Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jonah Warhol

Inspired by work Ms. Birdie did with a recent photo, I decided to try to spin a recent self-portrait into a "Warhol".

I can say, in all humility, that I think Birdie came closer to the mark than I did.

My Blog Addiction

62%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
Honestly, not as bad as I thought it might be.

Today's Koan

Does your pain feel pain? Is your fear fearful?
This koan is adapted from questions asked by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the July 2007 issue of Shambhala Sun. He writes:
Have you ever noticed that your fear is not afraid even when you are terrified? Or that your awareness of depression is not depressed; that your awareness of your bad habits is not a slave to those habits; or perhaps even that your awareness of who you are is not who you think you are?

You can test out any of these propositions for yourself any time you like simply by investigating awareness—by becoming aware of awareness itself. It is easy, but we hardly ever think to do it because awareness, like the present moment itself, is virtually a hidden dimension in our lives, embedded everywhere and therefore not so noticeable anywhere.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Madona & Child

I created this from a picture taken sometime around 1982. The subject is Lissa and her son Blake. I played in Photoshop, incorporating ideas gleaned from Reverend Mommy and Birdie.

Ideé d’jour

... transcendent goals like peace and justice are always made possible, or rendered impossible, by the patterns of the human heart.
— Krista Tippett, in her new book, Speaking of Faith (Viking, New York, 2007)
I strongly recommend Ms. Tippett's radio program of the same name, available on-line at SpeakingOfFaith.org.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Idée d’jour

There are no holy places and no holy people, only holy moments, only moments of wisdom.
— Jack Kornfield

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Five: Floods & Droughts

This week's theme suggested by Sally.
  1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event – what was it and how did you cope?
    The first thing that comes to mind is the year the creek flooded less than a block from the rental house we lived in, sometime between 1963 and '65. The water came up to our front steps, and Cousin Jenni went swimming in a one-piece bathing suit. My poem "Year of the Flood" memorializes my memories of that time.
       Coping was not an issue, not that I can recall. Houses on the north side of the street (closest to the creek) received significant water damage. We were on the south side of the street; as I say, the water didn't come higher than the porch.

  2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
    Very important. Whether or not we can turn back the damage done is certainly a question, but I think we owe it to ourselves, and to our heirs, to try.
       There is a quote, supposedly from Native American tradition, to the effect that we have the world, its environment and resources on loan from the next generation.
       In this sense, then, we are renters. We are leasing these resources from the next generation. In which case, one could argue that we have been very poor tenants indeed.
       No matter that the damage began innocently, with hopeful naivite about progress and comfort. Nature has given us any number of warnings of the wounds inflicted - beginning with various forms of cancer. Yet, we persisted on our path of progress with a sense of manifest destiny. Some of us persisted with the notion that there would be no reckoning, no balance due; and that, if there were, someone else would pay it.
       It's well past time to treat our little corner of creation as we would hope a guest would treat our home.

  3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?
    It seems to me the issue of stewardship is a profound opportunity for evangelism. I would argue that the task for Christians is more in action than in words. Or, as St. Francis reportedly said, "Preach at all times. When necessary, use words."
       We preach through our vote, and through letters to Congress. We preach through church-based recycling programs. We preach through living the smallest carbon footprint possible. We intentionally struggle with decisions between attending our local church, regardless of comfort or denomination; or attending the church we called to be part of, even if the commute is 8-10 miles away from our house.
       Here's another example: the Cathedral most often uses plastic plates and eating utensils. Plastic stays in the landfills forever, effectively. There are some biodegradable alternatives to styrofoam, but I don't know whether plates are made from any of these materials. I have been told, from a trusted source, that biodegradable detergent is the best alternative.

  4. On a happier note:
  5. What is your favourite season and why?
    Spring. In Oklahoma, the temperature tends to be very temperate, between 65 and 71 degrees. A variety of colors come into the world. Also, predominantly low humidity.
       Second favorite is Autumn, for much the same reason. The only draw back to spring and autumn is that these seem to be seasons with significant triggers for my allergies.

