Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Knee Deep" and gawking

Has anybody seen a documentary called "Knee Deep"? It's about a farmer up in Maine who shoots his estranged mother after the mother (who had left the family farm years before but had technically inherited it since she and the father never divorced) sells the farm to a developer out from underneath him. The mother lives and refuses to testify against her son, but he never sees any of the money.

The neighbors seem to think the shooting was largely justified*, and the film crew talks to a lot of them. It's interesting stuff.

At the same time, it bothers me in that there are moments when it seems to gawk at the people on camera because, well, they sound like a bunch of weird rednecks. The kind of connection to the land that causes shootings for that reason is very alien to the average middle class person and the film gives lots of time and space for some of the seemingly bizarre things that people are saying to sink in.

It doesn't directly make fun of them, but in some ways it is lke watching a documentary on a strange species of person.

Anyway, seen it? Thoughts?


*the farmer had dropped out of school in the sixth grade to work on the farm and nobody seemed to have a problem with that, so this was a VERY rural community. And FWIW, around the time the kid dropped out of school to work, the mother went to nursing school and left the father as soon as she got her degree, so she was pretty awful in her way.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A couple of questions about covenants

1. I can totally see the "Covenant Initiated by God" concept working in Biblical times when God was pretty vocal about what God wanted. But if we're to have covenants these days, then how are we to know that God is initiating them if God is silent on the matter?

2. Also, how do we have a binding agreement between parties without the consent of one of the parties (i.e. God)

3. Assuming PB's idea that one cannot have a covenant per se without reference to God catches on, and it might well do that as she is a well-respected and convincing person, then I assume that covenants will not be used in UU churches much as most UU churches have at least some atheists and for the church to think of itself as "A people covenanted with God...and those guys" probably wouldn't work. As the word "covenant" has been used for secular agreements for a long time, I don't see why we can't stick with that, but if we can't it would be nice to come up with another term for the process of a church coming together to talk about who they want to be as a community and to make agreements with one another because the process still strikes me as a sacred one even without God's direct involvement. The best I can do for a name for that is "Pact," yet I find that "Pact" has Faustian* overtones.

4. As an aside, if we use "covenant" the way it is used in property law, PB's definition can still more or less work. Covenants in property law are rules that govern the use of the land set by a seller** or giver of the land, so I suppose one could say that God is giving the church to the people provided they obey God's rules. But it is unusual for those rules to be discussed and put together by the recipients of the land without direct input from the original owner.


* Fausto-ian overtones I could live with. I think.=

**For a simple example, you can sell your land to someone with a condition that they will never cut down your favorite tree or move the grave of your dog Fluffy. If they violate the covenant, then you can sue them. The most evil and the most famous kinds of restrictive covenants are the kinds that don't allow houses to be purchased by black people, but those covenants have been found unconstitutional by the SCOTUS (Shelley v. Kraemer) and thus unenforceable.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The awesomeness of Wawa

There's a Wawa outside of DC off of 95. When I was visiting theCSO at school I would always stop there, and indeed, we still stop there anytime we're going down 95. One time some seven years ago, I stopped there and noticed a Goodwill across the parking lot. I decided to pop in to the Goodwill and get a tank top since the day was warming up.

I found my wedding dress at that Goodwill for $150.

Thanks, Wawa.

The Washington Post also recognizes the greatness that this convenience store of the Gods represents and has written about it.


Ps. The story mentions a couple who loved Wawa so much they got married in one. That couple is not us. Though we did once joke about having our wedding reception in a palatial rest stop in Dinwiddie County, VA.

I'm aware that this falls into the category of "stupid rich people stuff"

But I am charmed by this story of the owner of Papa John's Pizza tracking down the Chevy Camaro he sold when he was just starting out and paying the current owner $250,000 for it.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The other side of the "language of reverence" debate

A few years ago, former UUA President Sinkford set off a minor tiff among my humanist buddies by saying that we needed to go back to a "language of reverence." At the time, I think I said that the words themselves didn't bother me but I had concerns in that:

1. Using the same words different ways makes communication difficult.

From an old post of mine on the subject:

"“Sin” as defined by the shorter OED: Transgression of divine law, a violation of a religious or moral principle. (It being the shorter OED, the actual definition is longer and more complicated, but that’s the jist.)

