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.
United Future Organization
Bowling For Soup
The Constant Companion
by Eknath Easwaran
by Leonard Sweet
The Perennial Philosophy
by Aldous Huxley
Peace Like A River
by Leif Enger
by Bruce Sterling
An Intimate History of Humanity
by Theodore Zeldin
by Neil Gaiman
by Don Delillo
Creating Positive Futures
by James Ogilvy
Stuff To Do
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
Fred from Floyd
Places to Go
Building Tomorrow's Communities
Arts & Letters Daily
SciTech Daily Review
Business Daily Review
Red Rock Eater
The Marriage Movement
Friday, August 30, 2002
Labor Day Listening
I can just be walking along and break into a chuckle for no reason that is apparent to the casual observer. Usually when I do this it is because something I saw or overheard reminded me of one of Kevin Kling's stories.
For instance, after I heard Kevin talk on NPR about his recovery from a motorcycle accident, I will never again encounter a cocktail weenie without a little chuckle. And not for the reason you might guess.
Any long term listener to NPR will probably have heard one of Kevin Kling's commentaries or stories. I bought both of his CDs, one of which almost killed our entire family. Heidi was driving us to San Antonio and laughed so hard while listening to Kevin describe his harrowing experience marching behind the Clydesdales in a Labor Day parade that I had to grab the steering wheel for a few moments. He does some of the best spoken word stuff around.
So, if you have a little time and bandwidth to spare, his fan page has a more or less thorough archive of his online recordings. His irreverent yet loving skew on American life in general and Minnesota in particular will make good Labor Day Weekend listening. Enjoy.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
I'm starting over. Three chapters into Thomas Merton's "Seeds of Contemplation," I realized that this book cannot be read like a normal book. So I'm going back to read and contemplate more deliberatively and reflectively. The words and thoughts are too rich to be consumed quickly. In the spirit of sainteros, whose blog has been an inspiration to me, I'm doing Merton lectio style.
"In all created things we, who do not yet perfectly love God, can find something that reflects the fulfillment of heaven and something that reflects the anguish of hell." (p17)
Any fulfillment we find in created things belongs to God. It is the disorder of our souls which imposes undue desires and expectations on created objects or people -- i.e. they will make us "happy" or make others admire us -- which creates the anguish. To be "holy" is not to turn away from created things, but to turn away from the undue desire that our imperfect souls place upon them.
Perhaps this is what it means to be "in the world but not of the world?" Perhaps these undue desires we attach to the things and people in our lives is the "baggage" that everyone talks about needing to unload? Are these the "issues" we refer to when we say we have "issues?" Ooh, I am almost afraid to take this idea to prayer because I don't want to have to think about removing the "baggage" I attach to everything in my life.
But I must eventually:
"Instead of worshipping God through his creation we are always trying to worship ourselves by means of his creatures. But to worship ourselves is to worship nothing. And the worship of nothing is hell."
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Sometimes I wish I lived in Portland
Gracies has got to be the coolest alternative culture collective I've ever seen. Check out the variety of happenings and grassroots inspiration going on there.
I came to Gracies via a cobweb site I found while trolling for Yerba Mate sources -- the Cafetistas. They (used to?) get beverages donated by organic, sustainable, fair trade companies and then show up at events and give the drinks away for free. The idea was to subvert the corporate domination of certain beverage markets. Sounds like a really cool concept, huh? Problem is, their site hasn't been updated since 2000. So who knows when the Cafetistas last struck.
With a Starbucks sprouting up on every suburban corner, wouldn't it be a cool exercise in culture jamming to revive the concept?
I was browsing Red Rock Eater Digest (link's on my sidebar) when I came across this link. It's a page of MP3 downloads from a jazz musician named Steve Coleman. He is the brains behind a concept called m-base which, from what I can tell, is a methodology for composing improvisation, if that's not too much of an oxymoron.
Well, I don't know much about it, but what I do know is that his music page has hours of free downloadable jazz MP3's. What I've explored so far is some very respectable bebop and hard-bop. Worth a listen if you're into jazz. Any piece of music called "The Tao of Mad Phat" should be downloaded for the name alone.
Young Aussie Futurists that I happen to know
I went to school with this guy. Vato de Futuro Wayne Pethrick has a cool home page. He's one of the sharper crayons in the box over in the UHCL Futures program and I still have occasion to work with him on projects now and then. It was just today I discovered his web site which is deserving of some link love.
Seeing as how I skipped lunch, industriously working at my desk, I was looking for a snack while out running errands on my way home. I passed this place in a strip shopping center intriguingly named "Bubble Island." It appeared to be a food establishment, but what kind?
Apparently they serve Vietnamese (Taiwanese? Chinese?) Tapioca drinks. Their menu has the unfathomable depth that only combinatorics can provide -- about forty different drink flavors with many possible add-ins. Apparently the most common add-in is Tapioca -- these black chewy pearl-sized balls which taste, I dunno, kind of like walnuts or something, but gummy. To my gringo American palate, it tasted good, but very strange.
I ended up with a coconut milk drink with about two inches of the little black bubbles in the bottom. The cup itself was interesting. The lid was a thick cellophane that was heat-sealed onto the cup and then the straws -- big enough in circumference to accommodate the tapioca -- are pointed and you just pierce the cellophane with the straw and suck away.
The sensation of getting three or four little chewy balls with every sip of your drink takes some getting used to. But I could get used to it. I'll definitely go back.
While I was sitting there sipping gummy bubbles and coconut milk, eating my peanut toast (the only food item they serve is toast. Yes, toast. Seven different flavors of toast.) I became worried that this place was too exotic to survive in the land of Taco Bell and the Olive Garden. I asked the guy behind the counter how business was and he said it was pretty good. It is steady during lunch and after work on weekdays, but on weekend nights the place is packed, the line stretching out the door.
Cool. Good for them. I've got to take Heidi and see what she thinks. A little local color is a good thing.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Wow, apparently Futurescan has been named a "blog of note" on the Blogger homepage. I guess I should update more often.
Indeed it is supposed to be a collaborative blog, but I have been the only "Vato de Futuro" to post lately.
I need to roust up the futurist posse so we can look good for our 15 minutes of fame. I'd settle for not looking lame.
A Little Window
On weekdays, especially now that school has started, I have a little window of time to spend with my kids. I get home at 5:00 and my kids go to bed at 8 or 9-ish. That leaves me three hours a night to spend with my children.
Somehow, with dinner to fix and clean up after, that time seems to just fly by. I find myself bathing an putting them to bed before I've even gotten a chance to do much with them. I can't let that time go by mindlessly. Though I often do.
Last night Heidi gave me a nice gift. Mr. Freshpants wanted to go play immediately after dinner and Heidi told me she'd do the dishes (she cooked too, the dishes are usually my job) and I got to go spend some "floor time" in his room. We played with cars and made lots of vroom sounds.
Then I got to spend some time working with Girlzilla on her spelling homework and then she and I worked on a journal/blog page we are putting together for her. I showed her how to make an HTML link.
Nothing very grand, but that forty-five minutes or so with them made me realize that I need to block out some time for each of my kids every day. As regular as prayer. It is prayer of a fashion, isn't it?
It's a small window and it closes so easily. Especially when you're not looking. Lord, help me to see.
Monday, August 26, 2002
I love it when two apparently unrelated realms of human endeavor intersect. I especially love it when I come across two delicious examples of it in the same day. Serendipitydo!
First the Internet Scout pointed me to a page of links that explores the use of artificial life algoritms to compose music. And then my own scanning took me to this treasure trove of resources about the intersection of science and art.
Warning: Don't go to either of these unless you have some time to kill. They're infectious.
More web Archaeology
I found another web ruin (last updated 1998) that stands as a cyber Mount Rushmore of sorts of the preeminent minds of our time. This Technoprophets page apparently was a class assignment at pre-9/11, pre dot-com bust Duke University. I'm sure all the students, starry-eyed with Internet dreams, are probably a bit sadder and wiser about tech these days. But this list, ancient as it is in Internet years, still holds up pretty well. You could get lost in there. Leave bread crumbs.
The Lion King
It's hard to know when you've just experienced an artistic performance that is a classic for all times. Are time and perspective absolutely necessary to bestow superlatives of timelessness?
