Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Stupid Auntie, Stupid Elmo
I went on e-bay last night to acquire a clean, new Elmo toy for my nephew's birthday and accidentally bid on two dolls. So now he's getting a little slew of Sesame Street plush figures AND a stupid little stupid Elmo doll which cost 99 stupid cents but (surprise, surprise) TEN BLOODY BUCKS in shipping.
Sister of PeaceBang, I hear you laughing out there.
You know, this must be nothing compared to how parents feel when they send their kid off to college for $25K a semester and find out the kid's spent every day smoking pot in his dorm room and has a report card full of F's.
There, I feel better.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Dan's Faux Pas
This story reminds me of a time I was at a restaurant in Evanston, Illinois (one of the Lettuce Entertain You chain whose name I have forgotten) and salting my fries quite heavily when I glanced up and saw a very disapproving face observing me. He looked to be in his late 60's, retired family physician type. He actually gave me a little no-no nod, and I stared back at him, still shaking the salt. My friends used to call me Sodium Queen.
Please don't worry. My blood pressure is fine, I'm off the white stuff, and I prefer a pinch of fleur de sel nowadays, or Herbamare. And fries are no longer a part of my regular diet. *sob*
Monday, November 28, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Santa Claus is Coming To Town
I'm not sure why -- I think it was Derek's idea -- but we all watched "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" on Thanksgiving night, really late.
I think it's a bad idea to watch these things with seminarians and ministers who feel the necessity of exegeting the theological meaning behind the whole thing.
However, it should be said that this particular special really packs an emotional and spiritual wallop for PeaceBang, who always weeps when the little children of Sombertown gather suspiciously but hopefully around Santa as he sings the intro to "If You Sit On My Lap Today (A Kiss a Toy Is the Price You'll Pay)."
I know we're a bit over the top but there really is a beautiful message in this one about grace and universalism (Santa checks the list for who's naughty and who's nice and decides, "Well, I guess they're all pretty nice."). We have to notice that Winter Warlock ("Call me Winter... please") loses his powers when he is given the gift for which his heart has always yearned.
And I dare you not to shed a tear when the audacious writers of this screenplay just come right out and say that the whole tradition of giving gifts on Christmas Eve comes from Kris Kringle and his beloved Jessica getting married that night and placing their gifts to one another under the evergreen trees. You thought that was from the Bible, didn't you? And you thought the Little Drummer Boy was from the Bible, too, didn't you?
Me too. That's what happens when you're a little Unitarian kid getting your theological education from Rankin Bass claymation holiday specials.
We had a great day and then Friday we went to Plymouth to see the fake Mayflower and the Rock, and we bought souvenirs and then went into the city to have a classic New England chowdah dinner at Durgin Park.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving Live Blogging
Only in America would the big Thanksgiving celebration -- a holiday inaugurated by the most orthodox of Christians for the purpose of giving praise to God -- be kicked off by a fabled hooker in a red dress, kicking so high her panties show.
But I admit I cried at the beginning of the parade as the credits rolled and before I could become distracted by Katie Couric's really cute knit gloves (where'd she get those)? What a list of participants. You got Jewish movie star Adrien Brody. You got LeeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood representing the country music world. You got Jae (from "Queer Eye") and Tommy Tune for the gay contingent. You got Aaron Neville and Harry Connick, Jr. of New Orleans and all kinds of folks from the Gulf Coast. You got the casts of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and ya got 450 kids in pajamas from Camp Broadway twirling around with those big, fake Jon Benet Ramsey smiles, and I love it. It's thirty nine degrees out there, SMILE. BABY! SING OUT, LOUISE!
Children have to learn that performance is suffering, and we love it anyway.
Uh-oh, gotta go rub herbed butter all over the turkey. Time to get the rubber gloves. Try not to get too excited.
(actually, if that excites you I don't even want to know about it)
Monday, November 21, 2005
I wonder if this guy is available:
I'm thinking, Lord of the Dance?
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Contra "One World Religion"
As he was agonizing through the concept of the project with the group, and trying to respect his religious call to convert his people to the gospel faith, and the class was feeling uncomfortable with his seeming ambivalence about the difference between assimilation and conversion, a Korean student said, quite vehemently and in his short, eloquent way,
"I don't know why you're trying to find the ways that Buddhism and Christianity are the same. I was raised a Buddhist. I became a Christian because it is not Buddhism. In Buddhism, I learn that I am the one who can make my own salvation. But I do not think I can make my own salvation, and that is why I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I choose Christianity because it is different. If I want to have the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, I would stay a Buddhist."
