Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Unitarian Universalists Are Talkin 'Bout Theology!

Matthew Gatheringwater and some others are in the midst of a great conversation over at Philocrites:

Matthew said this, which made me make a Scooby-Doo "ruh roh?" noise and perk my doggie ear in the air:

"Getting swept up in uncritical emotional acceptance of religious language scares me a bit."

Experience is indeed everything. Most people I know who use traditional religious language have hefted the heavy ax of critical thought over each word and cracked it open over many years, researched it, followed its etymologies like so many Encyclopedia Browns, considered its political and social implications, prayed over it, tried it out in different settings, and claimed or re-claimed it only after a tenacious battle with it. God. Kingdom of Heaven. Grace. Sin. Redemption. Divine. Holy. Christ. Sacrament. Spiritual. Religion. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, we would not let these words go until they had blessed us.

When *I* think of emotional treatment of language, I tend to think of the rejectors of traditional religious language who recoil violently and immediately against such words, responding viscerally from a place of old wounds and abuses and insisting they not be used, said, employed or invoked.

This is not to insult the emotional response; I for one have never been in favor of the old "reason trumps emotion" dualism. It is just to exegete for a moment my authentic Scooby Doo moment while mulling through the comments section in Philocrites.

At my recent summer intensive course, a wonderful new UU friend (and seminarian) was approached by a professor after her afternoon lecture. Entirely unprompted, the professor inquired, "Did I use too much God-language for you?"

What does this tell you? It tells me that lacking a theological center or a shared and clear "good news," Unitarian Universalists become known for our terminal uniqueness, our pre-offendedness, and our wholly Other identity (with tinges of victimhood) within even the progressive Christian community.
Please read this year's Commission on Appraisal report. It is fine, it is eloquent, it is dignified and lovely and inspiring. And I believe (although I've just skimmed it) that we can all find our own theological perspectives affirmed in there. Hats way off to the Commission. Shoes off. Clothes off. Everyone in the pool!!

Oh, and speaking of dogs, I feel like a golden retriever every time I put the damned drops in my ear. I have "infecto-ear," as my sister used to say of her dogs. The doc admonished me with this highly medical explanation: "It was healing up until you putzed with it with the Q-tip!" I love a doctor who can say "putzed." There's nothing like a little bit of mamaloschen to comfort a girl.

Here's why I am closing off the comments lately: it's an editorial decision to help me manage my exhaustion and anxiety. I take every comment to heart, I read them all and think out a response to each and every one even if I don't post anything.
So as I work my way back from "hiatus" please understand that my energy level isn't where I want it to be, and rather than avoid blogging entirely I'm just managing it differently.

Peace and Grace.
Grease and Pace.

"The Importance of Art:" DISCUSS

T-Man Sam, my maniac Ottawa artist and fellow Bohunk Easter egg, needs some brainy type person to write a gorgeous, brings-tears-to-the-eyes essay suitable for a brochure at an art gallery: something on the value of ART.

The idea is that people will read this brochure and understand that art is not a luxury, and that it doesn't need to match the couch in your living room. And you should buy it, acquire it, and love it.

Have at it, darlings. E-mail submissions to me at Maybe about 400 words?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

If It's Too Hot For Fireworks, You Can Read This

Happy Fourth of July. I am giving this sermon on Sunday, July 2nd. It was originally composed in 2003, and I did my very best to update or clarify some of the statistics, but since I don't have a research assistant (Jess and Dooner offered, but I'm leaving Thursday morning and had to finish this up tonight), this will have to do. If you find any glaringly horrific math errors let me know off--line, and Matthew Gatheringwater, I hope you will e-mail me your phone number!!
-- P.B., hiatusly

[The sermon is preceded by a prayer from Paul's 2nd Letter to the bone-headed Corinthians]

I wanted us to hear from the Apostle Paul this morning because Paul is probably the most famous prisoner in Western religious history, and perhaps in Western literature as well. The Apostle Paul is particularly useful to us this morning because he is a criminal twice over: in Paul’s lifetime in the first decades of the Common Era, he was both a perpetrator of violent oppression, and later a victim of violent oppression.

The interesting thing is, Paul was never arrested or jailed for his early career in torturing and murdering those mostly Jewish citizens of the Roman empire who were considered dangerously misguided for worshiping Jesus of Nazareth as their lord and savior. That behavior was just fine with the Roman authorities! What eventually landed Paul in prison – many times – was his own dramatic conversion to that same religion he had spent so many years brutally suppressing. The definition of “crime,” as we see, is a relative one; history informs us that what constitutes crime is determined by each people in each era. What I am doing right now – a woman daring to preach!-- for instance, could have landed me in the stocks in past centuries in this country. It could land me in jail in some countries today.

As we are sitting here, well over two million men and women – mostly men of color– are living behind bars (that’s the population of the greater Boston area, and an estimated 486 prison inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents) -- up from 411 at yearend 1995. One out of every 140 citizens of the United States woke up this morning in a tiny locked cell, on a cot bolted to the wall, with a toilet in the corner. If they’re very lucky, a stream of light may have come through a high, small window. But most likely not. Another four million Americans are on probation, and about 725,500 are on parole. If this sounds like a shockingly high number of our citizens involved in the criminal justice system as offenders, it is. To have this high of a percentage of the population behind bars is unprecedented in our history and unprecedented on the planet. As of 2003, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Mostly due to mandatory sentencing for drug crimes, the number of inmates has quadrupled in American prisons since 1980. In the 1990’s, when the economy was booming, one out of three African-American men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine was either behind bars or on probation or parole.

I don’t know how many men and women were imprisoned in the first sixty years of the Common Era in the Roman Empire. But at the ending of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes this haunting phrase to his community of believers: “Remember my chains.”

And I do. I remember Paul’s chains, and I think of the shackles that have been placed, and are placed today, on great numbers of human beings whose ideas, beliefs or proclivities were or are in violation of the taboos or social norms of their place and time. In this, the Apostle Paul is in the company of those great authors of prison letters like the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama where he was locked up for civil rights activism, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote letters of moral challenge and consolation from his cell in Germany, where he was kept for protesting Nazism, or Alice Paul, the intrepid suffragist of the early 20th century who served three prison terms for her activism. Both King and Bonhoeffer died martyrs, as did Paul.

Please understand. This is not to paint all of our prison population in America with the great brush of liberal pity and delusions of innocent victimhood. Most of our prisoners are not victims. They are not Kings and Bonhoeffers and Saint Pauls or Alice Pauls. They are perpetrators, and they are mostly in prison because they are guilty of something our society has decided is a crime.

You have heard the statistics telling that prisoners are often products of poverty, mental illness[1] (about 16% of prisoners) and addiction. Our religious convictions call us to note those grim facts, and to care about them. It is also true that most prisoners are possessed of sound enough mind and body to be responsible for their decisions. Our religious convictions call us to note that fact, too. We must hold both of these realities in creative tension. Prisoners are our fellow human beings, and we must remember them, and stretch our own souls enough to be able to acknowledge their basic humanity even when decrying many of their decisions.

When Jesus listed the righteous acts that will create the realm of heaven here on earth, he enumerated these for his community:

"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-37)

So, they may be in chains, but they are still ours to minister to and to keep within the circle of our concern. It is a gospel imperative. We cannot usher in anyone’s idea of the kingdom of heaven if we relinquish 2.1 million fellow citizens to an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy or dismiss their predicament as being their own literally damned fault. This is a spiritual challenge for us, living in a country that has spent the past twenty years peddling the notion that “soft on crime” is a disastrous recipe for societal chaos and a terrorized population. It is a spiritual challenge for those of us living in a nation whose leaders -- in my memory, at least -- have never dared to express one iota of concern for the imprisoned (if prisoners have come up at election time, they have been used as bogeyman illustrations for candidates’ tough on crime agenda – you will remember Willie Horton). It is certainly a spiritual challenge for those of us who have been victims of crime.

