Sunday, December 20, 2009

The End

Well, there it is. I'm shifting to a shiny new blog called Upside Down Under, and found at

Upside Down Under

I've been contemplating starting a new blog--this one feels like it's gotten a bit oldish. I've changed a lot since I started it. Plus I've just moved to a new city on a new continent, so it feels like an excellent time to start a new blog.

After a couple days of contemplation, I thought Upside Down Under might be a night name for the blog. Unfortunately, someone already used that name for a blogspot blog, on which they posted one post back in 2005 and were never heard from nor seen again. What to do, what to do?

Learn how to use a whole new blogging service? Grumble grumble.

Put a dash in the name? So inelegant.

Actually buy the domain name, and then *pay* for blog hosting service, or do a bunch of research to figure out how to do it for free. More grumble.

Things I've noticed:

I no longer have a sense for the where the sun should set. Nor the proper locations of any constellations. I realized I had a very layered map of Seattle and Western Washington and all of Washington in my head, and I have this relatively bald two dimensional one layer missing-big-chunks map of Melbourne in my head. But it's growing. I'm constantly noticing things I simply don't know, which I used to know.

I'm *pretty* sure the sun is setting south of west. That makes a certain sense, since the sun sets north of west in the summer time in Seattle, so .... it being summertime here .... hmmmmmm.

Christmas at summer solstice is simply wrong on multiple axes. Don't get me started. It's silly on it's face. Christmas is meant to be the winter solstice celebration borrowed/appropriated by the Christian church. Hence lots of lights (because it's dark) etc. etc. etc. The Europeans who first came here should have figured this out and celebrated Christmas in July, at the winter solstice, like sensible people.

I'm barely beginning to get a sense of where the traffic at intersections might be coming or going when I'm walking. Certainly nothing like enough confidence to jaywalk.

There is this *enormous* section of car sitting out there on my left when I'm driving, for which I have very little sense. There's not *enough* car sitting to my right, which leads to me hugging the left side of my lane. I mean *hugging*. The person in the passenger seat is left with a sense of being way too close to the left edge.

There is this little formula where the direction of the inequality sign is now reversed. In Meadowbrook, Seattle, Washington, USA, it went (number of people picking up litter)*(average amount of litter picked up per person) > (number of people littering)*(average amount of litter dropped per person). In Broadmeadows, (Melbourne) Victoria, Australia, the inequality sign is reversed. What this means is that in Meadowbrook, if I see litter, I pick it up, whereas in Broadmeadows, I generally don't bother--it seems to big a job to begin. Alas. I wonder if the direction of the inequality sign and the magnitude of the inequality is generally correlated with average income in the neighborhood? I hypothesize that it is. I also strongly suspect that my hypothesis would turn out to be incorrect, if we researched it.

It's very nice that people here speak English. I suspect this would be far harder if they didn't. Nevertheless, it feels pretty difficult. I have no sense of AFL or cricket, although I'm beginning to gain one. It's harder, somehow, to eschew professional sports from the outside than it is from the inside.

It's kilometers and liters and degrees Centigrade here. These are far more elegant and sensible than the silly American systems. In spite of that, I have little sense of them. No one can tell me what the equivalent of the American term "mileage" is here. "Kilometerage" doesn't seem to work at all. I did see an add for a car that boasted X kilometers per 100 liters. What does that *mean*? I have to work it out, which is the work of a moment, thank the FSM, but I didn't have to work it out before.

Apartments and houses are rented by the *week* here. I have to work that out too.

Stage 4 water restrictions are in place. The reservoirs are 38% full. People are aware of this, and the washing machine has a hose attached to it for the grey water to run outside to the garden. I keep catching myself with water running in the sink as I clean, directly into the sink rather than into the basin which sits in the sink to catch the water so it can then be carried out to the garden. This is going to take some getting used to.

Okay, 'nuff for now. If you have any ideas on the new blog thing, let me know =)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I can think of at least ... well ... 2 people in Seattle I could call up and they would gladly join me for a beer later this evening.

2/1000000 beats the pants off 0/4000000.


Maybe I'll go eat some worms.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

White American Thanksgiving

For my international readers, today, November 26th, is a national holiday here in the U.S. called Thanksgiving. It's a day during which we do what we can to further our national epidemic of obesity. We're also meant to think about what we're thankful for. I wrote down some of my thoughts about what I'm thankful for on this holiday.

I want to express my gratitude, on this day, that I was born White--that I am part of the powerful majority rather than an oppressed minority, and thus that I can enjoy all the benefits of that status, such as never having gotten arrested, or having learned to speak and read and write in such a way that I can get high paying jobs and can propogate this power structure on to my children and my children's children. I'm thankful for my White Pilgrim Fathers, who celebrated the First Thanksgiving with their Pokanoket friends back in 1621--Pokanoket friends who sought them out for military alliance because they needed some help after so many of them had died from the smallpox which my White Pilgrim Fathers had brought to North America. I'm thankful that my White Pilgrim fathers won so decisively, a mere 55 years later, when they went to war with their Pokanoket former friends over the lands which these savages claimed my White Pilgrim Fathers were stealing. I'm thankful that there were 4 times as many deaths among the Pokanoket savages (whose fathers had been there to help make the first Thanksgiving possible) than there were among my White Pilgrim Fathers, a war proportionality which would only grow in our favor in the 350 years to come. I'm thankful for the way in which this war and other early wars against the merciless Indian Savages* helped form our identity as a nation where White People like me hold and exercise the power. I'm thankful that the end result is that now we white Americans are able to spend more than the rest of the world combined, some $650 billion annually, on armaments and military, and that following from this I am in the top 10% of wage earners in the world, and have never experienced hunger or homelessness or much of anything really unpleasant at all for a single day of my entire life. I'm thankful to be white, to be male, and to be at the top of the pack in a world where 1 billion (mostly non-White) people have no access to fresh water and 2 billion (mostly non-White) people live on $2 a day or less. I feel like shouting with joy and gratitude! Wooooooohooooooooot!

*Note: "merciless Indian savages" is a phrase which I have borrowed from that brilliant document my White Pilgrim Fathers authored--the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day/Remembrance Day/Armistice Day tomorrow--Sigh--and a question

I went to hear my seven year old daughter sing with the rest of her class at the school assembly today. She, and they, sang "Brothers and sisters all patriots, ready to answer the call, in service of our country, of our country. Honor and courage and sacrifice" The principle spoke about honoring the veterans who die to keep us free and bring peace.


Apparently is costs us (the human race, that is) some 1.2 trillion dollars per year to purchase weapons to keep us free and bring peace. Not to mention the cost in trauma to human beings.

Here's my question. Is Veterans Day to the arms industry as Christmas is to the retail industry?

"Do you think they will thank you for teaching them that war is glorious?" --Dr. Who

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Not to the strong is the battle

Did you know that the U.S. accounts for ~5 percent of the world's population, and ~21 percent of the world's GDP, but we account for ~57 percent of the world's arm's expenditures?

A metaphor for that:  If you imagine the world is a village of 100 people, then 5 of them are Americans, and those 5 own 20% of the village's wealth, and they manufacture more bullets, tanks, warheads, bombs, fighter jets, bombers, etc. than the other 95 people in the village put together.

Duel pursuit

Someone please tell me that Janet Hook and her editor allowed this "misspelling" in her very first sentence on purpose, as some sort of super lame play on words. The Chicago Tribune is the 6th largest newspaper in the U.S.