Boy, did that shut everyone up for a good minute.
This is at the heart of why I have always been leery of the whole "one-world-religion" brand of universalism that became so popular in the 1950's.
(As opposed to classical Christian Universalism, about which Boy In the Bands speaks here: http://www.universalistchurch.net/boyinthebands/archives/john-murray-the-obscure/)
There's no way to really do one-world-religion with integrity unless the whole world embraces the idea, and Lord knows everyone in the world doesn't think this is a good, worthy or legitimate idea. What ends up happening in "one world religion" stuff is that its adherents create another religious entity of their own, which usually smells something like "White European Liberal Feminist Psuedo-Version of Your Exotic Religion We Don't Know Much About, Taken Out of a Cultural Context We Also Don't Know Much About."
I don't have the energy tonight to discuss this in any more detail, I just wanted to share that moment in class with you. I am still thinking about it.
Another Mondo Bizarro Movie Recommendation from S.O.P.B.
The Great God Sarcasmo
Sister of PeaceBang was here this weekend and we were in the kitchen bustling about getting dinner (leftover Chinese)and talking about the failed suicide bomber woman, and how she will have to go to trial and maybe get the death penalty. S.O.P.B. remarked that the bomber husband was apparently in paradise with a bunch of delectable virgins and then asked, "So what do the Muslim suicide bomber women get in the afterlife if they kill infidels?"
And I said, "I dunno. A date with Menudo."
And we both cackled loudly and wickedly, and people, it's my family's fault if I cannot be a sweet Christian woman. I'm just telling you the cold truth. Sarcasm was mother's milk to us, and it's a hard one to wean off of.
Many years ago when Mother of PeaceBang was fresh and beautiful out of rehab, and we were all very 12-steppy, Mother sat all her chicks around the table at Christmastide and said, most sincerely, that the root word of "sarcasm" means "to rip apart with the teeth," and that she was there to tell us that sarcasm was ugly and she didn't like that it was such a favorite family sport and we were going to try very hard as a family to stop being so sarcastic. Alright?
We all sat around blinking at her like little owls with moist, repentant eyes and in that moment, we knew she was wise and right and that we should -- we really should -- work on this issue.
We were pretty good for awhile, but it didn't last for more than a decade. Soon, we slid back into our old ways. Even Mother of PeaceBang freely let's 'em rip, and she can rip with the best. As I say, I'm not doing any better. You're talking about a minister who has a dog-eared, paperback copy of Woody Allen's Without Feathers on the shelf next to the volumes of Henri Nouwen.
Nouwen writes, in The Inner Voice of Love,
"You have to move gradually from crying outward -- crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs -- to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community."
Allen writes, in "No Kaddish for Weinstein,"
"Weinstein finished shaving and got into the shower. He lathered himself, while steaming water splashed down his bulky back. He thought, Here I am at some fixed point in time and space, taking a shower. I, Isaac Weinstein. One of God's creatures. And then, stepping on the soap, he slid across the floor and rammed his head into the towel rack."
Which one do you think ministers more to me?
And did you ever notice that Jesus is actually very sarcastic?
Also, am I the only one who laughs so hard that she snorts at the story of Eutychus in the book of Acts? People, he fell out the window from boredom!! I mean, how funny is that?
(I think the BBE version is best)
I always imagine Eutychus waking from his death slumber, taking one look at Paul and asking, "Are you done preaching yet? Because if not, honestly, I'm okay with being dead."
I have a Eutychus rule in preaching. If I can imagine anyone getting so bored they'd fall asleep and fall out the window, I need to zip it up and make edits.
Maybe it's genetic.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
How Sweet the Sound
I went to get my hair cut yesterday and my stylist said, "I can always tell when you've got some performance thing going on because you bop in here with such energy."
This group has been a little bit difficult for me. First of all, most everyone knows each other from belonging to the same church and you know it's always hard being the new(ish) kid. Second, it's a totally new genre of music for me, which is unusual, and I also feel a little useless not playing an instrument. I vow to take up the banjo or fiddle this summer. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I really want to learn the jazz trumpet so I can play in a Dixieland band, but I'll have to get my fantasies sorted out and make a choice. Mom was right, though: when I quit piano when I was eleven she said, "You'll regret this!" Shirley, you're right. I regret it.
