Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Still really sick. I must have overdone it this weekend.

The cough is back, I can't sleep, and I'm all stuffed up again.

Agh.

Miserable.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Knut Hamsun

Imagine my surprise when reading a new translation of Knut Hamsun's novel Victoria to read in the introduction that this favorite author of mine was invited to speak in the United States by Minneapolis Unitarian minister Kristofer Janson.

I know Hamsun was a fascist and Nazi-sympathizer (although he complained to Hitler about the German troops' behavior in his country, and his wife was imprisoned for three years by the Nazis, I think). But his literature is beautiful, although I've never read it in Norwegian, obviously.

I still prefer the Stallybras translation of Victoria.

Don't miss Hunger.
And Pan.
Great reads.

Baby Unity

I am thinking of one of the truly cutest families I know, the Tierney-Eliots who are expecting their third child any moment now (for all I know, he may already be here):
http://eliotunity.blogspot.com/2006/02/waiting.html

The two Tierney-Eliot boys (soon to be BIG BROTHERS) are hilarious and adorable characters whom I don't get to see too often, but when I do they make me stupidly happy. I'm sure it's not as endearing when you live with him, but their youngest son has a talent for minor fits of temper that are actually side-splitting comedy routines. I'm only afraid that he'll be outgrowing that very soon, but I'm glad I got to see a few gems while he was prime age. And they both have shiny brown seal pup hair.

If I had to list my top three favorite things it might look like this:

1. golden retriever puppies
2. little boys between the ages 2 and 7
3. sushi

Conor and Eamon Tierney-Eliot, and my own nephews Nicholas and Lucas, keep that second item firmly in the running.

Let's hope they bring home a healthy new baby very soon.
Godspeed, little Tierney-Eliot.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Transgender America

Yo,
the good Rev. Sean Parker Dennison recommends some books about transgender issues here:

http://peacebang.blogspot.com/2006/02/dan-savage-part-dos.html

This is for those of you who were following the Dan Savage conversation of last week.

I wish I knew the first thing about tracking comments and having a fancier blog (I am JEALOUS of Chutney's!!) but for now, my darings, this is it, and we make do as we can (or until Scott comes to visit and helps us upgrade in exchange for beach time and backyard barbecues).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Torture And the Moral Imaginal Life

I am starting to think that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who condone the use of torture, and those who do not and cannot.

Let me explain what I mean, because it's not as simple as you think. It's not a matter of Mushy Liberal vs Protective Conservative, or some other handy political polarity.

It's a matter of people with powerful imaginal lives vs those who do not have a powerful imaginal life.

Of course it's possible for a purely rationalist individual to oppose torture with all his might and mein on purely philosophical grounds. While I'm grateful for that person, I'm talking about another quality of approaching being human.

I oppose torture because I have spent many hours over the years imagining what it would be like to be tortured, or to torture someone. I have imagined the smells, the feelings, the degradation, the horror of it, the evil intimacy between victim and perpetrator.

Why? I don't know. I have felt called to a responsibility for understanding torture and for studying it since I was a child.

I have entire bookshelves full of works on the medieval witch hunts, and I have read secondarily on the tactics used in the 20th century by South and Central American terror and death squads. When I was in Amsterdam in the late 90's I attended an Amnesty International exhibit of medieval torture implements. I fainted.

I realize that most everyone would think that my interest in torture is a morbid and self-indulgent preoccupation, so I don't talk about it with anyone. But while in the grips of fever the other night, it came to me again to consider what is happening to people in this world, far from where I was suffering my tiny little fever that left me writhing with the chills and the aches and later, soaked with sweat.
I thought, as I lie here suffering my lame little cold, what is happening all over the world to other bodies? What is being committed upon them against their wills? How are they being violated in Darfur, and how often, before they are killed or wind up in a squalid refugee camp? The six year-old sex worker in Thailand, how is she being torn apart this hour, and how does she endure it? What does it feel like to be strapped down spread-eagled and have a rat held captive on one's belly, and left to chew its way out through my own entrails, as has been done in Argentina and Chile? The Bosnian woman who was raped with a bayonet, has she ever recovered? Is it possible?

I know you're horrified now. You may wonder why would she think about these things?
I would rather ask, "How can we NOT think about such things?" They're not abstract concepts or imaginary horrors concocted by Stephen King. They are, in some regions of the world, policy and economics.

Some of us are so proud of our Enlightenment heritage of Reason that we have permanently camped out in our brains, forgetting what humanity there is in thinking with the body, and I don't mean just doing yoga or dancing the spiral dance or clapping during hymn-singing in worship. Those are all groovy innovations to our occasionally "corpse-cold" forms of being spiritual humans, but they're not the answer to cultivating a sense of what I'll call the "moral imaginal life" among us.

The moral imaginal life is a way of employing Reason that involves body knowledge, and that leads us beyond the confines of national, cultural, racial or religious identity to the ultimate identity of being human with a body. I am convinced that if George Bush and Dick Cheney and Rummy and all their torture-supporting goons had ever been taught to center their "moral" reasoning in their bodies, they would not today be seeking justification for the use of torture at Gitmo Bay or anywhere.

Isn't it interesting how some of these leaders, who have the imaginal capacity to envision a personal Deity and to (ostensibly) enter into the irrational ancient story of Jesus of Nazareth with such fervor, nevertheless lack the imaginal capacity to feel the mutual degradation and horror invoked by torture?

That's how you know they're pious frauds.

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Religious Campaign Against Torture could use your support:

http://www.uusc.org/programs/STOP/nrcat.html

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Grizzly Man: A Review


Grizzly Man
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I saw Warner Herzog's celebrated documentary "Grizzly Man" on Monday night. It's the story of self-styled grizzly bear kindred spirit and protector Timothy Treadwell, who lived for thirteen summers with Alaskan grizzly bears until he (and girlfriend Amie Huguenard) were mauled to death by one.