If you prefer not to take that spiritual challenge, consider then the merely practical implications of ignoring Americans in prison: since 1998, about 600,000 people have been released from prison each year – about 1,600 a day. 100,000 of these are released with no community supervision. Practices vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, prisons work with local agencies to find housing and employment for inmates upon their release. In Texas, a prisoner who has served his term gets one hundred bucks and a bus ticket. In Maine, he or she gets up to fifty dollars, some clothes, and a ride home. If there’s no home, he gets a ride to work. If there’s no work, he gets dropped off somewhere – maybe at the state border. In Georgia, it’s twenty-five bucks and a bus ticket.
Where are these people supposed to go? More importantly, who are they supposed to be? If they went into jail or prison a non-violent offender, they’ve been keeping intimate company with violent offenders for some time. They’ve learned violent ways. If they’ve been emotionally neglected, had their basic assumptions about how to function in the world left unchallenged, and left to rot intellectually, they’re not likely to make any better neighbors or co-workers or church members or family members than they did before they went into prison.

Where are they supposed to live? And how? Ex-cons are not eligible to live in public and subsidized housing, even if that’s where their family lives. They’re not eligible to work in a number of professions… including home health aide, firefighter, turnpike employee, bartender, cosmetician or barber.

A total of four million Americans have lost the right to vote because of their incarceration, including one in every seven African American men. (American Radio Works, “Hard Time: Life After Prison,” 2003) In twelve states, this disenfranchisement is permanent; a life sentence no matter what the length of the prison sentence. Not much incentive to participate in social change then, is there? Not much of a sense of personhood.

We cannot underestimate how prisons contrive to strip prisoners of their inherent sense of worth and dignity. A dignified prisoner is a threatening prisoner. By his very presence he shames his jailers, a shame and degradation that already permeates our correctional system at every level. Of course the jailers suffer as well as the jailed: prison guards have the highest rates of heart disease, alcoholism, drug addiction and divorce -- and the shortest life span -- of any state civil servants. (Conover, p.21)

More and more it seems clear that our so-called “correctional” system has no real plan (or desire) to rehabilitate criminals to lead more productive lives outside of prison. “Corrections” began as a system of corporal punishment in early American history (“Before independence, Americans generally flogged, branded or mutilated those felons they did not hang.” – James S. Kunen), and evolved by the late 18thcentury into a punishment more of the mind than the body. The Quakers, beginning with William Penn’s colonial government in Pennsylvania, aimed through the incarceration of criminals to prevent further harm to citizens and to encourage prisoners to penitent reflection, hence the term “penitentiary.” The hope was that the prisoner would truly reform before returning to society. Of course, this was an ideal that was seldom met, or even sincerely sought. The history of incarceration in America is an appalling litany of human rights violations. [2]

I have sat through presentations by prison administrators during prison chaplaincy training (right near here at the Delaware County Correctional Institute in Media), and seen self-congratulatory videos describing “programs” that are intended to ease my sentimental religious conscience about the brutality of life behind bars. These glossy productions are intentionally misleading; disturbingly so. My work inside prisons and as a pen pal to inmates causes me to doubt that there is any greater purpose to most modern American prisons than for both jailers and the jailed to simply endure the passage of time, (“A life sentence in eight-hour shifts,” said one guard about his own professional life) and to make money for the corrections industry.

Yes, corrections in America is an industry. The construction of prisons is expensive, and private contractors make huge profits building them for the government. Prisoners are consumers, too. They need food (over six millions meals a day) and medical care, they need shaving supplies and uniforms. They need a telephone company to provide them phone service so they can call home or their lawyers. And prisons needs all kinds of products: equipment for the rec. room, surveillance equipment, razor wire, and terrific gizmos like the “B.O.S.S. chair” – the Body Orifice Security Scanner that sells for $5,000 “On its web site, the American Correctional Association points to the $50 billion spent each year to run the nation’s prisons and jails. And it warns companies, ‘Don’t miss out on this prime revenue-generating opportunity!’” (from American Radio Works,“Corrections, Inc.", 2003)

Let me tell you how ethically troubling the corrections system is in our country, in case you never considered, as I did not, that keeping more people in prisons for longer sentences is good business for corporate America:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an organization founded in the 1970’s whose stated mission is to “promote free markets, small government, state’s rights and privatization.’ More than a third of the nation’s lawmakers belong to ALEC, whose members meet at corporate-sponsored conferences where they write model legislation and then take those “model” bills home and try to make them state law. Among the corporate sponsors of ALEC conferences are Turner, a construction giant and the nation’s number one builder of prisons, and Wackenhut Corrections, a private prison corporation. (The keynote in 2002 was Jeb Bush, and they gave Zell Miller the “Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.” That should provide some helpful context. )

The result, of course, is corporate-sponsored legislation, including legislation on sentencing of criminals. I am sure it will not surprise you to also learn that Corrections Corporation of America, which dominates the private prison business (building and running prisons in twenty-one states and Puerto Rico), pays $2,000 a year for a seat on ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force. The panel writes the group’s “model” bills on crime and punishment. And I doubt if it will surprise you to learn that the Corrections Corporation of America has pushed a tough-on-crime agenda an influenced legislation on mandatory minimum sentences, and Three-Strikes laws. This is all very good business for those who build and run prisons. [3] The absolutely appalling conflict of interest here has not yet come to the attention of most Americans, who have been well trained to think of convicts of those who deserve to live behind bars for as long as a judge sees fit to put them there.

(Now you know. And I hope that you will feel empowered to do something about it, particularly around sentencing laws in the state of Pennsylvania. Ask yourselves who stands to profit from incarcerating non-violent criminals. Find out where those released from Delaware go, and those released from Graterford.)

Some time ago, I visited England and went on a tour of a magnificent castle. The first stop on the tour was the dungeon. Not a dungeon, but the dungeon – no home of the wealthy and powerful was complete with a dungeon! The dungeons were set far enough away from the great halls and ballrooms so the ladies and gentlemen of the manor wouldn’t be troubled by the tormented screaming and begging of the damned. I almost cannot catch my breath describing it: the dank, sweaty walls, the unforgiving earthen floor, the darkness, and the smell of fear that remained in that space across hundreds of years. Now a tourist attraction, you understand.

There were shackles on the wall; rusty and well used, where prisoners were hung for days before they died of thirst or injuries. Worst of all, and one of the worse things I have ever seen, was a small hole in the floor covered by an iron grate. The hole was so small that a man would have to curl up to fit into it, and that’s just what it was used for. A prisoner would be shackled in the fetal position and put in the hole, and left to die of madness or physical agony. Usually the first preceded the other.

What was this special torture device called? The oubliette, taken from the French verb oublier, to forget.
I have no doubt that some of the men left to perish in the oubliette were truly dangerous and unrepentant criminals. But I ask you to consider when, if ever, such punishment is the appropriate action of a civilized society or people. I ask you to remember this morning those often forgotten men and women who, although freer in body than the tormented occupant of the oubliette, are often no less confined in intellect and possibility than those tortured souls who ended their lives in the dungeons and oubliettes of past, horrifically unenlightened societies.

