Category Archives: Art
Books, Film, TV, Music, Theater, and all things artsy
I’ve seen several things this week that make me feel old.
Red Pen Mama posted about a book by Joe Hill, who apparently is the son of Steven King. Like most people my age, I read several King novels back in the 1970s and 80s. So I thought, Isn’t that great? Steven King’s little boy is growing up to be a writer. Then I Googled him and discovered he is 40.
Last week, I realized that the time period between World War II and Star Wars is shorter than the period of time from Star Wars to today. (You may have to read that one twice.)
I’m also the same age as Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) was when he filmed The Karate Kid. Don’t laugh, so is Ralph Macchio.
In two years (October 15, 2015, to be exact), we’ll be at the future date that Marty McFly traveled to in Back to the Future. And by the way, don’t you think that the make up person overreached just a bit when aging future-Marty McFly for that movie?
Last year, Full House had a 25 year reunion party.
Then, this appeared on Twitter for those who remember Friends:
And I wasn’t really a fan of Beverly Hills 90210, but if you were, here’s how old they are now…
And here’s the baby from the Nirvana cover:
And how about technology? The CD turns 35 this year. And remember the floppy disc? Today, it would hold a 1.5 GIFs.
That’s okay. I’d rather get old than the alternative. Besides, 51 is the new 48.
So here’s to all us old fogies. Carpe diem!
I blog about it every year at this time. It’s always the last weekend in April. But it is truly a phenomenon in our Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville.
It was birthed 16 years ago when a handful of local residents and artists dreamed up an event that would show off urban, post-industrial community and prove that you could come here at night and not only live to tell the tale, but you’d also see some pretty cool art. They only had three rules… no fees (we ain’t in this to make money)… no juries (nobody judging the art)… and no censorship (anything goes). Anyone could submit one (and only one) piece of art. Those hardy urban pioneers half expected to just sit around by themselves drinking beer all night, but they had one hundred artists participate and several hundred people attend.
This weekend is Art All Night’s sweet sixteen party, which will be held at the same warehouse as last year, under the 40th Street bridge. More than 1,200 artists will submit and more than 12,000 people will be wandering around our neighborhood, looking for a place to park.
I love this event because it’s all volunteer. I love it because it is militantly non-commercial. I love it because of the way it juxtaposes artwork against a gritty urban backdrop. I love that the place will never be empty from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. (There are always people up for an art show at 4:30 a.m. Amazing!) And I love, love, love the people watching. If past years are any indication, there will be hipsters, yuppies, punks, and blue hairs. There will be pirates (arg!), transvestites, Latex man (don’t ask), and lots of buskers. You will see people that make you wonder, What do these people do with the rest of their time, because I never see them anywhere by here!?
Mrs. Bagger has been on the planning committee for several years now. It’s right in her wheelhouse. She loves it. Once again this year, we will be heading up the graveyard shift: midnight to 8 a.m. She has garnered quite a reputation for policing the shady elements that you get during those hours. She has fearlessly confronted drunk/high hippies and beer guzzling punk bands. (No outside alcohol is allowed in, so things don’t get out of control.) Two years ago, she rousted a group of kids who crashed in the middle of the event in their sleeping bags. Then, she protected them when a known pedophile showed up and began to bother the young lads. After escorting the creep out, the young waifs proclaimed her “Tiger Momma,” and the phrase has stuck. In many cases, if a guy tried to confront these situations, the offending parties would power up and the situation could get ugly. But, as an attractive but forceful woman in her fifties, Mrs. Bagger can confront people in a way that makes them back down and comply. It must be the former high school Spanish teacher in her. It’s pretty amazing. We men just stand behind her to let people know that we’ve got her back. And it works.
So, if you’re in Pittsburgh this weekend, you really need to stop by at some point. Bring the kids in the first few hours, when there will be lots of children’s art activities. Come late night to see Mrs. Bagger in all of her authoritative glory. (Just don’t sneak in beer, because she will take you down!) Or submit some art yourself — and have your kids submit art, for there is no age limit. My tip, come on Sunday morning when things are quiet — and there is plenty of parking — and take a leisurely stroll around, soaking up all of the inspiring and thoughtful art. See if it doesn’t inspire the artist in you.
It’s free. It’s unique. It’s all Pittsburgh. Here’s the Web site if you have any questions: www.artallnight.org.
