Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hey everyone,
I deleted the last post because I can't get into blogger regularly and it's making me ANXIOUS (haha, the irony!), so I deleted. The conversation was way too deep and important not to be able to respond to, but thanks for joining me for the short time it was up.

I'm going to chill until I can move this blog outta Blogger.

Ciao, and love.

The Oldest Profession, In A Modern Twist

Right ON, Ms. Palfrey!!

Why should you be punished and impoverished for your "sins" while the Washington moralists and hypocrites sit smugly in their offices, confident in the knowledge that you're just a woman and can't touch them?

If she has to go down, let her take her entire clientele down with her. Brava, I say.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Preacher's Bullpen

So I'm watching the Yankees-Red Sox game last night when really, I should be working on my sermon, and I'm thinking hey, how come we don't have a preacher's bullpen we can go to when we're at the seventh inning of the church year?

This could be a great job for talented retirees. It could be like, "Weinstein has given twenty-five decent sermons this year but her arm is obviously giving out -- she's thrown a few real bad ones in the past weeks, let's see who's warming up in the bullpen."

And then there would be this shot of two ministers out back in the memorial garden, dressed in vestments, walking around talking and gesticulating.

Then God would come up to the pulpit, put His arm around me and lead me down while the next preacher steps up. I'd get to sit in the back of the sanctuary and drink a cup of coffee and watch the rest of the service.

Anyway, it's hard to see those Yankee pitchers just suck through a straw and know that they're being paid more per minute than most of us make in a year. LORD, thou mockest me!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

There is something so truly sweet about this.
You're going to love the very cinematic fade-outs, and I think you'll agree with me that this cat plays some music that's better than some of the bad jazz you've heard in piano bars in your lifetime.

I'm loving this little gray girl. She is a serious hep cat.
Nora, The Hep Cat

Don't watch it anywhere where you can't laugh out loud, and scream with joy, and go "BWOH!"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lena Horne Does Miracles

I went for a walk today and listened to Lena Horne sing, "That's What Miracles Are All About" several times in a row.

For three minutes and fifty-eight seconds of pure bliss, you can get it from i-Tunes for .99.

"The very fact
there's you and me,
that's what miracles are all about."

I can't tell you how much the entire album, "Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music" has meant to me since I first heard it in 1982.
Get it, you hear?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ermengarde Earns Her Keep

Ermengarde Earns Her Keep
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I came home today and Erm, who has been very squirrelly in the bedroom lately, had THIS to show me.

GA Blogger's Dinner

So... who wants to organize the great Blogger's Dinner at GA in Portland this year?

(I did it last year)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Is This How We Talk To Women Now?

Just having endured Don Imus' dismissal of talented young female athletes as "nappy-headed hos," I was particularly depressed by Alec Baldwin's rant against his 11-year old daughter in which he called her a "thoughtless little pig."

It all seems of one piece to me.

I was talking with my sister yesterday about a friend of ours whose husband is controlling, insulting and hyper-critical. Our friend is considering separation or even divorce. My sister and I were talking about the fact that times have changed a lot, and women no longer feel that they have to be married for social acceptance or for financial survival. Therefore, they are less likely these days to tolerate verbal abuse and constant harping on their imperfections. They want a supportive partner, but here's the thing... they also want to be treated as a cherished woman, in that specifically romantic hetero-fantasy mode that we've all grown up with.

I'm not sure the hetero male world has figured this out yet. But let me explain it. Fellas, it's not either/or proposition where either you get to be the big macho lug who treats your "little lady" like a fragile, dependent flower OR you get to have an equal partner in life who doesn't need all that old-fashioned girlie stuff, and with whom you can be sloppy and coarse as you wanna be. The fact is, women -- even feminists -- still appreciate good manners, and even -- I'm giving away a big secret here! -- a tiny bit of the princess-on-the-pedestal stuff.

But at the very least, we don't want to be called pigs, bitches and whores.

Could you all talk amongst yourself about this? Thank you, PB.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More from ABC Carpet and Home, NYC

Spring NYC 2007 064
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Those gray things sticking out of the wall behind me are crystals!

Spring NYC 2007 066

ABC Carpet and Home

Spring NYC 2007 040
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

When I am really sapped, I find it really healing to empty my mind and fill my eyes with color and beauty and diversity. New York City is one of my favorite places in the world to do this, so I spent all day yesterday in the city. What a glorious day.