Treadwell is a lovable, pathetic character -- he's a car accident you can't stop rubbernecking. It seems to me that he suffered from bi-polar disorder and the high of his annual adventures with the bears was a way of self-medicating. In the end, I had to sadly conclude that he committed suicide by way of Bear. Since he had such a romanticized view of himself and his sojourn among the bears, and such an obvious death wish, I could only regard his death with a kind of wistfulness, and hope that as soon as the bear got him, he went unconscious very fast.
The real tragedy here is Amie, who is a mostly invisible presence in the film and who had warned Treadwell that he was hell-bent on destruction and threatened to leave him. She was always nervous about the bears, but in the end she fought off her ten-foot tall attacker with a frying pan for six minutes before she too succumbed to his appetite.

In the film, we never hear the recording of their death (the bear approached too quickly for Timothy to get the cap off the video camera) but we watch Werner Herzog listening to it, while describing what he hears to one of Timothy's very close friends, who watches with tears in her eyes and a limp, open little mouth. Herzog has the good grace to listen only to part of the harrowing recording and then to advise the friend never, ever to listen to it, and to destroy it. I'm glad he did. There are sacred things, and such a recording should never, ever make it onto the internet for some hateful person to make a mockery of.

Amie, why did you stay with this adorable, petulant, nutjob? He said often enough that he was likely to wind up grizzly chow: did you fall prey (literally) to the all-too typical female fantasy that you could save your boyfriend from his own hubris and stupidity?

It's a very sad film, and the saddest, most infuriating thing to me wasn't Treadwell's Peter Pan-ish histrionics but the vicious letters written to his friends by right-wing fanatics after his death, crowing about there being one less spotted-owl loving Democrat in the world. Lord have mercy.

I can hardly blame Timothy for preferring to spend his days worshiping bears and foxes and kidding himself that he was one of them. Poor sad soul. Well, he certainly sucked the marrow out of life.

I wonder what Thoreau would have thought????

Monday, February 20, 2006

Best Blog Posting/Joe Bageant

This is the best blog posting I have read this year, and perhaps any year.

I thank Chutney for the link.

http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2006/02/welcome_to_midd.html

The UU First Principle

As I prepare the Ash Wednesday service for next week, I think about the reaction of the typical Unitarian Universalist to the imposition of ashes. "Too Catholic!" "Why in the world would you, who proclaim the inherent worth and dignity of all people, think it acceptable to participate in this ritual of sin and repentance!? Oh my gaw!"

Because, my friends, I happen to believe that our much vaunted first Principle, "[we covenant to affirm and promote] the inherent worth and dignity of every person" is a starting point for our theological understanding, not the end point.

Inherent worth and dignity, so often interpreted to mean "we should have no authority, no God and no Scripture because hey man, Truth is totally relative" is really an ontological claim, not a sociological one. It is actually a statement about grace, ie, that every person is created with an inviolable dignity, a claim which calls Unitarian Universalists to be guardians of that dignity and worth, and to promote such conditions as allow that worth to flourish. It doesn't mean that every schmuck or schmuckette walking around should be pandered to or even tolerated. There are intolerable things; a fact we are lothe to admit (which often creates havoc on our congregations) because we keep banging our heads against a brick wall misunderstanding and misusing our first Principle.

Within our covenanted communities, we accept the essential humanity and dignity of a toxic person (sometimes ourselves!) even while refusing to tolerate her ideologies or behaviors. This ought to be our chief spiritual practice, in fact, and lead us to considerate and compassionate responses to conflict and dysfunction -- not give us an excuse for flabby inaction. It is difficult and deep work, much different than broad-brushing all valid objections or concerns with the shrill cry, "tolerance! tolerance" and then going on to hate the guts of distant figures with a verve and clarity that leads to actual demonization (George Bush, anyone?).

Inherent worth and dignity does not mean that I'm Okay, You're Okay. It doesn't mean that everything I do is acceptable, even as I am ontologically, inherently acceptable as a human being. It means that even in the midst of our most heinous mistakes sins and failings, the glorious truth of our inherent worth and dignity can, in the words of the old song, "lead me home."

It strikes me as so lazy to use the first Principle as our end point in theological understanding ("Hey! you got inherent worth and dignity! You're done!") when we ought to use it as the starting point, as in "thank the gods we are committed to the idea that we have inherent worth and dignity and are morally improvable beings, because ya'll better get on that moral improvement part."

When I have been to Ash Wednesday services and gotten smeared on the forehead, I have often looked around and thought, "I wonder how this feels if you don't have a rock-bound belief in grace as the starting point for your theological understanding." And I have been so grateful to be held within a faith tradition that believes I am capable of moral improvement, and that makes the claim that no matter how far I stray, I will indeed be restored to God at the last.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Spineless Superintendent, Continued

This is a follow-up to the story of about the school in Fulton, MO featured in my post of February 12, "A Pink Lady Speaks:"

http://peacebang.blogspot.com/2006/02/pink-lady-speaks.html

Here's a link with the superintendent's statement in the local paper, sent to me by a resident of Fulton who is very closely involved in the case:
http://www.fultonsun.com/articles/2006/02/17/news/318news12.txt

Too bad he's not telling the truth, according to my very reliable source.

My source in Fulton also tells me that although you can't see it in the on-line version, the editor followed up this story with a biblical quote from Proverbs 18:2, "A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself." What the on-line version does reveal is that the editor states he will publish no further letters on the subject.

Well, I wish the kids a great production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," anyway, and their drama teacher a great new job for the next school year.

What She Has Done Will Be Told In Remembrance Of Her

I have pre-holiday anxiety and depression, but it's not personal, it's liturgical.

First of all there's the Ash Wednesday service (my first) to prepare. I feel a huge responsibility to have a living relationship with the Methodist liturgy -- I don't want to be a hired hack like, Hey! Howya doin' everybody! Happy Ash Wednesday! I'm here all week!
When I even think of doing the imposition of ashes I get all shaky inside. I've only even been to less than a dozen Ash Wednesday services in my life!

