Sunday, June 29, 2008

OK, I got inspired. It happens sometimes.

I attended a church conference this past weekend. This humanist attends church and this was the first time I'd gone to General Assembly. It's something everyone in our denomination ought to do at least once -- kind of like making the pilgrimage to if THAT isn't a warped little analogy!!

It was exhausting but there were a number of very profound moments. I half expected to find myself surrounded by ideological extremists ... and quite possibly 5 or 10 years ago, it would have seemed that way. The political shift that's occurring now just continues to build momentum like a tsunami, whereas previously it was just random gusts blowing over the water. And so, the feminists, the environmentalists, the BGLQT and everybody else who sees an urgent need for a massive overhaul of our society now seem a lot more mainstream to me.

I've mainly stayed in the moderate-to-left group most of my life, but truth be told, I have nary an edgy bone in my body. I've strayed to the right a couple of times, but I now realize that the years I spent in the evangelical Christian realm were akin to time put in by an investigative reporter looking for the inside scoop.

One of the many things I like about this group I'm in now is that they're a WYSIWYG bunch, and they are more likely than any other kind of people to reach out to other generations. We had a bridging ceremony, in which high school age kids were welcomed into the adult community. The Good Asian Drivers were among the featured performers, and if you ever longed for a dash of pure glacier water right in the face to wake you up to what's in people's heads RIGHT NOW, you must check them out.. I have a choice here -- I can give in to the urge to feel "old," to say I'm past the point of being able to relate to 20-somethings, and in doing so become old overnight, or I can put the brakes on the age thing and drink it in until it makes a real difference in my life. Which brings me to another little factoid: Of the 8 people from my church on this jaunt, I was the youngest ... and quite possibly the one most in need of growing down a bit.

Then there was Van Jones. Check out his message. He didn't say one thing in his lecture last night that didn't resonate with me -- especially in the last couple of years that I've been working with my neighborhood association. The far right's rapidly dying paradigm -- the Strict Father model -- doesn't help anyone. It doesn't work. The world around me now -- not just me, but the whole world, all of life, the life I read about on every day -- feels like a plant that hasn't been watered lately and is on the brink of turning yellow and dry and folding in on itself.

This political crystallization has been working in me for the past six years -- this weekend helped speed the process. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


...for not posting much recently. There's just not much to complain about.

I'm going out of town for the weekend. I'm hoping to run into some psychotic flight attendants, or obnoxious fellow passengers, or maybe even a bumbling terrorist.

Please wish me luck - I really need inspiration. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Had Almost Forgotten

Carl came home from work early, having been slightly injured in a mishap. Yes, it's a legitimate, visible injury. This is an improvement over previous occurrences, where on his first day back at work after two days off he'd be almost frantic to find some reason not to go in. Ever since I've known him, the first day back at work has been the day when he's most likely to get up feeling sick, or to spend an hour at work and then go home not feeling well. Re-entry after 2 days off is really, really difficult for him.

Today was the first time in a long time he'd come home early on the first day; hope he's not getting back into that habit. The last place he worked, it was almost a weekly thing. Click Here to Read More..


There's a commercial on the radio for Blue Bell Ice Cream - you've probably heard it - where a man sings soulfully about "our old swimmin' hole" and "Mama called through the porch screen door, would y'all like some home-made ice cream?" etc.

That made me think of my mother, who grew up in such an atmosphere in upstate NY - as rural as you could get, right down to the outdoor plumbing, which I'm sure her family had, at least until the late 1920s or early 1930s.

My father, on the other hand, grew up in Brooklyn, about as far from rural as you could get. They both felt they'd been launched out into the world at too young an age. Mom, in particular, recalled childhood as full of trauma.

When they met, it was in the city, just at the beginning of World War II. They married, got an apartment, and later moved to the 'burbs.

The furniture and decor in our house bore no traces of Mom's "pastoral" country background. While many of my friends' homes had kind of "antique" looking furniture and windmill prints on the walls, our home was very "1950s-modern." The furniture was quite spare and basic; Dad's only requirement was that a sofa be at least 6 inches off the floor "to make it easy to vacuum under." No frilly stuff in our home. Everything was straight-line in form, single color, urban in style.

Dad loved the suburbs. He respected "rural values," but I think a country environment would have been too chaotic for him. He hated the city and could not fathom why I was always wanting to go there and later talked about wanting to move there. As Paul Simon said, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor," and Dad found that abhorrent. The suburbs were just the right amount of "nature," tempered by a reasonable amount of concrete to make good streets and parks.

Both my parents were quite happy to leave their original environments behind and start over with something completely different. I guess that's why the suburbs appealed to them; it was different from her "country" and his "city."

I had another friend, much later, named Sara, who had grown up in rural Mississippi. At the time we met, we had both just moved into a suburb in Atlanta. It was one of those "add-water-and-stir" subdivisions that ATL has become famous for: Just buy somebody's farm, knock down all the trees, put in a few curvy streets and some "charming" lookalike homes. When this happened, part of the farm was usually left intact, including the livestock. So on a quiet day you could still hear cows lowing and roosters crowing. Not having grown up with any of that, I thought it was wonderful!

Sara hated it. Her home was decorated mostly in white, with those clean, spare, unadorned lines. Any touches of "country" were there to accommodate her husband, whose decorating style could probably be called "Early NRA." But she, too, wanted to be as far away from her origins as possible. Give her a condo in the city; she'd have been fine. The suburban split-level was there for the kids' sake, and true to her word, as soon as the kids were grown and gone, they were gone too.