I fell in love with this 5-floor store, ABC Carpet and Home (such a prosaic name for such a paradisical environment!) and spent over an hour just wandering around, snapping photos, digging their chakra-oriented set-up (a bit self-consciously groovy but aesthetically divine) and not spending a penny.

The clerks were all lovely and fun, and I spent many long minutes discussing these embroidered pieces... made from fabrics from Uzbekistan... they have such soul to them, don't you think?

Spring NYC 2007 056Spring NYC 2007 051

Spring Has Sprung

Spring NYC 2007 043
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Union Square in New York City was all abloom with flower stalls and produce stands.

It was almost miraculous to finally be out in the sunshine.
Here are some hydrangeas. I wanted you to see the bigger size, it's just an explosion of color:

Amazing to get such vibrant colors from my little digital camera!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Sanctity of the Classroom

The Sanctity of the Classroom
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I remember when Chris, a tall, shy, arrogant, pimply blonde high school junior in my creative writing class, submitted obscenity-filled blood-fests in lieu of assignments.

In each case, I told him his work was garbage and insisted that he re-write the paper.

He came to see me after class one day, red in the face and coldy furious. You can't make me rewrite this. This is creative writing class. I'm being creative," he told me, his face seething with adolescent tension and hatred.

I had had a lot of experience at that point with the testosterone poisoning that can come in the teen years, and I knew Chris to be a generally good kid but with some mood swings -- probably exacerbated by his geekiness and shyness. He was most definitely not one of the popular kids, but he did have a buddy, Justin, with whom he spent the class snorting and snuffling around over their superior wit and intelligence. Justin was a "fat kid" in a school full of preppy clones, and genuinely funny. He could be disrespectful and disruptive, but had none of Chris's hostile edge.

I told Chris that he could be creative all he wanted, but within the parameters of the assignment. He was there to learn, I told him, not to just spew his violent fantasies onto the paper and then expect me to take them seriously as academic work. I told him I was disturbed by the content of his paper and that I felt it was a violation of appropriate student-teacher boundaries. Furthermore, he knew it.
I told him to straighten up and fly right or I'd send this paper home and see what his parents had to say about his"creative" writing.

Chris muttered some inarticulate complaint under his breath, grabbed his paper from my hand and left. He resubmitted a new paper the next day. He was, above all, a competitive student and his desire to get into a good college overrode his need to rebel against the tyrannies of Miss W.

If my memory is correct, we went back and forth with this nonsense a few times before he finally decided to behave himself and take the assignments seriously.

This was before Columbine. It never occurred to me that this kid would ever harm anybody; that sort of thing was beyond our teacherly imagination in 1990. I had gone to suburban Minnesota from Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois -- a school that was truly dangerous and where violence was a daily fact of life. I was concerned for Chris, but I trusted that he'd outgrow whatever demons were plaguing him.

English teachers are privy to some of our student's deepest wishes and most secret fears. I still treasure some of the confidences shared with me by my students. I remember M., who was in love with her step-brother and who included that plot detail in a marvelous short story she wrote for my class. When I called her in after class to ask her if her story was based in truth, she dissolved in tears. She was a painfully lovely young lady and I loved her. I still think of her.
I remember J., whose parents were so caught up in their careers they almost never saw their daughter, who mourned their neglect terribly and begged for their time. I remember B., who "thought" she might have been raped at a school party one weekend but who refused to report her assailant, also one of my students. I could get her to say no more. She never sought counseling or reported it.
I remember T., who was gay and felt he couldn't tell anyone. I hope T. has come out by now, and that he's happy.
I remember J., who had been beaten so badly as a child that his back was a mess of raised scars. After I saw his back and heard the stories of his childhood, I understood why reading and writing -- and even speaking -- was so hard for him. I think of him often, too.
I remember N. -- so sweet, so ambitious, who came to school early to run track and whose breath was so bad from malnutrition that her track coach brought her breakfast every day. It may have been her only meal.

I remember T. and S., handsome twins whose parents so badly wanted them to get out of Bellwood that they hired me to tutor them. They were absolute gentlemen even in their teens. I wish them well.

I remember so many of them.

I remember the classroom as a sacred place. I was blessed to be there with them.

