Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's New Years Eve and I'm blogging

Yep, I'm at the yearly New Year's Eve party at Forties Girl and Cerulean's house. Actually, all the usual suspects are here, though everyone but me is watching a movie upstairs.*

So, your attention-span-deprived hero is downstairs, typing and thinking. Christmas was stressful though everyone involved really did their best to make it not so. My generous and wonderful in-laws really went all out this year. This weekend, I'm going to try to get the Murder Mystery dinner theatre written.

And now TheCSO wants to play scrabble. I wish all of y'all a Happy New Year, full of friends who don't mind your eccentricities.


*Someone was talking to me and then said "well, I'd better go socialize" and went upstairs to silently watch the movie. I really don't understand the dynamics of movie parties.

Narcissistic Yearly Reflection: 2009 wasn't that bad.

It wasn't a great year either.

I traveled more than I usually do. I got to go to Vegas and Boston, I saw Montreal. The job market has been a world of suck, which makes things more anxious for me as I get out of school in either one year or a year and a half depeending on the job market.* I've had some big dramatic internet fights, but not as many as I used to.

I got a great puppy, my sister-in-law got married to a guy who jumps into lakes, ZombieKid is now eleven and the Gnome is nine.

Things are marching on.


*I'm technically in a four-year program, but I like to take classes in the summer, so I should be able to finish early. But it doesn't make sense to do so if there's no job waiting for me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Response to TK - CC's stab at Church Polity for UU Noobs

A new reader named TK has taken the wind out of my self-righteous snit by being a perfectly reasonable and kind new UU who came to us from a conservative religion. Or if he/she is not, he/she totally has me fooled.

TK writes, in part:

I'm a new UU, myself, having signed the book only 9 mos ago, read only one short book about the theology/history, attended one district conference, and read some blogs and papers. (I come from a very conservative background.)

Somehow, I got volunteered to be on the Board of Worship (BoW) actually before I signed the book, so now I'm in a leadership position, planning Worship meetings, for a church that I only moderately understand the theology and even less understand the polity.

I'm just trying not to step on toes. Of course, as we're a "Society," I keep accidentally saying "church" and I see a couple people wince when I do so. It's just a habit, not a policy decision.

Anyhoo, that's my situation. Please have some sympathy for those of us who have great deal of energy and enthusiasm and are trying to bumble our way through.

It would be wonderful if you more experienced UU's wrote some stuff, say, here, about the relationships between the laity and the minister and other relationships within the church.


Honestly, that you are approaching this in the way you are suggests to me that you're doing pretty well. I've been a UU for a third of my life and say "Church" all the time. Nobody winces at my church, but I know that's not universally true of all churches. Anyway, a lot of what you need is common sense and it seems like you have that. There's a world of difference between presenting an idea like it will be the savior of UUism and simply asking if something like it has been done before and I suspect you know that the asking route is always the reasonable one when you're new.

Trying not to step on toes is always good. Listening is good.

The exact relationship of the minister and the board should be outlined in your bylaws, but here are a few general points, which I type with great anxiety as the Chaliceblog has the attention of people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do. I trust any missteps will be corrected in the comments. If I screw this up, don't tell Katy-the-Wise*

-The minister serves at the pleasure of the congregation and the congregation votes to install or fire him/her. Policies of the church are set by either the congregation or the Board, which is elected by and from the congregation**

-Therefore, the congregation does, or at least should, have a great deal of sway over what goes on in churches. We come from a congregational tradition, meaning that our churches are, at least theoretically, independent entities that are loosely united by a connective body. Our connective body is the UUA. In theory, at least the congregations should have approximately the unity of NATO. Other Congregational churches are the UCC and the Baptists.*** It is not uncommon for UU churches to vary a great deal and most people fit better in one sort of church than they do in others.

Conversely, some other churches/religions/denominations are more like France in their organization. In France, just about everything is run out of the Federal government. One has a federal driver's license. I call these churches "Federalist" churches because I'm a law student and that's how we talk. Mormonism and Catholicism are both pretty Federalist, which means folks who come from Mormonism and Catholicism often have very Federalist expectations for churches and get pissy when they aren't met.

-That said, all things tend toward the center and UUism has gotten more and more Federalist as time has passed. Since at least the civil rights era there has been debate about various issues relating to polity, with "Does being a free religion with a commitment to that polity mean a congregation has the freedom to not allow black members?" being a question that kept some good people up at nights**** and caused a division in the church for awhile.

While few would argue that the UUA is unreasonable in not allowing congregations that discriminate on the basis of race to join the association, the philosophical line between the UUA setting reasonable ground rules and the UUA bossing the congregations around for their own good is continually debated and moved around. I tend to want the congregational polity to remain as pure as possible and take a dim view of a lot of UUA initiatives that other people think are ok.

For example, and I apologize to long time readers since I've used this example a lot in the past, the UUA thinks it's just wonderful when a church becomes a "Welcoming Congregation," meaning that it has done a bunch of training and is certified by the UUA as a congregation that has doors wide open to potential Gay and Lesbian members. First off, I think that's pandering and would be disinclined to attend a church that was so proud of themselves for accepting me were I a lesbian. But more to the point as far as polity goes, in this rural congregation, the members were not at all used to homosexuals or homosexuality, and a lot of them felt that the church just wasn't ready. That notwithstanding, the board pushed the program through in response to UUA cheerleading. So now they are a "Welcoming Congregation" and can advertise themselves as such, but the actual members who weren't ready and had this thrust upon them likely aren't going to be especially welcoming to homosexuals who respond to the promised welcome and come through the door. Even more disturbing, this is a college town where new homosexuals who show up to the church are likely young and probably really need that welcome, so to be promised a welcome and not get one is a pretty nasty thing. The local church knew they weren't ready, and the UUA's attempt to coerce them into the 21st century didn't actually do anyone any good I'm guessing.

So anyway, arguments can and do happen all the time about the proper role of the UUA in encouraging churches to set their agendas certain ways and when letting local churches be local is a better idea. The Chaliceblog was more or less at one-sided war with the UUA Washington Office for awhile when they were doing stuff like encouraging ministers to preach on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Alito. They've become a lot less inclined to do stuff like that and I don't have a problem with them at this point.

-- Last year, the UUA kicked out a vast number of "affiliate groups" and they no longer have official status with the UUA. These groups ranged from political causes (UUs for Animal Rights) to organizations of UUs with particular spiritual tendencies in one direction (e.g. UU Buddhists). Most of the spiritual groups were let back in, most of the other ones weren't. There's lots of debate within UUism still today about whether that was a good idea. I wish it had been done with a little more finesse, but I certainly recognize that the affiliates were spending a lot of time lobbying the UUA for stuff and the UUA is supposed to be responsive to the congregations, not the affiliate groups so I ended up supporting the decision in the end. LinguistFriend disagrees and his post about why is linked here.

- A lot of people will tell you that the problem with Unitarian Universalism is that is has no center and no core of belief. In my non-religious-professional opinion, that's bullshit. But Katy-the-Wise says it better than I do when she writes of the center of our faith: "That unique gift is as it has always been a commitment to freedom of belief, of thought and of conscience. Those who confuse freedom with license misunderstand that to mean that Unitarian Universalists can believe anything at all. On the contrary, true freedom means that we are responsible for our own beliefs rather than subject to an outside authority, which puts the burden of truth directly on the individual. The bottom line is that you cannot believe that for which you have no evidence in experience or that you have not examined carefully and tested with integrity. At first people think it is very easy to practice a religion that doesn't tell you what to believe or what to think or what to do. Soon they find that taking the responsibility that freedom requires is a spiritual practice that takes all our strength and courage."

--Just because we're free doesn't mean we're alone. Indeed, that's the point of having an association. We make a deal with each other to support each other and help each other along in our spiritual journeys. We make that deal with other folks in the congregation and the congregations make that deal with one another. Katy the Wise says that the combination of these two ideas-- The we are free and in covenant with one another, is the true center of UUism.

By being in association with each other, we form a national UU religious identity and we strengthen the concept of free religion. NATO makes each of its members stronger by uniting the membership and giving the term "Member of Nato" meaning. So, as independent as we are, and UU churches can be quite independent if they want to be, this connective body is still really important. That said, the UUA is an organization of congregations much like NATO is an organization of member states. If an American wants a change in American policy or a new program to start in America, they aren't supposed to appeal to NATO, they are supposed to start it in America. So for individuals to lobby the UUA for stuff doesn't make a lot of sense as far as structure goes and the age-old new UU question "Why doesn't the UUA do X?" is better phrased as "Why isn't MY CONGREGATION doing X and how can I help us start?"

