Saturday, December 23, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent

I've lost my breath.
I've lost my words.
I've lost my way.

I light the thin candle
sweep the dusty corners
search where shadows fall.

Can these eyes see light
in these dark times?
Greet the demon within
as a forgotten friend?

The dusty corners
the ego webs
the lonely shadows
the useless hands.

Wait at the door.
Catch my breath.
Forget my need for words.

Wait for air to spark flame.
Wait for shadows to unfold.
Wait for dust to settle
at the doorsill.

Search diligently
for cause
to rejoice.
"... what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
"And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Luke 15:8-10

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Man of Last Year

The man of last year
is an internal legend
a hero of suburban lawns

The man of last year
is watching the neon
and deciphering the new moon

The man of last year
is taking his pulse
wearing a second-hand fedora

The man of last year
is partially forgotten
he sees you with barren eyes

The man of last year
holds court in the royal recliner
for one small era longer

The man of last year
with his straw hair
and mercury mind
with his mirrored glasses
and clipped diction
with his thin long fingers
and his ruptured voice

The man of last year
is not looking for
a hold out

The man of last year
is already lost
in the almanac's idex

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Idée d’jour

After studying church history, I can see why people believe in hell. I just can't figure out why all Christians don't go there.
— anonymous seminarian, quoted in a Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren, Zondervan, 2004

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:7-18
I do not look remarkable. My clothes are not shabby, but they were clearly bought at a second-hand shop. But you will remember me.

I am standing at the foot of small hill, on top of a short retaining wall. I am standing, to be exact, in front of Dale Hall, at the southwest corner of Lindsey and Asp.

It is hard to say whether I am speaking to the crowd that has gathered. It's entirely possible I would be speaking even if no one were in front of me. Judging by the size of the crowd, you might think I am shouting. But, as you draw closer, you can tell that I am speaking in a conversational tone:

"I cannot keep silent. The words burn within me. For I had a vision in the womb, before I was born: I saw all that was false in this world burned away; I saw the ax laid to the roots of a rotted tree. I saw the leaders brought low. I saw the poor man raised up.

"I cannot keep silent. The words burn within me. How did you come to know this is the acceptable time? What wind brought you to this place, ahead of the consuming fire? Can it be you are ready to turn your life upside down?

"I cannot keep silent. You, who wear your dress so short: it seems you are lonely; it seems you want to be held. Would you trade your body for comfort? Would you trade your soul for company?

"The words burn within me. You, who jeer at my words: you believe the world is defined by your five senses and your definition of order. Did you stew the cosmic soup? Can you define the moment the mitochondria volunteered its service? How can you be sure you have understood rightly?

"I cannot keep silent. I can tell you feel secure behind your wall of money. You feel justified by a rich house and a high paying job. I tell you, your money and your house will be nothing but ash in the time to come. God is a consuming fire, with no patience for falsehood, pretense, or mere things that pass away.

"The words burn within me. Do not think your church or synagogue will save you. You only speak the words once a week. You do not follow the path the words map for you. Do not be deluded: empty words will not save you from the time to come.

"I cannot keep silent. The words burn within me. For I saw the consuming fire when I was still in the womb."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Idée d’jour

Your neighbor's vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you.
— Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher (1864-1936)

You are right from your side, and I am right from mine
We're both one too many mornings, and a thousand miles behind.
— Bob Dylan

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

Suggested by Songbird
  1. It's a Wonderful Life --Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time?
    I first saw this movie on Public Television some time in the late 70s or early 80s, before it became a classic, and therefore worthy of the schlock treatment NBC has given it the past several years.
       I do remember liking it the very first time I saw it. I haven't watched it for at least two years. I haven't bought the DVD, and I can't stand the current broadcast version - in which a 90 minute movie is extended to three hours.

  2. Miracle on 34th Street-- old version or new ?
    The original, black & white version.

  3. Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge?
    My introduction to this story was via Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. So, this is a sentimental favorite.
    Among live action versions, I'm quite fond of Alastair Sim.

  4. Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it.
    Considering the fact that elves probably eat a lot of candy, an in-house dentist would seem quite desirable.
       On the other hand, with a relatively limited labor force, management is justified in wanting all workers to do the job for which they were hired.
       Given the Head Elf's extreme reaction, it's also possible he's no happier in his job than Hermey is. So he finds Hermey's non-conformism threatening.

  5. Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies?
    I was frightened by Bumble the first time I saw Rudolph; this was the original airing, in 1964. I was 9 years old. The program was sponsored by GE, and I think some of the commercials included the characters from the show.
       The scene was a classic cliff-hanger: it appeared that Bumble was going to eat Rudolph's mom and Clarrisa, then cut to commercial. That was pretty scary.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Idée d’jour

If you have the same ideas as everybody else but have them one week earlier than everyone else then you will be hailed as a visionary. But if you have them five years earlier you will be named a lunatic.
— Barry Jones, politician, author (1932- )

Tao de Bun

If there were no black bunnies, how would we recognize white bunnies?
Art by Rick

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Hypochondria

My hypochondria is getting a work-out today.

For example: Do you think I should be worried about my left arm being kind of tingly?

Or: What about this pain and swelling on the left side of my chest, just above my heart?

Maybe it started last Wednesday night. I went to a dinner at church immediately after work, got home around 7:30. Drank some Desert Sage Tea. Noticed my back was a little tight, but didn't think anything of it.

By the time I went to bed, my back hurt so badly, I could barely sleep.

When I woke up last Thursday morning, I was in such pain I could barely walk. Honest! It took five minutes to walk from the bedroom to the bathroom – normally a 30 second stroll.

I called in sick, which I very rarely do.

Thanks to a Thermapak ® and some over-the-counter muscle relaxant (primary ingredient: benedril), I was ambulatory on Friday and could return to work.

My back has loosened up considerably since then, though I'm aware of a low-level ache.

Now, regarding my heart, you should know I have a condition called paroxymal ventricle tachycardia &nash; meaning, one of the valves in my heart "sticks". Prior to diagnosis and meds, my heart literally skipped a beat. Maybe why I'm especially sensitive to waltzes and 3/4 time signatures.

This condition was diagnosed almost ten years ago, and a calcium-channel blocker was prescribed. I've been on that calcium-channel blocker ever since, and have not had significant heart problems since.

My script ran out on Monday. The story of why it took almost a week (I requested a refill last Wed) is almost too frustrating to relate. But I noticed the chest pain Monday evening.

Still hurt Tuesday morning. I noticed the swelling in the shower. Let's just say my bosom is lop-sided. The right side is flat; the other isn't.

Panic theory: the bad valve is sticking really badly, blood is backing up, and my heart is going to explode any moment.

Or, I've got that disease Dylan almost died of a few years ago – fluid build-up around the heart.

Calm theory: somehow, without realizing it, I compensated for the back ache and strained some muscles on that side of the chest.

You see, I'm well aware of my tendency to jump to the worst scenario when my health is involved. But I wait a few days – at least a week – before I call my doctor.

Oh yeah. That left-arm tingling thing? Pretty sure it's from a muscle group in my left shoulder.

And the good news is that I can (and will) get the refill of my calcium channel blocker on the way home. So, if the pain and swelling is somehow related to my heart, and the medication will help resolve it, I should be OK within a day or two.

Til then, my hypochondria is having a field day.

Idée d’jour

If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance.
— Andrea Boydston

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Virgin of Guadalupe

Blessed Mother, my chest aches:
right here, above my heart.
Will you press your lips here
and open
this secret eye?

Blessed Mother,
will you hold me,
wrap me in your scraps?
Wrap me in your rose blanket,
your wild blazing light?

Blessed Daughter,
child with child,
will you come to me?
Let me protect you,
build you a shelter
against desert cold.

Blessed Mother,
treasure this in your heart.
Today is the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fun with Widgets

As with the "Bird-Day" graphic below, this childish drawing was created with a "widget" found on Birdie's new site. You'll find the smallish drawing pad in the right column of her site.

Draw a picture. Save it. Post the link in Birdie's comments. Tell her Jonah sent ya.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Idée d’jour

Men can read maps better than women. 'Cause only the male mind could conceive of one inch equaling a hundred miles.
— Roseanne Barr

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent

God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground...
Baruch 5:1-9

Someone driving through Oklahoma on I-35 could be forgiven for believing it is basically flat, because few mountains – much less hills – are visible from the interstate.   Oklahoma has what are known as old mountains.   These are mountains that have been worn down by geological forces such as wind and rain, to the point that they seem no more than hills.