Finally, I ask you to hear these words written by the criminal, the prisoner, the apostle, the martyr and the saint Paul, who in his letter to the Romans wrote, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. . . ”

I consider this one of the most beautiful Universalist statements ever uttered. This is our good news. It is not easy news, but it is our news. [P.Bangers, I know you know that this reading concludes, "the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord," but let's just let it go this once, shall we? This congregation has a hard enough time when you just mention the Jeez, okay?]

For the love of God and the love of humanity, remember them. Include them in your thoughts and prayers for a reconciled world, and in your work for justice, and know that our claim to affirm the dignity of all peoples is tied to their fate. In the words of the beautiful hymn, "In prison cell and dungeon vile, our thoughts to them are winging…"
So may it be, and may we have the courage to make it so. Amen, and amen.

NewJack: Guarding Sing Sing, Ted Conover, Random House, 2000.

[1] My statistics this morning were gathered in 2001 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Urban Institute, The Sentencing Project, and The Center for Law and Social Policy.
[2] For a fuller discussion of this history, I encourage you to read Ted Conover’s book NewJack: Guarding Sing Sing, pp 172-209.
[3] I got this information and many direct quotes about ALEC and CCA from “Corrections, Inc


Saturday, June 25, 2005

No Reason You Can't Click On This

Still On Hiatus...

but sari linked to this and I had to, too.

Now go kiss your cat.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Little Sabbatical

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
One of the beauties of blogging is that it's entirely voluntary.

In recognition of the fact that it is all too easy for her to keep painful emotions at bay by compulsively writing about them, PeaceBang is going to take a tiny sabbatical.

There is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to dance. A time to pray for folks and a time to blog.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Revenge of Anthony Lane's Sith

For lovers of scathing cinema critique in the style of the late great Dorothy Parker, ladies and gentlemen, I give you ...
[Warning: do not read while drinking beverages. Especially the part about Yoda.]


"The general opinion of 'Revenge of the Sith' seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, 'The Phantom Menace' and 'Attack of the Clones.' True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion."

No Punch Line

So you and your wife are atheists and are camped out in the hospital because your son is gravely ill, and your minister walks in.
This isn't a joke. There's no punch line.

So what happens next?
Unitarian Universalists, you know what happens next. This is for the other kids. This is for the people who can't imagine how such pastoral moments work without a Bible being cracked or psalms recited, or prayers shared out loud
(this is not to say that Unitarian Universalists never include the Bible or shared prayer in pastoral visits, it's just not very typical any more).

This is a fairly typical PeaceBang scenario:

The minister will listen to you talk. Tissues may be produced, and used. She will be apprised of medical realities, and treatment protocols. She will hear again the story of how it got to this point.
She will ask if there's anything the congregation can do by way of practical support. She will bring greetings from many friends and neighbors.
She may discuss the Red Sox, if that's a fun diversion for the worried ones.

The minister, who is a "praying tomato" (see Damon Runyon, "Guys and Dolls"), will eventually mention that she's been praying for you. She won't ask to pray with you, because she knows that you don't do that, and such a thing makes you very self-conscious and uncomfortable. Knowing this, the minister will hold your hands and say that she's been praying that you feel a sense of inviolable love among you and within you, that she is grateful that you have the strength of such a close family, that you will feel the loving support of the congregation as you endure this stressful time, and that you'll be as free of anxiety and sleepless nights as is possible under the circumstances.

There will be hugs and kisses and promises to talk soon. There will be blessings.

And then the minister will drive home listening to U-2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and wait for her breathing to come from a calmer place, and the worried parents will continue to wait.

And though understanding the source of connectedness in different ways, they will all know themselves connected by the bonds of love, and everyone will, in Bono's words, "walk on."

It's really not so exotic after all.

What the Hell Are RUMBA PANTIES?

Remember when I said today that "nothing human is alien to me?"

I think I might be takin' that back.

Courtesy of PlanetDan, with my eternal, diapered thanks.

"Nothing Human Is Alien," Continued

Well, and you might as well see this, too:

Because there have already been questions to some UU chat lines about how to "best welcome" so-called furries.

(How about with a puppy biscuit?)

Hi Calvin, I'm Paul

Paul Tillich
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Which theologian are you?

Boy In the Bands scored as Calvin,

and I scored as Paul Tillich. Whattyaknow.

My results, quoted from the web page:

"Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.

Paul Tillich

Friedrich Schleiermacher

John Calvin

Charles Finney

Jürgen Moltmann


Martin Luther

Karl Barth


Jonathan Edwards

THAT was fun. And illuminating. And slightly disturbing. Definitely evidence that it's time to hit the books in a serious way this summer. I don't know who Finney is, but I'm very happy that I got a little skotch of Jonathan Edwards in there. I'm either a study in contradictions or just a sloppy theological mess. Either one is fine with me. Because, you know... it's that existentialist thing. It doesn't matter in the end, anyway.

Seriously though... how come I can't be Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza or Sarah Coakley or even Hildegard of Bingen? Or Theresa of Avila?

I know he's not a classical theologian or systematician, but it's all about EMERSON for me. And Channing. Rolled up with Bette Midler, Endora, Martin Luther King and Stephen Sondheim. That's what I call the meaning of life.

"Nothing Human Is Alien To Me" -- Terrence

According to the Associated Press,

"People don’t know who Michael Jackson is,” said defense attorney Susan Yu. “I spent a lot of time with him. I’ve never seen anybody so vulnerable. This person is totally incapable of doing any of the things they said he did.”

Let's get this straight right now. There is no human being who is "totally incapable" of any heinous crime that might be beyond the pale of your personal imagination, Susan Yu or any of you other Up With People types out there.

The sooner we all embrace the philosopher's dictum that "Nothing human is alien to me," the better.

Therefore, a Jeffrey Dahmer's human snacking will no longer truly shock us. Our jaws will not drop when we finally learn what happened to that Alabama high school senior in Aruba. It will not cause us to shut down in denial to learn that our government has tortured thousands of completely innocent men at Guantanamo, detaining and tormenting them long after they knew they were totally unconnected to any terrorists. A bug-eyed Georgia bride's "lies and mendacity" will not inspire us to buy the newspaper and "read all about it!", and Tom Cruise's bizarre, simian shenanigans will not make the front page of any so-called "news" publication.

When we get over, give up and move on from our eternal willingness to be shocked! appalled! ohmahgodded! and made incredulous that anyone could do such a thing, we'll move that much closer to maturity as a species, and can stop rubbernecking the multiple horrors of the world and actually do something about them.

Repeat after me: "Nobody is totally incapable of doing anything. Nobody is totally incapable of doing anything."

You may want to acquaint yourselves with the works of the Marquis de Sade, who so well understood human depravity and sadism and who remains for me the unparalleled Dark Angel of Western philosophy.

I recommend the definitive Grove Weidenfeld edition of Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, compiled and translated by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

When I Got Rev'd

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I was ordained eight years ago today.

My family came up and robed me, and my Internship Committee came up and put the stole on me. Then I sat down in a chair and heard Elizabeth sing "A Simple Song" by Bernstein. I was glad the chair was hidden behind the pulpit off to the side because I was just sobbing.

(This butterfly posed for me on my last trip to Mexico, in Ixchel.)

PeaceBang And the Blue Lady

Oh, my.
PeaceBang is depressed tonight.
No unusual reasons. Stress for congregants in extremis, sadness over the news of a metastisized cancer, awaiting the medical explanation for one young man's calamitous drop in white blood cells, beloveds who are in transition and would so much rather not be, rage at the vile iniquities of the "Bush Crime Family," knowing I won't be seeing my pals at GA this year, the heat (which finally broke this afternoon), the dog that didn't get adopted, an old chum's cheerful inquisition as to why I haven't had a date in a year, and a sick feeling that my beloved alma mater is on a very bad course for the future (at least so far as it concerns nurturing the health of the ordained ministry. Yes, that's a call to organize. Write me off-line if you like. Call me Rev. Deep Throat. I have dish).