  6. Describe your perfect vacation weather....
    As described above.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Idée d’jour

The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist."
— Maria Montessori, educator (1870-1952)
Today's quote is dedicated to Pam.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Movie Review: Babe, Pig in the City

In brief: don't bother

I rented "Pig in the City" on the basis of someone saying they preferred it to the first movie.  The person in question definitely does not have the same taste as me.

I often choose which movies I’d like to watch based on teasers and previews.  If I don’t like the teaser, which is supposedly been edited and produced to display the best qualities of a movie, then odds are good I won’t like the movie.  The teasers for "Pig in the City" made it look like an episode of "Lancelot Link".

I was 15 when Lancelot Link aired. It was a spy show spoof done with chimpanzees. I think I got through a few minutes of one episode before I dismissed it as a one-note gag. Sure, there were some puns and slapstick, but the main gag seemed to be in the chimps performing human functions. The same applies to this film; the only difference is in the number and variety of animal species involved.

The story here is even more thread-bare and unbelievable than the first movie. Babe flies to a generic American city (a combination of L.A., Seattle, and others) to save the farm. She ends up a dingy hotel which accepts animals (via the backdoor). Infinite complications ensue, which include an animal taking advantage of Babe's naivité.

The film includes a pair of slapstick set pieces. The second set piece not only feels long, but seems demeaning to the actress playing Mrs. Hogget. Much of the intended humor derives from her size and weight.

In conclusion: I'm sorry I rented this movie. Hopefully, the next film in my Netflix que will make up for it.

The Russian Agent

The Russian agent stepped out
from behind the blue sky curtain.
He held the gun firmly in his hand.
The oak wardrobe stood in the corner.

Downstairs, the guests were chatting.
The prime minister was already sleeping
in the library. Champagne
and triple-aged scotch.

Stars over the patio.
Horse-shaped hedges reared
in half-moon shadow.
The senator’s wife laugh
echoed across the yard.

The Russian agent heard fireworks.
The wife heard a shot.
The hedges heard a starting pistol.
Drinks were spilled.

The oak wardrobe stood in the corner.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Idée d’jour

Think sideways!
— Edward de Bono

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mowing Music

This is what I listened to on my iPod while mowing the lawn this morning:
  • Suzy Thompson, "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues" and the title track from Adam and Eve Had the Blues
    I learned of Suzy Thompson through Sing Out! magazine. Her music seems very much in the tradition of the jug band revival of the early 60s. She's got a dynamite voice, and plays a mean fiddle
  • Pink, "Dear Mr. President"
    I haven't heard any of Pink's music aside from this track, which I gather is unlike most of her style. Happily, this is a topical song with a shelf life of only a few more months.
  • Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
    I learned of this track through Entertainment Weekly's "Down-load This" feature. It combines some rap and soul elements, hearkening back to the best of Marvin Gaye.
  • The Shins, "Phantom Limb"
    Another song featured in EW's "Down-load This". The tune seems to echo elements of "Power Pop" as practiced by Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello back in the 80s.
  • The Bird and The Bee, "I'm a Broken Heart"
    The arrangement owes much to the Beach Boys, circa "Pet Sounds". The happiness of the melody belies the melancholy of the theme: "I try to make the best at happiness / I'm a broken heart ... / My love is bleeding..."
  • The Good, The Bad, and the Queen, "Kingdom of Doom"
    A pit of dark pop that reminds me of Costello, circa Armed Forces or Imperial Bedroom
  • Borne, "The Guide"
    iTunes has a weekly free tune of the week. "Kingdom of Doom" was one, this is another. It reminds me a bit of Styx; it's not awful, but it isn't great either. I don't mind keeping it on my iPod - it's OK background for mowing. But I'm not interested in hearing more.
  • Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"
    I've recommended Ms. Winehouse before. She's got a real good sense of 60s soul, right there with the Supremes. She might not be in Aretha's territory, but a couple of You Tube clips of her singing with just a guitar have convinced me she's the real deal. The production on this album is great, but she shines even without the production.
  • Dar Williams, "The Christians and the Pagans"
    I forget where I read about this tune, but it sounded like fun. Dar Williams has gotten a lot of press, in places I respect, as an alt-folk artist. While the song is just as much fun as I thought it would be, Dar Williams is an acquired taste I don't yet have.
  • Jonathan Byrd, "The Cocaine Kid"
    A talking blues that reminds me of Dylan in the "Freewheeling Days". The words and the rhymes role out of this guy at a furious pace.
  • Johnny Proctor, "All Creatures of Our God & King"
    Another Beach Boys tribute. Mr. Proctor used multi-tracking to harmonize with himself ala "In My Room". A fun and sweet take on one of my favorite hymns.
  • The Sevens, Pearl O' Shaughnessy's (et al, medley)
    I think this came from a Sing Out CD. Just a bouncy medley of Irish jigs
  • Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On"
    Speaking of soul, Marvin is where it's at. It wouldn't be hard to draw a line from "Rehab" to this, but "What's Going On" has more in common with Barkley's "Crazy". Both songs have some interesting production values - e.g., the party chatter at the opening of "What's Going On", the strings in "Crazy". "What's Going On" is blatantly topical - it's almost impossible to listen to the lyrics without thinking of the late 60s - but it still holds up. You can enjoy it, in other words, without a history lesson. "Crazy" may not be topical in the same way, but it can lead one to reflect on the dichotomy of sane/crazy in new ways. It could be a love song, or it could be addressed more universally.
One day I might arrange these songs in a different order; there are times the play list is bit jarring. But I like all but one ("The Guide") almost equally. On the whole, it is a play list that is just plain fun.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Idée d’jour

