Monday, June 30, 2008
California has allowed gay marriage for a bit over a week now, and despite some good friends of ours taking advantage of the situation and getting hitched, so far at least my marriage hasn't collapsed. Of course I don't live in California, so maybe that's it.
But apparently the danger to my marriage is still there, as evidenced by the introduction in the United States Senate of S.J. Res. 43: A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. Unfortunately the text is not yet available; however it is apparently the latest attempt to add an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The fun part is the cosponsors, a veritable who's who of batshit insane republican lunatics including both of the top paragons of senatorial moral virtue, Senator Larry 'Widestance' Craig of Idaho and Senator David 'Diapers' Vitter of Louisiana. I'm not certain how far this proposed amendment is going to go with those two cosponsering it. It's like they are trying to write for the Daily Show themselves.
Along the same lines of lunacy is the American Family Association and their news website OneNewsNow. Let's let Carpetbagger explain their idiocy:
'...Auto-correct can be a very helpful feature of any word-processing program. But when conservatives use it, they run the risk of embarrassing themselves. Some far-right sites that subscribe to the Associated Press feed, for example, will use auto-correct to change “Democratic Party” to “Democrat Party.” This, of course, is because they have the temperament of children. But the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow website takes the phenomenon one step further with its AP articles. The far-right fundamentalist group replaces the word “gay” in the articles with the word “homosexual.” I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to make the AFA happy. The group is, after all, pretty far out there. The problem, of course, is that “gay” does not always mean what the AFA wants it to mean. My friend Kyle reported this morning that sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend. The AFA ran the story, but only after the auto-correct had “fixed” the article:...'
This was originally reported at Right Wing Watch, which also managed to save a screenshot of the archives of some more of AFA's top-notch sports reporting:
Friday, June 27, 2008
Last night we were lucky enough to see Liz Phair performing at a small club here in New York. In honor of the 15th anniversary of the release of her first album, ‘Exile in Guyville,’ she’s doing a short tour at small clubs in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, playing the entire album in original song order. A fantastic show.
This was the eighth time I’ve seen her perform, having seen her at least once on each album tour that she’s ever done. The first time was back in November, 1993 at the original location of Washington DC’s 9:30 club, also touring for ‘Guyville.’ If I remember correctly, it was around 100 people at that gig, and it was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. You could see how much her band adored her as she shyly played through most of that album and a few other songs she had written back then. Last night's show was the only other one of her I’ve seen in such a small venue – only about 3-400 - and it reminded me of how important that kind of intimacy is to enjoying live music.
It was an interesting show also to see how much things have changed. Not just Liz Phair herself, who has a confidence in playing that she has worked hard at over the last decade and a half. The audience, as well, has changed, though not much in demographic but rather in how an audience behaves. 1993 predated the internet and cellphones. And those technologies have completely changed how an audience relates to a performer on stage.
What is it with cellphone cameras at these things? At the risk of sounding like a Luddite old fart, screaming at the kids about his lawn, it pisses me off. We were surrounded by people who spent the entire time taking picture after picture on their cellphones to email to their friends. It was bizarre to see people who paid good money (tickets to the sold-out shows were scalped for close to a hundred bucks a pop), spend the entire show viewing it through a 1”x2” small screen. They would hold it up, blocking people’s view, snap the picture, and then fuss with it before scrolling down a list of people to email it to.
It seems to reflect an inability to be able to relate to live performance; as if the only way that people can relate to something is through the medium of a screen. I don’t begrudge people from taking a shot or two (the above photo was stolen from the blog of someone who saw the show last night), to share with friends who aren’t at the concert, but I thought that’s what the phone part of the cellphone was for – dialing them up and letting them listen in.
Of course, I am an old fart. Back in 1993, after we saw a cool show we would tell people about it in person. Uphill, both ways, of course.
Here's a Youtube from a guy who was standing pretty much next to me. He recorded it on his cellphone, so the sound pretty much sucks, though in his post he's proud of the video quality, which isn't so bad. Divorce Song:
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
So what's in the paper today? Let's see, in the front section...:
'White House Refused to Open Pollutants E-Mail:
The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.
The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said. ...'
As Digby puts it: 'La la la la I can't hear you!' This is apparently the level that the administration has sunk to - acting like five-year-olds when faced with something that they don't want to deal with.
Also in today's paper is another story about how some people have decided to memorialize this administration in an appropriate way:
'An Honor That Bush Is Unlikely to Embrace
Reagan has his highways. Lincoln has his memorial. Washington has the capital (and a state, too). But President Bush may soon be the sole president to have a memorial named after him that you can contribute to from the bathroom.
From the Department of Damned-With-Faint-Praise, a group going by the regal-sounding name of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant...'
Monday, June 23, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Things are happening here in the Borough of Brooklyn. In a week and a half, the art project ‘Waterfalls’ by the Olafur Eliasson begins. As well, Brooklyn has now, after many years of community opposition, an IKEA opening up in Red Hook.
The ‘Waterfalls’ project is temporary, lasting through October. Opponents of the Red Hook IKEA will have to wait just a bit longer for the IKEA to go away; but go away it will, as we found out this past weekend. In the mid-season finale of Battlestar Galactica, when the remnants of the human race and the Cylon Rebels together finally land on Earth, they apparently pick Brooklyn as the first spot to visit. I always felt I was in the center of the universe.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Two religion blogs that I regularly read, Father Jake and Adventus, recently posted on an old sermon by Robert Capon, an Episcopal priest and prolific author. In the sermon, Father Capon discusses the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Luke 18:9-14:
‘…He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’…’
Most exegesis of that parable focuses on notions of being humble before God, but Father Capon gets at something else:
‘...The law, the commandments, are efforts at morality, humility, spirituality and, above all, are efforts at religion, are efforts at trying to do something that will get us right with God. All don't work. Therefore God, as Jesus speaks of Him, doesn't risk trying to save the world by human good behavior. The Pharisee's mistake, therefore, is not that he is saying something that it is just proud or a little bit arrogant, but that what he is saying is dead wrong. His goodness is irrelevant to the problem that he is talking about. Therefore, God says that the tax collector who simply looks at his shoe tips and says, "I'm no good," is justified. Now, why?