Some of the music we do is in this style:
It's very loud and harsh and rhythmic and the harmonies are strange and intense, and it just gives you chills. Kind of like what you'd get if you crossed a hog caller with a barbershop quartet. Very addictive.
Our joke is that we were going to call ourselves, "Wretch Like Me" but decided that "Sweet the Sound" was more upbeat. If you don't know the lyrics to "Amazing Grace," you won't find that comment in the least funny.
Sister of PeaceBang is coming up AND she is bringing GORDON the handsome-ist, bestest dog in the world, so PeaceBang is extra happy today. The cat, however, is not at all happy as she has been confined to the sock monkey guest bedroom and is even now howling to be liberated.
Speaking of the sock monkey guest bedroom, all I can say is that Christmas IS coming:
Friday, November 18, 2005
Dr. Phil is Jesus Christ
"WISE MEN ONCE FOLLOWED A STAR.
NOW WISE WOMEN DO THE SAME THING... EVERY DAY.
Wise women have always known the importance of good advice. Now wonder they've been turning to Dr. Phil since day one. This holiday season, follow your own star. It's easy to find him... just check local listings."
I want to hear what James Dobson has to say about this. I really, honestly do. Because I think that this once, we might find something to agree on.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Mazel Tov! You Have a Baby Dissertation!
just sent off her Ph.D. dissertation. First draft DOWN.
She says she wept as she pushed the "send" button.
I am so gosh danged proud on her. I can't wait to go to graduation in May. This girl has been in school since Hector was a pup.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Aiming For One Date in 2005
I have over 40 days left. I know I can do it. And I know you can help. Feel free to fly in friends from around the country. We can achieve this goal.
I Love This Guy
Sunday, November 13, 2005
You have to find to animals section. Francesco got me the cat tile, and I am just ecstatic! Newfound lust for Italian ceramics! Just when I thought I was over it.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Humanist Agnostic Christian
Fran and I were talking last night and I explained that my Christian faith isn't entirely a "me and the Jeez" kind of arrangement, but is based very much in my belief that although there's a powerful lot of perverted Xtians around, and always have been, I still want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in. By which I mean that my baptism wasn't just about making myself belong to the man who initiated the Jesus Way, but to belong to the people who are trying to walk it. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. My emphasis is not so much personal as it is collective, and as a humanist I turn my hopes entirely and exclusively to human beings to save the world.
I am also not an exclusivist Christian. I do not believe this is the only way one can walk the path of peace and righteousness. I am terrified by the idea that one religion should dominate the world. However, nor am I a "one world religion" universalist. Not only do I think it's an idea that is inherently imperialistic and willfully, sloppily ignorant of human nature and culture, I think it's lame. I am a fan of specificity in religions: to morally evolve as a species does not mean making a big messy casserole of all our faith traditions.
That's part of what makes me a humanist Christian.
So what makes me an agnostic Christian?
I explained to Fran that I am not sure what I personally, really believe about God all the time, but that the God I *want* to believe in is the one Jesus believed in, and prayed to, and taught.
A great portion of my spiritual effort as a Christian involves strengthening my faith in this God, and delving into the Bible on a regular basis to try to understand what my master was really pointing to with that God. It's very difficult sometimes. Sometimes I wish I'd never picked up that Bible in the first place, and had just continued to live in the faith that we would all be saved by the insights of the humanities, the social sciences, and psychology.
There are days when I sit across from Jesus over coffee and say, "Oh sweetheart, you were so wrong about that God." And he just smiles quietly and reaches for another bagel.
My most recent argument with Jesus is about the ontological presence of evil as part of the created order. I think it is, and not just an aberration committed by humans because of faulty wiring or failure to submit to the Lord or even because they didn't get enough love in their childhood. I believe -- for I have encountered it in the dreamtime -- that evil is woven into the fabric of creation itself, a malevolent strand.
Jesus says "Maybe you shouldn't eat pepperoni pizza before bed." And I say, "Shut up. Evil is TOO part of the created order. And I don't mean just little old Satan, either."
It was a burrito, anyway.
