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Showing posts from May, 2007

Review: Notes on a Scandal

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Lives can be broken with a few carefully placed words, and they are in the strange and thought-provoking 2007 English drama Notes on a Scandal adapted for the screen by Patrick Marber from the Zo Heller novel.

"Secrets are seductive," pottery teacher Bathsheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) tells colleague Barbara Covette (Judi Dench). Secrets add a dimension of excitement and intrigue to Sheba's mundane, meaningless family life until they become her undoing.

Sheba feels unfulfilled as the wife of an ordinary but loving husband and mother of an intense, grouchy teenage daughter and a son with Down Syndrome, so she seeks some kind of fulfillment as a pottery teacher at a tough London high school in which every doorway is flanked by metal detectors and teachers are chronically overwhelmed and undone by devious, criminally-minded adolescents.

In this world, secrets become the undoing of Hart, who makes the mistake of trusting two sexual predators--Barbara, her old and lonely lesbian c…

Jesus: the Real Deal

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That two crossed beams symbolizing an ancient form of brutal and public state execution of dissidents should become the central image of a faith built around the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself is a paradox, to say the least.

That a Jewish peasant could take on the great thinkers, teachers, and leaders of his own community while simultaneously challenging the domination system known as the Roman Empire with the simple idea that the kingdom of God exists within each of us, that it is an attainable state of being the combined power of which can turn this world into a glorious place, is a paradox, to say the least.

That this teacher could take his argument to its logical conclusion and die on the cross rather than stand down on matters of Truth and then succeed in transmitting that message around the world for thousands of years is a miracle, to say the least. In that miracle is the very good news that ordinary people the world over, over and over again crave the satisfaction of…

Wordless Wednesday (in the Graffiti Garden)

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This picture talks back: click here.

Fifth Anniversary of Ground Zero Clean-up

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The Writers' Almanac notes that today, May 30, is the fifth anniversary of the clean-up at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. The use of the scrap metal was news to me; I didn't realize the rubble became a commodity. It amazes me that our stuff survives the pain we inflict on each other. Here's the Almanac's report:

It was on this day in 2002 that city workers held a wordless ceremony marking the end of the recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero in New York City.The cleanup crew had consisted of more than 7000 firefighters, policemen, construction workers, and volunteers.

The site covered 17 acres and rose 150 feet above the street. Some of the steel columns pulled from the piles glowed red. The workers eventually removed 1 1/2 million tons of debris in more than 100,000 truckloads.The ceremony on this day in 2002 took place at 10:29 a.m., the precise time at which the second of the twin towers collapsed.

A New York City firefighter struck a bell 20 times, the traditio…

A Fascination with Light

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Photographs are works of art in which images are painted with light. The human eye frames an image through the lens of the camera. A press of the finger opens the camera's eye to the light that it might claim that image forever. C. Sandra Lopez-Isnardi describes this artistic process as finding order in chaos.

The photographer as artist thus mediates the chaos of our world and hands us back something beautiful--a prayer, a moment of being in which nature reveals God's glory, in the words of Lopez-Isnardi, a selection of whose works are on view in the Marie Louise Trichet Gallery at Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield, Connecticut. She is Associate Professor of Art & Design, gallery director, and print show director of the Flora Kirsch Beck Gallery at Alma College in Michigan.

While discussing her works on show--traditional silver prints, digital images and works that are a combination of the two--Lopez-Isnardi said her works reflect her experiences …

Walk About: Fine Artist Aileen Singleton Reflects on her Inspiration

Fine artist Aileen Singleton of Waterbury, Connecticut, creates from her soul. She unites her interest in, and love for, people with others' stories and insights about their lives and their cultures. As she researches the topic of her work for the right images, fabrics, and cultural icons, she connects with that world and brings it into her own. The result: paintings, drawings, and collages that glow with the light of her joy and optimism.

Singleton says she never took her art seriously before her late husband, Jeff, encouraged her to exercise her talents. His encouragement and her persistence has led her to success. Together they started her growing fine and commercial art business, Faces, Inc. She is showing a sampling of her works at the 663 Main Street Gallery in Watertown, Connecticut, for the next month.

