Most Important Job
The stuff that spills out of my head. Half Journal, half Blog, half stream of consciousness, half meaningless blather, half....

My name is Cody Clark.
If you're interested, you can find out about me here and here. But this is the site where I am most at home. Please excuse the mess.

I love guests, like everybody else, so sign my Guestbook.

Oh and if you wish to shower me with gifts, here's my wish list.

Listening To
United Future Organization
Thievery Corporation
Steve Reich
Mocean Worker
Bowling For Soup
Barenaked Ladies

The Constant Companion
   by Eknath Easwaran
   by Leonard Sweet
The Perennial Philosophy
   by Aldous Huxley
Peace Like A River
   by Leif Enger
Tomorrow Now
   by Bruce Sterling
An Intimate History of Humanity
   by Theodore Zeldin
   by Neil Gaiman
White Noise
   by Don Delillo
Creating Positive Futures
   by James Ogilvy

Stuff To Do
Environmental Scanning
Work on Waitt Foundation Community Site content
Finally learn how to use Paint Shop Pro
Put poetry on website
Finish friend's tshirt
Paint more tshirts

People to See
Rebecca Blood
Fleming Funch
Chris Corrigan
Peter Russell
Phil Ringalda
Phil Gyford
Mark And(erson)
Bob McDaniel
Nick Bostrom
Mary T.
Margaret Berry
Eliot Wilder
Daniel Talsky
Fred from Floyd
Gwen Zepeda
Alison Hawke
Malcom Davidson
Veronica Nichols
Caterina Fake
Meg Pickard
Kurt Brobeck
Dave Trowbridge
Sarah Hepola
Matthew Sturges

Places to Go
Building Tomorrow's Communities
Mondo News
Arts & Letters Daily
SciTech Daily Review
Arts Journal
Business Daily Review
Red Rock Eater
Obscure Store
Robot Wisdom
Boing Boing
Daley News
Raising Hell
Internet Scout
The Marriage Movement
Shifted Librarian
Deviant Art
Relapsed Catholic
Holy Weblog!
Sursum Corda
not martha


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This page is an H-town blog.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Doh! (read, read, read) Doh! (read, read) Doh!....

According to Margaret Berry's new article on ettiquette in The Morning News, I am quite the social clod. Regardless it was a good, if self-effacing, read.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Closer to the heart, part 3

So I am ending my odd lectio over the lyrics of this Rush song (long story. see below.) and I've had time to ponder a few of the other stanzas. Two of the stanzas challenge me to reassess who I am in the roles I play and what that implies in my life:

"And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the Heart"

On first blush, I thought this was talking about rich people and political leaders. But you know, I hold a very high place. I am extraordinarily blessed, especially as compared to humanity as a whole. I would guess that if you are reading this you hold a very high place in the world too. And from those to whom much is given, much will be expected. Yes, I believe that regular folks like me need to "wake up" to the fact that we are the world's elite and take the responsibility that implies.

"Philosophers and Ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart"

This one was tricky. I am a philosopher *and* a ploughman. I wear multiple hats -- father, husband, software engineer, catechist, poet, artist, futurist (who has the luxury of wearing just one hat these days?) And I definitely favor some hats over others. Some are just plain more fun.

As a result, I often shortchange what I judge to be the mundane "ploughman" hats in favor of the fun "philosopher" hats. But I know that I must honor each one as they are all from God and have a part in his plan for me. If I want that mentality that is "Closer to the Heart" then I must love God with all my heart and each and every hat I wear.

And so my assessment of this little episode is that God is calling me to be closer to her through greater spiritual discipline and discipline in general. This is something I had always known in the back of my mind -- I need more self-discipline. But experiencing a call, however mundane, is a spark that I need to drag my butt out of bed and meditate, crack that scripture, and get back to basics. I guess I could be imagining this whole "call in the form of a Rush song" thing, but if it leads me into deeper prayer and contemplation, it doesn't matter to me if it's real or imagined.

Hmmm... You know, people usually think of the Voice of God as being this big booming bass. Wouldn't it be funny if it really were a high screechy tenor like Geddy Lee's?

Boundless, Beautiful

What a lovely scripture. Reads like poetry.

I am the boundless ocean.

This way and that,
The wind, blowing where it will,
Drives the ship of the world.

But I am not shaken.

I am the unbounded deep
In whom the waves of all the worlds
Naturally rise and fall.

But I do not rise or fall.

-Ashtavakra Gita 7:1-2

That reminds me of a story from one of Anthony DeMello's books about a Salt Doll. The Salt Doll wanted to know who he was and so he went about asking people. One day he encountered the ocean and was impressed by its vast beauty. So he asked it if it knew who he was. The ocean said "Come in and see." Just as the last part of the Salt Doll was about to dissolve, he said, "Now I know who I am!"

(I guess a fresh water lake wouldn't have been as instructive.)

So I am a Salt Doll. I want to know. But I am afraid of dissolving, of course.

Monday, July 29, 2002
Elmer! Elmer! Elmer!

Here he is -- Elmer T. Zilch in all his resin and acrylic glory. He's the patron saint of my old fraternity chapter I was talking about a few days back. For a statue, he's a truly happenin' dude. His idea of a good time is going out and getting laquered. Heh.

Thanks to Roger Ludlow, an even older alumnus than I, for the picture.

Plush Cooking

Lesson Learned: If you wish to preheat the lower oven in our kitchen, check the inside for toysl. Mr. Freshpants apparently likes to, I dunno, put some of his toys in solitary I guess. So tonight for dinner along with meatloaf we almost cooked a wooden train, one of Petunia's rattles, and a teddy bear. The bear used to be called "Goober" and Mr. Freshpants just called him "Bear". But now we have a new name for him (I bet you see this coming)....Smokey. Smokey the Bear. Get it?

Other than a little burnt mark and a new "crispy" sheen, Smokey will be fine. Mr. Freshpants was a little traumatized, but he'll be okay.

Closer to the Heart part 2

And so I meditated (see below). This is what I'm getting so far:

"You can be the Captain
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart"

So, a couple of days before I played the song, I had pulled down this book, one of the ones that mock me from my bookshelf for owning them and never reading them. I was feeling a vague yearning to read something spiritual. Of course the first thing I did was lay it on my bedside table which functions as a kind of a purgatory for books I "intend" to read but never get to. I didn't pick it up and start reading it until I pondered the stanza above. It was called The Way Of The Heart by Henri Nouwen.

What struck me right off was Nouwen's call to silence and solitude in God's presence -- something sorely missing in my life. And so I put down the book and just sat there for awhile and felt, well, nothing. I heard nothing. Saw nothing. Pondered nothing. Just sat. And in my sitting I had no epiphanies. But that 30 minutes or so felt right. And I feel led to do more, to cultivate more spiritual discipline in my life. To sit and do nothing.

So I could be the "captain", but God would "draw the chart". And then I noticed the book I had already chosen called, "The Way of The Heart" which led me to where I believe God was calling me. Coincidence? You can believe that if you wish. As long as you understand that coincidence, like the Voice of God, is more in the way one perceives than in what one perceives. You may say it was coincidence. I say it was God. Either way, one chooses what to believe. I choose God.

Saturday, July 27, 2002
a "little bird" told me...

So this song popped into my head about two days ago and would not go away. I tried all the usual tricks -- liquor, hypnosis, listening to the Barney theme -- to get it out of my head. It kept coming back more insistently. Finally a voice inside my head said "You have the CD, go listen to it." So I did it this morning. Twice. The song went away, but now I am pondering the words and what they mean in my life right now.

You see, I believe the voice in my head, the one that talks to me, is God. God told me to dig out a Rush song and play it. (Yes, Overflow would now score high on "Is my blog Nuts or Not?" website.)

Okay, so most people call this voice a "hunch" or the "superego" or a "little bird" or "fate" or "chance" or "luck." I don't really believe in any of those things very much. It takes as much faith to believe everything happens by pure chance as it does to believe that God is the Prime Mover, so I choose to believe in God. Whatever works for you, right?

