Wednesday, August 31, 2005

James Ford

James Ford
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Philocrites reports that Unitarian Universalist minister, James Ford, has just been named a Zen Master.

That is so cool. For those of you who wonder how one can be both a UU minister and a Zen master, it's because
neither Unitarian Universalism nor Zen Buddhism are traditions that make exclusive claims to faith. Zen Buddhism is a Way. Unitarian Universalism respects that individuals are free to pursue the spiritual path that resonates most deeply with their soul's calling.

While many UU's spend years digging ten three-foot holes with a spoon, religiously-speaking, here is one among us who went at least thirty feet down into a disciplined path.

James Ishmael Ford is a lovely person and a good writer, too. If you're interested in Zen Buddhism you might want to check out his book, In This Very Moment: A Simple Guide to Zen Buddhism. You can buy it here:

Activism To Lower Gas Prices

I got this e-mail today from a respected mentor. I had heard this notion before and stopped buying gas from Exxon and Mobil (I have been avoiding Exxon for many years: ever since the Valdez spill), but I wonder if any of you more economist-brained people out in PeaceBang Land have criticisms or comments on it?

The e-mail says:

"Phillip Hollsworth, offered this good idea:
This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May!
The oil companies
just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to hurt ourselves by refusing to buy gas.
It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.
BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work.
Please read it and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.75 for regular unleaded in my town. [I just fueled up at $2.85 a gallon this afternoon. -- P.B.]

Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50-$1.75, we need
to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace.... not sellers.

With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas!

And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea:
For the rest of this year, DON"T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices.

If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.
But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and
Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do!!

Now, don't wimp out on me at this point... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to about thirty people. If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300)... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000) ... and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we> will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers!
If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people and DON"T purchase ANY gasoline from EXXON and MOBIL. That's all.

How long would all that take? If each of us sends this email out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a difference.

If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.

PeaceBang here again. What I'm wondering if how the three hundred million people thing really works in reality. Because in my experience, this sort of e-mail goes from me to my liberal-minded, activist-type pals and they send it to their liberal activist pals, and then it gets back to me in about five minutes, and I keep getting it again for years.

In other words, is the pool of recipients really that broad? Or, in the style of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," are we all doomed to be sending this e-mail back and forth like that bloody "Save NPR" e-mail petition we've been deleting from our in-box since 1997?

Flash Flood In Transylvania

In a land far from ours, a flash flood hit the Transylvanian region of Romania on August 23rd with devastating results.

You may wonder why I care enough about this to mention it. We have a partner church there and my heart is aching for our friends. They have a tough enough life as it is.

You can make a contribution to flood relief, if you like. They have very hard winters there, and with very diminished supplies, no livestock and badly damaged houses, demolished rail lines and roads, it's going to be a frighteningly trying one.

There certainly is enough pain on this globe to go around.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Antonia's Line"

antonias line
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
This is such a wonderful film that I just caught on the new gay cable channel, LOGO. I've already written too many posts today so I won't bore you with a real review, but trust me: this you want to see.

There are so many preachable moments in it; so many great philosophical lines.
It features a brooding existentialist character named Crooked Finger who, when informed of his young female friend's unintentional pregnancy, takes on the most tragic expression you can imagine.

"How can you even imagine committing the cold-blooded crime of bringing another life into this world?" he asks her.
Take THAT, right-to-lifers!

This is one of those lovely films about small village life that intermingles the real beauty, the real horror and the real love that are part of it, but without taking on an overly dark or overly sweetsie-pie tone.

This ain't no Mayberry, but it's not Peyton Place, either.

"Is there a heaven?" asks little Sarah.
Her great-grandmother firmly responds, without breaking her stride, "This is the only dance we do."

At another simply poignant moment, young Therese breaks down crying while studying philosophy with Crooked Finger. Holding her in his arms, he croons these comforting words:

"This life is hell. It's populated with demons and tormented souls."

She is somehow comforted, and so was I. The perfect antitode to too much cheery Channing theology.

I probably don't have to mention that this is a Scandanavian film.

NRO Sez Cindy Sheehan Is an "Artist Of Anger" ( alerted me to this jaw-droppingly egregious example of total ass-whappery over at the National Review:

Things like this make me violent.

You Can Watch the Hurricane, Or...

I am trying to avoid camping out in front of the Weather Channel and feeding into their hurricane-for-ratings manipulation. You know how they do it: the sensationalistic teasers, the breathless commentators making it sound as though a projectile piece house is just seconds away from flying into their forehead (even though it's currently just raining out), and the ominous horror movie music at every break.

I just won't do it. I'm just as worried as everyone else is but I won't do it.

For this tiny moment, I'm choosing to laugh at the fashion foibles of celebrities instead (, because it makes me feel better for buying those gorgeous cowboy boots whose current status as "wildly fashionable" and "really cool" was probably conferred by no other cultural influence than "The Dukes Of Hazzard." I swear to God that this JUST OCCURRED TO ME, and it's too late to take them back. I already wore them twice.

Go ye and laugh. Now that I know that every day of this final week off is going to be rainy, I'm choosing to laugh. I could go park at the beach and cry, but I'm going to laugh. And put things on my cat.

She Took The Words Right Outta My Mouth

Anna at Call and Response (
puts it absolutely perfectly when she berates outdoor mall developers for trying to convince us that their creations are in any way akin to a thriving downtown area:

Her posting:

Fake-street shopping/lifestyle plaza dealies

"Santana Row is one of those fake-street shopping/lifestyle plaza dealies. They're all over the place here. See, it's like a thriving downtown, without all the poor people and non-chain stores!" Going Jesus hit the nail right on the head there. When I went to eat with my family at the Atkins Park in Smyrna Market Village, out in the suburbs west of Atlanta, it was charming, but something just seemed sort of Disney, like it was just a facade of a downtown, a hollywood set. Every single building in the Smyrna "downtown" was brand new, and if you got to the end of it it was just field beyond. Very surreal. I don't know what they did with the old downtown Smyrna. Bulldozed it all? I think the main difference (besides the lack of poor people) is the lack of historic buildings, memories, family owned businesses. Coming from small towns, when a charming (or even slightly run down) downtown has those things, you can actually feel the difference. That's what makes a downtown different than a mall. Dressing a mall up as a downtown is just putting lipstick on a pig.


Amen, sister. That pig can have a Crate & Barrel and a Whole Foods and a Barnes & Noble and a Claire's Boutique all it wants, but it ain't no downtown. There's nothing organic or community or real about it. When you put in a public square, a library, a free theatre and other elements that one can participate in without spending a dime, then you can start calling yourselves a "lifestyle plaza." But until "lifestyle" becomes synonymous with "shopping" (and God forbid!), let's just call it a MALL, okay?

This Couldn't Wait Until Friday?

Because it's important to call your attention to stupid cat blogs:

I think it's especially funny to me because most of the cats are striped tabbies, like my girl. Also because it never occurred to me to put stuff on her, except for a blanket, and she might like that. I think I'll try it right now (when I'm on the computer, she's asleep on the modem as a rule).

Thanks to Call and Response for the introduction.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Speaking of Anxiety

My pal Steve learned the leading role of the conservative Baptist preacher daddy in "Footloose" in like two days and he's going on tonight for one performance. He actually enjoys this kind of thing. It would put most performers I know on serious Valium. I mean, it's the actual, real Actor's Nightmare!!
He says he learned the entire role of Othello in 24 hours or something one time, but I may have gotten that wrong. It may have been 48 hours. Insane.
This I gotta see.