I remember the first time I buried someone. It was at the moment that I said, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" and gently threw the first handful of dirt onto the casket that I felt like a Real Live Minister for the first time. I got a shot of bad, unmanaged energy up my spine -- this still happens at church on occasion, it's like Monster Kundalini Attack -- and it almost knocked me over. I had never done a graveside service before and it never occurred to me not to wear heels (yo, they sink into the ground, ya'll), so I wasn't all too steady on my hooves anyway. I thought, get a grip RIGHT NOW or you're going to fall into that grave and that will be so. not. cool.

The anointing at Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13, whose mystery I much prefer to the account in John) has always been one of the most important gospel passages for me, and I cannot read it without feeling a sense of awe and tragedy and some other quiet disturbing ingredient that I'll just call HaShem. They're at Simon the Leper's house and the disciples are running around planning the revolution and this nameless woman is the only one who totally gets what's going on, and knows what's coming.
Have you ever smelled 'nard? It's not sweet. It's kind of earthy and musky, but sharp. I just imagine Jesus' hair getting all greasy with the 'nard and he's just the saddest man in the whole world, and the woman stands behind him just softly rubbing his head. And only the two of them understand. I cry every time I think about it.
Why?
I don't really understand it myself.
Maybe because Jesus, who might have been expected to agree with the disciples that the 'nard would have been better used in the service of the poor, allows himself to accept it as a blessing. He lets the woman (and us) love him and bless him before he dies; to do this honor to him. Not just to listen at his feet and soak up his parables and wisdom sayings, but to quietly anoint his head with oil in preparation for his burial. The image of him sitting at the table being ministered to in this quiet and fragrant way is such a moment of pure grace right on the brink of the chaos to come.

Anyway, when I think of the imposition of ashes, I just think of that woman.
I know the liturgical and theological difference between the imposition of ashes and an anointing before death, but in my heart, on the pastoral level, they're the same. And it's so deep I can hardly stand it. I remember what my friend said to me, smilingly as she imposed the ashes on my head last year: "Repent and believe in the gospel." Any time, lady. Any time.

On the imposition of ashes, interesting stuff: http://www.elca.org/dcm/worship/faq/church_year/ashes.html

And then there's Easter, and there's no way I can top the lamb. And I shouldn't have to, because it's Easter, but you know how it gets once you have one of those Once In a Lifetime worship services. You want them Twice In A Lifetime, if not more often. And that is just satanic, when you think about it: hey hey hey, I'm here for Easter service, where's the shhhhowbiz!!?

Editing Oprah: Funny. Editing PeaceBang: Scary

On one hand, this doctored up video clip produced by The Superficial is really funny:

http://tinyurl.com/9zke2

On the other hand, someone gave me two CDs of recent sermons today, recorded on a little magical James Bond gizmo that he's going to teach me, and the ushers, how to use. The Fauxprah clip makes me think, "whoa, it's fun when they edit stuff to make it funny, but how about when they edit stuff to make it incriminating or just damaging?"

I held those little CDs of my sermons in hand and thought, "this is so easily manipulated. And it's all out of my hands now."

Like anyone would ever want, or need, to manipulate my sermonic phraseology, but you know, your mind does go to those Manchurian Candidate places.

What Did Gerald Ford Ever Do To Me?

I was at a party last night with a lot of theatre pals, and the Music Director of one of our local theatres said he had just worked on Sondheim's Assassins in Boston, and there was a great part in it for me. "You have just the right look for it," he said.

First of all, I admire this man's talent so much that I would play anything in any production he's working on, but I have to admit that when I found out that the part I had "just the right look for" was mentally unstable Sara Jane Moore, I was a bit taken aback. Her claim to fame is to have plotted to assassinate Gerald Ford:

http://www.geocities.com/proprioter/y_moore.html

After I read more about her, though, I thought, oh man, this could be more cathartic than playing Emma Goldman.

What I wouldn't do to appear in another Sondheim production. Even a second-rate one.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dan Savage, Part Dos

What I remember about Dan Savage at General Assembly was just as Rev. Thom and Peregrinato describe it: a pathetic combination of celebrity worship and hipper-than-thouness and snark and sincerity -- and for some people, real harm.

I don't remember many of his specific comments, as I was lurking in the back and, I think, walking in and out trying to find some friends I was meeting.

I find Savage's columns to be hilariously funny, crass, occasionally shocking (not so much him, but the stuff people write in about), and I admire his persona.
I distinctly dislike the way he talks about his partner's and his adoption of a baby boy, but to be honest, I haven't done a thorough exegesis of Dan Savage and his work. To me, he's entertainment. I do realize, as Sean Parker Dennison points out in the comments to the previous post, that people may take Savage all too seriously. If he's making obnoxious and dismissive comments about bisexuality and trangendered identity, I'm not surprised, but I am not amused. It seems wildly inconsistent for him, and angry and ugly. I wasn't aware of it, or if I read some columns that featured this attitude I was probably pissed off and did nothing about it.

What happened at GA that became the real brouhaha, was that during the Q&A following his loudly cheered lecture (one of those typical UU-Are-So-Superior GA moments), a young lesbian went to the mic to ask a question.

Now, I'm remembering this from a few years back, so I'm not making any promises that this is 100% accurate reporting.

What I remember is that this youth said she lived in rural West Virginia and was gay, and couldn't be out, and was miserable. Dan advised leaving. She insisted that she had no support to leave. Dan said, "Listen, gay kids leave home and strike out on their own every day. You're 19. Get a job, move into a city somewhere. You can do this. You can have your life."
He was, at first, sympathetic, but it was obvious that he expected the Q&A to be just that: Q&A, not therapy.

At this point I saw that the girl was not going to sit down, and that no one was moderating this debacle. She pressed on, tearier with each inquiry. "But I don't have a car!" she moaned. The crowd began to stir, smelling blood.