They stayed in their house about 10 years. By the time they moved, all the farms had been paved over. Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, June 15, 2008


We did a dress rehearsal today, with a small audience. I blew my first cue ... but immediately realized that it wasn't radically noticeable. However, I don't want it to happen again, so I've already gone over the place in the script where I need to come in with my line. I also need to project more, but then again, most of us do. I understand the room where we're to do this is huge. And no mikes. A few other people flubbed here and there, but overall I think we've got it. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The World Loves a Curmudgeon

Here's a link to a great interview in the Sunday NY Times Magazine with Gore Vidal

Best question & answer:

Are you a supporter of gay marriage? I know nothing about it. I don’t follow that.

Why doesn’t it interest you? The same reason heterosexual marriage doesn’t seem to interest me.




[Later - another funny one, this also in the Magazine, the second question in Randy Cohen's The Ethicist]

My son and daughter-in-law belong to a church with different beliefs from mine, and thus my new grandchildren, a few months old, were not going to be baptized. My 1950s Catholic background would not let me sleep, so I snuck them off to the laundry and performed private rites. Do I get eternal reward or damnation? — NAME WITHHELD

Cohen replies:
By convening in the laundry you may have taken too literally the idea of baptism as the washing away of sin. I only hope your “private rites” did not include the spin cycle.

Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Little Gripe

Just a little one ...

I'm in this group that's doing a play -- not a theatre group, 'cause that's not what what we are, but just a group of people that will be putting on 2 plays later this month for educational purposes. We've been working on this for about 3 months now.

I think the director was skeptical that I'd be any good at this. She didn't invite me, someone else did, so sensing her doubts, I worked very hard and enthusiastically to put them to rest. So far, I've done really well and she's given me good feedback. Both my parts are pretty small, and reading the script, I've been able to fine-tune a few lines and gestures, and I think she's been impressed with my innovations.

Well, last night we rehearsed for the first time in awhile. She was not critical, but the other leader of the group, who first invited me to do this, was in a snarky mood because a lot of people were doing other things in the building and kind of straggled in late, and our start was delayed. So I guess he was gunning for everybody, but when he threw a criticism at me, it hurt. The reason: I have this one particular line that needs to be read a certain way -- and I KNOW it has to be read a certain way. In fact, my script has the notation to throw a double-entendre tone into the line. It's MY notation and I've been reading it that way right from the get-go. However, the line comes immediately after a moment where there's going to be a loud audience reaction. I've never gotten any kind of feedback on how to time this line. If I wait for things to settle down, the person next to me is "nudging" me as though she thinks I've forgotten the line; I found myself mouthing "I know, I know," out the corner of my mouth the first time she did that. So last night, by the time I actually got to say the line, it was all I could do just to get the damn words out of my mouth, and all the inflection had basically been left in the dust. And what do you think they zero in on? "Oh, you have to put a lot more 'umph' into that line -- you can't just say the words because it's obvious that there's a double meaning there," yadda yadda yadda.

It's a measure of my new-found maturity that I didn't stamp my foot and say "Haven't you been listening all this time? I was the one who injected the tone into it in the first place and I've never once heard a word of approval from you about it!!! Grrrr!"

But I didn't. I merely said that I did have it highlighted -- and finally they gave me some support in how and when to come in with the line so it wouldn't get drowned out by the audience.

It just irritated me. Or I should say, it irritated my insecure little ego.... Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"G" - It's the New "F"

I love how people just dismiss the whole notion of "government," turning it into a dirty word.

"Government schools"..."government health"...

Today on a local message board (heavily populated by law-enforcement folks) there was a post about a state-wide Criminal Injury Compensation Fund that is a resource of last resort for victims of crimes who cannot pay for medical care, funeral or burial costs or who are not covered by insurance. Ironically, about 20% of the recipients of the funds have criminal records - but the people who run the fund clarify that the cases in which funds are received are unrelated to the previous cases. So, if you are a convicted felon and have served out your sentence, and then, for example, five years later you are walking down the street and are struck by a hit and run driver and are destitute, you can apply for funds.

First, the local paper runs this silly article, where the facts are spelled out, but the headline is written to make it sound to the casual reader as though convicts are standing with their arms extended through the bars, waiting for a handout. That is not the case at all, and the person who posted it knows that perfectly well ... but the next person, another LE dude, responds with:

Government at work.

Now, these people who claim to hate "government" so much, and bandy it about as though it were a 4-letter word, are they really thinking?

What do they want?

Do they want NO government?

These are law-enforcement officers, aka "public servants."

Would they prefer private militia? Vigilante groups?


I already know how they feel about the public schools. In this neck of the woods, about a quarter of school-age kids are either home schooled or go to private schools that the parents can't afford without taking out a second mortgage or getting a second job or being sponsored in some way.

Anyone whose home base is the North, the Northeast, or the West Coast can get an incredible eye-opening experience by observing the workings of education in the south. It's like no other place in this country. Education as it is is quite substandard in many places, wracked by continual conflict about whether or not to teach evolution. Wally attended a local public high school for a year. The 10 commandments were on the walls of many classrooms; preachers came in to give lectures, and one of his teachers routinely filled class time by showing videotapes of her preacher's sermons. My son complained to the principal after he left the area, knowing better than to rock the boat during the school year.

But back to this "government" thing. Yes, absolutely, there are a lot of problems with government programs, but this has not always been the case. People who grumble about FDR and the New Deal weren't even alive during his administration! They have had decades to reap the benefits, but then they stand back and dismiss "government" as though it were some sort of hippie fad! Public entities can be mismanaged just as much as private ones. A good program, whatever it may be, requires leadership and a dedication to serving the customer. To just say "Oh, government, phooey" does not address the problem.

Click Here to Read More..