Our classrooms should be sanctuaries. If it takes total gun control to assure that this can be the case, then I'm for total gun control.

Whatever it takes.

Melinda Doolittle Is My American Idol

I watched "American Idol" on Tuesday night and, um, Melinda was the only one who didn't have serious pitch and tonality problems.

What happened this season?

That kid Sanjaya was atrociously bad. What was the deal there?

The kid who sang badly and then tried to redeem himself by giving a shout-out to his friends at Virginia Tech (Chris?) had terrible tonality issues, and was "pitchy."

Jordin Sparks was waaaay overrated. She had a few great moments, but I've seen local karaoke singers do a much better job with similarly difficult songs. She went flat several times!

I was rather horrified by the scream fest that was "Jesus Take the Wheel." You have to know your voice better than that.

Melinda was the one bright spot in a painful evening. She's the hands-down winner in that group.

Oh, and by the way: Simon wasn't rolling his eyes at Chris's tearful comment. He couldn't *hear* Chris's tearful comment. He was understandably pish-poshing the kid's snotty protestation that "nasally is a kind of singing."

I won't be tuning in again. There seems to be no competition there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Why We Need Religion" by Jeff Jacoby

This editorial by Jeff Jacobs appearedin today's Boston Globe:

Have at it, gang.

I appreciate that for once, a conservative writer admits that atheists can still be good and moral people (THANKya, Jesus), and I really--especially lately -- appreciate his point that the philanthropic spirit is not as natural to human beings as self-interest. It takes some kind of moral discipline to develop the benevolent, community-oriented ethic that the pastors he references obviously have. Religion is one way to get that.

But I wonder about his final statement asserting that a world without God in it would be "an evil place indeed."

How does he know?

Does he mean ontologically, or socially, or what?

I mean, if there is a God that can be said to even vaguely resemble our our limited human intuitions and descriptions of It (mysterium tremendum, LORD, Oversoul, inexpressible magnificent intensity, etc.), isn't it a little silly to even posit a world without that God? Including evil, which, according to most theistic concepts, is part of the created order?

And if there isn't a God, what would get more evil about this world, really?

Maybe Jeff hasn't figured out that millions of us God-believing folk aren't so much honoring a reality that we're sure of as honoring an Ideal, whether it actually "exists" or not.

All of this Atheism-vs-Theism stuff is just the latest Big Popular Unnecessary Polarization, anyway. As the globe gets smaller and we really see that all humans are just human, we'll grasp at anything we can find to put ourselves into separate, antagonistic camps. Both rationalism and theism, in their distinct ways, counsel against such polarities, but hey, if it makes a buck and gives people a reason to fight, it ain't going away anytime soon.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

UUs and Class

Joel Monka wrote a very provocative post here:

referencing another article by Doug Muder that was like a punch in the stomach, but a really loving and good punch that let's you see the stars while you're lying on your back getting your breath back:

What The Body Knows

Still Waters
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I knew something was wrong, or off, yesterday when I sang almost an entire concert from somewhere not quite in my body. Every third or fourth song, I would look into the audience and really connect, but most of the time I was smiling and energetic but on some deep level I just wasn't home.

Partly it is this time of year. I go into reveries and while I'm technically in 2007, my mind is living 25 years ago. A smell can cause this time travel, or a song, or a quality of the rain. April is the cruelest month, as the poet wrote. For me it is the most nostalgic.

I watched a father and his elementary school-age daughter snuggling at rehearsal on Friday night, she sitting in his lap, he absent-mindedly kissing her forehead, and I felt absent of words, just a little mouse in the hidey hole with the other mices. Very tender, very vulnerable.

Another person at the rehearsal is hugely pregnant and due to give birth any day now. I watched her prepare a little piece of French toast for her firstborn, so grounded in her big, extravagant body, and I felt like I was floating out of mine.

I put 100 miles on the car without having any real sense of where I had been.

I slept 8 hours most nights this week with no real sense of the days being different from the nights. My mojo is looooow. I re-read my Easter sermon and couldn't remember having written it. When did I write that? Was that me? Did we really dedicate that beautiful baby girl that morning, our living evidence that God loves us enough to keep inviting us to the party even though we've been such a bad guest at Her house?

