Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas in Vallejo

This story came to me through a neighborhood email list. I asked the teacher in the email if he'd let me share the story on my blog and he said "Of course. That's the idea: to keep it growing. Please delete my name, though." 

So here, name deleted, is a report from DAP's classroom in Vallejo.

Dear Neighbors, Our Winter Auction was a great success THANKS TO ALL OF YOU! The Vallejo Heights Neighborhood Association joined our Bay Terrace group in supporting the classroom's Winter Auction this year, allowing the students to get gifts for their family and friends that they otherwise would not be able to afford. And your response was truly moving.

It was such a big event that word spread through the school, kids hanging outside the classroom just to get a glimpse of the mountain of donations that had been accumulating for the last few weeks. In fact, it caused a bit of a commotion. At the end of the day, as we all prepared for a long vacation, some of my colleagues told me that I was a great teacher; and to those with whom I am close, I confided that I was just an average teacher of curricula, but a pretty good teacher of love (thanks to my mom). And as you read on, you'll see how the love you showed by donating so generously will continue to grow for a long time to come.

Prior to the very morning of the Auction, I assumed that claiming one of the five $20 Target gift cards, or one of four $15 Best Buy cards, or maybe the digital camera would be the single most popular item in this year's Auction. Along with some extra large stuffed animals - some of which even sang and danced - and a lot of new electronic items, I think they were leading the pack. But on the morning of the Auction, I received a lovingly-used bicycle. And when it rolled into class, I knew that practically every child in that moment really wanted that bright green, slick-looking bike.

And they did. Without a doubt. Each of them wanted it. For themselves. "Give it to me" was an omnipresent sentiment... Then, out of the back of the class, I heard a student call out, "Let's give it to Javier, so he can get to school." Javier - not his real name - is one of my students, whose single mother has a work schedule that interferes with transportation to and from school. In fact, just the day before, I had asked the kids to find out if they could help Javier with rides. He was being bullied when he walked back and forth from school to his home near Kaiser Hospital (a distance of about 3 miles!). Javier is a boy of above average intellect and has great potential, if he can just overcome the obstacles which he confronts and in which he played no part in creating.

Despite the palpable lust for that bright green bike that charged the room, another voice chimed in, "Yeah! Let's give it to Javier!" Of course, I could have, but I told them that I couldn't just give it away, since it was donated to an auction in which they were supposed to buy items with money earned for good behavior. The kids knew that Javier didn't have a lot off class money, because so frequently he was absent or late. But I also told them that if Javier made a bid and no one bid any higher, he'd automatically get the bike. Since Javier was late as usual, he had heard none of this.

The auction continued after Javier's arrival with a few more items - a bath robe, scented candles, a baby blanket and bib - and I made sure to wait until he understood how it worked before I brought out the bike. Typically, the kids just yell out, "Five dollars!" "Ten dollars!" (and even "$100" for the largest gifts), with the loudest voice driving the bids. You know, an open auction. Competitive. But with thirty-three 11-year-olds. When I rolled the bike across the floor, I asked, "And what is my bid for this almost-new bright green bike," and I paused before adding, "Javier?" Surprised at being singled-out when no one else had been before, he fumbled with his meager stash of cash before making his bid, which he knew was too low to win. "Fifty dollars."

Now I was on the line, personally. Not to make this about me, it's not. It's about my precious kids... what I'm trying to teach them between integers and earthquakes and Ancient India... and it's about all of you who made such kind donations. But to continue, I wondered whether they would show me that they had learned the lesson I teach and reteach and teach again: "From Egocentrism to Altruism." I know it sounds too advanced for sixth graders; but with a little help, they come to understand it. And in this moment, I would understand whether or not I had been successful. If everyone was quiet, they were putting Javier's needs before their own desires. But if someone spoke, I would know that I had not yet reached them all.