Did the peasants in the pit of the Globe Theatre have any inkling that the tale of star-crossed lovers they just saw would be hailed for hundreds of years as an example of the best artistic feats man could create? Did someone in the audience know better as the rest of them booed Stravinksy? I mean, Van Gogh died in obscurity. And many of the most celebrated artistic sensations of many an era have faded from human memory. So, how can I say whether something I just saw will be remembered for all time?
And what's more, can Big Corporate Money produce anything approaching the pinnacle of artistic perfection? Can the crass power of ample funding and the brute force of cutting-edge technology produce sublime subtleties of human expression?
I have to admit I was skeptical about a road production of a Big Broadway Musical produced by Disney. But instead of coming away from The Lion King with a smile and humming one of the tunes, I came away from this performance pondering the above Big Questions of human artistic endeavor.
This was not so much a musical as a ballet with words. Not so much a performance as a work of art. I found myself tuning out the music and the story (which I have seen in animated form with my children so many times I cannot count) and just watching the beautiful spectacle.
The genius of The Lion King was in its simplicity. The problem with big budget entertainment is that it is usually so ham-fisted and obvious it just hits you over the head. This performance was subtle, minimalistic, but intricate. Instead of having a big technical crew creating big effects from offstage, they moved the technical crew onstage and blended them into the performance. There was no usual "man behind the screen". Instead he came out onto the stage and stole the show.
Disney spent its money well and created an artistic experience that defied categorization. Choreography was puppetry, the scenery was the chorus, lighting was a character, costumes were set design -- all normal theater categories were turned upside down.
And so I came out of The Lion King Saturday in a happy muddle, not knowing what exactly I just saw and wondering if I had the proper perspective to place in it the hierarchy of human artistic experience. I guess it seems unlikely that The Lion King is a latter day La Traviata or MacBeth, but so much of the genius of The Lion King was unlikely. And so pleasantly unexpected.
Oh, and the music was pretty good too.
Friday, August 23, 2002
Getting over the Yuck Curve: What Rocky Horror has to do with Sheep
The last piece of TV flotsam I witnessed on my sick leave was a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show on American Movie Classics last night. It was weird watching that film without having a lighter and a squirt gun and a newspaper and rice and ... you get the idea. I also, for the first time, got to actually watch the movie.
There were whole scenes I had never understood in the dozen or so times I've attended showings of this film. Partly because my attentions were split between the screen and the floor show and partly because the dialogue was obscured by the stuff people were screaming at the characters. So I finally got to sit down and actually watch my beloved Rocky Horror.
Man, that is one terrible film.
It's like when I realized that most American beer tastes truly awful. I had already started drinking American beer because I thought it was cool and the only beer the people I thought were cool at the time could obtain was American beer. "It's an acquired taste," I'd say to myself as I choked the stuff down. Well apparently it is, cause I drink beer occasionally now, but not the same swill I started out drinking.
Hey, now that I think of it, that's the way I started drinking coffee and Scotch as well. With all of these I got over the "yuck curve" by a sheep-like desire to be as cool as whoever I wanted to emulate at the time.
I was similarly sheep-like my first time at Rocky Horror. But there was no "yuck curve." It was instant love. I wanted to be "in" on all the culture. I wanted to be a guy who knew when to throw rice and when to slap the seat and when to yell, "Kick it!." I wanted to do the Time Warp. I wanted to be an "insider" so I could smugly tell all the "virgins" about what fun they were missing.
Such defines my adolescence. Trying to emulate the cool kids. I am not so sure I'm not still like that today. I've just fallen into what my parents would term a "good crowd". When I got to college I sought out the scouting-related Service Fraternity like the good Eagle Scout I was. There I met my wife, who dragged me to Church, where I met a whole new set of people to emulate. I always seemed to end up surrounded by relatively good influences, reason #345 that my parents did good by me.
I don't think I'm so alone in my "sheepness." Jesus called us sheep for a reason, and not very complimentarily I might add. I think that's why the Church has givien us the saints, a set of cool people to emulate. And I think that's part of why we have so much ritual in the Church. Ritual defines community and gives us a culture to be "in" on. Everyone likes to be "in" on something.
There has been a lot written about the sociology of what makes RHPS such a cultural phenomenon. My theory is that Rocky Horror was like a secular proto-Church. It provided a an outlet for the secular practice of ritual and a community of people to be "in" with. How else could such an abysmal movie end up a cult classic?
But it did leave me with a great motto, something that, applied in a more constructive or spiritual setting, could be a rather nice mantra -- "Don't dream it, Be it."
I've had a gut-wrenching two days. Not emotional trauma gut-wrenching but intestinal illness gut-wrenching. So apart from spending a lot of quality time with my loo and laying around willing time to move faster relative to my conscious perception of it, I watched a lot of TV. In fact I've watched more TV in the last twenty-four hours than I have in the past month.
I have renewed insight as to why I do not watch much TV. I just have to say now that the current vogue in TV advertising where they get a charmingly irritating character to interact wittily and oh-so-spontaneously with the public at large is getting to be way past its expiration date.
And the Clairol people simply MUST cease and desist with their whole "wank-vertising" campaign. You know the one, where the woman in the shower is enjoying her shampoo a bit too much, loudly, with gusto? I mean, there was a certain seventh-grade tittery amusement with the fact that the word "organic" is two letters different from the word "orgasmic." If you stretched a bit you might get one double-entendre commerical off the concept. But this is just too much. Clairol is using this "wank-vertising" concept for its fruity shampoos now. Please stop now. It's getting embarrassing.
But apparently wanking sells. Levi's is picking up the "wank-vertising" torch with a new campaign that urges you to "Rub Yourself" in their jeans. (via Meg's notsosoft)
But unless I get sick again, I probably won't be seeing those commercials. Now there's some motivation to stay healthy.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
A Nice Ring To It
I am wearing, for the first time in years, my wedding band. I am so married it is ridiculous, but ever since my ring shrunk (ahem) to the point of cutting off my circulation, I have had it in a drawer. People would ask me why I didn't wear my ring. And Heidi would chime in with a bemused, "Yes, Cody, why *don't* you wear your ring?" I would always answer that it was cutting off my circulation and that I was not a "jewelry guy" anyway.
It was a few weeks ago that it occurred to me in prayer (or God told me, you pick) that, "Hey dummy, you can just have your ring resized." And since there seems to be a several week lag between any idea of mine and observable action, I am now wearing my wedding ring three weeks and thirty dollars later.
And I am glad. I have felt a strong need to wear my wedding ring lately. Not to signal to the world that I'm "off limits" or anything territorial like that. For a guy my size, women do not make furtive hopeful glances at my left hand to see if I'm available. There's absolutely no danger of that sort.
I need the ring on my finger as a symbol of my faith in action. I need to remind myself constantly that the core of my spiritual life lies in loving action -- relationships -- and not words and ideas. The slight pressure on my left ring finger is a reminder that I am working out my salvation through my marriage. Loving Christ by strengthening my love for my wife.
And so I pray that this slight pressure on my finger does not fade into the other sensations of my life. Just as I wish that my marriage stays rooted in action and does not become a fading sentiment.
Wide open spaces
This last weekend several hundred teenagers hanging out in a K-Mart parking lot were arrested by Houston Police for "criminal tresspass." Just about everyone here thinks the arrests were ridiculous and the whole affair caused a big stink. Much debate has ensued about police abuses of power, but I haven't seen anyone asking the deeper questions.
Like, what were four hundred teens doing hanging out in a K-Mart parking lot?
I've seen this phenomenon first hand in the parking lot of a shopping center by us. Heidi and I were leaving our customary date-ending browse at Barnes and Noble, our iced Chai Lattes in hand, and there they were. Hundreds of kids in the middle of the big lot, not parked at any particular store, standing in and around their cars talking. Hanging out, as teens like to do. I made a mental note to ask some teens I know from church about the phenomenon, but then promptly forgot about it until I saw the newspaper story about the arrests of a similar gathering of teens in a similar parking lot across town.