It should have come as no surprise, then, when I was hit with a major panic attack yesterday evening. When my mind, body and soul slip apart like that, my body is usually processing through the accumulated stress and trauma of the past few months and deciding what to do with it. If I have not been consistent with exercise, prayer, quiet time and intentional healing work, I fall prey to anxiety attacks, or just chronic sense of anxiety that sits in my chest, back and neck and holds me in the kind of bear hug granted by an overly-needy participant in a men's spirituality retreat.

If you've never experienced a full-blown anxiety attack, it's hard to explain. For me, as I've described before, there is the textbook sensation of "fight or flee," a quick spreading heat all over my body, tingling extremities, blurred vision and a sense of "losing it." I literally can't see straight. I can't focus my thoughts. Every bit of energy is occupied with the struggle to remain calm, remain in the body.
My thoughts come in big block letters: "YOU ARE NOT DYING."

I talked with my mother as it hit, and she was good, allowing me to put the phone down and stretch and walk as I needed. She did not panic herself. She knows I'm fine.

Sleep came only after much effort and stern admonitions to self ("WE HAVE CHURCH IN THE MORNING. GO. TO. SLEEP."). When I awoke with slight fluttering and trembling, I shot out the back door into the cold yard and walked firmly around it, telling myself all the while to "CUT IT OUT, NOW."

It was so good to be with my church. The service went well. The music was beautiful. My congregants were healing to me, with their fine energy and their humor and their warmth.

The struggle continues. I talk about it because I believe that chronic anxiety is an extremely common ailment of our time, and because I believe that creative and spiritually-oriented folks need to know that someone like them -- someone whose very life blood is in the work of ministry, pastoring, writing, witnessing and living as deeply as possible -- is willing to speak honestly about the ways we can skid off the road and into high weeds if we do not care for ourselves as tenderly and in as much detail as we care for others.

Oh, it's not worth beating ourselves up over. I've done that and I'm here to tell you that it doesn't work. What does seem to work is just accepting what is, getting help that I need from whatever sources seem promising, and talking truth about it. In my experience, having an anxiety disorder is less exotically stressful the more honest and plain I am about it. It is simply an extreme fight-or-flight response that happens out of context, shocking the respondee and causing more fear and alarm.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. And yet, it is a challenging responsibility to be the best stewards we can be of these marvelous instruments within which we experience the miracle of incarnation.

I wish you health, and a peaceful heart.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Blogger Picnic May 19th?

blogger picnic
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Philocrites asked a few weeks ago if we all wanted to plan a Boston Area Blogger's Picnic.

We are welcome again at First Parish in Milton, and maybe if we pick a good date, it won't POUR RAIN THIS YEAR!!

Does May 19th work for you?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sweet the Sound Concert Tomorrow!

Sweet the Sound will have a concert tomorrow, April 14, at 3pm at the First United Methodist Church in Melrose, MA.

The church is at 645 Main Street

This probably concludes PeaceBang's blogging until such time as she has many hours to devote to the problem of signing into Blogger. She has cleared her cache, chosen new passwords for Google accounts, messed with three different browsers, deleted an interfering Gmail account, signed in and out of her three MSN e-mail addresses and enabled her cookies. She is at wit's end and can't devote any more time to the issue for the next several days.

In the meantime, and until I can transfer to WordPress --- a transition for which I've been preparing for some weeks now -- PeaceBang blows you kisses and wishes you all well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus Fired

I'm glad he got fired.

I am depressed, however, reading the comments on, which I have to believe represent the Average American.

There's the usual trite comments about "free speech" and "double standards,"
the expected vitriol against Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the brilliant analyses about how this is "all about money," and lots of folks saying Imus went too far but he shouldn't have been fired.
I'm too tired to write at length about this now, so I hope others of you will. I said my piece earlier and I'm still trying to process why I feel this episode was so particularly ugly and upsetting.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I spent most of Monday curled up with this marvelous novel about America, about incestuous love, about sexual identity, about family secrets, about growing up and getting pounded into manhood or womanhood by culture and self and the deep desires of mama and papa.

After years of slogging through pointless, derivative novels, it was a joy to read something so thoroughly engaging, original and well-written. I didn't love Calliope, the narrator, I respected and admired her.

Eugenides is an amazing talent. I've never seen an author play around with past, present and future tense with such alacrity.