And someone did speak. As those first vibrations of sound moved through the air, I thought that I had failed. But when they reached my ears in their fullness, I knew the students had learned how to be altruistic. "Don't say anything!" came the hushed admonition from the crowd, along with an ample chorus of "Shhh!"s, until there wasn't a sound in the room. Complete silence. "Well, Javier, it looks like you've got yourself a new bike, young man," I told him, more pleased than I've felt in a very long time. The other students cheered and surrounded him, before escorting him to his new bike and intentionally making a big deal of how awesome it was. I shed a couple of tears in class that day and Javier arrived bright and early and on time for school the very next day.

Call me crazy, but that's a holiday miracle in my book (and if you know much about 11-year-olds, probably in yours, too). And as you all can imagine, the love didn't stop growing there. One item after another was scooped up, wrapped, and taken away, until well over 100 gifts had been purchased with money earned for actively demonstrating responsibility, good citizenship and altruism. Some gifts were delivered right away, causing a few tears and a lot of hugs - I've been told - while others were stashed away to be a proud surprise.

But rather than me recounting their gratitude in my words, here are some of their own - a little cleaned-up - from thank you notes addressed,

Dear Neighbors, 

You guys are like the world's BEST neighbors! It's heart-warming that you are so sweet and caring and awesome. 

 The gifts I got made me feel like this is the best Christmas ever! 

 This is the first Christmas that I [was able to] give my mom a present... Thank you! 

 If you guys [hadn't] donated, I wouldn't have anything to give out this Christmas. I hope you have a great Winter Holiday! 

 I love that you give to people you don't know. I'm very thankful for that. 

 I feel great because I know there are still generous people in Vallejo. 

 I appreciate the fact that people I have never met before would offer so much to our class. 

 And the love just keeps growing, moving among us, being paid forward even as you read this, perhaps:

 [In addition to gifts for my family,] I got a gold-wrapped chocolate box. I gave it to a very poor family that I see a lot in the park. It made them tear up. 

 I didn't get myself anything because I want my family to be happy. That will make me happy this Christmas. 

 I think this is the sweetest and kindest thing anyone can do. Thank you very much for everything you have done. I hope we can return the favor! 

 Well, they did for me. How about you? THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Prayer by Langston Hughes

I ask you this:
Which way to go?
I ask you this:
Which sin to bear?
Which crown to put
upon my hair?
I do not know,
Lord God,
I do not know. 
                    -Langston Hughes

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

I just finished reading Stuff, which was recommended at a presentation I recently went to on hoarding, led by one of the staff members of the Institute on Aging (an excellent resource itself). Stuff was well worth a read, as it paints a portrait of the issue of hoarding that creates at least some understanding but more importantly a deep compassion for those who hoard.

I was surprised by many of the things the authors discovered in their research on hoarders and hoarding, the primary one being that hoarders are, almost without fail, perfectionists. They hoard not because they are slobs, but because they can't bear to think about what would happen if they got it wrong and threw the wrong thing away. It illustrates the psychic (and sometimes almost physical) pain hoarders feel when trying to get in control of their hoarding, and the comfort they feel in what most people see as truly unlivable conditions.

Stuff primarily presents its information through illustrative narratives of the lives of individuals, looking at hoarding through a variety of lenses. At the very end it offers further resources for people looking for help. The authors, Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, have a workbook for treating hoarding behavior that sounds very useful for those seeking personal help to change.

I do wonder if the extreme conditions used throughout the book might do a slight disservice, however, as some who may suffer more mildly from hoarding tendencies may read this and think, "Well, at least I'm not as bad as that." As the authors point out, the problem with hoarding is not the stuff per se, but the pain and distress it causes the hoarder.

As I said earlier, however, the overall sense I got from this book was one of compassion for hoarders and their families. It shows that hoarding is not a moral failing, a weakness,  a sin, or consumerism run amok, but a painful and difficult problem that requires treatment and care.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

This Week in Britishness

As an unrepentant tea drinker I of course lean toward the Anglophilic, but even I have to concede that these two pieces take Britishness to extremes.

