Saturday, January 30, 2010

Epilonious' take on boycotts

is really great. I tend to agree with just about everything he has to say here, despite my boycott of the entire City of Atlanta until they make it not suck to drive there.


Ps. Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

January's Book I don't expect to like: The Road

On January 6, I announced that my New Year's resolution was to read some books I didn't think I would like and write about my reaction to them. I'm going to try to read one a month. I gave a large list of categories of books I wouldn't normally read and asked for suggestions, but truth be told, I already knew what January's book would be. At Christmastime, my father-in-law had mentioned that Cormac McCarthy's The Road was one of his favorite books (he might have said his favorite) and said he'd be interested to hear what I thought of it if I ever read it.

For those keeping track, The Road is a travelogue of sorts and it fails the Bechdel test*, and yes, it's the sort of book I generally would not expect to like. I have what I think are good reasons for not liking what I don't like. I don't expect every book to grant me an epiphany about how wrong I was to dislike its genre, though I won't be surprised if that happens once or twice. Mostly, I'm going to read with an open mind and see what I discover.


In college, I took a class where we had to watch 2001, a Space Odyssey and write a reaction paper to it. I wrote in my paper that I thought that Kubrick was very clever to put the space-ballet-like scenes of outer space with lovely classical music in and have them go on for so long. Surely, I thought, the viewer who was sitting in a movie theater watching this would be at first transfixed, then as the minutes passed find their attention fading until even the beauty was monotony. The would shift in their seats and reach uneasily into the popcorn bucket, waiting for the dragging loveliness to end.

I allowed as to how if there's a better brief introduction to what years of space travel must feel like, I haven't seen it. I recall getting a rather nasty comment in the margins of that paper. Apparently the professor didn't share my interpretation.

One of the reasons I don't like travelogues is that often the journey is treated as all one needs for a plot structure. It's a wire on which the story's sometimes interchangeable events can be neatly strung. Like 2001, McCarthy has characters on a journey, and like 2001, the story's very monotony gives a vivid sense of what the journey must be like, though "vivid" seems like a strange word to apply to a novel that is so fundamentally bleak. It's not a long novel. I read 3/4 of it in a Starbucks while my husband made an especially lengthy trip around Home Depot. But that time passed very slowly.

The Road is about a father and son who are walking across what seems to be to be the southern part of a post-apocalyptic America, though I'm not sure the geography actually fits unless their journey is much longer than the book makes it seem. The apocalypse, whatever it is, has taken the lives of almost everyone in America and left a thick cloud of dust and ash blocking out the sun. Almost all forms of life are gone and the father and son survive by scavenging. They are walking toward a better life that may or may not exist and trying to avoid cannibals. Stuff happens to them. Sometimes they find food, sometimes they don't.

They spend a lot of nights shivering and holding each other in ways that might have seemed maudlin if this book were about a mother and child, but work given the father's manly stoicism. Somehow he's allowed more melodrama than would have worked with a mother character. Which is not to say that I appreciate what happened to the mother. I don't and I think this otherwise fine book deserved a better written characterization of her. But I don't have to like the way gender is used to understand that it is used effectively in this case. The dynamic of youth vs. maturity is also used well as the father saves the pair's bodies over and over, but the son saves their souls, constantly asking why the pair can't help every desperate person they find on their trip. It's a question that hangs in the air as one reads, yet the father's pragmatic point of view is perfectly understandable.

It felt like I barely took my eyes off the book. McCarthy's lyrical prose reduced my world to the book's. I've read a lot of books where a main character's victories have not brought me nearly the delight or relief that I felt when the father and son find a few cans of vegetables. But the book strongly implies, at least, that every can of vegetables consumed takes the human race a few steps closer to extinction. The father and son do not actually consume other people, but the book doesn't shy away from the fact that their survival almost certainly comes at the cost of the next people to venture down that road and search those cabinets.

Yet at the end, there's a bit of hope.

I started The Road expecting not to like it. Now I'm asking myself if I did and finding the question superfluous. It's like asking oneself if the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a "good" movie.

Sometimes the simple questions just cease to apply.