Happy Birthday, you crazy man!
And Papa... don't preach.

The Anatomy of An Anxiety Attack

If you've ever had one, does it have a color? Mine are greyish red.

Okay, I just had an anxiety attack. I know what they are now, I know how they feel when they're coming on, and I know they will resolve themselves. And that I will live.

I am beginning to find it rather fascinating that the mind has to override the body with such sternness, and that it can. The body thinks something is terribly, terribly wrong. The mind firmly informs it that nothing is wrong, and stop it right now.

I was working on two sermons for Sunday. I am preaching one in the morning at the usual worship service and the other in the evening, on the occasion of an ordination.
I worked on them a long time. I got help from friends.
I am sure they're acceptable. I wrote them with love and sincere intent to minister to those who have gathered. Psalm 19, and so on.

The anxiety was just one of those unreasonable whompers that happens. It's not rational. It just happens. After the effort of finishing the work, my mind, freed from the constraints of composition, went into a mad spin-out of self-doubt. It's happened before and it goes something like this, "Both of these sermons stinketh mightily. Not only do they stink, they stink and rot for about two pages too long. When you leave that church people will joke for years about that woman who came that day and bored them out of their minds not just once, but twice, and for about ten minutes longer than was strictly necessary."

And then you see reddish gray that takes up your entire field of vision, and then the body floods with heat, and the pins and needles prick up and down the torso, and the breathing occurs through a tiny straw.

So you immediately get up and leave the desk and walk out to get some fresh air and sit on the grass, mostly for the green antidote to red it provides.

I'm fine, it happens, it helps to write about it. I spend a lot of my life looking for evidence that other generally productive, hard-working, ostensibly sane people are as crazy as I am. If you're looking for that evidence, too, well, here's some with PeaceBang's regards.

Having had this whomper today, I feel like I scored big: maybe I won't have any anxiety on the plane tomorrow or Monday.

If you'd like to comment, I hope you will not feel its necessary to offer pastoral support, but it would be very interesting to hear about your experiences with anxiety if you'd care to share.

"Bee Season"

Did anyone read Myla Goldberg's wonderful novel, Bee Season?

I just googled it and found that they've made a movie of it. My stomach actually lurched when I realized that they changed the character of Chali, a gawky 20-something Hare Krishna guy, to a woman and cast KATE BOSWORTH in the role.
Which means, I'm guessing, that the subplot of teenaged Aaron's religious conversion was deemed too boring -- so they had to add a sexy sub-sub-plot, where Kate Bosworth could look really fetching in an orange robe and bald head and Aaron could become a Hare Krishna not because the religious practices and community truly fed his soul, but because, like, there's this hot chick at the temple. Gads, I hope not.

Also a shock to my system: French beauty JULIETTE BINOCHE as the kleptomaniacal, Brillo-haired, pear-shaped mother, Miriam. I like Juliette Binoche an awful lot, but you know when you have a mental image and the movie casting just shatters it? Like when Rosie O'Donnell was cast as Ole Golly in "Harriet The Spy?" And it so totally should have been Lily Tomlin, who was the only living actor who could do Ole Golly justice?

Like that.

There I was reading the novel and thinking wow, this is a really special story. This is deep stuff about Jewish mysticism and marriage and Krishna consciousness and the painful beauty of family life, but they could never translate it to film. But if they did... they would have to find such totally unknown, fragile, fascinating, unmistakably Jewish actors, and have the best director of all time, and it could be amazing and evocative and get people interested in mysticism.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mother Jones Cartoon

oh my. If you remember the 1970's and those really syrupy "Love Is..." cartoons, you'll love this parody:

Ever Had One Of These?

Oh wow. This is what I call FUN SPAM:

"My Bethren, Calvary greetings in the name of our Lord JesusChrist, I am former Mrs Fatima Ibrahim Idris , now Mrs Rosemary Ibrahim Idris, a widow to Late Sheik Ibrahim Idris.I am 72 years old, I am now a new Christian convert,suffering from long time cancer of the breast.From all indications, my condition is really deteriorating and is quite obvious that I may not live more than six months, because the cancer stage has gotten to a verysevere stage. My late husband was killed during the Gulf war, and during the period of our marriage we had a son who was also killed in a cold blood during the Gulf war. My late husband was very wealthy and after his death, Iinherited all his business and wealth. My personal physicianm told me that I may not live for more than six months and I am so scared about this. So, I now decided to divide part of this wealth, by contributing to the development of evangelism in Africa, America,Europe and Asian Countries. This mission which will no doubt be tasking had made me to recently relocated to Republic of Benin, Africa where I live presently. I selected your church after visiting the web site for this purpose and prayed over it, I am willing to donate thesum of $13.200,000.00 Million US Dollars to your Church/Ministry for the development of evangelism and also as aids for the less privileged around you.Please note that, this fund is lying in a Security Company in Switzerland and the company has branches,therefore my lawyer will file an immediate application for the transfer of the money in the name of your ministry.Please, reply me is important i will forward your reply to my Attorney to enable him to make prepration of my Will.If there is any statutory fee i will authorise my nurse to send you $7000.You must send this fund to him as a statutory fees with the evidence of payment if you have the intention of using this fund for personal use other than enhancement of evangelism. Lastly, I want you/your ministry to be praying for me as regards my entire life and my health because I have come to find out since my spiritual birth lately that wealth acquisition without Jesus Christ in one's life is vanity upon vanity. If you have to die says the Lord, keep fit and I will give you the crown of life.May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. Yours in Christ Mrs. Rosemary Ibrahim Idris.Christ Live Church,Bodija, Porto Novo, Republic of Benin"

It's almost beautiful, it's so pathetic.

Ashamed of the Gospel

I attended services a few weeks ago at a nearby Protestant church. The minister, a friend of mine, was on vacation and a retired clergymen was filling in for her.

I left the service limp with amazement, and not the good kind.

First of all, the entire worship experience was so elaborately casual as to be downright sloppy, and much of that the fault of the garrulous visiting minister, who seemed far more committed to coming across as a Really Nice Guy than to bringing a meaningful message or serious Sabbath experience to the gathered people. Worst of all, they just looooooved it! They loved the message. They loved the shared, self-satisfied smiles. They even loved his biting sarcasm during the Story for All Ages, which appalled me. A woman turned to me after the service (she knows who I am) and said, "Isn't he great?? He is so good."

I thought he was far from great but just smiled.

The lector, before giving the New Testament reading, gigglingly confessed that she had been so happy to return to church after a vacation that she forgot to come up and adjust the microphone. While she adjusted the microphone we got to hear all about how she was adjusting the microphone because she had forgotten to adjust the microphone earlier. Is your brain numb yet? You get the idea. The reading was incidental to the jabber.

Woman, you are bringing the Gospel. Bring it. Give it. One can be warm and loving without wholly crushing whatever sense of solemn joy has been generated among the worshipers and making the moment entirely about YOU.

The singing was lackluster and mumbly. The hymns, I regret to say, were of the awful Fanny Birney variety, so Victorian-sentimental blood-of-Christ-y with piercing high notes, that I wondered that any men would bother to open their mouths at all. Had I one more drop of testosterone in my own body, I couldn't have managed it myself.