The first was an excerpt of a memoir called Coming Up Trumps that I have to admit sounds wonderful, written by the 90-year-old Baronness Trumpington, nee Jean Campbell-Harris, who seems to have been brought up in luxury and been willing to do pretty much anything to anyone at any time. The photo here is the time "when my good friend Tom King – Lord King of Bridgwater – commented that those people who had served in the Second World War were starting to look ‘pretty old’, it was a natural reaction to stick two fingers up at him." As one does when in the House of Lords.

In the snippet in the Daily Mail, the Baronness writes (among other things) of her time at Bletchley Park.
Although essential, the work formed a dull and exhausting routine. Whenever we could, we rushed up to London and danced all night, then ate enormous breakfasts at a Lyons Corner House, with fake scrambled eggs, fake everything. We always went to the 400, a nightclub on Leicester Square that doesn’t exist any more. We had such happy parties there. I was horrified once because I was at one table with a boyfriend and I looked round and saw my brother at another table with a girlfriend. That was bad enough. But then I looked round again and there, at a third table, was my father. With a girlfriend.
I will have to get my hand on this memoir when it comes out.

And the second moment of Extreme Britishness...well, this is where I have to admit that I regularly and very happily listen to The Deadline, the weekly obits podcast produced by the Daily Telegraph. And there is this very odd section in the middle about letters written to the Telegraph that almost makes me wonder if it's a parody of Britishness.

Take this week, for instance, in which there is a segment about letters on "the proper way to fold fitted sheets" that somehow leads us to King Alfred bowling the cakes, George II's son Fred "who was killed by a cricket ball," and Rule Britannia...I'm still not sure how that worked. You'll just have to listen to it yourself. And say no to the tyranny of hospital corners.

Now, mustache news...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The World Vision Thing

h/t to the Millennial Pastor for
the great image (& responses)
You heard about this, right?

On Monday, World Vision announced in Christianity Today that it was changing its hiring policy so that gay Christians in legal marriages could be hired. Rich Stearns, president of World Vision, explained the policy change this way:
"It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there," he said. "This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support." "We're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us," said Stearns. "This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church."
The shit immediately hit the fan with close to 5,000 people canceling their sponsorships of children. In less than 48 hours, Stearns announced that the board reversed the decision, saying it was a mistake.
"We made certainly in retrospect was a bad decision, but we did it with the right motivations. We weren’t trying to harm, or trying to find revenue, we weren’t doing it for wrong motives. We were trying to find some kind of solution to a divisive issue that would create some space of togetherness around differences within the church. Our regret is that we caused more division instead of finding a place of more unity."
So by Wednesday, I had a fair number of thoughts going through my head. Let me see if I can set them out in any sort of coherent order.

First of all, I'm hugely disappointed by how this whole thing played out. And although I'm upset at those who decided to withdraw their sponsorship of children, I have to admit I understand it. I have not been a financial supporter of World Vision in part because of its conservative Christian background (not the only reason, but one of them). So I'm certainly in the same boat as people who don't want to support an organization that they think represents values counter to their own.

I'm much more disappointed with World Vision, for a few reasons:
  • They (apparently) didn't anticipate this. Really? Knowing the political climate we live in, knowing the reactive nature of our current Christian culture, knowing that homosexuality is THE hot button topic...they hadn't thought through the plan? 
  • They didn't give this any time. Rachel Held Evans had begun rallying the troops to solicit new donors. I suspect many other church leaders would have done the same. I'd come home on Tuesday, after learning about the reaction, planning to donate to World Vision as a show of support for this change, knowing they were getting a beating. But they reversed the decision so quickly, I hadn't gotten to it yet. 
  • It seems tremendously short-sighted. They said they weren't trying to find revenue, and that may be true, but I think they lost a great deal of revenue in the long run by the reversal. Look at these charts, people! Do you see which way these lines are trending? 