We will see what February brings.


*The Bechdel test, usually used for movies, is

1. There must be at least two women
2. Who have a conversation
3. About something other than a man

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random thought on Elizabeth Edwards

I made the mistake of reading about how longtime Edwards aide Andrew Young has written a book what goes on about how Elizabeth Edwards kept an obsessive controlling eye on her husband's movements, was mean to his staff, and was "crazy."

For anyone who requires translation, that means ""Elizabeth Edwards kept an obsessive controlling eye on her CHEATING DOG OF A husband's movements, was mean to his staff, the same staff that was LYING TO HER FACE ABOUT HER CHEATING DOG OF A HUSBAND'S AFFAIR AND KEEPING A SECRET PHONE JUST FOR HIS MISTRESS, and was "crazy," BECAUSE HER CHEATING DOG OF A HUSBAND WAS SCREWING AROUND WITH ANOTHER WOMAN AND RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT WHILE SHE WAS DYING ON CANCER AND TRYING TO RAISE HIS KIDS.""

There. Hope that clears things up a bit.

So annoyed that Elizabeth Edwards' popularity rating is down 15 percent in the last couple of months. We really do expect famous people to be perfect.


Not so much into the bible study or the Founding Father study

I am not so much a fan of the first couple of weeks of law school. It's a little hard to get back into my routines and all, but mostly, I blame the Founding Fathers. Like 2/3 of my law school classes begin with the history of the subject I'm learning about, often with what the Founding Fathers thought about what the law should be. I realize there are often important clues to how we got where we are legally there, but I find the topic dull and am always itching to get to the part where we study cases about real people who had real disputes with one another.

I like the concepts. I'm just more interested in what happens when the concepts are applied in actual religious discrimination cases. This is as opposed to the similarities and differences between what George Mason and James Madison and Thomas Jefferson thought about the ideal wording for a religious discrimination statute.
In a week or so, we will be on to studying cases (that will reference the Founding Fathers' opinions at times--this stuff is important) and I won't have to exclusively study the Founding Fathers for another semester.

I like the theoretical aspects of law very much, as long as they are solving actual problems. When it is entirely theory vs. theory, though, I get kinda bored.

On the way home the other night, I started thinking about UUism and how some people want principles to cling to and interpret. Yet a lot of us are focused on our religion in the here and now. Living an unambiguous life in an ambiguous world is the focus here rather than the philisophical musings of an ancient text.

For me, it's a good fit.


Ps. Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Toyota Fundmentalism

Just because my husband and I last bought a SmartCar doesn't mean we aren't Toyota fundamentalists. We're just bad at fundamentalism. And yes, our Smartcar is cute and fun to drive but it eats tires and has had way too many problems for a new car. Every time the ChaliceMom drives it, CC thinks "If she totals it, we'll get a Yaris."

That Toyota is voluntarily stopping sales until they figure out the sticking-gas-pedal-problem, only increases theCSO's and my fondness. We essentially agree with the lady I heard on the news this morning, who said of the deadly problem "The only real surprise is that it's a Toyota."


Ps. Added later: Criminal Justice *Headdesk* of the day.

Two interesting things that came up in my class on Religious Discrimination.

1. In UUism particularly, we tend to think of everything in a Christians vs. everyone else, or a theists vs. everyone else paradigm. Actually, because the United States is so protestant-dominated, the real issues have often been protestants vs. everyone else. For example, public schools used to offer "silent bible reading time." The professor said that the protestants in the positions of power were so entrenched in protestantism that they found it difficult to imagine why any Christian could object to their child having a bit of time every day in class to silently read the bible. But Catholics aren't really into people interpreting the bible for themselves with no priest there to help them out, so they ended up siding with the Jews and the atheists and everyone else who tried to stop the practice.

2. In a discussion of homeschooling, someone brought up that she had a friend who works at a historic site for the War of 1812. Like most historic sites, it gets a lot of visits from homeschooling families. One mother asked the tour guide whether the War of 1812 was World War I or World War II and refused to take "Neither" for an answer. I've always supported homeschooling, though I wonder about the parent-teacher's ability to learn enough about all those subjects to teach them. I hadn't realized that standards are so low, at least in that state.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I hate to say I told you so, No, wait, I Iove to...