It was the ceaseless prattle between and during worship elements that most distressed me. I thought only Unitarian Universalists fell prey to the "over-explaining" syndrome, where we can't let the next thing happen but must intellectualize, analyze and contextualize every blasted action, whether corporate or individual. Actually, I'd rather have earnest over-explanation over pointless, distracting blathering any day. The subtext to it all was: now we have to get through this next silly old tradition, but you'll humor me, won't you?

Worst of all was the preacher, who preached not only a highly disorganized, meandering feel-good piece straight out of the Religion Lite Manual ( I swear he got the whole thing off the Internet), but who managed to insert a sort of meta-narrative about how he was preaching into his actual preaching.

The Rev repeatedly reminded us throughout his sermon that he was retired and hadn't preached in over a year and we would have to be forgiven for going on for too long and being scattered, all the while smiling with such winsome old-boy charm that we were bound to eat him up like a dish of vanilla ice cream. He practically contorted himself to avoid seeming like a Christian leader with any authority. This could be because he was a guest in someone else's pulpit. I notice, however, that this fact didn't keep him from insulting the absent minister with several sarcastic remarks (eg, "Well, your Pastor told me there wouldn't be any children here today, but she was wrong! I guess that means you like ME better than HER! Heh heh heh"), so I doubt that his deprecating moues were anything but devices to avoid responsibility for what he was saying and doing.

Brother, I didn't come to church for a dish of vanilla ice cream. I asked for bread and you gave me stones.

Authentic vulnerability is one thing. Authentic garrulosity is one thing. They are charming and human qualities. But sarcasm, pandering and theatrical displays of humility are another thing entirely: they are manipulative, exclusionary and prideful. In the end I was left remembering Paul's beautiful, raw confession: "I am not ashamed of the gospel." Every word and gesture I had heard that morning made me think that this was a people ashamed of the gospel, and none more so than their visiting minister.

"This was so great," continued my neighborly greeter in the next pew. "Our services can get so negative, with confessions of sin and everything. We think that's why we're not getting any new young people. You're getting new people, aren't you?" she asked.

I replied that yes, we're getting some new young people but to my knowledge, it wasn't a year of great growth in any of the neighboring congregations, UU or Catholic or Protestant or otherwise. I said that I liked their liturgy very much because it did allow for the confession of brokenness and need before moving into the contemplation of God's love and Christ's redeeming work. I told her that we had nothing like a confession of sin in our own church and that frankly, I tried to sneak it in on ocaasion because it's good for the soul.

"But," she fretted, "we need something to make us feel good! I mean, we come to church and we need to go away feeling good."

"I have to disagree with you." I responded. "You need to go away feeling that you can do good."

That's what made me feel the most sick. We have every drug in the world to make us feel good: television and movies, computer games, drugs, food, shopping, comfortable cars, spas, self-help gurus galore, and guilt-free sex. Church doesn't need to be another drug. Imagine thinking that what you most want out of church is to "feel good."

Jesus didn't bid us take up our lawn chairs and follow him.

I'm not saying we have to be solemn, miserable martyrs. My own congregation and I laugh together a LOT, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But the church doesn't exist just to comfort the afflicted but also to afflict the comfortable. All of which can be done in a spirit of love and joy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Worst Of the Dental Torture is Over

I made it thorugh the much-dreaded root canal this morning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Angry America

I met a military mom at the nail salon today. Her son, a 35-year old Army officer, husband and father of two small children is being sent off for this second tour of duty in Iraq: this time for 18 months.

His mother is a nervous wreck about it.
Realizing she had a sympathetic ear, Military Mama vented for 15 uninterrupted minutes about the moral depravity of the war, the "dirtiness" of the Bush Administration, and the lack of news coverage about the true conditions in Iraq, including on the thousands and thousands of our troops who are coming home so badly injured that they've lost the will to live, even though medical science has managed to patch their bodies back up.

"But of course that's nothing compared to the devastation we've caused to the Iraqi people," quoth she.

"And if I complain or question," she says, "I'm not patriotic. I don't support our troops. I'm a bad American. Like they're making Cindy Sheehan out to be. A left-wing nut job."

She gave me this tip: when sending packages to servicemen and women, send them in strong plastic containers. Apparently our soldiers are living among a healthy and rampant flea and mouse population (while the higher ranking officers get air-conditioned rooms).
Halliburton, which supplies food for our troops, is providing green eggs and green meat. Her son lost 35 lbs. on his most recent tour of duty. She'd like to throttle Dick Cheney (I told her I'd sit on him while she did).

I deeply regret that I didn't invite this woman to church. She left to get her wallet and said she'd come back, but I left before she showed up again. I left my card for her with the church website on it. What else can we do but encourage people who are suffering such anger and anxiety to find a supportive community?

(Sister of PeaceBang sent me this link of a veteran wearing his "bullshit protector" while listening to George Bush address a gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars)

In other local news, a gas station owner shut off his pumps and closed up shop. Take this job and shove it, indeed. His family has been in the gas business since 1917 but this man is sick and tired of taking verbal abuse from pissed off motorists who actually think he's making a bunch more profit from the insane gas prices.

How ignorant and uncivil. Like some random guy in Quincy, MA is to blame for the fact that it costs you $40 to fill your SUV. Jeezy Creezy.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Happy Birthday, Henry

I think it's my friend David's baby's first birthday today or sometime this week. I haven't met him yet and I really have to, except that I secretly am not very interested in babies until they're at least one. They start to get really funny and develop a little personality by that time. Until then, we refer to them as "larvae" (That is, Sister of PeaceBang and I do -- and we mean it affectionately, as in, "Of course he's darling but he's still in that larva stage.").

I think about my own past year: went some places, wrote some stuff, bought some new CD's, saw a dozen or so shows and movies, had a few dinner parties, made some friends. Starred in a show. Started a doctoral program. Added a few pairs of shoes and a few blouses to the closet. Got the oil changed.

This compared to Henry's past year:
got born, learned to hold head up unaided, went from breast milk to solid foods, carved thousands of synapses in the brain, developed vision, cut some teeth, began to recognize mom and dad's face and to respond to them with facial expressions. Developed a rudimentary sense of language. Went from gassy grimaces to authentic smiles. Mastered the whole "bye-bye" wave. Accosted by dozens of enthusiastic strangers simply for being rolled around in a buggy looking fetching in tiny cotton outfits. And hopefully: raked in tons of presents from adoring grandparents for managing to make it through the past 12 months without getting broken or damaged by novice parents.

He's got me beat by a mile. Happy Birthday, Henry. This old broad salutes you. Best of luck climbing up that big hill called life.


Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I finally saw Lars von Trier's celebrated and loathed film, "Dogville:"

It's pretentious, yes. And yes, I have to agree with the critic from the Philadelphia paper who said that Rod Serling could have said in 22 minutes what von Trier said in 3 hours.

Yes, it was a lot of egotistical moralizing with mushy philosophy spouted by a mumbling Paul Bettany as Tom Edison, Jr.

And I really liked it. I almost loved it.

