March 21, 2008 | Filed Under d'etre, good lord | Leave a Comment 

hope everyone’s having a real good friday.

Won’t You Have Some Catnip Tea?

February 23, 2007 | Filed Under funny haha, good lord | 1 Comment 

Of course, we’ve all seen those tracts (and fake million dollar bills) that the more hardcore evangelicals like to hand out or leave in conspicuous places for sinners to find, right? (here’s a pretty wonderful example; with plenty of apocalyptic/paranoid/luddite messages to go around. They’ve got something tailored for everybody, from your favorite potential bird flu victim to those poor Harry Potter fans, and just a dash of almost inexplicable content too: see the list on the left sidebar (trolls? dwarves!?))Anyway, the point: I followed a link to a website for The Aquarian Tabernacle Church - a pagan organization- and found something pretty awesome. These pagans have made some tracts of their own, and they’re just too good not to pass along. They do a nice job of putting the topic of proselytizing in a different perspective, which has merit as a polictical message, and it’s a nice bonus that they’re pretty funny. Check em out: the “anti-tracts.”I do realize that this is now the second time I’ve blogged about Pagans putting the Fundies/Evangelicals in their place; I guess I have a soft-spot for ‘em. But some of you must be wondering if I’m thinking of becoming a WARLOCK!! (or maybe you’re asking yourself if I already am one…!)Well, I’m sorry to say, I’m not. But I must also admit that while browsing this website beyond the tracts pages, I found lots of interesting and informative reading and, generally speaking, these paigs (as I’m going to henceforth call them) do bring up some good points, and usually make them in a fairly rational way. Of course, they’re a little crazy their own selves, but if you can get past the fact that many pagans seem to be named after fragraces in an air-freshener line co-designed by Edgar Allen Poe and J.R.R. Tolkien (i.e. Raven Wood; Iron Oak; etc), at least enough to take them semi-seriously, the articles about Samhain, Yule, Wiccan/Pagan Origins, and a letter to the Pope are pretty fascinating.

Backpack Shenanigans

December 7, 2006 | Filed Under god bless the internet, good lord | 1 Comment 

This is a pretty funny example of the hypocrisy of the religious right - and also the influence they have on less-informed people who are totally oblivious to the fact that they are being manipulated into being hypocrites.Evidently, the hilariouisly named Liberty Counsel, (a religious-right legal group (scary) affiliated with Jerry Falwell), sued Albemarie County in Virginia for discrimination for not letting some students at Hollymead Elementary School distribute flyers inviting everyone to Vacation Bible School. The lawsuit, believe it or not, actually persuaded the school to change its policy, and the kids were allowed to send the flyers home in every student’s backpack. Alright! Great!But, wouldn’t you know it, those pesky Pagans wouldn’t leave well-enough alone. A Charlottesville Unitarian-Universalist Church sent its own flyer home with the students:

“Have you ever wondered what ‘Holidays’ refers to?” reads the flier. “Everyone knows about Christmas – but what else are people celebrating in December? Why do we celebrate the way we do?” The flier invites people to “an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we’ll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule.”It concludes, “Come for one or both parts and bring your curiosity.”

Pretty awesome. Now, of course, a bunch of parents, Christian bloggers, and religious leaders are all pissed off because another group is trying to exercise the “freedom” that they only really want for themselves. I especially appreciated this quote, from a Christian blogger/parent who noticed a disclaimer on the Pagan flyer:

“They [the school officials] aren’t endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn’t have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs.” She then fumed that a “pagan ritual” is “an educational experience my children don’t need.”

Here’s the article.

Christmas Components

November 29, 2006 | Filed Under big ideas, god bless the internet, good lord, politics | Leave a Comment 

“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” — Garrison Keillor“If they could, secularists would cancel Christmas as a holiday. That’s how much they fear the exposition of the philosophy of Jesus.” — Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly and Garrison Keillor certainly and obviously hail from opposite sides of the tracks - but believe it or not, they actually share a tiny little piece of common ground. Sort of. Garrison, of course, is the voice of reason and wisdom to Bill’s raving lunatic, but apparently they both want to keep Christmas in the world.There are differences to their approaches, not surprisingly. Bill’s solution to end the “War on Christmas” would be to force all non-christians to willingly defer rule to christianity and christian symbolism in public, without any “equal time” for other faiths, essentially because “we were here first,” and any entity proposing a compromise that might omit the word Christ must be economically boycotted. O’Reilly sees any adaptation motivated by a sense of political correctness as a religious persecution against Christians, and the fundies love him for it.So what about those of us libs who also happen to really like Christmas? This is where Garrison Keillor chimes in today on Salon:

“Whether or not you believe that the Creator of the Universe came to earth in the body of a child, the day itself is an enormous gift.

