Sunday, November 27, 2005

Emma's List

Okay - time to brag about my oldest niece, Emma. The surgery my mother just endured was having a metal rod put in her ankle in hopes she will one day be able to walk again. She has a long history of complications from diabetes and other illnesses that have left her dependent on wheelchairs and walkers for years. Essentially this surgery IS a positive thing albeit very physically painful for my mother.

Emma drew up a list for Mom to keep next to her bed in Rehab to serve as a reminder and inspiration for sticking to her post-op program. Just so you know, my mother has numerous dietary restrictions in addition to the ones mandated by the diabetes.

1. Keep all weight off your ankle for 8 weeks and the more shopping bags you can carry.

2. Keep all weight off your ankle and you get to go for long walks on the beach.

3. Don't eat any potassium and you get to keep your kidneys.

I guess this might not sound so wonderful to anyone else. I thought it was found poetry. From shopping to nature to keeping one's kidneys in 3 lines, genuis. I mean, if I could only keep my records clean I'd feel like one of those. Miss you, Warren Z - Don't smoke any more cigarettes and you get to keep your life? Sometimes, yes!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The You are Beautiful Statement

Okay, this one is as much for me as anyone out there. At the beginning of the summer I briefly dated a man who was 15 years older than me and at one point he actually told me that if he thought that if he could still attract a woman even younger than me, he'd be going for it. That's not especially helpful in the self-esteem department. One of the things I always liked about Gaitskill's husband is that he was never infatuated with younger women. Just like the men in my family. Decent. Reasonable. Hardly perfect but exceptionally loveable. Like the women and my long-time friends.

I seem to be turning into an introvert. If I'm around too many people for too long, I just get exhausted and, you know what, I am turning into a prig. Someone recently told me they were at a restaraunt and stole a burrito off some guys tray . She said she thought it was really funny but they didn't. I said I'll bet they didn't. Maybe she had no money for food. I dunno.


You Are Beautiful (check out the link) is a simple, powerful statement which is incorporated into the over absorption of mass media and lifestyles that are wrapped in consumer culture.

This statement and the context in which someone finds it gives meaning to its message and purpose to this project.

The intention behind this project is to reach beyond ourselves as individuals to make a difference by creating moments of positive self realization in those who happen across the statement: You Are Beautiful.

Intention is the most important aspect of the You Are Beautiful project in its idea of purity. Graffiti and street art are an act not a style, but stylistically large corporations have been copying and using the 'urban decay' look to sell products.

It all comes down to intention. Nothing is sacred. Everything that has a perceived value becomes commodified. Companies hire out teenagers to slap up stickers and posters, and pay their fines when they are caught by the police. This is not street art, but a marketing campaign.

The reasons why street artists are doing what they are doing, in the way that they are doing, is not simply to question their surroundings; but to provide alternative perspectives, meanings, or values to those of consumerism.

Advertising elicits a response to buy, where this project elicits a response to do something. The attempt with You Are Beautiful is to create activism instead of consumerism.

You Are Beautiful uses the medium of advertising and commercialization to spread a positive message.
Projects like these make a difference in the world by catching us in the midst of daily life and creating moments of positive self realization.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Couldn't Help But Notice Maslin's Observation

Wow. I just found out that Mary Gaitskill's new novel, Veronica, is finally out and is a finalist for the National Book Award - right on! I've been a fan (yeah, I know that's an out of style word these days, we are supposed to be "great admirers", right?) of Ms. Gaitskill's since her first novel and through the short fiction collections, is that the right order?

I love the reviews I have read about the novel so far. A not so pretty view of the modeling industry? Yes. Anyone remember the Leonard Cohen song, "First We Take Manhattan"? Jeez, did Kate Moss do any reading in rehab? Goodness, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. One of things I have always appreciated about this woman's work is how unsparingly unsentimental it is.

This said, couldn't help but notice Janet Maslin's observation of something resembling a hopeful or happy ending. Nice. I've never met MG but her husband, Peter, once described her to me as having a generosity of spirit unlike anyone he'd ever met. Actually, in many ways I'd describe him in this manner.