Remember the Dude who did those "Pimp and Ho Party" stings at ACORN whom I claimed was a weasel all along? He was arrested by the Feds for his part in a scheme to bug Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone.

And people say DEMOCRATS are stuck in the 1960s. I don't see the 1970s as an improvement.


Monday, January 25, 2010

A sign of how nuts I am when it comes to art

When I read about the woman who fell and tore the Picasso, my first thought was "If I ever accidentally tore a Picasso, I would feel like I had to sell off all of my stuff and become a Mother-Theresa-like nurse to the poor to EVER repay the debt to society that I had just incurred."

Also, I thought "Whoa, there's a Picasso show opening at the Met in April! Ye Gods, I have to go!"

Any Chalicesseurs want to meet up in NY in May/June? I am notoriously bad about scheduling meetups, and weirdly shy about meeting people I've only known online, but in this case we will have amazing art to distract you if I'm not as interesting as you expect.

Anyway, when a major Picasso show came to DC, I had to visit on three separate days to get through the whole show because really excellent art tends to fill my brain to capacity, but bus tickets from DC are cheap and theCSO and I will probably do at least one weekend at Mary-who-Dances' house.

So anyway, Picasso lovers within traveling distance of NY, give me a holler. DC folks who are my friends in real life who happen to be reading this blog are also welcome.


Ps. Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day

Saturday, January 23, 2010

According to this...

Male birds who are pale, stressed out, don't eat their vitamins and work really hard have fewer chicks.

Not too many of you have met theCSO, but suffice to say it's nice to know that accidental pregnancy would not be in my future if I were a bird.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

If we were a peaceful country, would Haiti be more screwed?

Before the quake, Haiti's airport handled about three flights a day, some estimates are that its total capacity was around 30.

Now? 180 flights worth of food, supplies, peacekeepers and aid workers are landing per day.

How had this turnaround occurred? The Air Force has a whole bunch of engineers who are trained to rebuild airports for combat purposes, the theory being that they can rebuild the airport of a decimated city America has invaded so planes can be landed and the conquered city can more quickly become a military foothold.

Port-Au-Prince was a decimated city. So the Air Force sent its engineers there to rebuild the airport. Over 1000 planes landed in the first week.

On the radio in DC this weekend, there was a big fuss over the fact that the US Navy Hospital Ship Comfort had been getting maintenance and didn't get underway until Sunday. How dare they take so long? The military must be a bunch of jerks! One of my naval engineer readers (and I do have two at least sporadic ones) can answer this better than I can, but my guess is that getting a Navy hospital ship out of maintenance, fully staffed and on its way to Haiti in a few days is pretty good.

The ship is there now, and treating patients.

Another UU blogger asked recently if serving in the US Armed forces is honorable. I think that's a stupid question. To me it's obvious that pretty much any profession can be honorable or dishonorable depending on the way it is performed. Many would say that prostitution is not an honorable profession, for example, but as Heinlen put it, "It is possible that the precentage of honest and competent whores is higher than that of plumbers and much higher than that of lawyers. And enormously higher than that of professors.*"

Anyway, being a member of the Armed forces who is keeping the peace and distributing aid in Haiti? Honorable.

Sitting at home and sniping at the military as if they never do anything good? I'd say less so, even if you did write a check to a charity that bought supplies and put them on a plane that couldn't have landed without the US military's help.

There will always be UUs who want UUism to be a peace church and want the US to be a peaceful nation unprepared for war. But I have to say that when another country has a disaster and the Americans can fly in and make a bad time better, it makes me proud.

I don't fundamentally have an objection to cutting the defense budget, but we should be careful as we do so. Not every trade off is going to be one we want to make.

who gets that, theoretically, the US could be a really peaceful nation that just keeps a giant disaster relief program around for an occiasion such as this one, but I don't think that's really going to happen. But my experience with pacifists has been that most of them might as well preface their idealistic visions with "If human nature were completely different then..." so I don't really expect much in the way of rational argument from them. Thus, it was probably pointless to bring that up.