The novel is so redolent of immigrant culture it made me yearn terribly for juicier ethnic life than we have on Boston's South Shore. I finished the book thinking, God, it's so white where I am. So, so white. When I put down the book, my body literally ached for the colorful New York Jews of my childhood, and for the wonderful ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, my favorite of the cities I've lived in.

A delightful read. But long, so don't start it when you're too busy.

Love You, Mr. Vonnegut

Love You, Mr. Vonnegut
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I'm going to manage to say that I love Kurt Vonnegut without feeling the necessity to mention his Unitarian connections.

Because they don't matter.

His literature and his essays and lectures do matter.

I adore/d his genius mind, and his work has greatly enriched my life.

Rock on, Mr. V. Your works go before you.

This poignant image was on his website:

Imus and The Culture of Incivility

One of my guilty pleasures is reading celebrity gossip blogs, but lately I've reached my disgust limit with them and I don't think I'll be going back again.

The thing is, although the sites are often quite funny, they can also be incredibly vile -- and they give really ignorant, decidedly unfunny people a forum for contributing extraordinarily hateful comments about the various celebrities -- particularly focusing on their bodies.

On a typical site, photos of Uma Thurman in an ill-fitting bikini generate 106 disgusting meditations on the condition of her breasts, which are apparently committing the crime of not being silicone-filled and immune to the effects of age and child-bearing. A photo of Britney Spears with a stain on her blouse appears on dozens of these blogs and obliges dozens of anonymous posters from all over the country to call her names that should make any decent person blush with shame. Cameron Diaz caught by paparazzi without make-up earns her savage insults, and everyone and anyone is referred to as "slut," "ho," "fag" and "pig" and "bitch."

It seems that merely being an entertainer or celebrity -- especially a female one -- makes anyone fair game for this sort of insanely vicious attack.
It's one thing for bloggers to engage in hyperbolic tirades against politicians or world leaders who make offensive policy out of ignorance and arrogance. For instance, I'm not offended by anyone who spews venom at a Rick Santorum or a South Dakota Senator Bill Napoli (have you forgotten? I've reproduced below his outrageously misogynistic remarks regarding what he thinks would constitute an acceptable definition of rape for the purposes of allowing abortion -- to which my own blogger's response was that he should be anally impaled on the Statue of Liberty -- which I thought had a fine democratic zing to it) as a way of publicizing and puncturing the outrageousness of these guys' rhetoric.

Blogging is a way that people with no power can hollaback at people with a lot of power. Celebrity blogs, however, aren't so much confrontational as they are parasitic. The celebs feed the media machine, the bloggers consume it, and the whole thing becomes an ugly, totally unproductive spectacle about beautiful people with way too much money.

Don Imus' incredibly disgusting, offensive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team was, for me, the last straw in wanting to participate in any way in this big media version of "the dozens." What we seem to have forgotten, culturally, is that the art of doling out extravagant insult is something that can be done within affectionately affiliated peer or family groups, not by outsiders and not by wanna-bes. If my girlfriends and I want to call each other the "B" word, and if African-American folk want to call each other the "N" word, and if Jews want to knock on each other, it's all in the family. Outsiders may critique the practice, but they can't participate in it. Period.

Don Imus is most definitely not in any of the cultural "families" who use insult as a way of honing humor and resilience amongst themselves. He can't claim affectionate affiliation with the talented female athletes he egregiously verbally violated, nor can he claim to be puncturing their power and influence for any good reason. He is simply an overpaid, privileged white man who spews hateful, sexist, racist invective because he has done so before and has gotten away with it under the guise of "entertainment."

His party is apparently over, and maybe now he can start to bridge the great divide between being the so-called "not a bad man" he claims to be and the harmful, hateful radio talk show host he's been behaving as. And the rest of us can continue the conversation about how it is that women in our culture are so regularly denigrated in just this way with no public outcry whatsoever.

[Editorial note: I don't have time to edit this post and I can't sign into Blogger at home right now, so this will have to stand as is. - PB]

*Said Senator Napoli:
"A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

Techno Difficulties

Hey PeaceBangers,

I haven't been able to post due to technical difficulties, and it's killing me! Because as you can imagine, I have a few things to say about Imus.

But until I can figure out why Blogger won't let me post from home, ta for now.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"How Jesus Claimed Me"

This essay of mine appears in the anthology, Christian Voices in Unitarian Universalism. I'm glad to be able to share it with you today as the front page article in this week's UU World online magazine:

Sunday, April 08, 2007

He Is Risen!