Some acting highlights:

Chloe Sevigny bugs me. She's excessively unattractive and a very limited actor (she was great in "Boys Don't Cry" but I've never seen her do anything else well).
Lauren Bacall was wonderful in her small role as Ma Ginger (she's a similarly crusty characater in real life, so it wasn't much of a stretch). Patricia Clarkson was, forgive the pun, smashing as usual (there's a devastating scene where she smashes ceramic figurines that have great meaning for Grace, Nicole Kidman's character. It's an awful scene, very painful).

James Caan shows up for a very strange cameo role at the very (dead) end of the picture. It's a very contrived plot twist, but he and Kidman make it work.

And as for the spidery, beautiful Miss Nicole Kidman, well, she's just marvelous. The beginning of the film is extremely ponderous and I managed to read the Ideas, Travel, and Arts section of the Sunday paper before her entrance. After she appeared, looking incredibly long-limbed and fragile and haunted in a fabulous fur-trimmed coat, I had to put the paper away from there on in (okay, I did peek at the sports section and at the front page, but only peeked).

Anyone who lives in small town America will appreciate von Trier's parable of violence and vengeance. His sly commentary on the treasured institution of the Town Meeting is coldly hilarious. He also writes some very fine dialogue for the townsfolk, capturing a cadence somewhere between Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." Surprisingly it is Siobhan Fallon, best known for her work on "Saturday Night Live," who delivers the dialogue most naturally and convincingly.

You may be familiar with the basic plot line: Grace (Kidman) shows up in a tiny town in the Rockies. She is fleeing gangsters. She is first met by the idealistic, young and handsome Tom Edison, Jr. who treats her with great kindness, and the townsfolk (all 15 of them, plus some children) agree to shelter the fugitive. At first, she is happy to be there and they are happy to have her help. Soon, though, the relationship between Grace and the people of Dogville becomes more and more exploitative until Grace is literally their slave for domestic and sexual purposes. She attempts an escape. She is punished (in a contrivance that will bring to mind the best of Shirley Jackson) and bears her suffering with grace (get it?) and dignity. The end of the film is a plot twist, so I won't give it away. Suffice it to say, Grace changes her mind about the nature of forgiveness and understanding. The final tableaux is bloodier than "Hamlet." Hell, it's bloodier than "Titus Andronicus."

You wish von Trier had provided the character development that would give the ending have more integrity than it does; as it is, he relies entirely on the acting chops of James Caan and Nicole Kidman to achieve what he should have provided in the screenplay.

But you know, I'm still thinking about it the next day, and that's all I ask of a film.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

B. D. Was So Wong

My mother and I saw a really C- production of PIPPIN at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor the other night, starring B.D. Wong as the Lead Player.

Here's the gushing, deluded review from the Stephen Schwartz web site:

My take?

"There's a reason that Broadway favorites Rachel York and Karen Ziemba backed out of this production and had to be replaced. It's called shoddy production values and directorial insanity. Who does 'Pippin' without any dancers? Who thinks that throwing a bunch of wheelchairs on stage during 'Just No Time At All' isn't an egregious rip-off of Susan Strohman's hilarious granny-walkers bit from 'The Producers?' Who paints skeletons in Day-Glo on leotards and then passes of the brilliant dance break after 'War Is a Science' as a campy high school 'dem dry bones' routine?

Who the HELL destroys 'Extraordinary' by having four members of the ensemble -- all Equity, all accomplished -- dress as DUCKS and quack around Pippin as he tries to get through the number with a modicum of dignity? Who, when blessed with a Catherine as beautiful and fair of voice as Anastasia Barzee, destroys the simple loveliness of 'Love Song' with endless sight gags and cheap laughs?

You know how at the end of the story (whose second act really is a mess : Mother of PeaceBang remarked, 'It seemed like someone was backstage writing the thing and giving the cast their numbers right before they came out.'), the Leading Player invites Pippin to make a thrilling end to his life by climbing into a fire box and committing self-immolation?

Think about the sun, Pippin
Think about her golden glance
How she lights the world up
Well, now it's your chance...

I was very happy that the adorable Pippin (Peter Larsen) declined that particular honor. However, I nominate director Jack Hofsiss for the fire box, and the Bay Street Theatre for allowing this travesty against the memory of Bob Fosse to be committed on their stage, with such talented performers, costume designer, and orchestra.

Anne Reinking and Ben Vereen, you were sorely missed.


Puppy Spiral

Puppy Spiral
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Busby Berkeley meets Animal Planet.

(Sari, I know you noticed the one with the inside-out ear first)

My Heaven

Since ChaliceChick and Fausto brought it up, this is my idea of a really great Heaven:

When I die I want to live forever at the 92nd Street Y.

Just look at their list of speakers in one little category alone: Joan Didion, Salman Rushdie, Billy Collins, Garrison Keillor, John Updike, etc.
Not to mention their theatrical readings, classes for singles, culinary offerings, fitness classes, bla bla bla forever and ever, amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Special Kind Of Sharing

My 20-month old nephew had his inaugural outing on the training potty the other day, with relative success.

His maternal grandma was visiting and put him on the throne and left to answer the phone. When she returned to check on him, my accomodating nephew proudly presented her with a doody. By hand.

You can't say the kid isn't smart. He knew he was producing something of great importance and he just wanted to share. I still laugh when I think of how she must have managed to praise him while simultaneously explaining that while doodies are great and all, we don't need to save them and share them.

Is that a metaphor for family life or what?

Are They Worth Praying Over?

My mother and I had to question the wisdom of the New York Times, which saw "fit to print" way more sordid and salacious details from the Dennis Rader trial than could reasonably fit in anyone's definition of "news." Did we really need to know that one of his eleven year-old victims wore mary jane's when she was murdered? This particular details plays too close to school girl snuff fantasies to deserve an outing in the Times. Shame.

Reading Rader's testimony was like reading something right out of the Marquis de Sade, only without the sick humor. And with de Sade, we have very little evidence that he actually committed many of the horrid depravities he wrote about and imagined.

But BTK, despite his tears and remorse (which seemed genuine for his own family but did not extend much beyond them) has a similar kind of insouciance, a sneering sense of pride in his own perversity that approaches de Sade's tone and approach to cruelty. "I'm sorry," he remarked. "I know this [his victim] is a human being, but I'm a monster."

He is beyond despicable. He is beyond hatred, although I certainly hate him purely and completely, and I don't intend to give that up for Yom Kippur or for Lent. He is beyond my concept of God's grace, but I'll leave the fate of his soul to the Lord, as it's none of my business (perhaps the Universalists would like to take a shot at it?).

I sincerely hope that he will be tormented in prison, painfully and for a long time. I hope that he will die painfully in prison, but only after long , terrible suffering. Only then may he learn compassion (suffering with) in its true sense.

I don't much care if that's not very Christian of me. I never claimed to be a good Christian. I claim to be a practicing Christian.

Beyond the atrocities committed upon the bodies and personhood of his victims, BTK -- in his monumentally evil egotism -- dared to keep a file he called "Afterlife Concepts," wherein he assigned his victims roles in his fiendish eternity. His eleven year old victim would be his sexual toy. Another would be his personal slave. And so on. I'm not sure that even the Marquis deSade went so far as to defile the eternal soul of his victims, even as de Sade railed in grandiose manner against all the sacraments and ceremony of the Church (so much so that one begins to laugh and enjoy it. Or maybe that's just me appreciating the high drama that approaches farce).