Yet,   it's all a matter of perspective.   I grew up in the relatively flat centrally located   capital city.   At least twice a year, my family would drive south on Highway 77, part of which ran through Turner Falls.   Turner Falls was a park area which included a winding road through hillsides.    This road did not have guard rails; as a young boy looking out the passenger window, I thought the car would go over the edge at any minute.

There are times I feel like the old mountains of Oklahoma. There are times when it seems the demands of the business world have worn me down. There are times when my personality and personal choices seem to have been washed away by a desire to “fit in” with a particular culture at a particular time. There are times when it seems the “real me” will fall over the edge at any minute.

The prophets Baruch and Isaiah seem to promise that God will make life a smooth path, easily navigable. The valleys will be filled up, and the mountains brought low.   I think these verses may have more to do with my internal geography than actual valleys and mountains.

Where my ego has become puffed up and mountainous, it will be brought low. Where my gifts have been buried by social or internal pressures, they will be raised up. What is called for is a renewed perspective: that I seek to perceive this internal terrain from God's perspective, rather than my own or society's.

Prayer.   Blessed are you, Lord God. Blessed are you, for you erode my pride and sustain my gifts. Blessed are you, seeing me fully and truly.   Blessed are you for your indwelling Spirit. Blessed are you for the gift of Wisdom.   Blessed are you that my eyes be cleansed to see with the clarity of your Spirit. I pray in your Holy Name. Amen.

Idée d’jour

It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.
— Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel laureate (1918-1988)

Happy Bird-Day

Share belated "Bird-Day" greetings with the dancing lady, who now nests at La Pajaro.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Five: Christmas Songs

Courtesy Reverend Mother
  1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.
    "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"; out of context, it is suitably "secular generic" - it extolls homey virtues of being with friends and family while ignoring any religious context for the holiday.
       In the context of the movie in which it was introduced – Judy Garland sang it to Margaret O'Brien in Meet Me In St. Louis – it is more bittersweet. In the song, Judy's character is trying to reassure O'Brien's character that a move (from St. Louis to New York) would not affect their family and its traditions.

  2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself — the cheesier the better)
    "O Holy Night". Whether it is cheesy or not depends on the performance. The line "fall on your knees" tends to bring out the ham in most performers - including your correspondent.

  3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
    "Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer". "The Chipmunk Song" is pretty annoying and cloying, but "Grandma" takes the cake. If we truly cherished the "family values" extolled in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" or "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)", we would not find injury to a family member humorous.

  4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.
    "Five golden rings" The one item on the list everybody remembers. I'm rather fond of the spurious notion that 12 days was an underground teaching tool for persecuted Roman Catholics.
       If this song did not exist, the humorous e-mail which details the beloved's response to the gifts would not be nessary (it ends with the beloved threatening a restraining order). That would be a sad loss to folk art.

  5. A favorite Christmas album
    My family would buy a Firestone Christmas LP every year. We had at least 5. By the time I was a teen, I developed the tradition of stacking these LPs on the changer and decorating the tree while I listened.
       I now buy a new Christmas CD every other year or so. One of my favorites remains John Fahey's The Christmas Album. Really nice arrangements that have helped me hear the songs in new ways. I've become especially fond of unique albums, such as Anonymous 4's Lady Mass. This one, focused on the Blessed Virgin, is especially appropriate for Advent, and you won't find a single "traditional" carol on it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Idée d’jour

Suppose you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down.
— Mary Pickford

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dame Julian, 1.Dec.06

Dame Julian, 1.Dec.06

The lady watches the snow melt. She's scratching on the door even as I type this.

First Sunday of Advent

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face ...
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

It almost seems quaint to want to see your friends face to face. Paul did not have instant messaging, e-mail, or You Tube. Heck, he didn't have a telephone or television. Aside from personal visits, the only means he had of keeping in touch with diverse far-flung missions was through his letters.

We now have a number of ways of keeping in touch with our friends that don't require physical travel. Or even a phone call. With minimal investment, for example, we can digitally record videos of ourselves and share them electronically with friends – and, often, the world.

Paul longs to visit the mission in Thessalonica so he may "restore what is lacking in [their] faith." Now, I'm not as bold as Paul; I do not presume to have the ability or charisma to build up others' faith. More often than not, I'm the one whose faith needs shoring up. And it's not unusual for me to feel that my faith has been strengthened, in one way or another, by what I think of as my on-line community.

But the on-line community isn't enough. I think of how much I miss Dana, a high school friend I haven't seen since last Christmas. He has an impressive on-line presence, he's even posted a few of those videos. But I miss seeing him, and spending time with him.

I look forward to seeing friends at church. There are some people who I don't especially like, but I notice their spot in a pew is empty when they're gone any given Sunday.

I suppose these experiences can be approximated on-line. But the on-line experience can not duplicate a warm hand grasping mine. Only by driving across town can I hear a person's tone of voice in that moment, in response to my opinions or concerns. I can only hear the unique blend of joyous voices at a particular time by being present.

I learn how to negotiate with difficult people, or to disagree respectfully, by practicing at church on Sunday. In these ways, my faith is restored.

Idée d’jour

If God lived on earth, all his windows would be broken.
— Jewish Proverb

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day, Dec. 1, 2006

Snow Day, Dec. 1, 2006.

Job was closed yesterday, and today, due to snow. Some areas of the city have up to six inches of snow. And, under the snow, are icy patches awaiting the unwary traveler.

Pictured is the conifer immediately outside the front door, on the west side of the porch. One may see the clear blue sky in the upper left of the picture.

Spent better part of yesterday listening to music and reading Howl's Moving Castle with a certain warm fur ball in my lap. A fine way to spend the day.

Right now, as I stare at the computer screen, I'm listening to Ed Gerhard's the live album; if you enjoy finger-style guitar, this is highly recommended. Included is his fine arrangement of "The Water is Wide."

Idée d’jour

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Year From Hell

Yesterday, I had a brief e-mail exchange with a new blog friend concerning "years from hell." This friend lost her mother a year ago last Saturday, and her father shortly before Thanksgiving. And, in spite of the loss of her father so close to the anniversary of her mother's death, she refers to last year as her "year from hell".

My year from hell began in late 1991. Mary's mother, Dorthy (not a typo) became sick sometime in the late summer or early fall. She possibly had an inkling that she was sick, because she had started to write her life's story shortly before she went into the hospital. I gladly took on the job of typing her handwritten pages.

Dorthy was born sometime in the Depression. Her own mother died when Dorthy was relatively young, and her stepmother seemed less loving by comparison. She was still a pre-teen when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and was sent to live with relatives in New Mexico or Arizona. Thus, as reflected in those handwritten pages, her life began with significant loss, and a sense of rootlessness.

Sadly, Dorthy did not write more than a few pages of her story.

I met Dorthy when Mary and I started dating, in the latter half of the 80s. Dorthy immediately accepted me as part of the family, and loved me as if were another son. She quickly became for me a new positive image of a mother figure. Ironically, Mary came to claim that her mother loved me more than her.

Mary and I were not told what Dorthy's illness was, even after she entered the hospital. Mary suspected it was a form of cancer, related somehow to the TB she suffered early in life. Whatever it was, it claimed her in November of 1991.

Thanksgiving and Christmas had been very special holidays for Dorthy; she always pulled out all the stops. We were acutely aware of our loss as we made our way through November and December. We could have been easily mistaken for zombies.

My father died in January of 1992, just a week after his 65th birthday. As I have said a number of times before, Padre had essentially given up on life almost 15 years previously. Brother Dave once said that Padre had been committing slow-motion suicide from the time he was laid off in 1975. That was Padre's year from hell; his wife Wanda (my step-mother) died that same year.

Despite knowing all this about Padre, I was still pained by his death. I suppose I always held the hope, or fantasy, that he would rediscover life, and the man I had grown up admiring would be restored.

Mary and I drove to Midland, TX, where Padre had spent the last several years of his life in a curious symbiotic relationship with his mother. Our trip was made possible by our church, which passed a special collection plate to help cover our expenses, and a friend who loaned us his gas card. Mary's younger brother loaned us a CB radio to assist with the drive south. There had been some serious snowfall, even as far south as Dallas.

Brother Dave had already dealt with most of the necessary arrangements. The last item was a visit to the bank where Padre had his account. I rode with Dave. It was during this ride that I screwed up the courage to ask for Padre's guitar. As the eldest son, Dave was supposed to inherit the guitar. With tears welling in my eyes, I said I really would like to have it.

Brother Dave simply said that it only made sense that I have it, as I was more likely to play it (he jokes that the only music he plays is on his sound system).