Art often imitates life and vice versa and, God help me, as cynical and unsparingly critical as I can be in my assessment of the world around me, I do love it when good things happen to those who friggin' deserve it. I strongly suspect these two do

Okay, now I'm on the lookout for what I expect to be a rather brilliant book on the nature of suffering, The Book of Calamaties, by said husband.

Oh yes, and my old pal, Lisa Phillips, has a book about NPR coming out in the spring.

coda - given what wunderwriter Lauren Slater had to say about the veracity of reviews while in town last weekend, I am being cautiously optimistic in my enthusiasm re: this entire post. Of course, it's all subjective. Yo Go - Heisenberg.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Love These Boys!

from Science & Spirit 2002

Words to Live By

by Dean Nelson

Writers are celebrated for the ways, both obvious and subtle, in which they reach and inspire their readers. Yet rarely do we consider the sources from which authors themselves draw inspiration. Earlier this year, Bill Moyers, Jim Wallis, Peter Matthiessen, and Doug TenNapel—four writers who have long energized diverse audiences with their words—came together for a writers symposium at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, where they spoke about the ways in which spirituality informs their work. Despite their different backgrounds, experiences, and chosen mediums, these four authors share similar concerns at the heart of their creations— whether an essay on politics, a television series on life’s origins, a narrative reflection on our place in nature, or a comic book on dinosaurs.

Bill Moyers, perhaps best known for his Public Broadcasting Service series “NOW with Bill Moyers,” is no stranger to religious themes. He has successfully addressed plenty of them through popular television series like “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth” and “Genesis: A Living Conversation,” both of which later became books. His most recent book, Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times, brings together some of his earlier reflections on religious matters, such as the many interpretations of the Bible and how Americans, despite their many different faiths, can come to a place of mutual understanding.

Moyers, now seventy-one, has long championed the less powerful members of society—an approach to the world he developed first at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and later while serving as an associate Baptist minister and in the Peace Corps. Through his PBS programs, he exposed corruption in government and in the chemical and sports industries, and warned Americans to watch out for ideologues in big government and encroachments on constitutional rights by big business.

Moyers draws a connection between the tax cuts introduced by President George W. Bush and passed by Congress earlier this year—cuts that benefit mostly the wealthiest Americans—and the scriptural account of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple. “The money-changers were taking advantage of the poor,” Moyers says, while more recently, “the religious and political leaders were working together to make sure they were taking care of themselves at the expense of the poor. That should make us angry today, too.”

Though he believes Scripture is relevant to public discourse, he decries the ways in which some have twisted religion to justify their actions. He notes as an example the “rapture index”—a composite score based on activity in forty-five categories, including the economy, famine, and floods—which is believed to indicate the nearness of the end of time. This idea, made popular by the best-selling Left Behind series, has been used as a rationale for, among other things, abdicating responsibility for environmental destruction, since it is said that this destruction will precipitate the second coming of Christ and the ascension of true believers into the kingdom of heaven.

Moyers believes corruption of religion has reached the highest corridors of power, and has not been afraid to criticize this. “The delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington,” he said upon accepting a Global Environment Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School last year. “Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad, but they are always blind.”

Earlier this year, Jim Wallis, founder of the ecumenical social action group Sojourners and editor of Sojourners magazine, earned acclaim for his critique of the religious right. In his best-selling book, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, he criticized the religious right for focusing on issues like abortion and gay marriage to the exclusion of anti-poverty and social welfare initiatives. Wallis’ call to broaden the “moral values” discussion to include the implications of environmental degradation, the war in Iraq, the response to terrorism, and poverty has earned him something close to pop icon status. U2 frontman Bono gave God’s Politics a glowing review, and since the 2004 presidential election campaign, Wallis has appeared at concert halls throughout the country with the likes of the Christian music group Jars of Clay and country singer Emmylou Harris.

For the fifty-seven-year-old Wallis, the inclination to link the religious to the political dates back to his days as a teenager in the Detroit area, where he asked local church leaders why there were no blacks in their congregations. He was told that people who ask such questions only get in trouble. “I guess that was a prophetic statement!” exclaims Wallis, who has been jailed more than twenty times for protesting social injustices. Still, his role model remains Martin Luther King Jr., who, by holding the U.S. Constitution in one hand and a Bible in the other, convinced Wallis that successful social movements must have their roots in spirituality: “King said, ‘The church should never be the master of the state, it should never be the servant of the state, it should be the conscience of the state.’”