With the struggle over healthcare entering an even tougher phase, President Obama has hit both a milestone and a speed bump in his duel pursuit of a major overhaul of the nation's medical system and a rebirth of progressivism in America. 

Thursday, November 05, 2009

There are reasons

why the president described today's shooting rampage as "a horrific outburst of violence", but he doesn't ongoingly describe this in similar terms.

(Think "How to boil a frog")
(Methinks perhaps we're boiled.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

My birthday wish list

Stuff I want for my birthday, which is on the 6th:

1. A space fountain (I don't want to own it, necessarily--just to be able to watch it in operation).
2. An easy/quick way to suddenly always be kind and gracious to my wife and children (and other people).
3. Better listening skills.
4. A deferred (or at least deferrable) acceptance to the Son-Rise child facilitator training program in Massachusetts.
5. For all these companies to quite suddenly go bankrupt (or correlationally, for the percent of the world's GDP spent on arms to drop quite suddenly from ~2% to ~0%). (Note: there are only ~4000 google results for "corellationally".  Can you think of a word that only returns ~4000 google results?)
6. For these folks to get what they want.
7. This one is a secret.
8. A copy of my brother in law's new novel, preferably electronic (not only so I can read it, but also so someday I can say I was among the very first to ever read or even see it, back in the day).
9. My dad to miraculously get much healthier.
10. For people with whom I converse around here to stop mispronouncing "Melbourne" "Mel boorrrrn" and start pronouncing it "MEL bin" as it's meant to be pronounced.

If I have to choose just one, I'm going with 3.

I'm still working on pi in Roman numerals.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Binary Pie and Binary Debt

In case you were wondering, it is my humble opinion that pi is easier to memorize in binary.  It starts out 11.0010010000111111

Of course you need way more digits to express the same accuracy.  Nevertheless, it's still easier.

I'm working on pi in Roman numerals (which is slightly more difficult to figure out than pi in base 2).

Also, pi in base pi is 10, which is *really* easy to remember, except that it doesn't really do you much good, because then you also have to memorize some other form of pi, or else you can't really tell anybody with much accuracy what base you are working in.

Also, here's the U.S. national debt (as of November 2, 2009 (or in binary November 10, 011111011001))

$10101100111001010110000100111101110111101111 wow looks even bigger in binary.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


60 hours of misery is enough!  Fie on you, streptococcus pyogenes.  I defy you in the name of my immune system. Do your darnedest. I shall defeat you! Fie on you!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Noah's Ark: salvation, anthropocide, or xenocide?

My beautiful and super amazing Megsie came home today and informed me that it's her turn this week to tell the story at Sunday School at the relatively kewl Union Church this Sunday.  With her she brought a box with wooden models of Noah's Ark, including a gangway and lots of little pairs of animals.  Megsie (regretted to) inform me that this was the story which she had been assigned--the story of Noah's ark.

Here's the relevant Bible passage.

This is a story I grew up with, and felt pretty familiar with, which I haven't looked at in a while.  So I went back and glanced through it again today with my current eyes.

I think it's more interesting if you just toss out, to begin with, the question of whether it's factually true or not =).

I asked Megsie where are the models of all the dead people?  Is that a bit macabre?  Why is it we teach our children this story, where every living thing on the face of the entire planet is wiped out, but we don't teach them the other creepy stories from the old testament, like mere genocides, or prostitutes being hacked into pieces and fedex-ed all over the country and so forth? Maybe this story has a greater sense of redemption than those?

Actually, it seems to me that it does.  It feels like a story about a newish God learning, growing, and regretting.  First she regrets the existence of humanity, with all our evil.  But at the end, he/she regrets even more having come that close to wiping us right out, and vows never to do such again.  Which vow, so far anyway, it seems he/she has managed to keep.  Although a few times just barely.

Perhaps it means that there's hope!

Anyway--here's my question (and I think it's a rather interesting one):  Is God killing off the entire human race in Genesis 6-8 closer to anthropocide (by which I mean the killing of all of humanity), or xenocide (by which I mean the killing of an entire alien species)? Or maybe it works out to both?

(Now if I can just convince Megsie to introduce the story to the children as "Noah and the Xenocide by flood")

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Non-anonymous, and (more or less) having a name

110,000 results on google for the specific (and perhaps excessively wordy) phrase "non anonymous"

They could have just said "onymous". By the way, apparently neither the adjective "onymous" nor the adjective "anonymous" have comparative or superlative forms (that is: "onymouser" and "onymousest"). Which is actually quite interesting. It seems one either has a name or one doesn't--there's no more or less having a name. Is there?

Well--why not? One could write a short story around the idea of "onymouser". I shall have to submit this idea to my author/goddess in residence.

I definitely feel onymouser than I did, say, five years ago.

Faster than even I imagined.

"As proof of the way that the Kindle has changed reader habits, [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos brings up an amazing statistic. Earlier this year, he startled people by revealing that of books available on both Kindle and paper versions, 35 percent of copies sold by Amazon were Kindle versions. Now, he says, the number is up to 48 percent. This means that a lot of people have bought Kindles (Amazon won’t reveal the figures) and that Kindle owners buy a lot of books."

  -From this article

(just sit, for three minutes, and ponder the implications.)

(for instance--maybe my grandkids are going to look at paper books the way I look at rotary dial phones.)

(and in October they're coming out with a kindle 1 which can access the web wirelessly in 100 nations, unlike the one I currently have, which only works that way in the U.S.  And here I am moving to Australia in December.  sigh.)


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

If you love me

I think this song brilliantly captures certain elements of the Son-Rise philosophy.  And Van Morrison .... ahhhhhhh.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Pam Hogeweide interviews William Paul Young on genderbending God the Father in his book The Shack

Pam, you rock for doing this interview.  I hope all my Christian friends read it.

I continue to like Paul Young more and more, after really disliking the book.

Paul says

If the reality of a relationship with a God who is Spirit is lost in gender referencing imagery, then we have indeed erred, whether we have turned to female goddess imagery or male Zeus/Gandalf imagery

Read the interview here:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I coined a phrase =)

Google currently returns zero results for "American style eschatological eisegesis".  That probably means that I coined it. Hooray!  =P

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Changing our make believe.

Color perception is a learned behavior: that is, the way we see and experience the world is mostly make-believe. This means we can change our make-believe toward one which we prefer. But only as we become able to know/understand our current make-believe. H/T Joe Turner

The middle squares are the same color

Monday, September 28, 2009

Video of me on my LOPWMIPFMTIMAC

LOPWMIPFMTIMAC from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

Discussion over at

or here: Who's on your list?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What I'm learning latelyish, and make-believe

I can choose to be happy.

I can be present in my body.

I can be present in my current physical environment.

I can be present in my current social environment.

I can fully experience "bad" feelings.

I have an internal place to stand, from which I can observe myself.

I can be kind to myself.

I can be kind to my children.

I can be kind to my wife.

I can be creative, fun, and playful.

I don't have to believe what other people believe.

I don't have to feel what other people feel.

I can connect with other people.

My fears regarding what other people are thinking and feeling toward me are very often seriously out of sync with what they are actually thinking and feeling towards me.

I can be bold in asking genuinely curious, non judgmental questions.

Other people have have fascinating internal lives.