There are people who feel “excluded” by Christian symbolism and are offended by the manger and the angels and the Child, but there have always been humorless, legalistic people. Complaint is an American art form, and in our time it has been raised to an operatic level. To which one can only say: Get a life. When you go to France, you don’t expect a stack of buckwheat pancakes for breakfast or Le Monde to print box scores. You’re in France. Now you’re in America. It’s a Christian culture. Work with it.”

His argument, (also against the over-compensation of the p.c.-minded), is more about recognizing the fact that the religious component of Christmas is actually a pretty small fragment of the already long-since secularized “Christmas season”. He says there’s plenty of room for non-christians to enjoy Christmas, and that the trappings of the season, with all the food, nostalgia, and carols do not require an adherence to any particular faith to be enjoyed.Basically, his much more rational point of view is that, in our current society, it’s true that Christianity was here first. Pretty early on, however, the Christmas holiday extravaganza got firmly established in the secular world and was commercialized in a million films, songs, and store promotions. There’s all this great food, pretty lights, and kids love Santa Claus. It’s a very American, capitalistic, and in the past 100 years, a hugely secular thing. I think what he’s saying here is that if you’re not Christian, or even if you’re not religious at all, you can still eat the cookies and watch the rudolph special, and even still feel some goodwill towards men or something.None of us, Garrison included, would ever want to live in the near-theocratic society that Bill-O’s followers dream of. I don’t think Garrison is suggesting that Christianity get any special treatment at Christmastime, or that any other religious holiday should be silenced, just that the reality is, there’s a whole Christmas culture that a lot of people feel sentimental about and are really fond of, and he doesn’t want it to disappear into a politically homogenized fog.Politics aside, the majority of Garrison’s piece is really about elucidating what’s beautiful and wonderful about Christmas in the first place; why it’s something that so many people care about at all. I particularly love how he first observes the season through the eyes of a little girl and then later, as an adult full of the pain of life - and the moment during Silent Night on Christmas Eve when all your Christmases meld into one.If nothing else, at least we know Garrison Keillor can beat Bill O’Reilly at poetics.


Another Christmas-related item: The Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas box set is out now. Last year, I blogged about three of these five E.P.s, as they weren’t available to buy, but you could find them online. (Now the links go to this page.) I listened to them a lot and they’re really great. I guess the story is that he does a Christmas E.P. with his friends every year as a tradition. I think the ones that were online were the first three years, ’cause the way Pitchfork writes about the more recent ones sounds like something I haven’t heard yet. I would ask for this set for Christmas, but that doesn’t really make sense… I want to be listening to this in the car on the way home, you know? Guess it’s going on my grocery list. 


Finally, while doing all this Christmas themed googling today, I came across this:Not very secular, especially for characters that most people consider pretty secular, but I bet Garrison Keillor still likes it. And that Vince Guaraldi music is really something. Might be going on my grocery list also. 

Does Sufjan Ever Sleepjan?

December 13, 2005 | Filed Under big ideas, good lord, music | 1 Comment 

Sufjan Stevens is so prolific - he must do a song a day to be able to put out so much material. I wonder how many artists/musicians have said half-jokingly or even in all seriousness that they would like to do a Christmas album - while they’re still relevant in the music world - and then never got around to it or chickened out or weren’t allowed by their labels. Well, Sufjan not only got around to it, but he recorded 3 e.p.’s worth of the stuff. Holden emailed me a link to this dude’s blog where you can download all of it. (I know this is possibly old news to a lot of people… I think a lot of this stuff was released a while back… It sounds more like Seven Swans than Illinois… But I just got on it, and I got excited.) I love Christmas music. Sufjan’s great. It’s a good match. Here’s the tracklist, and you can click the titles to download the stuff.