Words may express it,
Words cannot hold it:
The way of letters leaves no trace,
Yet the teaching is revealed.
— Dogen

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ideé d’jour

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
— T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ideé d’jour

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.
— Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Do I belittle my own soul when I say I hate B*sh? Does the person in question qualify as a "man"? Would Will Rogers have liked him?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Five: Harry Potter

This week's magical theme suggested by Reverend Mother.
  1. Which Harry Potter book is your favorite and why?
    Probably the first. This is not to disparage the remaining books in the series - and I have read all but the penultimate book (The Half-Blood Prince). The first book charmingly creates a world very much like our own, and thoroughly describes a more-or-less parallel magical universe. If this book had not done its job so well, the series would not be as popular.

  2. Which character do you most resemble? Which character would you most like to get to know?
    On my bad days, I resemble Harry at his fussiest (see Order of the Phoenix), with none of his positive qualities. On my good days, I think I resemble Ron: a loyal friend who is slightly less adept than the hero.
       I'd like to visit with Ron or Hermoine. I admire Hermoine's sense of justice (see Chamber of Secrets).

  3. How careful are you about spoilers?
    I'd rather not know what happens, but I'm not going to commit Avada Kedavra if someone makes a slip.
       Since I've taken my own sweet time about reading the series (I have yet to begin Half-Blood Prince) spoilers must be accepted as a fact of life. But, as the first option suggested, the journey is more important than particular points along the way. I've recently learned which charecter dies in Half-Blood Prince, for example, but I don't think it will spoil my enjoyment of the book.

  4. Make one prediction/share one hope about book 7.
    The good guys will win, and the bad guys will lose. Ms. Rowling has said the series is primarily about death, and has announced that two major characters will die in the final book.
       It seems safe to assume that Lord Voldemort will be one of those two people. A number of people have persuasively argued that Harry Potter will be the other character to die.
       One of the dominant themes of folk tales and myth (no question that this is a type of modern folk tale) is that death is not the end. As a rule, even if the hero dies, his or her legacy continues in some manner.
       The series has not been overtly Christian, in the same way that C.S. Lewis' Narnia series is, yet it does evoke a morality that is, at least, consistent with orthodox Christian teaching. See, for example, see Reverend Mother's two sermons inspired by the series.
       So, while Harry may not resurrect (as Aslan does in LWW), he will conquer death in some fashion. 

  5. Rowling has said she's not planning any prequels or sequels, but are there characters or storylines (past or future) that you would like to see pursued?
    Hagrid's history.

Idée d’jour

A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.
— Dogen

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Idée d’jour

... we live in dark ages whenever we become preoccupied with power.
— Paraclete Press, in promotional material for Light in the Dark Ages by Jon M. Sweeney. The book is a "popular history" of the Middle Ages, with a focus on Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.