First, a shout out to mayoral candidate Josh Wander for braving the comment waters of yesterday’s post. I await similar visits from all the candidates in hopes of getting the Carpetbaggery bounce in the polls. The chances of me voting Republican in the fall are about the same as the chances of Pirate baseball in the fall, but from what I’ve read, Josh seems like he would be a great guy to grab a beer and debate with. Or perhaps a nosh?
And speaking of debates, today, I was saddened to learn of the passing of a legend. Roger Ebert helped me to fall in love with movies. And not just movies, but smart and well made movies. He helped me to appreciate really good writing. And perhaps above all, he helped me to appreciate the value of spirited and respectful debate.
Part of the reason Roger was so good is that he was based in Chicago. That meant that he wasn’t entangled with the people he wrote about. He didn’t go to lunch with them. He didn’t have to fear running into them at a trendy restaurant. He lived in “fly-over country” and spoke his mind. And speaking of that, he had a wonderful mind. But his influence was craved by Hollywood, as he was syndicated into more than 200 newspapers across the country. In 1975, he was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. In 2008, Forbes magazine called Ebert “the most powerful pundit in America.”
When I was growing up on the mean streets of suburban Chicago, however, he was just a guy with a column in the newspaper. Ebert’s reviews generally came out on Thursday in the Chicago Sun Times. Siskel’s reviews came out on the same day in the Chicago Tribune. Being good Republicans, we only received the Tribune. I don’t think it was until I was in high school that I discovered the Democratic newspaper in town, and Ebert’s reviews. By that time, Ebert and Siskel had branched out into television. Their TV show, Sneak Previews, began in 1975 on Chicago Public Television. Later, it was Siskel & Ebert At the Movies on WGN. But I remember the fascination of watching two intelligent people passionately debate the movies. There was nothing else like it on television. It was great to see them spar about some hack film, and some great ones. Ebert was brilliant, but he also had an appreciation for low-brow entertainment done well. Siskel was a bit more of the prude. After all, in 1970, Ebert had co-written Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with soft-core film maker Russ Meyer.
I didn’t read Ebert to decide whether or not to see a movie. I read him to get his take. It was like talking to a film loving buddy after a movie to see what he thought. I often disagreed with his conclusions, but I always enjoyed the ways in which he stated his case. Here is his take on The Green Mile, a movie that I thought was just “meh.” His writing, however, almost makes you want to see the film again:
“The average moviegoer with $8 and a seat in an Abilene multiplex is likely to find himself or herself subtly more complex, humane, and liberal after seeing that film than before. It is reductive and stereotyped to a media cineaste, but perhaps the best and most evolved movie that many of its viewers will see all year … The Green Mile is an important and worthy fact of popular culture—not sophisticated, not as hard-edged or accurate or courageous as it could be, but more a part of the solution than a part of the problem. Here is an obviously unprovable guess: For 50 percent of the people who see it, it will be the best movie they see all year, even from your point of view.”
That’s not a movie review; that’s prose. Here is his take on Platoon:
“It was Francois Truffaut who said that it’s not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun. If Truffaut had lived to see Platoon, the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion. Here is a movie that regards combat from ground level, from the infantryman’s point of view, and it does not make war look like fun.”
You really felt that Roger approached all movies with a desire to like them — all of them. There was also a child-like sense of wonder very close to the surface of his writing. It comes out in this review of Beauty and the Beast:
“Beauty and the Beast slipped around all my roadblocks and penetrated directly into my strongest childhood memories, in which animation looked more real than live-action features. Watching the movie, I found myself caught up in a direct and joyous way. I wasn’t reviewing an ‘animated film.’ I was being told a story, I was hearing terrific music, and I was having fun. The film is as good as any Disney animated feature ever made—as magical as Pinocchio, Snow White, The Little Mermaid. And it’s a reminder that animation is the ideal medium for fantasy, because all of its fears and dreams can be made literal.”
I love this review of Hoop Dreams:
“A film like Hoop Dreams is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself. Hoop Dreams is, on one level, a documentary about two black kids named William Gates and Arthur Agee, from Chicago’s inner city, who are gifted basketball players and dream of someday starring in the NBA. On another level, it is about much larger subjects: about ambition, competition, race, and class in our society. About our value structures. And about the daily lives of people like the Agee and Gates families, who are unusually invisible to the mass media, but have a determination and resiliency that is a cause for hope.”