The way I see/experience the world is almost entirely make-believe, and therefore I can totally shift to a new make-believe which I prefer/choose. HOORAY!!

What make-believe do YOU prefer?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Itsy bity poo poo

The delightful little girl here is Sofi, with whom I have the grand privilege of playing for a number of hours each week in her playroom.

This last 10 days I've been with Sofi and the amazing Tracey and Saeid, her mom and dad, in Sheffield Massachusetts at the brilliant and beautiful Option Institute and Autism Treatment Center of America, where we've all been getting trained/helped with Sofi's Son Rise Program. I've cried or nearly cried this last 10 days more than I do during most 10 day periods, and laughed more too. I am so thankful for the opportunity. I've learned a ton, and hopefully changed a little as well in the direction which I desire to change.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Before and after

One of these people is happier than the other (hint: One of them feels "unworthy", by their own description)

For more from the happier one, see: Ray Boltz in concert at JesusMCCC
See also Carol Boltz' blog

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

LOPWMIDFMTIMAC and Mark Driscoll on Christians Fasting for Ramadan

Maybe I should start a List Of People Who Make It Difficult For Me To Imagine Myself A Christian, to go along with my LOPWMIPFMTIMAC.

In the news recently: Brian McLaren, Ries, and friends decided this year to fast during the month of Ramadan, in an act of peacemaking and solidarity between Christians and Muslims. Mark Driscoll was quoted in response as saying

"Christians observing a Ramadan fast is insane at best ... Sad, tragic, horrific, misguided, dangerous, wrong. If Christians want to pray during Ramadan, they should pray not with Muslims but for Muslims — that Muslims would come to know Jesus. To pray with Muslims absolutely dishonors Jesus."

I feel a bit sad for all the folks who sit under his teaching every week. Sigh.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Confused and Bizarre prosecution of persecuted Hmong

The U.S. government is prosecuting Hmong and Laotians in the U.S. for plotting a coup against the communist government of Laos. This a mere 30 to 40 years after the same U.S. government spent untold dollars carpet bombing the small nation with more bombs than were dropped on all of Europe during world war 2 in an attempt to ... stop communism from expanding in southeast asia.

(oh, but that's right--communists are ok now. We have a new enemy: the "terrorists")

Worse, the Hmong, who were U.S. allies during the aforementioned war, were promised support in exchange for their active help and then abandoned to be slaughtered upon our withdrawal from Vietnam.

I can't figure out a way in which we're not the bad guys in this scenario.

Monday, September 14, 2009


George Macdonald is the most honestly hopeful person I've ever known.

From "A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul"

September 14.

Things go not wrong when sudden I fall prone,
But when I snatch my upheld hand from thine,
And, proud or careless, think to walk alone.
Then things go wrong, when I, poor, silly sheep,
To shelves and pits from the good pasture creep;
Not when the shepherd leaves the ninety and nine,
And to the mountains goes, after the foolish one.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Religious Apocalypse, American style.

One of the big problems with American Christianity is that we approach the Bible's apocalyptic stuff taking the point of view of the perpetrator/avenger, rather than the point of view of the victim/one-to-be-avenged. This leads to rampant eisogesis. Note how patriarchy attempts to steal one of the relatively few places in the Bible where God is referred to as female, with "father hen".

Despite all that, my initial reaction upon hearing this was "Wow, I really like it."

Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11, Pearl Harbor, and Benamar Benatta

The September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941 attack on the United States of America have this in common--they were both remarkably successful in driving us to become ever more monstrous and violent in a futile pursuit of safety.

Listen to the story of Benamar Benatta, who was illegally imprisoned and tortured by my government for 5 years.

The interview starts at about the 1 minute 40 second mark, and runs about 3 minutes

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roger Ebert

describes his experience with A.A., after 30 years of sobriety. Worth reading.

Quote of the week

A senior Obama administration official, in discussing the U.S.' aggrieved stance over the alleged fact that Pakistan has taken U.S. weapons designed to accomplish death and destruction and made those weapons more capable of same (inadvertently aptly characterizing U.S. foreign policy over the last 60 years):

“When we have concerns, we act aggressively.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

I never noticed this connection before

Thanks, Itodyaso.

Dobson Crony prays for rain on Obama's speech.

Hurricane Gustav disrupts Republican convention.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Recycle Your Faith

My friend Craig runs Quadrid Productions, a video production company based in Denver. Over the last three months or so he's begun a project called Recycle Your Faith, in which he interviews people and produces short, pithy, two to three minute videos which often have at their heart a really interesting question or story from people who have found new ways to think about and/or live out their Christian faith in a post-modern, globalized world.

I've really enjoyed the videos and the discussions that have ensued over at Recently, however, I came across this video Craig made to introduce the whole concept and the site. I found I was totally put off by this one. Wondering why I had such a reaction, I transcribed it. Reading through it, I found my reaction was because I felt guilty/judged/useless, as well as envious. I'm not saying the video put that on me. I'm just saying that was how I felt. I had a big defensive reaction against this feeling which came out as "I hate the video!"

Envious because here was a person who managed to hang onto their faith in the midst of really enormous changes, while I'd lost mine. That's a big loss. And guilty because here is a person who's gone through some of the same transitions I've gone through, but seemingly in a more mature, thoughtful, productive way than the way in which I've done it. It sounds like this person is actually doing something useful and MTWABPish with their skills and their imagination and their history. Watching, I felt like I haven't done enough of that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Seattle Mayoral candidates

First impressions:

1. Elizabeth Campbell has a really unfortunate photo of herself at the top of her campaign web page.

3. Jan Drago page has a broken linked image at the top of her campaign web page which doesn't load in Chrome (although it looks ok in Firefox). This leaves her page looking like it has a big ugly hole in it, at least for us Chrome users.

4. Joe Mallahan looks ok at first impression. Plus I found a little advert for him downtown yesterday. He seems to be on top of things.

5. Kwame Garrett seems to lack a certain amount of credibility.

7. Michael McGinn has no photo at all on his campaign web page. Makes one wonder if he has some sort of really obvious deformity or something.

8. Greg Nickels' campaign web page looks ok at first impression. Of course he's only got a 30% job approval rating, which makes one wonder.

9. Norman Sigler makes a dazzling first impression. I see his face and I want to vote for him. Wow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

10 kewl things about the United States, the real version.

Ok, I'm going to try harder this time. I need to convince my lovely aunt I really mean it.

1. The Marshall Plan. Honestly, I don't have anything bad to say about it. The Marshall plan was f***ing brilliant. One of the best things this nation ever did.

2. The U.S. apology to the Native Hawaiians (excepting the disclaimer).

3. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Only took us a 100 years, but we *did* come to the required change.

4. The Refugee Act of 1980. Yes, we were only partially fixing a problem we had created for the Hmong. But we could have done worse.

5. The Homecoming Act of 1987. Again, we were only partially fixing a problem we created for children of Vietnamese mothers and American military fathers. But we could have done worse.

6. Signed into law by the *uber* kewl President Obama, March, 2009: A ban on export of cluster weapons by the United States. It's a big step in the right direction.

7. These Americans are taking positive action steps to undo the ongoing damage that left over American UXO continues to do to people, including many children, in Vietnam. They rock.

8. Bill and Melinda Gates and their friends are doing astounding work to help people throughout the world.

9. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. A huge step in the right direction, finally.

