Monthly Archives: March 2015

Note to Myself

Ever write yourself a note, and then later find that you didn’t know what you were talking about?  It’s like that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry does just that, and when he realizes what the note means, he realizes it’s stupid anyway.

I recently found a note I left myself not long ago. I didn’t member leaving it, and I didn’t know what it meant. Here s  the note:

“Middle class American hypocrite pn god dashboard”

I left it on  my Google docs where I write stuff for this blog.  So maybe it was something I thought I should write about. I looked at it a couple of times for a couple of days, but  couldn’t cipher it out. So I turned to Google.

It turns out it’s a line from a George Carlin routine, a routine about god and religion, one that I saw last month when NBC showed the very first episode of Saturday Night Live.  It was a throwaway line, not one to make much of a point. Just that the universe is balanced. So since some people have a statue of Jesus on their dashboard, god has a middle class American hypocrite on his dashboard.  It must have struck me as funny or meaningful at the time, as I made the effort to type in into my notes.  But like Seinfeld in the aforementioned episode, now I’m thinking, huh, ok.

Here’s Carlin talking about making obnoxious noises in the classroom..  The cover says “Explicit Content,” but this part isn’t.

Plainview #17

Plainview #17

Mare anticipates her first day of school.  Gosh she’s grown up so fast.  We celebrate our entry into the world of Netflix.  This would have been the dvd renting service, not streaming.  Our first movie, not yet watched at the recording of this episode?  Downfall.  If only we had known the pain that movie would cause.  Did god know?  Does he know the future?  And we remember the t.v. shows we were watching 10 years ago, Will’s love of hapkido, and Trent Green.

Catan Card Game

Number 44 on Mark’s top 100 games list is Rival’s for Catan.  A game I haven’t played.  But I have played its predecessor, Catan Card Game.  Before I say what I’m going to say below, I should say that in Mark’s article he stresses that the improvements made to this game in it’s most recent incarnation make it a *much* better game.  So that’s not really the game I’m talking about here.

catan card game

This is one that I’ve had for a while, the original English version and some expansions. My daughter and I are the only ones who have played it, and there for a while we played it quite a bit. We mostly played without the expansions, and there are some expansions that we have never used.  But it’s been a while since it’s seen the light of day.  I think this may be because it’s been replaced by Summoner Wars.

summoner wars

I know they’re not the same. Catan Card Game is about building a little community, one of my favorite themes. This dates back to Private Property I think, one of my favorite games as a kid.  Some decisions to be made, granted, not a lot, but some. And it’s a game with great pieces. And you get to turn an old dump into a high-class tourist wonderland.  Develop, develop, develop!

prize property

And Summoner Wars is a war, a magical skirmish. And it’s a great game. (I don’t want to say too much about it as I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t show up later on Mark’s list.) So thematically the games are different. But when my daughter and I want a medium weight card game, Summoner Wars gives us the same fun in half the time, with a lot more player interaction. Heck, Prize Property probably offers more player interaction. Catan Card Game just seems a bit long and repetitive for what it is.


The Trip to Kentucky

This last memory of Elaine come from my sister of sorts.  She’s a girl that I spent a lot of time with.  Partly because our folks were friends, and partly because we were in youth group together.  My folks were our middle school youth group leaders, and one summer they took 7 girls and my brother and me on a work mission to Kentucky.  All nine of us in the Suburban.  It was quite a trip.  I’m blessed that I have a mom that so many of my friends liked and respected, a mom who took good care of people, me, my brother and my dad especially.

Initially, I had some difficulty in coming up with memories to share about Elaine, but the longer I typed the more I remembered.  I now think with a little more time I could do several more pages.

I don’t formally remember meeting Elaine, which is probably due to the fact that I was too young at the time.  However, meeting us girls has to be a good memory of hers.

The first thing that came to mind when I was asked to write something was when Mom and Elaine took us all the kids to Grandpa and Grandma’s during harvest.  Grandpa had completed some of his wheat harvest and we had decided to go exploring on the farm.  There was always so much to see and explore at their house.  At some point we were told by an adult that we were not to get into the large harvest truck that contained harvested wheat.  I guess that is when it became inevitable that we would explore it.  I think we had misinterpreted what NOT really meant.  So at some point during the day we found ourselves climbing on the side of the wheat truck in Grandpa’s barn.  I am not sure what the conversation was like, but I do remember looking at all that wheat and thinking it would be fun to get in it.