But thanks to a Jungian author named Lyn Cowan, PeaceBang knows that she is once again visiting with Lady Melancholy and that there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is nothing wrong with her consistently overly-sensitive, death-conscious, melancholic character. Unlike depression, which stifles the imaginal world and muffles creative potential, melancholy brings us more deeply into it. Melancholia is not a disease, but is a temperament that has gone completely out of favor in our manic, modern American culture, and is misunderstood, feared and unappreciated.

I'm not saying it's a bag of adorable floppy monkeys to be a melancholic, I'm just saying it's not necessarily a pathology. It's a typology.

If you are a melancholic or love someone who is, or if you work with the soul in your profession, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It does employ the rather cheezy convention of having several chapters "spoken" by Dame Melancholy herself (or her friend, a melancholic English curate), but even those chapters are very worthy.


An excerpt:

"Until the mid-19th century, melancholy was imagined as an affliction from the gods, a madness characteristic of genius, and a difficult temperament. At the height of the Renaissance, it was imagined in personified form as a majestic female figure; artists and poets looked to her as their Muse. But, in the 20th century, melancholy all but disappeared from the professional imagination, to be replaced by the diagnostic categories of depression."

By the way, Tom Cruise can go fffffffffffffffuuuu....lop on a pile of monkeys for saying all that incredibly inane, inaccurate stuff about Jung's involvement with the Nazis and for suggesting that Brooke Shields is a weak, misled moron for using medications to help her manage her post-partum depression. What a blithering idiot, as my father used to say.

[Oh my heavens. I hear cars honking and hundreds of teenagers screaming out on Main Street. It couldn't be the last day of school? Not at 8 pm? It couldn't be a football victory. What is it? Graduation was weeks ago. Michael Jackson's
verdict? A really good episode of "Scrubs?" What?]

Monday, June 13, 2005

Could Have Knocked Me Ovah With a Feathah

Mr. Brindly Head
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

You know how sometimes you find out that a word you thought meant something doesn't mean that at all, and you were a big Totally Wrong Head every time you used it?
And you think, "Geez, what a dope I am!"

I always thought "brindle" meant wiry-haired, like Brillo, with a connotation of old and cranky like this hilarious ancient schnauzer I met last night named Pettibone Smith (I think she's a schnauzer. Maybe a Something Terrier).

Anyway, when you pet her, she is very BRINDLY; her fur almost cuts your hand!
But I am so wrong! "Brindle" or "brindled" refers, in fact, to a color combination, not a quality of the hair at all.

I think I might just refuse to accept this.

I just need you to know that when I was standing in the kitchen saying my farewells, old Pettibone came over and peed right on the floor and almost got my foot. She was intentionally creating a diversion -- and she was successful -- because as we were howling and mopping up and exclaiming she bee-lined right over to the other dog's food bowl and made out like a bandit. Cleaned the plate.

That naughty, brindly girl!

(P.S. What's a bee-line? Is it a B-line?)

What Is a Sermon?

In my recent post entitled, "Thumping," Martinet comments that s/he has preached what s/he calls "commentaries" and what I would probably call "sermons."

In the Protestant tradition, the sermonic moment (whether we call it a sermon, a reflection, a homily, a commentary or a discourse) is the focus or high point of the liturgy. I am interested in the fact that Martinet has an aversion to the word "sermon." Perhaps Martinet will expound further on that, or others of you who feel similarly will do so. Is it because of the negative connotation we give to the expression "preaching" (as in "quit preaching at me!")? Is it something else? I hope you will share.

It may have been Barbara Brown Taylor who said that a sermon is one side of a passionate conversation. If not, you should still read her lovely, wise little book The Preaching Life. Although I had extremely minimal preparation for preaching in seminary, I have found that I love preaching dearly, with all my heart, my mind, my soul and my strength, in a way I have yet to fully understand. With apologies to Jerry Maguire, preaching completes me.

I never, ever saw myself as a preacher. If you had told me that I would love preaching like this when I started seminary I would have scoffed directly to your face, as I had no intentions of going into parish ministry. Who knew?

Thus far, I have determined the following personal truths:

preaching is the aspect of ministry that brings me the most constant anxiety (which I am beginning to understand as "passion tinged with a sense of profound, unremitting responsibility");
preaching is the honor granted me by a congregation whose trust and attention I constantly want to keep earning;
preaching is the art form that connects me to my life-long, intuitive and unexamined adoration of language ("Word!");
preaching is the one aspect of ministry within which I grant myself almost no self-forgiveness, because while one can never fully prepare to make the best possible pastoral response in any given situation, one can (and should) be damned well prepared to climb into the pulpit on a Sunday morning.

Preaching is such an ancient human activity, very few of us have a really clear sense of what a sermon really should be, while most of us can certainly say what it should not be.

What am I doing when I am giving a sermon?
First, I am giving it. It is the best gift of my attentive mind and heart that I am capable of giving at that time. I hope it will be received as a gift of love. In my own church, I always feel that it is. I cannot overstate the sense of blessedness that comes from this manner of giving and receiving.

More practically, when I am giving a sermon, I am giving a teaching from our tradition. I have never seen a sermon described in this way but this is my current working definition of a sermon.

Finally, and in the spirit of "the last shall be first," this teaching from our tradition must minister to those gathered for worship, else it is neither fit to be given from the pulpit, nor is it fit to be called a sermon.

The congregants who are in church every weekend have heard me give approximately 540 minutes worth of such teachings over the past church year, or 9 hours. All that research, prayer, and late nights slaving over the word processor for nine hours of preaching.

Worth every second. And of course the total worship experience is so much more than just the sermon.


Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
My friend the Professor called the other day to tell me about the incorrigible Bible-thumping student he has in one of his classes, who takes every opportunity possible (like every time she opens her mouth) to witness to the saving power of her Lord Jesus Christ. Even the Nazarene youth pastor in his class rolls his eyes and sighs heavily when this gal starts in.

We were laughing about it, but I could certainly tell that my friend, who is a devoted and saintly enough professor that he actually ENCOURAGED this girl not to drop his class, is irritated and frustrated. He has every right to be. Such an insistent personality, whatever their particular obsession, all too easily hijacks the learning process for all participants in the class, and he has a real challenge ahead of him.
How could she so NOT GET IT? What kind of emotional limitations cause someone to think they must examine every single intellectual idea and statement through the lens of the salvation story of "Mr. Jesus of the Christ family" (thank you, Eddie Izzard)?

As we were talking about this young fundamentalist's rote responses to every conceivable question put to her faith, it occurred to me that Unitarian Universalists often do the same, exact thing, only in reverse.

Immediate, obligatory disdain for the idea of the virgin birth? Check.

Mocking, insulting cliches shared every time someone mentions the idea of being "born again" or "saved?" Check.

Knee-jerk reaction when someone begins a prayer with an invocation of the Deity, followed by the protest "That word/concept doesn't have any meaning to me/offends me!!" Check.

Eye-rolling expressions of superior logic and maturity when exposed to the Triune God? Check.

And so on and on. World without end, amen.

It seems to me there's quite a sermon or sermon series in the danger of Rote Religion: a quality religious liberals love to accuse and condemn the conservatives for, but which they do pretty derned well with themselves, now that I think about it.

The Dream Tells the Truth

In my dream last night I was in a crowded hotel-type setting, maybe a conference, standing in line with my oldest friend M. and waiting to get some lunch at a cafeteria.

