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.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Various & Sundry: I'm fairly sure this is not the dumbest thing on the internet

*Yawn!* Where did the week go? I had so many things I thought about posting this week. But did it happen? Well, you tell me.

So you're stuck with the usual mish-mash of things. I hope you enjoy them.

I take comfort in knowing that I am not the dumbest thing on the internet. So says Erin Faulk, who you may remember from her adventures in finding Matt Damon in Morocco. People (apparently) commented harshly, which she says is like that guy at the cocktail party who has no social sense and has to respond to your story by saying, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."
I mean, think about that. There is literally no point in time in which you are the dumbest thing on the internet. Have you seen the internet? YOU ARE NOT THE DUMBEST THING ON THE INTERNET. That will always be true. Statistically, in your lifetime, that will always be true. There will always be someone dumber than you on the internet. Geraldo Rivera tweeted a half-naked selfie last night. I mean, ffs, YOU ARE NOT THE DUMBEST THING ON THE INTERNET. 
Remember that the next time you think about saying something. You are not the dumbest thing on the internet. No matter what anyone else says - and trust me, people will say things - you just aren’t. You may not have the best story to tell, or the smartest take on whatever breaking news is currently breaking, but you’re not the biggest idiot out there either.
Pauline Baird Jones says something similar as she remembers when she was 5 and puked on her tutu right before the big dance recital.
The risk we face in the journey to becoming isn’t dying, it’s puking on our tutu. That fear feels like dying. Fear dresses itself up like the safer choice, it’s the un-puked on tutu, the path of common sense, and it smiles and soothes while it kills our hopes, our dreams, our becoming.
And so I post without regret the exceedingly nerdy post The Most Interesting Theologians In the World which tracks the Twitter exchange between two theology PhDs who had nothing better to do, and I am better for it. In a nerdy sort of way. For example:

Well, I warned you!

On Goodreads, I posted a couple of book reviews that I thought I would be posting on the blog, but never got around to. I highly recommend both Story of a Girl and Committed, if you're interested.

I also loved this performance from this week's episode of So You Think You Can Dance (which is a terrific show). What I loved about it was that ultimately, the woman released herself. The dance starts at ~1:20, if you want to get right to it.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Headline: "Man acquitted in romantic bear-spray squabble"

Lead: "A San Francisco man was acquitted Thursday of breaking into his ex-fiancĂ©e’s house and assaulting her new lover before getting sprayed with bear mace by a shirtless neighbor."

And the story just gets better from there. Three words (or maybe two): hacky-sack circle.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Various & Sundry: Edible Rex vs. the Yankees vs. Matt Damon with a glass of champagne's rather chilly here in Northern California. Oh, did I say something wrong? Oh, so sorry. I'll see if I can make it up to you.

How about having someone tell you the story of Oedipus Rex? Always a cheerful little tale, isn't it? Well, what if I told you this version of Oedipus is performed by vegetables? What do you think now?

I think that Jocasta is one hot tomato.

I loved Jim Naughton's take on the theological worldviews of the Yankees and the Mets.
For what are these Yankees but heirs of theological rationalism in all its rigorous and systematic glory? Temporally, Derek Jeter and his brethren may dwell in the humble surround of the southern Bronx, but spiritually they are native to the Athens of Aristotle, the Paris of Aquinas, and the Rome of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. 
And what are these Mets if not mystics in polyester pants, cleated apostles who encounter God in an ecstatic flash that redeems long years of famine. Their Savior led them out of the wasteland of the Phillies and the Expos, and into a land flowing with milk and commercial endorsements. Their God has made the desert (the Hebrew word is 'Flushing') bloom.
If you happen to be in Napa and are in the mood for champagne, this sparkling wine trail map and guide might come in handy.

If, on the other hand, you happen to be in Morocco and want to find Matt Damon, all you need to do is go ask at the American Embassy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sweet Jesus on a breadstick! No more &*#$%@# handprint stoles!

You can buy this on Etsy for $75.
The description says (and I am not making
this up), "adorned with the colorful hand-
prints of actual joyful children!"
I participate in an online discussion group for people involved in Christian formation. Yesterday, someone asked what would be a good gift for the children to give to a new rector. Promptly, someone wrote back to suggest making a stole on which the children could put their handprints.

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I reacted poorly.

But perhaps this is just me, I thought, and so I put the question to Twitter:

The reply was swift and clean:
But I continued:
And when Laurie Brock, aka @drtysxyministry, appeared, things started to get real.