Eventually we made our way back to the house.  There we were greeted by Elaine who knew what we had been up to despite that fact that we denied it.  (I think it was the wheat kernels that surrounded us that might had given it away.)  The end result was getting spanked by Elaine with a yellow broom.  I don’t know if the spanking hurt me physically, but I am sure it hurt my pride even as a little girl.  However, I think it taught me one important lesson.  I better take Elaine seriously, because she means business!

On one hot summer day Elaine came out to our house to pick strawberries.  The patch was hidden well behind the cedar trees, which surrounded our backyard.  At some point Elaine decided she was hot.  After a few minutes of conversation with Mom she decided it was okay to take off her shirt and pick strawberries in her bra!  Let me tell you I can still see Elaine in my mind standing in the middle of that strawberry patch with a very un-sexy bra and a very white stomach.  Actually, everything was very white!

Who could forget going to Kentucky?  Bill and Elaine were so brave to take on that challenge of seven girls and two sons.  The yellow paint, thinning of the cane, the nasty pool, eating moon pies, everyone gets sick, one girl’s large sebaceous cyst on her face, which I watched Elaine pop!  Then there was the song we made up that went like this…….I’m a Carrie you’re a Carrie we are Carrie’s all and when we get together we do the Carrie call.  Then we would pretend like we were talking none stop, because that‘s what Carrie would do.  Everyone’s name was included, but Carrie was the easiest to remember, other than the girl whose was all about vomit!

In closing, I would like to tell you Elaine how much you have meant to me.   It is always great to see you no matter what the circumstances might be.  A smile comes to my face just thinking about you.  I feel blessed to call you my friend and thankful to have so many wonderful memories of you, Bill, Matt and Mike.

Happy Birthday and May God Bless you with many more wonderful years!

I love you!

Start Something!

start something

When I was a kid I never started anything. Maybe with my folks sometimes. But as far as other authority figures went, I knew my place. I wasn’t beyond sneaking around behind their backs. When our fourth grade teacher stopped reading out loud How to Eat Fried Worms and declared, “I am not going to read that word!” and of course wouldn’t tell us what the word was, I was the one who peeked into the book on her desk while she was preoccupied to see what the word was. But to openly defy authority, that wasn’t me. It even made me nervous to see it. I knew something was wrong with the picture when this same teacher, an old white-haired woman had to chase Jimmy around the room, feigning one way and the dashing the other way around a group of desks to try to get her hands on this spirited boy.

But there was once in middle school that I sort of swore at the principal. We had, back then, this system of buying a lunch where early in the day a teacher would collect little yellow tickets that sold for 50 or 75 cents. Students put their name on their tickets. These were then delivered to the lunch room, and come lunch time, if your name was on the list, if you had turned in a lunch ticket, you could eat. If not, no food for you. Come back, one day! Well one day I hadn’t, for whatever reason, turned in a ticket. But in my head, I knew I had. I always turned in my ticket. Why wouldn’t I this day? This was nonsense! I left the front of the lunch line embarrassed and without a tray. And angry at the system that had screwed me out of my lunch. At the lunch table with my friends I railed at the stupidity and injustice of it all. Brett pointed to something on his tray and said I could eat that, so I began to dig in. That’s when I felt the principal’s hand on my shoulder.

“You’ll need to come with me.” What?!?! Our school had very strict rules about taking food from someone else. Bullies and jerks did that sometimes, grabbed your food or just stuck their fingers in it. But that wasn’t what was happening here. Brett was correcting an injustice. I wasn’t a bully. I was the one who had been wronged! “You can’t eat someone else’s food. You’ll need to come to the office,” he repeated.

“What!?” I said, this time out loud, too loud, standing to face the principal. “He said I could have it!”

“That doesn’t matter.” I think the principal could see that I was losing it. He tried to calm me. “Where is your lunch?”

“Back there!” I shouted, pointing and waving toward the kitchen, “with all that other . . .” It was too late now; I’d come this far. I said it. “Crap!”