But Ebert was often at his best when he was disappointed by a movie. He knew how to bring out the knives. Here is his impression of Last Rites:
“Was there no one connected with this project who read the screenplay, considered the story, evaluated the proposed film and vomited?”
And Baby Geniuses:
“This is an old idea, beautifully expressed by Wordsworth, who said, ‘Heaven lies about us in our infancy.’ If I could quote the whole poem instead of completing this review, believe me, we’d all be happier. But I press on.”
And some other movie I’ve never heard of:
“There is a movie called Fargo playing right now. It is a masterpiece. Go see it. If you, under any circumstances, see Little Indian, Big City, I will never let you read one of my reviews again.”
And then there was a movie called North:
“I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”
As you can see, his pans were even more fun than his praises. But one of his all-time best pans was of a Rob Schneider movie. Rob took it personally that Ebert wasn’t the kind of critic to kiss the butts of Hollywood.
“Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo makes a living cleaning fish tanks and occasionally prostituting himself. How much he charges I’m not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie. “Deuce Bigalow” is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes.”
It wasn’t like Roger had an axe to grind; I think he was genuinely disappointed and insulted by bad movies. It was a waste of talent and of his time.
Ebert was the rare breed who never gave up his embrace of the print media while still venturing out into other forms, first television, then Internet, and finally, when cancer had ravaged his voice, to Twitter. He may have not been the first interracial marriage I became aware of, but it was certainly a prominent one.
The oldest story in Chicago is that Siskel and Ebert were not good friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were like an old married couple who you think hate each other, but in truth, are deeply in love. On the tenth anniversary of Siskel’s death, Ebert wrote:
“I don’t want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn’t think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship….We were linked in a bond beyond all disputing. ‘You may be an asshole,’ Gene would say, ‘but you’re my asshole.’ If we were fighting–get out of the room. But if we were teamed up against a common target, we were fatal.”
Through their disagreements, Siskel and Ebert maintained the very model of spirited and passionate yet respectful debate. Here, they disagree on Die Hard.
Again, I don’t agree with Ebert’s take on the movie, but I also cannot deny his point.
Ebert was still posting reviews as recently as two weeks ago. He blogged two days before his death. Today, I realized that I have no replacement for Roger’s voice and his mind. It will lead a sad void for a while, until I can find someone as independent, intelligent, and thoughtful.
I can only close with Roger’s final printed words: “I’ll see you at the movies.”
I have always been intrigued by the human fingerprints that can be found all over Christianity. And by that, I mean things dear to our faith that are found nowhere near the Bible or the teachings of Jesus. Things we kind of made up and attached to our faith. And perhaps nothing demonstrates this better than some of the bizarre aspects of Easter.
Think about it. Celebrating with death and resurrection of Christ with a big bunny… delivering, of all things, eggs. Colored eggs. And then sitting down to eat ham. Where does this stuff come from? I’m glad you asked. I have heavily lifted much of this info from a more thorough look at Easter traditions found in an article by T. Steelman at Addicting Info:
The Date: How about the weird way in which we determine the date of Easter. You would think it would be tied to Passover, like in the Bible. But no, it falls on the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox. Nothing weird about that for a monotheistic religion. Not at all. And not the astrological full moon (which is hard to accurately predict many years ahead) but the ecclesiastical full moon. And not the official vernal equinox, but the set date of March 21. Why do it this way? It was a marketing move, really, meant to steal people away from another popular god, whose cult was Christianity’s biggest rival at the time. Kind of the Coke and Pepsi of their day. In Rome, the worship of Attis and Cybele was popular as late as the 3rd century. Attis was a soter – or savior god — who was reborn each year. Attis’ resurrection was celebrated beginning on the Friday after the full moon after the Vernal equinox (sound familiar?) and culminated on the following Sunday — three days later. Christianity simply adopted the date for their soter. Once the Cybele cult went away, Christians just kept it since everybody already had it on their calendars.
The name: Ever wonder where the name “Easter” comes from? It comes from the goddess Eoster, mother goddess of the Saxons of Northern Europe. (See? My title was NOT a typo after all!) According to Grimm (of fairy tale fame) she was the goddess of “the growing light of spring.” Yet another pagan observance that was adapted for the new faith, the early missionaries decided it was easier to get converts if your stole the name of their big celebration. Thus, Happy Eoster!