*Sorry, Linguistfriend

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CC's lips are constantly chapped in the winter

And I came home to find this on the counter.

Amazing how little stupid stuff can make one feel loved.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An open letter to the YRUUer who reads the Chaliceblog "religiously"


When you father told me on Sunday that he skims the Chaliceblog, but you read it religiously, I was mildly horrified. Firstly, for years I was able to maintain the polite fiction in my head that my blogging and church lives were separate. This has never been true, so no doubt it is a healthy thing for me to be facing that my online life and my real life have a lot of overlap. Further, we youth leaders strongly believe in there being some separation between our personal lives and our youth leader lives. But I've given that a lot of thought over the past few days and I think I'm OK with this.

The logic behind this separation is that you guys aren't supposed to be our best friends. We aren't supposed to lean on you for help, we're supposed to be available for you to lean on us. My impression is that you're not so much a leany sort of person, but we're there for you no matter what and you should never feel like it is your job to be there for us. It's not.

Other than that, I really don't mind you knowing the same amount about me that any other reader of the Chaliceblog knows, maybe a bit more in that you have a little more context. It doesn't bother me that you know, for example, that on Sunday I had to suck it up and be enthusiastic and lead a youth group meeting about the MMDT when I had just found out about the death of a family friend. I suspect you get that part being an adult is having to do stuff like that. It sucks, but it beats the hell out of being a teenager. I promise.

Anyway, reading this blog, you're going to hear that people within Unitarian Universalism don't always agree about the proper way to do things or the proper next steps for the church and sometimes don't particularly like each other. I had the benefit of an Aunt who was very much caught up in the politics of the Presbyterian church when I was a kid so I was raised on this stuff. Plenty of UUs seem to sail through their religious lives without really thinking through the conflicts that go on under the surface of the denomination. I have mild concern that I am warping you in some sense by putting this stuff in front of you, but I don't see you as a surface-sailing sort of person, so I think it's a warping that has probably happened anyway or would have eventually. My one worry for you is that when you care about this stuff, people start telling you that you really should go to seminary because "only ministers care about these things." I think that's a polite fiction some ministers have themselves. If I can hazard a bit of unsolicited career advice, I don't think ministry is the path for you. Goodness knows I'm not suited for it.

So in many senses, I'm going to think of you as just another reader. If you were just another reader, I wouldn't need to write this, though. If you don't mind, I would like to make a some requests.

1. Take me with a grain of salt. Part of expressing yourself through writing, and personal narrative writing at that, is sometimes you go overboard. I don't really write about our church all that much, so I'm not so worried I'm going to rant about that, but if I am particularly ranty about something else, it's probably just a mood and I'm going to get over it. And sometimes I'm just plain wrong. You don't strike me as the sort of person who believes a blog, even one written by someone you like, as gospel truth, but I wanted to emphasize that. Check the facts yourself, draw your own conclusions and feel free to take me to task in the comments when I'm wrong. As you've no doubt observed, nobody else around here has any compunction about doing so.

2. I have been considering instituting an "if you're insulting another commenter, then you're talking about something other than the content of the post. Off-topic comments deserve to be kicked" policy similar to the one that used to have. If I've got youth reading this blog and commenting, then that makes me even more inclined to do that. Anonymous commenting is always allowed at the Chaliceblog so you may post anonymously any time you want, but I invite you to talk to me about it if you would like to start commenting. Intellectually, I would put you up against just about anyone who comments here, but I have a youth leader's Mama bear desire to make this a safe place for you anyway.

3. Never, ever, let yourself feel responsible for my feelings. A "Hey, I'm sorry to hear about your friend" is fine, but beyond that, if my life sucks and I feel bad about it and write about it, I'm probably venting and I'm really fine and above all, I have it handled. I don't write many posts like that anyway, but I used to do it more and you never know what's going to happen.

4. If anything here ever bothers or upsets you, feel free to talk to me or talk to Jana-who-creates or TogetherBeth or someone else you trust about it.