When we met the other day, Singleton was trimming threads on a collage depicting Guatemalan women. A Guatemalan friend brought her the fabric, which was woven and dyed in tha…

Blog Your Blessings Sunday: 35 mm Film

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Leafing through a pile of old papers, I came across a photo of a great-uncle who was my very special friend and mentor. Though he died a little more than a year ago after 96 years of a good and eventful life, this very clear and up-close photo put him back in the room with me for a moment.

It reminded me of how great a listener he was. He looked you in the eyes when he listened. Everything you said was valuable because he cared about you. He'd reply thoughtfully with heart and humor.

Many a Saturday when I was a teenager, we'd sit at his dining room table and "do stamps." To help me with my collection, he'd pass stamps from my tongs to his and explain what all they had to do with US history and with the two of us. It was all relevant. I loved all of it. My uncle could collapse the history of this nation into an afternoon and somehow it had everything to do with being together at his table.

Though we lived across town from each other, we wrote letters. Hi…

Venus: Troubling Goddess of Love

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Ever encounter intergenerational romancers and wonder what May sees in December? If you're stuck for an answer, I have one word for you: Venus.

Watch this beautiful British movie (Mirimax 2006) starring Peter O'Toole as Maurice opposite newcomer Jodie Whittaker as Jessie and you'll have your answer. It's kindness. When life itself has knocked the corners off of December, May might become the beneficiary of that softer being.

So it goes in Venus. Sincere and warm words melt the ice around the heart of this tough young woman who's game for just about anything but her assigned task of taking care of her aging, grouchy Uncle Ian (Leslie Phillips).

Maurice, an actor reduced by age and declining health to playing bit roles, sets her heart aflutter because he is kind and has the emotional capacity to absorb for her youthful cruelty. He buys her meals. He listens. He walks with her. He takes her shopping (though he doesn't always remember his money). He takes her with …

Holy Medals in These Protestant Hands

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I knew an elderly man in Ireland who had more holy medals in his trousers pockets than he had anything else, especially money.

He'd work his way through everything he knew about his faith before he could fish out enough coins to satisfy the paper boy on a Friday afternoon. It was always the same. The kid would stand there and watch as Gerry fished the coins of the realm from the panoply of intercessors he kept on hand.

I have become like that old man in this way. In my purse I have pewter ingots bearing the likenesses of a Buddha, Jesus, a nameless angel. A dog. One is simply a heart. All of them were gifts, tokens of affection from friends who wished me to remember them, to remember God, to love the world.

I have just added the likeness Jesus' Mother Mary to the group. Her likeness came to me from a neighbor whose name I can't remember but whom I see a few nights a week when I am out for a walk. He walks a small circuit and prays. His is a walking meditation. Last weekend,…

Happy Birthday, Margaret Wise Brown

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Today is the birthday of Margaret Wise Brown. If she were with us, she'd be the coolest 97-year-old great-granny around because she could spin a yarn to captivate any kind of kid. Brown is the author of the eternally popular and ubiquitous Goodnight Moon, the Big Red Barn, Runaway Bunny, Wait 'til the Moon is Full, The Golden Egg Book, The Important Book....

She is the author of so many children's books and was so popular in her time that she took pseudonyms to create the illusion that one writer wasn't saturating the market--that one woman wasn't the market!Brown helped make picture books popular--marketable--because she asked children to help her determine good books from bad ones. Brown also understood that kids see books as tactile objects, things to be touched and turned and tossed and tasted. She gave her audience what they wanted. (See Robin's Room, for example.) Brown gave kids books with pictures and enormously powerful truths without fanfare, excuse, o…

Wordless Wednesday

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Graffiti Writers: Urban Shaman Illuminating our World

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Most often the religious traditions do not speak of the sacred abstractly; rather they name it--as Yahweh, Brahman, Atman, Allah, the Tao, Great Spirit, God. This is not to suppose that all these names mean the same thing. But it is to suppose that the impulse to name something sacred flows out of the experience of the sacred. (Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith)

Legal walls are sanctioned art spaces. The owner tells the writer it's okay to paint them. For some writers, that's great because all they want to do is paint big images on exterior walls. Some of these artists don't care if anyone sees their work; they'll paint in tunnels, under highways, down alleys. For others, it's not okay because graffiti is not simply a style of public art but a deliberate transgression of social norms that is meant to be illegal and in your face. It's a political statement.