Anyway, I'm sure I'm leaving out things about the contemporary perspective on this stuff. I KNOW I'm leaving out the historical roots of some of these ideas, mostly because I'm not confident that I know them as well as I should. Fausto from is a busy man these days, but he's the layman I know who knows the most about this stuff from a historical angle.

Further perspectives on polity stuff are welcome in the comments. Questions also welcome, if I don't know the answer I will do my best to find it for you.


* Katy-the-Wise is CC's favorite UU minister. She's thought about most things more than CC has. Including church polity, perhaps especially church polity. If you know who she is, feel free to address her as "Katy the Wise" when you meet her. Apparently she gets a kick out of that, kind of.

**CC heard through a friend about a congregation where a member wrote to Garrison Keillor and asked him if he would like to be their minister. As this illustrates, most UU churches don't in the strictest since need to hire ministers to be their minister. This is not to say that hiring an untrained minister is a good idea, especially if said minister is Garrison Keillor.

*** Non-Southerners often talk about "Baptists" when they mean "Very conservative Southern Baptists." In reality there are tons of different kinds of Baptists. I was buddies with a Liberal Baptist minister in South Carolina once and it was educational about how one could be liberal and yet very Baptist. He and I met and became instant friends the day he gave a prayer service on an anniversary of 9-11 that mentioned as an aside that all people, be they believers or unbelievers, were affected by this day. It nearly had me in tears because as he was the first person in town I'd heard talk of "unbelievers" like they were human. I don't think I did cry, reporters aren't supposed to, but I was close.

**** To me the reasonable answer is "Yes, technically you do, but doing so makes no sense in a tradition whose center lies in the integrity and freedom of conscience of the individual within the community." The UUA's answer is that a church with that rule would not be allowed to be a member of the UUA.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Unreal Presbyterians

My dad used to come home from session* meetings and loudly complain that other people on the session or in the church "might be Christians, but they weren't Presbyterians." What he meant was that loving Jesus was one thing, but understanding the Presbyterian polity, the balance of power between the session and the minister and the role of the Presbytery was what being a Presbyterian was really about and to be a real Presbyterian you had to understand those distinctions. And yes, it takes a lot of real Presbyterians to run an effective church.

I would never call UUs who don't understand UU polity "not UUs", if only because my voice would give out before I got through saying that to half the people I've met who deserve to hear it.

But maybe we need to get back into teaching some of that stuff. The amount of ignorance about it is embarassing.

who freely admits that Steve Caldwell can kick her ass on the minor details, but has a good idea of the basics and wishes most other UUs had a Chalicechick if not a Caldwell level of understanding.

*the Presby equivalent of the board. Yeah, you probably knew that.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

This is awesome.

Truly great film criticism makes one think beyond the picture itself to how a good movie is actually put together. When someone recommended this 70 minute youtube review of 'The Phantom Menace' I thought they were crazy, but I actually learned a lot about the craft of moviemaking from parts of it and really enjoyed the rest.


Beauty in Weird Places

Richard Simmons: Annoying? Awesome?

In an interview, Susan Powter said of Richard Simmons "He needs to put some trousers on and stop it."

CC, who thinks Susan Powter's fifteen minutes are well and truly up, finds Richard Simmons sweet and endearing on a non-ironic level and just hilarious in general. She remembers fondly the time Simmons had a vegetable steamer with him on the David Letterman show and said steamer exploded and how for years afterwards, Simmons would randomly show up every couple of months and David Letterman would chase him away with a fire extinguisher.

TheCSO frequently confuses Simmons with Carrot Top and annonced after viewing a yotube clip of one of Richard Simmons' appearances on David Letterman that he was one of the more annoying people TheCSO had ever seen.

Opinions welcome.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sermons that rock.

Mary-who-Dances learned this weekend that she is mentioned on this blog sometimes. I told her that her nickname was "Mary-who-Dances" and she said that at the place she goes to dance, she's known as "Preacher Mary." I explained that there were actually far more preachers in my social circle than dancers. Anyway here's one of her sermons. It reads well, but I'm sure loses something on the page. Mary is amazing at most things she sets her mind to and she can deliver a sermon like a sumbitch. If she were arguing in front of the Supreme Court, she could make Justice Thomas look up from his magazine.

Also, RevRose's take on Garrison Keillor is really awesome, though I'm kind of embarassed that the man actally merited a sermon from us. Shudder. As a bonus, RevRose includes a photo that makes Keillor look like Dwight Schrute*.

Go, my children, and drink in the Schrutiness.

Who, oddly enough, was planning to go to RevRose's church this Sunday and would have seen this sermon live, except that she ended up among Presbys. Ok, actually, circling a block in Brooklyn for an hour, hanging out with Presbys then digging herself out of a snowbank. I keep mentioning that I was in Brooklyn so you will think I'm cool.

*Comparison of Keillor and Schrute totally stolen from somebody on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stupid Questions, Stupid Answers

CC: "Who would win in a light saber battle, Walt Whitman or Ernest Hemingway?"
TheCSO: "Us all"


Monday, December 21, 2009

Postscript to the Keillor Matter

Sunday night, I went to a Presbyterian Church's Christmas party. We gathered around the piano and the choir director sat and played many of the well-worn holiday classics.

When he came to the UU-written "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" several people in the congregation dutifully sung the altered lyric "And Peace on Earth, goodwill toward all." The irony there is complete enough, but later that night, the minister and I (who are old friends) talked for a while and I told her about being a little kid standing in the pews with the ChaliceRelative, both of us singing the hymns but changing the male references to God to female ones. Keillor's fundamentalism about hymn texts wouldn't allow for such a thing, of course. But singing about God the Mother was that little kid's introduction to the idea that just because God was traditionally referred to in the masculine, it didn't have to be so.

Some traditions suck, you know. UUs get that. Presbyterians get that. Keillor does not.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Church Podcast bleg

Hey, I've got a minister friend who is thinking about podcasting
sermons. Is there anybody currently doing that who could answer some
questions and talk her through that process?

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To do before I leave for New York City tomorrow

1. Wash clothes
2. Pack
3. Download law lectures for drive
4. Outline paper for completion in New York
5. Clean out car
6. Pedicure
7. Acquire wardrobe of high quality and tasteful designer clothes accented by vintage pieces and a scarf picked up from a street vendor in Dupont Circle
8. Finish J.D.
9. Lose weight until I am shaped approximately like Drew Barrymore.
10. Develop sophisticated hobby, like reading depressing novels in the original Russian.
11. Fill house with the works of undiscovered artist. Arrange for artist to be discovered.
12. Grow thicker, prettier hair
13. Write bestselling satirical novel
14. Accept that an old friend will still love you, even if so far you haven't reached the potential you had when you were 17.

The usual UU excuses for listening to Garrison Keillor

For years I've been saying that Garrison Keillor sucks and we shouldn't listen to him. I now expand that to say we shouldn't read him either.

The factual issues in his recent piece Don't Mess with Christmas speak for themselves. I'm sure plenty of other UU bloggers with better religious educations will cover them better that I could. And there are bloggers far more suited than I am to deconstruct Keillor's comments about Jewish guys and how their music makes the shopping mall impure. (What the fuck?)

When he misunderstands Emerson's comment "To be great is to be misunderstood," it's hard to take it as a compliment to Emerson. Mostly, it just makes me think that Keillor's a dumbass.

Let's review the usual UU excuses for listening to this clown:

He likes us! He says UU women are sexy
I'm pretty sure he means "UUs will do the freaky stuff the Lutheran girls won't."

But he's FUNNY
You mean when he parodies songs? Because he sure can't take it when people parody him, or change the words to Christmas carols he likes.

The piece in Salon was satirical. He doesn't MEAN it...
Have you read the piece? It was not satirical in tone at all and pretty much no one has taken it that way.

He uses gentle satire to make fun of self-important people.
Not really. He trades on his ignorant hominess the way Ann Coulter trades on her sharp-tongued conservatism, and I don't think the effects are any better. You may smile and laugh along, but keep in mind when Garrison says bigoted things like:"I favor marriage between people whose body parts are not similar. I’m sorry, but same-sex marriage seems timid, an attempt to save on wardrobe and accessories," or "The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men—sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control," everyone else is still laughing.

And that's not funny. Even if he apologizes and claims that all his friends are Unitarians and Jews and he didn't realize that outside of Hollywood, Unitarians and Jews are given a rough time (which is what he said about gay people), I won't believe it and you shouldn't either.

At heart he's a liberal...he's just being funny.
No, he's a man who writes "I grew up the child of a mixed-gender marriage that lasted until death parted them, and I could tell you about how good that is for children, and you could pay me whatever you think it's worth." in a column that trashes "serial monogamy"

Meanwhile, he's had three wives himself. He's just a plain old hypocrite in the exact mold of conservatives who blather on about defending marriage without addressing which of their multiple marriages they wish to defend. And I don't mind hypocrites when they actally have something to say. He doesn't.