(From here on in, as I was taught by dream work teacher Jeremy Taylor ( I will shift into present tense.)

A handsome man comes up to M. and they kiss. I am shocked and insulted because this man is not her husband and I think "Wait a minute! If she's having an affair with this guy does she actually think that's OKAY to just flaunt it in front of me?" She is terribly blase, as is he. Like, "Cool, babe. See ya later." I feel deeply wounded that she has become so truly shameless.

He leaves and she turns to me. "Don't give me a hard time," she says. "Yes, we're together and yes, it's because I'm bored and unhappy with my husband."

I light into her. My voice is shaking and I am crying but I have all the words: "How DARE you flaunt your infidelity in front of me as if I won't care? How could you do this? I MARRIED you to M., I remember what you promised! You made sacred vows in the presence of God, your closest friends, your family, on the ground of your childhood home where you and I played and dreamed and planned to become good, respect-worthy women together! What the hell is wrong with you! You have two children!! Daughters, to whom you must be an example --- if not you, who else!?"

And then I really can't stop crying as I say,
"And I LOVE M. (her husband). I love him because you love him, and I am invested in your marriage!! So is your entire family, and all your friends, and even other people you work with!"

The scene morphs into another scenario at that point, but there it is.

This isn't a dream about the real M &M, who are adorable and married and happy. It is a dream that reveals the honesty of the fact that what troubles us remains to trouble us until we speak our truth in some fashion, even in the phantom reality of the Dreamtime. Yes, according to Jungian dream theory there is a lot more going on in the dream, where the Friend and the Lover represent aspects of the self and "marriage" becomes an archetypal reality rather than its literal self, but that's more than I intend to go into here. The "ah-ha" for me was to understand that my very soul, and not just my sense of social propriety -- is offended by the notion of infidelity, cheating, and abandonment of vows. I should know this by now but the intensity of the dream made it unmistakable.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Lamb Days of Summer

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
What the :::sputter, sputter::!!??

We went from 40 degrees at the end of May to the high 80's, with no transition days.
I hate it. I'm cranky. The cat is cranky.

Little Compton, however, is smelling the fresh, clean sheets at her new home and giving many thanks to be alive.

If you are not acquainted with this fair, hooved creature, may I direct you to the PeaceBang archives, Eastertide? (That would be late March, 2005, for those blissfully godless heathens among you).

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Funky Format

Something's going on with the PeaceBang format, which I may have inadverdently caused by going into the archives in some way. (I also can't spell inadverdently. Why isn't there spell checker on Blogspot?)

Help me, Obi Wan Scott Wellsobi. I am unfrozen caveman blogger. Your modern technologies frighten me.

Anyway, I thought a fresh post might help bring everything back to normal.
Like a high colonic for my blog.

P.S. That fixed it.

P.P.S. The dog thing isn't happening. Pastor the Collie turns out to be a rather sickly old gentleman, and he is being kept and fostered in CT, and not brought home to live in the parsonage with the PeaceBang and her cat.
P.P.P.S. However, stay tuned for more adventures of "Cat!Dog!Parsonage!" as it may be that Sister of PeaceBang will be relocating to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in August, staying with P.B. and bringing along her collection of bajillions of books, assorted small cute furniture items (if you didn't know her and all you saw was her pile of belongings, you might think she was a Hobbit. Or a Pict), and her dog GORDON (Breed: orange, smooth) and cat SID (it just sounds Jewish... his full name is Siddhartha. Breed: gray, claymation).

Don't you think "Cats!Dog! Parsonage!" is a great name for a reality show? I thought all of those exclamation points would make it more sexy and appealing.

Maybe we should call it "The Girls!Cats!Dog!Parsonage! Show" ! When you say it, make sure to really shout out the exclaimed words. And hold "show" really long, in a way that evokes Ed Sullivan.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cat Break

They love their cat Winston,

And now I love them. And Winston.

Enjoy. By the time you scroll down to the shot of Winston lying dead asleep on his little pillow with his legs all sticking out, you'll love him too.


Long Live Endora

Why shouldn't the residents of Salem, MA be upset and disgusted by their mayor's boneheaded decision to accept a 9-foot bronze statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens from the company TV Land?

Don't get me wrong. "Bewitched" was an obsession for me through many years of my childhood, and I still trot dutifully in to the hairdresser ever 60 days to have my hair dyed Endora red, and yes, it's an homage to the late, great Agnes Moorhead.

I even like both Darrins: Dick York and Dick Sargeant.

But for God's sake, is this how we treat history? So that in 200 years, visitors to this town will scratch their heads and wonder if that pretty lady riding the broom was one of the unfortunates persecuted and hanged for the imagined crime of witchcraft?

Bewitched in Salem

Don't think it could happen? Visit Salem today and see how many well-meaning Wiccans conflate their Gerald Gardner-created "ancient" religion (from way back in the 1930's, ya'll!) with the folk practices allegedly or possibly or maybe engaged in by the thoroughly, unmistakably, unarguably Christian men and women of 17th century New England.

Tituba is the only one of the whole mess who was a practitioner of indigenous ("pagan") religious practices. The others were God-fearing, Satan-fearing Christians who might have sewed the occasional poppet or used a charm to conceive a baby, but that doesn't make them Wiccans, people.

Lots of Wiccans know this, of course. But plenty don't, or they refuse to admit it because they're making a good living peddling their muffled sense of history to tourists in Salem.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Today in Philocrites

More unbelievably corrupt, despicable behavior by the Boston archdiocese. I thought they had sunk as low as they could go.

I was wrong.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Splitsville, Part II

I appreciate that many of you intuited that, in my first post on Splitsville, I was talking about that kind of divorce announcement that comes unexpectedly, that hits everyone upside the noggin (including at least one of the couple), and that isn't so much about chronic misery as it is about unremitting discomfort or inconvenience, or irreconcilably different senses of how happy and comfortable one gets to be in this lifetime.

I puzzle, and I ache.

I have married over 200 couples and my overall sense is that they know that marriage is a lifetime deal; a permanent proposition through thick and thin, sickness and health, bad breath and fallen arches and wheelchairs and the final feeding tube... all the way to plots side by side in the graveyard. They recognize that they are walking into the great unknown together and they generally know that there will be rocky times. The graph of expectations, if charted, might go like this:

Great sense of compatability and sense of mutual enchantment and sexiness (highest point); stresses of living together, mutual disenchantment, establishing more realistic mutual understanding (leveling out); uh-oh -- affair or extreme weight gain and/or profligate nose hairs & lack of hygiene, incredibly tense or non-existent sex life (when one of the partners wants one), evidence of major character flaws (low point); purchase of house, child-rearing (high peaks, low valleys); occasional perfect weekends, trip to Bermuda (up again); and so on until the tombstones.

In other words, the married couples I know seem to have a sense that married life has some definite phases, and they're ready to endure them together.

I wonder, though, how much help we could give marrieds if we talked a lot more about these lesser-known and discussed phases in coupled life, such as :

The "I Really Don't Think I Even LIKE You Any More, Let Alone Am In Love With You" phase.
The "I Have a Wicked Hot Crush On My Flirtatious and Available Co-Worker" phase.
The "I Secretly Think You're a Really Lousy Parent" phase.
The "If You Repeat That Story At A Dinner Party One More Time I Will Set You On Fire" phase.
The "I Am So Bored I Could Set Myself On Fire Just To Have Something To Feel" phase.
The "I Regard You As a Professional /Domestic Failure And I've Totally Given Up Hope That You Will Ever Adequately Contribute To The Running Of A Functional Household" phase.
And the
"You're A Really Sweet And Good Person But I Don't Feel Like Being Married Anymore" phase.