I don’t remember much after that. The principal walked me away from the lunch table, for the safety of my friends I’m sure. He checked the lunch list for me, but I knew it was a lost cause. I hadn’t turned in my ticket, and for whatever reason, low blood sugar maybe, I had gone off on the man. Later that day a girl said to me, “Oh I heard about you today.” Oh brother.

Oh, and the word from the book in fourth grade was bastard.

Two Birds


This one, two birds, is I believe a linocut, like a woodcut, where you carve a picture into the block and then ink it and stamp it onto paper or something else, but with linoleum instead of wood. I like that it’s like when someone says “see those two bird in that tree,” and you have to look for them to see them, and even then you’re still not sure if you’re seeing what your friend sees. The artist here is by an actual artist. She’s a performing artist rather than a visual artist. But she pretty talented at whatever she puts her hands to. What she mostly does is dance. It’s interesting.  I’d like to tell you she’s a great dancer, and I really believe she is. But other than at prom a few years ago, and at an elementary school talent show several years before that, I’ve never seen her dance. My opinion that she is a great dancer is based on my opinion of her as a person (she’s kind and generous and fun), her work ethic (you can read about it here–I added her blog to my friends list there on the right of this page), and the amazing photos of her dancing. Someday she’ll be a New York City Rockette or dance for some other cool dance company. And she was my student and my kids’ baby sitter, so no big deal.

So I’m bragging on this kid a bit, but truth be told, this is how I feel about many (most?) of my past students. After teaching *cough* years, one acquires a fair sized collection of past students. And mine is an amazing group–teachers, engineers, waitresses, cops, welders, counselors, security guards, moms, dads, writers and musicians.  To be honest I don’t even know what most of my past students do.  But the things I said about the two-bird dancer would apply to them as well. Except I don’t believe any teacher or engineer has looked this cool teaching or engineering.


The Communion of Saints


Thursday was Halloween.  Friday was All Saints Day or All Souls Day.  It’s not a day that most Protestants pay attention to.  I don’t much myself.  But these communion gigs sort of force me to think about such things.

All Saints Day means different things to different Christians.  For me it’s a day to remember all those brothers and sisters who have gone on before us.  I like to think of my grandparents and of those sort of famous Christians I admire like Keith Greene and C.S. Lewis.  So that’s all of six people.  It’s hard to imagine the size of it all.  The communion of saints.  The church.  Those still here, down the street, around the globe. Wikipedia reckons over two-billion Christians around the world.  And those who have gone on.  Our own family members, plus all those who are lost to history, and those who made a lasting mark that we remember–Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, Saint Peter.  All of us. And All Saints Day is a day to remember and celebrate our giant family.

So when we come to celebrate the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ, we don’t come by ourselves.  We come together as a community.  Communion, right?  And we don’t come as just this community, but with all those people I mentioned.  The Assembly of God down the street, the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe, the Coptic church, the Amish, small home churches, hidden underground churches, cowboy churches and snake handlers.  And don’t forget my Methodist grand parents, the baptist preacher Marin Luther King, Jr., the catholic reformer Luther, the Catholic nun Mother Theresa, and the Jewish fisherman Peter.  All our bothers and sisters.

That’s a pretty diverse groups.  Can you imagine the worship planning meetings.  We probably have more in common with our non-believing neighbors than we do with most of that list.

Jesus saw this when he prayed for his disciples. He prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

I don’t know if it’s good theology or not, but I like to imagine this communion of saints, those still here, and those who have gone, united, not just in this communion time, but in all we do to grow the church, to build the kingdom, to love each other, take care of each other, and to strengthen each other to take this love out into the world.

I’d like to finish with something from the episcopal book of common prayer.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Peter Gunn

Last week I wrote a bit about the music from the Peter Gunn television show. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, partly because it’s got the Mancini music, but also because I’m a sucker for old crime shows.  So I’ve started watching the series. Most of the episodes are available on YouTube. I haven’t been binge watching I don’t think. That’s like a whole season in a weekend, right? I’ve just been sneaking in an episode or two a day. And after a half a dozen episodes, I believe I’ll keep it up.