Dan's voice became more strained and brusque. He was frustrated, and obviously wanted this questioner to go somewhere appropriate to work out these fears and questions. In my opinion, had every right to expect that he would not be expected to solve her predicament during a Q & A session. The crowd became distinctly edgy, but no one had the sense to get up, quietly inform the young woman that there were more appropriate settings for her to seek help, and to lead her away from the microphone and more public exposure.

Dan Savage had no idea how to gracefully back out of the situation and in his typical manner, pushed back at the now weeping young woman with more directives. She was crying, he was wretched, the crowd was livid, and as the girl dashed outside to cry, I went out the back and around to the side hallway to see if she was okay.
(see? I'm not such a bad person, ya'll!)

She cried and another woman and I talked with her and said, "You have so many huge things going on, and he's just a sex columnist. It was really brave of you to put your struggle out there like that, but you know, he didn't have the resources or the sensitivity or the position to help you. There are many more people with real resources available and the time to help you figure out some next steps, if that's what you want and need."
As it turned out, this kid was not nearly as alone in the world as she appeared to be when she stood, a tiny vulnerable presence, at the microphone. I think (and hope) she's going to be okay. I still can't imagine why she stood there exposing more and more of herself to a man who clearly has no credentials or call to really help her while supposedly sensitive and caring UUs watched without doing anything. This is one of our kids. If a speaker is responding insensitively to her and she's crying, howzabout jumping up and leading her to her seat with a comment like, "This obviously isn't going well, Dan. Let's take the next question."
I mean, HOW MANY MINISTERS WERE IN THE HOUSE THAT NIGHT?

The next day people were wearing signs that said, "SAVAGED BY SAVAGE? CALL THE CHAPLAINS AT 123-456-789."

I bought Dan Savage a drink because when I met him later that night, he looked shaken and greatly disturbed. Not because he hadn't known how to solve the problems of that one young lesbian, but because he understood that the UUs mostly had zero perspective on the situation and that many of us were expecting in him a kind of Gay Savior figure. Big mistake.
He perceived that the sudden transformation of a standard Q & A session into therapy seemed to be business-as-usual for this crowd, and that by failing to switch from entertainer/speaker mode to Dr. Phil Public Healer Mode, he was going down as a brute and an abuser among us. And, to interpret what I saw on his face, it grossed him out.
He was gracious enough not to say one critical word about the entire situation, nor has he, to my knowledge, written anything about his appearance among the Unitarian Universalists. And I, for one, appreciate it.

Dan Savage is Dan Savage. Offensive and insensitive at times, fodder for conversation and a foil off of which to clarify our own positions on important issues of sexual identity and social justice. To expect him to minister to our wounded children is naive and inhospitable; it's like inviting the Fab Five to GA and expecting them to be supportive and pastoral about our awful clothes, hair and make-up. Just because a public figure is liberal and hip and gay doesn't mean they're going to be sensitive, appropriate or share our commitments and theological understanding.

And because we have such a victim culture at General Assembly, we ought to make sure that every lecture and Q &A session has a moderator.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dan Savage

You all know the work of sex columnist Dan Savage, right? Remember me to tell you about what happened when he appeared at GA two years ago, and how I bought him a drink afterward. Meanwhile, read this:

http://www.avclub.com/content/node/45150/1

My Jewish Dander Is Up

I almost always think The Onion is hilarious no matter how outrageous they get, but this left me cold and upset. Too close to the bone:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/45357

Satire-While-U-Wait

It truly amazes me how quickly satirists can produce a pretty hilarious video or song in the aftermath of a tragedy tinged with ridiculousness. I mean, this Cheney debacle just unfolded a few days ago and here's the inevitable re-do of "Janie's Got a Gun:"

http://www.waltonandjohnson.com/blog/Chaneys%20Got%20a%20Gun.mp3

Where do these guys find the time to produce these things?

And you knew someone was going to do this, right?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"Self" Magazine : Issue Review


scrawnyactress
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Color me suspicious. My first issue of "Self" magazine arrived in the mail featuring famously thin-and-getting-thinner-all-the-time "Grey's Anatomy" actress Ellen Pompeo on the cover, with one of those "everyone sez I'm anorexic but I swear I eat tons and I just have this wicked fast metabolism" confessionals on page 36.

This is a magazine about health, so why the notoriously scrawny cover girl, photographed so that neither of her pin thin arms is visible? There wasn't a truly fit model available? One who might eat the occasional meal?

A small photo of editor Lucy S. Danziger on p. 18 reveals a sort of grimacing, overly blow-dried blonde who might be trying to have an expression on her face but you can't tell for the Botox. That's a lovely, wide forehead with nary a wrinkle 'pon it.

Check out the model in the article "Your Firmest Abs Ever" who looks gorgeous from the front, but who, when photographed from the side, reveals another sliver-thin body totally unattainable to most women. I'm scared of her on the "T balance on ball" photo, where she looks like Skeletor in a pink jogging bra.

I hate the "Play Bod Libs With a Buddy" feature, which starts, "If I woke one morning suddenly adoring my body" and assumes that mostly what you'd do if you woke up adoring your body is be brave enough to ask your boss for a (fill in the blank) -- "and I'd probably get it, too!" because of course the only thing standing in the way of women's professional advancement is their own body issues.

Other than that, okay, there are some good features and the fitness tips are good. I can even do most of them. All I'm sayin', SELF, is that we've got all them there beauty and celeb magazines to pimp the skinnies to us. We don't need Skeletor from you, too.

Young Divines Do "The Vagina Monologues"

On a hot tip from Philocrites, I ran out to Harvard Divinity School last night to see their production of "The Vagina Monologues," mostly for the pleasure of hearing Eve Ensler's famous "c-word" monologue performed in the chapel at Andover Hall. Daaang, ya let chicks into the place --http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2005/09.22/07-divcon.html
and the next thing you know they're acting out fake orgasms all over the chancel.

It was a just okay reading of the show -- the ensemble pieces were whiny and one-note but most of the individual monologues were far better. Despite all the graphic content, the only thing that really shocked me was how young the students are.