At which point I shared this image, which is something you will see if you Google "handprint stoles" as I did.

As Laurie noted,
And you won't either.

Have we learned our lesson, people? It's a sweet thought, but keep your hands off the vestments.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Regarding Treyvon Martin

Are you still thinking about Treyvon Martin? I know I am. But boy am I not qualified to comment. My main reaction has been to say, "That is messed up." So that's about my level of sophistication.

But here are some responses to Treyvon Martin's death, the George Zimmerman trial and verdict, and race in American generally that I thought were helpful/illuminating. Mostly, I'm just listening right now.

Ta-Nehisi Coates as always has good things to say. His first response set the stage for this longer reflection:
It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn't come back from twenty-four down.
I know I already posted this link on Friday, but it's worth posting again:
15 Things Black People Must Do In Order to End Racism
With that post in mind, this tweet struck a chord:
An interesting perspective from Stephen Kuusisto. The kicker:
Privileged space and security guards go hand in hand. And with the travesty of justice in Sanford, Florida we're told that anyone can be a security guard. And anyone can be gunned down.
The Black Youth Project posted a heartfelt response:
As we waited to hear the verdict, in the spirit of unity, we formed a circle and locked hands. When we heard “not guilty,” our hearts broke collectively. In that moment, it was clear that Black life had no value. Emotions poured out – emotions that are real, natural and normal, as we grieved for Trayvon and his stolen humanity. Black people, WE LOVE AND SEE YOU. We mourn, but there’s hope as long as love endures.
And finally, Toure posted this beautiful and poignant article on how to talk to young black boys about Treyvon Martin. It was written in 2012 and makes even more of an impact now.
There is nothing wrong with you. You’re amazing. I love you. When I look at you, I see a complex human being with awesome potential, but some others will look at you and see a thug — even if their only evidence is your skin. Their racism relates to larger anxieties and problems in America that you didn’t create. When someone is racist toward you — either because they’ve profiled you or spit some slur or whatever — they are saying they have a problem. They are not speaking about you. They’re speaking about themselves and their deficiencies.
What else should I read?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tweet of the night

At least for me.

Obit round-up

As threatened promised, here's a quick round-up of the best obituaries I saw this week.

In sports, mad props to Scott E. Entsminger of Columbus, OH, who "respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time." And here's to the Browns who presented the family with a jersey with the number of his favorite player (Hall of Famer Lou Groza) but with his name on the back at the memorial service.

In spy news, not only did I enjoy the obituary this week for Austin Goodrich, a cold war spy who worked as a journalist, but I received a tweet from Kristina Goodrich who pointed me to two videos of Mr. Goodrich, entitled Born to Spy.

In feats of World War II derring do, I'm not sure much can beat the obituary of Nadezhda Popova,"a member of an elite corps of Soviet women — known as the “Night Witches” — who fought as bomber pilots in the air war against Germany, and the only one to win three Orders of the Patriotic War for bravery." Intrigued? You should be.
There was no radio; navigation was done with a stopwatch and a map. The planes carried no guns, no parachutes and had only enough weight allowance to take two bombs, forcing the pilots to make multiple sorties (Nadezhda Popova once flew 18 in a single night), returning to base each time to collect more bombs, which were released with a wire cable jury-rigged to the wings.
They would fly in under the radar, cut the engines, two would serve as decoys drawing enemy fire while the third would drop the payload of bombs (which, as you see above was connected by wire); then they would go around again, the second would drop the bombs while the other two drew enemy fire, and then go a third time. Amazing stuff. And because there were no engines and they whooshed along, the Germans called them Nachthexen, the Night Witches. Had you heard about them? I sure hadn't. (She's the one standing in the picture below.)

In canine news, I just read the obituary for Jim Buck who created the job of the professional dog walker.

Establishing Jim Buck's School for Dogs, he trained dozens of dog walkers, using as a test case an otterhound named Oliver the Awful.
During the 40 years Mr. Buck ran his school, he was an eminently recognizable figure: an elegantly turned out, borzoi-thin man of 145 pounds, he commanded the leashes of a half-dozen or more dogs at a time — a good 500 pounds of dog in all — which fanned out before him like the spokes of a wheel. 
He walked in sun; he walked in rain. In wintertime, his charges might be clad in small sweaters bearing the logos of the European resorts where their masters skied. 
Jim Buck’s School for Dogs was equal parts exclusive preparatory academy, exercise class and reform school. In a 1964 profile of Mr. Buck in The New York Times, Gay Talese described him, plying his trade, as looking “like Charlton Heston in the chariot-racing scene in ‘Ben-Hur.’ ” 
But with hindsight, it is more apt to liken Mr. Buck to Lee Marvin in the 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen.”
Oh, it's a wonderful obit. Do check it out.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Various & Sundry: Some really weird stuff, plus some justice and injustice

I think tomorrow I'll have to do a special obit round-up. It's been a good week in death. But let's focus on other things for now, shall we?

