Friday, September 23, 2011

A scattered roundup of stuff I like

First off, I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but just sent me this again. I like to use it as a chalice lighting for youth stuff, though I don't have it memorized:


Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I'm half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.

Robert Francis

Short Fiction.
I was facebook chatting with a friend and he told me about this short story. The ChaliceMom is a big O. Henry fan, but I don't recall reading that one in any of her collections, though I'm sure it was there. I've read what was essentially the same story in a Roald Dahl short story collection, but I liked O. Henry's version better.

Long fiction
I'm parway through Will Ferguson's Happiness but I don't know if I will make it all the way. Comic novels are often like cheesecake for me. Each individual bite is great, but at some point, ick. Still, the bites have been good so far.

I've also been rereading My Life and Loves by Frank Harris. I realize my love of bawdy novels is not a universal thing, but this one seriously isn't that bad and it is a great read.

OK, I haven't SEEN this, but the preview makes it look like exactly my sort of thing

Short Non-Fiction
The Economist, of all places, gives a shoutout to people who talk the way I do.

I know a lot of you have probably read Tender at the Bone but I was telling a friend about it the other day, so I thought I'd mention it here. It is the the memoir of a former food critic for the New York Times, and it isn't even about her food critic years, though she has written a good book about those too. I can't even really describe what I like about this book in that my memory is there are parts that arn't all that compelling. All lives have uninteresting years, I suppose. But when Reichel's life is interesting, it really is. Her childhood has some things in common with mine, which made that part an extremely compelling read.

Also, because I'm a huge nerd, I've been keeping Robert's Rules of Order for Dummies next to my bathtub for long sessions of bubble bath and procedural law. Don't knock it
'til ya tried it, kids.

I've recently started reading Sex, Drugs and June Cleaver, mostly because I met the author at a con and became a big fan of her as a human being. I've been sticking some of my favorites from her archives on Facebook.

I haven't been to a good gallery show in a long time, but I saw this at the National Gallery with Melina in May, and it is a great show. While it was too broad to be a good show for learning all that much about what I'm looking at and how it all connects, but I got to renew my crush on Modigliani, so that's something.
I feel like I'm a bad abstract expressionism fan if I don't make it up to the DeKooning show at MOMA before it closes at the end of the year, at the same time, I think I'd rather go see the Zaha Hadid show in Philly. If anybody wants to make plans to see either of those, I'm there. Seeing Mary-who-Dances and going to Fabulous Fanny's might make the DeKooning show a winner after all.

Too many to name, but I started reading this one today and have already learned a lot.

I've been listening to a lot of Bird and the Bee recently:

who is also on book four of the Dresden files, FWIW. I'm told they get better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Disconnection

I've been going back and forth for nearly 48 hours over whether to write this.

That usually means I shouldn't.

But I was ready to drive home from work today and the sky opened up. A smarter person would use this valuable quiet office time to catch up on work, but I've had a pretty productive day and I don't think I'm going to.

Because something's bothering me.

I didn't realize how much really until I was thinking over a dream I had yesterday. In my dream someone was telling me how cold I was, a charge I've heard before though rarely from my own mind.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 really didn't resonate with me. I'm a little weirded out, partially because I follow a lot of awesome and spiritual people on twitter. All of yesterday, my twitter feed and my facebook feed were an ever-pumping heart of emotion. Sadness, even despondency, at the loss, anger at the Bush administration, it was all there and vital and real.

I watched it all unmoved.

I retweeted something at some point about how we should watch porn to prove the terrorists didn't win. Over dinner, theCSO pointed out that they did win. I countered that they hadn't gotten exactly what they wanted to the degree that they wanted, but yeah, he has a point. Malcolm Gladwell argues in one of his books that the amount of time we spend on TSA related delays adds up to 14 lifetimes a year.
I don't take Malcolm Gladwell as fact, but that's at least truthy.

Even still, what's 14 lives? Seriously. 14 people will easily have died in the amount of time it takes you to read this blog post. Does it really matter if they choke on hamburgers or suffer kidney failure or die in a terrorist attack?

It isn't that national events don't effect me. A good look at my blog archive reveals a woman who kinda whacked out when Hurricane Katrina beat up the City of
New Orleans and the government left her for dead. Ok, that's not what happened, but that's still how it feels years later.

9-11 doesn't have that resonance for me. And I'm not sure why because the two events have a lot in common. I've never lived in New York like I did in New Orleans, but I like New York and strongly associate it with Mary-who-Dances. I do view both events as essentially natural disasters. I don't know that either disaster could have been prevented but strongly suspect not. I do know that both could have been handled a lot better in the aftermath.

Maybe it is just that I feel like America cared about 9-11 and I still have a sense of betrayal, just or no,* about New Orleans.