Ohmigawd, all those 20-something kids working for their M.Divs and M.T.S's and going into ministry with pierced noses and shiny, long hair and shiny red lipstick!! They couldn't have found more than one performer with a vagina over forty? I felt so motherly sitting there, beaming with approval from the back row with my hands folded primly in my lap ("Sweetheart, you did such a good job as the professional dominatrix!"). You can see the production on Thursday or Saturday night at 7:30. Proceeds are going to Casa Myrna Vazquez, a Boston-based organization working against domestic violence.

More on Kwan

Now here's a girl I like:

http://moxie.nu/moveabletype/archives/003441.php

Our blogs were cited side by side here,
http://blog.blogpulse.com/
with mine as the "pro-Kwan" blog and hers the "not so kind to Kwan" one.

I agree with Ms. Moxie that Kwan wasn't the greatest artist on the ice. She's right: when the media claims an Olympic darling, it's hard to slide out of the room with your drink in your hand and the integrity of your opinions intact.

Michelle Kwan wasn't my darling, though, and I didn't even love her skating. In fact, after watching the couples skate the other night, I think that all figure skating has become mechanistic and freaky. I still watch it and cling to the hopes that I might catch a performance like Brian Boitano gave when he won the gold in Calgary in 1988. Remember the Battle of the Brians? I think that was also the year that the women's competition saw the likes of Katarina Witt (whose choice to skate to "Carmen" was so wrong, unless you can picture the fiery Spanish siren as a stern, monobrowed Cherman lass) and the plumb crazy Surya Bonaly, who could do a backflip on the ice. The point is, it was fun, and the drama was not only off the ice in the scores and the competitions between athletes, but on the ice, where it's sorely lacking nowadays.

I don't love Michelle Kwan as a skater -- never did -- but I admire her athleticism, her hard work, and her reputation as an emotionally stable, dedicated skater.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sunday, February 12, 2006

How Can I Share Lena Horne With You?

Does anyone know if I can upload mp3 files from i-tunes into Blogger? 'Cause sometimes I want to share tunes with you all.

Like tonight I loaded about 35 photos onto my i-pod and it just so happened that the song that came up for the slide show was Lena Horne singing "Yesterday When I Was Young." from her Broadway show, "A Lady And Her Music." This is a song that will rip your heart out ANYWAY, but try listening to it while watching a slide show of people and places you love best rolling by. It's like being at your own funeral. But in a good way.

If you don't own Miss Horne's brilliant 2-CD recording of that show, by the way, I just think it's a huge omission from your life. All libidinous women need to listen to "A Lady Must Live" on Valentine's Day, and you can dirty dance with your honey to "'Deed I Do." Her rendition of "Stormy Weather" will make you sit down real hard on the couch and cry no matter what you're doing, and "That's What Miracles Are All About" could so easily be the first dance at your wedding. When you're feeling blue, you gotta have "If You Believe," which might also make you cry.

So get it, okay?

A Pink Lady Speaks

Two recent stories about dumb, censorious Christians really disturb me. The first comes from Paul Wilczynski, who reports that at least 100 Christian pastors have signed a petition against gay actor Chad Allen appearing as a Christian in a project called (hold your snickers, please) "End Of the Spear:"

http://www.paulwilczynski.com/

I know these dimwits think that homosexuality is catching, but I had heretofore believed that the perceived danger was if your kid had exposure to an actual homo, not just one playing a Christian on television. Honestly, these people get more ridiculous all the time. How many people did they manage to insult and embarrass with this latest bit of activism?

Hmmm. Let's count 'em up:

Of course, as rampant homophobes, they insult all God's homosexual children, and especially actor Chad Allen. They insult and damage the reputation of the wider Christian community. They insult the integrity of the supposedly impressionable young people whom they assume will turn insta-gay by being exposed to Chad Allen's performance (because of course the actor will be using this role as a way to convert thousands of kids to Team Gay! That's why he took the role!). And from non-zealots, they earn yet another huge eye rolling sigh of disgust.
WAY to go!

In a similarly upsetting story, Philocrites reports another group of Mad Stoopit Christians who can't have their tender progeny exposed to smoking and drinking and the wearing of babydoll pajamas:

http://tinyurl.com/7p4zy

The offending drama project is "Grease," which only every single teenager ever created since the late 1970's has known about, and loved as either kitsch or as one of their earliest introductions to John Travolta as a singing and dancing hottie. My Mom saw it on Broadway about five times in the late 70's and took us to see it which caused my friend Lee Grogan's mother to be appalled, because it involved mooning and characters named Danny Zuko grabbing the breasts of one of his gal pals and saying, "boola boola." It involved greasers and girl gangs! And a nefarious car known as "Greased Lightning" with a back seat where bad girls got pregnant!

I thought it was slightly shocking, but more because the actors sang into hand-held mics for the first time in Broadway history. I was in the fifth grade.

You can imagine -- or maybe you can't -- the absolute hysteria when our high school became the first in America to get the rights in 1980, and how outrageous the auditioning process was. EVERYONE wanted to be in this show: the drama "fags" (sorry, that's what we were called), the jocks, the nerds, EVERYONE. The director announced that freshmen were not going to be cast, but I snagged a leading role as one of the Pink Ladies and my friend Little Stevie T. also got in. (He's now a minor cable celebrity, and we had a falling out several years ago, and I have nothing good to say about him. So I won't tell you his last name but it's not Stephen Colbert, who's a fine old bean of an old college pal).

I was fourteen years old and looking back, was fierce hot as Marty, "the beauty of the Pink Ladies" (or so it says in the script, a description that carried me through many moments of massive insecurity during my teen years):

marty.jpg.bmp

The director actually taught me how to smoke, 'cause it was 1980 and we were willing to suffer for our art, even in high school. My parents could not have been prouder of me in my tiny pink baby doll pajamas singing "Freddy My Love."