Eggs: This one isn’t so difficult. Since all creatures come from eggs, they have always been a sign of fertility, creation, and new birth. The creation myths of many ancient cultures have the earth being born of an egg. Again, Christianity borrowed from pagans. Ancient Egyptians colored eggs red for spring. The Greeks and Romans did the same, but expanded the color palette. Also, in Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden to be eaten during Lent. Thus, they were a popular menu item on Easter morning. Many Europeans find some of their greatest art pieces on eggs, including the famous Faberge Eggs from Russia, first created as an Easter gift to the royal family.
Ham: Some believe the ridiculous notion that Christians began eating ham on Easter as a slam against the Jews, who killed their Savior. There is no evidence for this. More likely, it came from the fact that families had to eat up the last of the meats that had been cured for winter. Ham probably lasted the longest.
The Easter Bunny: Even as a kid, I found the Easter Bunny to be sort of creepy. This picture confirms it. (Do yourself a favor and DO NOT Google creepy Easter Bunny photos. It will stay with you the rest of the day, believe me.) The rabbit was a symbol of the moon to the Egyptians. But the hare was a totemic animal of the goddess Eostre, symbolizing fertility for Spring. Rabbits… fertility… yup. The character of an Easter Bunny seems to have begun in Germany, where he was a kind of Springtime Santa Claus, delivering Easter treats to children. He was known as Osterhase. The children would build a nest for him to leave their eggs in. This eventually became our modern Easter basket.
Hey, don’t let any of this pagan stuff ruin your Easter celebration. As long as it is a time of family celebration that includes good memories for your kids and a reverence for the example of sacrificial love, I don’t think Jesus would have any problem with it. (Although, I think he, too, would be a bit creeped out by adults in bunny costumes. That would be awkward to explain to him.)
Or, tell your kids about how the Pope spent Maundy Thursday, Instead of the usual tradition of washing the feet of other priests, he decided to wash the feet of the poor, including a young, female Muslim prisoner. That’ll preach.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a TV show I really look forward to. Homeland hasn’t worked for me because I don’t find the characters to be at all likeable, but I’m still giving it a chance. 30 Rock is gone. Modern Family never hooked me. I find it funny, but not addicting. Same with Parks and Recreation. Meh. I really like Justified, but I’m way behind and watching it on Netflix. Same with Walking Dead. I do like Louie, but it’s short and has so few episodes; it’s more of an aperitif than a meal. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I never got past the pilot of Breaking Bad. I had no time for it and it just seemed soooo dark. But I will do that one some day. But in the last few weeks, I’ve found my new show.
It’s not the best made show ever, but for several reasons, I have finally realized that this is my new favorite show.
Reason 1: It takes place in my historical wheelhouse, 1981. I was just a fuzzy-faced freshman in college that year. It was the height of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan was just elected. The makers of the show do not skimp on music for this show. Whatever they’ve saved by not having big stars on the show, they are spending on music licensing. During the pilot episode, they had a chase scene to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” — without a doubt, one of my favorite guilty pleasure songs.
Reason 2: No huge stars. Well, it has a few recognizable folks. Come on, Felicity as a Russian spy? I’m in, right there. Her “husband” is a guy I’ve never seen. He’s not imposing physically, but he is bad-ass when he has to be. The FBI agent who lives across the street is the guy who played the best friend in Truman. The head of the FBI division is John Boy from The Waltons. Other than that, the show is mainly staffed by no-names. And I like that.
Reason 3: Felicity as a Russian spy. This can’t be overstated.
Reason 4: The family dynamics. I never realized there was so much family drama to plum in a Cold War spy story. It’s better than the spy stuff. First, you have the Russian couple, living as normal Americans with two kids who have no idea about their parents’ real jobs. Of course they don’t because a ten year old would never be able to keep that kind of secret. Mom is concerned about the propaganda her her kids are learning about the Soviet Union in their history classes. Dad is sort of jealous that his son idolizes an astronaut — a true American hero — while he is trying to undermine the country. They also worry about what will happen to their kids if they are killed or arrested.
And then there is the couple’s dynamic. They married and had kids for the mission, not love. They both use sex freely to compromise sources and acquire information. But jealousy is beginning to surface as the couple discovers that they might have actual feelings for each other. Plus, the husband is sort of digging the American experience, while his wife is a true Soviet believer.