That statement is part of the co…

Review: Lemony Snicket, Welcome to the Real World

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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (Paramount Pictures 2004) offers an interesting update on Astrid Lindgrin's Pipi Longstocking. These are stories about kids trying to make sense of the adults around them and to survive the absence of adult sense. Lemony lacks the optimism of Pipi, filmed as it is in blacks, greys, and browns rather than the vibrant color of the latter. Lemony takes a close look at the unmitigated evil of which adults are capable; they are cruel or stupid rather than absent, as they are in Pipi.

In Lemony, adults are relentlessly dopey if they are not utterly evil--which is to say it's okay if bad things happen to good innocent kids so long as the bad things don't make the grown-ups wake up or--eek--go out of their way.

Such is the world of the three Baudelaire orphans and their coming-of-age nest eggs. The Baudelaire kids' parents have died in a suspicious fire, and they are alone in this relentlessly cruel and stupid world. Dopey or e…

Bethany, Connecticut, Potter Louise Harter Reflects on her art

I went back to see Louise and her finished work on Thursday. Here she talks about how she became interested in pottery and why she stays interested. Click herefor more about Louise Harter.

Blog Your Blessings Sunday: Basement Corners

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The stone foundation of my grandmother's home formed the four walls of memory. Over the years, that dimly lit space yielded odds and ends--picture frames, pitchers, US Army caps--that became the bases of my grandmother's stories--vignettes that taken together speak to the importance of family, story, shared memory. The trinkets from down cellar continue to tease me into wondering what else was down there, what detail of family life had been put aside and forgotten?

The house I grew up in had a dark and mysterious basement, too. There were ancient wooden shelves built into one corner. The shelves were deep and led to dark spaces beyond time where the biggest, meanest spiders that never existed ate the corpses of previous occupants and waited to bite our curious fingers. We never used those shelves. There was the stairwell behind the Bilco doors where invisible demons just waited to pounce on us if we would only open the door....

I loved the basement and its faded living room furn…

Shrek Three: No Loftier than Laughter

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The previews in the local paper panned Shrek the Third for being simple, shallow, so like the Shrek we've seen before. Some people are so serious.

Shrek--the computer-generated ogre who makes us laugh for a little while with the help of a donkey and a cat--is not that brainchild of a Shakespeare. That's why we like Shrek, the cat, and the donkey--whatever their names are. To expect anything loftier is crazy. It is a cartoon, after all. So it's a bonus when we find the other messages: that the strength we find inside ourselves can help us through our challenges, that our value as sentient beings is not contingent on our beauty.

Same morals, same Shrek as before. Same basic good-versus-blown-dry-evil plot as before. If the kids who see this thing walk away with some sense that looks and value are not the same thing and they're not even contingent on each other, that's good. The message is worth repeating to the adolescent audiences who will fill theatres to see it. For…

Anesthetizing a Broken Heart

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A man leaves work early; stops at the gas station to buy his girlfriend two dozen roses to honor her birthday; returns to his apartment; showers, shaves, and puts on the set of good clothes; and waits for her in the kitchen so he can surprise her with dinner out.

Shortly after five, the woman comes through the door and roundly scolds him for being there. She screams at him. She doesn't want him there, she doesn't want the roses. She lifts the phone and calls the police; they arrive and she has him arrested for harassing her and hitting her and, oh, stalking her.

His son is a cop, and he's out within a few hours. Before he's out, she is free to spend the evening as she has planned--with the new boyfriend across the way--though the man who pays the rent has taken a bit of the shine off of the day and later tells her to find a new place to live.

If I were this guy, I'd would have poured myself a drink. But not him; he is a regular at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. So he …

Walk about: Why Louise Harter Gets Fired up About Pottery

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Earth, air, water, fire: in the hands of Louise Harter of Bethany, Connecticut, the four elements become works of serviceable art: pottery that is both functional and beautiful.