Sure, some parents wrote letters to the editor of the local paper expressing their shock that the high school would mount such a salacious show. And then other parents wrote in saying nonsense, it was a delight, get over it. Those of us who had been involved in the production were absolutely thrilled by the controversy.

What didn't happen was that the superintendent of schools was so cowed by the response that he took it upon himself to take creative control of the Drama Department, as happened in Fulton, Missouri.
Our theater teachers would never have tolerated that. Never. And they would have had full community support, too.

It should be noted that I later went on to play Rizzo in a Minneapolis production of "Grease" in 1996 (much too old to hand jive at thirty) and that I suffered no ill effects to my virtuous Christian life. I don't think it counts that I was living in sin with a man at the time. After all, there are worse things I could do.

I have written a letter of support to drama teacher Wendy DeVore, and I invite you to do so, too. She may be out of a job for choosing such shows as "Grease" and "The Crucible" for her student performers, and she can be reached at Wendy_DeVore@fulton.k12.mo.us.

Pink Ladies forever!

Michelle Kwan is Golden To Me

I would like to say spiritual things about how it's ridiculous that such a dedicated and talented athelete as Michelle Kwan should not be content to have won a silver and bronze medal at the Olympics, but that's not the world we live in.

She's injured herself again, after having received medical clearance to skate in Turin, and she's taken herself off the team. There will be no more Olympic dreams for Michelle.

This is one classy kid. Hard-working, gracious, out there perfecting her craft at dozens of competitions and providing lots of little girls an athletic icon. She done good.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11302192/

I'm sorry, Michele. I wish you well. I'm not quite ready to get excited about Emily Hughes, 'cause I'm too sad for you.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Second Best UU-Themed Blog!

The winners are in, and that was fun!
http://uupdates.net/uublogawards/votes

Philocrites won Best UU-Themed Blog, and I am very honored to be in second place behind him, barely edging out Left Coast Unitarian and The Chalice Blog -- two of my favorites (and they both won other awards).

secondplace

Congratulations to all the winners, and many thanks to all of you who pay those of us who blog the compliment of reading our thoughtful essays, sermon excerpts, techno-musings, prayerful reflections, cultural snark, and midnight ravings.

PeaceBang GA Dinner Party

I know it's early, but if I'm going to make reservations for a huge crowd, we need to start early.

Who's interested in a GA UU Blogger's gathering?

We'll have to get the schedule to see what night would be best, but I wanted to generate interest early to see who might be going. Keep in mind that GA starts on Wednesday this year and ends on Sunday evening.

I have my eye on this joint:

http://tinyurl.com/amzkh

Friday, February 10, 2006

One More Hour to Vote!!

This is so cute.

http://uupdates.net/uublogawards.php?step=results

Looks like I'm not going to win any UU Blog Awards, but I was mighty tickled to see that I am tied for second place for "Best UU Themed Blog" as of this writing (10:30 p.m. the last day of voting). That really knocks me out, since I never meant for PeaceBang to be UU themed, but I think it's cool that it's perceived that way.

Go ye and vote!

"Frozen" In February

I saw "Frozen" on Wednesday night at the New Rep theatre in Watertown. You can read about it here:

http://www.newrep.org/news/20051229frozen.html

The play had some faults: it's a bit sentimental and pat, and one of the three characters is far inferior in complexity and nuance to the other two. But the play, dealing as it does with the nature of evil itself, is riveting. Nancy E. Carroll gave a smashing performance as a mother whose 10-year old daughter is abducted and murdered by a pedophile serial killer.

I've been pretty blue since I saw it, which doesn't surprise me. Old Dame Melancholy typically gets a hold of me this time of year after the highs of the holidays and my birthday and vacation are over. We're coming into Lent, church folk tend to be weary and a bit cranky, and Valentine's Day reminds me of the way I was cruelly and silently dumped by a lover two years ago and haven't dated anyone since. I had a really stupid, pointless date last night: it was *way* more fun to go to Barnes & Noble and grade papers.

What if, as "Frozen" posits, evil and sadism are really the results of frontal lobe damage and screwy synapses, and not an incarnation of an ontological evil at all? What if the reason so much sexual perversity and violence are tied together is a purely neurological phenomenon and not due to the human animal's disturbing capability to invent particularly vile and humiliating forms of physical and psychic harm to commit on the bodies of others?

Does this make me more optimistic, or less? What, then, of the rock-bound Unitarian conviction of the moral improvability of all humans?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Life Is A Cabaret

I'll be parked in front of the t.v. tonight watching my favorite sycophant, James Lipton, interview Liza Minelli. My inner gay male is going to be in heaven!
The only drawback is that because I just had a crown put on my tooth, no popcorn.

Look, I know many of you think that Liza's ridiculous. But when you grow up a terribly sensitive, terribly anxious, terribly sad child whose only outlet is the theater, Liza is one of your patron saints. Liza makes being out of control into an art form. Liza makes a show tune into a sacrament. Liza is the child of an alcoholic and pill addict who makes the point that addiction is a disease better than any AMA report could ever do: after seeing what her mother (who had, I think, the greatest singing voice in American popular music) suffered, why and HOW could she have picked up the bottle or the pills? "Because, darling," as she'll tell Lipton (I saw the tail end of an earlier broadcast) "It's a disease." TELL 'em, Liza.

I saw her live in Chicago back in the days when Mother of PeaceBang was fresh out of rehab and we were all incredibly hurting and scared and I was in the middle of a two year period of feeling paralyzingly terrified all the time, often walking around campus weeping. Liza was also fresh out of one of her many stints at Betty Ford, and of course she sang her signature song "Cabaret" near the end of the show:

I used to have a girlfriend known as Elsie,
with whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea.
She wasn't what you'd call a blushing flower.
As a matter of fact, she rented by the hour.
The day she died, the neighbors came to snicker,
Well, that's what comes from too much pills and liquor.
But when I saw her laid out like a queen...
she was the happiest corpse I'd ever seen.