I've heard much more bigoted humor. Keillor's is pretty mild.
I got this excuse multiple times last time I wrote about him and I don't understand it in light of having examined Keillor's actual words. Ignore the folksy "I'm kidding" tone and look at what Keillor actually says. It is NOT Wanda-Sykes-style "Black people drive like this, white people drive like that" cultural observation. He is straight up saying gay people shouldn't be parents because the sort of monogamy he can't handle himself is better for kids and that UUs shouldn't be allowed to celebrate Christmas our own way becase his way is better. That is not funny. Don't let the homey tone fool you. The underlying messages are nasty stuff and a LOT of people are nodding along.

Quit nodding.

Quit listening.

Quit reading.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Somebody on Facebook asked what my favorite poem was

And I realized that I had put other poems up here before, but never this one. I have this memorized and it has come in handy repeatedly, most frequently in youth group when we need a reading and nobody feels like looking it up. When I recite it, though, I usually have a word or two off, so I looked it up again for posting purposes.


The Fiddler of Dooney, by Yates

WHEN I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Moharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

The UUism vs. Your Old Faith Problem

I've mentioned before that I think former liberal Prostestants make the best UUs. They generally don't have that creepy distate/hatred/snottiness about their old faith that new UUs who come from conservative religions have and they don't have the somewhat paradoxical yet equally annoying desire to make UUism like their old faith*.

Liberal Christians get that you don't necessarily expect the UUA to make all sorts of decrees about the way UUism is done because most liberal protestants are used to a fairly congregational structure. They are more likely to get that what spiritual attachment they had to their old faith took time to develop and so they don't get pissy when they've been a member for a brief time and have not begun birthing spiritual inspiration like a sexed-up rabbit.

A couple of ministers who have posted here before have mentioned they have a "transitions from other faiths" support group to help people deal with their anger and other residual emotional stuff and move on. I've also heard really good things about an adult RE Curriculum called "Owning Your Religious Past: The Haunting Church" on the same topic. I don't love the title, but I know people who have taken it have found it helpful.

I'm thinking more churches could use this stuff.


* "I love the freedom of UUism. But I think UUism needs more charismatic ministers who will tell us about our freedom and then tell us what we should do with it." is a rough paraphrase of something I have actually heard somebody say in a UU church in a heavily-Evangelical area.

"I love how UUism doesn't make a bunch of political stands I disagree with like Catholicism did, but what we really need is for them to make some moral stands about political issues that I DO agree with." is also a very common sentiment.


I've often pointed to laws barring atheists from holding public office, unconstitutional but still on the books, as indicators of how far American society has to go as far as acceptance of atheists is concerned.

I really didn't think anybody would ever enforce one. Ok, I didn't think that because I assumed the prejudice against atheists was sufficiently strong that few places would elect an atheist in the first place. But still, I'm surprised.

who feels that atheists often take the wrong path toward getting their rights by being insulting and annoying, which pretty much never works. But the fact that I don't agree with their strategy for getting rights doesn't mean that I don't agree that they deserve those rights in the first place.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


In both Christian and Unitarian-Universalist congregations, it is very common for services or songs at or around Christmas to include the short song of the heavenly host in Luke 2:14. In the King James Version that is often quoted, this reads "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men". Many churchgoers have other variants from Christmas carols and other sources floating in the back of their heads.

In an earlier discussion on this blog, I made the point that the traditional forms in which this verse is usually quoted, including the KJV, do not correspond to the text which should be read on the basis of the best early Greek manuscripts. The passage is not found in the early Greek papyrus texts of the NT from the first three centuries AD, but it does occur in the early capital-letter (uncial) Greek manuscripts of the NT. Based on them, in the modern New Revised Standard Version, the text is correctly translated

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors." The "heaven" is not explicit in the Greek text, but is a reasonable interpretation. The understanding of the word "peace" requires separate discussion; in this context, some understand it as approximately equivalent to salvation. The last phrase is more literally "among men of favor" or "among men of good will". The difference between the KJV "peace, good will toward men" and the NRSV text depends mainly on whether the Greek noun translated as "favor" or "good will" is read with a nominative case (case of the sentence subject, found in late Greek NT manuscripts and the early printed editions of the Greek text, from which it entered early translations such as the KJV and Luther's Bible) or in the genitive (literally "of good will", "of favor", etc.), as in the most important early Greek uncial manuscripts and in modern scholarly editions. In my library, the form with the genitive is found in scholarly editions of the Greek NT from that of Tischendorf (1869) to the modern ones of Nestle and the United Bible Societies from recent years.

The NRSV provides an accurate interpretation of the Greek text, but misses a great deal relevant to its interpretation, even in fine study editions such as those of Walter Harrelson (2003) and the Society of Biblical Literature (2006). The Greek text suggests a Semitic original; both Hebrew and Aramaic predecessors of the Greek text were hypothesized by scholars even before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, both Hebrew and Aramaic forms of the last phrase, literally "among men of favor" in Greek, have been found in the Dead Sea texts from Qumran. This has the effect of confirming the reconstruction of the Greek text in Luke 2:14, as discussed by Bruce Metzger in his commentary on the Greek text of the NT (1994).

The early Latin translations of the gospels revised by Jerome provide a translation "pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis" which could be translated as "peace among men of good will" with the understanding that some men deserve and receive peace because of their good will. On the contrary, the interpretation of the Greek text by some earlier (survey in Plummer ICC 1901) and most modern scholars is that the good will or favor in question is that of the deity towards men. God's favor is understood to be granted to his covenant people. Thus the earliest form of the Greek text does not indicate that any general good will exists towards all human beings; rather, peace is considered to be limited to those who participate in the covenant with God. In a Jewish context, peace is thus conferred upon Jews; in a Christian context such as that of Luke, peace is conferred upon Christians. Others are not included. This is close to the opposite of the modern popular understanding of such phrases as "good will toward men" when it is sung in Christmas carols, where "men" is generally understood to refer to all human beings. Paradoxically, I suspect that most UUs would favor the popular inaccurate interpretation based on a corrupt text. The clear brief discussion of this passage in Luke by Stuhlmueller in the first (not the second) edition of the Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) is particularly useful; so is the fine commentary volume on Luke by I.Howard Marshall (1978).

This is one case of many in which UUs have taken over a popular and misleading understanding of a text which is well known in Christian circles. Such a practice may place in question the concept of UUism which is implied, because it can produce an interpretative problem or contradiction which is commonly overlooked. In using and interpreting such texts, many UUs take over or bring with them the degree and type of understanding of historical Christianity and its texts which is current in lay Christian circles. Others who profess UUism value Christian and Jewish traditions, but advocate that they need to be considered with more care.

Speaking from a membership point of view, there is not really a choice in the matter. If such ideas are not considered carefully, they remain in the mind as part of the unconsidered baggage left over from previous devotion to some form of Christianity, and as potential time-bombs in the adaptation to UUism. For this reason, I have long advocated that one important aspect of the orientation to UUism should be a reconsideration of aspects of historical Christianity and Christian texts, which cannot be comprehensive but at least can teach habits of analytic and historical thought which can be extended to other material as the need arises.

This issue extends to many components of tradition other than religious texts and sayings. For instance, Western attitudes towards sexuality, rarely considered in introductions to UUism, are generally based on legends which have developed into a politically explosive part of a popular ethical system (e.g. Elaine Pagels "Adam, Eve and the Serpent", 1988). They are fragments of the ethical aspects of an ancient and convoluted religious tradition, which should be considered with the same care and respect as the modern religious successor forms of this tradition. Without understanding of the earlier forms of these traditions, their modern forms are unintelligible, and trip up those who wish to move on from them.

WTF moment of the day

The New York Times has a special gift guide for people of color.

I am 95 percent offended at the concept of this guide to gospel cruises and products for "problem hair."

Five percent of me wishes that I were of hispanic origin because those "Wise Latina" t-shirts are pretty awesome.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ya know that website I link to sometimes

that is constantly prophesizing that the rapture will happen on a specific date, and every time the date on the website passes, the creator just picks a new date?

The current prediction is for Monday.

I have an exam tonight, and I have to say I have mixed feelings on the idea of the rapture showing up on Monday.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What the hell, Massachusetts?

If you people wanted to elect Martha Coakley to statewide office and kiss your own civil rights goodbye, that's your business.

But I LIKE mine.

United States Senator Martha Coakley? Seriously?

Anyone who has ever used the words "my thorough review of all the evidence, including that which is often taken out of context and deemed 'exculpatory,”* is not someone I'm voting for, and I don't get why y'all did either.

who is pleased that the parole board also deemed the evidence exculpatory in that particular case, but wants to know why y'all want to choose between someone like this and handing the Republicans more control in the Senate.