I have thought for many years that marriage, like parenting, is a vocation. Romance, if romance is felt or experienced, is just so much icing on the cake.

One has to feel called to marriage and parenting not so much because one is in love and eternally delighted with the object of one's devotion and care, but because one feels that it is one's highest calling to be loyal to the relationship and role of spouse/parent, because one feels spiritually fulfilled through the daily acts of love, understanding and forebearance that such commitments require, and because one's life would be obviously and eminently poorer without such commitments.

When my unmarried Master admonished his disciples to hate our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers (I'm paraphrasing, of course. You'll find the teaching in Luke 14:26), I think he was pointing to the radical nature of love, which is after all, not about them but about us. It is about the spiritual integrity of the one who loves, not about the object of our love, whose charms will surely ebb and flow in our eyes over the course of time, and whose very lovability is entirely subject to our own projections and dysfunctions.

In other words, and more prosaically, when I see the oldest marries in my community together I think they got that way by honoring the sacred bond of marriage over the pursuit of individual happiness. In my fondest hopes, I imagine they have learned, over the passage of many years, that individual happiness comes not from the enduring adorableness of the other, but in the daily spiritual practice of being a trustworthy, committed spouse.

Before marrying: Know Thyself.
Before divorcing: Consider whose tombstone may be next to yours, and what name shall be inscribed there.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


How do you respond when a friend tells you that her/his marriage is ending?

What, in your opinion, are the appropriate things to say, the parameters around reactions, the limits to expression of grief or disappointment?

What are our cultural responses to divorce?

Do we accept it too easily, chalking it up to "personal business" when really it has tremendous consequence for our shared lives?

I believe divorce is shattering and feel literally sick when someone announces an impending split.
Probably because I'm a clergy chick, I generally feel confident that my first response is, if not brilliant, then at least socially acceptable.

Part of me wishes that we would collectively refuse to accept this all-too-common announcement with our customary tactful, supportive murmurings. Part of me wants to pick something up and smash it and say, "NO! You must not divorce!"

When it comes to the death of the marriage of people we care about, should we go so gently into that good night?

What have you done to support marriage -- your own or someone else's-- today?

The Good Book(s)

PeaceBangers, I hope you will help me out.

I am recommending to my congregation that they go forth and study during our summer hiatus. I am encouraging them to find some books about the theological orientation that resonates most with them, and to acquaint themselves in an intentional way with the Great Thinkers of their various philosophies.

So, recommend away! What would you pull off your book shelves that would nurture the souls of: the Christian Humanist, the Mystic, the Secular Humanist, the Religious/Spiritual Humanist, the Buddhistly-interested, the Jewish-curious, the Biblically-inclined? The Classical Unitarian? The Universalist Beginner? The Atheist, the Committed Skeptic? The Deist and the Pagan? The Wiccan, the vaguely feminine-divinely-oriented, the Otherwise Not Mentioned Here?

How about the Generally Seeking? The disenchanted and disenfranchised?

I await your recommendation with bated breath and a grateful heart.

(Word of the night: "panoply")

Harvard Commencement

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Happy, happy graduation, little Harvard boys and girls!!

May all your campuses be perfectly manicured, and all your jobs deeply meaningful and well-paying. Remember... you're ENTITLED.

It's a Crimson, Crimson, Crimson, Crimson World!!

Sins of The Open Road

Sins of The Open Road
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I can't believe I saw it.

I still can't believe it.

I was driving up Route 3 tonight on the way to town for the alumni dinner and I SAW A WOMAN READING WHILE DRIVING.

She wasn't just looking in a book, she was reading a book. She read and drove for several miles, swerving occasionally. She barely glanced up when I honked at her.

I called the State Police and reported her plate number. She was driving a white Toyota and had a bumper sticker that said, "CRONE."

She should have had a bumper sticker that said, "TREACHEROUS IDIOT."

I only hope and pray that they pulled her over before she hurt someone.

(Word of the day: allegiance)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Fun With Ticks

You may as well benefit from my pain:

Dear readers, I do it all for you. Even being bitten by a tick.

Church Meetings: Great, Free Theatre!!

We had our congregational Annual Meeting last night. As usual I found it lovely and endearing and irritating and silly and noble and momentous. This excerpt is from my final newsletter column before our summer hiatus, penned this morning:

"I remember a colleague who unexpectedly left the parish after over twenty years in the ministry. When I asked about his decision, he replied, 'I couldn’t go to one more bloody meeting and pretend I cared about any of it.'

Ouch. My crispy colleague showed good discernment. When a minister comes to dread and resent meetings then yes, that’s the perfect time to bid the church adieu!

Ah, meetings. Dear meetings. I have actually come to (mostly) love them. Such a reviled and misunderstood aspect of church life, and such an important one. Sure, church meetings can seem uninspired, plodding, and unintentionally comic. Agenda items appear again and again, discerning groups struggle to come to agreement on the simplest of issues through hours of debate, while huge, important decisions are made in shockingly casual “so moved” and “seconded” fashion, and the cast of characters never changes: The Cranky Nay-sayers, The Starry-Eyed Idealists, The Careful Keepers of the By-Laws and Robert’s Rules, and the Blissfully Uninformed. I’m sure you can think of a few more. We have all played every part.

Why would you want to miss this!!?

Church meetings are, in my opinion, free theatre, and some of the best there is. Euripides never wrote such tragedy as the church meetings gone terribly wrong. Pinter never crafted such pregnant silences as can be found at church meetings when someone says something uncomfortable or drops in an unexpectedly creative and brilliant idea. Arthur Miller at his finest never penned such wonderfully intense and detailed dialogue, and Shakespeare’s characters just can’t compare with our own, living heroes and heroines, jesters and irascibles. They are magnificent, every one, and their like shall never come again… until, one hopes, the next generation."


P.S. I'm driving to CT on Friday to meet the dog.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Live Blog of the Tonys

9:00 p.m. The Tony Awards. A Religious Holiday For PeaceBang.
[I missed the first hour because of our Annual Meeting.]

What I'm noticing is that there are a lot of bodacious women with big tushies on this show. No Hollywood sticks -- everyone looks real, and fun, and healthy. Dang, they have to be. They're knocking their bippies out on stage nine times a week. You need something in your dress or the audience can't see you. You need to eat or you'll pass out on stage, and that just won't do, darling.

Cases in point: the babe (Sara something?) who won for "Spamalot" who is hiking up the top of her dress on the way to the stage. Hubba-hubba, but no class whatsoever. James Earl is a portly gent indeed, and Ms. Leslie Uggams is being worn by a fairly enormous, flopping purple frock. Much abundant ruffle around the face. Whatever. She's gorgeous.
(Mom says she looks like an eggplant. Yes. She does. Put a baby in that dress and Anne Geddes would trip all over herself to catch it on film).

The fat, frizzy-haired guy from "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" won for Best Actor. Very touching speech. The number from the production, as seen later is, however, blechville. Similarly, the number from "Spamalot" is uninspired, unfunny and completely un-entertaining. Sorry, I just calls 'em like I sees 'em.

Here comes Bob Goulet introducing "La Cage Aux Folles" with dialogue from the show. He looks rather perma-startled due to some bad facial work, but it's Lancelot and we will always love him. Bob, if ever I would leave you, it wouldn't be in summer (but don'tcha know this dialogue yet?).

Wow, it's a huge can-can number with a major population of saucy chorus boys looking gorgeous in little Frenchy girl wigs, whirly skirts and heels. They're working it all over the stage with incredible gymnastics (a bit much for my taste: it's cabaret, not the Olympics). I'm thinking, "I bet those broads are hilarious fun backstage." I'd love to be a fly on that wall.
(ouch! How do their gonads tolerate all those flying splits?)