  • It's inconsistent. Of course, if opposition to the marriage of same-sex couples truly were one of the fundamental principles under which World Vision operates, then looking at the approval rates would be irrelevant. However, one post I read this week noted that World Vision Canada has had a non-discriminatory hiring policy for over 15 years. Which leads me to believe
  • This is a failure of leadership, not a principled decision. Was it based on the financials? It certainly could be. Their latest 990 (financial reporting) shows that expenses were higher than income in 2011 and 2012, at an increasing rate, so there may be serious financial pressures at work. But I am reminded of Friedman's book A Failure of Nerve, which explains that leadership means holding fast in the face of conflict, rather than immediately reacting to loud and negative voices. 
I was appalled at this particular statement in Stearns' retraction: "We’re learning that a number of people are calling back since the reversal to reinstate their sponsorship. They’re forgiving; they’re saying, ‘Hey we stand with you.’” That, sir, is not forgiveness, any more a child stopping a tantrum after you buy him a toy means the child has forgiven you.

I wish them the best, but I continue to believe this was a huge mistake.

FWIW, here are some of the international aid organizations to which I contribute, in case you're looking for other organizations to support:

Against Malaria Foundation: www.againstmalaria.com
CA Bikes: cabikes.org
Evidence Action: www.evidenceaction.org
Kiva: www.kiva.org
Partners in Health: www.pih.org

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review: Twenty Feet from Stardom

I remember thinking when it came out that I'd wanted to see this, but it wasn't until it won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature that I finally got around to watching Twenty Feet from Stardom.

This film literally shines the spotlight on the back-up singers of the hits for the past 50 years, and it's revelatory. You will not believe how many of these voices you know intimately from songs fronted by performers ranging from Gene Autry to the Rolling Stones to Sting to Nine Inch Nails.

I don't think it escapes anyone's notice that the primary front-line vocalists are white men and the back-up singers are black women. One of the wonderful choices the director made at the beginning of the film is to blot out the faces of the stars on the album covers so we finally take the time to notice the various "ettes" behind them. What makes it clear is these women aren't diminutive. They are divas and forces to be reckoned with.

The story of the vocals on Gimme Shelter is particularly eye-opening. Merry Clayton, pregnant and home asleep, is awakened and told she needs to come to the studio to do some vocals for "The Rolling Somethings." She shows up in curlers, as both she and Mick Jagger remember, and in three takes, screams out "Rape! Murder! It's just a shot away." Then goes home to bed. In this great video interview in the NY Times, Clayton explains that she was just looking to go back to sleep. She also prods the director to reveal the real reason the producer wanted to make the film.

Another of the featured singers, Lisa Fischer, has been touring with the Rolling Stones since 1989, doing this very vocal. Although she has won a Grammy for a solo R&B performance, the solo career never really came to fruition, and she seems at peace with her role in the background.

It's much harder for others, and neither peace nor success is easy to come by. Darlene Love, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 ("And about time, too," Bette Midler says, introducing her), was royally screwed over by Phil Spector as she sought to be recognized as a performer in her own right. Watching the film gave new insight into her performance accepting the Oscar, as she sang "I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He's watching me." He's not the only one at this point. And about time, too.

I can't recommend this film highly enough.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nairobi Blue and beauty

Somewhere between being introduced to Peacebang's Beauty Tips for Ministers, watching Project Runway and the September Issue, following Tom and Lorenzo's blog, and reading Grace Coddington's memoir, I find that I've become interested in fashion. Who knew that would happen?

So I watched the red carpet coverage of the Oscars in part because I was dying to see what Lupita Nyong'o was going to wear. As what's-his-face interviewed her about who she was wearing (Prada, and again, who is this person who remembers that?), she explained that the color was "Nairobi blue" because it reminded her of the sky in Kenya.

And I thought to myself, We have just seen a new color name be born. 

Sure enough, moments later on Twitter and in news reports that followed, people were writing about her Nairobi blue dress.

And I thought, how fabulous that from now on the name Nairobi will be connected in people's minds to beauty.

That wasn't the first wonderful gift to beauty that Lupita had offered. Aside from the way she carried herself throughout the awards season, she also gave an amazing speech at the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. Do read the whole thing, but this is the part that grabbed me hard:
I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty. Black beauty. Dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: "Dear Lupita," it reads, "I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me."
One of the things I have been learning is that how we appear is not frivolous. How we present ourselves is not a mere outward show. It's a form of communication, and the messages it sends can be very powerful.