After Hurricane Katrina, one of my coworkers said "I hear there are people in New Orleans who are shooting at the cops."

I said something flip about them likely being the same crackheads who are always shooting at the cops, the only difference was that now the narrative was being used to let us think that the victims deserved what they got.

Ok, I don't think I put it that well at the time but it is what I meant and I think that might be part of what's bothering me. The huge line between mostly rich white people (like me) being unquestionably heroes and mostly poor black people (not like me) being looters and ungrateful and spendthrifts and everything else that was lobbied at them. (You think no 9/11 survivor got a boob job with some of the money? I suspect someone did, though I don't know. But we know for certain that a Katrina victim spent government aid money on one. The media made rather a big point of it.)

I love my friends and I'm sure a lot of the stuff that has been written about 9/11 is moving and awesome and helpful to the people for whom this crisis is still a real wound that is deeply felt. But the only thing I've read on the topic that has really meant anything to me was Laura Miller's essay Why we haven't seen a great 9-11 novel because she says what I've trying to articulate to myself for some time**:

a firefighter who dies trying to pull people from a garden-variety house fire in Queens is no less brave or heroic. The civilians who perish in that fire or in a six-car pileup caused by black ice on an interstate or in a boat caught in a sudden storm or in a massacre by a gun-toting maniac in an IHOP are just as dead and just as fiercely mourned by their friends and family as those who died on 9/11.

Miller goes on to say that 9/11 was a tragedy made to be a media spectacle, made to force us to look on a real-live Micheal Bay movie. Once you're past that, the deaths don't fundamentally differ from any other deaths, the heroism no different from any other heroism. And like for the rest of life, there is no easy narrative that perfectly suits what we've always thought politically, despite many people's desire to create one.

So, that's where I am on 9-11. And I know nobody was sitting on the edge of their seat going "but what does CHALICECHICK think about 9-11?" but I guess part of me needed to see someone other than Laura Miller be the cold one who doesn't quite get it.


EDIT: I got a very kind and smart email from a nice person who pointed out that I am friended with a whole lot of ministers who were trying to reach out and care for those around them, something that it wasn't as much my job to do. That's an excellent point and one that should have been obvious to me, but wasn't.

*Yes, I'm aware that I'm the one who relentlessly pushes FBI statistics on crime in border towns and doesn't care how people *FEEL* about the crime rate due to immigration in the face of the fact that Arizona cities have comparitively low crime rates. The difference here is that I'm not trying to legislate my arguably irrational and unsupported-by-fact feelings. Arizonans did.

**To clarify, I recall being as upset as anybody else in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

"Dude, you should check this out," a model for real world evangelizing.

Over the weekend I was on my church's retreat. Yes, we're a large church and we have one. We rent a YMCA camp.

We do a lot of workshops there. I taught one on Bellydancing (which I'm a relative newbie at) and making weird stuff out of duct tape (which longtime Chalicesseurs will know I'm pretty good at.)

There was also a discussion group with a church committee, part of which became about
growing the church.*

As a group, we seemed collectively nervous about the idea of evangelism. And I get that, because I am too. I've lived in the South, where people coming up to you and inviting you to go to church is a common thing. At the same time, the discussion made me think about how I evangelize other things in my life that I like and appreciate.

Point of fact, sometime last year, my husband and I discovered a kickass Thai restaurant. If you're in the DC area, you probably want to know that this place is called "Elephant Jumps"** I learned about the place at my old job. The owner was my boss' brother-in-law. TheCSO and I first went just to give them some business, but we were blown away with how good it was. It was the best curry I'd ever had, and I love curry. It was cheap, it was delicious and they had some Thai-American fusion dishes so we could even take our friends who view Thai food as gastronomically adventurous. (The ChaliceDad is one of those people.)

It was, in short, everything we wanted in a Thai restaurant. As new restaurants have a something like 50 percent survival rate in a good economy, it was very important to us that this place survive. Like a church, a restaurant must essentially grow to survive, especially in the DC area where lots of people are always moving away.

I used this example, though with less detail, in the discussion at the retreat. I said that theCSO and I made a concerted effort to spread the word about Elephant Jumps. At the same time, we didn't, and at this point I turned to address the guy sitting next to me, an occaisional Chalicesseur (Hi Tom!), and said "We don't say 'I'd like to tell you about my journey of personal growth that has lead me to a really good restaurant."

Everyone laughed, and I did say it in a funny way, but my fundamental point about evangelism was serious. We get so scared of evangelizing, but we do it all the time.