“Sin” as defined by my office’s receptionist, a Mormon: “Doing wrong. Well, there are different kinds of wrong I guess. I guess sins are wrong that’s against the bible.”

I’d say that if you ask 100 people to define sin, 99 of the resulting definitions would be somewhere in the neighborhood of those two.

CC is one of those people who has wrestled mightily with the subject of sin. If you ask CC to define sin, you’re going to get “It’s something you do, anything you do, that distances you from what makes you a good and useful person. If you reverently and respectfully pull the plug on your terminally ill father to relieve his pain, that’s legally murder, but I don’t think it has to be sin. If you cheat on your taxes and feel so bad about it that it distances you from your life and the good that you do, or makes you feel like doing the right thing doesn’t matter, that’s sin.”"

I don't think there's anything wrong with having a different concept of "sin" and I think they are in the same spirit, but if the Mormon and I wanted to have a conversation about sin, we would have to very carefully stake out what we meant by a term that is loaded on both sides. Perhaps using non-reverent language would make these conversations easier.

2. A lot of the "language of reverence" uses metaphor that makes some traditional assumptions that might not be true.

"God the father" would be a tough concept for a former victim of child abuse.

If your great-grandparents were slaves, then the term "Master" would likely not be spiritually useful, or at least would be loaded for you in a way that it wouldn't be for other people.

And yes, as discussed on the blogosphere at length once, "Lord" raises sexism and class implications that lots of people find alienating.

This is not to say that these terms are problematic for everyone. If you had a great Dad who loved and cared for you, you never really had to apply the issue of slavery to yourself personally and you're ok with what looks to some like grafting a secular aristocratic term onto a man whom God chose to have born in a barn or on to God, then those words work and more power to you. But I think they no longer have the near-universal appeal they once did and I don't think it is coming back.

Humanists pretty much don't win any battles in UUism any more and this is yet another one that we lost and the language of reverence is very much alive in a great many UU churches whether humanists like it or not. (And this theistic humanist admittedly likes it fine most of the time.)

Anyway, in her recent hotly debated post about covenants, PB raises yet another question about spiritual language. When does redefining a spiritual concept and using it for oneself become appropriation? It had never occurred to me that my view of sin (which is massively oversimplified Tillich in the first place) could be read as an appropriation of the traditional concept of sin, not from Tillich, but from Christianity in general. (Who got it from the Jews)

Where does the concept of "appropriation" pay in to the "language of reverence" debate? Does it matter if we are "re-appropriating" a concept that was appropriated by the religion we're taking it from?* Is there an easy guide to "appropriation" that makes it clear whether we are appropriating or not?**

I asked PB in her comments and now I'm asking you.


*Gotta say, it makes me nuts when people accuse each other of "appropriating" the labyrinth from Christianity.

**The best I can do is that it is appropriation when one uses a ritual, term or practice in a way completely divorced from the actual spirit of the thing being appropriated. Gwen Stefani wearing a bindi because it looks cool, for example. But I tend to think it is OK when much of the original spirit is kept intact, (e.g. a day of fasting and meditation and prayer is done in all many religions, and I don't think it is inappropriate for a UU to do the same. Or a child dedication that looks a lot like a baptism.) then it isn't appropriation. But a lot of people do a lot of goofy things in what they perceive as the spirit that the Native Americans intended in the Native American ritual said people are stealing, so I'm aware that my definition is far from perfect.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Q: What do the cops do when they pointlessly torture a dog and people start complaining?

A: Claim that the dog was a pit bull.


whose pit is snuggled up next to her.

When I first started following UUism online...

One constantly heard about how badly theists were treated in UU congregations. These days, you really don't hear about it as much any more. I'm a theist, of a sort, and a political moderate, of a sort, and my politics are offended far more often than my faith is.

I don't think I'm alone. Indeed, even at the time, I liked to figure out which churches the complaining theists were attending and I often found that the churches were having theist-friendly sermons and adult ed classes. One time a woman complained that her church had denied her the right to throw a Christmas pageant because they hated Christianity and theists. When she had left the church and was still complaining about it a year later, I checked back. The following year they did have a Christmas pageant. I'm fairly certain that while there are some very humanist churches where theists would feel less comfortable, there are an equal amount or greater number of theistic churches where atheists feel less comfortable and the majority are in the middle where neither theists nor humanists get exactly what they want but neither is completely overshadowed either. My church has been 50/50 for a long time and my understanding is that it's pretty common for a church to be something close to that.