Wallis believes that politics should transcend traditional notions of “right” and “left,” rooting itself instead in universal compassion and commitment to others. In his 1995 book, The Soul of Politics: Beyond “Religious Right” and “Secular Left,” and his following book, Who Speaks for God? Wallis notes the Bible’s many references to taking care of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the imprisoned, and says we are called upon to look out for one another. In his newly released Call to Conversion: Why Faith Is Always Personal but Never Private, Wallis repeats his call for governmental policies based on the values Jesus preached.

Wallis has been criticized by some members of the religious right for the relative liberalism of his moral values and for not speaking out loudly enough against abortion. But he insists that by narrowing the discussion to merely one or two issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, little room is left for bigger ones, such as our responsibility to all of creation. “By not including the environment, capital punishment, war, and economic justice in the discussion about abortion,” Wallis says, “the conservatives are saying, ‘We care about you until you are born. After that, you’re on your own.’”

Peter Matthiessen, a longtime Zen Buddhist, conveys a similar concern for the environment and marginalized people. Most of his books address the tenuous balance between human existence and the survival of wildlife and habitats. With ever-expanding development and growing hunger for natural resources, the delicate relationship is in danger, he says.

Whether writing about a little-known species of bird, a mountain peak, or a forgotten human civilization, Matthiessen, now seventy-eight, continuously communicates his respect and admiration for each of his subjects and for the interconnectedness of the natural world.

While working at a summer camp in Connecticut as a teenager, Matthiessen becam e interes ted in wr iting about species at the mercy of more powerful forces. Hav ing come from a background of privilege, Matth iessen recal ls watching wi th aston ishment as a group of youngst ers from the inner city ate th eir dinner “as if they had never seen food before. The entire time they wolfed down their food, t hey looked behi nd them, over each shoulder,” he remembers. “I fou nd out later that they were used to hav ing to protect their food from someone else at the table taking it away from them. That started my interest in groups that had to struggle to survive.”

His time as a Buddhist has deepened his understanding of the connection between human beings and all other species, he says, and has contributed to his sense of obligation to be mindful and responsible to all of creation. It also has lent him a painstaking attention to detail that has sharpened his skill as a writer. Describing the sandpiper bird in The Shorebirds of North America, he writes: “One only has to consider the life force packed tight into that puff of feathers to lay the mind wide open to the mysteries — the order of things, the why and the beginning. As we contemplate that sanderling, there by the shining sea, one question leads inevitably to another, and all questions come full circle to the questioner, paused momentarily in his own journey under the sun and sky.”

Although Matthiessen will speak only sparingly about his spiritual practice, his philosophy can be gleaned from parts of The Snow Leopard, the telling of an odyssey through the Himalayas during a period of grief and spiritual searching that earned him the National Book Award for general nonfiction in 1980. “Today, science is telling us what the Vedas have taught mankind for 3,000 years, that we do not see the universe as it is,” he writes. “According to Buddhists … this world perceived by the senses, this relative but not absolute reality, this dream, also exists, also has meaning; but it is only one aspect of the truth, like the cosmic vision of this goat by the crooked door, gazing through sheets of rain into the mud.”

Serious and spiritual messages come embedded in all shapes and sizes, including the comic books and video games of American artist and animator Doug TenNapel. His first successful graphic novel, Creature Tech, which is now being adapted for the big screen, combines themes of alienation, love, and social acceptance in the setting of a small community. His latest work, Earthboy Jacobus, is about a lonely man who crashes his car into a flying whale and finds a boy from a parallel universe. It also deals with love and social acceptance and the possibility that life is not always as it seems.

Most of TenNapel’s writing is influenced by years of reading the Bible. “We writers write what we know,” he says. “Part of the Christian symbolism or philosophy that comes out in my work is that I’m incredibly familiar with Bible stories—the nature, the cadence, the message. It would make sense that as I tell stories, I would naturally steal elements of this moral system and incorporate it into my work. It’s part of my culture, my identity, my vocabulary, as I think about why characters do things or how events happen.”