I can remember the first time I realized he/she talks to me. I was standing about ankle deep in water from a broken washer connection and I was reaching to unplug my dryer to move it out of the way when I heard something like, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU IDIOT?" from a voice in my head. My ass was totally saved from being fried by my own stupidity just in the nick of time. Now there are about fifteen different explanations that scientists could offer about that voice and how it saved me -- I just choose to think of it as God yelling at me. I know it's a choice to believe this, but it's my choice. In fact, most of the things that God says to me end up with words something like, "...You Idiot!" I walk around with my head in the clouds most of the time. His voice, or his grace in the form of his servant Heidi, usually function to bring me back to earth.

So why am I telling you this? Why am I ensuring that you will think I am not just weird, but nutso and weird?

Because this was the song that God was pushing on me -- it's called "Closer to the Heart"

"And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the Heart

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
Forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart

Philosophers and Ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart

You can be the Captain
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart"

Now, what am I supposed to do with this? Sometimes I get that "Who let the Dogs Out" song stuck in my head (woof. woof. woof woof.) but I don't feel like that one speaks to me very much. What does this one mean to me at this point in my life right now? I didn't say God explained things to me, he just talks sometimes.I have been feeling a real pull, but to where? Something to meditate on.

Sweet. Online Megachurches and Web-savvy Christians.

Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio gets it. They are a Protestant Church that does a dynamic cyber ministry. They have multimedia online sermons by their pastor, Mike Slaughter. They have the best online ministry I have ever seen for a Christian Church. Why oh why can't we Catholics do this kind of thing?

I discovered Ginghamsburg through a book called Aquachurch which is written by my favorite Christian Futurist Leonard Sweet. He's kind of like the Faith Popcorn of Christian Futurists. I already have his Postmodern Pilgrims, SoulTsunami, and SoulSalsa books. If you had to pick one of his to read first, I'd pick SoulTsunami if you're interested in a survey of the Christian future and SoulSalsa if you just want to apply some of his futurist ideas to your life.

Still Going...

This is an old favorite from, like, three years ago or so. This Guy is seriously pretty funny: Eric Conveys An Emotion. It's what you get when you combine a flair for web design, an expressive face, and a little extra time -- you name the emotion, he makes the face and posts it on his site. He's surprisingly good. Of course, back when I saw him years ago, he was doing simple emotions like "consternation" and "indifference" (Actually not so easy. Try it. I did.) and now gets requests (he takes requests, BTW) for stuff like "I'm too sexy for my shirt" and "the face of erectile dysfunction."

I'm happy he's still going. I think I'll sidebar this guy along with the other five or six I've been meaning to add links to for about a week now. I love finding interesting folks on the Internet. Oh, I said that already, didn't I?

Friday, July 26, 2002
Not Gonna Do It. Wouldn't Be Prudent

Though I am curious, there's no way I will do this: "hot or not" for blogs. Probably because I just don't want to know. Besides my blog has the insecurity that comes with a journal-weblog split personality. I did rate a few blogs for kicks while I was there. Most looked like fives to me. Average webpeople, average weblogs.

Another blog staple I probably will not make a practice of doing is posting "The Friday Five" or the "Tuesday Two" or "The Wednesday What" as entries on my blog. I know that they are good for writing stimulus and for building community amongst bloggers, but still. Same goes for all of those "Which [pop culture meme] are you?" tests. I almost did the one for "Which Trading Spaces Character Are You" but I couldn't tell how to answer the questions so I could come out to be Ty Pennington.

Seriously, these things are just not me, that's all. I'll just bore you with the stuff I think up on my own.

But I will post one test result: I am (usually) an ENFP and sometimes an ENTP. I kinda cheated, since I didn't take the "Bloginality" test but knew my Meyers-Briggs type from a previous seminar. Everyone should know their Meyers-Briggs type, right?

Crossing Over

I have to confess. I like Creed.

There. I said it. Horribly unfashionable of me, I know. Most of you out there can now complete your mental picture of me, sitting in front of Jerry Springer in my trailer eating pork rinds. But I will not be ashamed.

They're not my favorite band by a long shot. And I am sick of "My Sacrifice" and "With Arms Wide Open" like everyone else. But I have some of their CDs and I play them occasionally and enjoy the experience, usually at high decibel levels.

I know pamie doesn't like them. In fact, she thinks that all the Christian music acts like Creed and P.O.D. should go back to the fringe (read: ghetto) where they belong. She bemoans crossover Christian music as "God Wailing."

I have been a pamie fan for years, don't get me wrong. And we like a lot of the same music. And I know (hope) that at least some of her kvetching about music is for comedic effect. But we just don't see eye to eye about this one.

And why should we? We're from different religions. You see, everyone has a religion even if it's a Default Religion. Everyone has answers to the Big Questions about Meaning and Values and Life and Death whether they accept one of the pre-packaged sets or just roll their own.. Just like the Rush song says, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." (God, I'm quoting Rush lyrics now. What am I, like, thirteen again?)

And I can live with that. I'm okay, you're okay. But in the Culture today, the Default Religion Dominates. When I flip on the radio I have to wade hip-deep into the world of Bling-Bling, booty, blunts, and bitches. So excuuuuuse me for being glad when a song or two breaks onto the charts and finally speaks to me where I live. I'm not even asking for equal time here. Just a simple presence, that's all.

On their musical merits, I agree, Creed and P.O.D. are unremarkable. They are two among the flock of Pearl Jam/Korn hybrid clone bands whose sound has been so, well, done to death. Their lyrics suffer from the same ham-fisted sentimentality that a lot of Christian music suffers from. But when one band for some reason or another breaks out of the Christian Music Ghetto and gets a place in the spotlight for a while, that's a cause for celebration. And it's nice to be able to rock out once in a while, a la Tom Cruise in Risky Buiness, to something that won't leave a grimy residue on your pshyche.

Thursday, July 25, 2002
Annoid Me

I know that it is common practice for businesses to take liberties with spelling and grammar on their signs, like spelling "right" "rite" and "quick" "kwik." I can take that. Heck, my favorite mechanic is a place called "Kar King." I can even take the useless "e" added to the ends of the words "olde" "grille" and "shoppe" to give their store name that English mystique. But there's this one store whose name just bugs me -- a place called "Embroid Me" on Hwy 3 down in Webster. Embroid me. Setting aside the fact that there is no verb "Embroid," "Embroid Me" sounds like a place that people go for some sort of cut rate cosmetic surgery or body art. "Like my permanent eyeliner? There's a special at Embroid Me, $59.99!"

I don't know why that name bothers me so much when stores in strip malls that have the words "Hut" or "Shack" in their names do not. I can't explain it. I do know that I can barely stomach the name of this swimwear shop (not shoppe) I pass on my way home. It's called "The Wet Spot." Eeeeew. Who'd buy a bikini at a place called "The Wet Spot?" The association is just too... eeeeew.

Favorite business names of mine are simple and descriptive. "Half-Price Books." No mistaking that one. And there's no ambiguity about what "Italian Cafe" offers. My all time favorite is a place I passed while taking a detour through Shepherd, Texas. It had a barber pole out front and a sign above it that read "Guns and Haircuts." Not only could you tell what they were about, you could guess how they voted in the last election too. Now *there's* a name.

Taking Lumps and Liking It

I particularly liked Miss Guidance's Daily Scolding at BuddhaJones yesterday:

"If I could spit one word out of my vocabulary, it would be spiritual.

I use this word grudgingly only because I am trying to communicate with you on your level. You use the word spiritual as if it is one aspect of life, one segment that can be developed or ignored. This is wrong. Wrongedy-wrong-wrong.

I say "spiritual practice" and "spiritual path" as an inadequate convention of speech. What I'm talking about is life. Your ugly, delicious, messy life. There are no convenient partitions and categorizations of your life. I talk of varying phenomena that emerge in life, but these are all manifestations of a lovely, perplexing totality. There is no real separation between spiritual and material, profound and stupid.

This is good news, grumpus"

Now I say I liked this scolding because I agree with it wholeheartedly, which in turn means it's not really a scolding for me at all. There are other days where I take my scolding full on and I, ahem, don't share those.

Which is the greater opportunity to experience God -- a sink full of dirty dishes or an hour in church? BEEEEEP. Wrong! There is no right answer. Just wash the dishes and then go to church. I need to do both anyway, right?

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Smells Like Teen Spirit. Literally.