10. George Verwer is American. I am delighted and astounded by the work he has taken on for insisting that "the gospel" has to be social actions, not just words, since he stepped down as head of OM.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

cluster weapons don't kill people

[The] people [who design, build, and deploy cluster weapons] kill people.

Monday, July 13, 2009

An Iraqi student converses with average Americans

This is a fascinating episode from last year of Chicago Public Radio's "This American Life". An Iraqi student currently living in the U.S. traveled around the country with a portable booth, chairs, and sign which reads "Talk to an Iraqi". He captured some fascinating and insightful conversations he had with various folks on video. Very worth the 20 minutes it takes to watch it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A plan for improving English spelling

Attributed to Mark Twain or M. J. Shields:

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What I like about the U.S.A.

My super brilliant Aunt recently wrote to me:

Ben[jamin], no offense, but in my memory I have absolutely no recollections of ever being engaged in conversation with you, either personally or online, in which you have ever had anything uplifting to say about this country [the United States].

Here goes.

What I like about the United States of America:

1. Some citizens whose take on things in general is by and large uber brilliant: Barack Obama, Megan Ann Jones Ady, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Martin Luther King Jr., Dave Sellers, Jim Henderson, Helen DeWitt, Helen Mildenhall, Russell Roman, Paul Farmer, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Rhonda, ... I could go on.

2. America produced the fellow who has made the *only* decent translation of the Christian Bible into modern English, thus doing a huge service to the hundreds of millions of English speakers the world over.

3. America produced the fellow (Bobby Henderson) who founded the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

4. America produced the two richest and most generous philanthropists in history: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

5. Buproprion was invented under the auspices of an American corporation (I'm not sure if the person who invented it, Nariman Mehta, was American or not. His last name sounds rather Indian to me. Not that there aren't a bunch of Indian immigrants, for instance:)

6. I'm pretty sure Hemant Mehta, author of "I sold my soul on Ebay", is American.

7. Ebay was started by ... a French born Iranian person. Oops. never mind.

8. Google (on whose software this blog runs) was started by an American and a Russian born immigrant, in America.

9. Craigslist was started by an American.

10. James Taylor is American.

These are all positive things about America. But ... something's missing here. I'm not super emotionally engaged.

Maybe it's that none of these things strike me as quintessentially American. Maybe it's that I just have spent too many years emphasizing the negative. Maybe I should finally read Tocqueville's book. I *do* have an inordinately difficult time not casting every single positive thing I think of about the U.S. in a cynical, sarcastic, or negative light.

Ok--see, like this for instance. Jody Williams, who is an American, won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the campaign she worked for, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She and ICBL did uber brilliant work, and in 1997 they saw the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty, which now has 156 signatories, and has without a doubt prevented tens of thousands of ordinary people from being killed or having their hands, arms, legs, feet, faces, etc. blown off.

I'm totally moved by that. But the problem is that you can't really say that without pointing out that the U.S. is one of the 37 nations which has *not* signed the Mine Ban Treaty. We've got some fairly interesting company on that list, including: Iran, China, Cuba, Burma, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, and North Korea.


Friday, July 03, 2009

What do the "merciless Indian savages" think about July 4th?

I try to make an opportunity every July 4th to read aloud, to whomever might be near, the text of the vaunted document whose signing we celebrate: The U.S. Declaration of Independence. You can read it here. The hardest bit (among many hard bits) to read is in the long list of complaints against King George the Third:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

I was wondering this year specifically--how do Native Americans feel about the 4th of July Celebrations, considering the horrifying way they've been treated by the United States? I found a really interesting interview from last year at NPR around this question.

Monday, June 29, 2009

This is nearly obscene.

Get your genuine Holy Land Olive Wood 56 inch Cross delivered from Israel in 2-4 weeks. Only $6,498.00

Iran--Break the Blackout and Stop the Violence.

Avaaz continues to do really amazing work. This morning I had an email from them. They're trying to raise $100,000 to help provide secure, anonymous email and internet access for the the protestors in Iran. They say

Proxy services provide people with a single link at which they can freely access the internet. The link is changed every time the regime blocks access to it. With 10,000 donors, we can scale up the proxy services massively -- providing more servers, bandwidth and advanced technical support.

The next two weeks are crucial. As Iran’s secret policemen cast their net far and wide, secure channels of communication are also critical to avoiding the crackdown. Scores have been killed and hundreds of human rights advocates, journalists, bloggers and peaceful protesters imprisoned. Although many more remain free, without safe ways to communicate they will face terrible risks.

Here's a link to sign their petition asking Islamic Nations and Non-Aligned countries to condemn the violence in Iraq. And here's the link to their fundraising campaign to provide internet access to the protesters inside Iran.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


My friend Craig over at is looking to find someone who he can interview for a follow up to the video below. He's looking to make another video that highlights someone who did choose to end a friendship over this issue, but where the other person didn't feel attacked. If you have such a story, or know someone who does, feel free to contact Craig.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


What is the opposite or antonym of "pinko"?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Yotta huge"

I coined this term, I'm pretty sure. I should trakemark it, so I can sell the rights to American fast food companies. Google currently returns zero results. Let's see how long it takes them, and if Bing *ever* picks it up (I highly doubt it, actually) (note that they still haven't picked up this one, which Google got in a few hours. I even started a live spaces blog with that as the title, to be totally fair, and they haven't even picked up that.)

Yesterday I cam to understand why Brad said microsoft should have called it "Diddle" instead of "Bing". I was somewhat intoxicated, and someone said "But when you Bing yourself, it works really well." Someone else said something along the lines of "TMI". (By the way, Bing actually sucks, even here, because when I Bing myself, this blog comes up third. which is of course way better than livesearch ever managed, but still doesn't quite manage Google's figuring out that this blog should come up *first* when I Google myself.)

Yotta is currently the largest prefix in the International System of Units (SI). It stands for 10^24, and it comes from the Greek "octo" or "eight", because it's equal to 1000^8. This is the system that starts with "deca", "hecto", "kilo", "mega", "giga", "tera", "peta", etc. (no, that's not "people for the ethical treatment of animals. And SI had it before they did.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Adjectives as adverbs

"You did real good". =)

My wife and I have this ongoing very friendly, hilarious argument. I say usage defines correctness. She was raised by a French and English teacher. My own mother would agree with her. But then of course my mother also perfected the art of writing her beautiful near calligraphic cursive *backwardsly*, so you could read it easy if you held it up in front of a mirror. The hilarious thing is, she perfected this art during sermons on Sunday mornings. She admits this in a journal entry. Apparently the sermons were so boring, she practiced and practiced, there on the third row back, right side of left section, until she could write backwardsly. Then she took notes on the sermons backwardsly. Page after page of beautiful written backwardsly cursive sermon notes. I'm not making this up.

In my lifetime, my gracious mother and my super intelligent, gorgeous, amazingly forgiving wife have regular corrected my occasional "misuse" of adjectives as adverbs. I'd probable be making more income by now if I'd listened to them good. Ah well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Questions about your God.

I realize that open ended questions are "better" than closed ended ones. So please assume that all the questions end with a request: "Please comment."

1. Did your God foreknowingly create a system where billions of people end up suffering forever?
2. Is your God gorgeous?
3. Does your God ever have orgasms?
4. Does your God like you?
5. Is your God into having people eat him/her?
6. Does your God have a problem with masturbation?
7. Does your God think you are gorgeous?
8. Did your God create mosquitos on purpose?
9. Does your God approve of genocide? Ever?
10. Does your God ever say or do really stupid things?
11. Do you have a secret, personal, or pet name for your God?
11. Feel free to write and answer your own question about your God ___________________________________________________.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Three iterations of Genesis 1

(By the way, per Leonard Sweet, I've removed the (manufactured) verse numbers.