I think of Elsie to this very day,
I remember how she'd turn to me and say:
'What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play!
Life is a cabaret old chum
Come to the cabaret...

And as for me,
as for me,
I made my mind up back in Chelsea...
when I go, I'm going like Elsie! (and etc
.)

That's how it goes, and it's a song I'd known and loved for thousands of years ("Cabaret" was the first big production I was ever in -- I lied about my age and got into the ensemble when I was 14). But this time, Liza sang,

But as for me
As for me,
I made my mind up back in Chelsea,
when I go...
I'm NOT goin' like Elsie!!


The crowd went absolutely wild, and I sat there in my box seat and blubbered like an idiot, as I still do when I remember it. It meant more to me than I can ever express, and I realized two things on that night: first, that we were all going to survive the pain of Mom's getting well, and second, that no matter how cheezy or warbly or histrionic Liza would ever get, she had the magic of a true, eternal star and I would love and worship her all my life.

Liza-Minelli_N
She's NOT goin' like Elsie, and you can see her tonight on Bravo, 8 pm EST.

English Teachers and Papa Hemingway

Hunt's comment in my Hester Prynne post of yesterday reminded me of something I wanted to share with you all from my recent trip to Spain. While I was there, I read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and also his short story collection, Men Without Women.
Can you believe it? I had never read any Hemingway but The Old Man And the Sea before, and I was just flattened by admiration and appreciation.
Couldn't really tell you why. I guess because his writing is just so clean and macho and honest, and there's a tender kind of funniness to it all, and he writes characters and doesn't judge them. He just lets them live there on the page.

There I was loving Salinger so much all along -- and all those other cool guys of the mid-20th century-- and never knowing that Hemingway started it all. It's so obvious when you read him that he started it all. It's like seeing Brando: you say to yourself, "when he started doing that, everyone's hair caught on fire and they all wanted to do that, and who could blame them?" Raw, real, totally unmannered American male (but yet somehow totally mannered), riveting.

It's been a long time since I was an English teacher, and as I read and loved The Sun Also Rises I thought to myself, "There was a time when I would have assigned this book, and been marking it up for quizzes and essay assignments. What a pleasure it is to just read it and not have to analyze it even one tiny bit." I don't know what you'd do with Lady Brook Ashley anyway. She's just a rampant slut who's far too beautiful for her own good, and I adored her. Madly.

(Just being able to read for pleasure makes me look forward to retirement, when I can read, observe or experience meaningful things and not have to think about how to use them in a sermon.)

But please do go and find Men Without Women. "In Another Country" is just the saddest little story about the ways that huge public catastrophes like war aren't as hard to take as little, personal catastrophes like losing someone you love to a perfectly ordinary disease.
"A Canary For One" isn't much until the last sentence -- the last sentence!! -- where your mouth drops open and you go "OH!!" and then laugh and laugh in a bitter way, as though you and Hemingway had a private joke. And "The Killers" is just one of those delicious macho things that reminds you of Dorothy Parker's ability to bring an era of American life and dialogue so totally alive.
I personally re-read "A Pursuit Race" three times in a row in a hotel room in Barcelona because I was so enchanted by the dialogue -- I finally just had to give in and read it aloud. I'll never sleep in sheets the same way again.
"Now I Lay Me" is something every neurotic spiritual type should commit to memory for those nights spent in the arms of the god Insomnia, and geez, I just plain admire the tight, satin pants off "The Undefeated." I read that twice in a row, too.

I might even go so far as to say that Gaudi and Hemingway were the two big unexpected inspirations I found in Spain.

hemingway-ernest-hemingway-portret

He's hot.

Monday, February 06, 2006

.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Three Grand Dames

Betty Friedan.

Coretta Scott King.

Wendy Wasserstein.

All of blessed memory now, may they rest in peace.

Three women whose ovarios were always humming in the far background of my girlish youth, making me foolishly believe I could be anyone I wanted to be.

On NPR today a female interviewer spoke to an old friend and political comrade of Friedan's and stated in almost the first sentence, "She was loud, wasn't she?" The friend demurred. She wasn't falling for that. Then, three seconds later, the interviewer tried again: "Some people thought she was abrasive."

Woman, we're talking about BETTY FRIEDAN here! BETTY FRIEDAN, who's so fresh in her grave she can't even properly spin in it yet, listening to you pull that ole sexist garbage. Hey Lady Interviewer, here's a little tip from Feminism For Dummies: 21st Century Edition -- when women are strong and opinionated, we don't accuse them of being "loud and abrasive" anymore. We leave that to Ann Coulter.

Ihad the pleasure of seeing the iconic Coretta Scott King speak in Baltimore, MD a few years ago and was blown away by the force of her presence. She was all admirable things, and I haven't forgotten the experience.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Friday, February 03, 2006

UU Blog Awards

I've been nominated for UU blog awards in the following categories, which is just so nice of ya'll (or just Philocrites). I decided to spend a few minutes scrolling back through this year's entries to choose a few representative samples, in case you're being a conscientious voter. I'm sorry I don't have time to provide links for everything, but my archives section works pretty well and you can just scroll down to find the entry if it doesn't pop up first. As I said, these are very random and not necessarily my favorites, just representative for the category. So ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration:

Religious Writing or Theological Commentary:

"Spiritual But Not Religious" 1/24/05
http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=9873156&postID=110658436470850057

"Oy Vey, Not Again" 2/2/05

"Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down" 2/10/05
http://tinyurl.com/a7pwt

The Little Compton Series, beginning March 2005 with http://tinyurl.com/8ktpl
and culminating with Easter Sunday, "It Matters To This One," 3/27/05
http://tinyurl.com/exnao

"Are They Worth Praying Over?" 8/20/05

Review or Cultural Commentary:

(I've reviewed lots of movies and awards shows, the Brangelina affair, and all kinds of pop culture nonsense but it seems I've been nominated for my piece, "And I Am Convicted," which I wouldn't have thought of as review or cultural commentary but I appreciate the nod anyway!)