Down on the bar in our kitchen right now are four sticks of Teen Spirit deodorant and a package of Kotex Maxi Pads. Girlzilla, at the tender age of ten and a half, has hit puberty. Setting aside the disturbing implications of the trend toward increasingly early puberty in our young people, this is an unsettling experience for me. I thought I would have a few more years to prepare. Girlzilla was plenty prepared -- she'd seen The Film, had The Talk, and The Period Book is downright tattered by now. I, on the other hand, am not prepared.

I know, I know, this is not about me. I need to be there for my daughter who is going through a big change. But she is quite fine with it. In fact I would not be sharing this here if she were showing any signs whatsoever of being self-conscious or shy about it. But she's handling it very maturely and matter-of-factly. Good for her. In fact, as we were driving along tonight, she busted out with a question about the mechanics of feminine products and a short discussion ensued. I kept quiet, of course, this not being my bailiwick and all. No ma'am, not shy at all. Maybe not shy enough.

She and Heidi, in celebration of recent events, had a special Girls' Day today. And I had been saving this really neat book called Girlosophy to give her to go with my "I'm proud of`the woman you're becoming but you'll always be my little girl too" speech. My little Girlzilla. Sigh.

She may have been ready, but I don't think I am. It's all adolescence from here on out.

Just in time!

I got home today after a long day at work and had a pleasant surprise waiting for me. My package from Urban Jungle Yerba Mate had arrived. Whew, and I had just run out of my Cruz De Malta! I ordered two glass mates, which disappointingly turned out to be these little coffee serving mini-carafes that hotels sometimes use (but they were cheap). And I also got a half kilo of this organic fair-trade yerba mate. I don't mind paying extra for socially conscious products and this was about twice per ounce what I would normally pay for my stuff. Of course I get the rock bottom brand -- the only brand Fiesta Mart carries which is probably grown on some slash-and-burn former rainforest land by virtually indentured serfs and sprayed with pesticides that are banned here in the states. Twice as much is not so bad. What some of the health food stores want for their earth-friendly Guayaki Mate is outrageous now that I know that rock bottom price is about $5/kilo.

Anyway, the people sent me some samples of their other mate varieties along with a nice hand-written note. They seemed like a personable mom and pop operation. The most pleasant surprise was the toasted mate sample. It is a completely different taste from regular mate. Anyone put off by the "green" taste of a beverage that is touted as a coffee substitute should try the toasted varieties. This tastes like a true coffee substitute -- very nutty, rich, and smooth. I will probably have to order me some toasted mate now so I can collect the whole set!

And as a bonus, while I was looking for good mate prices I found a link to Gran Tangolandia, the store in southwest Houston which carries my favorite brands of mate. Now I can order mate from them without having to drive out there. I wonder if they have toasted mate?

The hits just keep on coming.

This is very funny. (via getdonkey!)

Let's hope it's just a bad movie plot

Apparently the chances are remote, but better than one in a million that an approaching asteroid will hit earth in 2019. Observations over the next few months will adjust the odds, hopefully downward. But to a futurist, this a valid "wildcard scenario". It's what distinguishes us from forecasters -- we consider low-peobability discontinuous change. Nothing more discontinuous than a continent-sized explosion that could render humanity extinct, eh? Futurists consider both the probability and the impact (no pun intended) of a wildcard scenario before deciding to entertain the implications seriously. Even the reasonable belief that such a collision is imminent would be an event of immense global impact.

I saw the movie Deep Impact. I gave it 2 1/2 stars. Feh. But I do know that if humanity were about to be destroyed by a large comet, I'd want to hear it from a guy like Morgan Freeman. And you know how people sometimes say that you should live like there's "no tomorrow?" I could see from that movie and other apocalyptic movies like Miracle Mile that people are nuts when there's no tomorrow. Nope, we all have to live like there will always be a tomorrow, right?

But we also have to be ready to go, too. You never know, it may not be an asteroid. It may be a stray bullet, a bus, or a lump on your liver. (Cheery, huh?)

Your Mom who told you to wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident had it pretty much right. Take that wisdom and extrapolate it across your whole life. Is your life tight? Bills paid, insurance, wills? Juggling any big lies? Strained relationships? All your people know that you love them? Any undelivered apologies? And how clean *is* your underwear?

Back in tenth grade English class my writing teacher had us do this exercise called "Dead Man's Pockets" where we had to be the poor schmuck who inventories the personal effects recovered from a man who was just found dead. The teacher, Ms. Rozypal, laid out a collection of stuff and then we had to write for the rest of the class period about this guy. What would people write about me if they had to go through my personal effects, my stuff, my life? What kind of person would they say I was? Ditto for God, I guess, whose opinion would be understandably more important, given the situation and all.

That's a good little prayer exercise. I'm talking to myself, really, not you. But if the shoe fits you too, be my guest.

I guess the best way to spiff up your life before the Big One comes is to clean as you go, huh?

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Hard-wired to be soft-hearted

I caught sight of this as a EurekAlert! release a few days ago, but today it's a story in the New York Times (free registration required): Scientists at Emory Universtiy used brain imaging on subjects who were playing a Prisoners' Dillemma type game. they discovered that certain pleasure centers of the brain lit up when the players chose to cooperate with one another. If you know the Prisoners' Dilemma, people must choose to cooperate before they know whether their decision will pay off or whether they get burned by the other players. These signals, similar to the ones obtained by exposure to desserts, pretty faces, money, cocaine, and other licit and illicit pleasures, occured before any payoff occurred. This is yet more evidence that our brains are wired to prefer collaboration and altruism.

This all reminds me of the reading I have been doing on kenosis as an ordering principle of the universe. Recent developments in zoology and evolutionary biology support the claim that altruism is a driving evolutionary force and not just a more evolved competition strategy. Now results like these make stronger the arguments for altruism as a driving force in evolutionary psychology as well.

So this is another step in the mental staircase I am building to make the other-centered, self-emptying theology of Kenosis span from a metaphysical ordering principle to a political, social, and economic ethic. Sure I could be wrong. There could be no ordering principle to the universe. We could all live in a hell of existential nothingness. But my idea is so much cheerier, isn't it?

I wish I were a resin statue sometimes....

I saw Amelie last night. What a delightful movie! Made me want to go skip some stones or run my hand through some beans. I won't give much away, but there was a subplot (mild spoilers!) that brought up a long dormant memory -- Elmer T. Zilch.

In the movie, Amelie steals her father's beloved lawn gnome and then sends it off with a stewardess friend traveling around the world. She arranges to have the gnome send airmailed pictures from exotic locales back home, apparently trying to persuade her homebody father to get out and travel more. It was one of the funnier parts of the movie, but the whole film was full of such whimsy. Go rent it right now.

Anyway all this reminded me of my old Alpha Phi Omega days. The Alpha Rho chapter at UT had a patron saint called Elmer T. Zilch. He stood about as tall as a lawn gnome but wore a bright yellow suit and an orange (Hook 'Em) boulder hat.

As a patron saint, Elmer was much venerated. When he was brought out at official events, often accompanied by a phalanx of faux secret service men, proceedings immediately paused while the actives clapped, cheered, bowed in homage, and chanted "Elmer! Elmer! Elmer!" High weirdness in response to an injection-molded resin statue. But such was fraternity life.

The best part was that Elmer would travel. Diving in Aruba, skiing in Switzerland, you name it. Every break he'd go on holiday with a different active, usually the ones with the sexiest travel plans. And then, when school reconvened, there would be slides. Elmer looking jaunty on the prow of a ship, Elmer surrounded by adoring nightclub babes, Elmer catching rays on a white sand beach, etc. It was all great fun and I had completely forgotten about Elmer T. Zilch until Amelie kidnapped that lawn gnome.

Monday, July 22, 2002
e-navel gazing

Veronica's latest post catalyzed some thoughts I've been kicking around about this page and what it represents in my life and maybe what it should be in the future. It has been a place to spill the thoughts that roll around inside my cranium like loose marbles (which can, as we all know, be trip hazards in the pathway of life.) It's like a spot where I can "get it out" and set things down for later rumination or processing -- half-formed ideas I don't want to lose but I don't have the time to develop, grand projects or manifestos for movements I'll never have the time to champion, undeveloped themes for my unwritten personal philosophy book. And it's a place for stuff I find that I want to share and ideals I want to promote, if only to my Future Self.