*This was in the case of a man who had already spent fifteen years in prison for Satanic Ritual Abuse. The entire case against him is widely believed to be a hoax.

Mary and Joseph kicked out of Target with their baby.

I wouldn't normally bother to write about a woman illegally getting kicked out of a business for breastfeeding, but when the couple is named Mary and Jose and it's Christmas time, it becomes so bloggable.

Smooth move, Target.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Survey on folks raised UU

This is a survey for folks who grew up in YRUU/LRY. Please answer it if that's you.


I will actually defend the celebration of Kwanzaa

But people who want to celebrate Chalica are seriously on their own.

I'm wondering why the UU World felt the need to write about it since it sounds like almost no UUs are celebrating it. They found one congregation who had embraced that concept, but it looked like that was it. The article mentioned that Chalica's facebook group has 1,000 members. But that really doesn't mean much since lots of people join hundreds of facebook groups and never look at them again. Indeed, the facebook group "I read the group name, I laugh, I join, I never look at it again" has 700,000+ members.

IMNERHO, we are not celebrating it with good reason since it smacks of embarrassingly obvious appropriation and it, let's say it together, treats the seven principles as a creed. The creator of Chalica tells the UU world "If you notice some similarities to other December holidays—Hanukkah and Kwanzaa—they’re not intentional." Really? Had the theology student who created it never heard of an African American secular holiday where people exchange handmade gifts or a Jewish religious holiday where you light candles for more than six but less than nine nights?

I get that people and religions appropriate ideas from each other all the time and to be truthful, I think we're WAY too oversensitive about the practice. For one thing, sometimes an idea is sufficiently obvious that multiple people think of it*. For another, some traditions resonate with people for a reason and I don't think there is anything wrong with adapting some traditions for UUism provided we take a respectful approach to doing so, which admittedly we sometimes don't. That said, I do feel like the creator of Chalica is insulting my intelligence there.

And yes, in case you're brand new to UUism and don't know, the seven principles are not a creed. Using them, as Chalica does, as a sort of spiritual checklist, is not how one is supposed to treat them.


*One of the people who likes "Chalica" made a Chalica-themed parody of Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" several years ago. Robin Edgar made one last year. I really doubt Robin Edgar stole the idea from the guy who did it first, I just think it's a really obvious idea that two people who like to make parody music had the same idea that these hockey fans did in 2007 or this atheist did last November. For my money the Hockey one is the best of the lot.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bridge-design churches.

A few years ago, my church needed to build a new building to house our ever-expanding RE program*. After much architectural squabbling, we went with the "bridge" design where there's a bridge with a roof and glass walls connecting the two buildings.

If you ever have the chance to stand on one of those in the snow, do it. I did yesterday and the view was breathtaking. I was warm and comfortable and snow was falling down all around me on both sides, piling up on cars and making the entire world look clean and bright. I sat there for at least twenty minutes, breathing in the lovliness of it all.


*If you write about how UUism is dying and you hear a loud guffaw from the general direction of Northern Virginia, this is why.

Oh, and while refusing to hire someone based on their political affliation is not illegal in all states

The Ethicist doesn't like it. CC doesn't either.


Taylor Swift and feminism

I read some feminist blogs, though what I read there doesn't always make it back to The Chaliceblog. But it has been interesting to watch a slow backlash to the popularity of pop singer Taylor Swift creep across the blogosphere. It started with this post a month or two ago, and it appears to be picking up steam. CC-favorite blog The Sexist wrote about Swift this week.

On one level, I totally get it. Swift writes about hating the girl who is dating the guy she likes, how a friend of hers felt totally humiliated and ruined after she slept with a boy who turned out to be a jerk* and about wanting her boyfriend to rescue her by marrying her so she won't be alone. None of those themes delight me either. Actually, I'm sort of embarrassed to think of them.

Because I remember those feelings. I was very worried that no boy would want to marry me ever and I remember desperately wanting someone to want me enough to want to marry me. (I ended up turning down the first marriage proposal I got.) I know of at least one woman whose under-duress though not exactly date rape "first time" really REALLY screwed with her. (She's ok now.) And yes, I really owe a completely innocent girl an apology for my bitchiness to her because a boy I liked at 14 or so preferred her. (I ran into this boy awhile ago and he is WAY less awesome than theCSO.)

I have listed to some Taylor Swift songs, and while I don't adore the implicit social messages, I certainly don't see those messages as at all original to Swift. What's original to Swift is pop music that might not be your taste, but is well-written great stuff and the work of a 19-year-old. If she's reflecting things about our culture that we don't like, maybe it's time to change the culture, or at least sit down with our favorite teenage girl and have a talk about these sorts of cultural messages.

Anyway, I get really sick of people letting TV raise their kids then whining about it when TV screws up.


*It says something that when Buffy the Vampire Slayer slept with a boy who literally TURNED EVIL, this was regarded as more or less symbolic truth and I don't recall any feminist critiques of the matter.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Odd Conversations CC has had recently

Making a restaurant reservation over the phone

CC: Hi, I'd like to make a reservation?

Maitre'd: For how many?

CC: Eleven

Maitre'd: All right, for when?

CC: Seven o'clock Saturday night.

Maitre'd: I'm sorry, we don't make reservations for Saturday night.

CC: Oh?

Maitre'd: But I'm sure we will be able to seat your party when you arrive.

CC: Umm... I'm a little concerned. Since my party is so large, could you possibly set aside some tables for us so when we arrive at seven we won't have to wait?

Maitre'd: Certainly. I can do that.

CC: Wonderful!

At the church bazaar.

Guy: What's this?

Me: It's a footbath. You put warm water in it and some epsom salts and then you plug it in and it makes bubbles and stuff. You put your feet in it and it's really comforatable. I gave my dad one two Christmases ago.

Guy: Would your Dad like another one?

Me: I don't think that's necessary. After all, he only has two feet.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Read about Tiger Woods in spite of myself

Saw that his wife, Elin, called the mistress. When the mistress picked up and asked who it was, Elin said "You know who it is. You're fucking my husband."

I, for one, would have responded "I'm sorry, you're going to have to be more specific."

who also notes that Elin is staying with Tiger, but has insisted that the prenup be revised. I like this woman.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

This year's CC-written famous UU skit

Note: This was performed at my church's yearly celebration of famous UUs and their gifts to society. It loses a little when you just read the text.



Applause people




Props needed:

Two large signs that say “Applause please”

A gaudy trophy (we used a soccer trophy)

(Entire cast is onstage, with any youth without assigned parts dressed as circus people. PT is in the center of the group of circus people.)

Announcer: Welcome, Welcome to the 1890 Universalist of the Year Awards. Tonight we honor a very important Universalist and one of the most famous men in the entire world, circus legend PT Barnum!

(Applause people hold up posters that say “applause please” Audience, one hopes, applauds.)

Announcer: You probably know PT’s story. After all, his autobiography is one of the best selling books in the entire world. You know he has given away large portions of his fortune to museums and libraries and to Tufts University. You know that he has revolutionized circus and entertainment. You know that he has helped change the circus from a den of iniquity to a den of delight! You know that he started the Greatest Show on Earth. You know who he is and you know that we’re giving him the Universalist of the year award, so give it up for :P.T. Barnum!

(Applause people hold up signs, PT steps to the front.)

PT: (Delivered in a way that makes him sound VERY impressed with himself. Jumbo should look increasingly agitated as the speech goes on.) Thank you, thank you, I’m honored to receive the Universalist of the year award. I have given a lot of money to museums and educational institutions, but I’d like to talk about one more reason why I deserve this award: My political work.

Now maybe it’s not appropriate for a church to give an award for political action, maybe that’s why you left it out of your speech, but before the war I spoke out against slavery frequently and I even served two terms in the Connecticut legislature. Also, I…

(Jumbo steps forward, takes mike from PT)

Jumbo: Now PT, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish but Clara Barton was the greatest Universalist of all time.*

PT: Well… I…

Jumbo: I don’t know why you think you can even get a religious award, you did so many bad things.

Jojo: Yeah, take it from your old pal Jojo the dog-faced boy, you’ve been lying to people and cheating them your entire career!

PT: Now really!

Jumbo: It’s true. Let’s talk about the Cardiff Giant for a second.

PT: (proudly) One of the most famous hoaxes in history, I might add.

Jumbo: The bible said some things that people thought meant there used to be giants roaming the Earth. So a tobacconist named George Hull made a sculpture of a giant man out of wood and started displaying it, claiming that it was one of those biblical giants. You made your own and started to claim that your giant was real and HIS was a fake, when both of the giants were just made up.

PT: (laughing) The thing of it was, when Mr. Hull took me to court, they ruled in my favor because the judge said there was nothing illegal about calling Hull’s fake a fake! I won the case!