I rather like all three of these. =)

From lolcat Bible translation project

Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem. Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz. At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz. An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin. An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1

An Ceiling Cat sayed, im in ur waterz makin a ceiling. But he no yet make a ur. An he maded a hole in teh Ceiling. An Ceiling Cat doed teh skiez with waterz down An waterz up. It happen. An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has teh firmmint wich iz funny bibel naim ceiling, so wuz teh twoth day.

An Ceiling Cat gotted all teh waterz in ur base, An Ceiling Cat hadz dry placez cuz kittehs DO NOT WANT get wet. An Ceiling Cat called no waterz urth and waters oshun. Iz good. An Ceiling Cat sayed, DO WANT grass! so tehr wuz seedz An stufs, An fruitzors An vegbatels. An a Corm. It happen. An Ceiling Cat sawed that weedz ish good, so, letz there be weedz. An so teh threeth day jazzhands.

An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has lightz in the skiez for splittin day An no day. It happen, lights everwear, like christmass, srsly.16 An Ceiling Cat doeth two grate lightz, teh most big for day, teh other for no day. An Ceiling Cat screw tehm on skiez, with big nails An stuff, to lite teh Urfs. An tehy rulez day An night. Ceiling Cat sawed. Iz good. An so teh furth day w00t.

An Ceiling Cat sayed, waterz bring me phishes, An burds, so kittehs can eat dem. But Ceiling Cat no eated dem. An Ceiling Cat maed big fishies An see monstrs, which wuz like big cows, except they no mood, An other stuffs dat mooves, An Ceiling Cat sawed iz good. An Ceiling Cat sed O hai, make bebehs kthx. An dont worry i wont watch u secksy, i not that kynd uf kitteh. An so teh...fith day.

Ceiling Cat taek a wile 2 cawnt. An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has MOAR living stuff, mooes, An creepie tings, An otehr aminals. It happen so tehre. An Ceiling Cat doed moar living stuff, mooes, An creepies, An otehr animuls, An did not eated tehm.
An Ceiling Cat sayed, letz us do peeps like uz, becuz we ish teh qte, An let min p0wnz0r becuz tehy has can openers. So Ceiling Cat createded teh peeps taht waz like him, can has can openers he maed tehm, min An womin wuz maeded, but he did not eated tehm. An Ceiling Cat sed them O hai maek bebehs kthx, An p0wn teh waterz, no waterz An teh firmmint, An evry stufs. An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, the Urfs, I has it, An I has not eated it. For evry createded stufs tehre are the fuudz, to the burdies, teh creepiez, An teh mooes, so tehre. It happen. Iz good. An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, teh good enouf for releaze as version 0.8a. kthxbai.

From Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which you can buy here, or (illegally) download for free here. Also see

Che Holy Noodle

Che First Day: Light

THEN THE FSM SAID, "Let there be light," and there was light. And the FSM adjusted his willowy eyestalks and saw that the light was good; and the FSM divided the light
from the darkness. He called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night or "Prime Time." So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Che Second Day: Che Firmament

The FSM was tired of flying and He couldn't tread water for very long, so he said, "Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters, and let the firmament form coves to one day provide safe harbor for Pirates—no, wait, firmament is a stupid word; let it be called land, since 'firmament-ho!' sounds even stupider than just plain firmament—and let this land divide the waters from the waters. And let there be a volcano to spew forth beer, which seems like a benevolent idea." And the volcano spewed forth beer and He tasted it and declared it to be quite good. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

Che Chird Day: Land and Vegetation

When the FSM awoke, his thoughts were muddled and He didn't know where He was. Slightly hungover, and somewhere out in the Indian Ocean, the FSM found himself a little confused about what He'd created the day before; and so, self-conscious about the previous night's misbehavior, He started barking Godlike orders in an attempt to
reestablish His powerfulness, and then the FSM decided to organize. He said, "Let the water under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear" (having forgotten about Day Two's firmament command), and He called the dry land Earth (having only yesterday come up with the term Land), and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And the FSM dried His Noodly Appendages under the hot Light, and He saw that it was good but that there was a little problem. For now He had an earth full of Land and Firmament, which wouldn't do. So he lifted Day Two's firmament up to the heavens and renamed it Heaven. The land from Day Three He left where it was. Heaven seemed like the sweeter pad, and the FSM decided He'd live
there and commute to the earth. Then the FSM said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, semolina, rice, and whatever else can be turned into food that resembles my Noodly Appendages," and He saw that this was an original idea, which was certainly good. That night He drank a little less from the Beer Volcano, which was relocated to Heaven along with the rest of the firmament. So the evening and the morning were the
third day.

Che Fourth Doy: the Sun, the Moon, the Stars

At this point, the FSM was a little sore from overexertion. It was difficult for Him to find a comfortable resting position during the night, which was darker than squid-ink pasta would eventually be. So He said, "Let there be lights in the heavens, and let there be two lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser to rule the night." And since He had big plans for the next day, He turned in early. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Che Fifth Day: Che Big Bang

The fifth day was going to be huge, so the FSM rose early. Then He said, "Let the waters abound, let the skies fill with birds, let the earth bring forth creatures, each according to its kind. Then let them canoodle and be fruitful." And He saw that it was good, and He was feeling pretty proud of Himself, so He hit the Beer Volcano hard that afternoon. Later that evening He rolled out of bed and landed hard on the firmament, and this, fair reader, was the true Big Bang. He had a funny feeling and realized in His drunken stupor that He had not only built a factory in Heaven that turned out scantily clad women in transparent high heels, but He'd also created a midget on earth, whom He called Man. And He said, "Wow. Even I might have overreached my Noodly Appendage on this one," and not even sure what day it was anymore, He decided to take an extended break from the whole creation gig, and He gave a quick blessing and declared, "From here on out, every Friday is a holiday."

From Eugene Peterson's brilliant (and the only) translation of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles into modern American English. You can buy it here, or view it online here.

First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

God spoke: "Light!"
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day One.

God spoke: "Sky! In the middle of the waters;
separate water from water!"
God made sky.
He separated the water under sky
from the water above sky.
And there it was:
he named sky the Heavens;
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Two.

God spoke: "Separate!
Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
Land, appear!"
And there it was.
God named the land Earth.
He named the pooled water Ocean.
God saw that it was good.

God spoke: "Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree."
And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Three.

God spoke: "Lights! Come out!
Shine in Heaven's sky!
Separate Day from Night.
Mark seasons and days and years,
Lights in Heaven's sky to give light to Earth."
And there it was.

God made two big lights, the larger
to take charge of Day,
The smaller to be in charge of Night;
and he made the stars.
God placed them in the heavenly sky
to light up Earth
And oversee Day and Night,
to separate light and dark.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Four.

God spoke: "Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!
Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!"
God created the huge whales,
all the swarm of life in the waters,
And every kind and species of flying birds.
God saw that it was good.
God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean!
Birds, reproduce on Earth!"
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Five.

God spoke: "Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind:
cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds."
And there it was:
wild animals of every kind,
Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug.
God saw that it was good.