Here’s what the show has going for it. It takes place in the 50’s (the show ran three seasons, from 1958-1961), but not the Happy Days 50’s. This is the adult 50’s with jazz music, crime, and cigarettes. There is a lot of smoking in this show. Even when the hero, Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens) isn’t smoking, and he usually is, it seems the camera man is. Smoke frequently seems to drift into the scenes from off camera. It’s not that I’m a fan of smoking. In real life I hate it. It stinks and it kills you and stupid smokers think it’s ok if they throw their nasty butts wherever they want. But on a screen in black and white it looks cool.

The music is also cool. It’s good jazz. Each episode opens on the soon to be crime scene somewhere on the rough side of the river. As the dim lights come up, so does the foreboding jazz. The opening crime goes down with little or no dialog, and is instead punctuated by drums and horns.  I like how frequently the show will take a few minutes while Edie Hart (Lola Albright) and the band perform a number. It’s like a bit of a variety show stuck into this detective show. But it works. It feels organic. Edie and the band are always there at Mother’s in the background. And occasionally when they perform, and Mother (Hope Emerson) and Pete stop to enjoy a song, the audience gets that pleasure as well.

I like the characters.  Edie is Peter’s girlfriend. She’s a sexy Doris Day type who can sing. I like her relationship with Peter. Even when they are whispering sweet nothings to each on the dock, they’re clever and playful and cool, and it works. Mother is the old broad who owns Mother’s, the jazz joint where Pete hangs out. And there’s Lieutenant Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi), the cop who regularly helps Peter out. Truth be told, I would have cast this guy as the star.  He looks like a waterfront detective ought to look, more Mike Hammer than James Bond. Pete’s a bit too neat and well dressed for my liking. But he handles himself well, and seems to be well liked and respected by the rough waterfront crowd, so I’ll let his pretty-boy looks slide.

The plots are bit thin. In each a bad guy enters the scene causing problems for someone, then Peter, often with the help of Jacoby, steps in and deals with the bad guy, sometimes getting himself roughed up in the process. Of course the plot of each episode has a wrinkle, something to make it interesting–a blind piano player as the only witness to a murder, a hit man who uses dogs as his weapon, Ted Knight uses knockout gas to rob his own bank. But like all these kinds of shows, it’s the time spent with the characters as much as the weekly mystery, that makes them fun.

What’s not to like? Just a couple things. I’ve already mentioned that Peter is too good looking and well dressed. Also, the entire show is shot on a sound stage, even the car chases. This actually works as most of the action takes place in the middle of the night, the time when only criminals and beatniks are awake, so the darkness covers most of the flaws here, so I can pretend I’m watching a play for a while. But the bar fights, when suddenly all the furniture, including the bar and the built in shelves, shatter to to bits of balsa wood, I feel like I’m watching a sketch in the Carol Burnett show.

Finally, while the producers were probably being progressive for their time by giving us one black musician, with a speaking part at that, he’s the only person of color I’ve seen so far. I think there may have been some black folks in the jazz scene in the 50’s, but I’ll have to check. When Pete is out fighting crime in the rough part if the city, and then finishes his night with a drink at Mother’s, it’s off-putting to have  the house band be the gang from Lawrence Welk’s orchestra.

But I will continue to watch the series, and if any of this sounds fun, I’d encourage you to do the same.  Here’s “Vicious Dog,” one of my favorites so far.

Call of the Wild

call of the wild

I taught/read this last year. I really liked, and I think a number of my juniors did too. Made me want to read White Fang. One of my students told me the same thing. But I’ll bet neither one of us has yet.  I’d always thought of this as a kid’s book, but because of the bloodshed and violence, I wouldn’t read this to a child that I didn’t want to have nightmares about being eaten by sled dogs.  I recommend it to everyone else.  Also some interesting ideas about what separates us from the beasts and whether that is a good/desireable thing or not.

Plainview #16

It’s hard to keep up the energy and interest in a podcast from week to week.  That’s something that we discuss in this episode from the end of the summer 10 years ago.  Other things we talk about–Mare’s discussions with Hippie Dave about the welfare culture; Michael Jackson on Coverville, a fun podcast that we used to listen to; the fact that we didn’t listen to or watch the news; and a bunch of other stuff.