Harter begins at the beginning: on her rural property she climbs into an old cast iron bathtub and creates clay with her bare feet and hands. It dries in a rabbit hutch before she transforms this raw material into bowls, garlic jars, cups, plates, platters...on the pottery wheel in the basement of her home. She built both her home and her wheel, the latter of which is powered by the strength of her legs.

The greenware rests on shelves in her basement and air dries until Harter fires her kiln, a biannual event involving friends. She built the kiln, which she first fired in 2000, after taking a course on the subject, building one with her class, and working with other kilns. Just as every other step of the process entails Harter's complete effort, so does the the three cord of wood the kiln requires for the fi…

Put the gun Down, son

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About 250,000 children around the world are exploited in state-run armies, paramilitaries, and rebel groups, according to the international humanitarian organization World Vision. "Serving as combatants, porters, human mine detectors, and sex slaves, their health and lives are endangered and their childhoods are sacrificed," World Vision reports.

Although many child soldiers are found in non-governmental armed opposition groups, the State Department reports that the governments of Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda exploit children as soldiers. (Click herefor more about this.)

American money should not be used to support the exploitation of children as soldiers; furthermore, US weapons should not end up in the hands of children.

A bill recently introduced in the Senate would put restrictions on US military assistance for governments that use child soldiers. Introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sam B…

Deciphering Survival

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Like badges of honor--
Not drowning, not sinking, not disintegrating entirely
Is a cause for pride--
Their broken backs and cracked or missing ribs
Are bared to the bleaching sun
For all to see and imagine
What truth they will
Of what broke them down.
Corpses of dinghies and dorries--
Call them what you want--
Litter this marina.
The message of their brokenness
Is I believe this:
Fight the tide, and you will die.
Die fighting, and we will not bury you.
If you can't handle this cove,
This safe little place off the not very dangerous Sound,
We will make of you an objet d'art.
We will decorate our lives with your defeat.
We will sit alongside you, drink beer, tan our bodies,
And perhaps lean against you as we turn our faces to the sun.

That Which can Never die

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What is that which can never die? It is that faithful force that is born into us, that one that is greater than us, that calls new seed to the open and battered and barren places, so we can be resown. It is this force, in its insistence, in its loyalty to us, in its love of us, in its most often mysterious ways, that is far greater, far more majestic, and far more ancient than any heretofore ever known. (Clarissa Pin Estes, The Faithful Gardener, A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die)

The High Cost of Complaining

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Our sue-happy society is eating a hole in each of our household budgets, according to a recent poll of the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). Lawsuits force the average American family to pay an additional $3,520 per year in goods and services, the ILR reports.

"Fifty-seven percent of the attorneys surveyed said that a state's litigation environment is likely to impact important business decisions made by the companies they represent, including where to locate," says ILR president Lisa Rickard.

Released April 25, Lawsuit Climate 2007: Ranking the States reports the results of a Harris Interactive Survey of 1,599 practicing corporate attorneys and general counsels.

The study asked respondents to name the most important issue that state policymakers who care about economic development should focus on to improve the litigation environment in their state. Reform of punitive damages was cited by 12 percent as the most important issue. Top issues that these lawyers iden…

The Infamous Truman Capote

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When his hometown author friend Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) asks him how he gets his New York society friends to open up to him, Truman Capote (Toby Jones) replies that he figures out what they want and gives it to them--comfort, confidence, warmth.

He doesn't skip a beat. In the mind of this great 20th century American author, it is both natural and right to shake from the trees around him the fruit that feeds his novels. The force he applies to these trees is empathy or the illusion of empathy. This is the initial portrait of Capote created by the 1996 Warner Independent Pictures release Infamous written and produced by Doug McGrath.

Gifted with an insight into the psychology of human desire and longing, Capote plays people. He lies, pretends, exaggerates, does whatever he has to do to get inside the minds of the people who interest him. Watching this film, I found myself wondering when he was being real and when he was not. (more)

Closing the gap Between Perception and Reality

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To others we are not ourselves but a performer in their lives cast for a part we do not even know that we are playing.

This Elizabeth Bibesco line is true--we are performers in others' lives. This need not be a bad thing, though. We don't always know how others perceive us. We don't know to what part of their story and their experience they are attaching us. It's a sinister enterprise when we're cast in a role that allows the producer of the drama to exploit us for some personal gain, and that does happen. The point is, though, that we can't know to, or know how to, measure the distance between perception and reality.