I should think that while the criminal justice system decides BTK's fate as a citizen, religious people might seriously consider his spiritual fate, and certainly that of his victims. Remember Shirley Ceasar, the great and mighty gospel singer, singing ~

"SATAN, we're gonna tear your kingdom down!
SATAN we're gonna tear your kingdom down!
You've been BUILDing your KINGdom all over this land,
SATAN, we're gonna tear your kingdom down (oh glory to God).

The mothers are gonna pray your kingdom down.
The mothers are gonna pray your kingdom down.
You've been building your kingdom
all in the house of God.
SATAN, we're gonna tear your kingdom down!" (And etc.)

Dennis Rader's kind of evil invites spiritual warfare; a concept quite foreign to religious liberals. Sure, yes, absolutely, fix the neurology, fix the chemistry, fix the socio-economic system, fix the Church, fix the schools, fix the society, protest porn, protest repression, protest all you want, however you want. Yes, I know he's still a human. I know he's not Satan. I know he's a product of many factors. I know. I know. And I'm asking for spiritual warfare because not only did he annhilate their bodies, he made claims on their souls.

So, religious people:
Pray, if you will, for the souls of those dead by BTK's hand, who by any animistic religion's definition are sure candidates for "hainthood," and who left their bodies in a state of extreme terror, agony, horror and likely sense of abandonment. Pray for them because he intends to populate his heaven with them.

I know this is hard reading for a snarky little blog, but I think it needs to be said. There is far more to these crimes than what was done to the victims. There is spiritual consequence. There are souls at stake. I am a Christian and I do believe that those souls are beyond pain and that they rest in the peace of God. But while their tormenter still lives and still holds them to him by this terrible, vile intimacy of claiming them for his own afterlife, I think it's well worth it to pray them over, and pray them over, and pray them over again.

These are the names by which they were known in this life:

Julie, Josephine and Joseph Otero.
Kathyrn Bright.
Shirely Vian.
Nancy Fox.
Marine Hedge.
Vicki Wegerle.
Dolores E. Davis.

"...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..." -- Romans 8:38

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nada te turbe

Nada te turbe
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I just read that Brother Roger, founder and abbot of Taize, was stabbed to death during a worship service:

I can't be the only one with a sick, broken heart right now.

So many of my most treasured memories of worship services include the music and spirit of Taize. So many times, when sick or anxious or lonely, I have sung Taize chants to myself and felt calmed and strengthened.

Thank you, God, for the life that was Brother Roger.

Stay with me
Remain here with me
Watch and pray
Watch and pray

My Idea Of the Perfect Power Couple

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

My heart pounds with admiration. I am reading this terrific book on ritual (Liberating Rites: The Transformative Power of Ritual) by Tom Driver, an emeritus professor at Union Theological Seminary, and thinking how cool he is for blending his faith-based peace activism with his anthropological studies.

I read his Acknowledgements and see that he thanks Anne L. Barstow, his wife and oh my gosh, wow, could it be? -- (total religious geek version of a rock star crush) -- could it be ANNE LLEWELLYN BARSTOW, Xena Warrior of medieval studies, who wrote Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts? The very finest book on the subject that saved me from getting a Ph.D. in religious studies (because why should I bother if she wrote my idea of the perfect thesis on the subject?)?

By golly it is, and I'm left wondering where they live and if I write them a really extra special fan letter, will they have coffee with me sometime?

Wow. I bet they didn't meet on, either. Or e-Harmony.

It turns out that in addition for being really amazing academics, they're both intensely committed peace activists and were recently arrested at Fort Benning.

Gush, gush, gush. I haven't had a thrill like this since I found out that Annie Dillard was Bob Richardson's spouse (he wrote the marvelous Emerson biography, The Mind on Fire* and she wrote... well, all those extraordinary things like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Holy the Firm and my favorite, For the Time Being).

I ask you, is this not absolutely the most gripping opening chapter of a biography you have ever read in your life? Follow Amazon's link and get a gander:

Speaking of Camels

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I don't have an appropriate photo to submit for my Adjunct Professorial bio, and it's due on Monday.

I'm not really fretting, just miffed. All of my headshots were taken to grace theatre lobbies, and Scott says I look like Megan Mullaly in the last one, so no go.

Meanwhile, I am just so tempted to send mama camel's mug in...

Two More Flicks

We had a monster storm the other night and my modem went bye-bye, so I've had two days of internet deprivation.

I finally saw "The Story of the Weeping Camel," a beautiful little film from Mongolia. It's slow-going, but if the sight of a half-born camel colt's hooves hanging out of his agonized mama's hindquarters doesn't grab you, definitely get back to "Desperate Housewives."
Me, I was stuffing chili-powder sprinkled popcorn into my face and going, "GAW, how did they film this? Oh my Gaw."

The children in the film are definitely the gold medalists in the Adorable Children Olympics, especially the little boy. If you don't want to eat him up with a spoon there's nothing I can do for you. He's just the most wholesome, punkin-faced, beautiful, free little Mongolian shepherd boy ever. And the fact that he's just dying for a television set is both incredibly adorable and sad. At the end of the film there's a ginormous satellite dish outside the yert and you think, "well, the fat's in the fire now."

Even the tiny baby who does nothing but cry is precious. With the big stickin'-up pigtails. I mean.

P.S. I don't know why Mongolian shepherd wear hasn't set the fashion world on fire, because it looks both comfortable and chic. The colors are fabulous and the cuts are flattering on every kind of figure. Even the wizened grandmamas and grandpapas look glamorous. Ditto for the yert. I don't know who did their interior design but if that's desert living, you can sign me right up.

Okay, but the DVD is hugely disappointing because after having seen this beautiful story you just have a bajillion questions, like how did they film this? And was that camel eligible for an Oscar? And how did they get it to cry? And were any camels harmed in the filming of this movie? And is there some scientific explanation for why the camel responded to the violin playing, and what do you call that instrument anyway? Because that waren't no violin.
And did they set out to make a film about a camel who had such a traumatic birth experience that she would reject her cute little white fluffy baby, or did they just go to the Gobi desert to make a picture about the shepherds and then this amazing thing just happened ?
They for sure weren't faking that birth. If you tell me that camel's birth was CGI I will take to my bed and refuse to quit it for anyone or anything.

Their official website is just as frustrating, but it has some cute pictures:

So yesterday a friend and I went to see a totally vile, disgusting, pornographic picture called "The Aristocrats," which is about a classic old joke that is so dirty, comedians only tell it to each other. It was a fun peep into the really sordid underbelly of comedy's shadow culture. And not to get too highbrow or anything, but for anyone who has read the works of the Marquis de Sade, you would have no choice but to conclude that it is definitely the comedy world that's keeping the ole French perv's philosophy alive and kicking.

I don't think it was surprising that two of the loudest snorting-laughers in the whole crowded theatre just happened to be ordained clergy.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Preacherly Satisfaction

Much of a preacher's life is spent collecting stories and anecdotes for sermons, and therefore wracking one's brain to remember where we saw that great story about (for instance) the humble rabbi or the wise trickster.

I've been killing myself looking for a particularly lovely Hasidic tale -- two of them, in fact -- that I want to use in upcoming sermons. Since hundreds of my books are lined up in the hall right now (we got three gorgeous new bookshelves for the parsonage today, but I can't re-shelve until they're braced against the wall) I sat myself down on the floor just bound and determined to find the stories.