That evening, Mary and I were invited to stay at Gran's, in the bedroom Padre had occupied. This was just too eerie for me, so we stayed at a local motel.

Padre's memorial service was on Saturday. Gran insisted on an open casket, and sat beside it weeping up until the time the service started. I did not even care to think about looking in the casket. I preferred my childhood memory pictures.

Padre's cemetery plot is in OKC, about 30 minutes east of where I now live. His internment was the Friday following his memorial service. Following a tradition he and his siblings had started (Padre was the youngest of four), I laid a single yellow rose - for remembrance - on his coffin.

My biological mother died a year later. But I do not include that loss in the official "Year from Hell".

A month after Padre's death, Bob died. Bob was Mary's brother; Mary was the oldest of three, and Bob was the middle child. The year prior to his death, Bob had become a crack addict, and his death was associated with that. Though I'm pretty sure no explosions were involved.

Both Bob and his mother had served in the Navy, and the "Navy Hymn" ("Eternal Father, Strong to Save") was played at both services. I still get misty when this hymn is played in church. It is, at best, a melancholy mist.

By the point of Bob's funeral, I had developed a routine for the receiving line. Shaking hands and saying, "Thanks for coming" had become as automatic as saying "Amen" at the end of a prayer.

I had the image, in the year or so that followed, that grief comes in waves. At first, it's very intense, like an ocean at high tide. Then, as months and years pass, the waves decrease in intensity. A high wave might reappear with certain anniversaries, but even those waves become smaller, or at least more bearable, with time.

My blog friend had an interesting image for this: "I'm heartened to hear that others have Hell Years and that they fade into some kind of past, maybe not fade from memory or touch, but at least take a back seat on the bus. "

I also think that grief has stages, similar to the ones Elizabeth Kubler-Ross discerned for death & dying. There may not be a one-to-one relationship, but there is definitely some journey from the initial shock to the eventual acceptance.

For New Year's Eve 1992, Mary and I attended the celebration in downtown OKC. The evening concluded with fireworks. Thanks to the city's concrete canyons, it was almost like being under heavy mortar fire (at least the movie version). I had the notion that the fireworks were a form of "destroying" the old year.

So, Mary and I stood on a low retaining wall and shouted the year down: "Good bye!" "Good riddance!" "Be gone!"

It was not a cure, but it was a relief.
Post #1725

Self-Portrait, 28.Nov.06

Self-Portrait, 28.Nov.06

Took this picture with my Canon Rebel last night. Smiling at the thought of my friends, cyber and otherwise. Know that I am thankful for you. Each and everyone.

Shot by natural light, from the lamp to my right.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Published on Sister Blog

I was just published (~7 am MST), on Birdie Jaworksi's blog,
Beauty Dish. You can read my appraisal of Birdie's work here.

As related in that entry, Birdie was kind enough to send a free sample of the Avon Instant Manicure Kit. I wrote a review, and e-mail it to Birdie a little over two weeks ago. Those who know me well know I exerted super-human self-control by not posting it here before Birdie posted it.

The review appears here, if you prefer a direct link. It includes a lovely appreciation of this space, written by Birdie herself. After you've read all that, be sure to visit the rest of her blog - especially her Podcasts. You'll be glad you did. Money-back guarantee.

Idée d’jour

The chip on my shoulder's a little heavy. I have back problems now.
— Janeane Garofalo

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful for YouTube

Where else can you see most of the original Byrds perform "Mr. Tamborine Man" with Bob Dylan?

Judging from Dylan's relative health, and McGuinn's appearance, I'd guess this concert was around the time of the "Before the Flood" tour, early 80s.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just Another Stooge

I am wearing a Three Stooges tie today. I bought it at a church 2nd-Hand shop sometime last year. It features the original members of the troupe: Moe, Larry, and Curly Howard.

When I was young, the best way my grandmother could get me to come in from playing was to say the Three Stooges were on TV. Channel 9 played the syndicated shorts late in the afternoon. To her credit, Grandmother H— took me to a live performance of the Stooges at Springlake Park. I have no doubt this sacrifice alone guaranteed her a star in her heavenly crown.

I wear the tie as a reminder not to take myself too seriously, on my 51st birthday.

Today, November 22, 2006.

It's a date that resonates for a number of people of a certain age, as April 19 and September 11 do for the current generation. It is on this date, in 1963, that President John F. Kennedy was shot.

So, it's a date that has haunted me. For several years following that coincidental tragedy, I declined any special celebration of my birthday.

As the Wikipedia link makes clear, there are a number of other coincidental occurrences on this date. I share the birth date with such luminaries as Hoagy Carmichael and Arthur Hiller. Ironically, original Stooge Shemp Howard died on the day of my birth, in 1955.

I am still haunted by the coincidence of Kennedy's assassination being on my eighth birthday, but I am certainly less sensitive about it.

I strive to grow old gracefully. I sometimes whimper – with tongue in cheek – when I note my receding hairline and enlarging natural tonsure. I am amused that most of my beard is gray, except for a small patch below my mouth. Sometimes, in b&w pictures, this combination makes me look like I have a goatee rather than a beard.

Newcomers to this space may be interested in the biographical sketches I wrote around this time last year. The index appears on this page (see item 7 under "Prose").

I may have been born an "old soul", but I'm getting younger all the time. I'm learning to laugh at myself. I'm beginning to recognize, and celebrate, my foolishness.

I'm just another stooge.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In Memoriam, Robert Altman

I was sad to hear that director Robert Altman passed away last night at the age of 81. I won't say he was a genius, or that I loved every movie he made. But he was unique, if an acquired taste.

The first Altman film I saw was "Mash", as part of a double bill with "Patton". The general irreverence, confusion, and insanity made a deep impression on me. As a young teen boy, I was mildly frustrated by the brief nudity, but otherwise enjoyed the movie.

Padre and I went to see "Nashville" a few years later. Padre was especially impressed with Henry Gibson's jingoist character. Padre perceived the character as a good stab at that personality type (for whom he had little tolerance).

As I say, Altman's work was an acquired taste, and I can't say I necessarily acquired a taste for his style. What I saw, I liked; just not enough to seek out more of the same.

This changed with "The Player", which I loved. I'm fairly certain I saw every film he made afterward. Including what is likely to be his last, "Prairie Home Companion."

I have come to have an appreciation of his style, which helped me to appreciate the work of a number of directors who have similar styles – Alan Parker and Paul Thomas Anderson come immediately to mind. It's not likely we would have films like "Babel" or "Crash", with their interweaving storylines, if not for Altman.

Idée d’jour

The Pueblo Indians told me that all Americans are crazy, and of course I was somewhat astonished and asked them why. They said, "Well, they say they think in their heads. No sound man thinks in his head. We think in our hearts."
- Carl Jung [quoted in Parabola, Fall 2006, p. 43]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Idée d’jour

Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men — bring them softmess, teach them how to cry.
— Joan Baez

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Five: Giving Thanks

As suggested by Songbird: “Please tell us five things or people for which you are thankful this year.”
  1. Brother Dave
    There's no question my older sibling and I are very different people. There's also no question that we each have inherited different qualities from Padre. There are some of Padre's qualities we hold in common – thoughtfullness, political and social liberal, integrity, and melancholia. Lastly, there's no question there is sincere brotherly affection between us, and mutual respect.

  2. Dame Julian
    a.k.a., her royal catness, fierce wild beast, furry fiend (et al)
    My house is less lonely with her charming companionship. There is little so homey and comforting as a cat purring in your lap in the evening.

  3. Friends, such as Pam, Ben, and Mary T. (not an exhaustive list).
    • Pam has proven to be a good friend practically from the day I joined our shared church. She knows how to poke my ego with just the right amount of tenderness. She knows how to be supportive. She's got a good ear, and is also willing to share (to an appropriate degree).

    • My musical collaboration with Ben is a positive experience. It's heartening we made some money at our first gig, and the coffee house owner looks forward to our return. We are mutually respectful, which means a lot to me. I recently expressed the opinion that I thought our instrumental abilities were about equal (about a 5 on a scale of 10), when I was surprised to learn Ben holds my own abilities in higher esteem than his own.

    • Mary T. has been a friend since 1999. She's supportive, and was one of the few non-church-going friends to show up for the gig last week.

  4. Warm bed
    I've been working on a song titled "I Fought the Bed, and the Bed Won", inspired by the fact that it's been a little harder to get out of bed on these chilly mornings. I've got a blanket, comforter, and – sometimes – a warm kitty cat.