That's a lot, but these issues are complicated and I wanted to lay all that out. It doesn't surprise me that some youth eventually found my blog and started reading it. Goodness knows that's what I would have done when I was your age. And yeah, if I can talk down to you for one more second, you do remind me a lot of me at your age.

God help you.



Ps. See you Saturday, if not tomorrow night. I will e-mail TogetherBeth cleaned up scripts by tomorrow and I will bring the costume piece I promised you tomorrow if I can.

Tales from the Repo man

A childhood friend of theCSO's is a repo man, or at least has worked as one. We once had an amusing evening where he recounted his adventures in that actually fairly exciting profession. He was full of advice like:

"Both crackheads and rednecks have guns. But if you get to choose, repo the crackhead's car, because rednecks can actually shoot"

May that never come in handy for any of us.

Anyway, in all this guy's repoing days, I bet he never accidentally kidnapped anyone.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

RIP, Nancy Lee

I write about my life here and the people in it. So in a stupid way I feel like I'm just keeping you updated, because this isn't going to be long enough to count as really processing anything. I just found out that the ChaliceRelative's best friend died yesterday morning. Mary-who-Dances is visiting and we will go over this evening to hang out with the ChaliceRelative and talk things over.

Nancy Lee was the one I wrote about here. She was a really good person and the world is a darker, sadder place today.


CC reviews "the Lovely Bones" and saves you eleven bucks.

Spoilers within if you have no idea what this movie is about, but that shouldn't matter because you shouldn't go to this movie*

For the love of God, do not see this movie. I am, uncharacteristically, almost at a loss for metaphor. But I'm going to try. It's like if, oh George Balanchine, working with a heretofore undiscovered piece of music by, oh, say, Mozart and it was one of those ballets where Cezanne painted the sets, and then Balanchine picked for his dancers, oh, say, KISS.

There are many elements of awesomeness, perhaps brilliance in that hot mess, but it wouldn't fucking work.

The Lovely Bones has some really wonderful elements including the hardest working actors in the history of film. Remember how Hitchcock* essentially tortured Tippi Hedren for a week by doing stuff like tying live, angry birds to her and filming it as they pecked her half-revealed flesh through they clothes they had already torn? Probably a better experience than working on "the Lovely Bones."

If there were Oscars for effort, Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan would deserve them. And Susan Sarandon chews the scenery like you wouldn't believe in a role where that's clearly what she's expected to do in a Falstaff sort of way. Ronan's role is mostly about wandering around looking amazed, with the occasional scream of anguish, but the few moments when she's allowed to have a personality, she evokes that personality very well. Wahlberg's character is kind of a loon, but you understand why he is the way he is and Wahlberg gives good loon.

The cinematography keeps you watching long after you wish you could stop. It cuts back and forth between different threads of story so much it is impossible to lose yourself in the movie even though you're not sure you want to. You never get the chance to get caught up in the thing, so if you're me you sit there and analyze it. And this movie does not stand up well to analysis.

The directing is so bad that you know exactly what you're watching every second and what the directer is trying to hamfistedly make you feel. You know thirty seconds into the movie that the girl is going to get killed and the tension is built up so slowly and clumsily that by twenty minutes into the movie, your brain is BEGGING the movie to fucking kill her already and destroy this perfectly sweet family because the buildup to that killing and destruction is unbearably plodding and meticulous. I had not been previously aware that I could be that anxious and that bored at the same time.

The last Peter Jackson movie I saw, King Kong, made it clear that Jackson has no clue what to do with tension, a problem I don't recall him having in "The Lord of the Rings" or "Heavenly Creatures." In King Kong, Ann is in constant danger for like 45 minutes of movie while Kong fights off dinosaurs. One assumes that it is inconceivable to Jackson that 45 minutes of Kong wailing on dinosaurs might be a tad excessive. He has the same self-restraint problems here in that there are several situations that should be tense and exciting but go on so damn long that it just gets irritating.

Jackson's CGI-rendered and brightly-colored vision of heaven is, erm, not mine and includes a Magical Asian because, one assumes, Morgan Freeman had other commitments.

Anyway, y'all get the idea.