This parking lot hangout thing must be a trend. And now that I think of it, it makes sense. In car-happy Houston, the only wide open spaces available to most people are the parking lots and shopping centers have huge ones. Teens like to hang out in large numbers and there's just not many places they can do that. They get locked out of most parks after dark and run out of malls and other commercial establishments by security guards if they accumulate in numbers larger than a dozen or so. There's no viable public space for teens to gather and have their "scene" (or whatever they call it these days) without having to buy something, pay admission, or at least pretend to be shopping. Large groups of teens make adults nervous, so if they are not generating revenue for somebody somewhere, they are not accommodated.
But we need to accommodate them. They need a safer place to "see and be seen" than a mall parking lot. I always tell my brother the youth minister that his job is very important. He provides such space for teens to hang out and talk. Yeah, he also sets up events that give them something productive to do. Parents always like it when their teens have something productive to do. But David, and most other good youth ministers, know that kids just like to sit around and talk. I wish the rest of our society knew that. And were willing to make a safe public space for teens to be themselves.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Groovy! A Jazz venue has opened up just down the street from us. It'a called Dolphin Street. It has live Jazz Tuesday through Saturday.
I am encouraged because instead of calling itself a club it's self-billed as a "listening room." It's close enough to home that Heidi and I might be able to sneak away after the kids are in bed for an hour or so. Wednesday night is their Jam Night and they have early live music from 5:00 to 9:00 on Tuesdays for the non-nightowl crowd as well.
They have managed to book some biggish regional Jazz acts, like Joe Locasio and Sebastian Whittaker. It'll be interesting to see who else they can get. I hope this takes off. It'd be nice to have a viable alternative to the humdrum dinnerandamovie date without having to drive downtown.
A number of Yoplait Whips showed up in our refrigerator overnight. Heidi probably got them on sale. She's efficient that way.
The commercials tout this product as being unbelievably light and fluffy. I see it as an excuse to sell people less yogurt for the same amount of money. But hey, why should Starbucks be the only ones to profit off of the inexplicable American love affair with dairy-flavored air?
(dairy-flavored air. dairy air. Tee hee. Say, "I want some dairy air!" ten times fast, with enthusiasm.)
I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the focus group for this product. Were they all, "I love that Yoplait, but man, that stuff goes straight to the hips!" I mean is it really necessary to make yogurt, the 98-pound weakling of breakfast foodstuffs, even lighter?
I'd say that Yoplait Whips are the most innovative use of air in a breakfast food since Rice Krispies. But will people buy it? Well, if Americans can embrace a breakfast cereal that basically starts to collapse the second you pour milk on it, I can't blame the Yoplait folks for giving it a try.
As for me, I had the regular heavy 6oz. Yoplait this morning. I'm such a pig.
I love Licorice, but it's hard to find in any variety. Apparently, there are people who find Licorice to be too strong a flavor. Yes, really.
And it is a *flavor*. Single. There are *not* multiple flavors of licorice! I've seen abominations such as Bannana and Chocolate "Licorice" selling right out in the open at my local Target, right where young children can see them and permanently stunt their proper formation of candy taxonomy. If it is not black and flavored with anise, it is NOT, in any way whatsoever, real Licorice!
So among the fifteen flavors of Licorice-stick-shaped abomination selling at Target, was there any *real* Licorice? No. Such is the life of the Licorice lover. Marginalized to stores where they sell expensive foreign candy like Toblerone and Haribo Gummi Bears, a true Licorice devotee is always on the hunt for a purer, more novel formulation of the sweet black gold.
Now I've found a Licorice portal of sorts -- a Licorice Finder where dozens upon dozens of Licorice brands can be browsed and purchased. Finally. The Internet delivers again. I love the Internet.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Pablo's Husband Haircut -- $12
I couldn't help feeling like I had just had my hair cut by my favorite aunt.
She was late forties, Hispanic. She looked as if she'd just stepped out of a Pablo Neruda sonnet. She was probably keeping some grey-around the-temples fiftyish Hispanic gentleman somewhere *very* happy -- and well-groomed to boot. She probably cut all her family's hair, sending each freshly-trimmed nephew off with a kiss on the forehead and a pat on the butt.
So this is how I just knew she was married: As she was finishing trimming my sideburns she discreetly moved the razor in toward my ears. Then she asked if she could clip an eyebrow hair or two.
"You must have a husband." I said. She smiled demurely. She hit every spot that my wife complains about. You see, my wife periodically comes at me with these huge-ass pycho shears at 11:14 at night while we're laying in bed. Apparently the bedside reading light illuminates my head just so and it drives her crazy. "My wife will thank you." I said. She smiled. And I smiled. I was spared the psycho shears for a few more weeks.
So I'll go back regularly. She does my hair like I imagine Heidi would if she had the training and the experience. And I love the opportunity to avoid the national chain hair factories and patronize a locally-owned business in my area. And you gotta love a haircut that inspires you to go read some Pablo Neruda:
Here are the bread -- the wine -- the table -- the house:
a man's needs, and a woman's, and a life's.
Peace whirled through and settled in this place:
the common fire burned, to make this light.
Hail to your two hands, which fly and make
their white creations, the singing and the food:
salve! the wholesomeness of your busy feet;
viva! the ballerina who dances with the broom.
Those rugged rivers of water and of threat,
torturous pavillions of the foam,
incendiary hives and reefs: today
they are this respite, your blood in mine,
this path, starry and blue as the night,
this never-ending simple tenderness.
- Pablo Neruda
I have never been a computer lover. I have lived and worked with computers all of my life. "Love" never came into the equation. They were never a hobby or a passion, they represented work to me. Still do.
So it's strange to feel wistful when a computer I worked with goes away. I am not used to having emotional ties with a machine. But I can't help having a moment of silence for this particular one. Of course it's not just any old computer. The Mission Operations Computer helped controllers fly the Space Shuttle for years and helped fly Apollo and other manned space missions before that. It's not just a computer, but a piece of history.
It was a job for me. A cool job. A life's work, if a mere 36-year-old can use those words and not sound too presumptuous.
When Heidi was in PR for a non-profit, I found myself attending these swanky society fundraisers, with doctors, corporate raiders, and captains of industry. Men and women with deep pockets and prominent job titles. And we'd invariably find ourselves standing in a circle holding flutes of champagne taking turns answering the requisite, "And so what do you do?" question. I may not have been a rich dude, but I got to say, "You know those green consoles that the flight controllers sit at when a Shuttle is in orbit? I write Trajectory software that powers those consoles and supports the Shuttle missions." And everyone would be suitably impressed. Yep, the MOC made for an impressive-sounding job. And for people who are not from Houston, my job sounded even more impressive.
But I know it's not all that impressive. The MOC was to computers today what my grandad's old station wagon was to cars of today. Enormous, clunky, and dead-on dependable. A workhorse. A dinosaur. A miracle of 1960's technology.
The article above references what I've been doing for the past five years -- putting the MOC out to pasture. Last week they turned off the MOC for good, right after laying off the people who took care of it. I feel kind of bad about that, but what can you do -- march of progress and all?
I'm gratified to read about our Trajectory Server, which is replacing the last key part of the MOC, as being "very robust" and an "unqualified success." Indeed, how many multi-year software projects involving hundreds of thousands of lines of code come in under budget, on time, and with a quality product? So, yeah I'm proud. I hope the Trajectory Server grows up to be Mission Control's next beloved, reliable dinosaur. And when they decided to scrap it years from now, I hope I find out somehow, so I can be appropriately wistful once again.
Sunday, August 18, 2002
It would have helped to have been there
In today's Gospel was some peculiar dialogue that stuck with me. It was the image of this Canaanite woman imploring Jesus to heal her daughter. Minus nonverbal cues, it seems like Jesus is acting kind of like, well, a jerk, saying to the woman:
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
"It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."
But she persists and says, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."
Then Jesus turns around and says, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."
Now what's up with that? I think, and my concordance concurs, that Jesus is being tongue-in-cheek when he calls her a "dog". I think he is mocking the social superiority that Jews conferred upon themselves as the "chosen people" over the gentiles. In a way, he may have been sarcastically projecting what his critics might whisper amongst themselves were he to stop and help this woman.