    Sample verse: "My feet are chilly, and the room is cold
    The day has just begun;
    Don't call me lazy,
    Don't call me old...
    I fought the bed, and the bed won;
    I fought the bed, and the bed won."

  5. Talent/Giftedness
    I perceive that I am talented in a number of areas - primarily writing and singing. This is not to say I'm accomplished in either.
       I have a pleasant, but untrained, voice. I haven't done anything to deserve my voice. At most, I've done my best to take care of it (I quit smoking over 20 years ago), and to stretch my capabilities without straining the instrument.
       As for my writing, I recognize this talent through others' eyes. Based on the response I've received in the comments on this site, and in person, many people appreciate how I put words together.
       I don't mean to be falsely modest. I struggle to find that middle ground between recognizing where I am gifted, and taking credit for those gifts. "All good gifts," says the Apostle, "come from above." In other words, these talents are just areas in my personality that the Spirit has set a spark.

Idée d’jour

The things we hate about ourselves aren't more real than the things we like about ourselves.
— Ellen Goodman

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Green Tea

I drink a cup of green tea almost every morning, except the rare times I eat out for breakfast or make a four-cup pot of coffee (or single-cup espresso). Since I brew the tea in a travel mug, what I drink is actually equivalent to a cup and a half.

I began this habit late in 2000, after a co-worker gave me a tin of green tea leaves for Christmas. This co-worker is a native of China, and has given me loose-leaf green tea almost every Christmas.

Prior to 2000, the only time I drank green tea was when I ate at a Chinese restaurant. The tea seemed border-line tasteless, or weak.

Now that I brew my own, using leaves and a tea ball, I can make it as strong as I like.

Green Tea tin
The afore-mentioned co-worker recently returned from a month-long visit to China, and brought back a tin of authentic Chinese green tea, pictured above. Using my customary measurement (a rounded spoonfull), and standard brewing time (3 minutes), it makes a strong tea.

“Pile-driver on the tongue,” as I sometimes say. It's a fine way to start the day.

Idée d’jour

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Yesterday, I wanted to check if a pen was still working prior to giving it to someone. I scribbled on a convenient piece of paper, and produced this:
Doodle 1
I've looked at that hap-hazard doodle since yesterday afternoon, and kept feeling like it resembled something. Finally, about an hour ago, it hit me:

It looks vaguely like a cat.

I suppose this has no more Rorschach value than discerning shapes in clouds. And it may have no more artistic value than any other doodle.

"Nutroot" Dream

B*sh and D*ck hunting
big game in dim twilight:
Hello, Prez Pellosi!
N.B. "Nutroot" is a locution coined by Bull Moose. The idea for this "American Haiku" originated with my friend and frequent lunch companion, Dr. Bob.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Idée d’jour

If we justify war, it is because all peoples always justify the traits of which they find themselves possessed, not because war will bear an objective examination of its merits.
— Ruth Benedict

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Gig

My friend Ben and I had our premier performance at the Red Cup last night. We both got there early (contrary to the anxiety dream I reported yesterday). Our mistakes were relatively minor, and I suspect the audience did not notice most of them.

The Red Cup pays performers in chits, rather than money. In other words, we each received a coupon good for $5, redeemable at the Red Cup. I know where I'm going for lunch next Sunday!

There's also a tip jar for the performers. Our friends were very generous (I'm pretty sure they were the only ones who threw money in the jar). My half of the take could buy at least one tank of gas. So, that's nice.

As I mentioned yesterday, our closing number was "A Day in the Life" matched with "Nights in White Satin". A couple of people were impressed we even tried "Day," and said we did well with it.

We had rehearsed some patter ahead of time. We rehearse most weeks in Ben's bedroom; Ben talks to the wall, and I talk to his master bathroom. We both ended up saying different things, and talking more, than we had in rehearsal.

I suppose this is symptomatic of my introversion. Prior to performance, I could barely get out ten words when visiting with Mary. Once I was behind the mike, and had a larger audience, I was practically chatty cathy.

Performance over, sitting back down with my friends, I was Gary Cooper's shy younger brother.

The crowd responded well, even folk who didn't know us. We both enjoyed ourselves, which is pretty important.

Now, back to Ben's bedroom to work on a second set.

Friday Five: What's Red and Blue and Purple All Over?

As suggested by Reverend Mother.

Those of us who are in the United States have just been throught quite a topsy-turvy election. During the campaign we heard a fair amount about red states and blue states, when in fact most of us live in some shade of purple. And so... a lighter look at those confounding colors:
  1. Favorite red food

  2. Tell us about the bluest body of water you've ever seen in person.
    I rode a sail boat on one of the Great Lakes, and destroyed my dress shoes in the Atlantic Ocean. I was drunk when I did the former, it was a stormy day, and overcast.
       Our group went to the Atlantic Ocean after dark, so it was hard to tell how blue it was. Any number of swimming pools have been strikingly blue, but I've never thought they really counted.

  3. It's movie rental time: Blue Planet, The Color Purple, or Crimson Tide ?
    Of these three, the only one I have previously seen is The Color Purple. Blue Planet sounds nice, but watching an IMAX movie on my home tv seems sacreligious. If I had a chance to watch it on an IMAX screen, I definitely would.
       That said, I'd rent Crimson Tide. Notice that it stars Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. Gene always turns in a credible performance. And, judging by the year of release, this was when Denzel acted rather than coasted.
       Speaking of movie night, Curious George awaits this weekend. And Babette's Feast.

  4. What has you seeing red these days?
    The political situation had me seeing red, until Tuesday. Now, I am cautiously optimistic.
       Off the top of my head, then, I'd have to say rude drivers.

  5. What or who picks you up when you're feeling blue ? I have a passel of "feel-good" movies (e.g., Amelie) I can watch when I'm feeling blue. I also enjoy listening to classic blues, such as Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Have You Seen This Blogger?

Young Omed
He who would become Dr. Omed as an 'Angry Young Man'

The last entry at Dr. Omed's tent show was posted Sunday, October 22. His last known sighting was in the comments on this very space, where he wrote (in part):
... I'm no saint. I was a monster. Now I'm just a ghost. A ghost of a monster. My bones turned to wishes and the wishes turned to smoke.
This, to my ear, seemed like an excellent beginning for a poem.

That last entry, which was mirrored at Dr. Omed's Daily Kos Diary, was a witty observation of the mess that B*sh has described as the "War on Terrah".

The good doctor has noted how dispiriting the voting habits of his fellow Americans has been. I thought it possible that the dispirited feeling led him to a bit of writer's block.

Although it's possible to read too much into election results this Tuesday, I don't think it's too bold to say that B*sh's status as a lame duck effectively began Wednesday. Somewhere between the time he belatedly accepted Rummy's resignation and the time he held out a battered tin cup to future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelossi.

At best, the Democratic majority in both Houses will effect some meaningful changes. At worst, there will be a stalemate, and nothing will be accomplished. Decide for yourself which is preferable.

Long story short: come back, Doc! The political weather is bearable! And I really do hope to see those lines from my comment box in a poem in the near future.

Performance Tonight

The social event of the week occurs tonight, when my friend Ben and I perform at the Red Cup (8:00 p.m.). The Red Cup, as noted below, is in OKC, OK, near the SE corner of NW 31st and Classen. Parking is limited, so you may want to arrive early.

Ben plays electric piano and harmonica, and sings. I play guitar and harmonica, and sing. We take turns playing harmonica. For most songs, we harmonize; for a handful of others, one us is the back-up for the other one.

Our set list includes: a medley of classic I-IV-V songs ("Why Do Fools Fall in Love", "Blue Moon", "Unchained Melody", and a Chad & Jeremy song whose title I can't remember; "Devoted to You"; "Immigrant" by John McCutcheon; "A Song for You"; and "Turn, Turn, Turn". The final song is another medley - "Day in the Life" and "Nights in White Satin".

Not many people have the chutzpa to attempt "Day in the Life" with only two instruments, but we're going to give it a shot.
I had an anxiety dream early this morning. I was scheduled to perform with a former girlfriend (who isn't a musician in RL). The auditorium abutted some classrooms. I was either in class, or visiting with people in the classroom. Suddenly, I realized I was late for the performance.

I quickly ran to the auditorium, with my guitar slung over my shoulder in classic Johnny Cash style. There was no one on stage; apparantly, I had missed the whole first set. I quietly dashed up a side aisle, and went back stage.

What I can remember of the backstage area is interesting. The stair cases and hallways were very narrow; I had to walk sideways and hold my guitar in front of me to fit through. I was seeking Elsie, but she was no where to be found.