The quote, the comment, and the ensuing thought process brought my mind to Frank McCourt's 1996 memoir Angela's Ashes. It is the story of an Irishman growing up in dire poverty in Limerick Ireland, in the 1930s under the direction of a mother named Angela who can't provide and a father named Malachy who either doesn't or won't pr…

Blog Your Blessings Sunday: Mother's Day

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I wrote this poem, "Baptismal Dress," for my daughter before her baptism in 1999. I'm offering it on Mother's Day as an expression of gratitude for my own wonderful mother and grandmother.

"Not this,"
My mother says
When we discover
Stains--
Rust or blood--
And small holes--
A spluttering match, perhaps--
In the little dress
The color of piano keys
My mother's grandmother wore

Because we fear life's
Short breadth
And the grief that grinds
Our souls
Into the dust of our beginning
Even very early in life
Somehow

We don't notice the flaws
Until we put the dress on my daughter
With eyes the color of the hills
And she giggles,
Kicks up her legs,
And flutters the creased cotton folds
That we had pulled
From a dresser drawer
After 112 years--
Six generations of family--

To find it almost as good as new
Despite the dust and dirt and damage.
The dress settles
Over my daughter's knees
And I think,

How fragile, how short, is life
That this dress made
Of joined scraps of cotton
Could surv…

The Point of Literature?

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At the end of the class before our final, I told my freshman English literature students I didn't know the answer to their exam question; in fact, I wouldn't know the answer until they told me. This is a frustrating response for students looking for the safe answer--which of my own words I most want them to recite to me--and asking the infernal, "What's gonna be on the exam?" question on their way out the door.

Their writing has to be about them--how they analyze what they read, how they place it in the overall scheme of their learning and living, what they think is worthwhile.

I asked my students to take a holistic view of our syllabus--which included Christina Rossetti, Allen Ginsburg, Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, Eugene O'Neill, Sophocles, Rudolfo Anaya, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, Franz Kafka, and Dylan Thomas--to find a theme these works share. One student began her essay by saying the task was onerous. Cool. Another student said it's a…

Strange Attractions: Tags on the Brass City's West Main Street

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"It washes away," a neighbor remarked to me once a few years ago after she encountered a neighbor who became cranky and loud over some kids' chalk drawings on a sidewalk. "It's--it's graffiti!" he spluttered at her in protest against the degenerate behavior of our preschool population. Clearly, he felt outmanned and overrun by the happy little children responsible for the tulips and smiley faces marking the way to his stoop. They posed a grave threat to the life of his dark mood. (more)

Hopeful Spirit Interview

Hopeful Spirit sent me the following interview questions. She spent a lot of time reading Writing in Faith, and I am really touched that she took the time.

1. You began Writing in Faith in August 2006. What inspired you to begin blogging? What are your blogging goals? Do you have a target audience?
Crashing computers inspired me to blog. We had a bad run of computer luck for a while, and with each crash I lost things I hadn't backed up. I thought if I put things in a filing cabinet in the sky--my blog--I'd be better off. For the longest time, the thing just kind of sat there unnoticed and unattended. Since September, though, I've been working to promote my graffiti project, Strange Attractions: Exploring Graffiti, through my blog as well as other odds and ends. My blog reflects my interests, and I enjoy being out there and connecting with others who share my interests, even if they don't agree with my point-of-view. Indeed, the folks who don't agree stretch my mind, …

Walk About: Adella has the Skinny on Webkinz

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Our daughter is no geek. As a littlel kid, she showed little interest in computers. That was fine with us because we had this idea that Adella should learn to enjoy the company of people, and when nobody was around, to be at home alone with her imagination. So she didn't start using a computer until the second half of her kindergarten school year. Her skills and understanding were behind the curve for a little while.

Early on, when she showed an interest in writing and began to pen poems and stories, we set her up with a blog so she could share them with friends and family. When she tried out the camera, we showed her how to add these and to make slide shows. She learned what she needed to know as she needed it; she was like the rest of us.