And of course there's vanity. I type as if my audience is interested, which may be a pure fantasy, though a useful one. I can talk about things that would make my real world compadres' eyes glaze over. I can drone on and on about geeky stuff, blissfully unaware of those of you who read three seconds of my drivel, roll your eyes, and click "back." (You were looking for naked pictures of Amy Wynn Pastor anyway, weren't you?) In real time conversation I modify my coming words based on non-verbal cues you give me, but here I can be more open, if only incrementally more so. I still write for an audience. I still write about people who I know read this page occasionally. I'll never share my depths, and I'll never share intimate details that belong at least partially to someone else. So you can assume that, whatever image you have of me from this page, my real life mode is a fair bit more base, petty, and superficial than I like to represent myself as online. I do sit and scratch myself and watch "Three's Company" in my underwear in real life -- it's not all spirituality and geekiness and deep thoughts.

And what of online friends? People with whom you have some sort of mutual affinity via the words you both post online? Such relationships are unlike any other in the emerging world. Any affinity you feel with me via my online writing is razor-thin compared to my whole real-world self. Yet those relationships can also run deep -- you can hook up with the only other person in the world who reads Lao-Tzu while drinking Yahoos and listening to Fizzarum, a stranger with whom you share a little world only the two of you share. Weird, very strange indeed. In the spectrum of superficial and deep relationships, online relationships introduce another whole dimension.

Oh, and then there are the online people with whom you have little in common, but simply admire their candor, thoughtfulness, insight, or talent. I love it when I can catch a glimpse, however razor-thin or fissure-deep, of the real selves they allow to spill out into their online personas. And some are just plain good writers whose work is a pleasure to read regardless of whether I agree with them or think that we could ever hang out and drink Yahoos while listening to Fizzarum together.

So for the future of this blog, I have no plans. Except for those I see in retrospect as I read my previous entries over the years.( I am within a few months of the end of my third year of Journal-Blogging.) I'll look back through my archives and look at what Overflow has become and say, "Yeah, I meant to do that."

Friday, July 19, 2002
Driving the Puberteens

I'm not sure whether to say that I spent the day playing or volunteering. I took the day off of work so I could help take about 50 13-year-olds from my Church up to Splashtown in Spring. I did have the day off, I got sun, I rode down water chutes, I splashed in a wave pool -- sounds like play, right? But given the fact that I was personally responsible for chaperoning six pubescent male teens, It was definitely volunteering too. Most of my volunteering is like that -- there's as much social benefit for me as there is work. Some people volunteer in hospitals comforting the sick. Some people build houses with Habitat. Heidi and I are social organizers. We plan parties, meetings, dances, picnics, and retreats. It's what we do. So a lot of the time our volunteer life and our social life are one and the same.

So, I find out the night before -- at basketball night -- that Laura, our youth minister, has assigned the "trouble" boys to my car. Wonderful. Two hours on the Houston freeways with the St. Paul Junior High Youth Group's answer to Southpark. So I plotted my strategy, and it went well. They were well behaved and we got along much better than I expected. I would almost (I say *almost*) volunteer to drive them again.

In interacting with this bunch I have come up with some observations that would help one survive a two-hour car drive with six loud 13-year-old boys:

  • Don't try to be friends. Lay down the rules and don't be afraid to enforce them. That's what they expect of an adult and that's what they will respect.
  • Having established the rules -- don't get out of your seat, don't open doors or windows, no handguns, etc. -- make them loose enough so that they still can be teenage boys. Expect them to be loud. Expect fake fart sounds. Expect them to slug one another. Expect real fart sounds. Set a maximum decibel level just below that of your average WWF Smackdown, and off you go.
  • Don't pretend to like their music. You don't like Korn and they will only enjoy watching you try not to wince. Instead make them listen to your music. I made them listen to Radiohead (Kid A) and the Gorillaz. I guess it would be kind of cruel to make a kid listen to, say, Tammy Wynette for two hours instead of their usual death metal. Maybe meet them halfway.
  • Whatever you play, play it loud. After a while the boys become tired of trying to talk over the music and get kind of quiet themselves.
  • Don't try to facilitate a conversation. They don't want to talk to you. Only answer direct questions.
  • Don't even think about trying to act cool. They'll see right through that. You are not cool. It doesn't matter what you were like back in school.
  • Cultivate that amused, ironic "I remember being your age when I thought that was funny" look and use it strategically.
  • Encourage Gameboy play. Video game playing requires something resembling concentration and thus reduces noise.
  • Reward each instance of mature behavior with a short positive comment.
  • Lay down an "of all the things I could do with my day off I'm here with you and I'm cool with that" vibe. They aren't used to being around adults who actually like to be with them. And the little savages are kind of fun to be around, as long as you are not tasked with trying to make them be quiet and listen to, say, a Sunday School lesson. At Splashtown, these kids are in their element.
  • Observe. You can pick up a lot of useful stuff by being a fly-on-the-wall as six teen boys interact with one another. Think of it as an anthropological adventure.
  • And remember, this is fun. Keep telling yourself. This is fun.

Thursday, July 18, 2002
"Open Source DNA ( Hoeken v643.2345.2)"

Speaking of eccentrics (see below), I have nothing on this guy. He is releasing his DNA as open source code. You may contact him for a sample of his DNA to do with as you wish. Clone him, splice him into your own private mix, whatever.

An interesting idea that only seems weird on the surface. Companies patent genes all the time. A woman patented her own DNA a couple of years ago. If your particular genetic makeup is indeed unique, who will own the rights to your code in a world where genetic codes are making people billions of dollars? That's what the whole Ted Williams flap is about, right? DNA rights.

I don't know this guy, but it might make even more sense for someone like Ray Kurzweil or Tiger Woods to offer his DNA for the good of humanity. But someone has to lead by example, right? Indeed it is a very clever evolutionary strategy in a Dawkins-esque kind of way -- a way to proliferate one's genetic material without having to go through the hassles of mating.

Look Out Honey

According to this story in New Scientist (thanks Rebecca) Odd people get more eccentric as they age. Uh, oh. Heidi's not going to like this. Apparently being around younger people helps eccentrics moderate their behavior earlier in life, but as they grow older and farther apart from the younger set, their eccentricities sort of bloom.

I guess I would qualify myself as being in the "potentially eccentric" category. Lessee, these would count against me:

I read comic books
I glue junk together to make sculpture.
I paint abstract art on T-shirts.
I am a futurist.
I write poetry.
I recently acquired ten square yards of Tyvek for artistic experimentation
I recently discovered that Tyvek is not stiff enough to fold a hexa-hexa-flexagon.
I plan to fold 20 hexa-hexa-flexagons out of Bristol Board instead.
I send mail art to perfect strangers.
I carry a wallet I made out of duct tape.
I am an enthusiastic fan of the Argentinian beverage Yerba Mate.
I listen to "freaky music" (Heidi's words)

But I am very conventional in many ways:

I am married.
I have children.
I work in a cubicle at an 8-to-5 job.
I attend Church every Sunday.
I watch TV.
I volunteer.

And I do all of that quite happily. So I guess, if anything I am a "sleeper" eccentric, but the seeds are there. Bwah-hah-hah-ha!

Reminds me of the line from that old Devo song: "And he wore a hat. And he had a job. And he brought home the bacon so that no one knew..."

Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Om, amen.

"They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of "I", "me", and "mine" to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality."

-Bhagavad Gita 2:71

How different is this from "whoever would lose his life for my sake will find it?" Sounds like the mystery of the Cross coming from a Hindu holy scripture. Do we not have much to learn from one another?

All the music that's fit to download

So I happened onto a great blog called The Shifted Librarian (Librarians tend to have great blogs.) and was pointed to this really great idea. Local musicians promote their music by providing free downloads through the websites of major daily newspapers. Mutually beneficial for both parties and, best of all, the major labels don't get their greedy hands on any of the money. Sweet.

Hey, if they did this in Houston, I could follow the local music scene which is pretty good here, or so I'm told. I wouldn't know 'cause I'm an old fogey and don't go to nightclubs. Plus I'm asthmatic and don't cotton to cigarette smoke very well.

I'm forwarding this story to the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Press. You other Houston bloggers do the same, 'kay?

