whole strangeness of the fact that there are book trailers. And then let us note how particularly strange we find this trailer for the book Let's Panic About Babies.

If you would like to join in the Teaser Tuesday movement, check on MizB at ShouldBeReading for details.