Jojo: PT, you’re missing the point. You were CHEATING people. People came to your museums and your sideshows thinking that they were really seeing a giant man or the body of a mermaid, and none of that was true. How can you accept an award from a religion when you made all your money from tricking people?

(PT takes microphone, addresses audience. He should really sell this. Make the audience feel like PT is snowing them but they are having too much fun to care.)

PT: Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy is right. While I gave a lot of my money away, I made a lot of money from fooling people. But did you ever ask yourselves if those people really deserved to be fooled?

It’s a really complicated world out there, my friends. And if you’re the sort of person who runs around automatically believing in giants and mythical creatres, you’re going to have a difficult life. I gave lots of money to universities. But if you spent five cents to go to my circus, saw the unicorn, thought to yourself that it looked like a goat with a horn on it and figured out you can’t always believe what you’re told, then for five cents I gave you a better education than some people ever get.

Part of being a religious liberal is thinking for yourself. I taught thousands of people to do that.

So I ask you, members of the audience: Do I, PT Barnum, deserve this award? Applaud if you think I do.

((Applause people hold up signs. Announcer looks over the crowd (who should be going nuts), nods, and hands PT the trophy. He holds it up triumphantly.))

Announcer: The greatest showman on earth, my friends. The greatest showman on earth.

*Nobody got this joke, at all. The silence was deafening.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Less stupid than Black Friday, less self-satisfied than "Buy Nothing Day"

Next day-after-Thanksgiving, I think I'll celebrate National Day of Listening.

who knows some of y'all celebrate "Buy Nothing Day" and aren't evangelical jerks about it, but the majority...

CC's favorite reporter written up in her favorite magazine

Yep, it's Radley Balko being interviewed by the Economist.

It's like a perfect storm, if perfect storms were awesome.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Epilonious's bitchin' Glee character bios

I agree with much of what he has to say.

(Added later: And now he has more.)

Five years ago today

~ A happy marriage has in it all the pleasures of a friendship, all the enjoyments of sense and reason, and indeed, all the sweets of life. ~

-Joseph Addison

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In my Victorian literature class in college

I equated that scene in 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' where she's walking through the forest and the birds are falling out of the sky to this.

My professor didn't like that. Oh well.

Happy Thanksgiving from your pals at the Chaliceblog!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Does anybody ever think or Google things?

A breathless email was sent to a mailing list I was on this afternoon. The original writer of the email had found this picture.

I swear, the second I saw it, I said to myself "Oh, everybody's saluting but the President. The band must be playing 'Hail to the Chief"

Needless to say, the text of the email was all about how the sender didn't know specifically what was going on in the picture, but picture was taken on Veterans day and how by not saluting Obama must have been showing disrespect to the troops.

Needless to say, when I went looking for what was going on during the Veterans Day Ceremony that Obama attended, I found video taken from another angle.

Yep, Obama had taken the stage and "Hail to the Chief" was playing. Obama wasn't not saluting the troops. He was not saluting himself. Because saluting yourself is stupid.

And we wouldn't want to be stupid, would we?



CC reviews "Best Bet"

I really wanted to like this book. Really.

I've read and reviewed the first three books in the series and prior to this, each book improved on the last. Best Bet has a decent plot. The main character, Hallie, is one class short of graduation and gets the chance to take a class that includes a free trip around the world. She takes the trip and discovers when she comes back that it didn't really change her life as much as she expected.

All of that sounds fine, but Best Bet seemed like a huge step down from the the previous book in the series, particularly in the characterization and the stilted way the characters talked.

I don't know that I've ever read a novel with so many quotations and references to random things. The whole series has this issue, though it's the most problematic in Best Bet. It's like a habit that several major characters have picked up and it leads to horribly clunky explanations of who the original speaker was that completely screw with the flow of the writing. Part of me wants to give the book a pass on that because it is a young adult novel and the author clearly wants to teach the reader what some words mean and who some famous people are, yet Harry Potter managed to teach very young children dozens of words that were J.K. Rowling straight up invented by simply using them in context and trusting that kids are smart and would figure it out.

Thus the Harry Potter books have no passage that reads like:

"Accio Broomstick!" Hermione said, and the broomstick floated over to her, because "accio" was a magic word that when accompanied by a wave of a magic wand, summoned the stated object to the person who case the spell.

Yet Best Bet has many passages that are almost as bad and they really drain the energy out of some of the dialogue. Also text like "She'd only told Bernard a hundred times that she'll not be used as bait to bring in trade for him, the way poet and socialite Sebastian Venable employed both his mother and his cousin in Tennessee Williams' play Suddenly Last Summer" and incredibly specific and dated references like "I hear strains of Neil Diamond's song Be from the Johnathon Livingston Seagull soundtrack wafting over the lawn..."

The first book in this series, Beginner's Luck got most of its "funny lines" from characters literally telling each other old jokes. Best Bet has a few funny moments, but mostly the characters were back to telling each other old jokes, and they did it a lot. Most comic novels get their humor from either the author's witty and original writing or character-based humor and Best Bet has little of either and having a character tell the old joke about the Charles Dickens martini, "No olive or twist," just doesn't cut the mustard.

As had been standard for this series, the continuity is really bad. For the simplest example, Hallie's sister Darlene is thirteen on page fifteen and twelve on page sixteen. But it's beyond that to a fundamental inconsistency to some of the characterization. The supposedly street smart Hallie ends up having to take an extra college class to graduate because she blindly trusted her advisor when he told her she was taking the right classes. Almost all schools have "breadth requirements." They aren't a difficult concept and it's kind of hard to fathom that a 21-year-old who was supposed to be that world-wise wouldn't have checked over her transcript for herself.* It never even occurs to anyone in the book that she might be partially at fault there.

That is far from the only hint that though she's supposed to be 21, in many ways, Hallie's still a teenager. She spends much of the first part of the book feeling like people are running her life if she's the center of attention and feeling ignored if she's not. She seems much more interested in what her boyfriend is wearing (which she carefully describes every time he appears) than what he is thinking or feeling. She thinks of him far less often than she thinks of her other friends while she is on a trip she takes around the world and at the beginning of the book has to be asked before she seriously considers what he will feel about her going and disrupting their plans to move in together, though she's been considering her own feelings on that for twenty pages or so. The purpose of her trip is a sociology class and she seems offended that she actually has to study sociology at times. She loves gambling and gets to be good friends with a gambling addict yet no insights ensue, other than she has to win his money back because she's a better gambler.

Also, what's the deal with her living in Ohio her whole life and acting like she's never met a Mennonite?

Heart's Desire was the only book in the series to have real plot issues, so it wasn't a surprise that the story isn't bad. That said, both the writing and the characterization are so clunky that it's almost impossible to focus on the story. I guess the series peaked with The Big Shuffle, which is too bad as I really thought it would improve from there.

Oh, and for the record, there is a phrase that teenage girls need to know that the book didn't teach. When a guy who is more or less a complete stranger knows you've been drinking all night and gives you more alcohol, then gives you drugs, ignoring your initial refusal, until you're so wasted that when you wake up in the morning you don't remember anything of the night before, that's "first degree sexual assault." If the character doesn't see it as that, she doesn't have to treat it that way, but if you're going to write a book that goes to the trouble of explaining who Dorothy Draper is, you might as well get that concept in there.

In the book, it's treated like an amusing youthful adventure and the only consequences are the main character's concern that a boy she thinks is cute will think she's a slut.



*Item: At my "pre-Senior year" check-in with my college advisor, he looked at my transcript and said I needed three politics classes to graduate. I said "No, I don't, I need four."

Because I had looked at the requirements, then looked at my transcript. Not rocket science.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hanging out as a Spiritual Practice

Peter Morales has caused a mild stir in the YRUU room.

In an attempt to get UUs off our duffs and doing things, a cause I'm usually behind, he has made some rather grand statements about youth work in the latest issue of UU World.

He writes:

"I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people."

Err...Does he actually KNOW any UU youth? Has he ever tried to fit in YRUU amongst football practice, homework, play rehearsals and family responsibilities? I was at an RE training this weekend and someone else asked TogetherBeth what work our YRUUs did out in the community. She said something like:

"Well, we do the food drive at All Souls, of course, we have 40 youth going to that tomorrow. And we put together safe sex packets for Metro Teen Aids, and we entertain kids at the children's Inn at NIH and the whole church does volunteer work in the community during service week...well, we need to do more out in the community"

Actually, I think most people would say that's pretty good. And "out in the community" doesn't count the work trips to El Salvador and New Orleans our church does that are attended by lots of youth and the tons of fundraisers for various charities that our YRUU group does.

That aside, though, I still think the Reverend Morales is incorrect when he writes that "Hanging out is not a spiritual practice."