*To make it absolutely clear, I am NOT advocating a boycott of this movie or ordering you not to see it in any way that you should treat as a command. I am expressing my extreme distaste, not a political agenda. Also, I ain't your Momma and I don't expect you to listen to me just because I say so.

**After finding out that Hedren would not, in fact, fuck him, at least according to Hedren herself as told to Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Asking an off-duty cop why he's parking in a fire lane is also not illegal.

Inform your local constabulary


One more on Martha Coakley

Ok, I won't say that Dorothy Rabinowitz is my best friend but I think she has a point about Martha Coakley. Mind you, I still want you to vote for Martha Coakley. After all, she's probably fine on issues that aren't criminal justice related, and more importantly, I do want the Ds to retain the majority in the Senate.

But please, people, vote more carefully in the primaries next time.


Ps. Oh, and Ugh.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pinch nose, hold breath, Vote for Martha Coakley

If I lived in Massachusetts, and I don't, this would be one election that I would be dying to sit out. The reasons to not vote for Martha Coakley are legion and I discuss some of them in this post and its comments.

Or you can read Politico's version. Wherever you get your facts, it's clear to me that Massachusetts seriously fucked up in making her the nominee.

But as Hello Ladies reminds me, this is a very important race as far as Senate balance is concerned and it is, gulp, the best thing for the country if Martha Coakley wins yet another election.

There, I said it.

Now pray that no one you love ever needs strong pain medication, or gets falsely accused of a politically fashionable crime or places something that looks nothing like a bomb in a major city.

who needs a shower and was slightly cheered by this.

Best dream ever.

TheCSO and I were about to have dinner in a beautiful restaurant on a small cliff facing the ocean. We were in nice clothes and it was clearly an expensive restaurant. Unfortunately, our dining companions were very disagreeable. There were a large group of them and when we were seated at a long table facing the ocean, several of them complained that it would be too hot with the sun coming in.

TheCSO and I liked the view and how you could look out the window into the water three or four feet below the floor of the restaurant, so we weren't inclined to complain. When everyone else at our table got up to complain to the maitre'd, we just sat there talking. The group of surly folks returned and said we were staying at this table, but they had gone ahead and ordered for us. I remember saying something about how ordering for us wasn't nice and got a sneer for my efforts.

The food had started to arrive when theCSO looked out the window and said "A sea turtle!" A large sea turtle was right in the water outside our window. Our companions are uninterested but theCSO and I run up to the windows.

"Let's get a picture!" I say.

We head outside the restaurant and stand next to the water, but the sea turtle has turned away a bit. He and I look at each other, smile, hold our cellphones up above our heads and jump down into the water, getting salt water on our nice clothes. We run around taking pictures of the turtle and each other and smiling and laughing.

And at some point I woke up.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bad science is dangerous.

The study finding that Anti-depressants don't really work on people with mild to moderate depression has only been famous for a couple of weeks. It has inspired countless conversations, a few of which I've been a part of about how these drugs don't work and are just a scam by drug companies. Most recently, I had facebook argument with someone essentially claiming that psychiatrists are quacks and don't know anything and people with mental illnesses are really just people who choose to behave differently who are punished by our society for their different choice of behaviors*.


Anyway, now that the hippies are all convinced that the man is just cheating them and depressive people are emptying their pill bottles out, it comes out that the study really wasn't all that great and the science behind it was actually pretty bad.

I'm guessing THAT story will get less attention and in some cases the damage is already done.

Now THAT'S depressing.


*Note that the DSM's basic approach is "sure you have symptoms, but are they bad enough to screw with your life?" So someone who is choosing to be depressed, obsessively clean, drink eight bottles of wine every day with no negative consequences for or impact on their life, would not be diagnosable under that standard.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stuck this up on Facebook awhile back

But it deserves to be here too. What your favorite author says about you

The F. Scott Fitzgerald entry is genius and the Hunter S. Thompson one made me laugh out loud.