Reason 5: Across the street, the FBI agent’s family is no Norman Rockwell painting. He is suspicious of everything. His workaholic nature is damaging his marriage. And now his son is spending more and more time with the daughter of Soviet spies. Of course, he doesn’t know they are spies… yet. But he knows that Russians are in the country living as Americans, and let’s just say that his spidey sense is raising suspicions.
Reason 6: I like the way it weaves in real people and events. When Reagan is shot, spies on both sides go into a panic trying to determine if it was the work of the Russians. When Alexander Haig announces that he is “in control” (and not the Vice President), the Russians suspect a military coup and start digging up their rifles to prepare for battle. Our two spies lean on Secretary of State Casper Weinberger’s maid by poisoning her son and offering her the antidote that will save him. To get the antidote, though, she must plant a bug in Casper’s library. Now, there are rumors of a missile defense system. It’s all very cool stuff.
Reason 7: The web of espionage. The Russians have a source in the FBI. The FBI has a source in the Russian embassy. Both sides are adept at compromising people with weaknesses and then turning the screws to get them to play ball. Both sides know they are infiltrated. It provides for lots of plot turns and worrying about who is going to be exposed or compromised. Believe me, Felicity will put a bullet in your head without even blinking.
Reason 8: The Russians are masters of disguise. In the very first scene of the first episode, I didn’t even realize I was watching Keri Russell until she pulled her wig off.
Reason 8: The writers do a masterful job of sucking you in so that you care about these Russian spies. You don’t necessarily want them to succeed in their plots to destroy America, but you want their marriage to succeed and their family to survive. They are just doing what they believe in. American spies are doing the exact same things on the other side.
Reason 9: Admittedly, espionage stuff (books, movies, shows) is my fav. I read all the Tom Clancy novels. I’m a huge fan of everything Jason Bourne. Anything with spies and agents and cloak and dagger is okay by me. If that isn’t your thing, this show may not be for you.
So, if you’re looking for a new way to waste an hour of your life, there are worse ways.
I love this map, although it also has been called “the saddest map in America.” It is the result of a scholarly study (Psychology Today, people!) of Craigslist “missed connections.” That’s where some poor soul sees “the one” across a crowded room — or train, or supermarket, or Walmart deodorant aisle — only to see them slip away without a connection being made. Then, said person goes on Craigslist to pine for them. It’s the cyber equivalent of howling at the moon.
Does this ever work? It must, considering how many people are posting about them.
It’s just that I can’t see some girl rushing home and thinking, Hmm, that dude who works at the dry cleaners gave me a look. Could that have been love? Maybe he’ll write about it on Craigslist!
They look something like this…
Oh Train Girl. Kind of poetic but also pathetic in a poor-melancholy-hipster kind of way. These things used to provide grist for great songs. Now, they just lead to a lonely cyber posting.
Among other things, this study identified the places in each state most likely to be the venue for this lost opportunity. Check it…
We here in the Keystone State are one of only two states in the nation where you are most likely to see that lost love in the convenience store. So, when you’re in line to buy that moon pie or pepperoni roll, that person next to you with the Slim Jim and Mountain Dew might be a keeper! I can attest, when it comes to marriage, there’s nothing like having something in common to keep the home fires burning. The map is a little hard to read, but it looks like it’s us and Delaware that searches for love in the aisles of the Circle K.
There are a couple of other trends here….
♥ I’m kind of surprised that only three states see their lost loves in bars. (Of course, Wisconsin.) I blame this on the national takeover of Walmart. I’m thinking that a lot of those southern states go “bar” if they weren’t so busy shopping for pants with an elastic waistband under the big, yellow smiley face.
♥ Not surprised that Georgia is “the car.” That’s all because of Atlanta, believe me.
♥ Kudos to South Carolina on being the only “football game” state.
♥ And how about a blast from the past: Oklahomans may be the most awesome because they find love at the State Fair. “It may just be the funnel cakes and pickles on a stick talking, but would you make me the happiest cowboy in Muskogee County by saying you’ll spend the rest of your life dodging tornadoes with me ?” Awesome.
♥ Arizonians go to LA Fitness; Californians, not so much. And how about Virginia for jumping on the health club train?
♥ Indiana. “At home.” Really? You see love in your own home and they get away? First of all, shouldn’t that be Tennessee or Kentucky? And second, what do they do, run away? I’m confused.
♥ I thought Pennsylvania’s was depressing, but folks in Rhode Island see their lost loves in parking lots. They’re not charging you money for that love, are they?
♥ In Utah, I figure all those Mormons get married in college, so that makes sense.