Well, actually, earlier in the article, he writes warmly "I remember one woman who had a passion for connecting with the elders of the church. She wanted them to feel connected and respected. She loved to hear their stories. What a gift she was to our church!" So perhaps what Reverend Morales meant was that "Hanging out is not a spiritual practice when youth do it" because it sounds suspiciously like hanging out is spiritual as all get out when you do it with the elders of the church.

The most useful conversation I've ever had with a YRUU happened as we were baking brownies. The second most useful conversation I've had with a YRUU happened BECAUSE Jana-who-creates and I were too lazy to go upstairs and get a folder. (If you follow that link, it's item four.)

Hanging out, in the way YRUUs do it, where you talk about how to deal when a friend says something homophobic, or how upset you were when you had your first car accident or how you've decided what you want to do when you grow up or how the kids at your old school were mean to you but you love your new school and now you're OK, is a vital, connective tissue that makes all of YRUU's heavy lifting possible. Hanging out is where we learn both the big important moments and the little stupid stuff of each other's lives. It's when we slow down from all the stuff we're doing (both charitable work and everyday things) and say to each other, "tell me about your day, because I want to know who you are."

I tend to think that when we connect with one another, we are connecting with a piece of that which is divine.

If that's not a spiritual practice, what is?


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Misanthrophy Moment: Social Skill issues on the internet that bug me

1. People who constantly change which social networks they use/whether they are blogging and where and constantly feel the need to talk about it.

I first noticed this behavior back in the Usenet days when any site that promoted vigorous discussion had people who would grandly announce they were leaving, then quietly return within hours or days, a behavior that is fine once or twice. I recall Usenet folks who did it every month or so, though.

The current version is people who "cut back on their internet usage" every other month by announcing that they are going to stop being on facebook, stop tweeting, stop blogging, etc, and then go back to everything within a week or so.

It's not so much the leaving that bugs me; it is the announcing. Are you really so important that I need a lengthy facebook message from you every time you quit facebook? Are your blog readers really so dumb that if you don't update for awhile they won't figure out that you're cutting back?*

2. People who don't Twitter and are so damn proud of it.

Intense Elizabeth said that she couldn't judge these people because she doesn't have a TV and likes to bring it up. She's right, that's exactly the dynamic at work. Has someone asked if you're on Twitter? Feel free to say "No", though a speech about how you are too busy and important to waste your time on something like that is superfluous.

Otherwise, nobody really needs to know that you consider yourself too busy to be on Twitter. I'm not saying you have to be on Twitter, mind you, I'm saying that the "Why, I can't imagine how people find the time to type 140 characters about what they think or how they are doing every few days." is profoundly irritating thing to say, especially if you bring it up frequently around people who ARE on twitter becase it totally comes off with that "My time is too valuable for me to have a TV" snottiness that some people have. (And IntenseElizabeth mostly doesn't have)

Similar speeches about facebook and blogging are also included here, though Twitter seems to inspire the most self-satisfied smirking from those who don't participate.

3. People who read blog posts and news stories about Oprah, but aren't Oprah fans and need to make sure you know.

This applies to every Entertainment news story, especially those about celebrities, it's just very obvious about Oprah stories right now. American Idol stories get it every single year.

Damn near every Oprah story out there right now that allows comments has dozens of people who apparently clicked on a story about Oprah, chose to comment on a story about Oprah, then wrote something along the lines of "I don't watch Oprah, I don't care about this story."

I wish the people who feel the need to do this could bottle their apparently abundant free time and sell it to those people too busy to twitter.

who appreciaties Oprah like she appreciates William Forsythe as both are apparent geniuses at forms of entertainment that just really don't interest CC personally. My feelings are roughly "Wow, it's great that there's someone out there doing such a great job doing that sort of thing for people who like that."

Because she knows you were dying to know what she thought about the matter.

*This is not a slam against Peacebang, who has closed her blog for a few months and is qite clearly remaining gone those few months. Even I publically pondered closing the Chaliceblog once. Once. in five years of blogging. And I said at the time that I was only going to do this if I got a certain job that more or less required me to. I didn't, so I'm still here. I get that life happens and that if you are literally disappearing for months on end you need to tell people, it's the people who do this all the time and never actually leave who bother me.

The slightly less awesome Alan Rickman video found!

Truly obsessed people such as myself know that there were two versions of the Alan Rickman/I'm too sexy video. Anna had fond the earlier, draft-like version that is slightly off beat in places and has still photos in places.

By all means check it out if you need some Alan Rickman goodness.

And thank you, Anna


Friday, November 20, 2009

Alan Rickman music video

I got some not awful but rather frustrating news this morning and I'm needing some Alan Rickman to improve my day.

The original Alan Rickman video of the awesomenes is gone, so we will have to go with PG's suggested replacement.


Quote of the Day

"They made a porn movie about Sarah Palin and the same actress, Lisa Ann, played me in the porn version of 30 Rock. Weirdly, of the three of us, Lisa Ann knows the most about foreign policy." — Tina Fey.

Ethnic slurs for Ethnicities that don't really exist anymore

TheCSO points out that using "Philistine" as an insult is technically an ethnic slur, it's just a slur against an ethnicity that has not existed in a long time.

As pretentious as I'm sometimes accused of being, I will confess that I don't really run around calling people "Philistines" much. As a term, it's a little "Look at me, I'm a bohemian with an expensive education" for my taste though I am sure it has its moments.

But since the whole "The Cubans CC knew growing up use 'boat people' non-pejoratively for people who took a self-help approach to get to America, but the Vietnamese consider it an extremely nasty ethnic slur and she will get yelled at if she uses it on her blog the way she always heard it used"* fiasco of '06, I generally assume that if I even have an inkling something could be construed as insulting to an ethnic background, I should never ever use it.

At the same time, there aren't any actual Philistines left to offend.



*For the record, the context was that anybody who had the brains and gimp to build a boat and sail hundreds of miles to get here deserved to be an American and probably had awesome genes our culture needs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If you have sent me a novel to review...

You should know that I have 47 pages of law school paper due in the next week. I'm 15 pages into my paper on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, seven pages into my main negotiation skills paper and I haven't started the negotiation paper that I have to read another book before I can write.

Luckily, I'm a law student and used to heaps of work so, that means "The review will go up Wednesday."



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Into the church like that."

Before class one night, a few of my classmates were discussing prior jobs they'd had.

One woman mentioned working for a political organization with strong ties to Christian churches. You'd know it if I told you the name.

"You worked there?" one of her friends said. "I didn't know you were into the church like that."

"I sure am," she said, her voice a masterful balance of emphatic passion and flawless politeness. He had meant it neutrally and she had taken it that way.

And I found that so interesting as I would be surprised if this person spends as much time as I do at church. Maybe she does. Nothing on her if she doesn't. Most people don't.

But even though I think I am "into the church like that" by any reasonable definition, UUs pretty much never think of themselves that way or put it like that. And if being a UU were a crime, I could surely be convicted, but I doubt I could confess with such grace.


Cory Maye gets new trial. W00t!

Of course, it was overturned on the venue grounds, not the 'Mississippi forensics guys are corrupt' grounds, but hey, I will take it.


Saturday, November 14, 2009


I am frequently accused, mostly by people who think they are making fun of political correctness by enforcing it, of not being the most PC person around.

And I would hardly consider "National Geographic" a particularly culturally sensitive organization. After all, it brings to mind either British Explorer types yakking to drawing rooms about their adventures in exotic places, or young people of generations before mine who used its pictures of naked people for well, what my generation and generations forward use the internet for.

So yeah, not particularly culturally sensitive even by reputation.

But despite my low standards for the place, even non-PC me is genuinely appalled by the Shrink your own head game now available on National Geographic's website.

It's exactly what it sounds like. Upload a picture of yourself and they will make your face into a shrunken head. Then you can put it on Facebook.

That might be one of tackiest, least culturally sensitive things I've ever seen on the internet. And that's saying a hell of a lot.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carrie Prejean feels she is being "censored" and has been on several major news networks to talk about it.

People who use the world "Censored" without understanding or caring what it really means irritate me. You are not being CENSORED if:

1. People insult you

2. Not every medium wants to write about you or your cause, or feature you talking about you or your cause. For example, if not every single news show wants to interview you about your memoirs of life as a beauty queen.

3. The UU World doesn't want to run an insulting ad from your favorite organization but has offered to run other ones that are more respectful.*

If you write a book and the government makes your book illegal, come talk to me. Otherwise, it's time to find another talking point because whining that your very well-known ideas are being censored because one news show won't interview you, one magazine won't run your ad, etc, etc and soforth just makes you look dumb.