I found them both in Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.
Like winning Lotto, I tell ya!
I did the little "found-my-story"preacher dance, which is like a cross between a football player just making a touch-down and Molly Shannon doing Mary Katherine's superstar! routine.

That book's a jim dandy for great stories.
Also a favorite is Soul Food, edited by Jack Kornfeld.

I found my storieees, I found my stooories, I finally go-ot 'em, I finally
go-ot 'em, I got a ice cream I got a ice cream and you don't GOT one and you don't GOT one

"Garden State"

I finally saw "Garden State" last night and despite the very cool soundtrack and truly charming performance by Zach Braff, I thought it was overrated.

It's a sweet little film. It was lauded for being quirky and unconventional. But how so? I feel like I've seen this movie a dozen times: emotionally closed-down guy comes home because of family crisis, has his heart opened by quirky gamine. I mean, are there not sixty basquillion variations on this theme in cinemaland?
Let me tell you how it ends: they're in an airport saying tearful goodbyes. He has to leave, baby, because he's got to go find himself, and she's left sobbing in a phone booth (which don't even exist in airports anymore, but I digress). Then suddenly -- what do you think? He shows up because he just can't live without her. She weeps, they exchange dopily hopeful dialogue, they kiss. And... scene.

Yea, we've seen that before.

Peter Saarsgard is great as the totally loser grave-digger friend who really believes he's going to be living off the profits from his Desert Storm trading cards collection someday. My favorite line, delivered in just the most subtly injured tone:
"Don't make fun of my hobbies, man. I don't make fun of you because you're an a-hole."

Natalie Portman is a beautiful, glowing girl but I just don't buy her as the uber-quirky, neurotic type. She tries too hard. When she delivers a pretty funny running monologue explaining how her African brother came to be her brother you can see her acting technique all over the place. That really bugs me. A lot. Ditto the first scene she's in, where she laughingly advises the embarrassed Largeman to kick the dog who's humping his leg. Not authentic. Studied. Technique-y.

However, she and Braff have real chemistry and when she doesn't have too much dialogue, she just shines.

Ian Holm is terrific as Braff's dad. LOVE him.
And again, Zach Braff is totally winning. I fell off the couch laughing at his character's brief attempt to look as though he knows how to swim. In a cut that lasts maybe three seconds he contorts his head in such a dorky way, and with such sincere effort, he had me in hysterics.

So, cute with some lovely moments. Overall, overrated.

Friday, August 12, 2005

More Friday Feminist Blogging

This promised to be a great article on movies that "get women right," but it's just lame and disappointing:

How many movies has this author seen, anyway?

Thanks to pandagon for the link:

I'll write more on this later (maybe) but a role that immediately comes to mind is Isabella Rossellini in "Fearless," as Jeff Bridges' wife. I like the movie a whole lot in general, but I loved that her role was so different than the usual long-suffering spouse of the dysfunctional guy.

When Bridges' character couldn't get his emotional stuff together after surviving a plane crash that killed almost everyone else, Rossellini wasn't eternally sympathetic and furrowed-browed like one of those Anne Archer types (I can't avoid Ms. Archer often enough). She was irritated, angry and frustrated, and she told him that if he didn't start to make some progress she was going to leave him.

Now that's a real woman character. Not a by-the-numbers-villainess, not a limpid-eyed victim, not a robo-mommy, not arm candy, not a whore with a heart of gold, not a princess warrior babe.
A real woman with real emotions.


Kathy Baker in "Clean and Sober." Real, sympathetic, believable. A woman you might actually know. Too bad they had to kill her off.

Cherry Jones in "Cradle Will Rock." Historic, real, kick-butt, terrific.

Maureen Stapleton as Emma Goldman in "Reds." No big hammy stuff -- just real, funny, brilliant, wry. And the real Emma G. was as much of a woman as you could ever want.

Kate Winslet as Clementine in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Not eye candy, not an agreeable romance item. Prickly, difficult, high-maintenance, heart-breaking. Real, with a twist of fantasy. Just like some actual women.

June Carter Cash as Sonny's mama in Robert Duvall's brilliant "The Apostle." Neurotic, loving, faithful, smothering, adorable, loveable. Real.

Patrick Swayze as Miss Vita Boheme in "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar." The best girlfriend a girl could ever want. Elegant, loyal, confronational when necessary, generous, and sweet-hearted as can be. Also... Vita works out (I was not offended by the fact that the Stockard Channing character had to be rescued by a group of men in drag. A typical device and disappointing, but in no way minimized my response to the wonderful Swayze character).

Cate Blanchett in "The Gift." Strange, feared and fearful, possessed of psychic ability that freaks her out just as much as it freaks out some of her Savannah neighbors. Sad, beautiful, lonely, devoted to her kids. Fascinating, enigmatic, just like real small-town "witches."

Laura Dern as the vile, paint-fume-huffing, pregnant Ruth in "Citizen Ruth." Wonderful film, unsparing -- an ugly, skanky, bravura performance by Ms. Dern. Real.

There are more, but those are some of my favorites.
What are yours?

"French Women Don't Get Fat"

ChaliceChick is blogging about dieting, and I am commenting:

I bought that best-selling book French Women Don't Get Fat, and it's a fairly fun read except for the author's rather precious cheer-leadery writing style, liberally peppered with cutesy French phrases.

She talks about gaining 20 lbs in college and how her father, upon seeing her for the first time, blurted out that she looked like a sack of potatoes.

What a jerk. TWENTY pounds? Please. If I put my mind to it I'm sure I could gain twenty lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. I mean...twenty lbs. does not a sack of potatoes make.

Of course what's fascinating is that while the author admits to being terribly stung by her loving pere's greeting, she never acknowledges how cruel and inappropriate her father's vicious indictment of her body really is. She's hurt, and he's tactless. Poor, tactless papa. That's as far as it goes.

In the words of another best-selling book about fat chicks, Fat IS a feminist issue. "French (Men Don't Let Their) Women Get Fat?"

I'm not denying the obesity problem we have in this country. I'm not suggesting that living at a healthy weight and exercising/staying active aren't good and important things. They are, and I, like most people I know, am constantly battling the bulge, trying not to fall prey to Taco Bell on a regular basis, and hustling my buns to the gym with guilty semi-regularity.

But the hostility and disgust that our culture reserves for fat chicks (much more so than for fat dudes) has nothing to do with health and wellness. It has to do with sexism and misogyny and the sense that a woman who takes up too much space is a crime against the natural order.

Take a little spin through today. Keep count of how many men specify that they will only date slim or petite women (one of the more cloying euphemisms for "non-fatty." Hey fellas, I am petite! I'm 5'3" and buy clothes in the petite department but just, shall we say, in the very upper registers size-wise!).

Here are some of the qualities that single men are apparently not nearly as interested in as in thinness: kindness, social consciousness, loyalty, intellectual curiosity, community involvement, home-making skills, spiritual fitness, strength in crisis, ability to sing and dance well, energy, lust, aesthetic sense, good relationship with family, a fine education, experience in living different places, professional accomplishment, self-respect, sense of humor and of the absurd, resiliency, independence, supportiveness, ability to express emotions, intimacy, honesty, compassion.