But I imagined her to be sharp. She picked up his ironic intent. She could do with a mere scrap of his time. And she provided an answer for Jesus to use with his future critics. I imagine Jesus and the woman exchanging a knowing smile -- an inside joke of sorts. If it were not for the woman's state of distress, I could almost imagine a shared wink. They both knew that the power of faith went way beyond religion. The fact that she wasn't a Jew, the fact that she'd probably never uttered a word of prayer to his Father before, didn't matter a whit. She needed help and knew Jesus could do it. And so Jesus helped.
Man I wish it was always that simple. Of course I wish I had faith like that!
Another one I've never been able to find at Barnes And Noble
Brian Patten is a wonderful poet. And like John Hegley, another British Poet I'd like to read more of, I cannot find his work at any library or bookstore near me. I am inexplicably annoyed when I have to turn to Amazon to get a book I want. I don't know why, but it seems like I and my local culture have somehow fallen short in some way. But I may have to turn to Amazon to get a Brian Patten book.
What I've read of his poems have been delightful:
A Blade of Grass
You ask for a poem.
I offer you a blade of grass.
You say it is not good enough.
You ask for a poem.
I say this blade of grass will do.
It has dressed itself in frost,
It is more immediate
Than any image of my making.
You say it is not a poem,
It is a blade of grass and grass
Is not quite good enough.
I offer you a blade of grass.
You are indignant.
You say it is too easy to offer grass.
It is absurd.
Anyone can offer a blade of grass.
You ask for a poem.
And so I write you a tragedy about
How a blade of grass
Becomes more and more difficult to offer,
And about how as you grow older
A blade of grass
Becomes more difficult to accept.
And I always give two if I can. As if to show you that the first one wasn't just a fluke:
Doubt Shall Not Make An End Of You
Doubt shall not make an end of you
nor closing eyes lose your shape
when the retina's light fades;
what dawns inside me will light you.
In our public lives we may confine ourselves to darkness,
our nowhere mouths explain away our dreams,
but alone we are incorruptible creatures,
our light sunk too deep to be of any social use
we wander free and perfect without moving
or love on hard carpets
where couples revolving round the room
end found at its centre.
Our love like a whale from its deepest ocean rises -
I offer this and a multitude of images
from party rooms to oceans,
the single star and all its reflections;
being completed we include all
and nothing wishes to escape us.
Beneath my hand your hardening breast agrees
to sing of its own nature,
then from a place without names our origin comes shivering.
Feel nothing separate then,
we have translated each other into light
and into love go streaming.
Nice to start the week with a spot of poetry, eh?
Footprints on my Butt
I don't have the Footprints poem hanging anywhere in my house, but I do have a different version of the kitschy Footprints poem in my head. You know the part when it gets to the end of the poem, and Jesus is explaining why there's only one set of footprints in places:
"During your times of trial and suffering,when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
I think of a version that's more appropriate to my life:
"During your times of procrastination and dithering, when you sat around and moped and asked me to bail you out, it was then that kicked you off your butt and down the beach."
Some of us need different things from a relationship with Jesus than others. In that spirit, I'm turning off the computer and going to do a couple of things, like my morning meditation, I've been putting off.
Have a nice Sabbath. Even you non-Christians. You have a nice day of rest too, 'kay?
Friday, August 16, 2002
Matthew Sturges, whose journal writing I greatly admire, has honored me with his "Daily Notable" designation. Wow. Coming from him, it's quite an honor. He mentions my poetry reading entries below and that he secretly wants to be a poet. So do I Matt, so do I.
I'd like to use this brief blink-fast spurt of web-attention to highlight another web poet, my favorite, that deserves more attention than I. Back in 1995 I discovered the Internet, and back then Usenet was a much more happening place. I became an avid reader of the rec.arts.poems group, and I was drawn to the poetry of Zita Marie Evensen more than most any other poet. She is multi-ethnic, romantic, a chemisty/physics geek, and spiritual in a naturalistic way that reminds me of Edward Estlin Cummings, another all-time favorite of mine.
She doesn't have a webpage, but you can find her stuff on the Internet with a judicious search of Google Groups' archive. She has a history of posting poems since 1993. (Look at the messages that start with "zme:" Those are the poems.)
It's interesting in that you can see the evolution of her revisions if you sort by date and then start with the oldest page of results. Something you cannot do with a webpage or a chapbook.
Her writing makes me smile:
i am one rainbow someone
yes, that's who i am
i see no borders
i am a crossword genome
of cosmic stardust and
the elemental woman
i am very selfish
with my laughters and my pains
you have no right no right
to see my marble box
of calico agates and black stones
- i refuse to scream
or cry or go to
instead i will tease you
to laughter paint you
teach you the heuristics
of love and loving
and dance with stars
at mind-warp speed
i am a rainbow someone
who knows who knows
i own my hurts
and you have no right
to share them
but silently ever
i will make sure
copyright z m evensen
28feb1999 -- rev
I think in one of the earlier versions of this poem she used the phrase "bitchin' heuristics." Gotta love a woman who says "bitchin' heuristics."
And one more:
when i wander into groves
of monolithic sequioas,
kneel on worn dark pews
of medieval cathedrals,
and walk barefoot
in white-domed temples --
i have heated conversations
how would i know prayer.
I love to mine the old Internet. The catacombs of cobweb sites from years past exude the boomtown idealism of the early Web and can yield unexpected delightful treasures . Zita Marie Evensen has been around since those early days, but she's no cobweb. She is a hidden treasure and part of the vast vital history of the Internet. If I could link her from my page, I would. But the fact that I can't is kind of cool too.
Just for fun, and because I haven't posted it yet, I'll post one of the futures poems I read the other night. Since it's in the form of a cowboy poem, it's one of the few I have written that rhymes.
There is a backstory, if you're interested:
The year is 2031.
Balkanization has made the world into a cacaphony of special interests, races, religous groups, all becoming more fanatical as they withdraw from and attack the mainstream political and social culture. The traditional concept of national sovereignty is crumbling and the US government is in crisis.
The information economy has exaggerated the "have/ have not" ("know/know not") gap to unstable extremes. Terrorism and crime have made the physical world dangerous while advances in cyber technology have made a rich and realistic online world. Corporations have stepped in to provide social infrastructure, schools, etc. to ensure that there will be people who can buy their products and work in their factories. Defense contractors have turned their business from big military hardware to the booming personal and community security market because it's much more lucrative.
The biggest such security services corporation has teamed up with Disney entertainment services to provide master-planned,
fortress-like islands of community "the way it used to be" for those who can afford it. Mostly the knowledge workers and upper
classes have retreated behind the walls of such communities to become "gaters", leaving behind masses of people whose means and opportunities leave them on the outside looking in. Communites of outsiders crop up around these walled neighborhoods in almost feudalistic style to provide physical services like day labor, dry-cleaning, and anything
else that must be done in the physical world and not over the Net.
The "cowboy" archetype figure of the day is the delivery man -- what we now consider as a common truck driver. He must travel the dangerous roads and transport physical goods so he must be wary, agile, street-smart, and skilled in close combat -- in other words a real bad-ass dude. These guys (and occasionally women, but hey, the world hasn't changed that much yet) are usually employed as part of larger corporate security forces and trained like military personell, but there are independent contractors" who handle special deliveries...
Song of the Latter-Day Cowboy, 2031
You sit safely behind your electrified fence
With the world outside so dark and intense.
While a bunch of poor slobs huddle outside in anger.
I ride through poverty, pollution, and danger
To fetch you the stuff you can't get off the net
`Cause teleports aren't available yet.
The rabble outside who pick through your trash
Just wait for the chance to jump your rich ass.
To go out yourself, dude, is rollin, the dice.
If you want the hard goods gotta pay a high price.
So give me some money, some fear, and respect
And I'll bring you your mail and your groceries direct.
Don't get your hands dirty. Make that my job.
I'll bloody my hands to fight through the mob.
I'm the baddest mother trucker who ever hauled a load
Got lead in my foot and my eye on the road.
Got laser-sight taser to knock out your senses
and an EMP canon to fry your defenses.
Got non-lethal measures all over the place
and a Glock and an AK in hand just in case.
My name is feared for the things that I do
but it's also revered cause I always come through.
I'm a gear jammin' cowboy. I breathe through a mask
while drivin' through hell to accomplish my task.
I hauled the world's very last catch of fish
to some rich guy for his wife's birthday wish.
I took a small nuke to some dudes in L.A.
what they had plans for, they wouldn't say.
(I don't ask questions as long as they pay.)
I've hauled toxic waste and organs on ice
black market water and transgenic mice
Chemical weapons and contraband clones
designer drugs and remote-controlled drones.
I can deliver. There's no job too tough.
If you can pay, I'll bring you the stuff.
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Public Service Announcement
For those of you who are turning up in my referrer logs looking for a Cliff's Notes on Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond let me save you some trouble by telling you that THERE ARE NO CLIFF'S NOTES FOR GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL!
If you've been assigned to read it for a class, you'll just have to read it.
Back in the Futures Program, we had to learn how to do what is termed an "80/20" scan of a book. That's based on the 80/20 Principle -- 80% of the useful information can be gleaned in the first 20% of reading time (if you do it right.) Another trick is to read what's said about a book before you read it so you can get an idea of the highlights. You'd be better off Googling for "reviews of Guns Germs and Steel" than for the Cliff's Notes.
But Diamond's book is so fact-dense that it defies a good skim. Any history professor worth her salt will be able to make up an exam that will trip you if you try to skim the book and say you read it.
Face it folks, you'll just have to read the book. Quit Googling for shortcuts!
I went and read some poetry Tuesday night at Borders' River Oaks location. It's a regular reading held the second Tuesday of every month, hosted by a guy from the Art Institute of Houston, which apparently is the tacit sponsor of the event. This was a pretty nice, well-attended reading. Everyone was good -- no excruciating teen-angsty daggers-at-the-back-of-my-ex screeds here.
In fact it was kind of intimidating. Everyone seemed to know each other from a previous creative writing class or workshop. Many of the readers were reading from their chapbooks or from poetry journals they were published in. Some very accomplished poets. Still, I think I held my own. I read a coupla my dystopian futures poems and everyone laughed and nodded in the right places. I must have been mistaken for a political poet I guess, because people kept walking up to me after the reading and agreeing with my "statement." All in all, worth going back to.
But I couldn't help comparing in my mind this reading to the one I attended at G.K.'s coffee house off of Almeda blvd. in mid-town, where the atmosphere is, um, less affluent. I was one of three white people in the standing-room only venue. There was no reading from prominent poetry journals. There was no reading at all.
These people performed their poetry. They lived it. Seethed it. They yelled, they jumped, they sang, laughed, wailed. They had background grooves they rapped to. It was awesome. I felt so, so, suburban standing on the stage reading from my notebook of poetry. Everyone was supportive, but, if I go back, I'll leave my stuff at home and just soak up their poetry juju.
(edited later in the day: I have to add this thing I forgot. Some of my friends, whenever I talk about doing poetry readings, tease me by doing a mock-beatnik clicking-in-the-air gesture with both hands. They do this 'cause they know it'll get an irritated, "They don't click at poetry readings anymore!" out of me. Well, when I read my poems at G.K.'s in mid-town that night, one of the ladies in the audience put both arms up and clicked away, shaking her head from side to side. It was the first and only time I have been "clicked" at a poetry reading. I was quite pleased.)
So our little reading Tuesday night, with the chapbooks and polite applause had me wishing that I had memorized some of my poems. Wishing that I had worked something emotional, something startling, into my delivery. Maybe one of these days I'll shock a prim poetry reading with a little jump-and-yell reading of my own, but I'll need to sit through a lot of readings in mid-town and soak up a lot more poetry juju to make that happen.
Best-Kept Coffee Secret in Houston
I dislike restaraunt coffee as a rule, unless the place, like Brasil or Empire Cafe, is known for its good coffee. Usually if coffee is on the menu lumped in with the other beverages, it's that pre-ground, in a can, green-tasting, underroasted, stale swill.
There are some places, like Kaldi Cafe or Farrago where the coffee is fabulous. Usually I will ask where they get their coffee if it's good and both of these places said they serve Lola Savannah coffee.
I was disappointed not to have found a new cool coffee hotspot -- they are not a cafe, they are a roastery that supplies restaraunts around Houston. But they're located in the warehouse district about a stone's throw from Atomic Cafe and Last Concert Cafe. I found them once on a trip to downtown. Walked right in and got two pounds of coffee still fresh and warm from the roaster. My car smelled yummy for a week. If I lived in the Dakota Lofts or somewhere downtown, I'd drink no other coffee. Nothing like fresh-roasted coffee.
I am sort of a coffee snob. Actually I am not so much of a snob about the kind of beans I buy. I am a snob about the *way* my coffee is made. Clean clear water, clean equipment, recently roasted beans, and it must go directly from the grinder to the coffee maker with no delay. Do those things and it doesn't matter to me whether it's the celebrated Kona or a humble Guatemalan bean. Coffee is coffee to me if you make it right and it's fresh.
Since my discovery I'm always on the lookout for places that serve Lola Savannah coffee. I'm hoping to find a regular hookup that doesn't involve a drive into town. Mornings Kolaches in the Clear Lake area serves it, for instance. But they don't move a lot of coffee out of their shop and I fear the beans they have are too old for my taste. And now the coffee shop around the corner from me, Kenny J's, sells several of their flavored coffees. They won't sell Lola Savanna's regular coffees because they'd compete with Kenny J's main bean supplier. Drats. I picked up a pound of their Vanilla Nut this morning on principle. I want the stuff to sell there to keep the hope alive that Kenny J's might keep selling Lola Savannah coffees. You gotta support what you believe in with your dollars, you know?
Speaking of coffee discoveries and supporting what you believe in with your dollars, Elaine of H-Town Bloggers fame turned me on to a new downtown cyber cafe called Kaveh Kanes. They have late weekday hours, impeccable espresso, a WIFI node, and ethernet connections. I'm taking my wife back there at our next convenience and the next time I need to spend a day deep in concentration doing some writing and consulting work, I'm taking my laptop there.
Rambling on about coffee again... I guess it could have something to do with the quadruple espresso I drank this morning. Oh surley not.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
This weekend we are going on an overnight family retreat. Our parish is going to be the guinea pigs who try out the family facilities at the Galveston-Houston Diocese's new Circle Lake Retreat Center. Since we're taking along everyone down to the seven-month old, we should give the family facilities an old-fashioned maximum load test.
And, just in time for us to go on family retreat, I got leads on two very good family resources from Smartmarriages.com, both developed by Brigham Young University in order to help build stronger families. One is an excellent informational site called Forever Families and the other, Family Together, is an actual family-strengthening *program* online. It offers interactive family assessment tools and lessons with activities for families to do together. They also offer feedback and a final assessment after you complete the program.
These are great resources if you are non-denominational and not formally associated with a Church or your local Church organization does not have a strong enough family life ministry to offer a good family development course. Who knows, we may do it ourselves as a follow-through to our upcoming retreat. I'm certainly going to tell our family life minister about them.
This last week of summer before school starts will have to be the week we establish the School Year Routine and transition from the carefree summer mode. It will be a week of family meetings and rule setting, so what a good week to be thinking about healthy family dynamics. Family relationships are like marriage relationships in that they need to be worked on and nurtured. Thanks Be To God I have a wife who holds that kind of work as a strong value.
Easy for you to say, part II
My daily Hindu scrpture says:
"All things arise,
And pass away.
This is their nature.
When you know this,
Nothing perturbs you,
Nothing hurts you.
You become still.
It is easy."
-Ashtavakra Gita 11:1
I beg to differ. Wrestling with one's own temporality and mortality is not easy! How come I never disagree with my daily Xn scripture reading? Maybe I am not paying close enough attention...
I'm so there
If you know anything about alternative culture in Houston, you know about the Orange Show and its foundation. And like me you probably have also seen the Beer Can House on Malone Street. Well, I've only seen if from the street because historically the folk art landmark has been a private residence and it's not polite to go knock on a door and say, "Hey, can I gawk at your freaky house?" (though some people just let themselves onto the grounds, I hear.)
Now for the first time in ever, The Orange Show will be holding a party IN THE BEER CAN HOUSE! Hoo! It's Wednesday, September 18th. It is their 20th Anniversary Party and they are having it at The Beer Can House from 7-10 pm, 222 Malone Street! It's doubling as their volunteer appreciation party and they need volunteers to run it.
I'll volunteer. I've volunteered for the Art Car Ball a few years and it was a blast. Being able to get up close to the most famous pile of beer cans in the country is an added bonus. If you're from Houston, or if you'll be in town, you can volunteer too.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
You too can be Trend-y.
Hey bloggers, do you want to be ahead of the curve? C'mon, bloggers always want to blog the Next Cool Thing, right? It's what y'all do.
What if I told you that you could learn a set of skills that will train your mind to scan the cultural horizon for the emerging trends, extract possible implications, and then build pictures of emerging future worlds?
What if I told you that you could get an M.S. degree by sitting in a salon setting discussing the interactions of demographics, global technopolitics, genetics, and pop culture over cups of coffee?
Well, okay, you do have to write a few papers and read a few books. (Like about forty million.) But the classes rock.
Well the gem in Houston's backyard is the Studies of the Future program at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Tell me, what other regional college draws enrollment from five continents? If you're from Houston, you are missing out on an educational opportunity that's recognized world-wide.
Not from Houston? No problem. The UHCL Future Studies program has two courses newly available online for the coming academic year -- Intro to Future Studies and Systems Thinking. They're in the process of creating web versions of all the courses so you can get the degree without having to live in Houston for any period. Application details are here if you're interested.
This is a shameless plug for my graduate Alma Mater. Most Futures Program graduates I know describe their lives in terms of "before" and "after" getting this degree. I think of my life in the same way. Sorry if I sound too much like a commercial, but I am a dedicated alumnus (not a paid promoter) and I want to see this degree program succeed.
Monday, August 12, 2002
You are not the pine-scented air
Speaking of flipping through the current issue of Esquire, I came across some words in the 'Man At His Best' section, which is a must for culture scanning, BTW. The words sounded familiar and when I looked closer, I saw that they were from the first two stanzas of my favorite Billy Collins poem called LITANY:
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--
Boy, that's a great poem.
Every year I toy with not renewing my Esquire subscription. But for only $8 or so and with occasional gems like this, I can forgive the twelve pages of glossy full-page ads that hide the contents page and the photo spreads of wiry unshaven hipsters trying to convince me that the St. Petersburg look is what's "in" this year. (You just *know* that their execs all wear the same Armani suits they've been wearing since the eighties, though their mag is always touting some new "in" look for the rest of us.) Yes it's overly materialistic and a bit shallow, but Esquire is the most gentlemanly and cultured of the Men's magazines. It's a good way to keep in touch with what's going on with the Type-A yuppie male these days.
Okay, coming clean, I have to admit just a tinge of envy. I call it shallow and materialistic, but reading Esquire is also my way of pressing my nose against the shop window in the privacy of my own home. Part of me wishes I could afford, or heck even fit into, half the stuff they showcase in each issue.
Train Wreck TV
I actually found myself staying up an extra 30 minutes last night to catch a glimpse of The Anna Nicole Show. Heidi was already tuned to E! and left it on because it was "like watching a train wreck" -- she couldn't look away. I dunno, a train wreck at least has some compelling human drama. Well, both are really sad and they both add to your list of people to pray for.
Not kidding, it's gotta be the most unwatchable reality TV since Big Brother 2. They could do better with that slot by re-running the Different Strokes True Story episode. It wasn't 30 minutes totally wasted though, as I was able to multiplex my attention between the TV and my latest issue of Esquire. I write off such mindless pop culture time euphemistically as "culture scanning."
Anyway, Anna Nicole, minus the garish makeup and too-tight clothes, is my kind of woman. Physically that is. I like 'em a little bigger. (The women. I like the women to be bigger.) Women of substance I call them. But emotionally she is like this spoiled toddler who has no one in life to give her any structure. She basically has people follow her with a camera while she stomps around and does what she wants and says what she wants because she has big breasts and a big bank balance. From what I saw, I can't imagine that she is a very happy person, which made me feel for her a bit. But sympathy does not a TV series make.
Surely there are rich voluptuous women out there who are more deserving of an hour on television than her. Man I hope so. Or maybe the solution is to watch less TV than I already do.
The one passage that really struck me from the readings at Mass yesterday is the second one in which Peter wrote, in Romans 9:1-5:
"For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my own people,
my kindred according to the flesh."
What a challenging concept. Peter is wishing his own damnation if it were necessary to save his people. Seems similar, in my immature knowledge of Buddhism, to the concept of the Bodhisattva, who might achieve Nirvana but for his work to help others reach the goal. What kind of love, what kind of courage does it take to forsake one's ultimate spiritual goal to help others achieve theirs? And is that *really* forsaking one's own spiritual goal?
Oh how I would love to hear more Christians pray like this. Oh heck, I'd settle for having the faith and courage to pray like this myself.
While we are on challenging readings, my daily Hindu reading was equally challenging:
"Brahman cannot be realized by those
Who are subject to greed, fear, and anger.
Brahman cannot be realized by those
Who are subject to the pride of name and fame
Or to the vanity of scholarship.
Brahman cannot be realized by those
Who are enmeshed in life's duality.
But to all those who pierce this duality,
Whose hearts are given to the Lord of Love,
He gives himself through his infinite grace,
He gives himself through his infinite grace."
I like the challenging ones. It's like picking landmarks on the horizon in the direction you are walking. Except in my case, they don't seem to be getting much closer....
Sunday, August 11, 2002
If you're interested in a real world Cody sighting (God knows why) you can catch me this Tuesday at a poetry reading at the River Oaks Borders location. I'm not a featured poet or anything, but I think I'll bring some of my stuff and read in the Open Reading portion of the evening. Here's the event info:
The monthly Poetry Reading Series at Borders River
Oaks, hosted by Ken Jones, Art Institute of Houston
instructor, is proud to present
HIP3: The Anthology of the Houston Internationial
Poetry held in April 2002. The featured readers for
this event are the three co-founders of HIP: Lisa
Grable, Caroline Ross and Tina Cardona.
The reading is Tuesday, August 13, at 7:30 p.m. at
Borders Books at the corner of West Alabama and Kirby.
This poetry event is free and is part of an ongoing
series held the second Tuesday of every month. AN
OPEN READING WILL FOLLOW THE FEATURED POETS.
Come on out and throw tomatoes at me or something. Better yet, bring some of your poetry and read it.
Sonoma. So good.
Okay, they were out of Tiramisu. And most disappointingly, the jazz band called in sick. But the restaraunt we went to on our date Saturday night was a really cool place called Sonoma.
Tucked on a side street near the corner of Montrose and Westheimer, Sonoma appears to be in a building that used to be some sort of office building or school. But the restaraunt and the theater downstairs have done a great job of converting the space. Heidi had the Chilean sea bass and I had shrimp over crawfish risotto with pineapple chutney. The drinks and food were great, but the two hours of slow eating (we ordered each course separately) and great conversation with my best friend in a bona fide adult atmosphere (no laminated menus!) was sooo luxurious it was sinful. I had to order an apertif to stretch out the experience.
This evening was brought to us by my brother and his wife who, I guess after seeing how bedraggled and tired we looked after our vacation, volunteered some free babysitting to give us some adult alone time. Thanks Dave and Cindy! BTW, if you're looking for a DJ for an event, my brother is a darn good one. And reasonably priced. (Shameless plug I know, but he's my little brother and he gives me free babysitting.)
We are definitely going back when the jazz band is healthy again.
I went on a walk with Petunia and Mr. Freshpants this morning. Actually I call this type of walk a "Death March" because Mr. Freshpants really needed to expend some energy in the out of doors and, by jeebers, we were going to Expend Some Energy.
I started doing the Death Marches back when we had the twins because they had too much kinetic energy for our little house to safely contain. They used to go for two miles, but then they were three years old. Mr. Freshpants walked the better part of a mile, part of it running, before his two year-old legs succumbed to the stroller. When we got home, he hungrily ate lunch before going happily down for a long nap. Now that's the hallmark of a successful Death March! Best part of this plan is that it's his idea. Mr. Freshpants is always wanting to go outside for a walk. I just give him what he wants... in spades.