You should probably take this is the same spirit that you took the What your favorite drink says about you thing I linked to a couple of years ago.

whose favorite author Robertson Davies isn't listed.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My new least favorite opinion piece theme

"People on Facebook are posting updates with their bra color to get people talking about breast cancer. Even if I don't say it explicitly, you can tell by my derisive tone that I think this is foolish and silly and will never work. Also, I shall quote people saying that it won't work. But while I'm writing an article in this national publication about this thing that my publication only cares about because people are talking about it, I will go ahead and mention lots of stuff about breast cancer. But yeah, posting your bra color to get people talking will never work"



Salon's version

Newsweek's version

Politics Daily's Version

The Houston Press' version

The Washington Post's Version (Somewhat more balanced)

the London Telegraph's Version (Someone balanced if you read all the way to the end, but gets its shots in)

Forbes' version

And there are MANY more...

Another sign that we're not a close family

ChaliceMom: Hello-o!

Chalicechick: Hi Mom.

ChaliceMom: So have you graduated yet?

Chalicechick: I would have told you.

ChaliceMom: Oh, well, you know we don't talk very much.

somewhat dispirited when Mom was like "So you have a WHOLE 'NOTHER YEAR?" Actually, being able to graduate in three and a half years from a four year part time program is pretty good, I thought.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

More on prayer, petitionary and otherwise

As far as I can remember, I've only really attempted three kinds of petitionary prayer on my own since childhood:

1. The "please help me find my keys" prayer that mostly just calms me down enough to remember where they were

2. The "I am desperate to fall asleep after hours of insomnia so I'm going to lie here with my eyes closed and ask God to bless literally everyone I can think of" prayer where I try to list every person I've ever known until sleep comes.

Neither of those remotely qualify as turning to God without turning away from self and unless there is some dark consequence to me finding my keys, they don't seem to apply to the question I asked last night about one's responsibilities when asking God for something*.

3. Sometimes, when I'm passing a scene of an accident or something, I find myself thinking "Please let that person be OK" but that's almost a reflex, not a thought out and considered sort of prayer, so I don't know that it counts. Yet for all I know, a serial killer is in that ambulance, so I can't say that it's entirely divorced from these issues.

I've also been known to pray a "Hey, if there's anyone out here who can hear this, thank you so much for what just happened, I am so very grateful for all the wonderful gifts in my life," though I don't do that one often enough. I sometimes attempt more contemplative sorts of prayers, though I worry that my short attention span will be a problem. If there is a God of the prayer-listening variety, I hope God is understanding about prayers than begin meditative and wander off into earthly concerns and just plain thinking over things.


*The concept of "blessing" is, I think, sufficiently diffuse and open to God's interpretation that I don't think any harm can come of it, should it be answered.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Petitionary Prayer and Snow

Prayer is petition, intercession, adoration, and contemplation; great saints and mystics have agreed on this definition. To stop short at petition is to pray only in a crippled fashion. Further, such prayer encourages one of the faults which is most reprehended by spiritual instructors — turning to God without turning from Self.
-Robertson Davies

A long time ago, I worked with a young woman who was a serious conservative Christian. One day when snow was expected, she told me that she didn't want to come to work the next day and that she would be praying hard for snow. The next day there was a huge snow dump over the entire East Coast.

I would later read in the paper that the large scale snowstorm killed 14 people across several states. (The American south is not much used to snow and gets it so rarely that being really ready for it is prohibitively expensive.)

To me, this woman praying for a deadly snowstorm raises a few questions, questions that assume, as they very concept of petitionary prayer does, that prayers can be answered:

--When we pray for something, do we have a duty to think about the consequences of what we are praying for? Or is that God's job?

--If the consequences are God's job, then what is the point of petitionary prayer in the first place since God is likely to endorse the best course of action no matter what you ask?


Read a book this year that you think you won't like...and write about it

Over at Salon, the book critic writes that one of her New Years Resolutions is to read a book or two in a genres or with subjects that she doesn't usually like. I think this is a great idea. Part of reading is broadening your mind, right?

So this year, I resolve to read a couple of books that I don't think I will like*, and because I like to write about things, though I don't usually write about books much, I'm going to write about them here. When I do, I'm going to keep in mind that I don't know as much about the subject/genre as most readers.