Anyway, back when I was constantly having this conversation, I would sometimes link to something like this and point out that it still sucks in many ways to be an atheist in America, so if atheists are a little snotty sometimes it return, that's probably not the end of the world.

Out of habit, I'm doing it again. Giving potential adoptive parents this much grief just because they are atheists? REALLY New Jersey?


CLARIFICATION: As Tom noted in the comments, this story is actually a few decades old, something I didn't notice and the person who sent the story to me didn't notice either I'm guessing. Joel also notes that this stuff is still happening to Pagans.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Radley Balko, whom I read faithfully and sometimes steal jokes from, has been writing about this for years. It's great that CNN has finally picked it up, though I wish they had credited him.

Of course, I rarely do. Now, go read about the guy whom I sincerely hope is the world's least competent forensic pathologist.

Or you can read about him here.

And here

And, for the full story, here.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Though I'm the last one to feel charitably toward someone who was mean to pit bulls...

I don't demand that Vick not be allowed to play or anything.

That said, I'm certainly not getting Justice Ginsburg (my dog) one of these.


Ps. In happier news, here's a nice story about what is happening with the pit bulls seized from Vick's dogfighting ring. The dog in the picture looks very much like Justice Ginsburg, down to her "look how nonthreatening I am" pink collar.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Question for Whole Foods boycotters

Let me get this straight:

1. Whole Foods pretty much treats its employees exactly the way liberals want a company to*. (Please don't give me a link to any page that quotes the union organizers' words as gospel and accepts them uncritically.)

2. The CEO of Whole Foods writes in the New York Times that he doesn't believe in single-payer health care and essentially doesn't think the Obama plan will work.

3. Insisting that the CEO has a right to express an opinion, which he does, and you have a right to boycott, which you do, y'all are boycotting Whole Foods because their CEO wrote things you don't like, isn't standing with Obama, or however you choose to phrase it. Instead, you're shopping at farmer's markets (best option), Trader Joe's (second) or some supermarket that pays minimum wage but has a CEO who is smart enough not to piss off the "disagreement is treason" liberal establishment.

4. I guess my question boils down to this: Y'all are boycotting because the CEO spoke out against single-payer health care, right? And single payer health care has the government acting as the sole health insurer for the entire country.

So, if you get your single payer health care, and you're not happy with your insurance, who are you going to boycott?

who, all that said, really likes what Returning has to say about "Death Panels. CC had never really understood what people meant by that term and had assumed something more reasonable albeit still unpleasant.

*If you're about to make a joke in my comments about how you're boycotting Whole Foods because you never shop there because it is so expensive, consider that providing free health care for even part time employees ain't cheap. If you're not willing to pay higher grocery prices to shop someplace that gives this health coverage, pays a living wage, etc, why are you fighting for legislation that would but these expenses on your grocery and tax bill anyway?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Awesome Day!

Awesome Day is the official holiday of the Chaliceblog. I invented it when I found out that four things happened on August 16:

-Elvis died

-Madonna was born

-Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi got married.

-TheGnome was born

So I decided to deem August 16 "Awesome day" to commemorate its significance as an important day in the lives of so many awesome people. For me, it's a day to look around at the world and focus on the good things.

I've had a counter up on my blog since last August 16. I was going to do a day full of posts about awesomeness and awesome things today. But then last week my Dad fractured his arm in multiple places and I spent some time at the hospital, and theCSO and I decided to teach ZombieKid and theGnome to play Dungeons and Dragons and my brother created a bunch of family drama and, well, I forgot.

But I did remember before it was over at nine p.m. For what it's worth, I spent many hours of today at theGnome's birthday party, where I refereed little children, swam until I was exhausted and made theCSO a seriously wonderful pair of tie-dyed purple socks. I had Thai food for dinner with my husband, and now I'm updating my blog.