God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth."
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God's nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
"Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."

Then God said, "I've given you
every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
given them to you for food.
To all animals and all birds,
everything that moves and breathes,
I give whatever grows out of the ground for food."
And there it was.

God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Six.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Slipping past my cynicsim--Obama at Cairo

This guy speaks right through my cynicism. How does he do this? Must be working for other people too--400,000 views of the 54 minute speech in the last 5 days.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How not to listen to people. By: a former expert.

Recently this: (please note how we seem to be talking at each other, rather than listening to each other. I'm a lot older than this friend, so this is more my fault. This represents a type of conversation which I used to have more of than I do now. I don't want to have this type of conversation anymore. Instead, I want to practice genuine curiosity and listening. Alas. I'm still learning. I shall do better. I shall I shall I shall)

A friend:

If you believe the bible to be true then you believe that God designed Marriage for one man and one woman, no loopholes he clearly states it. if you do not believe the bible to be true, then you have no moral obligation whatsoever and then [name of other friend] arguing morals with him will be completely pointless.

You say "you" a lot when, I imagine, you actually mean "I".

As in "I believe the Bible to be true, and I believe that God designed marriage etc.".

Am I getting that right?

Are you really convinced that people who don't believe the Bible have absolutely no basis for morality in their lives? That's a pretty huge leap. There are at least some 5 billion people on the planet who don't believe the Bible in the sense that you are talking about. Some largish majority of them have various (more or less) workable systems of morality which they use--many of them arguably at least as, if not clearly more, workable than the Christian sense of morality.

A friend:
I believe God to be absolute morality so then any other system is wasting their time, if they don't choose God then screw over morals why not spend your life having fun.I know I would.

the Bible condemns homosexuality as an immoral and unnatural sin. Leviticus 18:22 identifies homosexual sex as an abomination, a detestable sin. Romans 1:26-27 declares homosexual desires and actions to be shameful, unnatural, lustful, and indecent. First Corinthians 6:9 states that homosexuals are unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom of God. Since both homosexual desires and actions are condemned in the Bible, it is clear that homosexuals “marrying” is not God’s will, and would be, in fact, sinful.

Leviticus, or so I'm told, also condemns eating shell fish as an abomination. Does this mean that the list of what is or isn't abomination can change over time? =)

the same passage in Corinthians says the same thing about the greedy. So how does any American get to inherit the kingdom of god, taking into consideration the rate at which we consume while 1 billion people go without potable water and 25,000 starve to death every day?

Does this mean that greedy people shouldn't be allowed to be married either? What other groups of sinners will you prevent from getting married? Shellfish eaters?

A friend:
You missed the point.the point was that God despises homosexuality.
Just like God despises shellfish. I thought I had gotten it. How did I miss it?

I don't want to argue with you. I feel like I've done a terrible job of listening, and I want to do better, and I'm hoping to change the tenor of this conversation.

To that end--an attempt at a genuinely curious question: It sounds like maybe this is fairly important to you. Am I getting that right, or am i way off? Either way, why is it important, or not important, to you? Do you find homosexuality personally offputting or frightening? Has a homosexual person been unkind toward you? Or is it more a thing where you genuinely believe that homosexuality is a big threat to you and/or your family/community's way-of-being? I know, for instance, that some people have, after having been married for years, left their spouse having discovered that they were gay. That must be astoundingly painful for the spouse and children of that person. Do you know someone like that?

Photos switcharoo

Interesting article here on why Obama switched on releasing the additional prisoner abuse photos. Apparently Prime Minister al-Maliki went "pale" when he learned of the imminent release of the photos, and predicted some sort of massive redetioration of the security situation in Iraq.

I think al-Maliki, Obama, and lots of other people are insanely optimistic about the security situation in Iraq. How closely tied is al-Maliki to the Bush administration, to whom the final blame belongs in the prisoner abuse scandal?

I was saddened to see Obama parroting the Bush Administrations lines about how the abuses were carried out by a "small number of individuals." I don't understand why, if that was the case, these individuals weren't allowed to be tried by the Iraqis. This is not the Obama that I voted for. He's standing against so many human rights organizations who very clearly have way less liability in terms of suspicion of ulterior motive than he does: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc. I was hoping that an America under Obama would be one of which I could once again be proud--at least to some extent, or at least in terms of direction, if not position.

Do any of the open-eyed thinkers and writers on the whole situation believe that the current government of Iraq is actually going to hold up after U.S. troops are out of the country? I'm not asking this rhetorically--I really want to know.

What government set up in a foreign nation by the United States, where we've tortured and killed civilians, has held up for ten years after the departure of the U.S.? Again, I really want to know--do these things work once we've left? My knowledge of history is altogether lacking. Help me out.

Because my gut says that no matter what anybody does, the security situation in Iraq is going to go straight to hell when the U.S. departs. We removed the very strong oppressive system that was in place (Hussein and co.) and replace it with another very strong oppressive system (U.S. troops and co.). What will replace us? Surely not the relatively weak current Iraqi government? I mean it might, perhaps, be nice, but I just can't see it.

Right now I'm really having to agree with the ACLU. And I'm hoping that I still live in a country where the executive must bow to the courts on the release of these photos--that is, where the twisting of the balance of powers accomplished by Bush and friends is not permanent. But my hope is ... not very powerful.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


LOPWMIPFMTIMAC stands for "List Of People Who Make It Possible For Me To Imagine Myself A Christian"

Google currently returns zero results for this acronym. Which means we can watch to see how long it takes them to pick up this post. (and we can also compare their elapsed time to pick up to Live search, and Yahoo, and any of several other search engines. But there's no point really, because we all know Google will beat them hands down. All of them.)

Google also says, in response to this search, "Do you mean LOWMIPFMTIMAC?" Which is uber wierd, because that acronym also returns zero results, and I have absolutely no idea what it stands for (although no doubt I could make something up).

Here's a very partial iteration of my version of LOPWMIPFMTIMAC:

Jim Henderson
Myles Toews
George Macdonald
Rose Swetman
Dick Staub
Jim Wallis
Martin Luther King Jr.
Rachel Corrie
Rachel Stanton
Joe Turner

Maybe I should also compose a LOPWMIIFMTIMAC. Nah. that wouldn't be very nice.

Obama gets it dead wrong

The Obama administration has reversed itself and is now pushing for unreleased photos of American soldiers torturing helpless prisoners to be kept secret, in oppposition to a court order from last year.

Odierno, Petraeus, General Myers, and now Obama all seem to be arguing that the photos would cause outrage among the people of many Middle Eastern nations, inciting riots, and leading to danger for U.S. troops.

They must think we're all really stupid. It's not the photos that would cause all these effects. It's the actions, committed by U.S. troops and still never dealt with in any reasonable fashion, which would cause these effects. You can put the genie back in the bottle. Trying to is a childish and ultimately futile exercise.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Naughty naughty bad North Korea

Naughty naughty bad North Korea. We have 4,000 active nuclear warheads, have spent US$5.8 trillion dollars on Nuclear weapons, and have permanently fucked up the Marshall Islands. Therefore, as those with the moral, er, that is, ability-to-project-violence high ground, we command ... er, beg you, please stop developing and testing nuclear weapons. (Did I mention all the nukes we've managed to lose and never found?)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day--force, dehumanization, redemption, and my father as metaphor.