So we were already on the last leg of the Death March, Mr. Freshpants in the stroller looking wanly ahead over his water bottle, Petunia asleep, when I approached a house of some Church friends of ours. From a distance, it looked like they had decorated for some kind of party. I was wondering whose birthday it was, but when I got close I saw that they had hundreds of little flourescent colored flags stuck in their lawn -- the wire and plastic kind that construction crews place to mark cables and pipes and other underground stuff you don't want to lose track of. Normally I mind my own business, but I just had to stop and ask.
Apparently, instead of their house getting "wrapped" with toilet paper, they got "flagged." Over 500 little flags on their front lawn. What a cool joke! It's a lot nicer looking, less wasteful, and easier to clean up than most petty vandalism as nefarious youths are wont to do these days. Plus, they were left with a set of flags that they could use to retaliate with, provided their search for the culprits proved fruitful.
This is such a cool idea, I want to try it! I wonder where you get those flags? I just know that somewhere in Houston, somebody cut through an underground cable today...
Bona Fide Offer
So I didn't get a lick of paying work done all weekend, though I have been home for four days lounging around the house. What I did do is make a mix CD of Christian music for my youth groupies at Church. I had so many takers the last time I did this, I had to make more copies for the overflow crowd. In the extra time I had to make the extra copies, I found lots more Christian Rock, Rap, and Metal tracks that I liked better, so I made a whole new mix.
I don't feel too guillty ripping the songs and handing them out as all of the songs were off of promotional CDs that I got for free myself. Since the purpose of the CDs was to spread the music around, I figure I am doing their bidding by feeding it to a new audience, especially one that tends to be a voracious consumer of CDs -- the pre-teen set.
Turns out I really like this mix so I made one for myself. Here 'tis:
1. Huntingtons -- High School Rock (punkish rock)
2. Bleach -- We Are Tomorrow (alt rock)
3. Reach -- Strange Occurrence (alt rock)
4. Sanctus Real -- Say It Loud (alt rock)
5. dc Talk -- Since I Met You (alt rock)
6. Toby Mac -- Yours (rap rock)
7. Pax 217 -- Tonight (rap rock a la 311)
8. Pillar -- Fireproof (hard rock)
9. Kutless -- Again (metal)
10. Justifide -- I Don’t Care (metal)
11. Knowdaverbs -- Syllabus (rap)
12. Grits -- Here We Go (rap)
13. John Reuben -- Up and At Em (rap)
14. KJ-52 -- Rise Up (rap)
15. Andy Hunter -- Amazing (dance)
If you're like me and want to like contemporary Christian music but just can't bring yourself to; if you like to listen to music like Eminem, Blink 182, Nine Inch Nails, and Korn but don't like the grimy residue all that stuff leaves on your soul, you might like this mix too.
Since I want to promote this kind of music, I'll make you an offer -- send me a CD and I'll burn you this mix. Limited time. Email Me if you're interested.
Thursday, August 08, 2002
Glad To Be Home
When you have a number of children, there is an intricate infrastructure built into your home and your routine which makes the days go smoothly. It's not exactly engineered from the outset, but built up and adpated over days and months. You know what must be done at 10:00 am to make sure the naps come out synchronized to coincide at 1:00 pm. You smooth out each inefficiency over time. Toys and a play mat placed just so which will occupy your 7 month old baby leaving you free to fold a load of laundry whilst catching a bit of TV before you must load up and go pick up the toddler at preschool in the minivan which is pre-loaded with vitally important wet-wipes, snacks, and toys. The pivotal diaper bag is an exhibit of packing efficiency which would impress the most seasoned mountain climber. All this takes time and thought to get into place -- a careful evolution.
So this is why I am so glad to be home. Family Vacations With Children mean scrapping the finely-honed Infrastructure and setting up a new, temporary, portable one. And of course the portable routine only travels so well. And so we come back and embrace the logistical intricacies of our everyday lives, our vacation having served to make us appreciate returning to our wonderful home.
Not that we didn't have a lot of fun exploring new vistas. Not that we did not share good close family times. But as I slide into my very comfy pillow-top bed in a few minutes, I will not lament our hotel room with its anemic AC and Torturepedic matress.
Family Vacations are investments not unlike planting a peach pit in your back yard. It may take ten or fifteen years for it to bear fruit in the memories of our children. It will be a while before our fun but uncomfortable vacation becomes soft-focus through the lens of our own nostalgia. And it may be a good fifteen years or so before any of our children takes their own kids on a Sticky Sweaty Summer Vacation and can truly appreciate what goes into the planning and execution of such a trek. But I can wait.
Sunday, August 04, 2002
Vacating wit da Fambly
I'm going up I-10 a ways to commune with the chilluns and the missus in a quintessential natural family vacation habitat -- Theme Parks. We're doing the tourist thing in San Antonio -- staying in a suite hotel, visiting Sea World and the Alamo, living out of suitcases, and ordering dinner from laminated menus. Should be fun. It *will* be nice to get away with family and have some days off.
So I won't be around much until next Friday or Saturday, though I am taking the Laptop. But my connectivity will be at the whims of my Hotel and the Internet Gods. So until then, have a good week and God Bless You.
Saturday, August 03, 2002
If you are not African-American, you probably don't have any idea about the hair. Until we adopted Mr. Freshpants, we didn't have any clue until an African-American lady at our Church gently chided us for letting his hair grow all Buckwheat style. Luckily we got a recommendation for Mr. James, who specializes in such things. He told us about the right way to care for Mr. Freshpants' hair and then gave him a very detailed and involved cut the intricacy of which surprised us for such a little head.
The first time we saw Mr. James, he told us to not look at our son no matter how he cried. So we struggled to ignore our son through his first barber visit while he sat very still, bolt-upright, and bawled his eyes out while Mr. James gave him his first cut. Yesterday, Mr. Freshpants just climbed into the chair and had his cut and was quite happy with Mr. James. He's getting to be such a big boy.
Anyway, Mr. James listens to jazz while he cuts heads, and Heidi likes Mr. James' taste in jazz. "It's not all screechy like yours," she says. Excuse me but Bebop, John Coltrane to be precise, is not "screechy." "But you know what I mean," she says, "This stuff is smooth." She saw a few Boney James CDs in his collection, so Heidi wanted to go get a Boney James CD to listen to in the car on our upcoming vacation.
So we were checking out of Wearhouse Music with two Boney James CDs and a used CD of Stereophonic Space Sound music for me when these two guys pull up in a truck and start to set up some sort of display in the parking lot. So of course I had to investigate. I asked the bigger guy what was up and he said that he was a rapper and he was promoting his new album coming out in September. It was then that I looked at him -- he was white, football lineman big, had a buzz haircut except for these very long Hasidic style curls that hung from the corners of an imaginary square on his scalp down past his cheekbones. Quite odd. He handed me a demo CD. "It's southern hip-hop," he said. He told me his name was "Tow Down."
I listened to his CD and he sounded about as thugged out as your typical dirty-south Geto Boy rapper clone. Apparently he gets pretty good reviews. Maybe he's gonna be the biggest new rap thang to come out of Houston since South Park Mexican. Let's hope he can stay away from the underage girls, though.
So you don't have to be on the web to get from A to an unpredictable B via a random walk. Mr. Freshpants' Buckwheat hair to Mr. James' funky haircut salon to Boney James Smooth Jazz to a funky Hasidic-looking white rapper. I feel like James Burke.
Out there. Way out there.
What do the Declaration of Independence, Giant Sequoias, Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, life-extending technologies, and Memetic Science have in common? If you know, maybe you can tell me what this collection of futuristic websites have to do with one another:
Futures' Edge, The Prime Radiant, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happines.org, and the Institute for Memetic Reseach
They are all loosely linked to one another. They are all similarly designed. The writing is similarly evasive and obscure. And they all have kind of an Illuminati-esque sci-fi conspiracy-paranoid tinge to them. I can't put my finger on it, but something about the group of them creeps me out in an X-files kind of way. But still I'm curiously fascinated. Kind of like the first time I read a Dr. Bronner's Soap Label. (pdf file)
So what's up with this? Anyone?