The point is that this parable is about death and resurrection. It is not about morality, spirituality or anything else. It is about the fact that both the Pharisee and the Publican (the tax collector), are dead ducks. The Pharisee is a very high class kind of dead duck, but they are both dead as far as being able to reconcile with God is concerned. The point about all of this is that the reconciliation God has in mind for them is totally dependent on their death…
…Now you ask yourself a question. Do you like that parable? Of course, you don't like it. The point is that it violates every sense you and I have about the fact that we really are basically doing fairly well. If only other people were as nice and considerate and as wonderful as we are, the world would be a better place to live in and God says, "No. That will not work." It can't be done that way. It can't be done by people who think they are winners. It can only be done by people who are willing to admit they are losers and then who are willing to trust God in the death of their losing to do it for them, to deliver them the gift of a reconciliation with God...’
Father Jake and Adventus use this as a starting point to discuss Grace and the necessary non-transactional nature of it; ie God doesn’t give out Grace for specific acts, being good and the like. Christian concepts of Grace, forgiveness, salvation, etc. are not mathematical; notions of spreadsheets tallying your good and evil deeds waiting for you at the pearly gates is not what Christianity is about. To Christians, Grace is free and Grace is ‘beyond price.’ One has the free will to accept it or not, of course. And, as Father Capon says, this is upsetting, as it has nothing to do with merit – whether or not one deserves it. Hitler and Gandhi are both offered Grace.
But what got my interest in this was the notion of Grace being necessarily tied to death. Here’s Father Capon again:
‘…I don't believe in resurrection. I don't believe in eternal life. I don't believe in life after death. I don't believe in the hereafter. Those are all opinions. I simply trust Jesus that He will deliver to me as He rose from the dead, He will raise me. Whatever that means, however it works, I trust Him because in His death is my reconciliation and in my reconciliation is my joy in Him...’
To me this statement works on a number of levels, for the notion of both Grace’s requisite connection to death (at least according to Father Capon) and the notion of the resurrection of Jesus (which I also don’t believe in) can both still work to an agnostic such as me when ‘death’ is viewed as a metaphor (either our own or Jesus’), and not necessarily as something physical, medical or historical (as in the crucifixion). Death being defined not by one’s heart not beating, but by one’s heart not feeling.
Most of my interest in Christianity is objective, as an outsider; I don’t have a horse in this race as it were. But I am intensely involved by choice as one who sees the profound influences of Christianity in our society, both good and bad. This makes me a bit of an odd duck: the vast majority of people who study Christianity as much as I do feel called to do so for personal spiritual reasons, unlike me. I then end up in a weird position of being an agnostic apologist for Christianity, agnostic because while I can be inspired by the teachings of Jesus, as many agnostics are, I don’t consider myself a Christian since Christianity is not primarily about the Sermon on the Mount (though I wish it were) but the Passion on the Cross. And I don’t believe in the historical fact of the resurrection.
But if one reads the Passion using resurrection from death as a metaphor, rather than a physical event, and by viewing Jesus’ death and resurrection as a ‘closing’ and ‘reopening’ of his heart, then the Passion can be a powerful inspiration to an agnostic such as myself.
Or to put it another way, as the quote from Terry Eagleton on the top banner of Adventus says:
‘…The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you…’
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Above, the 'House of Yahweh,' the last hope of all mankind.
It is shaping up to be a lovely day, this Thursday, June 12th. Sunny, high in the mid eighties. And I have an Issac Hayes concert to look forward to this evening. Or maybe not:
'...Nuclear war will begin next Thursday, June 12, or sooner, according to the latest prediction of self-proclaimed prophet Yisrayl "Buffalo Bill" Hawkins, the founder of a religious sect in Abilene, Texas.
"It could be turned loose before then," Hawkins told 20/20 for a report to be broadcast tonight. "You're going to see this very soon, really soon," he said.
Hundreds of truck trailers have been loaded with food and water on the group's 44-acre compound, in preparation for the coming war...'
It all sounds pretty gloomy, especially since Kathy and I are looking forward to the concert. But there is hope:
'...Other former members say they are required to buy doomsday food and supplies from a company that Hawkins owns personally, Life Nutrition Products.
"Everything that he preaches has to do with people buying something," said former House of Yahweh elder David Als of New York City...'There's no problem that a good dose of commerce can't solve.
The House of Yahweh claims thousands of members around the world, dedicated to the teachings of Mr. Hawkins, despite his brushes with the law: he is currently facing multiple charges of promoting bigamy, organized crime, and violating child labor laws. Tons of the followers are converging on the town of Abilene today.
Why does this always happen?'...Ruby Wilkins, who was a sect member in the early 1980s and whose children also were members, said Yisrayl Hawkins helped her escape from a bad marriage. But she came to see him as controlling, exploiting those who had nothing.
"Out on the street, they were just nobody, and they didn't have enough smarts to be anybody. Bill took them in, would give them a black suit and called them elders. As long as they were there, they were somebody," Wilkins said.
Many members change their last name to their teacher's...'
All that many people need is a single person to treat them with respect; give them that and they'll follow you to the end of the earth. Even if you are a complete and immoral wackadoo.