Tuesday, July 16, 2002
The Distribution of Thought

ur10 is an unassuming looking site. But under its primitive-looking interface is a cavernous goldmine of fascinating links and documents. ur10 is bewildering and wonderful -- what's it for? who sponsors it? who is contributing all those fascinating links in all those languages? There's a hint of collaboration in the "contribute URL" link on every page. But the lack of meta information about the site is maddening.

You'll need several days to explore this. I'm starting with the poetry zines.

Crossing Paths with Bob Merikangas

This is an interesting guy whose page I stumbled onto while doing some futures research. He wrote an article called "Heuristics of Wisdom Communities" for Futures Research Quarterly. He once taught a course on Nobel Prize winners. He helps ESL students practice their English. He works as a local elections official. I like this guy already.

I'll probably need to contact him about some work I'm doing on the future of Communities. His page of community resource links is at once selective and exhaustive.

That's my favorite thing about the Internet - connecting with people you'd otherwise never meet.

Poet's Online Nirvana

Discovering The Poetry Portal made me chuckle with delight. This is about the coolest thing I have discovered online in many moons. As with all great corners of the Web, there is much to be explored. But so far my favorites are the links to multimedia poetry and the "PoetryMagic Help" sections. Must must must if you love poetry.

Cool Stuff Church People Do

The news is full of bad stuff religious people do. Not that wrongdoing should not be exposed anywhere it occurs, but news of church scandal travels like wildfire while the Good News has to schlep around on foot. Well, here's something good:

Miriam's Kitchen is a DC area kitchen that provides hot meals and a number of other services, like voice mail, for homeless people. Nothing remarkable about that, but what's cool is that they host a number of art and poetry workshops, poetry readings, and publish an anthology of the poets' and artists' work each year. Well worth the suggested donation of $10.

The End Times

There is a group of people who are watching for signs that signal the end of the world as we know it. They watch, mostly eagerly, as the world progresses toward its eventual transformation, transformation in which human reality will be torn down and redfined along a new, utopian order we cannot now imagine.

A bunch of religious nuts? Not hardly. These are a bunch of scientists tracking and studying the coming Singularity:

"...our technological creations-are on a wild ride to an interesting destination, a local rate of computational change so fast and powerful that it must have a profound and as-yet-unclarified universal effect. As a side effect of this hypergrowth, biological human beings will not be able to meaningfully understand the computer-driven world of the near future unless they are able to make some kind of transition to "transhumanity." How this transition will and should occur, and more importantly, how it is presently occurring, is a subject of spirited and insightful debate. Those few scholars who currently study the record of continuously accelerating computation and who seriously expect the emergence of an autonomous/artificial intelligence (AI) within the foreseeable future, call this event "the (technological) singularity"...

So as a people of faith, is this idea a threat? Or is it a fabulous opportunity? I would guess it will be neither and both, but I do know it is something we all, secular and religious, need to be talking about. What does it mean to be human? What about being human should or should not change? And if aspects of humanity should not change, will we have any choice? I can see utopian and greatly dystopian scenarios resulting from a Singularity. Where will you be when the world as we know it ends?

Monday, July 15, 2002
Substitute "Faith" for "Dharma" if you wish...

Some people live closely guarded lives, fearful of encountering someone or something that might shatter their insecure spiritual foundation. This attitude, however, is not the fault of religion but of their own limited understanding. True Dharma leads in exactly the opposite direction. It enables one to integrate all the many diverse experiences of life into a meaningful and coherent whole, thereby banishing fear and insecurity completely.

-Lama Thubten Yeshe

We hate what we admire?

My referrer log tells me that my blog here gets a lot of hits from people looking for nude pictures of Amy Wynn Pastor, who's become sort of a cult figure lately. She's the talented, cute, and amiable carpenter from TLC's Trading Spaces show and she apparently gets a lot of Google traffic from people trying to see her boobs. Such is the price of fame, I guess.

I can't help but be a little saddened by this. It's not like she's a model who is earning her living based on the attractiveness of her body. Sure, Amy Wynn probably had to have at least basic good looks to make it into her TV role, but her body is not her currency. She builds cabinets, y'all. Why do you need to see her butt?

Is it a bunch of horny teen boys? Maybe. But I have a hunch that something more insidious is at work.

Could it be that we Americans love our celebrities and resent them at the same time? So we sit and gawk at them in their glamour on TV and in magazines and then rush to the Internet and the Tabloids for some tidbit of gossip or trashy picture that will give us a titillating thrill? Could it be that we like our famous people occasionally laid bare, exposed, stripped of as much dignity as possible? Topless photos are great but a beaver shot would be better cause the more we invade, the deeper we intrude, the more dignity we take, the more power we can convince ourselves we have over them? We want our celebrities to pay a price for their fame. We put 'em there, we can take 'em back down again by gum.

Heck, watching 'em on the way down is the majority of the fun, right? Once the has-been actress/singer/model does the desparate "Playboy spread" attempt at a comeback, we can all wait giddily for the drug arrests and the eventual messy overdose. And if we miss something, we can live it all again on a celebrity "True Story" special!

Man, I'd really prefer to think it's just horny teenage boys.

I want my MP3's

I'm willing to pay, y'all. I am not a freeloader. I want artists and, yes, even the middle men, to get their fair share of my music buying dollar. Problem is, I can't find a place to buy what I want. What I want is a service where:

I can, for a monthly rate or a per-file charge, download mp3 files.
I can find all the obscure stuff I listen to and recent titles as well.
I don't have to buy an entire CD if I just want one or two songs from it.

That doesn't seem too unrealistic, does it? I thought I had found it. I was trying out Audiogalaxy and was about to sign up for their for-pay service ('cause I'm not a freeloader, right?) when they were gutted by the courts. They had an excellent selection of stuff and I was very happy with it. Now they're gone.

So I thought I'd try one of those "legit" commercial services run by the labels. I signed up for a free trial at Gawd, what a fiasco. First of all, I was trying to get a free trial at but got redirected to the emusic site, which I thought was may be a result of some sort of merger. Anyway, whatever.

Turns out that emusic, owned by Vivendi, one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world, has no music. Well, they have some music, but 7 out of 10 of the searches for bands I entered came back with either no results or "bands like" entries. Excuse me, but I don't want a band "like" Wilco, I want Wilco. I should have known when, on it's home page, emusic was advertising its Creedence Clearwater Revival files. Don't get me wrong, CCR is a great band, but don't you have something more recent than that to give front page space to? What would you think of a video store that still had posters for "Ordinary People" still hanging in its front window. I'm sorry emusic, if you want me to pay $9.95/mo for a year long contract, you need to give me more music. I couldn't even find enough stuff to download to complete my 50 file free trial. I quit early.

So now I am in a pickle. I could do the wrong thing and rip files for free at a peer-to-peer service that provides me the selection I want but am willing to pay for, or I can search for a commercial service that gives me half-assed attempt at what I want, hopefully for a lot less than what emusic wanted for access to its anemic collection.

I'm beginning to believe that piracy is not the issue with the RIAA. They just don't want to lose their business model. They don't want to provide a way for listeners to get just the songs they want instead of having to buy 10 turkeys packaged with three or four hit songs into an $18 CD.

So if anyone knows of a good Audiogalaxy P2P replacement, I'm listening. And by any chance if anyone can tell me where I can legally purchase individual mp3 files from a large selection of artists, you'll be my new hero.

Friday, July 12, 2002
"What if it's all a big fat lie?"

If this article in the New York Times (free registration required) turns out to be true, the impact to society could be enormous. Imagine the dietary orthodoxy of the last 25 years -- that a low-fat diet is the way to stay thin -- being turned upside down. Imagine the reverse -- that the very carbohydrates that are pushed as the base of our ideal food pyramid are the very things that promote obesity. Hoo boy, what a stink.

This is a very well-researched article about the low-carb vs. low-fat diet controversy and how the former is gaining some scientific credibility as of late. Public health data and anecdotal evidence is building the case that low-fat, high-carb are not having the intended effects. Low-carb diets like Atkins' are moving from the realm of quackery to have their day in scientific court. If you've invested money in ventures trying to make synthetic dietary fats like Olestra, you might wan't to divest.