Anecdote or Narrative:

"Redeeming Weddings" 9/24/05 http://tinyurl.com/93da4
"Snake Shooter" 9/5/05
"22 Years Without Him" 4/05/05 http://tinyurl.com/7fjwu

Best Writing

Best UU Themed Blog

"Do We Pray?" 9/11/05
"Squirming on Sunday Mornings" 1/29/06 http://tinyurl.com/bvpkg


(P.S. Love and thanks to Jaume for tuning me into the joys of tinyurl.com!!)

Hate Crime in New Bedford

There was a horrific attack at a gay bar the other night in New Bedford, MA. You can read about it at Dan Harper's blog:

http://www.danielharper.org/blog/

The perpetrator is still at large, and three men are seriously wounded, one critically. I was disturbed by a quote that appeared in the AOL article on the attack, wherein a witness says, "I'm not surprised. It was either this or a firebomb through the window."
Read it here, at the very end:
http://tinyurl.com/d9qf8

Seems to me that this quote was not essential to the story and only provides more suggestions for violence. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I'm wondering about the comment offered by a representative for the Marriage Equality Coalition of the South Coast, who said, basically, that the denial of the right to marry has given some people the impression that gays are second class citizens (and ostensibly open targets for violent attacks).

I have to say that although I can understand the representative's desire to connect marriage equality with violent hate crimes against gays, I think it was a mistake in this case. Violent homophobia has been with us long before the fight for marriage equality, and it seems somehow out of place and maybe even a bit disingenuous to connect this attack to marriage equality. When someone comes into a bar and machete hacks and shoots gay men, it's not about marriage rights, it's about the right to be alive.

The police found Nazi and anti-Semitic literature in the perpetrator's room. I think if there had been a Jewish bar in New Bedford, he may just as easily decided to commit his acts of violence there. Hatred is hatred. It could be that this guy was motivated by the recent Massachusetts marriage equality battle to start collecting Nazi propaganda, and that the marriage equality issue in the news fanned the flames of his homophobia to psychotic heights, but I tend to doubt it.

All of which leads me to ask, and I'm embarrrassed that I don't know: is there an existing gay rights movement that isn't tied into marriage equality? Are there gay rights organizations, in fact, that aren't working on marriage equality issues? And that don't even support marriage equality? Twenty years or so I remember a level of in-fighting (or perhaps arguing is a better word, or struggling) about the issue among gay groups, but things might have changed a lot by now.

There's an interesting article in this month's Out magazine about the gay male community's single-phobia, which I found particularly interesting (of course). And I would like to officially thank Fran for the gift subscription.

Hugh's Harem

I crawled into bed early last night and watched "The Girls Next Door," a guilty pleasure reality show about the girls who live in the Playboy Mansion. I had seen it once before and thought it was giggly, boobie fun. The show focuses on the three special girlfriends of Hugh Hefner and they're so shockingly plastic, blonde and Barbie-ish that it was fun to spy on their lives. They also seem like nice girls, even if somewhat emotionally stunted.

Last night's episode was about how the three of them wanted to go visit another Playmate friend in Las Vegas. Again, vapid fun. We had shots of them waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch their flight, the crisis of one of them not being able to find the Victoria's Secret bag with their friend's birthday gift in it, shots of them arriving in Vegas and marveling at the "Hugh Hefner Boulevard" sign, and shots of them comparing breasts poolside ("Mine are so new they haven't really settled down yet," one says, matter-of-factly. "They're just sitting there.").

All inocuous enough, until one of them confesses to the camera that Hef likes to have them all back at the Mansion by 9 p.m. every night unless he's with them. It's more than a preference, actually, it's a house rule. They have a 9 p.m. curfew. These adult women have a 9 p.m. curfew because of the past indiscretions of Playboy Bunny mansion dwellers.

Throughout the bunnies' day frolicking in Vegas, one of them (Holly, the prettiest) constantly phones back to the mansion to assure Hef that they miss him and love him. Dessicated ole Hef seems slightly bored by it all, and slightly amused, replying "I love you" to every reassuring coo coming from one of his prize possessions.

Perhaps you think that these gals are living large, that their arrangement with Hef is just as economically beneficial to them as it is sexually beneficial to him. Think again. "We don't get a big allowance," quoth one bunny, as she frets about the loss of the Victoria's Secret bag of gifts. "I spent, like twenty bucks on make-up for her!" Another reveals that the girls shopped for the cheapest airfare to Vegas and were pleased to find really inexpensive seats on Southwest Airlines. This didn't sound like product placement to me; it was a comment tossed off and barely audible.

I'm guessing that the bunnies have their expenses covered when they're engaged in Hef-approved activities, like appearing in public with him and posing nude for his publications. They probably think that being associated with him and Playboy enterprises guarantees them big bucks when they shoot out on their own modeling or acting or whatever other kind of careers they may pursue. And I hope they're right. None of them are exquisitely beautiful or dewily delicious -- they're all the generic, over-tanned inflatable doll types, and in Kendra's case, obviously none too bright. If they're hoping for a career beyond "The Girls Next Door" I advise them to get on it, unless they're assuming they'll land rich hubbies (a pretty safe bet) -- and wind up overly-tanned Hollywood divorcees (another pretty safe bet).

The 9:00 p.m. curfew is what really curled my lip. I know Hugh Hefner has made his fortune exploiting women who are lining up to be exploited by him, but I wasn't aware that he was in the habit of keeping them prisoners in his own personal harem. Yuck and double yuck, Hugh, you dried up snake.

I'd like to track these gals in twenty years and see how they're doing financially. One of them has an advanced degree and another is studying in some kind of program. It's 20-year old Kendra I'm worried about; the youngest and least attractive of the the three.

By the way, I wonder what the polyamory people think of Hugh's arrangement with these three "special" girlfriends?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sari Will Be Very Upset At This, Too

This upsets me even more than using human drug mules, because at least they get paid:

http://tinyurl.com/95xcd

Wednesday, February 01, 2006