Color Me Suspicious
Since my own experience in past years is that this is precisely true, I won't be treating myself to Miz Dowd's diatribe. I don't like to seek out pieces of cultural fluff that pander to my anger and prejudices. That's too easy.
Kate Bush Is Back!
Kate Bush has a new album coming out; her first in a decade. I used to love her -- and still think that "This Woman's Work" is one of the most haunting songs of that era. It was used to great effect in the surprisingly touching "She's Having a Baby" starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern. (hey! where's she been lately, anyway?)
Anyway, "The Kick Inside" is still a kick to listen to. I also still love "Never Forever." (have to check on that title)
Kate is the original ethereal rock goddess -- ain't no Tori can compete, as far as I'm concerned.
The only thing about Kate is that she might want to consider a new director for her videos. David and I rented one lo those many years ago and were embarrassed to the point of hands over our mouths at Kate's rather spastic dance moves. She was trying to be Fairie Queen and it was coming out more Pee Wee Herman.
Look for "Aerial" in stores near you!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
He Won't Be Bahck
(thanks to mikey for the good news)
Offensive Royal Scotland Bank Commercial
Scenario: a beautiful, traditional church, handsome groom and lovely bride standing before a clergyman. Emotional mamas and papas in the front row.
The minister says, "Do you, Ambrose [Snottyname] Finch, take this woman to be your wife?"
So we know immediately that the woman isn't worth being named.
Ambrose responds, "Well, that very much depends on what you mean by 'take,'" and launches into a whole ridiculous exposition on the risks of the merger, etc. It's funny. The mother of the bride weeps and the bride looks profoundly irritated.
As Ambrose is carrying on, one of the groomsmen steps up and quickly says, "I do." There is a shot of the bride looking o-mouthed in an expression distinctly reminiscent of a blow-up doll. The priest, in a relieved rush, says, "I pronounce you man and wife!" And the man and his blow-up doll wife exchange a kiss.
The crowd cheers... and fade. Because of course a beautiful, blonde woman who's all dressed up in white on her wedding day isn't there to marry any specific person, she's just pretty chattel to be handed over to any schmuck in a tux who agrees to "take" her as his wife. And of course she'll just obediently and silently lean over to be kissed no matter who does the stepping up.
If I had directed that commercial, I would have AT LEAST had the bride and the groomsman exchange secret looks of lust and longing, and I would have at LEAST spared the one second it would have taken to have the bride NOD her assent to the minister the moment the groomsman said, "I do." I'm talking two seconds' worth of air time to make a commercial funny instead of disgustingly sexist. It could have been done.
Not that I'm bloody likely to do any banking with the bloody Royal Scotland Bank, but I have a message for them and their ad agency:
Sod off, you bunch of sexist rotters.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Bad 80's Memories
First, I was on the elliptical cross-trainer at the health club listening to oldies radio when "Whip It" by Devo came on, and there I was sweating away and laughing, singing as loud as you please:
shape it up
Try to detect it
It's not too late
to WHIP IT
Whip it good!
It was all hilarious nostalgia, but it did occur to me that I used to dance to that song wearing a peplum skirted dress and a snazzy little hat while men bought me drinks by the dozen. And Tom Manarino would drive me home and I would puke in the lilac bush and then stagger in through the garage.
That was a semi-bad enough 80's memory. Now I see that Madonna has attended a movie premiere in 2005 wearing purple velvet KNICKERS and she's wearing what looks suspiciously like an old Farrah flip hair-do, and dammit, lace up granny boots.
Madge, please don't bring me back there. Please don't bring me back to leg warmers and raspberry berets ("the kind you find at a second-hand store") and metallic Peter Pan boots and toe socks. Please. Please don't do this.
The best thing about the 80's was that we hadn't heard you massacre the "Evita" score yet. But everything else, you can keep. Especially the knickers. Good Lord, don't bring back the knickers. The next thing you know it'll be gauchos, and when that happens I'm going to have to throw myself off the clock tower.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Friday, November 04, 2005
Bohemian Brand Loyalty
I have become the kind of person who mends the winter coat buttons in late October, long before the first frost, and who starts shopping for staff Christmas gifts the moment Halloween is over (and sometimes before).
I have become the kind of person who compulsively recycles, and who spends several days during the summer cleaning and reorganizing closets.