♥ And Kansas… “McDonald’s”? Come on, you’re better than that.
Well, I’m probably a good twenty years beyond being in this group, but here’s a little advice. Try a church. That’s where I found my keeper. And I didn’t have to go home moaning about it on Craigslist.
Or just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s incredibly entertaining for the rest of us.
Hubris is one of those wonderful words. It’s an ancient Greek word meaning “extreme pride or arrogance.” It often indicates a loss of reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence and capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.
On this President’s Day, I watched the hour-long documentary Hubris on MSNBC. If you didn’t catch it, you really need to. I’m sure they will run it several more times at various times of the day. It is based on a book about the run-up to the second Iraq War. This is probably the impetus that pushed me from Red to Blue. There were other reasons, too, but the fact that our leaders lied to us to trick us into a war that cost the lives of 4,000+ American heroes, wounded 34,000, and killed more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians just gets more and more devastating as the years go by. I wish it could be seen by every American if only to help us vow to never let it happen again.
I can’t find any clips to embed from the doc, but this is equally brutal.
As I watched this documentary, I couldn’t help but wonder if this event essentially caused brain damage within the Republican party. That it created a condition in which they feel they can create any reality they want if they feel the ends justify the means. That’s hubris. It’s where you know better than everybody else, and have the power to enforce it. And it just may ruin the Republican party for a generation, at least.
It takes a long time to make up for mistakes like this. For instance, just last week, the state of Mississippi voted to ratify the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You know, the amendment outlawing slavery. Seems their collective conscience were a little raw after watching the movie Lincoln, and they felt it was high time to right that wrong — 148 years later.
How long will it take the Republican party to overcome the deaths of 4,000 U.S. soldiers? 34,000 wounded? 100,000+ Iraqi civilian deaths? That’s a lot of blood on your hands. All for lies.
We can’t forget. As Democrats, our hands are not clean either, thanks to a drone program and a kill list that remains secret and without oversight or accountability. “Take our word for it,” we are told. “They are bad people.” I’ve heard that tune before.
Sometimes the best Presidents are the fictional ones:
Or, better yet….
Your reward? I’ve gone out and found some awesome examples of human beings doing awesome things.
The title of this post comes from the Bible — actually three different places in the Bible. Perhaps the best is from the rather obscure book of Micah. It paints the picture of a utopian world in the future:
[God] will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
Here is a world in which everybody lives so peacefully that nobody is afraid of anybody else, and nobody feels the need to train for war anymore. War is not even a possibility to prepare for. In fact, they have reconfigured their weapons of war into tools for gardening, farming, and fishing. (Good to see this future world is not all vegan!) Maybe this is why everybody has their own vine and fig tree, for there is plenty of food to go around. It’s even a world that allows for multiple expressions of faith, and yet, peace abides.
I want to go to there.
Yet this was not the world that Jesus would be instituting. Jesus brought a different sort of peace. He even admitted, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” In other words, my peace is not the peace the world talks about: lack of hostilities between nations. His peace was an internal one in the hearts of men and women. His coming did not end warfare here on earth. And yet he spoke of the coming of God’s kingdom — a different way of doing things. But the image of turning “swords into plowshares” has stuck with us. There is even a statue of it outside the U.N. in New York. It was a gift from the Soviets.
Maybe it’s just me, but that is not the kind of job that I would do naked.
Something like this happened in the early 1960s when the military proposed putting nuclear weapons to work for good. It was even given the name Operation Plowshare. Some suggested using them to widen the Panama Canal. Five bombs might be used to create a (glowing?) harbor in Alaska. Twenty-three nuclear bombs were suggested to carve a two-mile trench for Interstate 40 through a California mountain pass. Twenty-seven test bombs were actually detonated. The consequences were blighted land, tritium-contaminated water, radioactivity, and fallout from debris hurled high up into the atmosphere. Who coulda seen that coming? When it was shut down in 1977, due to public outcry and the expenditure of nearly $800 million, it was then filed under “a really bad idea.”
Others have tried turning weapons into artwork, as in these examples:
But yesterday, I stumbled across an awesome example of people getting more literal with this passage by actually turning automatic weapons into gardening tools. I know!
A lawyer donated the first weapon, an automatic rifle he bought out of fear after 9/11. But after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, he knew it had to go.