I have wondered for years that if we lived in a culture that didn't actively demonize fat women, ridicule them and exclude them from the never-ending parade of sexy, gorgeous images constantly titillating men (and women) to buy all kinds of products (not to mention render them utterly invisible on prime time), perhaps hetero men would find that their menu of potential lust objects to be far wider and broader (pun intended) than it currently is.

Desire is an interesting thing. It can be easily manipulated by image, and powerfully influenced by public opinion.

Fat Doll

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wednesday Cat Blogging

This is going to be one of those things that I turn to for solace when there's a State of the Union Address on TV:


I still haven't spotted either of the cats but I have hope.

Wouldn't it be cruel if these people didn't even have a cat and they were just messing with my head?

But you know they do. You can tell because they have cat-themed art on the wall. Only real cat people would have cat art on the wall, hung just about at cat eye-level. This reminds me of my friends L. and M. who tape postcards and other artwork down by their cat's food dishes. I love that kind of crazy.

By the way (I know it's not Friday yet and I'm cat blogging anyway), I did share a special bonding experience with none other than the infamous Poochinette, the cranky cat of La Maison Doyon in St. Ane-des-Lacs, Quebec. Miz Pooch, much to the surprise of her owner, took a shine to me and insisted that we spend at least one night in the same bed.

Her human, in most amazed tones (you have to supply the heavy French accent), said, "I can't believe it. She usually ignores everyone! She is really very sauvage."

But Poochinette knows a cat girl when she sees one. She had the most hilarious growly meow that I made a recording of her talking.


Baby Got Spam

Oh my god, I got my first SPAM COMMENTERS!!

Remember when Dominique Dunne (may she rest in peace) showed up in "Poltergeist" as her house was exploding with corpses and as she stepped out of the car into the diabolical whirlwind she screamed, "WHAT'S HAPPENING!!?"

That's how I feel.

Am I gonna have to do some big techno thing to filter them now?
:::rubbing eyes, looking very cranky::::

"I Just Want To Be a Mother Now"

Just about a year ago, Entertainment Weekly ran a piece by Karen Valby that was such a throw-back to the era of "the little woman" you'd have sworn you were reading an issue of Ladies Home Journal, circa 1954.

It was called "The Lady Vanishes" and the headline read:

"Gwyneth: mom or movie star? -- Just as she draws attention for two upcoming films, Gwyneth Paltrow is stepping out of the spotlight to focus on a different sort of drama: motherhood."

The accompanying photos featured an incredibly ethereal-looking Paltrow (who isn't the earthiest of creatures in the first place) looking as though she hadn't had a baby, but a lobotomy.

In the article, Gwynny claimed that she was so madly in love with her daughter and her new maternal status that she was going to leave movie-making behind -- leave it! Leave it, I tell you! Leave the mad hustle of Hollywood and just be a mother to Apple.

Paltrow went back to work ten months after her daughter's birth. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Julia Roberts did the same exact thing after the birth of her twins, Phinneus and Alligator, or whatever their names are. She gave quotes to the press within which she "vowed" to take five years off to raise her twins. One article read:

"Her trainer, Kathy Kaehler, added at the time: 'Julia says she's taking at least five years off from movie-making to raise her twins. 'She's waited so long to be a mother, and fought so hard to be one, that she wants to devote all her time to her babies.'"

The babies in question were born in November of 2004. Mother Julia appeared at the Oscars about 16 weeks later (arguably just a nice night out for a tired new mama) and returned to work soon thereafter. She is starting rehearsals for a major Broadway bow in March, 2006, and has even put a film or two in the can in the meanwhile.

You know what, girls?

It's okay if you want to work.

It's okay if you find interesting work with the best in the business and great roles more rewarding than spending all day changing diapers and wiping up spittle from your shoulder. It's okay if you enjoy being super famous, glamorous and sought-after in one of the most competitive industries in the world.

But at least have the good grace to publicly retract your earlier statements and speak frankly to the millions of mothers who don't have the choices you have; many of whom greatly admired you for stepping away from the spotlight in order to devote your energies to those little people you claim to be so "in love" with.

Have the good grace to speak to the millions of women who understand why you love work so much, because they love it too, and they are often taken to task for leaving their children in the care of others... or for not having children at all.

Meanwhile, when Apple and Alligator are old enough to become mothers, hopefully we'll have worked some of this stuff out so that they'll be able to frankly say, "I'm blown away by how much I love this baby, and I'm so grateful I have the means to have both family and a rewarding work life."

You can madly love your babies and still want to work. And plenty of women HAVE to.

This Can't Be Happening

Pentagon plans to observe Sept. 11 anniversary with march, concert

New York Daily News
WASHINGTON - (KRT) - The Pentagon will hold a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing Tuesday.
"This year the Department of Defense will initiate an America Supports Your Freedom Walk," Rumsfeld said, adding that the march would remind people of "the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation."
The march will start at the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on Sept. 11, and end at the National Mall with a show by country star Clint Black.

Word of the event startled some observers. "I've never heard of such a thing," said John Pike, who has been a defense analyst in Washington for 25 years and runs

The news also reignited debate and anger over linking Sept. 11 with the war in Iraq.
"That piece of it is disturbing since we all know now there was no connection," said Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq veteran who heads Operation Truth, an anti-administration military booster.

Rieckhoff suggested the event was an ill-conceived publicity stunt. "I think it's clear that their public opinion polls are in the toilet," he said.

Rumsfeld's walk had some relatives of Sept. 11 victims fuming.

"How about telling Mr. Rumsfeld to leave the memories of Sept. 11 victims to the families?" said Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband in the attacks.
Administration supporters insisted Rumsfeld was right to link Iraq and Sept. 11, and hold the rally.
"We are at war," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. "It's essential that we support our troops."
He also said attacking Iraq was necessary after Sept. 11. "You do not defeat al-Qaida until you stabilize the Middle East, and that's not possible as long as Saddam Hussein is in power."

This is despicable on so many levels I don't know where to start.

Maybe you do, PeaceBangers.

One of my first lucid thoughts, after the first thought about picking up and just moving to Canada immediately (seriously: when I got back to the U.S. after a week away and saw again how unhappy, obnoxious, aggressive, pathologically competitive and generally caddish Americans are, I never wanted to leave the house) is to think about George Lakoff and his "frames" concept.

Doesn't this event strike you as a conscious effort to steal a time-honored, popular form of progressive, liberal activism (broad, non-violent community presence + artistic performance= world peace) and co-opt it for perverse reasons?

Julia Ormond, Activist for Refugee Issues

Remember Julia Ormond, that beautiful actress who was so the "It" girl of the 1990's and starred with Brad Pitt in "Legends of the Fall" and with Sean Connery in "First Knight?" And after a few big hits she had flop after flop and then disappeared?

Turns out she was working on refugee issues. Lookie here:

So I'm thinking, wow, if every actor and actress whose career hits the skids after making a pile of dough in a few hit flicks makes similar choices, we could actually have a much better world.

But Julia, I'm sorry I said anything mean about you when you disappeared. Like I'm sorry I said anything like, "That chick was the WORST actress! I'm so glad she's not in everything anymore!" Or "That Julia Ormond is so EXPRESSIONless! She's like Garbo but without the soul!"