So when you want to know why I wear fishnets (demurely, flesh-colored ones under tailored trousers), it's because I'm not quite ready to give up my fantasy of myself as being slightly bohemian. A middle-aged, middle-class, bohemian suburbanite who has brand loyalty to Calgon and Northern Cloud.
There But For the Grace Of God...
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Be My Fodor's
I am going to fly to Madrid in January and head immediately to Seville for a 3-day cooking class (local friends, start salivating now!). I will head back to Madrid for two days where my #1 goal is to see the Hieronymous Bosch paintings at the Prado.
Then I intend to fly to Barcelona for five nights, and to take a one-day cooking class there. Tapas! Tapas! Tapas!
My question is this: should I spend another day or two in Madrid? Or is Madrid as loud and busy as they say, and not nearly as charming and vacation-friendly as they say Barcelona is?
As much as I'd love to run around both these great cities (and I debated for a long time whether to skip Barcelona on this trip and go to Lisbon instead) -- I am going to try not to run myself ragged.
If you have hotel recommendations in Madrid or Barcelona, I'm happy to get them, too (and especially recommendations for QUIET places).
One day on the bus, Jud Askins ripped the Carter Peanut necklace off of my neck and got into big trouble for it. His mother, Trieste, made him get it repaired and then drove him to my house to come to the door and give it back to me with an apology. (Jud, where are you?)
The night of the election, the house was filled with people and even though it was electric and exciting, Mom and Dad finally sent us off to bed. At some wee hour of the morning, my Dad came in to our bedroom (Sister of PeaceBang and Little PeaceBang shared a room back then) and told us that Carter had won the election. It was one of the few times I saw my Dad cry.
Some people think that Carter was the worst president we ever had, like this guy:
I don't know that he was a great president, but he is a truly great man.
Jimmy Carter has come out with a new book about the moral crisis in America, and how this current administration is violating all the basic principles that made our country great. I plan to buy it in hardback as soon as possible.
Jimmy Carter was supposed to fade into the noble obscurity that all past presidents are expected to fade into (especially one-termers). Look at what he's done: written numerous, substantive books, advocated for peace and won a Nobel Peace Prize, built houses and served on the board of Habitat for Humanity, traveled the globe as an ambassador of international cooperation, and taught Sunday school.
I am so glad to be able to say to my 4th grade self, from the distance of almost 30 years, "Someday you'll be very proud that you were associated with helping this man ascend to a position of world leadership."
"You're Doing a Good Job, Brownie!"
The very essence of maturity, I'd say. I especially like his wry observations about his "fashion god" wardrobe. Shut up and get to work, Brownie. And don't tell us you didn't know the levee was breached. Now we know that you knew.
PeaceBang seems to recall a post she wrote in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina wherein she speculated that Bush had a special "sleeves advisor" to roll his sleeves just to the point around the elbow that communicates "I shore am workin' hard for the American people."
PeaceBang feels vindicated today at the revelation that there are, in fact, Sleeve Advisors in the administration, as evidenced by this bit of intelligence from Bloomberg.com:
"On Sept. 4, as criticism mounted of the federal effort, [Michael] Brown received an e-mail from Sharon Worthy, whom the Melancon report identified as the former director's press secretary, telling him: 'You just need to look more hard-working...ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!' "
CNN expanded on the content of this e-mail this morning, providing a further quote from Worthy which said, in effect, "even the president rolls HIS sleeves."
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
She Pushes Good Plow
I also secretly love plomping around on those big bouncy balls. I'm very serious on it, doing my crunches and whatnot, but in my head I'm going "BOUNCY BOUNCY BOUNCY!"
You should see me doing the weights. I always wear my hair up in a big shmatta and I look very Eastern European peasant-chic, grunting away. I can hear my great-grandfather say in his thick Slovak accent, "She pushes good plow."
(I don't think he ever actually said that, but it makes me laugh)
My great-grandma Anna Billo was a big, hefty lady with upper arms the size of my thighs who lived past 100 on a steady diet of pierogies and Tasty-Cakes (or maybe she just kept them in the house for us). I don't have the genes to be a slimmy gal but I can be, in the immortal words of Stephen Billo, "strong like ox."
(By the way, I would NEVER wear a leotard with yellow tights. I would never wear a leotard, period. People, it's 2005. We have cute boot cut yoga pants now! It's called progress!)