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.