The thirty-eight-year-old TenNapel feels that most great narratives have their roots in the dominant story of the New Testament. “Specifically, the story of Christ is the hero’s journey,” he says. “God wrote this tale in the DNA of planet Earth. The most popular stories of all time have a hero of humble beginnings, who blossoms before a community of adoring but oppressed peers, only to be sacrificed to save the community that is destined to die without his spilled blood. Often, the hero resurrects in a new, pure adult form.”

He points to Gandalf of the Lord of the Rings trilogy; Bruce Willis’ character in the Die Hard movies; and Neo of The Matrix as examples of the universality of this kind of hero. “Hollywood loves it when a hero or his sidekick dies at the end of the second act so that some group can live,” he says. “No matter if the reason is godless evolution or the gospel truth, we all agree that this form of Christ story has wide appeal in our most successful civilizations.”

TenNapel experiences some tension in the entertainment world when he tells people he is a conservative born-again Christian. Although his books have been well-received, he believes he has lost work because his religious and political beliefs are well-known. Even though he produced the highly successful video game “Earthworm Jim” and, later, “The Neverhood” for Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks, he says that potential collaborators in Hollywood tend to cast a skeptical eye. In the end, though, he is less concerned with how he is perceived than with holding on to the sense of purpose that guides him.

“My work ethic is a huge factor in what separates me from my peers who might use fear, greed, and vanity as an ultimate motivation,” he says. “To be sure, I am full of fear, greed, and vanity, but I have a higher calling that ultimately sustains and inspires my workday.”

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Shop Girl!

Loved it. And.....I picked the winner. Thanks, Andy for taking me to the flick.

Me mum has had another surgery but her wit remains intact (as always.) I told her I've been telling friends lately that my tiredness is beause I have the birdflu and without missing a beat she said, "Oh you mean, your ex-friends?" We both roared.

Off to the saltmines.

Prayers for Dianne in Charlotte if you would.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mongolia, Moss & Cool Guys

Okay, that thing I said about the use of the word "florid" yesterday was not very kind. I was having a bad day. What was I thinking about being so happy about Fall. Now winter is here and it's gray and cold and my apartment if about 58 degrees and, well, yuck!

Now that that's over with, here's a leedle quiz --- let's say you are a very, very unpopular world leader and nobody on the planet much cares for you, esp. your own people, where would you go to attempt to receive a moderately enthusiastic welcome?

Hint. It starts with an "M" and ends with an "A" and no leader of this particular unpopular leader's own country has ever visited M thru A before.

I guess you already heard about this, didn't you? Poor Dubya went to Mongolia. Oh well. Once I did have this psychic-astrologer tell me I HAD a terrific meridian that ran through the center of Monogolia and might consider moving there. I told a friend this and she said she thought it was a great idea. She could see me as that woman Karen Allen played in the first "Indiana Jones" flick - drinking all the boys under the table, bluffing them at cards, being a real bad ass.

When that comment was made to me I was a few years younger than Kate Moss is now. I glanced at the new issue of Vanity Fair last night. Jeez, it was freaky. There is one photo of her wearing this really short one piece cotton dress w/ a big, brass hip belt and a pair of leather strap-ankle sandals that are identical to the ones I used to wear in this identical get up. Pardon my hubris for comparing myself to such a gorgeous woman, BTW, although I will say I did have my day.

Anyway, I was so thin and so bold. I was a party girl and having a friend compare me to Karen Allen's role in IJ was a pretty fair assessment. Jeez, I hope Kate got something out of rehab and I really hope she gets over her penchant for bad boys. Hey, Kate, you know what? Winona Ryder had a great line in "Heathers" at the very end there when she told Christian Slater off right before he blew up the school, she said, "I want cool guys like you out of my life."

Being cool is a fine thing, of course, depending upon the context and what you mean by word.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Bad hair day but in this weather it would be unreasonable to have any higher expectations. Really terrific interview with Springsteen on Fresh Air this morning. For anyone in the WSUI listening area it should be rebroadcast at 7pm unless there is a P Lights reading. Difficult to believe it's been 30 years since "Born to Run" was released and rock critic Dave Marsh declared (was it Dave?) he had seen the future of rock-n-roll and it's name was Bruce Sprinsteen! Hell, I was down. My mother turned me on to that record and I became a groupie of sorts. Yeah, I got a story or two.