9:30 p.m.
Edward Albee chokes me up paying tribute to his recently-deceased partner of 35 years. "He made me a happy playwright. You've made me a happy playwright." Beautiful. I'm sorry never to have seen much of Mr. Albee's recent work. Must remedy that. I would have loved to have seen Mecedes Ruehl in "The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia."

I'm watching Nathan Lane, who looks really old and tired, work some pretty lousy comic repartee with the audience -- I swear the producer has thrown in a recorded laugh track, 'cause it's reeeally not funny. And I don't see anyone laughing in the audience.

Billy Crystal just won something called"Special Event" (is this a new category? Pardon??) for "Seven Hundred Sundays." He's not happy, throwing in some snarky thing about "I thought this was a play."

9:32 Kate Burton, pursing her lips like Tim Conway doing the "Mrs. Tudball" routine, announces that one of my most favorite regional theatre companies, "Theatre de la Jeune Lune" of Minneapolis wins for best regional theatre!! Some of the best theatrical memories of my life were spent watching their productions.
Shout out to Jeune Lune!!! Kiss, kiss, wave, wave!! Felicity Jones, I still worship you for your performance in "Children of Paradise!" I still love you all for your miraculous rendition of "Germinal!" Bumpety-bumpety-bump!

9:43 Lifelong crush Mike Nichols wins Best Director For A Musical for "Spamalot." He's such a hottie in his crazy tux, big gray tie (is that quilted??) and his fashioning glasses. Diane Sawyer, you are one lucky girl.
Mike is all quavery-voiced and witty and unbelievably cute. Diane smiles from the audience, looking gorgeous and classy. Swoon. He thanks Eric Idle, "from whom all blessings flow." Love it. Camera on Eric Idle wearing a tux that functions as kind of a sartorial sight gag. Did he pay money for that?? "I'll take the tux with the swirly gold design, please."

9:45 Love Keri Russell's hair. (Remember when she had it all long, and then she cut it all off? Did you care? I never did. I never saw that show, "Felicity," either).
"La Cage" has won for revival. I saw the original on Broadway and had dinner with George Hearn afterward. Or was it Len Cariou? I honestly don't remember but it was a totally thrilling thing at the time. It was a matinee and he was hungry and he invited me and my friend to have a bite with him.

9:48 Sheer Madness! Al Sharpton has just shown up for a number from "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!"

9:55 Oh, Idina Menzel. A billion high school theatre freaks just fainted.

Katherine Zuber, who won Best Costume Design in a Musical for "The Light in The Piazza," forgot to comb her ponytail. Isn't that always the way when it's your job to make everyone else look gorgeous?

10:00 Joan Allen: smoky rock-and-roll eyes. Many pounds of jet beads over garish purple gown. Frizzy Grecian braid. Very nude lips. It's not working.

10:01 Laura Linney looks great for a change. Special award for your stylist, Laura: "Most Improved!"

10:05 Musical tribute to Fred Ebb, who I cannot believe is dead.

10:16 Cherry Jones! Cherry Jones! Love the gown! Love the long, lingering kiss with Laura Wingfield (Yes, Mom, they're lovers. I'm pretty sure)! Love the shout out to the cast of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (without feeling you have to similarly blow smoke up the skirts of all the other nominees)! Love your work! You were the only good thing in that chick-dreck flick, "Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood!" Can't wait to see you in "Doubt!" Congratulations! Many exclamation points!

(Remember what I said about no starving Hollywood sticks? Strike that. Here comes Marcia Cross, shiny and ravenous-looking. You could sharpen knives on that collar bone).

10:25 I'm so glad that someone was introduced as "a star of the stage and screen." Only it's Angela Bassett, as pretentious as ever, and Ethan Hawke, who rather radiates body odor.

10:30 Hugh Jackman sings "Somewhere" for no reason. Here comes Aretha Franklin wearing a left-over caftan from Elton John's "Aida" and a really bad wig, and singing as only Aretha can. But it's just not really working. Hugh, darling Hugh, just went very flat. But wotta hottie, honestly. I wish I'd seen him in "The Boy From Oz."

10:32 Oh, this is so bad Mom had to call again just for emotional support. Aretha couldn't hold the last note, so as Hugh held it, she threw her arm in the air in a sort of Fabulous Diva Move, as if to say "I am the Queen of Soul!! I don't NEED breath control!!" I will definitely steal that.
We wonder if maybe there are so few people of color actually in Broadway shows (and certainly 90% of the nominees are lily-white folk), they need to bring them in as presenters and performers in random ways. We are embarrased for Aretha and Hugh.

(10:35 Um, could the voice-overs on the Botox commercial be more vapid and insulting to women? And I quote: "I fit back into my skinny jeans." "I had a really good hair day." Wow, those are both major life goals for me. Am I "ready for Botox?" Gee, maybe I am!! :::blink, blink, drool:::

10:43 Victoria Clarke from "The Light in the Piazza" wins Best Actress in a Musical. Mom's happy, she saw it twice.
Here comes Bernadette Peters, who sold her soul to Satan so that she would never age. No..............wait.................Berni's eyes are suspiciously almondine. Yep. Our porcelain doll has had some skin pulled by the pros.

Great group of nominees for Best Actor in a Musical. Norbert Leo Butz wins it for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." It's one of my favorite movies, and one of the few musicals in the new season I really care to see.
(His girlfriend gets a shout-out as "my best friend, who makes me laugh on the inside again." That's original.)

(Can I go to sleep now?)

Oh, "Spamalot" just won for Best Musical. I can go to sleep now. This was terribly produced, boring despite the fact that they made the ignominious decision to turn the sound OFF on the winners if they went over their alotted time, and just dreary.

Give my regards to Broadway. It ain't what it used to be.

I Have Always Hated Motorcycles

A few weekends ago, I did a wedding for a wonderful young couple from our church. I sat with one of the groomsmen at the rehearsal dinner and had a great time talking with him, discussing all manner of topics and especially our mutual fondness for solo road time. He is a motorcycle guy. A cute one, at that.

Today I learned that Mike was gravely injured in an accident on his motorcycle on Saturday night, just a mile from his home. He will lose an eye, and half of one leg. His face will have to be completely reconstructed.
They do not think, however, that he has any brain damage or paralysis. Thank God.
When he flew off of his bike he landed in the yard of a nurse who saved his life by preventing him from choking on his own blood. Her husband, who works for New England Medical Center, knew how to get an airlift immediately for him.

Please keep Mike S. in your prayers.

God grant him strength, patience and the courage he will need to endure this time of trial.

Please drive safely. Please do not take risks in motor vehicles whether they be of the two wheeled or four-wheeled variety.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Is It Fate? Is It Kismet?

I am pretty dog crazy.

I am that person who can't walk through a tony neighborhood on the way to brunch without squealing at all the doggies, and petting them (the Boy In the Bands can tell you that first hand).

I am the person who gets intense heart squeezes and maternal longings when she sees a puppy. If I could have had puppies, I would have been a mother dozens of times over (no "son of a bitch" jokes, please).

I am the person who doesn't have a dog because she takes the responsibility so seriously that she wants to be a really good Human to a dog, and that means coming home at a reasonable hour, taking the dog for walks even on crummy days, wiping mud off their paws, and scooping poop whenever there is poop to be scooped.