All this is well and good, but it concerns what I see as a peripheral issue to the whole diet thing. The basics are that you need to consume less calories, carbs or fat, than you burn. Period. The issues of which type of food is more satiating and which turns into body fat most effciently are endocrinal matters related to, but not more important than, how dang much you eat of any type of food.

Regardless of what the outcome is, the "Weigh Down" philosophy jibes well -- there is no bad food in the appropriate amounts. It'd be nice if Americans could put real butter instead of plastic spread on their bread and not feel guilty. It'd be nice if people could eat the satisfying food every day and not just when they feel like being "sinful." What we need to preach is portion control. What we need...

Omigod. I'm doing it. I'm diet proselytizing and I've only been on my diet for two weeks. I am a sad, sad, man.

Thursday, July 11, 2002
Mate, Mate, Joy, Joy. Mate, Mate, Joy, Joy...

The Mate Joy song
(tune: "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas)

pronunciation guide:
-- bombilla - bom-bee-ya
-- Mate - mah-tay

Here it goes....

Bah-da bah-bombilla
Bah-da bah-bombilla
Bah-da bah-bombilla...

Mate, Mate, so good to me.
Mate mornin', it was all I hoped it would be
Oh Mate mornin', Mate mornin' you can guarantee
That Mate drinkin' will give you serenity

Mate, Mate, I just can't pass
Mate, Mate, I do not think that you taste like grass
Oh Mate mornin' you are a warming wonderful tea
Oh Mate, Mate, you rev me up and set me free

Every other drink, every other drink,
Every other drink in my cup is fine, yeah
But whenever Mate comes, but whenever Mate comes
A-you can find me flyin' all of the time...

(Okay, maybe a bit too much Yerba Mate this morning)

Praise God and Pass The Ball

I am not a man's man. I can't hit a nail in straight. I am nervous about power tools. Cars and computer-y gadgets hold no fascination for me. They are means to ends only, not hobbies. And sports? I can't talk sports beyond the veneer-thin knowledge I have of what's going on. I am not even going to tell you who I thought A-Rod was when I first heard that nickname. Let's just say he sounds like an adult film personality.

When I am among men's men, I feel like an impostor. I imagine being just one question, just one stupid comment away from being found out for the girly-man I am. Can't talk politics 'cause my views are too moderate-progressive (I live in Texas, see.) No *way* am I gonna talk about poetry and art. My religious views are just too weird. I just don't speak "guy" well -- haltingly at best.

No, I am not a slave to gender stereotypes. I know that a man can be sensitive and creative and still be masculine. Yeah, yeah. I don't deny that I am a "real man." Sometimes, though, I wish I could take an occasional vacation from being my usual "evolved male" self and just be a "guy."

That's why I love basketball night. Five or six guys from church come over to my house and we play three-on-three playground rules b-ball. Doesn't matter that I can't play basketball, really. It's still fun. We sweat, we foul, (sometimes I just outright tackle. Sorry Phil.), we dive for the ball. Nothing makes you feel like a guy like diving for a ball. Doesn't matter what kind of ball. It's a guy thing. And we're all older, so when I'm bent over sucking wind, at least two or three of the others are doing the same.

It's the mix of guys who come over. Some of them are good enough to raise the level of ball that everyone plays. Everyone is very accommodating -- no matter how bad you are, you are encouraged to take a shot at the basket. I begin to feel like, "Hey, I can do this guy thing." In a strange way, God is ministering to my insecurities through my basketball friends.

So I wonder, how many other men are out there like me? How many men need a chance just to get out and sweat and spit and scratch themselves and celebrate their god-given "guy-ness" in a non-threatening environment free from all that macho posturing crap that gives "guy-ness" a bad name?

So now I have this idea for a "guys' ministry" at church. I know, there's Mens' Ministry. But I'm talking *guys'* ministry. Most church ministry is feminized. That is the trend in Christainity -- feminization of the church. And there are some aspects of Church that need feminizing, especially the authority structures. But while we are sitting in circles talking, holding hands and praying, and doing service, we are engaging in traditionally female modes of relating with one another. Nothing wrong with any of that. And for men who don't already do that, they should definitely find their feminine side. But I bet there's a whole lot of guys out there who've lost touch with their inner "guy."

I want a ministry for guys to "do stuff." I want to reclaim the "Boy's Night Out" for God -- wrenching it away from the bad behavior usually associated with a group of guys out on the town. I mean, if it's true that "wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there so am I," then why not take Jesus out to throw some darts and drink a few pints of his dad's best stout?

Hey, we could even combine "guy" education with service! Have parishoners bring their cars in for minor repairs and maintenance and have the car guys show the non-car guys how to do car stuff. Or go to older parishoners' houses and have the tool guys show the non-tool guys how to do home maintenance. We could raise the "traditional male" sphere of knowledge to a sacred activity. I'm always looking for the holy in the mundane. What could be more mundane than changing spark plugs? And for guys like me, nothing could be more intimidating...

But for tonight I am gonna be a guy and play me some b-ball. (And try not to tackle Phil.)

Easy for *you* to say

"When an apprentice gets hurt, or complains of being tired, the
workmen and peasants have this fine statement: 'It is the trade
entering his body.' Each time that we have some pain to go through,
we can say to ourselves quite truly that it is the universe--the
order and beauty of the world and the obedience of creation to
God--that are entering our body. After that how can we fail to bless
with tenderest gratitude the Love that sends us this gift?"
- Simone Weil [19th C], "Waiting on God" -

Wednesday, July 10, 2002
Knock on Wood

For the last three nights, Petunia has slept all the way through the night (and well into the next morning.) She's sleeping so long, all of a sudden, that Heidi and I wake up and go check to see if she's still breathing. Parental paranioa, I guess.

Anyway, it seems as if she's Sleeping Through The Night. Hip Hip Hooray.

Finding the Middle Way

Okay, so here's a question. Is the Communitarian political philosophy a reasonable extrapolation of Kenotic Theology? (see below)

In Communitarianism, indivudual rights are guaranteed and protected but individuals are called on to give up some of their autonomy for the good of the larger social group. Is this a kenotic social dynamic?

Here's some representative political verbage from Amitai Etzioni, the father of Communitarianism:

We hold these truths....

We hold that a moral revival in these United States is possible without Puritanism; that is, without busybodies meddling into our personal affairs, without thought police controlling our intellectual life. We can attain a recommitment to moral values – without puritanical excesses.

We hold that law and order can be restored without turning this country of the free into a police state, as long as we grant public authorities some carefully crafted and circumscribed new powers.

We hold that the family – without which no society has ever survived, let alone flourished – can be saved, without forcing women to stay at home or otherwise violating their rights.

We hold that schools can provide essential moral education – without indoctrinating young people.

We hold that people can live in communities without turning to vigilantes or becoming hostile to one another.

We hold that our call for increased social responsibilities… is not a call for curbing rights. On the contrary, strong rights presume strong responsibilities.

We hold that the pursuit of self-interest can be balanced by a commitment to the community, without requiring us to lead a life of austerity, altruism, or self-sacrifice….

We hold that powerful special-interest groups in the nation’s capital, and in so many statehouses and city halls, can be curbed without limiting the constitutional right of the people to lobby and petition those who govern….

We hold these truths as Communitarians, as people committed to creating a new moral, social, and public order based on restored communities, without puritanism or oppression.

Etzioni (1995: 1-2)

And there's this dude named E. Frazer who extracts three theses from this political platform by way of a more coherent systematic philosophy:

It is not the case that all there is in the world is individuals (we have also to look at the significance of collectives, institutions etc. - see the discussion of selfhood).

Ethically we need to look to the social individual or collective and the significance of reciprocity, trust, solidarity etc. (what has sometimes been discussed as social capital).

Methodologically it is necessary 'to interpret and refine values that are immanent in the ways of life of really living groups - societies, communities'

So I wonder -- If you start with Communitarianism on one end and Kenotic Theology on the other, do they meet in the middle somewhere? Seems like they should.

Kenosis has a nice geeky ring to it.

In my mind I use the term "other-centeredness" to describe the essential nature of the divine, the driving force of creative love in the universe from the microscopic to the macrocosmic level. It's a very clumsy term, I admit. Turns out there's another, better term -- Kenosis. Essentially it is a late twentieth century theological concept that describes God as being "self-emptying", or voluntarily self-limiting, in his interaction with creation.