So get yourself a nice mug of tea, maybe in one of these upside-down mugs, and settle in.

Hard to take in isn't it? But as the blogger who posted this noted (or at least claims), these mugs are "more stable and more balanced in the hand because of the handles position (being upside down and lower down than normal). This gives a more comfortable pour when drinking due to where the centre of gravity is. They are also more stable in general and less likely to be knocked over. The inverted shape also keeps tea and coffee hotter for longer." If true, then where have they been all my life?

More photos of the creator at work here.

Hungry now? So here's a question I'm sure you've been asking yourself: What's in Prince's Fridge? You will be glad to know someone has answered that question. And it' unusual mix of items. There's no photographic evidence (Prince would not allow photographs), but here is an artist's rendering:

Did they make this up? Who knows? But if so, my hat is off to the person who came up with this quote from Prince about his real maple syrup:
“People say U can’t tell the difference, but U know, it’s the real deal. It’s a cut above. It’s about 100 cuts above. This is the only thing that touches my waffles.”
I smell hit lyrics!

Continuing our theme of weird fetishes, let's examine this 12-foot-tall statue of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the coming-out-of-the-lake scene of Pride and Prejudice. No, I am not making this up.

In a more serious mode, now, I thought this satirical list of 15 things black people must do to end racism was truly heartbreaking. And eye-opening. For example,
4. It is the responsibility of the Negro to always dress in a respectable manner. The Negro must, at all times, dress professionally with impeccably pressed trousers and non-threatening white button down shirts. Ties are preferred. The Negro should try to avoid sneakers, sweats, baggy jeans, hoodies, or any other apparel that may constitute a thuggish, frightening appearance or suggest that he may be concealing a weapon or drugs. These types of clothing, however, are perfectly suitable for whites.
Something I'm sure is on people's minds as the jury in the George Zimmerman trial enters deliberations and as the film Fruitvale Station opens in theaters.

I think this story has a much happier ending, though. What do you do if your car is broken into and the thief leaves behind his cell phone? If you're smart, like this woman, you press the speed dial on the miscreant's phone helpfully labelled "Mom."

Justice is served. Home-style.

World In Prayer, July 12

It was my week for the World In Prayer prayers. Since this Sunday, the gospel is the story of the Good Samaritan, the theme of "who in the world in my neighbor?" was a pretty obvious choice. What I didn't expect, and noticed only after I'd written them, was that the theme of "help us actually see our neighbors" came up throughout the prayers -- part of my own personal theme of "you can't tell by looking" as well as the story element of the two who walked past.

Lord God, through your son Jesus you have called us to be a neighbor to all, and therefore to love all. Open our eyes to see our neighbors throughout the world.

  • Our neighbors in Egypt during this time of political and social upheaval.
  • Our neighbors in Nigeria where the rebel group Boko Haram attacked a secondary school in the state of Yobe killing at least 28 students and one teacher.
  • Our neighbors in Quebec, Canada, where a train carrying oil derailed and exploded. We pray for the families of those who have died, and those still missing. 
  • Our neighbors in California prisons (USA) as some 29,000 observe a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement practices.
  • Our neighbors in Lebanon where a bomb in a Shiite suburb injured dozens of people.
  • Our neighbors in China experiencing an early rainy season that has caused major flooding and landslides.
  • Our neighbors in Turkey where police closed Gezi Park hours after it reopened as protesters began to gather.
  • Our neighbors in Cuba adjusting to new policies of the government and Communist party. Including, Cuban citizens having full freedom to practice their faith.

May we be good neighbors to those of different faiths.

  • May we be good neighbors to Buddhists. We pray for India where there have been a series of blasts at a Buddhist temple complex.
  • May we be good neighbors to Jews as they observe Tish’a B’Av, a fast commemorating the destruction of the two temples on July 16.
  • May we be good neighbors to Muslims in this season of Ramadan.