The easy way to write this would be to say that the most awesome thing about awesome day was forgetting it and living my happy life with my great friends. But I do have some regret about being so in the moment, and glad I have a chance to spend at least the last few hours thinking about how lucky I am to live the life that I live.

So today, or tomorrow, or someday, take a minute in honor of the little holiday I spent a year planning and almost forgot, and think about what's great about your life, all the good people you know and the prettiest view you've ever had looking out a window. Think about your favorite painting, your favorite food and snuggling up in your favorite place with your favorite book. Think about the best quality that your least favorite person has and something wonderful about the worst time of your life.

Here's hoping that looking at the good will help us think about what is true, just and beautiful in the world already, and appreciate truth, justice and beauty when we see it.

I wish you a Happy Awesome Day, and a Happy year until the next one.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

I love the chilnerds.

Jana-who-Creates, her husband, her children, theCSO and I are planning a group Halloween costume as attendees at a "Mad Scientists' Convention." I am planning to be Dr. Bunsen Honeydew from the Muppets, and there was some debate the other day about which Mad Scientist theCSO should go as.

We're Rocky Horror fans in our house and even have a cat named Dr. Frank-N-Furter, so of course, at one point, I said,

"Hey, theCSO could be Dr. Frank-N-Furter."

Jana laughed and the conversation moved on.

She reports that later, the children were sitting in the car saying,

"Yeah, theCSO WOULD be a great Dr. Frank-N-Furter."

"He would have SO MUCH FUN being Dr. Frank-N-Furter"

Jana was perhaps wondering if her kids had been watching MTV, when one of them said.

"He could have fuzzy ears and a furry tail and he could meow and everything!"


Awesome, I think, maybe.

Golden Girls tattoo

Funny? Not really. Scary and depressing is more like it.

This story gets lots of pun-filled mileage out of Bob Dylan being stopped by the police for "acting suspiciously" because he was taking a walk around the neighborhood. He didn't have any ID and the young whippersnapper police officers didn't recognize him and his tour staff had to vouch for him.


Except, ya know, about how taking a walk is now "suspicious behavior" that gets you stopped by the police and how Dylan's tour staff HAD to vouch for who he was because Dylan dared to walk around without ID doing nothing illegal.

IMHO, that's not funny at all. But the newspaper didn't seem to think it was worth writing about, except for the puns.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thanks to Krakatoa and Victor

We now have comment moderation for a bit. As it says above the comments, I'm going to moderate "Ms. Kitty style," as in lightly.

I'm going to go kick the worst of what Krakatoa has to say right now, but I'm really busy. I apologize and will get the rest of it and Victor's spam tonight.


who isn't interested in comments about commenting. If you have something to say, email me

and who never thought "don't use the C word" and "don't insult the recently dead in a post about how sad I am that they have died" as necessary Chaliceblog rules, yet Krakatoa violated them both in one post, so maybe so.

Monday, August 10, 2009

RIP Tim Jensen

I was sad today to hear of the death of the Reverend Tim Jensen. I
never met the man, and indeed disagreed with him quite passionately at
times, but I had great respect for him as a thinker and a writer.

His family and friends will be in my thoughts.

Who heads back to America tomorrow and might kiss the dirt of Fairfax

Sent from my iPhone

Ps. Polity Wonk has a really nice post about Tim.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


To everyone who told me at some point during my discussion of the Gates incident that Gates got what he deserved for disobeying a police officer and treating him disrespectfully. I'd be interested in your take on this situation.

Given that we don't know exactly what the soldiers did in the alleyway, is what happened here in some way justified because public urination is a public nuisance? If the soldiers had told the cop to go to hell and been arrested, do you think that would have been a just result?

To be the idea that the police are public servants and can't reasonably expect to be treated much better than cab drivers or garbage collectors is a given, so I'm trying to get my head around the idea that police deserve some special deference and am curious about what limits people perceive that deference to have.

who doesn't know the race of anybody involved, FWIW, but would guess that they are all white given the last names of the parties involved and that it happened in Wisconsin, one of the whiter states in the union.

CC doesn't like it when people diss Atticus Finch

And she likes it less when they are convincing about it.



Sunday, August 02, 2009

SO much better than the original version

Hey LinguistFriend, what are they saying at the beginning?