“I offer this up for my own penance. It’s worth some money but I couldn’t very well turn it back over into the system. I would then become an arms trader myself….This thing will turn a human being into rags. The fact of the matter is, upon reflection, I concluded that it would be stupid for me to keep the thing. And now it’s gone.”
Artist Mike Martin went to work on the weapon and said it would be “heated, reshaped and turned into a garden trowel, a cultivator and a weed puller.” Each tool will be donated to Ranch Community Garden, a non-profit project that provides plots to local residents who do not have garden space.
Home Depot should get on this. Start a gun turn-in program that turns them into garden tools. I’d buy them. I might as well use assault weapons on my back-patio garden because nearly everything I plant back there ends up dying in horribly tragic ways. But that’s another story for another day.
There you have it. It’s been roughly 2,700 years since the book of Micah was written, but now, perhaps we are finally getting started at creating the world it was talking about.
Yes, it’s a new post. Stow your disappointment with me and enjoy.
The state of the blog is muddled, my friends. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis lately. I’m not sure what I want this blog to be. But maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe it’s more about what I want to be spending my time on. What should I be about? What’s my brand, as a friend in marketing would say.
Am I a ranter for liberal political causes?
Am I a stewing crock pot of progressive Christian thoughts?
Am I a social activist?
Am I a music/film/tv/sports/pop culture buff, riffing about the latest trend?
Am I a Pittsburgh yinzer griping about the Pirates or why the city has torn up our street three different times to fix the same spot in a water main?
The answer, at various times and in various posts, has been yes.
And what about tone? It’s pretty hard for me to do anything without adding humor. I’d put jokes in a eulogy, for God sakes. And I like to have a slant on things. I don’t just want to regurgitate the news. Sometimes, however, my slant just seems like an angry old man rant. A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with the guy who does the Pittsburgh Dad videos on You Tube. He said that originally, they put that canned laugh track under the videos because without it, they just seemed to be an angry guy doing a crazed rant. The laugh track softened it. I don’t have a laugh track.
I don’t want to be angry. That’s not me. I’m really an easy-going, let-bygones-be-bygones dude. I’m the Big Lebowski with a job and a wife. Yet, I abide.
So what sets me on edge? I’ve sort of narrowed it down to social media, especially Facebook. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that. You know how Facebook is. Part of it is people you are close to now; part is people you knew 20 years ago (or more); part is people you can hardly remember but they friended you and why not? I’ve been pretty successful at keeping coworkers out of my Facebook. One slipped through, though. When you work as a manager at a Christian company that is more conservative than you are, I find it best not to cross those streams. Many of my old-acquaintance Facebook friends are people from a church where I used to work in the 90-percent “Red State” enclave that is DuPage County, Illinois. I love these people. But I now find many of their beliefs – and their Facebook posts — to be depressing and offensive.
This is a spoof, but in many ways, it feels all too real.
It would be funny if it weren’t so true. These are good Christian people, but their posts are filled with a love of guns, contempt for the poor (and the programs that serve them), judgment of homosexuals, vile loathing of Obama, and a impetuous buy-in of all things Fox News and Ayn Rand. They seem angry, fearful, and full of resentment for things that are different, and ways in which the world is changing. And these are my friends!
I’m so grateful for my current church and my many friends there who are open-minded, radically accepting of others, and just crazy enough to think that they can change the world. They have kept my hope and faith alive when it was waning. My friend Jim says that his Facebook stream is pretty much just me at this point. He exaggerates, but he says that he has blocked almost everybody else. Is that what I should do? Something in me resists blocking the thoughts of people I disagree with. It seems like a cop-out. But Facebook does not promote rational discussion and interchange. It’s more of a bullhorn, or maybe a super-soaker, of opinionated shouting.
Then, of course, I realize that, most likely, I am the same thing to many of them: an obnoxious, ignorant, and often offensive radical who has lost their faith and gone astray.
Guilty as charged. I know what I should do. I should be able to read their little posts and move on without feeling the need to disagree, refute, or otherwise engage. I should let it go. Write it off. Water off a duck’s back.
But it upsets me when Christians are Pro-Life for fetuses, but care very little about childhood poverty, hunger, and trafficking.
They are incensed about the death of the unborn, but the death of living people to gun violence is simply the cost of living with the freedom of the 2nd Amendment. Toughen up, buttercup.
That’s really an amazing chart. Remember, we started a war against terrorism because of all the people it killed?
Then, my blogging friend Cassie sent me this chart.