So, I always knew my mental model of God was not necessarily original. This sounds very similar. I'll need to read up on it. I like "kenotic" better than "other-centered". (Thanks to Metanexus for sending this my way.)

Now I know why they call her Squishy

If I were drinking milk, it'd be coming out of my nose. Pamie is very funny today.

(another take on the true story is here.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Beyond the Bland

We're doing a series this summer at church youth group (I'm a cathechist) on media and the Christian life. The first session is on music. We're going to talk about popular music and lyrics and how you can indeed sing along with good cool music without having to say "smack my bitch up" or "big pimpin', spendin' cheese", or even "let me see that thong."

I have a problem with Christian music, probably the same problem a lot of kids have. It's too bland. Imagine if the entire radio dial were nothing but Pop Music. No rap, hip-hop, techno, metal, grunge, punk, or anything alternative. Imagine all the music being smoothed out for mass consumption.

That's how I think of Christian radio. KSBJ is a great station, but where's the edge? Most music I listen to has an edge. Christian Pop is nice for me in the way bananna pudding is nice. Tasty, but a little bowl will do me just fine.

So I went looking for the edge. Mostly for myself -- I'd like to listen to Christian music again -- but also for the young people in our youth group. If you're gonna stand up and talk about how they probably should not listen to Kid Rock, Nine Inch Nails, Nelly, Eminem, etc. then you need to have some alternatives to show 'em.

(In the very least, learn what the lyrics mean before you sing them aloud. "Pimpin'" does not mean "cool," kids.)

So here are the alternatives I found:

A good techno/dance band here
A whole online community of Christian DJs
A lot of links and resources for the Christian techno scene
Two good alternative electronica/industrial bands
Two Christian punk portals, and Godpunk
A Streaming Christian radio station.

So this is my goal: To fill my new Rio 800 with Christian Music that doesn't make me yawn. To have at least some music in my collection whose lyrics support my beliefs. I have some leads...

Say no to the Bunny

So I am looking through Christian alternative music and culture sites and one of them has this link to self-billed, although misleadingly, as a "Christian Porn" site. I do a double take. Huh? Can I send kids to a site that links to xxxchurch? Remember, I'm researching for site to tell pre-teens about. So, naturally I have to investigate! (ahem.)

So, here's this Christian Porn site. How does that work? Well, it's a Christian site about porn -- there's no actual porn there, silly. There is a very slick, well designed site addressing an issue that we Christian Men, if we are being honest with ourselves, know can be a problem. I know a guy or two who've lost wives, children, and houses to porn addiction. There but for the grace of God go I and anybody else, especially anybody who thinks they're too righteous for such temptation.

From the site. They say it best themselves:

"Men...Here are the facts.

1. We all love to look at nude women.
2. We have all looked at nude women.
3. We all know where we can find pictures of nude women.

The question is what are you going to do about the facts. We can simply accept the facts and give in to our flesh or we can live a life of integrity and avoid the pitfalls and traps of internet pornography. This is every man’s battle.

Fact #1
Women are beautiful cuz that’s the way God made them. We are naturally attracted to them. If you’re not then there is probably another website out there that can help you with that problem. But for all those that are attracted to women, we need to put into perspective women’s beauty. Our flesh seeks to distort and destroy God’s ultimate plan for relationships between men and women. He did not create women for us to be able to click onto a poorly designed and cheesy website and look at them naked. He did not craft the woman’s body so we could pay $3.95 a month to look at naughty pictures. There is so much more to God’s plan...

...Put safeguards in your life right now!! Don’t have it be a secret any longer. Get real and stop messing around with your integrity and your future. Get some accountability partners and start talking openly and honestly about these issues. The facts speak for themselves. Now as men it is time for us to rise to the occasion and be the leaders that God has called us to be.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your wife. Do it for your kids. Do it because it’s the right thing to do."

I like the fact that they focus on individual responsibility. They are not censors. They do not attack the first amendment. They provide help and accountability for those who need it.

Monday, July 08, 2002
"Let Evening Come"

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

-- Jane Kenyon

Aw shucks

I'm blushing.

Nobody knows me like she do

I have a great wife. For my birthday, she got me a Rio 800 128mb mp3 player. She knows me enough to see through my BS and get me what I really want. I come off all cool on techno gadgets. I have the standard sermon that all these little techno gadgets not only cost up front but they carry a hefty price in the form of time spent fiddling with them and money for accessories. Not to mention the fact that you now have one more little expensive thing to keep dry, safe, and remember not to leave anywhere. That's why I didn't have a PDA, MP3 player, or DVD, or any other little gadget on my wish list.

But my wife got me one anyway, God bless her. I love it. That said, I did spend about four hours yesterday alone fiddling with it. And I'm already thinking of that extended storage card and a carrying case accessory. Damn gadgets. :)

Goin' Way Weigh Down

Okay, I'll say it. I am on a diet.

I hate saying that. Being obviously overweight and announcing a diet carries inherent risks:

Having people look at you and think, "About damn time..."
Having people, including yourself, start a pool on when you will fail.
Becoming one of those people who are diet and food obsessed.
Becoming one of those people who, after successfully losing a few pounds, are self-righteous and want everyone to join him.
Being a failure with everyone watching.
Being a success and then everyone watching you gain the weight back.

Diets are gimmicky, diets don't work, diets can be dangerous. Diets make you spend too much of your mental energy on food. Diets are a sucker bet.

But here I am. I need to change something if I want to live to be an eccentric but lovable old man. I turned 37 on Saturday and have forty coming around the bend. My knees are cranky and it's unfair to make them carry the burden for the rest of my body all my life. So, happy birthday knees, I'm on a diet.

This is a very simple diet. I call it the "Eat Less Stuff" diet. No special foods, no herbs, no pills, no exchanges, no weighing, no damned glasses of water (except when I'm thirsty). I can eat fat, carbs, anything really. There are just four simple rules:

1. Don't eat anything until you are physically hungry (Talkin' pangs y'all).
2. Only eat about as much food as can fit in a large coffee mug.
3. Eat slow. After first portion, wait. If you are still physically hungry (pangs y'all) eat some more.
4. There is no "bad" or "good" food. Other than the guidelines of general nutrition, don't restrict what you eat.

Of course this won't work if you're diabetic or something, but that's the kind of thing I am trying to avoid.

Actually this is not my idea. This is patterned off of the Christian Light Weigh and Weigh Down diets. It's the only one that makes true sense to me -- listening to your body instead of fighting it.

That said, it's a real pain in the ass. People don't eat like this. Who goes to a restaraunt and orders a cup full of food? Most restaraunts nowadays serve dishes the size of small towns, so I either hafta order appetizers or things that I know will keep well in a take-home box. Who eats six meals a day?

It's also pretty hard. So for motivation, my wife and I are doing it together for mutual support and accountability. I need accountability, but I don't want to go around drawing attention to the fact that I'm on a diet (shhhh.) for the above-mentioned reasons. So I'm telling you. Pray for me. If you see me eating anything larger than a coffee mug, bitch slap me and then pray for me. But if you see me in real life, keep it all cool like, 'kay?

Thanks. Y'all are great.

Friday, July 05, 2002
A good holiday

We had a crowd out to the house for the holiday. My Mom and Dad, their friends Joe and Judy and their two girls, whom my brother and I grew up with, and their families. All together we had eleven children and ten adults but we made enough food to feed fifty people, as is our entertaining style -- It's the Clark House, no one goes home hungry. A lot of laughter, loud kids, terrorized dogs, Catching Up, shop talk, and some card playing. Miraculously I could only count three "Whose kid's crying? Is that *my* child crying? What's a matter honey?" incidents in the entire six hour by eleven child visit. Once again, it was another gathering that you spend every minute from breakfast to the time of the gathering getting ready for. A pain in the rear by most people's standards, but well worth the hassle. A wise friend of ours once told us, "Love is about being bothered for the sake of another." I like that. It was a lot of bother, yes, but there was so much love, so much love.