The thing is, I don't know that the type of evangelism that we're afraid of is the kind of evangelism we should be doing in the first place. Elephant Jumps didn't have a "bring a friend" day and theCSO and I never talked to strangers about it directly. I didn't wear a button that, symbolically or literally, said "Ask me about Elephant JUmps."

The owner of Elephant Jumps told us proudly recently that he's thinking of opening up a larger or second location. And, again, they opened in a terrible economy.

Anyway, here are the elements of the model I'm proposing, let's call it the
"Elephant Jumps model of Evangelising."

1. A kickass product.
We have an amazing interim minister. I've always thought this, but I realized how deeply I believed it when someone on facebook was looking for a DC church to visit. I looked up what the service was about and I found myself responding "My minister is preaching about Canada. I know that doesn't SOUND promising, but every service she gives is good."
I've rarely felt comfortable saying that so confidently. Indeed, the last time I've had a minister who was consistently thoughtful and awesome in the pulpit every single Sunday was when I was in Katy-the-Wise's congregation.
Now, I don't kick ass at my job every single day, though goodness knows I try. I assume even our minister has off days, but even if she should have one, our music director is so tremendous that I still feel confident saying "Come to my church and Sunday morning will rock." I don't say that if it's a lay service because we've had some mediocre lay services in the past. Mine may or my not be among their number.
But anyway, our church manages to have consistently awesome preaching, much like Elephant Jumps does consistently amazing things with tilapia.

I couldn't have evangelized about Elephant Jumps if they didn't have amazing food in the first place.

2. Get the word out to your friends.
This should not be an awkward discussion. IMHO, if it is awkward you're doing it wrong. If you had a fabulous meal at Elephant Jumps and someone were talking about good noodle dishes, you'd bring it up, right? Evangelism for church should work the same way. Saying something like "(My minister/this lady at my church/a religious education class I took) made the most fabulous point about that..." at a relevant point in a conversation about spirituality/life/etc is my favorite way to evangelize to friends. Don't make recruitment your goal. Make modeling how a person can be relgious without being a pain about it your goal. Don't go recruiting, but don't hide how much you like your church and how much it enriches your life.

You can invite people to church, of course, but I only do that when I'm pretty sure there's something the person I'm inviting would be specifically interested in and include a social thing with you afterwards. (E.g. "I know religion and homosexuality is something you're interested in. My church is doing a thing on that this Sunday. If you show up, I'll take you to brunch afterwards" or "Doing anything on Friday? I wrote a mystery story and I'm reading it at my church cabaret. Show up and we can go for dirnks afterwards.")

3. Get the word out in an even wider way. \
My first step in getting the word out about Elephant Jumps wasn't even verbal, though I told lots of people about it in the ensuing week or two and have done so in small doses since. My first shoutout about Elephant Jumps was on on Yelp. As I've mentioned here before, I found my first UU church, Katy-the-Wise's, from their website. My latest bit of online evangelism is to tweet about awesome stuff I hear about in church using a hashtag for my church.
The spiffy thing about this is, I have some friends who do things like that too. We've formed what feels to me like the beginnings of an online religious community as we just tweet stuff that is meaningful to us. I love this because honestly having church be somewhere I can "check in" whenever I'm low on spiritual fuel is more important to me than having it as a place to go Sunday morning.***
More importantly, it sends the message "You think I'm cool enough to follow on Twitter, well, here's something I think is cool enough to write about."

Anyway, that's my plan for evangelizing a church. It's what I'm comfortable with, and honestly, it's what I feel would work for me. If I were looking for a church, I'd check it out online**** and when my friend was jazzed about how great his/her church, was, I'd listen.

It's not going on on street corners, but I really do think it could work.


*there were also discussions about stuff like the Middle East, with guys who would be in a position to know. I personally couldn't deal with that at a retreat because my perception is that I start smelling like a horse within minutes of arrival, but I'm delighted that we have these things. One of the badass things about going to a large church is that we've got members who do all sorts of cool stuff for a living. If my church could figure out a way to use its human capital more efficiently, we would be in great shape to actually do awesome things in this world.

**If you know Northern VA and want to get specific, you know that place "Grevey's" in Meriffield near INOVA Fairfax? Same shopping center.

*** I know you may not agree. I do see the value of brick and morter churches, I just find words and ideas churches as valuable if not more so personally.

****Negative reviews online aren't inherently all that offputting to me. That someone would have a bad experience is going to happen. But positive reviews mean a lot to me. I don't yelp about every restaurant, I yelp about the ones that make the experience memorable.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

I don't blog much, but I do still comment

I just left a long-winded one on The TogetherBoss Blog.

TogetherBeth has a blog now.

If you go there and my comment isn't up yet, feel free to come back and read her post again. Most people need to be told things multiple times these days.

Including me.

who is having a long day.