Memorial Day is an annual U.S. holiday that for most of my life meant not much more than perhaps a paid day off work, perhaps a party with a barbecue grill and enormous amounts of food and the beginning of summer. I have never visited a veterans cemetary on Memorial Day, nor participated in any sort of community ceremony to honor fallen war heroes.

This year I find I am in a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, over just the last couple years I've found myself becoming more aware of Memorial Day in the sense of being distressed over the way in which the observance of the day advances and perpetuates our nation's full immersion in the myth of redemptive violence. On the other hand, I am thinking more than ever this year about my dad. The older I get the more it seems to me that his story has been twisted, scarred, forever painfully and perhaps irredeemably marked by his exercise of, and victimhood to, violence--brought about by his being drafted to "serve" in the nearly pointless decades long horror which the Vietnamese call "The American War."

More than perhaps at any time in my life, I want to show my father kindness, and surely this means showing him respect, and even honor. He's having a rough time--coming up on the one year anniversary of my mom--his spouse for 35 years--'s death, and in nearly constant physical agony from a shoulder which is almost completely ruined.

And yet this weekend, and especially on Monday, there will be this overwhelmingly loud, vocal, overpowering perpetuation of the myth of the United States of America--that our use of violence over the past couple hundred years has ultimately, somehow, been redemptive--that we the good have successfully employed violence to uphold all that is good, and hold back, or destroy, all that is evil. This is so clearly and overwhelmingly wrong to me, and my interior self rises up in a sort of rage and sorrow against this myth which will be shouted so loudly and quietly this Memorial Day weekend.

How do I reconcile these two? How can I show kindness to my Father, with regards to this holiday, and still somehow refrain from simply allowing the powerful, incindiary myth to be perpetuated while I stand silent?

Looking for answers to these questions, I revisited Simone Weil's essay "The Iliad, or The Poem of Force" today. She expresses so perfectly, for me, the place that it feels I am moving toward with regards to the question of the usefulness and consequences of force, or violence. Allow me to quote:

"Thus it happens that those who have force on loan from fate count on it too much and are destroyed. But at the time their own destruction seems impossible to them. For they do not see that th eforce in their possession is only a limited quantity; nor do they see their relations with other human beings as a kind of balance between unequal amounts of force. Since other people do not impose on their movements that pause, that interval of histation, wherein lies all our consideration for our brothers in humanity, they conclude that destiny has given complete license to them, and none at all to their inferiors. And at this point they exceed the measure of the force that is actually at their disposal. Inevitably they exceed it, since they are not aware that is is limited. And now we seem them committed irretrievably to chance; suddenly things cease to obey them. Sometimes chance is kind to them, sometimes cruel. But in any case there they are, exposed, open to misfortune; gone is the armor of power that formerly protected their naked souls; nothin, no shield, stands between them and tears."

Somehow it feels like my father becomes, in my mind, a sort of representative--a metapor, for our whole nation. But we don't see it. Nearly nobody, tomorrow on Memorial Day, is going to draw links between the ravages that our violence has accomplished against "the other", and against our particular selves, and the fact that to the extent that we as a *nation* have chosen to commit ourselves to the course of violence, we shall as a *nation* surely not escape these same ravages.

Weil argues that force ultimately reduces both its perpetrators and its victims to things--to something less than human. To what extent has this happened to my father, and to what extent to myself? And in seeking redemption--in seeking to become human--in seeking to find and nurture and love and respect and honor that within my father which is human--in doing these things, shall I find a place or a way where I can imagine hope and redemption for the U.S.?

Friday, May 22, 2009


  This blog seems to be taking quite a break.  I've switched my blogging effort over to facebook. So feel free to friend me on facebook.  Or leave a complaint or two here and maybe I'll pick this back up =)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

the myth of redemptive violence

Christian torture and proselytization

So, illegally torture them, and then illegally proselytize them. Hallelujah. Guns, cluster weapons, Apache gunships, electrocution, waterboarding, and Jesus baby!

"Holy holy holy ...."

"The special forces guys--they hunt men, basically. We do the same thing as Christians--we hunt people for Jesus. Hunt 'em down."

~Lt. Col. Gary Hensley--army command chaplain

These are soldiers at Bagram, location of the Bagram Interment Center for torturing and beating suspicious looking Afghan civilians to death

"Torture and beat to death your enemies, and by all means make sure they get copies of the New Testament in their own language"

~Jesus (American Revised Version)

Monday, May 04, 2009

The heresy of personal salvation

Jim says

The Jesus as my personal savior heresy has dominated the evangelical marketplace for almost a century. This hyper individualistic salvation for me approach is more a reflection of culture than scripture. The monological perpetrators of this view have created a salvation through us industry that currently dominates the imagination of those both inside and outside the church

He continues here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The majority of church going U.S. Christians thing torture is justified.

According to a recent Pew Research Poll, 54% those in the U.S. who attend religious services at least weekly think that torture can often or sometimes be justified.

I guess Jesus did say "Hate your enemy". Maybe they're onto something.

Recent notes

I've taken to putting stuff on facebook rather than here.

Both our 5 and our 7 year old daughter have taken the "rotten egg" paradigm in a slightly different manner. When I was a kid, it was "Last one to _______ (fill in the blank) is a rotten egg" The idea was to not be the last one, and thus avoid being a rotten egg. Our two daughters have switched it over to "First one to ________ (fill in the blank) is a rotten egg", and the idea is to be the first one then and thus achieve the vaunted status of rotten egg. This strikes me as so delightful that I've never corrected them.

Recently anti-government (that is, Ron Paulish types) friends of mine have attached the feds response to swine flu from two angles. On the one hand, they are over reacting. And on the other hand, they failed to act quickly enough.

We currently have a president of the U.S. who's willing to say no to torture on principal. That kicks ass.

People are kind. Yesterday, Megsie lost the car keys in an enormous field of tulips. 4 kindly Mexicans spent 40 minutes searching the field for her, and found them. That especially rocks since Americans took a lot of land from Mexico by questionable means.

question for the day: If such a choice exists, is it better to be tortured, or to be the torturer? Why?

Monday, April 27, 2009

"those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles"

Mary Ann Glendon writes

"This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”"

One is left wondering: Who then *can* Catholic Institutions honor?

"Emergent Version of Divine Fiat"

From here

Now I totally want to own a fiat.

You could buy me one from ebay

On Listening

From here:

Henderson ISO from B. Boyle on Vimeo.

So tell me about a time when you felt you were really listened to or paid attention to.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Worship Star

This sort of nails it, somehow. Made me grin widely, but not laugh. Megan says "whenever they take pictures of Darlene, the pictures are always up her nose."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

two articles from today

Bono asks "It's 2009: Do you know where your soul is"

We used to say that all we wanted for the rest of the world was what we had for ourselves. Then we found out that if every living soul on the planet had a fridge and a house and an S.U.V., we would choke on our own exhaust.

and Vanessa Ho writes "Church won't host homeless shelter that doesn't do sex offender checks"

Homeless legal secretary Hendel, who has a bad back and depression, said "Our hopes were so high. But that's life."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peanuts and "witnessing"

(The following really happened.)

Years ago, I used to be a Christian and was rather involved in a little Baptist church in the Seattle area. One of the activities church members participated in was door to door canvassing--er, that is, witnessing.

