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October 31, 2006

Fun Size

small.gifB000EOOPOY.01-A3KJJM2O7RGABN._SCMZZZZZZZ_V1140449756_.jpgQ: How can you tell that men still dominate the candy industry?

A: They call a 2 inch candy bar "fun size."

Happy Halloween!

October 27, 2006

Full Service

gasman.jpgThe needle is below "E" when I pull up to the pump and an overalled man comes out of the garage wiping his hands on an oil rag. And I think to myself, "Uh oh, what did I do?" Then I realize, "Oh my gosh, he's coming to pump my gas."

"What can I do for you today, sir?"

I blush. I'm still not used to being called "sir," especially by a man 20 years my senior. I feel myself casting about for words. This is not a social interaction I am used to. I don't know the steps to this dance.

"Oh, um, fill it up with... 87..." I know I should say "regular" - that's what my dad always had said - but there were three grades of gas and I thought being more specific was somehow more saavy. It was like I was saying, "I'm not like those other guys who come in here talking about 'regular,' I use numbers." Of course, I can't think of the word "octane" so I just let the number hang there, but I sell it like I am some kind of service station hipster. I am too cool for units.

"Cash or credit?"

"Oh, yeah, I'll put it on my card." I fumble around for my debit card and give it to him. He takes it to the pump and I sit in my car. I look around. What do I do? I'm just sitting here. Oh, the gas cap. I remember in time to reach down and pop the hatch for the gas cap. Whew, I saved myself from embarrassment there. That was close.

What do I do? Oh wow, he's washing my windows. What is he thinking of me? He doesn't really care, he's doing his job. Where do I look? Do I watch him or avert my eyes? I decide to change the song on my iPod to give myself something to do. It also makes me look cool and contemporary.

I glance over at the pump, it's almost done. A thought sinks to my stomach. Am I supposed to tip? My mind reels. I can't remember. Maybe I should. No, wait, he just came up. If I was supposed to tip he would have given me a choice. I didn't get a choice, so no tip. But, this is out of his way. But this is his job. But waitresses get tips and they are just doing their jobs and you don't get a choice with them. How much should I tip? A dollar? Would that be cheap? Would he be offended if I offered a tip? Will he be offended if I don't? I grip the steering wheel and breathe deep.

I watch him closely for any sign as he tops off the tank. He tightens the cap so firmly that it squeaks loudly. He pulls off the receipt and brings it and the card over to me. I quickly roll down the window and try to make eye contact so I can read his mind.

"Thanks, sir, have a good day," he says, handing me my things and turning to go back to the garage.

"Thanks, you too." I breathe a little easier. I made it. I think I got through okay. This wasn't too hard. With a little practice I may be able to do this. Maybe I should come back here.

October 25, 2006

5000 Years of Middle East History in 90 Seconds

Full Screen Mode

October 17, 2006

Fuzzy on Ze Frank


Fuzzy is on The Show with Ze Frank for about one tenth of a second. See if you can spot him! Or you can watch the complete uncut extended intro version.

October 15, 2006

This American Podcast

ira_glass.jpgThis American Life, the best radio show ever, is finally available as a free podcast! Huzzah! Yes, now Ira Glass, Sarah Vowell, David Sedaris, and many others can live on my iPod. For a long time you could listen to a complete archive for free, but finally it is now in podcast form.

If you have never heard This American Life, you can now listen to these finely crafted stories which are alternately funny, shocking, poignant, maddening, and joyful. It has been appointment radio for me since I lived in Chicago ten years ago when the show started as a local program on WBEZ. And now, it is legend.

Are You Cool?

icecube.jpgTo get into the prestigious Oxford University Department of Philosophy this year applicants in their live interview will be asked "Are you cool?"

Not only do I think this is a great question, it is one that I have used in an interview. Back in 1992 we were putting together an ensemble drama group for a summer camp and the final question of the interview was "Are you any cool?" The best answer, by the way, was from Liz who said, "No!"

As Liz is now living in Buffalo, which was hit by a freak October snow storm this week, I expect she is very cool now.

Potential Oxford philosophers take note.

October 10, 2006

Happy Powers of Ten Day

Powers of Ten Day - 10/10

I've posted this before, but I thought it was worth revisiting since this is Powers of Ten Day.

October 8, 2006

An Autumn Tale

NFP-1-4%20Frosted%20Red%20Maple%20Leaf-John%20Bryan%20State%20Park-Oh.jpgA man lived side by side with his neighbor for years in harmony, though they spoke barely a word to each other. In consideration of each other, they always kept their lawns mowed and their hedges trimmed. Nods and smiles and waves were freely given to each other as they were working in their yards or going on their way to work.