Sister of PeaceBang, who has a dog named Gordon (aka Dordon, Dords, Dr. Smoothenstein, Romeo), is a Dog Person par excellence. Gordon, in response, is slavishly devoted to her. One time they came to visit me at my old church and I walked outside to see SOPB and Gordon standing on a little hill in the parking lot, looking for all the world like Artemis and her Hound. They are such a team that when SOPB is in a romantic relationship, Gordon moons around in a stupor of achey-breaky- heartedness for weeks, wondering what he could have possibly done to persuade his lady love to replace him. He could model for the cover of a Harlequin romance with his limpid, lovelorn eyes.

Gordon, btw, is an extremely handsome orange-colored smooth guy with kind of classic pointer looks. I don't know what breed of dog he is. When asked, I reply that he is the Orange, Smooth Kind of Dog. He sleeps not just on the bed but under the covers with his head on the pillow. Not every night, but I've seen it more than once. He's done it with me. Also, he sleeps in. As long as S.O.P.B lingers in bed, Gordon stays with her. He has amazing bladder control. We love that in a dog.

(this might be a good time to mention that Brother of PeaceBang and his wife have an even more slavishly devoted and emotionally needy dog than Gordon, if such a thing is possible. Papito will actually stand on his hind legs for half an hour at a time so that he can lay his entire upper body in your lap. If you pet him, he will endure the discomfort for that long. He will also climb on your prone body on a couch and drape his entire lanky self over you, stem to stern. If he had opposable thumbs he would bring you a single rose. You've never seen anyone so lovelorn in your whole life).

Anyway, SOPB volunteers at an animal shelter and periodically sends PeaceBang photos of doggies up for adoption with little pleas for serious consideration. "This guy is so tandsome," she will say. Or "This girl is a little floppy ear haid! Don't you want her?"

I always get pangs of doggie yearning but so far have withstood the temptation to adopt anyone. The last time I went to adopt a dog, I came home with Ermengarde. Who is just now sitting on the desk and having a bath. She has no idea that she might soon have to share the house with a canine item. :::Cue "Jaws" music for Ermengarde.:::

So anyway, the Sis called today to tell me about Pastor, an 8-year old collie who is very depressed because his family had to give him up. He has little sweet raisin eyes. He has a long snout (I prefer square headed doggies with soft flat ears but what can you do).
As I finish up my third year with this church and am just as enchanted as ever, and they seem to love and accept me as their minister and neighbor, I think, maybe Pastor needs to come live with me. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have to get out and walk the dog every day, and scoop poops and brush out ticks and pay lots of vet bills (because, you know, he's old!).

And of course his name just totally got to me.
This is him. He's really lovely, isn't he?


Friday, June 03, 2005

Help Me, L. Ron, Help Help Me L. Ron

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
It bothers me that this bothers me.

Free Palette Farm

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
There's a talented young artist you might want to know about, who is quite brilliant at creating portraits of your animal companions for a very reasonable price.

Her name is Elizabeth Robinson and her work can be found at

PeaceBang bought a portrait of her feline housebrat at the recent church auction.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jesus Wants You For a Snowflake

If you don't understand the intricacies of the stem cell research debate, you will want to read this beautiful and personal reflection by fellow UU blogger, Fausto.

Even if you do think you know Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Stem Cell Research But Were Afraid to Ask, read it anyway.

PeaceBang Goes Wireless

After much sturm und drang, my dear neighbor and friend completed a task begun by another friend and finally got my wireless connection to work on this semi-new computer (I bought it last summer in my harrowing transition from Mac to PC. Its a Dell Inspiron 600 m. It has six squillions of plinkabytes. It has gigas galore. I can get on the Internet four different ways. I have photos on here. I have millions of hours of sermon-sweat on here. This thing is my second brain).

So I'm untethered from my study, sitting here on the couch in the parlor, listening to jazz ("sounds like elephants mating," my Ma would say) and surfing away.

I feel so liberated.
I feel emancipated.

This isn't what Susan B. had in mind, but still... I do.


Oh, Goodie

Arianna Huffington's new blog is almost a month old and I haven't seen it yet!!

Enjoy your little liberal hearts out. Or roll your eyes until they disappear way up into your sockets, as I did while reading the (S)Nora Ephron piece. Nora, why don't you just go ahead and say "nanny nanny boo-boo?" Really. We'd still respect you in the morning. Or, wait. Strike that. No we wouldn't.


Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
M. and P. and I went to see "Falsettoland" last night at the Huntington Theatre. Cross one off my "I've-ALWAYS-heard-so-much-about- that-show-and-never-seen-it" List.

In some ways it was a fairly cliched AIDS-era story: boy meets boy, boy leaves wife and kid, wife takes up with another man, lesbian neighbors make cute,bar mitzvah,death, etc.

But you know, when cliche is done well it plays not so much as cliche, but as classic.

I think "Falsettoland" is a classic.

The music is weird and haunting. It takes you off guard both musically and lyrically. The number "March of the Falsettos" is going to stay with me for a very long time. Some day in my dotage I'll recall it and think to myself, "I must have dreamed that."

We saw a fine production with a very strong cast but none among them finer than Jacob Brandt, a 7th grader from Newton who played Jason.

Add Jacob Brandt to my growing list of Boston-area performers I'll drive any distance in the metro area to see, and in anything.

I look forward to getting the orginal cast recording. The second act love song is, to my ears, one of the loveliest in the musical theatre repetoire.

ANYWay... I feel I'm breathing more deeply in the past days than I have in about six months. The church year is winding down. I have had three CONSECUTIVE week nights free. Kaloo-Kalay, she chortled in her joy!

On Tuesday night I actually sat and read a book for an uninterrupted hour and a half before bed. The rain was falling softly and the house was utterly silent. It was one of the more blissful nights of my existence. Nothing sexy, nothing exciting, just a book, a girl, some rain, and total peace.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mama Has a Beef

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

As long as we're discussing the irritations and minor indignities of single life (I know... married/partnered life has them, too... I know), let me highlight this one MAJOR irritation.

PeaceBang would like to take a little trip this summer, as she has lots of time to do so. Since she spends so many hours surfing travel web sites, she gets many e-mail solications from various tour groups with yummy-looking photos such as the one pictured here.

Mmm, Santorini! yummyyummyyummyyummy!!

And this is the kicker: the ad says, "Santorini -- from $999!!"

But when you pop into the site for more info, you learn that the tour really IS just about $1000 bucks ... UNLESS YER SINGLE.

If you're single, it's more like,


Very disheartening. Because PeaceBang wouldn't mind traveling with others -- in fact, she'd like to-- but not if they snore or can't navigate public transportation in a foreign language (rendering them totally dependent on PB to get around), and not if they're drunks, and not if they need to smoke all day long, and not if they like to pick up Mexican waiters. Also, it would be nice if they can pay their own way and if they don't expect PB to join them on hikes through the desert, or that sort of thing.

PeaceBang is also a little bit too much of an individualist to do the tour thing. Schedules make her itchy. She does not want to have to rise at the crack of dawn to get on a bus to Seville. No. She prefers the freedom of train schedules and rented cars.

PB likes to go to museums, she likes to people-watch at cafes, she likes to walk around aimlessly, she likes to attend cultural events, she likes to shop, she likes to sleep well and soundly and mostly soberly and have coffee in the morning. She likes to talk to the locals and she works hard to learn local languages before she departs from the U.S. of A.

If she is in Italy she likes to have gelato every day.

It must also be noted that she likes to pet and talk to almost every single dog and cat she sees, and also some birds. Also occasionally flowers.

Please explain the "Single Supplement" to me. I am now referring to it as "Single Punishment."

Whoo Hoo!!

June Greeting
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Happy 1st of June, PeaceBangers!!

From sunny, sunny Massachusetts!

(now where did I leave my mittens?)