Then came Club Penguin, thanks to a neighbor whose mom is a top-notch social worker. After that, classmates introduced Adella to Webkinz. She did some online checking and discovered they were available in Waterbury when our town and the surroundi…

One Person's Humiliation is the Entire World's Teachable Moment

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There are some who hold that humiliation is good, that being hammered with shame by a merciless hand instigates growth. In fact, there are many around the world who hold this to be so and call it justice. Consider these two stories that capture the theme of One Person's Humiliation is the Entire World's Teachable Moment.

Elders of a Sudanese village forced Charles Tombe to marry a goat named Rose because Tombe had been found taking advantage of the animal. The elders also forced him to pay a dowry to Rose's original owner in the hope of shaming the man, according to a BBC news story.

The marriage ended when Rose choked to death after eating scraps of a plastic bag.

The story became an Internet phenomenon, winning the BBC site plenty of traffic and tongue-in-cheek comments about Rose's reaching the end of her tether, the prospect of the couple's having any kids and whether they would employ a nanny, whether Tombe had become a goatee.

A little shame goes a long way in th…

Walk about: Angel Ride Helps Kids with Cancer

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Brian Vaugh is a friend who is a chaplain at Waterbury Hospital who has a remarkable amount of compassion for the people around him. This month, he'll be participating in Angel Ride, a fundraiser for kids with serious illnesses. Brian says, "I have done alot of charity rides, and this is the most challenging of them all. Eighty-five miles the first day, all up hill. Please click here for Brian's story about Angel Ride. Click here to visit his website.

'Time Held me Green'

I have a soft spot for people who overdo it--especially those who say everything, give everything, mean everything. There is a generosity of spirit in such people that captivates me. Their audacity and abandon invites dreams and hope and sincere affection.

That's why I fall in love with Dylan Thomasevery time I read or hear him read his work. He was all human heart, and he gave voice to the spirit of ordinary life and love that is epic. (The podcast in the navigation toolbar offers some of his recorded poetry. The big voice is his; the smaller one is Robert Frost's.)Dylan Thomas's poem "Fern Hill" is an ode to the unselfconscious beauty and wonder of childhood. It is a celebration of all that is magical and mysterious and generous in life. As one stanza rolls into the next, I feel the cool of a late spring evening under my feet, the damp of long grass, the cushioning glow of the yellow dandelions, the vastness of a countryside that unfolds as a dream of possibilit…

Blog Your Blessings: the Many Lessons of Ted the Recycling Guy

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It was a sublime moment: Ted the Recycling Guy stopped his truck and called me over. "Do you work?" he asked. "I see you walking at all different times, and I wondered."

"Work?" I answered. "I teach English part time. Leaves me time to walk, Ted. Life is good."

"Hey, I guess so--but will you tell me something?" He leaned through the open window. "Why do people hold on to so much stuff?"

I knew he didn't mean the kind of stuff he puts in his truck. "Don't know, Ted. Why?"

"Well, I don't know. That's why I'm asking. I got four situations in my family, and it's all people being miserable over stuff--stupid stuff that don't make no sense, but they have to argue. All the time argue. Then they don't talk. So I get on the phone and I tell them, 'You know how to use a phone; call once in a while. This is stupid.' It isn't worth it," he said.

Ted--whose offering to me of last …

Graffiti: Culture or Subculture?

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"[T]here are some graffiti that could exist in no other form, and the peculiar, anonymous nature of their creation and dissemination is unique. This, to my mind, is the only sense in which graffiti are a kind of 'underground' humor or folk culture," says BBC broadcaster, author, and journalist Nigel Rees in the introduction to his 1981 book Graffiti 3. The message determines the medium; sometimes the medium is the message.