Buddy Jesus
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Harrowing Of Hell

I'm not quite sure what Jesus was doing today the year he was crucified. I believe one of the things orthodox tradition has him doing is harrowing hell and freeing all the souls, very Rambo the Redeemer. Maybe Mel Gibson will make a movie.

But look, I found this great passage in "The Gospel of Nicodemus Acts of Pilate and Christ's descent into Hell" in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha, Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings, revised edition. In this hilarious exchange between Satan and Hades, Hades bemoans Christ's ability to restore the dead from the Underworld. He says,

"I have pain in the stomach. Lazarus who was snatched from me before seems to me no good sign."

Do you LOVE the idea of Satan hanging out talking with Hades? Holy syncretism, Batman!
I have this image of Jesus walking in on them, kind of swaggering in his robe, and saying, "Yeaaaa, Hades, get used to it. I'm gonna be snatching a lot of li'l doggies from your ranch before this is all over." Then he walks away twirling his pistol.

And Satan and Hades just sit there all dejected on the porch, pouring iced tea from a pitcher and staring off into space.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Overheard on the Red Line, Good Friday

I'm standing crammed in with dozens of other greater Boston-area citizens on the train from Downtown Crossing to Braintree.

As we pull into the JFK-UMass station, this exceedingly nerdy-looking kid, probably 20 or so years old, blonde, cute, nice sideburns, opens his phone and dials.

"Hello, grampy? It's me. I'm at JFK-UMass... yeah. I'm at JFK-UMass! .... I'm at the JFK-UMass station. . . . I'm on the T. ... JFK-UMass."
(patiently listens)
"I just got to JKF-UMass."

... (more patient listening)

"I just got here. I'm at JFK-UMass. At the station."

"Right! JFK-UMass! It's a nice day so I'll walk. No, I will. I want to. I'll see you really soon."
. . . (listening)
"I can't wait."

The kid was wearing a huge LL Bean backpack adorned with a bright orange rabbit's foot.

It just made my day. I bet his visit made grampy's day, too.

I hope you get to spend some time soon with someone who can't wait to see you, and who doesn't hesitate to tell you so.
MBTA RedLine

Good Friday Preaching

I will be preaching part of the Good Friday service today at the Paulist Center on Beacon Hill, right up Park Street from the T stop.

The service starts at noon and goes for about 2 hours. I am preaching the last homily.

Blessings to all,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Soar: A Journal About Ministers As Perpetual Children?

I saw an ad just now in the new Christian Century (p. 61) that chafed at me. It seems to me lately that ministry-oriented ads are either totally bizarr-o (like the recent Meadville Lombard fiasco that looked like a reject from the "Close Encounters Of the Third Kind" ad campaign) or saccharinely precious, and forgive me for saying it, overtly feminized, if not exactly feminine.

The ad is for SOAR, a journal put out by Baylor University's Center for Family and Community Ministries in the School of Social Work. Sounds like a great journal. The graphic, however, gives me the willies. It shows the sillhouette of a chubby woman with scrambly short hair wearing what looks to be a hooded anorak and swinging way up in the air on a swing set.
Soar Ad

Here's what I thought the moment I saw this ad, and it wasn't a good thought:

Weeeee! I'm so in touch with my Inner Child!

Given that the journal is about ministering, I presume that the silhouetted figure is a minister. Let me just say right here that if this was an ad for a church, I would be afraid. I would be very afraid. I'd be all ready for the seed in the Dixie cup homily on Sunday morning, if you know what I mean.

Believe me, I have nothing against middle-aged people swinging on swing sets. I like to spend most of my summer toodling around lakes and pools riding a big yellow styrofoam noodle, myself, and living on a diet of berry pie, chips-and-salsa and sangria. I like to dance in my living room to "Cherchez La Femme." Ministers need to have fun, to be silly, to exercise their wild sides, let down their hair, etc. etc. etc. However, I am highly suspicious of the suggestion that this aspect of self-care is the main orientation and energy out of which we do pastoral ministry.