Vol. I Hark! Songs for Christmas01 Silent Night02 O Come O Come Emmanuel03 We’re Goin’ to the Country!04 Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming05 It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad06 Holy, Holy, etc.07 Amazing Grace Vol. II Hark! Songs for Christmas01 Angels We Have Heard On High02 Put the Lights on the Tree03 Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing04 I Saw Three Ships05 Only at Christmas Time06 Once in David’s Royal City07 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!08 What Child Is This Anyway?09 Bring a Torch, Jeanette, IsabellaVol. III Ding! Dong! Songs for Christmas01 O Come, O Come Emmanual02 Come On! Let’s Boogie to the Elf Dance!03 We Three Kings of Orient Are04 O Holy Night05 That Was the Worst Christmas Ever06 All the King’s Horns07 Ding! Dong!08 The Friendly Beasts

New Orleans Now

December 2, 2005 | Filed Under fantastic weekend, get outta here, good lord, photo, politics, seen | Leave a Comment 

Dsc00904Since I’ve been in Baton Rouge for over a week now, I figured it would be inexcusable for me to not visit New Orleans at least once. So the other day, I joined my cousin Lance, his wife Erin, and our Aunt Andree on a trip through the city. Lance is a firefighter, and was involved in the rescue efforts after the hurricane, so he was a perfect guide to show us around. He knew a lot about what happened where, and what has been and is being done to recover. We all took a lot of pictures, and I’ll be updating my flickr page with theirs when I get them. So far, you can at least check out my photos.One thing that struck me was the sensation that some areas were not as bad as I thought, even to the point of seeming completely normal, and then other areas were absolutely as bad as you can imagine. Dsc00859The change was often a matter of turning a corner or crossing a block. For example, the French Quarter, fortunately, is on pretty high ground, so those old, dilapidated restaurants, bars, and shops that have been built upon older buildings that were built upon even older buildings are all still standing and functional. The electricity there was restored pretty quickly, and there are street vendors, tourists, and jazz musicians on the corners. The only noticeable change in the Quarter is that it’s less crowded and there were a lot of hurricane katrina t-shirts for sale.The next thing you know, you’re practically in a third world country. As soon as you get out of the Quarter, there’s no electricity, so all the intersections have temporary stop signs set up. There are gigantic piles of trash and rubble lining the streets. Dishwashers, refrigerators, & washers and dryers are lined up, outside, broken. One fridge had a graffiti message spraypainted on the door: “Do Not Open!” There were literally hundreds of abandoned cars, suvs, and trucks. Doors and trunks were wide open and windows were broken. Most of them were covered with a grayish white film leftover from the floodwater.Dsc00873As we drove through the neighborhoods, we kept noticing the brown stain on garages, trees, and sides of houses where the waterline had been. Lance was especially aware of the fact that we were driving in places that were underwater a month and a half ago; he had seen the same neighborhoods from 6 to 10 feet higher in his boat, and he said everything seemed different from the “normal” angle.Dsc00911There are signs everywhere you look, many handmade, for practically any kind of service that people in this situation would need. One said: “Computer flooded? We can retrieve your files.” Another was for restoration of damaged photographs. Lots were advertising “home-gutting” and “de-molding”. It was surreal to know that this is basically the only economy in New Orleans right now.With the exception of the Quarter, just about all the “standard” businesses are closed, but we did find some nice suprises. Lance and Erin’s favorite hole-in-the-wall Italian joint was up and running, so we had a great lunch, and there were some entrepreneurial-minded folks who had bare bones tent shops: like the barber cutting hair in a closed Shell station parking lot. Those people are mainly catering to FEMA and Red Cross employees, though. Other than relief workers, there are not many people around; it really feels like a ghost town, especially in the neighborhoods, where block after block is basically uninhabitable.Now that the water is gone, there’s a sense that the urgency and the emergency is over. But it’s painfully obvious when you walk or drive around that the job of making New Orleans liveable, much less a nice place to be, is going to take a long, long, long-ass time. here’s the link to the flickr jive.Dsc00914

The Clock of the Long Now

October 23, 2005 | Filed Under art, big ideas, god bless the internet, good lord, music, mysterious, space, time travel | Leave a Comment 

This project is pretty awe-inspiring — This guy, Danny Hillis, and his team have created a design (and two prototypes so far) for a “clock” that will run for 10,000 years. The final version will be over 60 feet tall and embedded 10,000 feet up the side of a mountain in Nevada. It will display the time in several different modes, including the positions of the planets in orbit around the sun. It’s essentially a digital clock, but it works mechanically (using pins in or out) to represent ones and zeroes. It was named by none other than Brian Eno. This is one of the most impressive and well thought out ideas I’ve heard of in a really long time, and I like it. The concept of creating a monument on this scale (physically, symbollically, and temporally) is something I’d like to see more of. Let’s build us some pyramids! Here are links: the Discover Article, the Project’s website, and a page about the 1st prototype.