Graffiti 3, one of several of Rees's books collecting the writing on the universal wall, focuses on the message of the ordinary person--the verbal irony, the gritty wit, the insight. Graffiti as illuminated manuscript isn't his interest. Rees the journalist is after the words. Thus he cites the walls:

Forget the notes and play the music. (Edinburgh)
Supposing they gave a war and nobody came. (New Orleans, 1972)
We are the writing on your wall. (144, Piccadilly, London, taken over by squatters)

"The subject of graffiti, like the human functi…

Christian Zionists Seek to Turn Jesus into a Warlord

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An organization formed in 2005 that calls itself The Ten Commandments Commission has designated Sunday, May 6, as Ten Commandments Day, a day for Americans who wish to commemorate the influence of the commandments' on the United States' heritage to do so vocally and visibly.
This organization's website banner links faith and country, and its founder, Ron Wexler, says on his website he is "devoted to defending and maintaining the Judeo-Christian moral tradition in society." This raises some obvious questions. First, What about the non-Judeo-Christian folks who are here? Second, Why is living his faith an act of aggression against some other party? Indeed, Why all this anger?
This Commission and its agenda stink of Christian Zionist thinking, and I find it frightening. (more)

Related:
Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions

Walk about: Talking about Tay-Sachs

My friend Rich Lundwall talked with me this week about the National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases (NTSAD) 29th Annual Family Conference in Quincy, Massachusetts April 19 -22. He attended with his wife Petria and friends who are grandparents of little Elise.Please watch this 2.5-minute video to find out a little bit about Tay-Sachs.

Once thought of as a disease restricted to Jewish people, populations at high risk of carrying the gene for this progressive neurological genetic disorder include: Ashkenazi Jews, French Canadians, Louisiana Cajun, and Pennsylvania Dutch. Further, preliminary data suggests persons of British Isle and Italian decent have an increased carrier rate over the general population, according to the NTSAD.

A simple blood test will determine if you are a carrier, so the disease is preventable. The NTSAD says that "even if your childbearing years are over, your carrier status can be an extremely important piece of information. If you are a carrier, your close rel…

Light of the World

When the Unlocked Door Remains Closed

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The most poignant moment of Franz Kafka's 1915 novella The Metamorphosis occurs when the narrator remarks that nobody thinks to open Gregor's bedroom door to see him through his crisis, though the door is now unlocked. In time, Gregor no longer wishes to emerge from his room, to be seen. All connection with his family and his former self is lost.

Gregor the travelling salesman had gotten into the habit of keeping his door locked, even at home. He became private to the point of being paranoid. He is also invisible. Gregor the absentee member of the Samsa household--albeit the breadwinner--is unknown to his sister Grete and to his parents. The loss doesn't quite register with them.

This is the story of the man who wakes up as a bug. He literally embodies his emotional and psychological perception of himself: that he is vermin. He has become his own self-loathing. As this reality settles into his mind, he hopes his family will in some way respond to his need, to feed the unname…

Strange Attractions: Writing Rebellion

Artists in Iraq are trying to spruce up Baghdad with murals, according to the Associated Press on April 30. They are one with the early Christians who put their message on whatever spaces they could--even in the catacombs or the every-shifting sands. This puts them in the same camp as the muralists whose works are bolted to the trestles under the trains in South Norwalk, Connecticut. It puts them in league with the Irish Republicans who cleaned up their neighborhoods in the 1980s and 1990s with political and cultural murals that united their communities and played an essential, though overlooked, role of the arts in general in the peace process there.

The power of a wall to carry a message has been common knowledge since our days in the cave. Who gets out their message first and most effectively places an interesting cultural premium on wall space. In societies that wish to think of themselves as stable, public walls are very often unadorned with artwork--that is, until you go down an …

Cingular's Curbside Appeal Saves the Day

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Learning to drive with my father included one and only one lesson in auto repair: pull over, pop the hood, turn on the emergency flashers, and wait for someone to come. Between the lines: don't touch.

I invoked that lesson yesterday when my car overheated. It was a beautiful day, perfect weather for some roadside lounging. Next, I did what I could not have done 24 years ago, when I was tooling around Danbury in my parents' big brown utility van and the only phone I had was screwed to the kitchen wall. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and called Cingular's Roadside Assistance number. For $2.99 a month, these guys are at my service at times like these.
Some lovely woman helped me get a tow to a garage in Newtown. I mentioned I had to get home to my daughter, and she had me towed within 15 minutes. It was a quick roadside lounge moment, to be sure.

As we pulled into the garage, Roadside called back to make sure I was being helped and that I was safe.
Within the hour, I …