The stage manager tracked me down, and said I was past due for the second set, and shoved me toward the stage. I scanned the audience for Elsie, but couldn't find her. I had to do the second set on my own.

That's when I startled awake. It was 3:30.
The Red Cup is nothing like the auditorium in my dream. Ben and I are planning to be there at least 30 minutes prior to performance.

Hope you can make it, too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Someone Else's Dream

I don't know why I appeared in someone else's dream. I accept, as a given, that the figure in Dee's dream was an aspect of herself wearing a mask that looked like me.

I also suppose that the role this figure played in Dee's dream says something about how she perceives me. She shared the story because it amused her, but it also offered me a view through a pane of Johari's Window.

Dee dreamed that several members of the office were playing Dungeons and Dragons. We were gathered around a table with a scale model of a castle on top of it. Dee remembered the castle was beautiful. I was the Dungeon Master for the game.

I had a small black box pewter figures were stored in. The box was about 2" deep, 4" long, and 3" wide. I handed the pewter figures to the players, and cautioned Dee not to allow the king figure get too close to the box.

"If you do," I said, "He will go back in the box."

Sure enough, Dee allowed the king to get too close to the black box. The figure did not jump into the box. The box seemed to suck him in.

That was all she could remember of the dream.

My Obituary

I was lead to this by Reverend Mommy

'What will your obituary say?' at

My epitaph will read: "He was a nice guy, and we kind of miss him."

Idée d’jour

O Liberty! how many crimes are committed in thy name!
— Jeanne-Marie Roland, revolutionary (1754-1793)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


A friend and I will have our debut as a musical duo next Thursday, November 9, at 8:00 pm. We perform at a local coffee house, The Red Cup, which is located near NW 31st and Classen. No cover charge, though earned tips are appreciated.

Although the address is officially on Classen, The Red Cup is actually set back from that main north-south street; in fact, it's behind a two-story optometrist's office. You have to know The Red Cup is there in order to find it.

We have about an hour's-worth of music prepared, so you should get home at a reasonable hour. We're well aware that some of you (like us) have to work for a living.

If you're within reasonable driving distance of OKC, I hope you can make.

Idée d’jour

Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it. — Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)
Post 1700

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Hallowe'en .... ever wonder if there is some connection between this word and that phrase in the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be thy name"? There is.

Hallowe'en is a contraction for Hallow's Even(ing), and is another way of saying "the Eve of All Hallows". All Hallows is November 1, All Saints Day.

You see, "Hallow" is an Old English word meaning 'Holy". On November 1, we remember all the Holy people of our history — from Moses to Francis to Teresa of Avila. When we praise the Lord's Prayer, we acknowledge that G–d's name is sacred, set apart, holy.

The word "saint", in turn, is related to the Greek word, "martyr", which means witness. The earliest saints of the church bore witness to their faith by risking torture and death. Later saints bore witness through their actions and words.

And yes, I know Halloween is a borrowing of an older ritual from the Celts. And some people object to it because it's a "pagan" holiday. What these people forget is that "pagan" just means "country-dweller".

So far as first century (C.E.) Romans were concerned, the early Chrisitians were some kind of country bumpkin. Only uneducated rural folk could believe something contrary to the "true religion" of Imperial Rome.

I imagine some modern atheists would agree with the view that a Christian is a type of bumpkin who is willing to accept an infinite number of impossible things before breakfast. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins seem to subscribe to this view.

I heard a grand story last night that points to a 20th Century witness. I was stuffing envelopes for a local campaign, and was joined by two young girls; one was in fifth grade, the other in ninth. I asked the older girl if she was going to dress for Halloween.

She said, yes; she was dressing as Gandhi, and would give people candy rather than accept it. With the candy, she would hand out cards with quotes from Gandhi's life, such as "Be the change you seek in the world."

Within that quote lies the secret of being a saint.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Idée d’jour

People are pretty much alike. It's only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.
— Linda Ellerbee

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ghoulish Friday Five

As suggested by Reverend Mother:
  1. Do you enjoy a good fright?
    Only at a safe distance, at the movies or in some other fictional representation. I've been scared a couple of times in real life, and I decidedly did not enjoy it.

  2. Scariest movie you've ever seen
    The original version of Thirteen Ghosts kinda weirded me out the first time I saw it. And I didn't even see it in 3-D! I saw it again just a few years ago, and it wasn't nearly as scary or weird.

  3. Bobbing for apples: :
    I have no meaningful recollection of bobbing for apples, so I don't feel qualified to respond to this question. I'm not opposed to it, as a concept.

  4. Real-life phobia
    Heights. Two years ago, Mary T— and I walked to the top of the grandstands at Winfield, which were (maybe) two stories tall. I was OK going up, but I was frozen walking down. In fact, I was so frozen, I had to ootch my way down in a sitting position. I later discerned the problem was that I could see the ground (two stories below) throught the stair's slats.

  5. Favorite "ghost story"
    Henry James was probably the master of the literary ghost story. "Turn of the Screw" is his best known, but there is another I liked even better. I've tried to find the title, and have failed; I think it's something like "In the Corner." Robertson Davies' collection, High Spirits runs a close second. Robert Lewis Stevenson also wrote some fine ghost stories.
       Mark Twain includes the Tale of the Golden Arm in his essay on how to tell a story. It's more amusing than it is spooky.
       Late Ad:I almost forgot Big Joe & Phantom 409. It's a song made famous by Red Sovine (country singer of the 40s), but I'm more familiar with Tom Waits' cover version (on Nighthawks at the Diner)

Cat Friday

Cat Guitar Kit
In which the Lady discerns whether a capo or the tin in which I store my picks might be edible.

The case is empty because the 12-string was getting its picture taken:

Study of 12 string guitar

Where I've Been

Despite potential evidence to the contrary (lack of blog posts), I'm still here. I am currently facilitating a writer's group at church. Part of my function is to make assignments (we're writing devotionals in response to the readings assigned in the RCL for Advent), and I feel duty-bound to write as well. So, my creative energy seems to be spent there.

I do plan to post my essays/devotionals here, come Advent. So, this may be something for you to look forward to, if you don't mind my religious reflections.

I'm also rehearsing, at least once a week, for a performance at a local coffee shop. Friend Ben and I have been practicing for about a month and a half, and I think we're pretty tight. Details are forth-coming, soon.

I do have some fresh shots of Dame Julian. I'll post one later today, time permitting.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New to the Blogroll

I recently added a new blog to that list of regular reads you see there at the left. I think this addition deserves to be highlighted.

Beauty Dish was once part of the Salon blog community, but defected earlier this year because of frustrations with the "LoserLand" software. The author, Birdie Jaworksi, is struggling to make a living as an "Avon lady" and free-lance writer.

Her blog includes multi-part adventures in Avon marketing and sales (including the current series on pursuing clients in Area 51); reports on her sons; and other slices of life. She has a gift for the particular that I envy. Her writing appeals to all the senses, especially the heart.

Her blog also includes occasional reviews of Avon products, including a recent investigation into which (if any) Avon mascara was best for a certain type of show dog.

I've thought for a long time that I should add Birdie to the blogroll. Hers is definitely a blog I read on a regular basis, and I frequently check whether it has been up-dated.

Three recent events finally convinced me that I had waited too long:
  1. She recently won a contest for this autobiographical essay. She's going to Bermuda for a week. After you've read the memoir, I think you'll agree she deserves all that and a bag of chips.
  2. This entry, titled "The Pennies You Hold You Can't See." It took my breath away. I shook my head in amazement at how effortless it seemed to be. Without question, I think this is one of the most profoundly spiritual essays I've read in a long time – and it never mentions G–d (or any other deity).
  3. A recent review of Avon Instant Manicure mentioned that the product seemed to strengthen the existing nails. Being a person who plays a steel-string dreadnaught guitar, and who prefers playing with fingernails rather than any type of pick, the nails of my right hand get a pretty good work-out. They are constantly chipping and breaking. The way I play, the strings seem to act like multiple high-grain emery boards.
       Several years ago, I attended a finger-style guitar workshop with Ed Gerhard, and he mentioned that he regularly gets manicures (for his right hand only), sometimes using applied nails, and has used products such as "Tough As Nails." In fact, I've been using "Tough As Nails" (and a similar Avon product) for a couple of years now. The point being, of course, that my masculinity is not threatened by the use of nail-care products.
       So, I e-mailed Birdie for ordering information. See, if I order from her, she earns some money; it's an easy way for me to support what I perceive to be a worthy cause. She responded by saying she would send free samples. I felt that was an extremely generous offer, and was very touched by it (especially when you consider the Instant Manicure Kit is relatively inexpensive).
       Later that same day, she sent the following e-mail:
    I've been reading through your archive this morning. You have such a gentle presence. The language you choose has a deep integrity. I'm going to add you to my list of friends, if that's OK with you.
    "Gentle presence"! "Deep integrity"! Clearly, this is a woman of discerning tastes.
What are you waiting for? Go visit her now. Say "Hello," and tell her Jonah sent you.