I take it all back. Also, you were in that super bizarre medieval Peter Greenaway film, "The Baby of Macon" and that sort of redeems you as an artist in my book.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Willoughby Lake

Willoughby Lake
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Talk about breath-taking. This was the view as I drove down Route 5A in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Northeast Kingdom. Does that kill you, or what?

How's this for Biblical? Willoughby Lake is flanked by Mount Moriah and Mount Pisgah. I wish the photo began to do it justice.

Stories from the Montreal Gazette

[There are some very disturbing and graphic images contained in this post. If you're having your morning muffin, or whatever, you may want to move on to something else. -- P.B.]

Aside from the wonderful food, fresh breezy air, laughs with pals, friendly people and clean-as-a-whistle Metro system, I really liked the English-language paper, the Montreal Gazette.

They had a series of articles on the Israeli pull-out from the Gaza strip, which Sharon calls the "disengagement:"

If you can search for the other articles on the subject, do take the time to read them. I read three or four over the weekend and I found them very helpful and good journalism. God knows it's a complicated subject.

Also appreciated, a powerful interview with Setsuko Thurlow, a woman who was eight years old and living in the center of the mushroom cloud in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It's in the subscriber-only part of the paper, but well worth buying if you have any interest in the subject matter. Hers is a perspective we don't often get in the U.S. She describes the immediate aftermath of the bombing as an eerily slow, quiet procession of death, with people moaning for water while their flesh dropped off of their bones. She saw a woman carrying her own eyeballs in her hands after they dropped out of the sockets. (I know it's not pleasant, people. It just happens to be the reality of the thing, and living in a nation whose president can't even pronounce "nuclear," it's all too easy to keep the concept of nuclear arms at a polite distance). Her schoolmates joined in a circle with their teacher and sang until, one by one, they died.

I don't know why or how she survived.

When little Setsuko finally broke down crying and lamenting all the suffering of her people in September 1945 (after Hiroshima had been hit by a typhoon) her father admonished her by saying, "What right have we to complain? We have life. We have this house over our heads."

In the U.S., we would think this kind of response totally insensitive and abusive. Thurlow took strength from it, and says that it gave her the courage later in life to work for nuclear disarmament.

I'm preaching on the subject of resilience on September 11, 2005. What stories of resiliency inspire you?

Another Pious Plastic Surgery Denier

You know, I truly don't care if Jessica Lange wants to have her face lifted until her eyebrows meet her hairline, but I do mind that she's apparently a blatant liar and hypocrite:

"She looks tired climbing into the U.N. plane one last time. The fine lines on her face are more visible than normal. 'I hope I have the European approach toward age,' she muses. 'As a woman ages, every line and wrinkle on her face and body should tell a story. It's why I've never considered cosmetic surgery. The idea that beauty can only be synonymous with youth is an obsession that has been forced on American women.'"

Jessie gave this quote to the AARP in their spring 2004 issue. And the evidence shows:

I applaud her humanitarian works in the Congo and all, but Ms. Lange, is it necessary to treat the folks at home like blithering idiots who think you jes' woke up one mornin' and your eyes was all slanty-like?


The Essence of Religious Maturity

I'm home and catching up on blog-reading and came across two posts that I think show Unitarian Universalist musing at its most lovely and loveable:

What Unitarian Universalists often totally fail to acknowledge and to take responsibility for, is that they belong to a religious group that generally defines religion in a way that radically differs from the way every other human society defines religion. Astonishingly enough, they nevertheless complain and moan and thrash around when they and their views aren't warmly embraced by others (especially when those others are other Unitarian Universalists).

We (UUs) often define "religion" as that which binds together, (religare), conveniently dismissing the fact that for the rest of the world, "religion" is a system of beliefs and doctrines shared by a professing people (What's wrong with all of them? Poor, misguided suckers). We define "worship" as the act of "considering those things that are worthy," conveniently ignoring or blowing off the Greek and Hebrew derivations that explicitly refer to the act of prostrating oneself before a deity, or the old English origins of the term in reference to a wealthy nobleman ("your worth-ship").

We do this because we're groovy, free people and we feel entitled to do so. We're heretics.

Meanwhile, there's a tiny thimble-ful of us floating around in the great, huge ocean of religious people and religious systems, and we actually waste our time fighting amongst ourselves about who gets incuded, who don't get no respect, etc.

In the wider world, no one (relatively speaking) knows -- or cares -- about us.
We're so far beyond the Pale, even our horses are dots on the map.

So why do I point you to Jeff [oops, I had you mixed up with other UU bloggers named James, Jeff, sorry! -- P.B.] and ChaliceChick's posts as Good Things among us?

Because I think they represent the sincerity, careful thought, emotional engagement and personal reflection leading to personal responsibility that keeps me in love with this little, tiny community of heretics (a word whose roots mean "to question," after all).
These are the kind of posts that model a struggle to stay lovingly engaged with the community of the religious; not the usual justifications for why one is superior and should disengage (or to reform the rest of the aforementioned "poor suckers") from it.

These are not obnoxiously intellectual show-offy types, just masturbatorily displaying their great knowledge to validate their superiority. These are not victim types, who write to justify their great sense of persecution, and to blame and vilify those whom they believe persecute them. These are wonderers -- worriers who make an art form of fretting -- who display the maturity and wisdom of acknowledging that perhaps there's something worth worrying about in the topics they have chosen for their reflection.

To enter into questions of ultimate meaning bare-foot because you might be walking on someone else's holy ground is the essence of religious maturity. It is the essence of graciousness, and it is the essence of hospitality.

Unitarian Univeralists have too often defined hospitality as the quality of welcoming the stranger and immediately inviting him or her in to rearrange the living room furniture, sleep with our daughters and sons, and paint personally meaningful graffiti over older, sacred images.

What Jeff and ChaliceChick show us is a UU hospitality that invites the stranger to take off his or her shoes, quietly and respectfully enter the sanctuary of consideration together, and there -- guarded and guided by the wisdom of intellectual inquiry and tradition -- make decisions about how to best be a good and ethical person in their respective communities.

A bit of true refreshment on a hot and humid day.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Musing in Montreal

Writing from an internet cafe in Montreal, I was just catching up with Boy in the Bands (sorry if my syntax is scrambled, I've been speaking a combination of Spanish and French for the past three days) and found this set of comments tres interesant:

This conversation reminded me that I always wonder what people mean when they say that Unitarian Universalism is an "inter-faith" religion.

How so?

Doesn't "inter-faith" mean a community of people of different world religions?
How are we that? The vast majority of us have, at best, a passing acquaintance with non-Judeo-Christian traditions.

I think Unitarian Universalism is a Humanist religious tradition that uses readings and teachings from various world religions, and which respects and remains enthusiastic about the diversity of wisdom sources available to us. We're not inter-faith, IMHO, unless we actually are congregations of Muslims, Jews, Christians, pagans, etc.

Does anyone belong to that kind of congregation?

I spent two nights in Vermont on the way up here, and it turns out that the little lodge was run by some serious Christers (pronounced "Christ-ers," a mild bit of snark I got courtesy of my friend Steve). They invited me to a campfire the first night and as soon as I figured out it was going to be all church songs and sharing stories of salvation and such, I quietly bid my goodnight.

Interesting how a little brush with the part of the family I'd like to disown clarifies a girl's loyalties. I wasn't happy with myself, but there you are.

Tolerance is WAY overrated.