We give thanks to those who have shown us through their life and witness how to be a neighbor.

  • We thank you for the witness of Malala Yousafzai, the young advocate for education shot by the Taliban a year ago, as she celebrates her 16th birthday on July 12 by presenting education policy recommendations at the UN.
  • We thank you for the flight attendants on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 who helped 300 people evacuate the plane after it crash landed in San Francisco (USA).
  • We thank you for Nelson Mandela and continue to pray for him as he remains hospitalized in critical condition.

We thank you for those who have been a neighbor to us in our needs.

O God, as we pray, help us not to be so caught up in the needs of the whole world that we neglect our neighbors who are here right now. Give us eyes to see them and hearts to respond with compassion and courage. All this we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ who lived among us that we might see you in all people.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Is there a doctor in the house?

I saw my Ob-Gyn this morning. TMI, you say? Well, I'm only telling you this because she told me a great story. Well, great in an aggravating way.

Here's the deal. Her husband, she explained, is the stay-at-home dad while every day she heads off to her practice at the hospital.

One evening at home, she told her daughter the old riddle: a father and his son are in a car accident and are taken to the hospital where they are rushed into surgery. The father, tragically, dies, but the boy can be saved with an emergency procedure. The surgeon comes in to where the boy is on the operating and says, "I can't perform the surgery. This is my son." How is this possible?

My doctor's daughter thought about this a while and decided that the answer must be...the son had two fathers.

My doctor tried again with a different scenario: this time a mother and a son in an accident, mother dies, nurse enters, says, "I need someone else to help; this is my son." How can this be?

My doctor's daughter thinks and decides this must be a lesbian couple.


On the one hand, nice to have the acceptance of gay and lesbian couples and families. On the other...geez, the persistence of gender roles and stereotypes! How do you fight that?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Various & Sundry: from Hazardous Waste to Couture

So this morning I done did that fabulous thing that I do from time to time: I took all the old batteries and light bulbs and medicine and paint to the Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Center. I drove up and a man in a hazmat suit made me sign a form and then took the stuff away.

I write this in case you were not aware of the Household Hazardous Waste program in your community. Here's the link for the programs in the greater SF Bay Area, if you live in these parts. But do Google for what to do in your area. It feels good to be rid of that stuff.

Of course today I've also been following the news out of San Francisco after the Boeing 777 crashed at SFO. Listening to this recording of the Air Traffic Controllers before and after the crash is really impressive. They don't sound panicked, but boy does the pace of the directions pick up. And the pitch of the voice is a step higher. Come to think of it, maybe they do sound panicked. But they handle it magnificently. My prayers continue for all those affected.

For any native New Yorkers confused about what this means, this is like a plane crash in Queens, as is demonstrated by the handy map below:

This raised a question:
And an answer:
So now you know.

There's a new stage production of Much Ado About Nothing I would love to see, with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave as Benedick and Beatrice. Wouldn't that be something? It's at the Old Vic this September-November, so I'd say my chances are slim to nil, but it's wonderful to contemplate.

I loved this story about June Coleridge, a Bletchley Park codebreaker who just celebrated her 90th birthday.
[She] joined up aged 18 in 1940/1. She lived with an uncle who was building an aerodrome and learnt to fly during that time.

She said, however, that the work itself on the code breaking could be boring and her social life was limited.

She was also sent to Columbo in Sri Lanka as part of her intelligence work.

David Coleridge, one of June's three children, said: "I'm very proud of what she did there at Bletchley. Nobody knew until the later 1970s that anything had happened there, of course."
Yes, of course. Well, I'm glad they know now.

I'm still thinking about this comic Fat is Not a Feeling. Here's one panel of the larger piece:

I think there's more to be uncovered, here, but certainly this has got me cogitating.

Continuing in the "Life is complicated" department, this obit for Rena Price was actually a very difficult read. "Catalyst for the Watts Riot" is the subhead, which is...I don't know what it is, actually. Shorthand, I guess. Reading it, it's like one of those stories where you see the jar of explosive liquid about to tip over and you want to shout "Nooooo!" as the camera goes into slow motion and it's just too late. Is it the fault of the person who knocks over the jar? Or did it build up to that moment? Or was it inevitable? But that's how I read it. It's a history lesson I don't think we've learned. At all.

But let's end with something lovely, shall we? Like this Georges Hobeika Fall 2013 Couture Collection. Who is Georges Hobeika? I have no idea. But the dresses are sure pretty.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Totally! Epic! Alameda Fourth of July Parade!