Friday Five: Word Association

Five words from Job 38 selected by Songbird:
whirlwind, foundation, lightning, den, prey.
Who speaks from the whirlwind?
Who laid the earth's foundation?
Whose voice is lightning?
The mysterious shadows in the den.
The devotion of the hunter, the prey's fear.

The cave has its own voice. A fearful
whisper at the back, the wind
at the ear. The shadows find motion
in the den's soft echoes,
in the soft warm earth.

We were born from our mother clay
before prey learned to fear.
Our eyes were ignited by lightning.
Our lives are longer than our shadows
and shorter than our breath.

This mouth could not breath forth the whirlwind.
These hands only found the clay,
they did not form it. The thunder
is not our voice. We live in the den
lest we, in our turn, become prey.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More on today's devotional

In my previous entry, I gave a brief description of the series of devotionals I wrote which are currently being featured at Ordinary Time. Here, I will write more about the devotional which was "published" this morning.

The meditation is written in response to Mark 10:17-31, in which the rich man approaches Jesus and asks how to obtain eternal life. This meditation is one of several I wrote as a fill-in, with a deadline looming, and it's one of the few I think shows the stress.

There is a great deal of "thinking out loud" which occurs in the essay. I frequently use the word "Perhaps" and similar modifiers. I first suggest that the rich man is observing the first five of the Ten Commandments, which have to do with our relationship with God; then I suggest that he isn't.

Perhaps most radical is the end of the essay, in which I suggest the consequences of taking Jesus' words seriously: we'd reduce the military budget. I suggest we falsely assume that our affluence reflects God's favor for our nation.

Mother Sarah Dylan draws similar political conclusions from the same passage. But, her essay is more straight-forward and seems to me to be better written.

My essay may not be the worst thing written, or even the worst essay included in the Ordinary Time collection. I'm still too close to judge that question. It is mildly embarassing to have the essay "out there" with its stays and braces showing.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Devotionals at Ordinary Time

Beginning today (Sat, Oct 14), I have meditations in the Ordinary Time collection of devotionals. These are availabe on-line at, which is updated daily.
{I know, because I'm generally the one who insures the site is updated}

Today's (Oct 14), is a reflection on Psalm 22 ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"), with some discussion of different prophetic interpretations of the psalm.

Sunday's (Oct 15) is a brief poetic interpretation of Psalm 23.

On Monday, Oct 16, I examine some different postures for prayer, and consider what they might mean.

On Tuesday, Oct 17, I work my way toward an interpretation of the story told in Mk10:17-31 (rich man asks Jesus what he must do for eternal life).

Finally, on Wednesday, Oct 18, I consider the story of Jonah.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Five: Creature Comforts

Courtesy of Reverend Mother
  1. Comfort beverage
    Tea. I drink "Gun Powder" green tea almost every morning. Now that the weather is getting chilly, I tend to follow that with Celestial Seasonings' Red Zinger. I tend to collect teas like some people collect trading cards.

  2. Comfort chair
    My recliner at home. I've lost count of the number of times I've fallen asleep in this chair. Of course, it is carefully arranged for optimal viewing of the opium box. So, that helps.
       My former wife and I bought this recliner at a second-hand shop in Norman. So, although it was reconditioned, it had lived a full life before it came to us. It's quite comfortable.

  3. Comfort read
    There was a time when I read Mr. God, This Is Anna every year over Easter weekend. Padre introduced me to the book when I was a junior or senior in high school. I still remember the sound of his baritone voice as he read passages he found especially meaningful.
       The book has good points and bad points. It has some sentimental elements. Some of the theology can seem mushy, which the reader may forgive since it is presented through the character of a little girl.
       I don't worry about these flaws when I pick it up. I sit in my recliner, open the book, and imagine I hear Padre's voice reading those passages one more time.

  4. Comfort television/DVD/music
    Some things provide comfort through familiarity. Several old TV shows serve this function, such as the original Dick Van Dyke Show or Perry Mason. Certain DVDs are standard reliables when I'm feeling under the weather or a little blue, such as Field of Dreams or Love, Actually. I'm a fan of a broad variety of musical genres, and often any piece of music will lift my spirits.
       I'll mention just a couple of examples – the blues as sung by Billie Holliday, or Górecki's Third Symphony (Dawn Upshaw, soprano).

  5. Comfort companion(s)
    There is no question that her royal catness has become a comfort companion. Cooler weather has encouraged her to spend more time in my lap, and to sleep with me.
       Companions from church, such as Pam, provide comfort. Another long-time comfort companion is Dr. Omed, who I haven't seen since his 2005 Winter Solstice event. Happily, the miracle of the internet makes it possible to keep tabs on his doings and creations. And the innovations of G'YuTube make it possible to hear his voice without driving to Tulsa.
      However, I do have hopes to visit the Right Rev. sometime before this year's solstice celebration. Perhaps the day after Thanksgiving?

Post #1690

Idée d’jour

The more intelligent and cultured a man is, the more subtly he can humbug himself.
— Carl Jung, psychiatrist (1875-1961)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


One of my daily reads is Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. His liberal bias seems obvious, but he is not as screeching as many of the posters at Daily Kos. The "diaries" on this site may be what Bull Moose has in mind when he talks about the "nutroots".

I digress. I consider "TPM" a reliable news source, especially for "Washington Insider" stories. For example, I first heard about the Foley scandal on NPR, as I was driving to work. I've able to follow the scandal, and it's fall-out, through Talking Points Memo and its sister sites.

So, I was thrown off-guard yesterday afternoon when – amidst sound political reporting – Josh commented on an article on the decline of cursive writing. Toward the end of this entry - which seems one of the longer entries on his page - Josh asks, "How do you write when you put pen to paper? And how old are you?"

This topic is of some interest to me, particularly the research the Washington Post article points to that links a type of neurological development with cursive writing. I've long been curious about the what parts of the brain are involved in different modes of recording are thoughts. As recently as last year (or thereabouts), I wondered whether it made a difference if I created a poem while writing, or while typing.

To return to Josh's questions, I'm a bit over 50 years old. My memory is that we studied cursive writing for significant blocks of time through sixth grade. By high school, my cursive writing was neat, but extremely small (for some reason, I was obsessed with saving paper).

I broke my right thumb following my freshman year of college. Since I am right-handed, this adversely affected my writing, and my cursive has never recovered. When I review things I wrote as recently a year ago, I often feel like I'm trying to crack a code.

Let's take a recent example, written shortly after lunch yesterday. I had some potential poetic fragments floating in my consciousness, and I wanted to record them. From those fragments, I then free-associated with a number of nouns:

Harvest moon
yellow veil
red horizon

Spica and Pollox
brackish barrens
blue twilight

Spectrum shift
reflection indistinct
sketched outlines

Lost tales
stolen hiway
Mugo Pine
The last two entries were printed in block letters, because I wanted to remember how to spell them correctly ("Fomalhaut" is especially tricky, because it's pronounced "foamalow").

You may have been able to make out most of the letters prior to seeing the typescript version. But I think it's fair to describe my writing as "scrawl" rather than as "cursive".

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Playing God

Most of us like to play God. Even people who don't believe in God like to play God.

Naturally, we don't normally phrase it that way. A phrase I commonly use - with my tongue only slightly placed in my cheek - is, "If I were king of the world." Common variations on this are "If I were president" or "Congress really ought to" or "There oughta be a law."

It's not just that we want someone whose word is Law, or can institute change at will; we want to be that someone. Often, we don't want the responsibility or accountability that comes with being in charge. So, if we are really honest with ourselves, what we really want is to be puppet masters. We would directly control a figure head who would enact our wishes, and accept the responsibility for the consequences.

I suspect this view of an omnipotent God has its origins in childhood. Child development psychologists have suggested that infants perceive themselves as the "center of the universe", which is to say, as a type of god; their needs are met upon demand - and often before demand.

Another theory is that infants and young children perceive their parents (especially the mother) as gods, because the basic needs of life are provided by these large creatures. Parents also serve a God-like function as they correct and praise the child.