*Obviously doesn't apply to Carrie, but I did hear the UU World accused of "censorship" for not wanting to run the FFRF's ad in the future. The atheist who made this claim is FAR from alone. People CONSTANTLY bitch that anyone who wants to ignore their well-known ideas is censoring them.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hat tip to theCSO Mom

I totally feel for the people at the beginning who look like they want to call the cops, but like them I was won over by the end. And you gotta love the lady at 2:28 who is blandly buying her train ticket and ignoring everything that is going on.

whose blog is not going to become your source for flash mob dance videos, but Kim HAD complained that my previous flash mob dance video had matching costumes. So now I've posted one that doesn't.

On the other hand, if you have anything around halfway as hilarious as Fisticuffs Club, the Chalicemailbag is always open.

Little Kid Religion

I remember word-for-word the conversation where I first heard of Unitarian Universalism.

"I don't go to church," my lab partner in my high school Oceanography class (a goth chick who has several freshmen believing that she was an actual vampire) said. "But my parents are Unitarians." She spoke the last word like it was the most tremendously uncool thing to ever be.

"What do Unitarians believe?" I asked.

"They believe that you can believe whatever you want."

"That's a stupid religion." I said.

"No kidding"

And our conversation moved on to other matters, none of them relating to Oceanography.

As many times as I've corrected UUs of various ages (mercifully skewing towards kids) on the specifics of refining belief through reason, I can totally see why "you can believe whatever you want" is a little kid version of UUism.

Similarly, the little kid version of Christianity I grew up with was along the lines of "Be good and do good stuff and you will go to heaven. Pray and God will give you stuff. Take care of the poor because Jesus said to."*

I took some theology classes and developed a more sophisticated understanding of Christianity before I rejected it as a spiritual path, but I found those little kid tenets to be quite tenacious as far as my own thinking about these matters went and part of me still sees Christianity as a religion very focused on who gets what from God.

This line of thought has me really glad that I'm a YRUU advisor. We didn't have sunday school classes for teenagers when I was a Presbyterian teenager because we didn't have any teenagers who wanted to attend except me. (And this was at a decently-sized church in the middle of DC). As I've mentioned, the multi-church youth group I was in was all about keeping us from having sex with each other and not so much about anything else. I remember two lock-ins, a charades game, a retreat, a trip to the movies ("Groundhog Day") and a stream cleanup. There had to have been more in four years of high school but that's literally all I remember doing.

Also, there was one discussion where we were supposed to talk about our hero and lots of kids said "my mom" and lots of kids said "God" and Teenage CC said "Katharine Hepburn."

So yeah, there wasn't much moving on to becoming a mature Christian adult in there. It's not a big shock that I didn't stay.

Conversely, Jana-who-Creates grew up in Atlanta and tells lots of stories of driving across a state or two to go to a youth con and how YRUU cons were really where she fit in. She grew up getting Unitarian Universalism on a deep level because there were people who wanted to teach it to her. And she met Richard Simmons.

Here's hoping that the youth I know and the youth you know have a better grasp of the faith they are growing up in than I did and that like YRUU did for JwC it truly becomes a place where youth can fit and where they truly get what their religion tries to teach.


*It bears mentioning that not all kids get the little kid version. LittleCSO had so many pointed questions about doctrine that his Sunday School teacher eventually had him meet with the minister, who told him straight out that if he didn't believe X, Y and Z then he wasn't a Lutheran. So theCSO stopped going to church as he was not a Lutheran. The actual truth of this story might be slightly less awesomely precocious, but that's how he tells it.

Poem for the Day

Autobiography in Five Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall's a habit...but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CC could really use that Alan Rickman video

but YouTube has pulled it down.

So let's watch a reasonably talented flash mob dance to "Single Ladies."

who wasn't encouraging the Yankees to win, mind you, but if they were going to they should have done it a day earlier so we could have had Glee back. Yes, I realize it's not as good as it was when I told you to watch. But it's still better than most things.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Anybody got a hymnal handy?

What are the hymn numbers for "We'll build a land" and "Enter, rejoice and come in"?


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Inappropriate use of a SWAT team #548

Cops like to claim that they HAVE to use a SWAT team sometimes because, say, it's really dangerous to serve a warrant in a no-knock style raid that more or less simulates a break-in.* Someone could have a gun!

I'm assuming they didn't use that excuse when they brought two SWAT teams to arrest some naked people.

Bonus points for threatening streakers with the sex offender list.


*So don't do it that way, CC says, but nobody listens to my advice on these things.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Racist Halloween Costumes and YRUU

"My mom didn't like my Halloween costume," Beloved Brillient YRUUer said. "And then she followed my friends in the car when we went trick or treating."

"What was your costume?" someone asked.

"I wore a poncho and a sombrero and a little mustache. My girlfriend went as border patrol."

There was silence. Crickets chirped.

"I can see why your mother had a problem with that," I said, also thinking that Mom probably followed BBY in case someone decided that the proper punishment for a punk kid in a racist Halloween costume was an asskicking. Not an unreasonable worry, I'm thinking.

No one else said anything, but the stares that Beloved Brilliant YRUUer got were not friendly ones.

In retrospect, I realize that this was the classic 'teachable moment.'

But I let it pass, at least partially because I was loath to start an entire discussion that would consist of condemning the kid's Halloween costume various ways, even though the costume and the wearer arguably deserved it.

But the more I've thought about it over the last day, the more I have wished that I had started a group discussion on racism. Next weekend, I have a law school thing Sunday morning, so the soonest I will be back in front of the YRUUers is the week after, a day short of a full two weeks after Halloween.

The idea time to start the discussion has passed I know, but how should I handle it from here?

Offer to lead a talk on immigration and focus the discussion on the complexity of the issues? (Possibly too subtle, but still the best alternative I've thought of.)

Actually say, "Hey, I know I didn't say this at the time, but the idea of going for Halloween as a Mexican really bothers me. Can we talk about what that means?" (Puts kid on the spot)

Assume that the Mom already had the talk and that if it didn't get through when she said it, I'm not going to make greater headway. (Cop out)



Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Seeking fondue recipies

TheCSO and I are throwing a "Mad Science" themed party tonight. We're going to have lots of fruit, lots of alcohol and a juicer so people can "experiment" and make their own drinks.

We thought it would be fun to have several fondue pots going as well. But a good friend of ours keeps kosher and we're pretty sure she won't be able to eat a cheese fondue if other people have put meat in it, so we're looking for alternatives.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I've been hitting the UU theology mailing list pretty hard recently. Someone posted this today:

Both atheist Christopher Hitchens and pastor Douglas Wilson concur that
society has no use for Christianity if its core story is not true and
it's reduced merely to moral and ethical doctrine. But does this view
act as a challenge to 'religious humanism'?

By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer [edited]
Monday, October 26th, 2009

If the story of Jesus Christ isn't literally true, then Christianity is
a fraud that promotes "a positively wicked doctrine," Christopher
Hitchens told Fox & Friends Monday morning.

Hitchens discussed the role of religion in American society in the wake
of a recent study that shows the number of Americans who claim no
religious affiliation has roughly doubled in the past two decades, from
8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008.

The study, conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut,
predicts that a full one-quarter of Americans will have no religious
affiliation by 2028. The study notes that the number of non-believers
among younger people is considerably higher than among older people,
suggesting that the trend of Americans growing less religious will
continue in coming years.

Hitchens said Americans are increasingly turning against organized
religion "because they want to push back against theocracy and the
parties of God and the awful challenge they pose to us internationally."

"By the way, your side seems to be winning in public schools, at least
across America," host Gretchen Carlson told Hitchens.

Hitchens appeared on Fox with pastor Douglas Wilson, who appeared along
with Hitchens in the recent documentary Collision, which explores the
battle of ideas between the religious and the non-religious.

The two came to unexpected agreement on one issue: They both attacked
the notion, popular among some secular thinkers, that Christianity is a
socially positive thing even if it's not true.

"If Jesus didn't come back from the dead, then Christianity is appalling
-- it's an appalling fraud and delusion and every unbeliever should
attack it," Wilson said. "Christianity is not good for the world because
it makes people decent and sober and that sort of thing. At the end of
the day, if it's not true -- if it's not objectively true -- then I
don't have any more use for it than Christopher does."

Hitchens echoed that idea, but made it clear he does actually consider
Christianity a fraud.

"They say, well the Bible story's not really true -- they're morality
tales. Don't listen to it, because if it's based on a fraud, if the
virgin birth and the resurrection and the miracles did not occur --
which they did not -- then those teachings are immoral, they teach that
sins can be forgiven by throwing them on to a scapegoat -- a positively
wicked doctrine."

Is it just me, or does this argument not make a lot of sense?

Admittedly, I was raised by liberal Christian parents who taught me that the less-believable parts of the bible were metaphor. Though the article and the guy who forward it to the list attribute this idea to secular thinkers, I hear it a lot more from liberal Christians than I hear it from secular folks.