I'm open to suggestions. Here are some types of books that I almost never read:

Political screed...Chick Lit...written before 1900 and not by Jane Austen, Shakespere or George Eliot...Western...Travelogue...Vampire...Biographies of political/military figures...Romance...Unlikely to pass the Bechdel test**...Historical novel...Memoir by someone who wasn't an old Hollywood movie star...Self originally written in a language other than English that had to be translated and isn't Don Quixote...fantasy***...military...anything that reminds me of Raymond Carver...a memoir about anyone finding themselves...books about music...books about illegal drug use...books about a religion other than Christianity...Young adult that isn't Harry Potter...philosophy..."I did this strange thing for a year just to write about it" books...anything Nora Ephron wrote or would be tempted to make a movie out of.

Anyway, yeah, Suggestions welcome.


*When I think about the subject "Books I won't like," the first thing to come to mind is that the "Eat, Pray, Love" woman has written yet another book about dealing with her first world dramas in a third world setting. She totally needs a cameo in the next "Avatar" movie. Anyway I'm not sure I'm ready to subject myself to reading her actual book.

** The Bechdel test, usually used for movies, is

1. There must be at least two women
2. Who have a conversation
3. About something other than a man

*** I read some Sci-fi though, and the line isn't always clear

Monday, January 04, 2010

That post about Philo

Got an email from LinguistFriend the other day. I shall reprint it in its entirety, sans salutation and signature:

You need to post a salute to Chris on the demise of his blog, while acknowledging gratitude for his continuing contribution in a different form, as editor of UU World and gray eminence in the blogging world.

While I prefer my suggestions for blog posts to come to me phrased as questions, I had to concede that LF was correct. At the time, I wrote LF back to say that a lot of people had already written about the demise of Philocrites. But not enough people have, so here goes.

Philocrites was a great UU blog. Indeed, it was the blog that really got me started blogging. I had been posting on beliefnet for awhile and its current admin and I didn't get along, so I was primed to leave. I read Philo's blog and thought "Hey, I could do a funnier, less informed version of that." Then one day I was posting a comment to Ministrare and literally created a blog for myself by accident while trying to just create a login for myself. But reading Philocrites put me on that path.

It's funny how even with this memory, I can go back and read something of Philo's and be blown away by how thoughtful and wonderful it is, but I totally can. Philo's reflection on the transformative nature of Evangelical faith and how we don't really do that, for example.

Philo was always very direct and forthcoming with challenging ideas like "By acknowledging that there are parts of my personal religious life that take place outside of Unitarian Universalism, I'm not suggesting that Unitarian Universalist congregations and institutions can't serve or promote genuinely satisfying religious lives. I think they can. In fact, they do. But I am saying that UU congregations operate within an increasingly post-denominational world in which people bring a range of expectations and needs that a single institution may not be able to fulfill. I always found that wonderful and admirable, especially in a man who works for the UUA and might have to deal with an annoyed reader in person first thing in the morning.*

He was kind of the silverbacked monkey of UU bloggers and was treated as such by other UU bloggers for years. I have several times written him with questions like "What's the UU World's policy on...?" "Have you heard of this crazy person who is writing me..." and what to do about various issues arising in the blogosphere. His response was unfailingly polite and quick and thoughtful and reasonable.

I really don't think the UU blogosphere would be what it is without Philo's early contributions and he will be missed around here. IMHO, you can best honor the legacy of Philocrites by reading his blog, thinking about what you find there, and writing about it on a blog of your own.


*Whether I am blogging or reviewing a play, I hate dealing with people I've written about. Last summer, I found myself physically hiding from someone whose work I had very positively reviewed in the DC City Paper. Philo never really had that choice, and still he didn't pull punches.


I hate it when the cops lie to protect their own. It really does seem to happen all the time. Sometimes, it's a matter of interpretation where an agency reads what appears to be a straightforward policy in a way different from how the public does. I can live with that, especially when a policy is vague.

But in this case, there was evidence on video all over the internet from multiple sources that the police were just plain lying about what happened, and they kept telling those lies in the face of it.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Friday, January 01, 2010