So the average child faces a couple of disappointments early in life: first, that the child is not god. At some point, the child will be expected to become increasingly self-sufficient. Secondly, the child learns that his/her parents are not god, either. The parent will inevitably fail in some way.

It seems to me the vision of God as an omnipotent being is also a product of childhood. We want to believe in a God that is as powerful as we thought we were as infants. Often, we want to believe in a God who acts as we would act, and defines "good" and "bad" the same way we do.

I agree with St. Benedict, who said that the most we can know about God is what we don't know. These labels we like to use for God - omnipotent, omnipresent, good, kind, and so on - are means of limiting God to human terms. God may be all these things, but not necessarily in a way we can fully comprehend.

So, when someone says they don't believe in God because "God wouldn't allow x to happen", I understand that they are saying they don't believe in a particular definition of God. It's almost like the classic straw-man argument: they get to define God, then shoot down that definition.

This definition of God is essentially how that person would act if they were God. I'm not sure I could believe in that god, either.

I believe in a God whose nature can only be hinted at. I still might use those age-old labels, but I understand those labels to be (at best) faded sign-posts. I can make some educated guesses about God based on my understanding of creation; but those guesses will only be as sound as my rudimentary understanding.

Idée d’jour

No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President (1882-1945)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Idée d’jour

A friend is someone who sees through you and still enjoys the view.
— Wilma Askinas

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Five: Civic Duty

As suggested by Songbird.
  1. How old were you when you voted for the first time?

  2. What was the contest at the top of the ballot?
    Presidential - I voted for Jimmy Carter

  3. Can you walk to your polling place?
    It's within the range of possibility, as it is between 1/8 – 1/4 mile away. However, I normally vote on the way to work; therefore, I drive.

  4. Have you ever run for public office?

  5. Have you run for office in a club or school or on a board?
    I have run for vestry (church board) at two different churches, and won. In fact, I'm currently serving the second year of a three-year term at the second church.

       I also ran for Diocesan Council (state-level church board), and served two successive terms of three years each.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jack Frost Is Dead

Jack Frost is dead.
Just when the time was right
Just when the blanket was blinded
just when the coffee overturned the butter
just when day was traded for night.

The report is in from the foreign precincts:
Jack Frost is dead.
What was he looking for in the barrens.
Where was his shadow at two o'clock.
Who saw the body and lost the pulse.

The miser clock has wilted.
The clouds have worn to shreds.
Jack Frost is dead.
He spoke his last backwards.
Memory tore its collar.

In the tallons of the forest;
in the crystals of the moon;
out of weary understanding:
Jack Frost is dead.
Childless rests the head.

The limber lumber rests
after hearing the ancient news.
The patricians count the sounds.
Sunset carries the banner.
Jack Frost is dead.


The big news this week is the fall-out surrounding questionable e-mails sent by former Florida representative Mark Foley (R), and a series of salacious IMs he conducted with under-age boys, all of whom were former Congressional Pages. Depending on the poll or commentator, this issue is either very important to voters, or ranks well below the growing mire in Iraq.

There's no question that Rep. Foley crossed a moral line, if not a legal one. There's every possibility that he broke a law against on-line predators that he helped move through the House. At the very least, his communication was inappropriate because of the age of the boys (around 16), and because – even after the young men had left the Congressional page program – he had a position of authority over them.

All this is pretty clear, and "icky" – as the former page who broke the initial e-mail put it.

What is more disturbing is the fact that the Republican leadership knew about these inappropriate communications as recently as last year, and possibly as far back as 2001.

In the business setting, this sort of inappropriate activity would be classed as a form of sexual harassment. Once the harassment had been reported, the accused would be cautioned to avoid contact with the person(s) making the accusation. If the accused did not break off contact with those person(s), or acted in a similar fashion with others, the accused would be fired.

Based on the press statements coming from the House Republican leadership to date, none of this happened. Not even a warning. Certainly no request to resign, until the most benign ("overly friendly") e-mail had been published last Friday by ABC News.

All of which suggests, to my mind, a cover-up. The House Repugnant leadership was more interested in preserving its power than in protecting these young men.

I think an analogy may be drawn to Iraq. The majority of the service people are young men, many as young as 18 or 19. The planning for this invasion was unrealistic and poor from the beginning. The budget was under funded, and funding in many significant areas (especially health care) has been slashed. The responsibility for much of this may be laid at the feet of Secy. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Not a single member of the Repugnant leadership, from either house, has called for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation. The argument has been they are supporting the leadership of the Commander in Chief during wartime. What they are doing is countenancing incompetence that is as morally repugnant as Rep. Foley's e-mails.

Bottom line: if the Republicans cannot protect the "Hallowed Halls" of Congress, why should we trust them to protect the U.S. for one more day?

Idée d’jour

We all have to learn how to negotiate our unconscious worlds. We have to go into the labyinth of our own selves and fight our own monsters.
— Karen Armstrong ("To Go Beyond Thought," Parabola, Fall 2006, 21)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Idée d’jour

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Using Secular Media

The title of the presentation was "Using Secular Media in Adult Formation: There's A Lot of Treasures Out There!" In my modest defense, I did not create the title; I didn't object to it either, because I couldn't think of anything better.

To a degree, using secular media in an Episcopal church seems non-controversial. Preachers quote TV shows and song lyrics frequently in their sermons. The Harry Potter books are considered appropriate for study for a number of age groups.

On the other hand, it is possible to limit oneself when considering mass media. It's easy to consider most mass media as purveyors of moral choices contrary to ones a typical Christian (if there is such a person) would support.

I began the session by challenging the group to define the term "secular" in relation to the common antonym, "sacred". This discussion seemed to engage the group, and some were challenged when I asked them to give examples, or go deeper in their examples.

Once the terms had been defined, and we agreed that both "secular" and "sacred" might both address ethical issues and deep, existential, questions (e.g., who am I, where have I been, where am I going).

I then listed examples of things that have been done, or could be done:
  1. Books
    1. Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio from the Divine Comedy
    2. The Brothers Karamazov
    3. The Canterbury Tales
    4. Paradise Lost
    5. Huckleberry Finn (to be studied during Lent 2007)
      The discussion of these five books were lead by a classically educated member of our congregation. Whether this could be replicated in another congregation depends on its members.
    6. The Secret Life of Bees
      Which is a discussion group I lead in the summer of '05. The book may be best suited for a women's group, unless your community has a healthy proportion of "sensitive new-age men".
  2. Movies
    1. To Kill a Mockingbird
    2. The Mission
    3. The Life of Brian
    4. Field of Dreams
  3. TV
    These are suggestions
    1. Lost
      I noted that many people interpret this as a variation of Purgatory. Episodes reveal errors made in the past that the character may be atoning for on this island. The show also explicitly explores issues of faith through the characters of Locke and Mr. Eko.
    2. My Name Is Earl
      Also addresses questions of seeking forgiveness and making amends. Could also talk about Earl's concept of "Karma" and how it compares to our concept(s) of God.
    3. Night-time "soaps", such as One Tree Hill
      Couple of ideas here: cite Biblical laws that are broken in each program; discuss whether consequences suffered in the program match consequences that might be suffered in reality.
  4. Guidelines
    1. With books, set realistic assignments. Depending on the difficulty of the reading, 200-300 pages a week might be realistic.
    2. With movies and TV shows, create time people can watch it together. Unless you are only showing brief segments, 40 minutes between services is not realistic.
    3. With movies and other long presentations, take at least one intermission. During this time, have a brief conversation about themes noticed up to this point, and suggest things to watch for in the remainder.
    4. Allow at least 30 minutes for discussion following the presentation.
    5. Have several questions in mind, but don't restrict the discussion to those questions. You'll often find new ideas and questions arise from the discussion.
  5. Resources
    1. Entertainment Weekly often this somewhat edgy weekly will recognize a spiritual element to some presentation. When it does, I take note. I've agreed more often than not with their assesment in this regard; one example is "Lost".
    2. Parabola explores world myth very much in the tradition of Joseph Campbell. This quarterly journal can be helpful to see the big universal questions in new ways and from new perspectives.

Meeting Emily

I met a fellow RevGal blogger this past Saturday. The occasion was a diocesan educational conference titled “A Call to Formation”, held at the Cathedral. I was there as the facilitator of two of the learning opportunities, and Emily was there as a participant.

Emily is the interim pastor of a local church, and writes the web-log Hazelnut Reflections. The primary image I've seen associated with Emily is a Yahoo avatar in the top portion of the right-hand column of her blog. There is a surprising resemblance, even though there are remarkably few avatars to choose from (last time I checked, there weren't any blonde males).

Another priest was visiting with Emily when I spotted her, so I waited at the periphery of the conversation. When he left, I stepped up, introduced myself, and said, "I read your blog."

She mentioned that she thought I looked familiar. There's a couple of places (aside from this blog) that she may have seen my picture. We had a pleasant, if brief, chat.

The conference was broken into three 45 minute blocks, with four or five learning opportunities in each block. I facilitated two learning ops in the last two blocks, following lunch: Using Secular Media in Adult Formation and Asset Mapping. I'll have a bit more to say about that first class in a later entry.

Emily had signed up for the Secular Media op, and contributed to the conversation. In preparing for this class, I had focused on movies, tv, and books. When I learned that Emily had registered for the conference, I remembered the internet. In addition to her blog, Emily was also involved in the Ordinary Time project, and wrote several meditations for that collection of devotionals (available on-line and as a paperback book).

Immediately proceeding the class, I asked Emily's permission to talk briefly about Ordinary Time and her blog as examples of how the internet might be used. She graciously granted that permission.

Later in the day, she said it was nice to meet a fellow blogger, and I replied that it at least gave us something to write about.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Idée d’jour

People who are born even-tempered, placid, and untroubled – secure from violent passions or temptations to evil – those who have never needed to struggle all night with the Angel to emerge lame but victorious at dawn, never become great saints.
— Eva Le Gallienne, theater founder [quoted in Wild Words from Wild Women]

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cat Friday

Her purr rumbles inside my knees;
we dream of clear October blue.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Idée d'jour

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
— Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer (1884-1962)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Feminist Idée d’jour

I'm dating a guy who's twenty-one. That's seven in boy years.
— Lisa Goich, author of The Breakup Diary
By this logic, I'm a little over 16.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Meditation Available

The second devotional essay I wrote for the RevGalPal collection is now up at the Ordinary Time blog. I felt, at the time, that it was somewhat more orthodox than what I might normally write.

The devotional was a response to a selection from the Epistle of James, which does not rank as one of my favorites. James may be read (even in this pericope) as favoring works over faith. So perhaps my orthodoxy was a response to his.

On the other hand, if I really were all that "orthodox" (or conservative), I probably would not have referred to "our Buddhist friends".

Give it a read. If you have a comment, leave it on with the devotional.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Winfield: Ambience & Final Thoughts

I arrived in Winfield before lunch last Tuesday, Sept. 12. It might have been as early as 11:30. As I was unpacking, I told Mary that I had brought chili to share. She already had dinner plans, and suggested we warm it up for lunch.

My chili recipe is founded on Wick Fowler's mix, with additional seasonings. It was a hit.

It did not take long for me to set up my borrowed tent, though I did require help from Mary's friend Dianne. I didn't even need to ask.  And my male ego wasn't the least bit threatened.

This year was the 35th anniversary of the Walnut Valley Festival. Tents were already packed tight around our reserved camping spot. It was even more crowded by Saturday. I have always been amazed by how many people and tents can fit into such a relatively small area.

The camps are divided into two main parts – Pecan Grove and Walnut Grove. The former is comprised primarily of tents, and the latter is primarily RVs and trailers. I spent more time "picking & grinning" on the Walnut side, where Bill and friends have their trailers. They play the same time of music that I do, and I seem to fit in better with them.

They suggested I camp with them next year. They claimed things tended to be quieter on their side of the campgrounds.

My goal this year was to limit my expectations — neither positive or negative. Last year was kinda negative because it got off to a bad start. The year before was kinda lonely. Seemed to me the best course was to go without expectations, and let the experience be unique for this year (without comparison to past years).

Based on this criteria, the experience was positive. I didn't go to many concerts - around ten. But I did relax, and visit old friends. I played music and enjoyed music.

I went back to Bill's camp one last time on Saturday night. Brenda and Jane were the last two to ask if I sing professionally. Suppose the Holy Spirit is speaking through all these folks?

Idée d’jour

The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.
— James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)

Winfield: The Music

There is always a "pre-festival" concert on Wednesday evening.   Normally, this concert is sponsored by Taylor Guitar, and features guitarists who play that high-end instrument. This year, the Wednesday evening concert featured harp guitars.

One of the premiere advocates for harp guitar is Stephen Bennett , who served as host and MC for the concert.   He had inherited one of these instruments from his grandfather, and taught himself how to play it.   Early in his career, he performed with this guitar.   Eventually, he hired a luthier to build an exact replica.

The harp guitar was very popular in the 1920s.   The most common construction is to have 8-10 strings strung from a harp-like arch just above a standard guitar neck.   The skilled performer will play these strings as an additional bass line.   But even if one doesn't even touch these strings, they will resonate sympathetically as the player strikes the regular guitar strings.

The group I camp with ("Grenola") had a new member this year.   Dianne works for the same company as Mary, and they have been friends for some time.   This was Dianne's first year to attend the festival, making her a "Winfield Virgin" in the common parlance.

Mary encouraged Dianne to go with me to the harp guitar concert, and she did.   She had never seen or heard a harp guitar before.   It was nice to share the concert with a new friend.

For the finale, all four guitarists came on stage and played "The Water is Wide", one of my top five favorite songs.   Naturally, when we got back to camp, I just had to pull out my normal guitar and play my own version of this song.

Now one guy with one dreadnaught-style guitar is not very loud, especially in a space like the campgrounds.   Plus, I was trying to sing relatively softly.   But Dianne heard me, and came over to listen.   It didn't take much encouragement for me to perform most of my catalogue.

Dianne seemed to be quite pleased and flattered to receive what she referred to as a "private concert".   With her permission (nay, encouragement), I performed an original song, "I Get the Blues": "I get the blues / goin' home to empty rooms. / I get the blues, it's nothing new. / When I have to face that empty space / Oh, I get the blues."

As a recently divorced person living in a 1700 sq ft house, she definitely identified.

Dianne was the second person to ask if I perform professionally.

As I mentioned prior to leaving, I had set myself the goal of seeing musical groups I had not seen before.   As it turned out, I saw a mix of old and new.   New acts included Bluestem, a cowboy group similar to Sons of the Pioneers; Still on the Hill, a folky-type due (I was unimpressed); Nick Charles; and Chris Jones and the Night Drivers.   This last act I saw because Chris was the instructor for the Bluegrass Vocal workshop.

A highlight was Nick Charles.   The festival puts out a daily newsletter, WV News, on a two-sided legal-sized sheet.   In addition to a copy of that day's schedule and the previous day's contest winners, this newsletter has feature articles about sights and sounds in the campgrounds. The Wednesday edition of the WV News mentioned a campground which had created its own Internet radio station, Front Porch Radio.

A man and his wife set up this radio station. They both went through the campgrounds and invited camp pickers to come perform. They also invited professionals to perform. These performances - camp pickers and pros - were streamed live on the internet and will soon be archived and available at any time.

The only day Nick Charles was playing the festival was on Thursday. I had not planned to see him, due to guilt by association. Nick has been touring with fellow Aussie Tommy Emmanual, and I am not a Tommy fan.

I maintain that everyone should hear Tommy at least once, because he is an energetic and charismatic performer, plus he does things with the guitar most people wouldn't dream of. He's technically proficient (I picture him working on the scale every available minute), but he is not musical.

So - guilt by association - I assumed Nick Charles was the same type of player.

It just so happened that, when I found the location of the radio station, Nick Charles was the next scheduled performer. He proceeded to do a 30 minute set which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I almost made a point to catch old favorites, like Small Potatoes and John McCutcheon. A new favorite (from last year) is The Greencards, who play their own unique high-energy version of "New Grass".

A couple of final high points: Misty River performed before one of the acts I wanted to see, and since I came early, I got to hear their act as well. Misty River is comprised of four women who sing a mix of traditional, bluegrass, and folk tunes. The last time I saw them, I was not impressed; but this time they seemed much better.

For the final song of their set, they sang "God Bless America" a cappella. They mentioned they had sung it in 2001, a couple of days after 9/11, and someone had requested they sing it again.

The crowd stood up, as if this were the National Anthem. I normally avoid this sort of seeming jingoism, but I stood up as well.

The artist I had come for was John McCutcheon, who immediately followed Misty River. The last song of his set was "Not in My Name", which is an anti-war response to 9/11 and the events following. About 2/3 of the crowd stood up this time. And most sang the chorus (same as the title).

Next: ambience and final thoughts