To me, the idea that a religious story's meaning and value should be evaluated separately from its literal truth makes perfect sense and I'm not sure why anything else would be the case. After all, Jesus himself acknowledged that not all of his stories were literally true. If inventing a story to get a spiritual point across was good wnough for Jesus, one would think it would be good enough for the Reverend Wilson.



Monday, October 26, 2009

People who angrily storm out of churches

We've all had seen the dramatic exit from church by somebody. ("I'll have you know I've been running the membership committee for FIFTEEN YEARS. If everyone really wants someone else to run it this year, well, I can certainly see when I'm not wanted!," "I can't be a UU because the UUA is full of theists," "I can't be a UU because the UUA is full of atheists") Etc, etc, and soforth.

But rarely has a church been exited with the verbal panache displayed by Screenwriter and Movie Director Paul Haggis who writes a two-page letter so succinct and thoughtful to the leaders of the church of Scientology that it is frankly amazing that it came from the same dude who wrote "Million Dollar Baby."


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, and for the record

You can add calling Michelle Malkin a "mashed up meatbag with lipstick" to the ongoing list of reasons why Keith Olbermann creeps me out.

Sometimes I ask myself "Self, why did you move out of Louisiana?"

Actually, I never ask that.

But here's a really obnoxious news story out of Louisiana anyway.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ten terrible Halloween costumes

From The Washington City Paper's Column The Sexist

Possibly not work safe, at the very least a quick glance might make your coworkers think you're tacky.


Ps. If you're reading this, Hill, don't look, there's a sexy clown.


This showed up in the ChaliceMailbag. I like it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

I initially suspected this was a hoax

After all, it kinda looks photoshopped.

But no, Liu Bolin is a real dude who camouflages himself. He's been written up in the London telegraph for example.

Weird, but awesome.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CC's favorite Onion Article

Over the weekend, I was telling FortiesGirl about how several years ago did this awesome story about Gonzo journalists meeting to discuss the death of Hunter S. Thompson.

So for your edification and hers, here's:

National Gonzo Press Club Vows To Carry On Thompson's Work

In other news, the when you search the Onion's website for "Gonzo," the other story you get is really funny, too:

Stoner Uncle All the Kids' Favorite


For sale, amazing speech, never used

It must have been strange to be William Safire, have written at least hundreds of speeches and be, I don't doubt, delighted that the finest thing you ever wrote was never read in public.

Gawker has the speech William Safire wrote for Nixon to give if the Apollo 11 astronauts became stranded on the moon. It's really beautiful and sad to even consider those brave guys going up to the moon and the strong likelihood that something would happen and they wouldn't make it back.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Push Polls: They aren't just for politics anymore

So theCSO and I, dull suburbanites that we are, are headed to the Washington Home Show this weekend. You could save three bucks a ticket by ordering online, so of course we did that. One of the questions that you were REQUIRED to answer before you could but a ticket was:

    Please choose the factor that would be most important to you in considering replacement gutters?
  • Potential Water Damage in basement caused by clogged and overflowing gutters
  • Fear of falling off ladder or roof while cleaning clogged gutters
  • Potential damage to walkways, foundations, driveways, patios or landscaping caused by clogged and overflowing gutters
  • Expense of cleaning clogging gutters
  • Interest in upgrading current conventional gutters to a maintenance free, clog free system
  • Protecting your home’s resale value and give it an edge in today’s highly competitive housing market
  • Eliminating standing water where disease carrying mosquitoes can breed

TheCSO and I, who only have trees that are set back from our house and thus don't really have gutter problems, wanted to write in "Mosquitos? We want our gutters replaced because the pooling water is attracting Mothra."

But alas, that option was not allowed.

Even more annoying, the next option asked how many times per year our gutters clogged and there was no option for "They don't."

So, do you think the discount for online purchases was sponsored by the gutter companies?

And do you think we're going to be getting gutter mail in the future?

Oh well. We saved six bucks.


Marilyn Manson comments on how he has swine flu

""I know everyone will suggest that fucking a pig is how this disease was obtained. However, the doctor said, my past 'no way' contributed to me acquiring this mysterious sickness. ... Unfortunately, I am going to survive." "

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quick FAQ on ENDA

Q: What's ENDA?

A: It's the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act." It's a bill currently before Congress.

Q: What would ENDA do?

A: Extend the protections of title VII to gays, transgendered people and the disabled.

Q: What's title VII?

A: Title VII was the "Equal Pay Act of 1963." It has been subsequently amended, and mostly in liberal directions by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Here's what the US Code looks like now.

Q: What does it say?

A: Very briefly, it says that you cannot fire, refuse to hire, or generally mistreat employees because of their gender.

Q: Bitchin'. I'm a woman and I've always wanted to be a Catholic priest. I'll start calling lawyers.

A. Not so Religious institutions are exempted.

Q: But what about a Catholic-owned bookstore?

A: They aren't exempted at all. They cannot refuse to hire you based on your gender. Or your not being a Catholic, which would legally get in the way of the priest thing, too, by the way. Or because you're black. Or because you're French.

Q: We even have to hire the French?

A: If they are the most qualified person for the job. Sucks, don't it?

Q: What will happen if ENDA passes?

A: As far as I can tell, it will simply add sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the list of protected traits. The church won't have to hire gay people, but the bookstore still will if they are the most qualified for the job. Also, it will not allow for "disparate impact" claims, though frankly I don't really see those being relevant to sexuality or gender identity. My guess is that it has some implications for the disability part, though I will have to think that one through.

Q: What's a disparate impact claim?

A: It's a claim that a hiring practice not directly mentioning a protected class still functionally excludes many members of a protected class. For example, if you have a company rule that all employees have to be at least 5"8' then you will exclude many, many women and relatively few men. The Ricci case made famous in the Sotomayor hearings (the one about the firefighter exam that few black people passed) would be an example. The more common firefighter disparate impact case is when firefighters require people to have a high amount of upper body strength, higher than most women have. That's a fun one because it really makes sense to have that.

Q: Can you get fired for "acting Gay"?

A: Oddly enough, that is pretty much already protected as long as you can define "acting gay" as "acting like the opposite gender." Back in 1989, Price Waterhouse denied a woman a partnership, stating that she wasn't "feminine enough" and the SCOTUS made it illegal to discriminate against someone for "not conforming to gender stereotyping." Here's an example of that ruling protecting a flamboyant gay hairdresser.

Q: Do you think "not feminine enough" was code for "lesbian" in that case?

A: I don't know, the SCOTUS didn't seem to take it that way, but I know at least one hairdresser who was protected anyway because of the way they wrote the ruling.

Q: Anyway, what does Title VII mean for religious freedom?

A: It means that Congress has not defined "the freedom to hire, fire and mistreat people based on your religion" as part of religious freedom since at least 1968.

Q: So people who are complaining that ENDA will reduce religious freedom should not be believed?

A: I don't see how anything they are saying is accurate.

Q: Will this get rid of "Don't ask, don't tell"?

A: Nope. The military is exempted.

Q: This is interesting stuff. I want to read more about it.

A: Well, this post is pretty cool.


Q: Does it apply to Congress? Many of these kinds of laws don't.

A: As for members of congress themselves, I don't think a claim that one wasn't ELECTED because of a protected trait would fly with the courts.

As for congressional staffers, they are federal employees as far as I know, and sexual orientation has been protected since the Clinton administration and Obama has extended that to gender identity.

As far as people with disabilities are concerned, they are covered by the ADA and the Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Q: Do you understand what the term "gender identity" means? The definition seems very broad. Are the only possible identities "male" and "female"? How about, "drag queen", "all of the above", or "depends on what time of day we are talking about"?

I was struck by the contrast with the definition of "sexual orientation", which says that you have to be gay, straight, or bi for the law to matter.

"Gender identity" seems much more open ended. If "all of the above" isn't an acceptable identity, why not? And if "all of the above" is an acceptable answer, how does one make sense of the facilities clauses, which seem to assume only two possible "gender identities".
(Edited for length, full version is in the comments.)

A: The non-binary genders thing is an excellent question, albeit one that's a little rudely phrased at the beginning. My impression is that a large number of local areas have non-discrimination laws that include transgender folks. I don't recall that the bathroom issue has resulted in a need for transgender bathrooms which is not to say that they don't effectively exist all over the place labeled as "family bathrooms" and usually used by parents and opposite gender children.

Indeed, as I have a husband, I have three bathrooms in my very own house that are not limited to one gender and we have considered putting in a fourth with a Japanese soaking tub.

As for public areas, due to the existence of stalls, I don't care and am not sure what non-discriminatory reason other people have for caring who else is in the bathroom with them, what their philosophy of gender is and least of all what their physical equipment is.

Seems both polite and practical not to speculate on such things.