Again, do read the whole speech, but she ends with this:
What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.
Just beautiful.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

We're finally getting some rain!

We also got this:

What? Where?

Oh, you mean this?

And I'd do it again!
We should have named him YOLO.*

(*note for my parents: this is internet for You Only Live Once)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lent Madness is coming!

Yesterday may have marked 3 weeks until the beginning of Lent, but more importantly today marks 3 weeks until the beginning of Lent Madness. Yes, indeed, the saintly contest begins again. And here's the official info from the Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee:

Lent Madness 2012
Lent Madness 2014

The Saintly Smack Down!

Grit, determination, perseverance. These are the traits, along with the obvious one — holiness — that will be needed to win the 2014 Lent Madness Golden Halo. Based loosely on the NCAA basketball tournament, Lent Madness pits 32 saints against one another in a single-elimination bracket. It is also a wildly popular online devotional designed to help people learn about saints.

Lent Madness began in 2010 as the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck, an Episcopal priest and rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts. In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women who make up the church’s calendar of saints, Schenck came up with this unique Lenten devotion. Combining his love of sports with his passion for the lives of the saints, Lent Madness was born on his blog “Clergy Family Confidential.”

Starting in 2012, Schenck partnered with Forward Movement (the same folks that publish Forward Day by Day) executive director the Rev. Scott Gunn, and Lent Madness went viral, reaching over 50,000 people and getting mentioned in everything from the Washington Post to USA Today, to Sports Illustrated (seriously).

Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch. It’s fun, it’s informative, it’s the saintly smack down!

This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. The 2014 heavyweights include Thomas Merton, Catherine of Siena, J.S. Bach, David of Wales, John Wesley [ed. note: one of mine], Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Joseph of Arimathaea [ed. note: also one of mine]. The full bracket is online at the Lent Madness website.

New this year is the publication of the Saintly Scorecard — The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2014. Available through Forward Movement, it contains biographies of all 32 saints to assist those who like to fill out their brackets in advance, in addition to a full-color pull-out bracket.

This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” March 6. To participate, visit www.lentmadness.org, where you can also print out a bracket for free to see how you fare or “compete” against friends and family members. Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas.

Ten “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project including the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, KY; the Rev. Penny Nash of Williamsburg, VA; Dr. David Creech of Morehead, MN; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, MO; Canon Heidi Shott of Newcastle, ME; the Rev. David Hendrickson of Denver, CO; the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, CA; the Rev. David Sibley of Brooklyn, NY; the Rev. Laura Darling of Oakland, CA [ed. note: close enough]; and the Rev. Maria Kane of Houston, TX. Information about each of the celebrity bloggers is available on the Lent Madness website.

If you’re looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, join the Lent Madness journey. Lent needn’t be all doom and gloom. After all, what could be more joyful than a season specifically set aside to get closer to God?

Forward Movement is a ministry of The Episcopal Church dedicated to making disciples and sharing the Good News. With offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Forward Movement has worked since 1935 to reinvigorate the life of the church.

So there you go. Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

World In Prayer prayers

World in Prayer has a spiffy new website!

It was my week to write the prayers and I simply didn't have the time I would have liked to give to them. The salt of the earth, light of the world reading from the lectionary this morning was a natural jumping off point, but my reading of the news was more of a skim of the headlines. I found myself thinking, "Blah blah blah, Syria, Russia, drought. Isn't there anything new and interesting going on?" I feel like I didn't do justice to any of the things in the news, and so I am grateful to other people for holding the prayers for me this week.

The other piece I added was about how we can be salt and light in our local situations. With all my blah-de-blah attitude, one thing I pondered was how we need to be salt and light right where we are, and that there is so much that needs salt and light that will never make it in the papers. So I wanted to bring that out. 

But as I said, these prayers were quite rushed and I feel I didn't hit the mark I would have liked. Still...here they are.

World News This Week in Prayer – Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jesus, you call us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. May we shine the light of your peace and love to its farthest corners as we remember your world in our prayers.