So my Sappy Patriotic Fourth of July moment goes like this: We trudged the half mile down to the lakeshore, with kids on shoulders, strollers, and wagons to join maybe eighty or so of my neighbors to stand on a point on Taylor lake and watch fireworks. There were no fireworks overhead, except for some paltry personal ordinance purchased by some folks in the crowd, which would go off and make the parents of small children in the crowd nervous. We were able to see four different displays in the distance though, above the trees: Pasadena's in the distance over our right shoulders, Webster's off to the left at two o'clock, Clear Lake straight ahead, just left of the Nassau Bay Hilton, and Kemah's over the trees to the right. They all started more or less at the same time, but Kemah's and Clear Lake's were most in parallel. Except Kemah's were larger and brighter than Clear Lake's, I maintain because while Clear Lake's was a municipal show, Kemah's fireworks were intended to help sell $25 seafood dinners at the restaurants by their now famous and touristy-kitschy boardwalk.

So there we were watching four fireworks shows, and my wife suggests that we start singing patriotic songs to accompany the fireworks, as there was no orchestra around. So I sang "It's a grand old flag" in my best Ethel Merman voice, and we sang "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in our best Mickey Rooney voices, a campy good time being had by all who knew who Ethel Merman and Mickey Rooney were.

And then Marian broke out into the "Star Spangled Banner." And so I started in my mock "B-list celebrity singer starting a baseball game voice" and soon realized that Marian was using her real voice. Seriously. So I switched to my real voice. Seriously. And then my other friends -- we'd all been in High School Choir together -- joined in. So as we got to "rockets red glare..." the finales of the two main fireworks shows started. And when the fireworks stopped, we kept still and kept singing. And when the fireworks stopped, leaving those little grey-dusty smoke spiders in the air to float slowly away (as a kid I was always afraid of the smoke spiders), I could hear that the others -- everyone else in the crowd -- had joined us in singing the National Anthem. Standing still and singing in the dark, smoke spiders and all.

And when we finished I heard a few sniffs and saw a few of the women wipe their eyes in that mascara-preserving way they do. And as we turned to lug our children home in our various conveyances, I realized that I had teared up too. Sometimes I remember that I really do believe in this stuff.

Thursday, July 04, 2002
somewhere out there

Cosmologists are now estimating that there may be as many as thirthy billion earths in our galaxy. Or, really, thirty billion planets with the same characteristics as our earth. Somehow this is strangely comforting. Maybe somewhere in the galaxy there is an earth that got everything right.

I blame it on Mike Mezzino. He taught me point-set topology and real analysis courses back when I had the delusion that I was going to be a new father and get a grad degree in mathematics at the same time. Anyway, he had a singular gift for representing the most bizarre, abstract spaces by drawing doodles on the chalkboard. He could draw just about any concept and somehow convey enough of a picture so that us visual learners in the class could understand. That was when I became first aware of my interest in art as information. If a picture paints a thousand words, couldn't it also paint a non-Riemannian manifold?

Then I took a course in systems dynamics and became entranced by how complex, dynamic behaviors could be captured by a simple causal loop diagram. I had already been introduced to object-oriented design and programming and had a fondness for the graphical nature of that paradigm. I marveled at how 2-D drawings could convey the intricate manipulations in some of the origami I was dabbling in at the time. Then I discovered Edward Tufte and Richard Saul Wurman. I started leafing through graphic design books, though I didn't have the technical skills to put the ideas that were buzzing through my head out through my pencil (or computer mouse).

Somewhere at the juncture of art, poetry, semiotics, mathematics, literature, and science, I ended up in love with information/art. I started collecting books that used images to convey non-standard stuff, like Poetry Comics, The Cartoon History of the Universe, Knot Theory, Fractals, the art of Mike Wilks and Graeme Base. I rekindled my love for those old Illustrated Classic comic books I used to have as a kid -- like Cliff's Notes come alive.

Now I find myself, a grown adult and supposedly beyond these things, reading comic books. I sit self-consciously at lunch reading my latest Sandman trade (I'm up to the fourth one) or the Preacher series (morally decrepit but extremely well-drawn and well-told) and try not to look like too much of a weirdo. So I have this itch to do some playing with words, concepts, and line art. Just as my painting is playing with color and texture (devoid of real talent, natch) and my sculpture is playing with junk and glue, I like to poke around the edges of art, not feeling talented or worthy enough to attempt the "real thing" yet. But so far the edges of art are pretty fun for me. One of these days I'll take classes and arm myself with the technical skills of a real artist, but for now, I want to draw a few mindmaps and systems diagrams... maybe put one or two on a T-shirt...

Another random walk

This time while procrastinating getting started on some paying work, I looked at largehearted boy as I am wont to do when I am procrastinating at my home PC. He pointed me to Chank, an artist whose brightly colored drawing remind me of a cross between Keith Haring and a Ziggy cartoon. In his collection there is a very cool piece about organic chemistry which is an example of the kind of information art I want to try to do, only on a subject I know more about.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

This thing would be kind of fun if there were more people who contributed there: Collaborative Poetry. Go add a line or two.

I wanna lama

When everything is clean-clear in your own mind, nobody can create obstacles for you.

-Lama Thubten Yeshe, "The Bliss of Inner Fire"

That's my problem. My Mind is not "clean-clear". It is clear that attachments, mine and those of the people around me, are the cause of my current suffering. I have too many attachments -- attachments to other people's esteem for me, attachments to money, to my idea of "freedom". My problem is that, if I strive to live a connected life, an other-centered life, how do I avoid attachments? How do I grasp without clutching? How do I free myself of attachments without becoming truly detached? I am too great a fool to know this for myself. I think I need a lama. Augh! Another attachment!

and if they come up with a female carpenter.....ooh!

I'm not reserving my judgement on Surprise By Design, the Discovery Channel's blatant ripoff of TLC's Trading Spaces. Without the benefit of seeing an actual episode, I already don't like it. There's just enough difference -- the people are surprised with a redesigned room instead of trading -- to keep one step ahead of the lawyers. But I and millions of other Trading Spaces fans will see right through this. Line up the shark, cause this show's gonna jump it in the first few weeks.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

"The Leaden-Eyed"

Let not young souls be smothered out before
They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.
It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull,
Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed.

Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly;
Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap;
Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve;
Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

-- Vachel Lindsay

straight on through

Not much personal written here lately. There hasn't been much in my personal life that's good to share. Well, really, it's more like the negative stuff has blown up to clog up my obsessive mind and crowd out any focus on the positive. My predicament is 90% my doing and 10% fickle finger of fate. No one to blame but myself. I can't give details because, in my life, many of my details have joint ownership and I can just put other people's stuff out on the web willy nilly. But personally I am feeling down and could really use your prayers.

It's times like these that I rely on faith like some kind of insurance. I just keep on walking through the shit that's coming down around my ears and pretend to myself that it will all come out okay. If I want to put the best spin on it I could say that my faith is keeping me strong, but that wouldn't be quite true. I am not strong in my faith like that. But God tells me to keep walking and I do. "What else you gonna do? Sit there? Go back?" he says to me. I can distract myself long enough to work or surf web or even play a bit. I am king of distractions. But eventually I remember where I am and that I have to keep walking, with a knot in my stomach and what feels like a permanent frown on my brow, straight through.

Cheery today, ain't I?

random walks, unexpected treasure

Fascinated as I am by the merging of information and art, I went for a walk on the web in that neighborhood whilst waiting for an archive request to complete. I stumbled onto a great visual information blog called The Eyes Have It who had just discovered a new blog himself called Research on Visualization. And this guy had blogged a really, really neato application called the n-Gen Design Machine which appears to be a canned graphic design program. Immediately about 40 ideas sprung to my head about what I could do with this in conjunction with my poetry and art and other stuff. It'll be a test of my self-discipline to get my other projects done before I download and play with this baby.

Monday, July 01, 2002
Can we watch her take off the toolbelt?

I am shocked, truly shocked, that a network would create a spinoff that capitalizes on the sex appeal of the two most popular characters on its most popular show. TLC's shameless A Makeover Story will feature the Trading Spaces carpenters, Amy Wynn and Ty, getting transformed into what looks like Glamour Shots style.

Looking at the before and after pictures for Amy Wynn Pastor, they're just not an improvement. They ruin her whole girl next door look, as far as I am concerned. Same, analogously, for Ty. They end up looking more slickly coiffed, more heavily made up, more hiply dressed, and ultimately less distinctive and more like Hollywood headshot clones.

But will I be watching the show on July 13th? You betcha.