My ministry to families over the past ten years has encompassed these issues, to name a few:
addiction (pills, booze, sex, gambling, spending)
crises arising from transitions (college, nursing homes, divorce, etc.)
mental illness
financial worries
serious illness
rape and domestic violence
religious conflicts
lawsuits, imprisonment and legal issues
birth (including unintended pregnancies, abortion and fertility stresses)

When I think of ministry within the context of the family, I don't think of me swinging alone on a swing set -- not even in autumnal dusk (suggesting, in the ad, maturity and the light and dark of human life, yea, I get it, I get it). In fact, I never see me alone. That's ridiculous. Family ministry doesn't happen at the playground. It happens with families. That's another thing that's wrong with this image.

If I was designing the ad for this new journal, I would show...this is radical, but stay with me... a family. And I would show a figure set somewhat apart, sitting in a rocking chair, listening. All you would see is the backs of everyone's heads. There would maybe be a dog on the floor. Inner city, suburbs, rural, everyone can see themselves in that.

Or maybe I would show someone riding in a car with a very serious, meditative expression on their face. Kind of nervous, obviously prayerful, obviously eager to get there. Every minister would know that this is how we look when we're on our way somewhere to be with people.

I mean, there's a lot of ways to visually express the intensity and urgency of family and community ministry. I just don't think that me going la la la on a swing is one of them.

Snakes! Adventures in ExUrbia

Living in an old parsonage in the kind-of-rural suburbs has many charms. One of these charms is the Annual March of the Ants which usually begins about now, and which involves hundreds of ants marching determinedly through my kitchen giving me a huge case of the skeeves and my cat a huge source of crunchy protein.

You've heard, I gather, of my encounter with the three drowned mice in the olive oil. And the little one curled up dead in the empty can of organic bread crumbs. Et itself to death, poor little carb fiend. That was back in 2005, and I'm pretty much over it now. I can almost reach for the olive oil without flinching.

And then there was the infestation of black flies, during which I hummed the "Amityville Horror" theme as I swatted them down, one by nasty one. Those sumbitches make quite a splat mark on the wall.

Last summer, my NYC pal brought an infestation of bed bugs with her from campus housing. Shhh, she thinks it was fleas. From my cat who has never been outside in her life, and who apparently managed, in her cleverness, to concentrate the infestation right in the guest bedroom with all my friend's clothing and belongings instead of in places around the house where she actually spends time.

So you can imagine how much I enjoyed this,
and I think you will, too. It's some of the most charming blogger writing I've seen lately.

Mr. Braine, I'm a new fan.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just In Case

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Just in case you were having the kind of day where a photo of a dog doing cute things might make you unaccountably happy, let me be of assistance:

Monday, April 02, 2007

"The Namesake" -- a PeaceBang Review

I really wanted to love Mira Nair's new film"The Namesake," because Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors and I wanted to get lost in this beautiful story.

It was a mostly lovelyand moving film. The first half, focusing on the arranged marriage between Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu), was lyrical and memorable.

The second half of the film felt jarringly wrong on several levels, beginning with its first scene featuring some Really Really Bad Acting by adults pretending to be high schoolers teasing Kal Penn's character, Gogol, about his name. Oof, that was some bad acting!

Other problems, in random order:

> The clarity of the narrative goes to hell during a few key dramatic moments and I was left going, "Wait, what just happened? WHAT did he say?"
Nair just tries to cram too much novel into half a film, and in doing so loses the artistic and dramatic grip she so gorgeously establishes during the first half.

> If you have a main character who ages about 30 years over the course of the film and we hear her singing like a young enchantress when she's 18 or so, it doesn't make a lot of sense to hear the same, exact voice come out of her mid-40 year-old mouth at the end of the film. Because that can cause a filmgoer like me to say, "Oh my God, that voice is so dubbed," and that's just distracting.

> On Jacinda Barrett as the excessively blonde American twit: was her teeth-grinding level of twittiness intentional, or is she just a thoroughly unlikeable actress? I shouldn't be watching the film and wondering this. I shouldn't be watching this girl slobber all over Gogol and thinking to myself, "Gogol, for the love of Ganesh, break up with this twit. Break up with her."

I went away wishing that the film had never turned that corner into focusing on the life of Gogol. It was an achingly lovely film about two married people who were mad about each other. That's the story I wanted to see. That's the story I cared about. That's the story that Nair told with equal parts magic and understanding. The rest of it was a hurried, cliched meditation on cultural assimilation.

the namesake