My two friends Mark the older and Mark the younger were out one Saturday morning knocking on doors, asking people's permission to tell them about Jesus. One of the houses they went to belonged to an older lady, who invited them in and asked them to sit down in her living room. Mark the older proceeded to engage in conversation with the lady, while Mark the younger sat at the end of the couch, mostly remaining quiet and (theoretically at least) praying.

While he was praying, Mark the younger noticed a bowl of peanuts sitting on the end table, and thought to himself that it wouldn't hurt to eat one. So he did. Time passed, as Mark the older continued to converse with the lady to whom they were witnessing. As the time passed, somehow, Mark the younger found himself eating peanut after peanut from the bowl on the end table.

In fact, he ate so many of them that when the time came to leave, he somewhat embarrassedly realized he'd eaten the entire bowl. So, being the honest and gracious Christian that he was, he decided to apologize to the lady of the house for eating all of her peanuts.

"Ma'am, I'm really sorry, but as it happens, I skipped breakfast, and I was a little hungry, and it seems I've eaten your entire bowl of peanuts." he said.

"Oh--no problem at all!", she replied. "I can't eat them, you see, as my teeth are too bad. So I just suck off the candy coating, and then stick them in that bowl."

Death to bad tigers!

In case you haven't seen this. Love the song, and loved this iteration of it. Go Susan! Hope she wins it =)

The Shining Four (You know who you are) used to have a thing with this song, and dancing on the tigers in stocking feet, in the main meeting room. Here's to the deaths of tigers of the sort mentioned in this song--Shere Kahn and his ilk

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why do I cringe so much at this?

Individually, they are ok.  Somehow the aggregate of them makes me cringe.  Hmmmmm.

I know what it is.  I'd lay you 50 to 1 odds that every single one of them drives past hitchhikers when they have empty seats.  Yeah.  That must be it. Maybe.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pirates, violence, and the pledge of allegiance

The recent saga in which Somali pirates attempted (and failed) to hijack a cargo ship with a U.S. crew, and then took the captain hostage, and then got killed by U.S. navy snipers *almost* brings me back to the days when I proudly said the pledge of allegiance, hand over heart, and bought into my father's heartfelt solution for solving international crises: "Nuke 'em 'til they glow."

  Almost, but not quite.  Alas.  Today I went with my 7 year old daughter to her school assembly, wherein a few hundred kindergardeners through 6th graders all stood, put their hands over their hearts, faced the U.S. flag, and recited these old words:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I just can't do it.  say the words, I mean.  I stood to be polite.  But ... I just can't do it.

The United States is largely still convinced that violence solves things.  The Somali pirate episode seems to bear this deeply held belief out.  But the strange juxtaposition of the most violent nation in the history of nations being composed, in such large majority, of people who claim to follow such a purveyor of non-violence as Jesus Christ just tweaks me.  Our ongoing inability to figure this thing out, after Korea, and Vietnam, and the war on drugs, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the hundreds of other ultimately unsuccesful (well, depending on how you define success, I guess) military operations over the last 200+ years should, I suppose, amaze me more than it does.  Are cynicism and numbness related?  I just can't do the "Hurrah, fucked those bastards" thing today.  Try me again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter quote from N.T. Wright

via Helen at practicing church, from Wright's book "Jesus, the Final Days: What really happened"

[T]he Gospels never say anything like, “Jesus is raised, therefore there is a life after death” (not that many first-century Jews doubted that there was); or, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall go to heaven when we die” (most people believed something like that anyway); or better, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall be raised at the last.”

No: insofar as the [resurrection] is interpreted in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it has a very “this-worldly” meaning, relating to what is happening here and now. “Jesus is raised,” they say, “therefore he is the Messiah; he is the true Lord of the whole world; therefore we, his followers, have a job to do: we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world.”

It is not, “Jesus is raised, therefore look up into the sky and keep looking because one day you will be going there with him.” Many hymns, prayers, and Christian sermons have tried to pull the Easter story in that direction, but the line of thought within the Gospels themselves is, “Jesus is raised, therefore God’s new world has begun, and therefore we, you, and everybody else are invited to be not only beneficiaries of that new world but participants in making it happen.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Why Union church rocks

As you may or may not know, my lovely bride and I are ever so loosely associated with Union Church Seattle.

My good friend John ever so gently called me tonight on the question of "who benefits?" when I do what I often tend to do, which is moan and complain. It's a good question. Truth is, not a whole lot of benefit often accrues. Today I saw a web site where a whole bunch of people were lengthily (gotta love that "g" in "lengthily") and strenuously criticizing Rick Warren for being a bit over the top in promoting himself and his church. My reaction to all that complaining was to wonder what all the commenters were doing along the lines of some of the really kewl social justice stuff Rick and Saddleback are doing.

I reminded of this reaction after John's question tonight. Recently I applied for a position with City of Seattle's Downtown Emergency Services Center, which is doing a lot of brilliant work with down and out populations like the homeless in Seattle. As I was researching for the position, I ran across the name of a housing project that they run called "Kerner Scott House". I recognized the name of this project because, as it turns out, Union Church people go there once a month on a Sunday to do cleanup, bring meals, and stuff like that.

Truth is, Union Church cancels their Sunday worship service once a month and everybody skips church to go work in various community service projects around Seattle.

That is astoundingly awesome. How many churches do you know who do that? Not many.

Plus, Union has this amazingly rocking person on staff whose name is Renee Notkin, who very recently traded her once-a-month or so turn to preach in to allow this interesting guy named Ron to spend 25 minutes or so telling us his personal story. This very seriously kicks ass, since story very nearly *always* trumps "teaching", in almost every possible way, IMNSHO.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Easter and hyperbolic claims

Pretty much the entire culture in which I am immersed is gearing up for the biggest week of the church year. Even in relatively unchurched Seattle, it seems to be all "Good Friday" and then Easter.

Dan Allender once asked "What is the most beautiful moment in the history of creation?" To which his answer was "the morning Jesus rose from the grave."

And he went on to say that you can't have that without "Good Friday". He talked about how his two life themes are death and resurrection, death and resurrection.

Must we insist on calling the bad which led to good "good"? It's a stupid name for the day

Some largish chunk--probably a majority--of the people celebrating Easter on Sunday will do so while "believing" (whatever that means) that some relatively large number of their neighbors (and I mean neighbors in the global, human sense here) are going to go through a lovely little thing called "eternal conscious suffering of the lost".

There will be a lot of talk about "salvation".

On Sunday April 12, also, 180,000 people (or so) will die. Theoretically, according to most Christians, (working off percentages here) the best that a good 120,000 of them can hope for is actual destruction in the lake of fire. But ... I'm pretty sure that "orthodoxy" has it that they will burn forever, fully aware of it.

I don't understand how you can hold "salvation" and "resurrection" and "hope" together in your being with that "reality". Just don't get it.

Also on Sunday, April 12th, at least 20,000 children will die as the termination of their starvation. Yep.

Also on Sunday, April 12th, something like US$2.7 Billion dollars will be spent on arms. Arms as in stuff to blow people up and kill and maim them and destroy their homes. Stuff that's *way* more effective that crosses.

On Sunday April 12th, claims will be made, in churches around the world, about resurrection, salvation, and hope--claims which seem to me to be far bigger than can possibly meet up with reality.

Feels like the world will still mostly be stuck in Black Friday, while all the Christians celebrate Easter.


Monday, April 06, 2009

There's a crack in everything!

Damn I'd love to go see this guy in Seattle April 23rd. Oh well.