Yesterday, I went to Alameda, my home town, to partake in the annual tradition: a completely homegrown and yet over-the-top Fourth of July Parade. People line the streets from Park Street, the main mercantile area, down Otis Drive, making a sharp right onto Grand Avenue and then jogging down Encinal to Central Avenue, and on to Webster Street.

Which doesn't mean anything to you if you're not from Alameda. But the thing about Alameda is that the first question an Alamedan asks you if you live in Alameda is "What street do you live on?" That question contains multitudes -- including whether you live along the parade route or not. And if you live anywhere along the route, you should plan to be hosting a big get-together. For a number of years, I went to the annual Foote family pig roast, all part of the 4th of July festivities.

I went with my parents who still live in town (on Bay Farm, since you ask) and we snagged some good and relatively shady spots on Otis Drive, right across from the park. We got there plenty early and entertained ourselves in a thoroughly disreputable manner.

Sudoku! and a book! Tch.
There's a 5K race for charity along the route before the parade starts, although "race" is a relative term. The last of the racers kind of ambled along, passing the place where my parents and I were sitting mere minutes before the first color guard and Army Pipe and Drum band kicked things off.

Oh, but I should mention the tract!

Between the racers and the parade, a man came by and handed us a tract with the words, "Don't litter." And here's what it looked like:

If you must...

Would you be astonished to learn that the question he wished to ask -- well, actually, that the tract wished to ask as the man who had told us not to litter had already gone on to tell other people not to litter -- is "Has anyone ever taken a Bible and shown you how you can know for sure that you are going to heaven?"

Uh boy.

I noticed that there was not one mention of love throughout this tract. Not once. Lots about what miserable sinners we all are and how grateful we should be that Jesus died for us, being such miserable sinners and all. But no love at all. What an appalling waste. I may not have littered, but it was still trash. (Though it gets 5 stars on, in case you're interested in getting some for yourself.)

Anyway, I got all worked up about that, so it's a good thing the parade came along.

The wonderful thing about the Alameda parade is that it is a fabulous mix of homegrown talent, commercial enterprise, and civic responsibility. You start with the mayor and the council members and the U.S. Congressperson, and the local utilities, and the local hospital, get the idea. They all ride in the backs of fancy convertible cars, waving and saying, "Happy 4th of July!" as people mostly stare at them, which must be tiring.

But then you get things like the local school bands. I was mighty pleased to see my middle school Alma Mater, the Lincoln Lions, marching and playing very well, if you ask me.

They came in 1st in the "Bands, Marching" category. That's as opposed to "School Band -Transported."
Because some of them travel the parade route on a flatbed. Lincoln, though, is HARD-CORE! Go Lions!

But it must be noted that after a while the parade become a bit of a walking (or floating) infomercial for pretty much every business in Alameda. I highly approve of Ole's Waffle Shop, who really did make an effort with their float:

I took this too late for you to see clearly the folks sitting at the coffee shop counter on the flatbed.

But I thought the company who included "Ask us about our special promotional offer!" on their sign might have been a bit tasteless. And I'm not sure the local tow truck company needed to have four trucks in the parade. Unless they were planning to work as well.

It's a great opportunity for the local community organizations, too. As the floats go by, people hand out flyers and information (and toss candy). I don't know how much interest they get from being in the parade, but it sure can't hurt.

I didn't take this photo. It gives you a good picture of Park Street!

After a while, all the floats just float on by together and you take the opportunity to say hello to friends you haven't seen for a while, catch up on what's happening, find out who's been reading your blog (hi, Mark!), promise to take a mimosa since people keep insisting, and generally enjoy the vibe.

And then, after the tow trucks have gone by and you realize you have had your fill of Alameda's civic life, you wander on back to your car and head on home, wondering how many participants there are going to be next year. And will it top the 176 groups and bands and businesses and civic leaders that participated this year.

I guess someday I'll tire of it, but it has a lot of charm. I'm glad to celebrate the 4th in this way. I hope you had a grand celebration as well.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

4th of July Safety Tip

Because we care.

Yes, your duty as a patriotic American does not include using any bodily orifice as a launching pad. Just remember that.

More details on the fraternity brother (natch) who established this timeless truth here and here.

Have a wonderful 4th of July, wherever you are.

h/t to legal eagle Laura Talley Guyer for sharing this story.