But I’m not sure it would have an effect on my right wing friends. Another thing they fully support is war. You won’t see them out protesting for peace, that’s for sure. And that’s the difference between us: I’m offended by both bars on this chart; many of them would probably just shrug their shoulders. Whatever. It sucks to be a statistic. Just don’t raise my taxes or take my guns.
Those are just few examples. There are so many more. So, I get mad and I come to this blog to vent.
Or, I go the other way by choosing to talk about inane things like a movie I saw, a song I heard, or a game I went to.
I’m just not sure it connects with my real life. Maybe it doesn’t have to because real life can be sweet but boring.
Lately, the result of all this has been blockage… the dreaded empty screen. A lack of passion in anything that I haven’t already written about nine times over.
I’m not quitting. Not yet. Although the thought has crossed my mind. I just think I’d miss the outlet.
So help me out. Until my recent lull, I was getting around 250 hits a day. Most, I’m pretty sure, are errant Google searches, but still, it’s been consistent. This week it’s down to about 75. I don’t care at all whether its 50 people or 5,000. Doesn’t make a whit of difference to me. I get paid the same — bupkis. But if you’re out there, why do you stop by? What do you enjoy reading here? What makes you come back? What would you like to read more about here? More local flavor? More political commentary? More musings on faith and such? More pop culture? (Did you hear that O. J. Simpson hosted a Super Bowl party in the Big House?) Or keep it a schizophrenic mix of all the above?
Thanks for the help.
God bless you. And God bless the Internet.
So said the title character in William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Thanks to Shakespeare, and some other biographers of the time, we’ve known for centuries that King Richard was a hunchbacked, evil murderer, usually portrayed in black, and with a gimp and a Hitler mustache. He was the last of the House of Plantagenet, and the last King of England to die in battle, during the final skirmish of the War of the Roses in 1485. He was buried in a Catholic church that was later destroyed by King Henry VIII, thanks to his feud with the Pope.
Over the years, Richard’s legacy has been up for debate. The Richard III Society was formed in the 1920s to rehabilitate the king’s sullied reputation. They insist that the historical record of his reign was a biased one, written by the succeeding House of Tudor as a way to legitimize their claim to the throne. This led to Shakespeare’s villainous depiction, written about a hundred years after Richard’s death. Shakespeare’s take seems to be the one that stuck, even though the Richard III Society still exists today.
Then, everything changed when they found Richard buried in a Leicester parking lot, like some sort of limey Jimmy Hoffa. The corpse bears battle scars, signs of postmortem abuse, and a case of scoliosis, but no evidence of being a hunchback. And there’s no truth to the rumor that he is being charged £8 million for spending more than 600 years in the parking lot and losing the ticket.
We know it’s him because it was matched with the DNA of a Canadian gent who is known to be part of Richard III’s lineage. It’s making Britain rethink Richard’s legacy. Maybe he wasn’t that bad a guy anyhow. Not a saint, and perhaps not a very good king (hence, the end of his house and being buried in a parking lot), but not the bent and maniacal imagery of the Bard, either.
What else should Britain be rethinking?
How about football? No, not the HGH, head-trauma-inducing, American sport. I’m talking hooligans, advertising on the uniforms, and singing songs until you are horse because a tie game is the bloody dog’s bollocks! You know, soccer!
Now comes word that a global betting scam located in Singapore may have fixed more than 680 matches! Blimey! We’re buggered, for sure! These games include qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European teams. I’m not sure how you fix a nil-nil match between the Everton Toffees and the Queens Park Rangers, but I’m pretty sure it involves a red card and a mid-fielder writhing on the ground after being grazed by a Croatian defenseman. Turns out, this sport is more crooked than a Beckham penalty kick. They say it involved the bribing of players and referees, and about 425 corrupt officials, players, and serious criminals in 15 countries.
This goes far beyond England, of course. It involves international matches in Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Canada. You know it’s serious when Canada gets caught cheating.
This is the kind of scandal that can bury a sport faster than a medieval king with a head wound and scoliosis. Like the unfortunate king, it could ruin your reputation for centuries. What else should England be rethinking? The benefits of dental hygiene? Driving on the left side of the road?
Actually, I have no complaints about England. I’d love to go there, search for more kings, and bet on a football match. Only now I’m afraid that perhaps Romeo and Juliet didn’t love each other but were actually just good friends. It’s time to recalibrate, people!