If this definition be true, then we are currently living in a very dark age, indeed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

At the Movies

A correspondent recently asked what movies I've seen lately, and which ones I would recommend. With that in mind, I created the following table.

Dark HabitsPedro AlmodovarNo 
Monster HouseGil KenanRent
The DescentNeil MarshallNo
3 WomenRobert AltmanNFAL
Bad EducationPedro Almodovar OK
United 93Paul GreengrassRent
Orphic Trilogy
  • Blood of a Poet
  • Orpheus
  • Testament of Orpheus
Jean CocteauNFAL
Into the WoodsStephen Sondheim Rent
Pan’s LabyrinthGuillermo del ToroBuy

This table lists nine movies, and one trilogy, that I have recently watched. They are, more or less, in inverse order of when I watched them. All were seen via Netflix, with the exception of Pan's Labyrinth, which I originally saw in the theater.

The rating system is fairly simple: No (don't bother), OK (neither great nor aweful), NFAL - "Not for all tastes" (I enjoyed it, but recognize the movie is not exactly commercial), Rent (definitely worth renting), and Buy (so good, you'll probably want the movie in your permanent library).

I hope to flesh out the reasons for my ratings over the next few weeks, as time permits.

I will say, by way of introduction, that watching Cocteau's Orpheus Trilogy gave me a new appreciation of the work of David Lynch, and may have prepared me for non-linear (or practically non-existent) narrative, as found in Altman's 3 Women.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Idée d’jour

The knife does not cut itself, the finger does not touch itself, the mind does not know itself, the eye does not see itself.
— Zen Saying
This saying inspired the poem which appears immediately below.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I Am Not I

I am not I.
I am not my hazel eyes,
that change shade with the seasons.
I am not my thin hair.
I am not my gray beard.
I am not my thin mouth.

I am not that reflection.
I am not I.
I am not my voice.
I am not my thoughts.
I am not my desires.
I am not my nightmares.
I am not my dreams.

I do not see my eye.
I am not that twinkling eye.
I am not my shadow.
I am not the one you see,
or the one you think you see.
I am not I.

I am not the song.
I am not the singing.
I am not the slender fingers
on my guitar fretboard,
nor the fingers that
pluck each string.
I am not the harmonica moan.

I am not the prayer
or the pray-er.
I am not my breath.
I am not that distant figure.

The finger does not touch itself.
The eye cannot see itself.
I am not I.

Idée d’jour

What is to give light must endure burning.
— Viktor Frankl
As a survivor of the Holocaust, Mr. Frankl perhaps had an accurate sense of what it means to "endure burning", and could count the cost.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Oakerhater VBS, Pt Two

The Oakerhater Vacation Bible School began in earnest on Wednesday. The theme this year was "Peace". This is the same theme chosen for our local church's VBS. It was chosen partly because two of our main leaders were also leaders of the local church VBS.

No question, giving young people some tools and guidelines for living in peace is important. Perhaps even more so in a small and economically depressed town like Watonga.

The curriculla was primarily designed by my friend Pam. Each day focused on a different Biblical story which illustrated a different form of peace or peace-seeking.

Pam began the time on Wednesday by asking the children to join her in some simple relaxation techniques. You can do one right now, while you read this blog entry.

First, breath in as deeply as you can. Then, breath out as slowly as you can.

If you're anything like me, or like the children at this VBS, you might have been tempted to make a sound as you breathed. There is something so satisfying and real about making a little "uhhhhh-uh" sound as you inhale, and a "whooooosh" as you exhale.

But you don't need those noises. Try it. Inhale as deeply as you can, without making a sound. Then exhale, also silently.

If you do this breathing exercise a few times in a row, you may find yourself feeling calmer – more peaceful – than you felt prior to the exercise.

Each day, Pam would tell a version of a Bible story which exemplified or illustrated peace. The story for Wednesday was the story of creation. Just the way Pam told the story helped me feel peaceful. The final day – the Sabbath, the day of rest – was also a gift; a day devoted to being peaceful.

The story on Thursday was the Parable of the Mustard Seed.