The wonderful thing about today's interview which actually took place a week ago is hearing the mature, wise Bruce. (BTW, is everybody throwing around the word "florid" these days? - I thought that was over in 2002? Oh well, I'm biased it's adorable when HE does it.) The family man who obliquely refers to a time in his past of running head on into his "instincts" and what a train wreck that way of life was. The guy who can laugh at himself, can look back at his old work and admit that it's good just different from what he's doing now. Hey it was was gratifying to hear an old hero talk about being a misfit and finding yourself through art, music, writing, etc.

I was disappointed in a couple of respects in the interview. The primary one, being this - in the discussion of Springsteen's writing of romantic songs, there was no mention of the fact that he wrote just about the most romantic song of the 20th century which is on the Tunnel of Love record - "Tougher Than the Rest". Okay, okay they were discussing earlier work but, man, that song is it. It's the send me no more cowards, anthem. The true definition of what strength and power are in another person.

Friday, November 11, 2005

All A Bunch of Crazy Kooks

So in the "never believe anything you hear of anything you read" category (the later being admittedly ironic given this format), I was meeting an old friend at the T Bowl yesterday and saw a woman who I had heard had gotten a job working for Ira Glass on "This American Life". I never questioned the story when it was told to me, so I told a few people after I heard it.

When I saw her, I was excited and said, "Wow, I heard...blah, blah, blah." She calmly responded that no she had not gotten such a groovo job but hypothesized that this rumor might explain why Jim Harris at Prairie Lights had come up to her and told her he had heard she had moved to Chicago to work for the show.

What divine comedy. Yesterday I finished writing up some holiday gift book picks and one of them is by my old friend, Pagan. In it she includes a chart summarizing and comparing her worldview to fiction contemporaries Bret Easton Ellis and Douglas Coupland. Her take as opposed to these cynical bad boys, "We're all bunch a of crazy kooks!"

That's my take on this little rumor gone nuts. Crazy kooks, indeed.

Three years ago, I was really bored and I was sitting around w/ the same gang over and over listenng to lots of rascist and homophobic nonesense so I started a rumor that I was really a man. I reckon that one is still going around somewhere. Maybe that's why this one guy not so long ago kept telling me over and over that he was reading Middlesex? He wanted to let me know, he was "down" with my kind.

Good grief. Oh well and my wasn't it sweet of J Depp to come ex-girlfriend, Kate Moss's defense? Nice.

Monday, November 07, 2005

An Important Part of the Process

One of the reasons the system of "confession" seems to be working in Rwanda is, in fact, the forgivenss and encouragement of the women there. Well, that and the fact that the reward for confession is the release from prison situations so inhumane and horrifying (I've read 1st person witness accounts, for what its worth) I strongly suspect it is impossible for me or anyone reading this to even remotely really empathize with it. For Rwandan culture this is especially important. Traditionally there is a strong obediance to authority and, subsequenty, a fear of it which I would imagine might make owning up to such things as hacking to death, raping and torturing 100's of your neighbors over a period of a only a few months pretty darn difficult. Reconciliation. That's what it's called and for some it comes quickly and for some more slowly. The miracle is that it happens at all.

I imagine an important part of the process would be learnng to not be suspicious of one another.

Now that I've typed all this up, it occurs to me I haven't read much about the gaccaca process in a while. Goodness, I hope it's still working to some extent.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

You Never Know

So I had the dinner the other night w/ one of those guys who blabbed a bunch of private stuff about me to other guys. I generally play dumb in those circumstances in hopes that being calm and forgiving will eventually lead to a "confession". It's a system that seems to be working in Rwanda but, of course, Rwanda is an entirely different culture. Maybe he'll own up to it someday. You never know.

Guys are dumb, albeit useful and not at all unloveable in their own ridiculous way. I was chatting with one of my favorite local business owners earlier, Sheila, who has Revival on South Linn Street. I was asking her about the house she and her boyfriend purchased this past Spring. We got into a conversation about how difficult gardening is and what an art it really is. She said they finally roto-tilled and whacked all the weeds and then she let her bf get into doing the "lawn thing". I said "yeah, a lot of boys like to do that sort of thing, may as well just let 'em at it." We laughed and nodded our heads.

Just picked up Carl Honore's "In Praise of Slowness". I think this one was written just for me!!!!