We pray for Russia as it hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi, for the athletes who have come to compete, and for those displaced from their homes to make way for the sporting venues.

We pray for North Carolina (USA) where tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River have affected the area’s drinking water.

We pray for Pakistan and the Taliban as they enter into peace talks.

We pray for Syria where the government has reached a deal allowing civilians to leave the besieged city of Homs.

We pray for the more than 1,100 African migrants rescued by the Italian navy, and for all those fleeing their home due to conflict or lack of resources.

We pray for California (USA) as it suffers from severe drought and for other parts of the US experiencing extreme cold, and for those affected by these conditions.

We pray for women throughout the world, especially for the women of Iraq, thousands of whom are detained illegally and subject to abuse.

And we pray for those needs close to home and close to our hearts.

We pray for those areas of pain and conflict that never reach the headlines and yet are still of immense importance to us and to you, O Lord.

We pray for strength and courage to be salt, to be light, to be peace, to be love to our neighbors here at home and to our neighbors throughout the world. Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lessons from the Greensboro Four

A little over a week ago, I read this obituary for Franklin McCain who, with three others, all college freshmen, staged a sit-in at the Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC in 1960.
It was not the first such sit-in. After the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate the public schools in 1954, activists tried to integrate lunch counters in Oklahoma City, Baltimore and other cities on the periphery of the segregated South. There had been similar efforts in the Deep South, particularly in Orangeburg, S.C., in 1955 and ’56 and in Durham, N.C., in 1957. 
But the Greensboro episode, by most estimations, had the widest impact, inviting national publicity and inspiring a heightened level of activism among college students and other youths. Later that year, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most effective civil rights groups, was born in Southern black colleges.
Here's a picture from the beginning of the sit in (Franklin McCain is wearing glasses):

And here's a picture from day 6 of the protest:

 As the obit reports, "By the 5th day, more than a thousand had arrived." The sit-in began on February 1, 1960. They were finally served on July 25.

On this Martin Luther King holiday, I was thinking about what lessons I could draw from this particular story. One is that you need your friends. Another is that a small action can have much larger ramifications. Another is to be very specific about what you're going to do and what result you hope to achieve. Another is to expect it to take time. So much to learn.

Can I say also that I love the fact that McCain stayed in North Carolina after he graduated, worked for 35 years as a chemist, raised a family, and retired there. On the website for February 1, a documentary made about the sit-in, the bio for McCain notes, "As a resident of Charlotte, he has served on many boards and worked towards changes in local educational, civic, spiritual and political life." I bet he has.

Here's a picture of the Greensboro Four, taken at the Woolworth's counter in 1990. Franklin McCain is the one lifting the cup of coffee.

Well done, sirs.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: The World's End

It made sense to me to watch The World's End on New Year's Eve, focusing as it does on heavy drinking and, potentially, an apocalypse. Of course, I've been a big fan of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright movies since watching Shaun of the Dead (which, come to think of it, I may have forced my family to watch on New Year's Eve many years ago).

This may be my favorite of the Cornetto Trilogy. At any rate, this and Shaun are neck and neck. And the reason, I think, I'm so impressed is that The World's End is willing to have a strong current of sadness. Not a heart-tugging moment, but a sadness that starts from the very first scene and continues throughout.

The sadness resides particularly in the manic and deeply addicted Gary King who "gets the band back together," cajoling his high school mates into completing the 12-pub pub crawl they abandoned back in the '90's. There's a desperation in his need to drink these pints dry, a kind of magical thinking as he makes his way from pub to pub despite the obstacles in his path.

If you don't know what the obstacles are, I'm not going to spoil it for you here. I will say, however, that Pierce Brosnan uses all his suavity to creepy effect in a brief scene. He makes his proposition sound so reasonable.

I may be influenced by the fact that I listened to interviews both with Simon Pegg and with Edgar Wright before seeing the film, which added extra insight in to some of what I saw. Great interviews -- though maybe only for fans.

I will also add that I vote for "blue bloods" over "blanks." Funniest scene in the movie. You'll see what I mean.