In a Nutshell
"What can be gained by thinking about the scriptures? What fools! They think themselves to death with information about the path, but never take the plunge!"
This is exactly my problem. Just what I need -- a Hindu Spiritual Spanking.
Friday, August 02, 2002
Bursting the bubble
I found a very nice and comprehensive links page by a former avid yerba mate drinker. I say "former" because he found this page in Google's cache. Kind of disturbing. The first negative health news I've been able to find about my beloved mate.
Still it's only one study and it was performed on a population of very heavy native mate drinkers in Uruguay. No indication of whether this could be pesticides or the plant itself or how they defined a "heavy drinker". Just in case, I'll stick to certified organic. I've already decided to forgo the hassle of making traditional style mate and just doing the "cocido" style in my coffe maker. It's the wimpy gringo way, but if there are health risks, then weaker mate might mediate them.
The benefits and health risks of my other favorite, coffee, are also mixed. I always knew that the health claims about mate were being hyped by people trying to sell the stuff. I am almost relieved to see a dissenting voice and am surprised, given the fact that millions drink this stuff every day, not to find more negative health news about yerba mate.
Of course, maybe I'm just whistling in the dark...
What the Net is supposed to be
My favorite thing about the Internet is finding interesting, deep, quirky individuals to connect with. They're my "thousand points of light" as Papa Bush used to say all the time. My other favorite thing about the Internet is the innovative ways people use the virtual electronic network to connect to one another in the physical world.
After the dot com bust we heard lots of naysayers kvetching that the Internet was so over, that it had not fulfilled its promise. Its promise has not even begun yet. When Napster was shut down, some said P2P was dead. But they were wrong. On a conceptual level the web *is* P2P. We are just seeing the inklings, I think, of the WWW to be:
-- Of course there's the Meetup movement that brings cyber people together in meat world.
-- A friend reminded me about Bookcrossing which is going strong. I joined and plan to release some book into the wild soon.
-- Real world artists exchange their works on sites like DeviantArt, but Nervousness.org is my favorite because the exchanges happen via snail mail. It's always cool to get fun mail.
-- Independent writers, researchers, and experts can sell bits of work for micropayments at the Idea Exchange.
--- Obtanium.net has not fully launched yet. It's mainly populated by a bunch of Bay Area guys exchanging stuff to get ready for Burning Man. But when it goes public, and goes global, it'll be truly awesome.
Those are just a few of the examples I found of innovative communities being facilitated by the web. There are
many more, almost too many to list in one post. The best ones span both the physical and virtual worlds and they facilitate sharing, collaboration, and yes, even commerce
I admit to being envious of you people who have Moveable Type fueling your sites. It looks to be the superior technical product, what with that trackback feature and all. But I'm resolved to stick with Blogger Pro, despite the fact that its stability is suffering from its own growing pains, because I want to support a free service that lets people get into the weblog community for very little overhead. I'm a sucker for democratizing innovations. I'm betting on the come here, I guess. But it's something I believe in.
Gawd I love the Internet.
A little path
Words are such clunky things. But I love them.
Words can take you a lot of wonderful places, but they cannot usually lead one the subtleties of the divine spark, the human heart, the natural mysteries.
It is, I guess, predictable that Henri Nouwen in the book I just finished was kind of down on words in general, preaching about the need for silence. Silence *can* lead one to the subtleties of the Great Mystery within one's own heart. Sticking only to words is like traveling our great nation using only the U.S. Highway System. There are a lot of cool places to go on the country's major highways, but they won't take you to the places that most real people live.
So, I can totally understand Nouwen's problem with words. But if you do it his way, you can only travel alone. What if you want to take someone's hand and lead them to a wonderful grotto you found? Silence pushes a path through the underbrush that's big enough for one. Words allow you to return and build a little trail, if just a dirt one big enough for a couple of hikers.
Yes, it can be overdone. We don't want every dirt road to be a highway and we still want to have spaces free from roads. Yet we all love discovering a new path to a wonderful new vista and telling people about it. Webloggers, of all people, should understand this love.
Robert Frost captured our love for these roads in his famous poem. Poets often are our intrepid explorers, the Lewis and Clark's of our Human Experience. They don't build highways -- big treatises and ponderous tomes -- but little gravel paths that lead the reader to a place the poet discovered in her own heart.
Mary Oliver is my current favorite such explorer. I picked up her "New and Selected Poems" last night to fill that uncomfortable void that follows the completion of a really good book. Like a handwritten letter from an old friend, it took just one page to make me smile:
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver - 1990
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I *do* know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
by Mary Oliver
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--
or have you too
So this post has been my little trail to lead you to the porch of a wooden cabin in which lives a Great American Poet. She can show you lots of wonderful spots within your own heart. Go ahead and knock.
Thursday, August 01, 2002
From one of my new daily reads, Kurt Brobeck (sainteros) I discovered the Daily Dharma from Tricycle magazine, which I will, in turn, make into a daily read. Today's sort of stung me:
"Beings are owners of their actions...heirs of their actions; they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior."
Ouch. That's a sore spot. I am an "idea guy". That's not a brag, that's a diagnosis. I am so full of ideas, and intentions, and plans and words words words. I frequently psyche up to start new programs, embark on new resolutions and courses of future action. Sometimes I go off and do, hypocritically, the opposite of what I just resolved. But most frequently I start off and just don't follow through.
You know what the main problem with my jump shot is? My tennis serve? Why I can't hit a decent kill shot in racquetball? My follow-through. Not seeing the stroke through after hitting the ball and looking up too fast to watch where it lands and anticipate my next shot. In sports as in life, it seems.
There is a guy, a writer in this Sandman book called Dream Country who imprisons a muse. He refuses to set her free when commanded to do so by the Sandman. "I need her for the ideas," he says. And so the Sandman gives him ideas -- lots of them -- as a punishment. So many ideas that the man wears his hands to the bone trying to write them all down. He can't actually write anything because of the flood of ideas. Sometimes I feel like that guy. Too many ideas about writing kept him from writing -- Too many ideas about life keeps me from living.
Oh, and my poor wife. One of her main love languages is "acts of service". (If you are in a Love Relationship, you simply must at least skim The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and determine your partner's love language as well as your own.) How unloved she must feel when I am wrapped up in ideas and deficient in action. Thanks to God she has a forgiving heart. Sigh.
That's why Henri Nouwen's book "The Way of the Heart" is speaking to me at this particular moment. Cultivating solitude and interior silence -- saying "SHHHHHH!!" to all those little ideas running around my head like toddlers on a playground -- is the just what I need. I hoping my ailing follow-through will improve with silence and prayer. And practice, lots of practice.
Via Con Dios, Fr. Dominic
Last night we said an official Goodbye to our Pastor, Fr. Dominic Pistone. (scroll down) He's one of the good ones. In fact, he's so good he's being sent to help out another parish that's having problems. Not too happy with the way that the Diocese handled this -- first he was leaving, then he wasn't, and then he was leaving again -- but what can you do, with the vow of obedience and all?
It is a tribute to Fr. Dominic's tenure here that we won't miss him. Well, we'll miss him as a person, but nothing in the parish is going to collapse without his dynamic and infectious personality. He strove to make each ministry run itself according to a common parish vision. He was a true leader in that he set the direction and then developed the people under him to become leaders themselves.
I'll miss another of Dominic's traits, he was a touch-y guy. He was a typical expressive Italian. When he greeted you, you got a hug, likely a kiss on the cheek (not creepy Richard Dawson style, but European style) or an arm around the shoulder. He'd grip your forearm when telling you something with emphasis. He communicates with words and touch. There's this simultaneous compulsion about personal space and obsession with sex that makes this kind of everyday touching uncomfortable for most Americans. He apparently doesn't give a whit about such cultural hangups regarding touch.
And he's going to St. Clares'. We went to St. Clare's a long time ago but left because, while the new church they built was very beautiful, it was also kind of cold and impersonal, kind of like the parish. While St. Clare's reflected the McMansion mentality of subdivisions around it, St. Paul's was more like a home.
Well, I just can't wait to see how Fr. Dominic, with his personal dynamism and hugs and kisses, melts the iceberg that is St. Clare's. It may be a gentle warming, but it could be an explosion too.