The maple tree in his neighbor's yard was of particular joy to the man. Every fall it turned a stunning red for a few weeks before losing its leaves. Those days were brief, but were of unparalleled beauty while they lasted.

One year when the leaves fell the man found that, because of the storm the night before, nearly all of the crimson leaves from his neighbor's tree had fallen into his lawn. Grudgingly he spent the morning raking the leaves out of his yard. The more he raked, the more anger he felt toward his neighbor. When his neighbor returned from a fishing trip later that day the man spoke gruffly to him about the leaves from his tree. The neighbor, caught off guard by the man's harsh words, apologized and promised it would never happen again.

The following year, when fall was creeping in, the man came back from a long weekend at his cabin to find a stump in his neighbor's yard where the tree used to be.

October 6, 2006

Friendly Fascism

mal8st.jpg"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

Any guess who said this?

C. S. Lewis

I get together regularly with other pastors to look at the texts ahead in the lectionary and brainstorm on what we are going to preach for the weeks ahead. Last Wednesday morning a group of us were looking at Mark 10:41-45 and, for fun, I googled "power" and "quotes" and the above quote popped out. Yes, I have my laptop with me just about everywhere and I love to do research on the fly.

I read this and immediately thought of Joss Whedon's Firefly. It speaks directly, in fact, to the central theme of the movie Serenity in which Captain Malcolm Reynolds is confronted with the fact that the beauracratic and meddlesome Alliance created monsters in their attempts at social engineering. He leads his ragtag crew on a desperate attempt to broadcast the truth about the horrors, "'Cause as sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. ...they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave."

It is interesting to me that Mal Reynolds and C. S. Lewis would espouse similar ideas. Mal, the atheist veteran who lost his faith in battle, and C. S. Lewis, the conservative Christian theologian who penned the Chronicles of Narnia, were very similar in their suspicions of do-gooders in places of power.

And, for reading this all the way to the end, here's a treat...

October 5, 2006

What Shall We Declare War on Next?

brain on drugsIt don't get much more ironic than this.

The GAO has recently completed a study on the effectiveness of the government's Anti-Drug Ad Campaign, and after 1.4 billion dollars over 18 years not only has the War on Drugs not reduced drug use, it looks like it may have actually increased drug use.

And, of course, a recently released NIE reports that our War on Terror has actually produced more terrorists.

So, let's recap -

War on Drugs = More Drug Users

War on Terror = More Terrorists

Given this track record of success, what shall we declare war on next?

Or, perhaps, just maybe, declaring war, even as a metaphor, is a losing proposition. Hmmmm...

My Daughter is a Fairy...


mariafairy.jpegor at least she has wings like one. She and my friend Maria (smirking right) went out to Chester Park earlier this week to take some photos for Maria's new online store of her fabulous crafty art... or arty craft... not really sure. At any rate, you should go there now and buy some unique fairy wear.

October 2, 2006


flam8.jpgFriday I got the boxed DVD set of Flambards and I've been immersed in Edwardian England ever since. If you've never seen the 1978 British production that was all the rage on PBS stations in the early 80s, then you missed horses, aeroplanes, romance, war, a plucky heiress, suffragettes, and oh so much more. Watching it again (I'm 9 episodes through the 13) I was amazed at how it holds up almost 30 years later. Yes, it's sappy and often cheesy, but the performances are still moving. The thing is, I really care about these people, even the ones I hate.

What surprises me now as an adult was how complex some of the issues are that they dealt with - classism, sexism, economic models, technology as a social force, war and peace, tradition, and I could go on. Flambards, the once proud manor at the center of the story, is repeatedly said to be "falling to bits" because its masters have forgotten what it means to serve. They have focused all of their energy on horses and hunting and, consequently, their farms have failed, the bill collectors are at their door, and they have had to let go most of the staff. It is the very model of a falling empire, mired in the past, unaware that its glory days are fading, and with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Meanwhile the world is changing around it. It is an apt depiction of the failing British Empire or, for that matter, more contemporary examples.

The big disappointment for me is that there are absolutely no special features included. No "making of" documentaries or "where are they now" interviews. Checking around the web I found precious little as to information as to what became of the cast. None seem to go on to much in the way of fame, least of all the lead, Christine McKenna, who was memorable in her role as Christina, who apparently only had one on-screen role post Flambards. And how about all of those vintage aeroplanes that they used! How did they get them? What was it like working with them? And now I'm amazed by some of the technical challenges of the shoots and trying to keep the show clear of anachronisms. Maybe that was easier in 1978 than now. And did the actors do their own stunts?

By the way, I'm watching the series with my 11 year old daughter, Emma, who doesn't get all the nuance, but said after watching half an episode "I'm hooked."

Well, if anyone has ever loved this series or can point me to more information on these things, please leave a comment.

Here are some of the on-line references I could find: