Friday, December 17, 2010

Ethical clothing, the slow cloth movement, and fiber CSAs

chipped whorl
Unspun fiber, drop spindle, and finished yarn.

You've heard of slow food movement, right? You know, that whole grow-it-yourself, extreme locavore food sourcing thing. Well, there's also a slow cloth movement!

Slow cloth is all about ethical sourcing of clothing, a topic rarely on the forefront of people's minds. Aside from fur and sometimes leather, it's easy to forget where our clothing comes from. Let's look at a ten-dollar t-shirt from H&M. Someone (or a group of someones) had to grow, harvest, and process the cotton from plant, to thread, to cloth, and to garment. Was that someone paid a decent living wage? Was the cotton grown and processed in an environmentally-friendly manner? Good questions.

I knit. I really like knitting. I've made hats, scarves, sweaters, gloves, shawls, coffee cozies.... People often ask me if I'd be willing to sell these things, especially the coffee cozies. I answer them in the form of a question: "Would you pay twenty dollars for one?" This usually shuts them up. I explain that if I paid myself San Francisco minimum wage for the two hours that it takes me to knit a coffee cozy, the finished product would be worth twenty dollars of my time. Who would pay that for a coffee cozy?

I have also learned how to spin my own yarn. I have a much more intimate relationship with my yarn now. I'm slowly turning into a locavore fiber artist, keeping an eye out for nearby sheep farms and small fiber producers who treat their animals right.

Just as locavore foodies can buy into a CSA (community-supported agriculture, or the veggie box), now fiber artists can buy into fiber CSAs, just like this one, from Sheep Gal! The idea is that you chip in to a farm or a collective of farms and reserve a share of yarn and/or unspun fiber after shearing time. It's a great way to support your farmers to enjoy happy wool from happy sheep.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Power-tripping bishop wants hospital to admit they should have let a pregnant mother die.

Remember the Sister Margaret McBride, the Catholic nun who got excommunicated for allowing an abortion that saved the life of a mother of four (blogged here and here)?

Remember Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the insensitive bishop who excommunicated her?

Well, he's written a letter to Catholic Healthcare West, threatening to strip the Catholic status of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix unless CHW meets the bishop's demands on adhering to Catholic teaching, including admitting he was right!

From USA Today, via RNS blog:

The bishop wants the hospital to give him more oversight of its practices to ensure it complies with Catholic health-care rules, provide education on those rules to medical staff and acknowledge that the bishop is correct in a dispute over a procedure the diocese says was an abortion. [emphasis mine]

Power trip much?

This is so twisted. I can't believe that some childless bishop still thinks that it would have been more ethical to let a mother of four children die, rather than save her life by terminating her pregnancy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gene Robinson's take on homosexuality in the Bible


I know I've linked to this before, but Gene Robinson is just amazing.

Bishop Gene Robinson wrote a series of five articles for the Washington Post's On Faith blog on the topic of homosexuality in the Bible, specifically the seven "texts of terror" that fundamental Christian nutjobs like to quote in justification of their homophobic bigotry.

1. What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Reading "texts of terror"

2. Homosexuality in Leviticus

3. Homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah

4. What did Jesus say about homosexuality?

5. Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy

Take home message: CONTEXT MATTERS. Bishop Robinson's first article in this series summarizes my understanding of how to read the bible. Biblical texts were passed down orally and finally written down in a certain time, at a certain place, by some author, for a specific audience with certain cultural traditions and attitudes, not the least of which is a limited grasp of psychology from millennia ago. As our knowledge base advances, so too must advance our scriptural analyses.

For example, back in the day, it was probably a matter of public health to avoid pork and shellfish, what with trichinosis and red tide. Bring in some understanding of sanitation and microbiology, and what was once unclean can now be made clean!

Mmm, bacon-wrapped scallops....

Anyway, it wasn't that long ago that most people thought that sexual orientation was a choice. Well, I suppose I know people (*cough* name redacted *cough*) who still think sexual orientation is a choice. For those of us who actually grew up with gay people, we know that sexual orientation is as inborn as the color of one's skin. To act contrary to one's sexual orientation must be quite the burdensome lie, and I'm pretty sure God wouldn't be down with such dishonesty.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Get off my lawn! But stay for tea, James Franco!


Oh, James Franco, it's great when you just sit there and look pretty. In the meantime, I'll laugh at this imaginary phone interview with you and add to the mixed reviews of your book. (Image credit: Jezebel)

James Franco's debut anthology of short stories, Palo Alto, fell short of the high expectations I had set for this multi-faceted, well-read, and talented actor.

No resolution

Palo Alto is a collection of interconnected stories of bored, privileged, suburban teenage punks who get into all sorts of trouble and shenanigans because they're bored, privileged teenagers in the suburbs in the early-to-mid-90s. Parties, drinking, drugs, sex, violence. *yawn* So this is what my high school classmates did when I was at home doing my homework, right? Yeah, lovely. That might not be so bad, except that each story has a mere hint of a plot arc with no resolution. The static characters don't develop over the course of these story arcs to nowhere. For example, Franco wraps up the three-part story "Chinatown" with the line, "When we got older, I did things with my life and she did things with her life." Really, James Franco? Really?

Potential for thematic significance

Only a couple of stories contain just a pinch of thematic significance. The rarely present adults in the stories encourage the kids' bad behavior. In "Killing Animals," for example, the narrator reminisces about his younger days of wielding a slingshot and terrorizing the neighborhood fauna. The narrator gets nervous when his cat, Toby, comes within the sights of his friend's slingshot. The narrator juxtaposes this with a memory of animal control services shooting a mountain lion that wanders towards the neighborhood. In a rare moment of dramatic irony, the narrator claims the moral high ground that he has never actually killed any animals, although his near-misses damage public and private property. Furthermore, there are a couple less subtle instances of pedophile adults. The thematically significant moments don't happen often, but I see the potential for skillful use of dramatic irony with naive persona narrators.

Non-distinct narrative voices

James Franco's first-person narrators all have the same voice. They all speak with short sentences that simply list events and facts, with little reflection or emotional input. Between stories, there's no way to tell who is speaking until some other character addresses the narrator in dialogue. The three-part story "April" changes narrators, and I didn't even realize that until two to three pages into the third part. Have you heard teenagers speak? When they recount stories to each other, there's more melodrama and variety. I can say that because I, too, was a suburban teenager in the Bay Area the early-to-mid-90s.

Lack of authenticity

Besides the lack of plot, lack of theme, and lack of developed characters, the book suffers from the lack of authenticity in the narrators' homogenous voices. NO ONE around here says "the 101 freeway" or "the 280 freeway." We say "one-oh-one" and "two-eighty" as nouns with no definite article preceding them. Duh, James Franco. And there is not a single instance of the word "hella"! How does that happen? We hella say "hella" around here. That's hella inauthentic. James Franco, I hereby revoke your NorCal Card.

In summary, this isn't all that good, which is disappointing because James Franco is hot and cute and smart and all. This might be one to queue up at the library, so you don't shell out any money, of course. I don't think Palo Alto deserves the glowing praise splattered all over the back cover. However, I think James Franco has the potential to write much richer stories. After all, he can't get much worse, right?

And, um, if you're reading this, James Franco, naturally, I'd be thrilled to discuss all of this with you over coffee/tea/beer/wine/whiskey. You know, because I'm literary and mathy and artsy, too. Reinstating the NorCal Card will not be easy, after all. And my husband has already decided that you'd play him in a movie of his life, so it would be neat/creepy if you had a chance to get his character down.

*ahem*

Call me!

Friday, December 3, 2010

As if wackadoo doctrine weren't already enough.


If the shortest candle is adjacent to the pink one, you're doing it wrong.

Catholic News Service, as evidenced by your ill-lit Advent candles pictured above (see my recent post about which candle to light first), clearly you are unable to count backwards from three, which undermines the legitimacy of anything else you have to say.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

culinary cultural identity crisis, addendum

I found some nifty links about vegetarian food, Filipino food, and a vegan Filipino restaurant. Yes, it exists!

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman. A really thorough cookbook, great if you're starting out in the veggie world, with recipes and variations by ingredient or class of ingredients.

The World's Healthiest Foods, by George Mateljan. An amazing resource of just about any ingredient you want, nutritional information, and cooking techniques to optimize nutrient bioavailability.

No Worries Cuisine, a vegan Filipino restaurant in Oakland. It's a lot of fake meat, but I'm still curious to try it.

Burnt Lumpia, a Filipino-American food/culture blog. Check out the ube gnocchi. Trippy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

culinary cultural identity crisis


Lechon, a.k.a. Killing Me Softly

I'm having an identity crisis, one of those multi-cultural identity crises that you see in all those immigrant coming-of-age movies. You know the ones. In the first five minutes of these movies, the culturally confused teenager rejects his mother culture in order to fit in with the cultural homogeneity of his white friends. Later on, of course, the kid develops a new interest in his mother culture when said white friends realize that cultural variety is cool.

My relationship with Filipino food is hitting a rough patch. Things were going great for a really long time. I was quite happy for many years with chicken adobo as my signature dish. Then something hot and spicy came along, and it became a game to see how hot we could get. Filipino food was never like that. A part of me died that day, mostly tastebuds.

And then foodie culture led me further astray. Sharing recipes, cooking without aprons. Everyone seemed to be doing it and enjoying it, too. Interestingly, now there were grades of how vanilla you could get: French, organic, Tahitian. Who knew?

Naturally, I went through a veggie-curious phase, too. I gotta admit, though, I'm a lot better at it now than when I was in college. After all, I married a veggie--a foodie veggie--and it's great! I could easily subsist on Indian food and veggie burritos now. I'm not purely veggie, but I'm definitely a lot less carnivorous than I used to be.

My occasionally carnivorous stomach was in for a rude awakening a couple weeks ago when we went to Patio Filipino for a friend's birthday dinner. We had the Patio Platter (fried lumpia, fried chicharron bulaklak, fried calamari, fried shrimp), pancit canton, lechon, longanisa, beef mechado, and white rice. So that's an entire meal of deep-fry, mixed meats with noodles, crisped pork skin, pork sausage, beef stew, and carbs. I seriously needed a ginger tea to calm the storm swells of stomach acid. The next day I whipped together some saag aloo with lentils; spinach makes for a happy colon. I felt dirty for three or four days and all but vowed never to eat Filipino food again.

My parents would have loved Patio Filipino. They have had a hard time accommodating the vegetarianism. The day before Thanksgiving, just a few days after the fried meat onslaught, we went to their house for dinner. They cooked what they consider to pass as a satisfying vegetarian dish: take whatever vegetables and mushrooms they have in the fridge, turn them into a egg-white omelette cooked in a slick of oil, and serve it with sweet chili sauce and rice.

Ugh, I just felt barfy for a second there.

My parents can't keep feeding fat to my husband. Every time that they have eaten dinner at our house, I have demonstrated that there are things other than meat, soy sauce, and vinegar that contribute flavor to dishes. They come away from my meals feeling sated, and not feeling that something (i.e., meat) is missing. They almost had a veggie epiphany when they tasted my chanterelles à la crème. Almost, because although they said, "Wow, this tastes like meat!" they continued by saying, "We can make this into an omelette!"

::facepalm::

It's time to stage an intervention. I'm going to hijack my parents' kitchen, armed with a bucket of lentils, a jar of Goan vindaloo masala, a jar of tamarind concentrate, and a baggie of kaffir lime leaves. Yes. I will hold their hands through the process of soaking lentils, frying the spices, and currying the vegetables. It's tasty, well-balanced, and healthful. If that weren't reason enough to go veggie-curious every once in a while, here's one reason that will go straight to my parents' flea-market-loving thrifty hearts: IT'S CHEAP.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Convert or Die!

Does laughing at this make me a bad Catholic? Ah, screw it. It's hilarious!



Excerpt on YouTube from Warner Bros' short-lived Histeria! [Wipipedia].

Does anyone remember this show Histeria? I only ever caught a couple episodes of it when it was originally on TV, and I thought it was brilliant. For example, among the Legion of Super Writers, Emily Dickinson subdued the bad guys by rendering them emo with her verses. Brilliant! What better way to reinforce history and literature than with an intelligent cartoon? If I Histeria had been on TV just a couple years earlier, I might have gotten better grades in my history and government classes and AP tests.

The above clip "Convert or Die" captures a lot of the shameful aspects of the Spanish Inquisition: the unfairness to those who simply didn't understand, the coerced confessions, the torture, the danger of being declared a heretic for reading books critical of the Church.

Of course, this didn't go down well with the Catholic higher-ups. According to the YouTube video's description:
After this episode's initial airing, Warner Bros. received complaints from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, claiming that the Spanish Inquisition game show sketch at the beginning, "Convert or Die!", was teaching children to reject Catholicism. Because of this, in reruns, that sketch was replaced with a newly-made one in which the kids think General Custer is running a custard stand, but restored when the episode was featured on In2TV.
Huh. It sounds like the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights doesn't really know how to own up to past wrongdoings and make up for them. If only there was some precedent for that process, outlined in the Gospel or something. Oh, wait.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How about a nice cuppa?


Samovar claims to be the first to sell tea in cardboard boxes. (Image credit: Samovar)

Really, Samovar? The World's First Compostable Tea Box?

Now, I love me some local businesses. I love me some Samovar, in fact. The marketing genius here is trying to appeal to San Franciscans' love of all things green. Is the Samovar crowd really so yuppified and out of touch with reality that tea in a cardboard box is innovative?

Granted, some people are really fancy and buy tea in tins and foil-lined bags. But this certainly is not the first time I've seen tea in a cardboard box. Most of the time I buy tea in compostable cardboard boxes.

The quality of Samovar's teas should be much more of a selling point than its paper packaging. I'm not falling for this marketing gimmick, but I would buy Samovar's teas to support the business.

In other tea news, I just got a friend's chai recipe. I will be testing it soon and posting the results here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turn out the lights; light a candle....

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the four-Sunday preparatory season before Christmas. Happy Liturgical New Year, too.

I like Advent, and not just because of the purple vestments and the proximity of my own birthday. I have fond memories of the Jesse Tree Blessing at my church when I was in 4th grade, with all the best Advent songs, and a group narration of the Annunciation story. All the 4th graders at my school also had to learn to play the recorder. The previous summer, I taught myself how to read music and got a head start with a recorder and songbook set that my parents bought me from Price Club. And thus began my musical career. Arguably, thus also began my liturgical music career.

So I set out as a liturgical music nerd towards Catholic high school, then Catholic campus ministry services in college, and various cantor/choir gigs once I finally got to the real world. One thing inevitably bothered me every single year as Advent rolled around.


Mark D. Roberts' Advent Wreath is properly lit in sequence!

Which candle do you light first? The third Sunday of Advent is the pink, joyous Sunday, therefore you light the purple candle diametrically opposite the pink candle. All too often, I've seen people start Advent by lighting a purple candle adjacent to the pink one, with the mistaken reasoning that the pink Sunday must be the one closest to Christmas. Not so! The fourth Sunday is purple to bring the seasonal spirit back to introspection and preparation before we get all caught up in the angels and shepherds and magi.

Yeah, it's a stupid pet peeve. And I will comment on your ill-burnt Advent wreath candles because you can't count backwards from three.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fangirl goes SQUEE!

I met Sandip Roy tonight! I finally summoned up enough balls to ask to be introduced to him and take a picture with him! SQUEE!

And now I gush.

He's so mellow and approachable. He asked me where I worked, and I told him and added that the only radio station I can get in my little room is KALW. It's true, too. He said that was funny because it's hard to get KALW from a lot of places around town.

I told Sandip Roy that I really liked his chaat piece. And yes, he already knew about Dana Bazar, now New India Bazar. He had decided that if he mentioned Dana Bazar on Morning Edition, the bump in business might overwhelm the two busybody aunties at the chaat counter. Wow, that's so considerate of him. What an upstanding guy, that Sandip Roy!

And I also told Sandip Roy that I really enjoyed his piece on the changing Indian attitudes towards gay marriage. He said he got a lot of e-mails praising that piece. Awesome!

SQUEE!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

more celebrity love!

Oh. Em. Gee. I heart George Takei.



Mr. Takei, you are so freakin' AWESOME!



Squee!

Via Jezebel.

Friday, November 5, 2010

local celebrity crush

There are a few people that I'd go all squealy fangirl for: Alton Brown, Phil Plait, the Mythbusters, James Franco. Now, I might not ever run into these people--except for the Mythbusters, maybe. But I almost went all squealy fangirl for a local radio personality: Sandip Roy!

This NPR commentator hosts New America Now and occasionally Your Call, both on KALW. Some notable pieces of his in recent memory address chaat (Indian street food) and the evolving acceptance of gay marriage in the Indian community.

When I heard that piece on chaat, Sandip Roy gave me quite the hankering for chaat from Vik's in Berkeley. Actually, I was a little upset that he broadcast the knowledge of Vik's worldwide like that. Surely, this would mean longer lines because of a bump in business! Then I also thought that he better not divulge Fremont's best-kept secret chaat counter at Dana Bazar, now New India Bazar. Man, pani puri at their chaat counter is the best! I certainly wasn't going to comment on the NPR article page and hand him that hard-earned knowledge. And it was hard-earned. I spent a long time on Yelp looking for places that serve pani puri Mumbai-style, and we tried it after a particularly rough hike on Mission Peak.

However, I changed my mind last night when the prospect of actually meeting Sandip Roy became within reach at the 3rd I South Asian Film Festival. I didn't actually meet him, but if I did, well, yeah, I have enough of a celebrity crush on him to share with him the location of the Bay Area's best chaat.

I give, and I give.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

20 Authors

A friend of mine had this cute thing on Facebook about making a list of 20 personally significant authors. Here's what my brain dredged up, plus the notable works that I associate with said authors.

The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Twenty authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first Twenty you can recall in no more than Twenty minutes. Tag at least Twenty friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your Twenty picks, and tag people in the note.)

1. William Shakespeare - You name it. The husband and I go to Ashland, OR, for our anniversary and watch lots of plays through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

2. Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs & Steel

3. Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

4. Rebecca Skloot - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

5. Anthony Bourdain - Kitchen Confidential

6. F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

7. Victor Hugo - The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I read it in English, and it still made me cry. And this doesn't count because I haven't read it, but Les Misérables is probably my favorite musical.

8. Antoine de St-Exupery - Le Petit Prince. Classic!

9. Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This was the unofficial required reading at my alma mater. The unofficial required film, by the way, was The Princess Bride.

10. Robert Frost - Fire and Ice, After Apple-Picking, The Road Not Taken, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

11. William Blake - Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright! I memorized that one when I was in 7th grade. I could probably still recite it with little prompting.

12. Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises, Old Man and The Sea.

13. T. S. Eliot - The Wasteland. When I had to write a five-paragraph analytical essay on this whopper, I pointed out the use of ragtime music in the conversation of a jaded married couple in the poem. According to younger friends of mine, our teacher mentioned this at least two years after I wrote it.

14. Emily Dickinson - Heart, We Will Forget Him. She's so emo, and her punctuation is atrocious in a thematically significant way.

15. Armistead Maupin - The Tales of the City series! These books are so much fun! It's an entertaining peek into popular culture and history in San Francisco, from the crazy party days of the 70s, to the more somber early 80s in the midst of the AIDS epidemic.

16. Flannery O'Connor - Lots of creepy, Twilight Zone-like short stories. ::shudder::

17. Beverly Cleary - Dear Mr. Henshaw, my first epistolary narrative. Years later, I also read its sequel, Strider.

18. Christopher Moore - Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. This makes excellent Holy Week reading.

19. Hans Christian Andersen - The Little Mermaid. Because I had read the story and seen the Faerie Tale Theatre version long before seeing the Disney version, I remember being quite disappointed at Disney's happy ending.

20. Donal Godfrey - Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish. The first time I went to mass at this church, Fr. Godfrey delivered a fantastic five-minute homily. Then I learned that he wrote this wonderful book. It gives me the tiniest glimmer of hope that the church might someday live Christ's message, vis-à-vis homosexuality.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Women are crazy


Kelly Valen's new book, image via her website.

In another moment of clarity, I got another thought for the day appropriate for my feeble attempt at increasing blog output.

That moment of clarity was actually from an article in the Chronicle entitled, "Kelly Valen explores the dark side of female relationships." The article references Valen's NY Times article on the back-stabbiness of her former sorority sisters. Valen has expanded that NY Times article into a new book, The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships.

Valen surveyed over 3000 women and spent two years researching and writing this book on the psychological trauma inflicted by female cattiness.

So stuff we already knew, right? Yeah, but with the statistical power of n=3000, much larger than the anecdotal n of any woman who has had to deal with (or at least observe) mean girls from grade school to the workplace.

The world can do without the conniving little schemers who plot to make the shunned girl It during every single game of tag at recess.

The world can do without the gossipy little bats who brief the new girl on who's cool and who's a nerd without letting anyone speak for him/herself.

The world can do without the moody, unreasonable, micro-managing supervisor. The world can also do without the spineless wonders who bow to the unreal whims of said irrational supervisor.

Can't we all just get along? Ladies, retract the claws, and let's chill the frak out, OK?

We should have more exemplary women like--oh, I don't know--Ellen DeGeneres! She's fantastic! If I were ever at home to watch her show, I would. And among her regular viewers, who doesn't want to dance with her and give her a big hug, like, all the time?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's November; don't forget to breathe!


Diatomic oxygen, you double-edged bastard. (Image credit: autismspot.com)

OK, kids, it's November. The second to the last month of the year. That means it's almost Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and New Year's. Then there are these other things for November, and why I'm not participating in any of them:

Movember - I'm certainly not growing a moustache for charity, and I don't know anyone who is.

NaNoWriMo - I don't write nearly well enough to spew out a novel in a month.

NaKniSweMo - After I finish the sweater I started in late September, I have a ton of lace shawls (OK, two) to knit.

Another chance for NaBloPoMo - Ha! What? Me? Blog every day for an entire month? Yeah, right!

NaBloPoMo got me thinking, though, that perhaps I should try to increase my blogging output just a tad. In that spirit, here's my thought for the day:

The biggest risk factor for cancer is breathing oxygen.

Try as one might to optimize exposure to chemicals, radioactivity, ultraviolet light, human papillomavirus, and genetic predisposition, one still has to breathe. Yet the same stuff rusts metal and turns cut apples and avocados brown is the same stuff that keeps us moving and shaking. That's why we're all so stuck on antioxidants; all those electrons on life-giving oxygen can generate free radicals and really muck up a system. Aerobic living is quite the delicate balance between respiration and free radicals running amok.

How did this all come to pass? Plants evolved first, using sunlight and carbon dioxide for energy, and releasing diatomic oxygen as a waste product. As oxygen built up in the atmosphere, oxygen-breathing beings evolved. Then the primates started walking upright, and the rest--as they say--is history.

Creationists, take heed: there's nothing intelligent about that design. It kinda sucks, actually.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It Gets Better; Mean People Suck

Mean People Suck
I so need to make this! (Photo Credit: Flickr user Ruby42.)

Unless you've been living under a rock this past month (or in strike-crippled France; who am I to judge?), you know that with the recent spate of teen suicides brought on by anti-gay bullying, Savage Love columnist Dan Savage put together the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel full of videos telling gay and questioning teens that there are tons of wonderful things to live for.

Unsurprisingly, Religion News Service reports that most Americans associate negative views of homosexuality with religious institutions. In this recent report from NPR on the religious undercurrent in anti-gay bullying, at least some Christians understand that the church's anti-gay stance is remarkably un-Christian! That NPR story also upsets me to see all the adults who through misaction or inaction propagate the problem to the vulnerable younger generations.

Adults are setting bad examples. It's like in Lord of the Flies, when warring adults rescue the warring kids--whose little society is driven to destruction by bullies.

Mean people suck.

And then we grow up, stop identifying ourselves according to what those mean people say, and start embracing our blessed individuality and solidarity as good people.

Then those mean people get stuck in their two-bit jobs at the mall while all us nerds get fancy diplomas, rewarding careers, and the awesomest friends ever.

It does get better.

If you haven't seen any videos from the It Gets Better Project, Jezebel posted their top 15 videos. Here, I'm posting my top three, in order of importance, starting with the best one.

Seriously, I want to give Joel Burns a big hug for his video. And thank you, Bishop Gene Robinson, for speaking from the heart. President Obama, thank you, too; now let's get cracking on DADT and DOMA.

Joel Burns:


Gene Robinson:


and President Barack Obama:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cauliflower Zucchini soup

cauliflower zucchini soup

Or what the heck do I do with all this goat milk?

It may not look like anything special, but it's pretty darn tasty. I had to do something with the goat milk left over from a cheese-making adventure day this past Saturday. I discovered I couldn't simply drink the stuff because it tastes distinctively of chèvre. That's not a bad thing, per se, but it certainly isn't quite right with an oatmeal breakfast, in my opinion.

So this is what I made.

Cauliflower Zucchini Soup

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 small zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 head cauliflower, rough chopped
4 cups stock/broth/bouillon/water
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained
2 cups goat milk, or cow milk
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until slightly translucent, ~5 mins. Add the zucchini and cauliflower and sauté until softened, another 5 minutes or so.

2. Add the stock/broth/bouillon/water and the beans. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and let cook until all the veggies are soft, ~20 minutes.

3. In the meantime, do some of the dishes you've generated. Don't worry; I'll be right here.

4. OK, so now that the veggies are cooked through, blend the soup. An immersion blender is really handy for this.

5. Stir in the goat milk, and season to taste.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

QOTD


"Fairy dust, not to be confused with gay dandruff."  -CP

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy wedding I didn't even attend

Banner

After all the weddings and friends and history on our recent trip to Boston, what ended the trip on a high note for me was hearing about a strangers' same-sex wedding.

The husband and I were waiting for a doorman at the Lenox Hotel to hail us a cab for the airport. Behind us there were two other men who asked another doorman for another cab for the airport. That doorman called to our doorman, "Make that two for Logan!"

He asked the two men, "Where are you headed?"

"Switzerland."

"Are you going there for business, or...?"

"Honeymoon, actually."

It took me a second to process. Two men. Going to Switzerland. On a honeymoon. *gasp* They just got married! Yay!

I beamed! I turned around and said, "Congratulations!" Wow! A same-sex couple! Two men actually got married! It's legal in Massachusetts!

They had just gotten married the night before at the Old South Church across the street from the Lenox Hotel. I had noticed the night before that there was a wedding going on there.

Wow! They got married in a church! What a cool church!

Like any newlywed couple, these gentlemen were also looking forward to the oodles of free time they would have now that the wedding planning is over.

I was so genuinely happy for them. Although I was at the worst stage of a head cold with sinuses full of suck, and although we were flying back home where Prop 8 is full of unconstitutional suck, nothing could diminish that celebratory grin on my face.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boston in a nutshell

I've been neglecting the blog lately due to pre-vacation craziness, vacation, and post-vacation resetting. There is a lot of stuff on my mind that I'd like to get into blog form. In the meantime, here's my Boston vacation litany, delineated by days:

our hostess picked us up from the airport
brief stop at a poker game at a friend's house

wedding in Belmont
wandering in Cambridge (including Burdick's in Harvard Square, Punjabi Dhaba and Lorem Ipsum books in Inman Square, down Prospect to Central Square, and up Mass Ave back to Harvard Square)
after-party at Redline in Harvard Square

more wandering in Cambridge (Ryles Jazz Brunch, more chai at Punjabi Dhaba, stopping at friends' apartments, Garment District, MIT and French House, dinner at Lê's in Harvard Square)

driving to Putney, VT
lunch in Brattleboro, VT

more chilling in Putney

Golding farm in Saxtons River
driving back to Cambridge
errands with our hostess
pub quiz at Tavern on the Square in Porter Square (3rd place!)

Freedom Trail
Windsor Button
Brattle Books
more Freedom Trail
dinner at Doyle's in Jamaica Plain

more Freedom Trail and side trips in the North End
hanging out at a friend's place near Central Square to get out of the rain
back into town for rehearsal dinner at Skip Jack's

slow slog to Aamco in Charlestown for a friend's failed transmission
lunch at Betty's Wok and Noodle, across from the Symphony
wandering Back Bay for drinks and coffee
The Mapparium!
wedding at the Lenox Hotel

repack
brunch at Lenox Hotel
tea at Trident (with two separate friends who discovered they went to the same high school)
airport

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A friend in need surely doesn't *need* a cigarette.

SMOKING KILLS
SMOKING KILLS. This message brought to you by London Heathrow Duty-Free.

A neighbor of ours stopped by the house yesterday because he needed a buck or two for cigarettes. My husband--the fine, upstanding man that he is--gave him a fiver to be paid back later.

While the gesture was very generous and very sweet, I disagree with it. Of all of the various everyday substance propensities that a person might have (mine are coffee and alcohol), the one that I support the least is nicotine.

Blech, it's just gross. It's unsexy, unattractive, and unhealthy.

My dad used to smoke. When he quit, he taught himself how to knit so he could keep his hands busy. When another friend of mine quit smoking, I used the same strategy and taught her how to knit. She turned out a beautiful scarf in two weeks!

I have friends who smoke. Do I consider them bad people? Nah. But I'd never spot them a pack of cigarettes. My money does not need to support that industry, nor support something I find disgusting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Confused conceptions


Antonio Frederici's controversial ice cream advertisement (Image credit: BBC)

UK-based ice cream company Antonio Frederici (I'm not linking to their website because it automatically plays music; man, I hate websites that do that) has had some advertisements banned to coincide with the pope's recent visit to the UK.

The ad (above) depicts a pregnant nun eating ice cream, with the caption "Immaculately conceived."

I thought the ad was pretty funny until I saw the caption. It's one of my pet peeves that people mix up the terms "immaculate conception" and "conceived by the Holy Spirit."

(I can't really speak to how much of the following dogma I actually believe. This is what I was taught. Twelve years of Catholic school, and what do I have to show for it? Terminology.)

Mary is the Immaculate Conception. Mary said it herself in her apparition at Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous. Mary was conceived without Original Sin. This is special because everyone else is born with Original Sin, or the stain on humanity from when Adam and Eve were tempted by a penis serpent to disobey God. Original Sin is washed away during baptism. Mary didn't have Original Sin because she's that special. To summarize, Mary is the Immaculate Conception, born without Original Sin.

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin and engaged to Joseph when she got pregnant with Jesus after the angel Gabriel announced it to her. Joseph was a fine, upstanding man and didn't leave his pregnant fiancée when some other angel appeared to him in a dream to explain that God did it. So Jesus was a virgin birth, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Remember, kids: Mary is not Jesus. The immaculate conception is not conception by the Holy Spirit. Birth without Original Sin is not virgin birth.

With that in mind, let's look at that ad again.

The nun is pregnant, and she apparently has a craving for ice cream. OK, so she'd probably claim virgin birth, that no man was involved in the baby-making, and that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Referring to the nun, the caption, "Immaculately conceived" makes no sense.

However, this is an ice cream ad. Is it perfection in ice cream form? Is the ice cream so good that we can consider it immaculately conceived? Born without ice crystals? Yeah, possibly. If the caption is referring to the ice cream and not the baby bump, there should be a better way to indicate that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves

stuffed nasturtium leaves
Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves!

Nasturtiums are sometimes considered weeds. They are quite prolific and get all over the place. Their flowers often make their way into salads as a vibrant and edible decoration. Their leaves are edible, too. The leaves and flowers have a peppery taste to them.

I made dolmas tonight! What I didn't know is that to make dolmas, first you stuff the leaves (usually grape leaves), then you steam them. This makes homemade a lot better than jarred or canned, as those premade dolmas are swimming in oil.

So when life gives you edible weeds like nasturtiums, make dolmas.

Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves

Ingredients:
20 large nasturtium leaves (~4-5 inches in diameter)
1 cup of rice, yields 2 cups cooked (I used red rice; it looks like ground beef!)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup pine nuts
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste

Process:
1. Rinse off your nasturtium leaves.

2. Cook the rice. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.

3. Place a generous spoonful or so of the rice stuffing in the middle of a leaf. Roll it into a little leaf burrito. Repeat until you have a batch of 10 little leaf burritos.

4. Place your little leaf burritos in a steamer basket. Steam for 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, repeat steps 3 and 4 for your second batch of 10 little leaf burritos.

6. Enjoy when cool enough to handle.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good placebo, bad placebo


Sweet, isotonic crack makes me smile. How about you? (Image credit: NeilMed)

Last week in a post on DIY seasonal allergy treatments from Design*Sponge, I read about a legitimate treatment, a good placebo, and a bad placebo. Crash and burn, Design*Sponge. Crash and burn.

The post author Ashley begins by suggesting the neti pot. This saline nasal irrigation technique seems Ayurvedic in origin. Using the device gives you quite an intimate understanding of how the cavities in your face are all connected. It uses an isotonic saline solution to rinse out one's sinuses by gravity flow. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Well, it makes sense that if you gently rinse all the gunk out of your sinuses, the gunk won't be around to aggravate your allergies. NeilMed's website sites a ton of published research on the effectiveness of the sinus nasal irrigation, too. It also gets my personal endorsement.

Next, Ashley furthers the common thought that ingesting local honey can alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. The thought is that ingesting the pollens in the local honey can immunize you against those same pollens that bother your upper respiratory system during blooming season. Well, there's only been one controlled clinical trial on honey and seasonal allergies [Pubmed abstract]:

RESULTS: Neither honey group [unfiltered local or filtered national] experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group [honey-flavored corn syrup].

CONCLUSIONS: This study does not confirm the widely held belief that honey relieves the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

In fact, there have been a few cases (1, 2, 3)where the ingestion of honey and/or pollen produced anaphylaxis, or a major allergic response. That's not good at all.

I doubt the effectiveness of local honey to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. I mean, unless you're snorting your local honey, you're probably not immunizing yourself against your local allergenic pollens. There are shots for that; ask your doctor. Although local honey might not do anything positive for your allergies, buying local honey supports local business, which is good.

Finally, Ashley has the gall to suggest homeopathic bullshit "remedies."

GAAAAAHHHHH!!!! The stupid! It makes my brain hurt!

Shame on you, Ashley. Shame on you, Design*Sponge.

Homeopathy hurts. Remember that, kids. Better yet, go read about Bonnie Blodgett's memoir on losing her sense of smell after taking some homeopathic drivel for her allergies [NPR]. Dude, she lost her sense of smell! Not cool!

In short, do use a neti pot. Do buy local honey to support local business. DO NOT resort to homeopathic bullshit!

Monday, September 13, 2010

neo-Geocentrism?


LOSERS!

The nice folks over at Episcopal Cafe have alerted me to the existence of a Geocentrism conference:

Galileo Was Wrong is a detailed and comprehensive treatment of the scientific evidence supporting Geocentrism, the academic belief that the Earth is immobile in the center of the universe. Garnering scientific information from physics, astrophysics, astronomy and other sciences, Galileo Was Wrong shows that the debate between Galileo and the Catholic Church was much more than a difference of opinion about the interpretation of Scripture.

Scientific evidence available to us within the last 100 years that was not available during Galileo's confrontation shows that the Church's position on the immobility of the Earth is not only scientifically supportable, but it is the most stable model of the universe and the one which best answers all the evidence we see in the cosmos.

"Galileo was wrong"?

Say WHAT?!

I thought I was reading something from The Onion, but no, it looks real. Very sad and very real. Like Jenny McCarthy.

Oh, but it gets better. There's merch! Didn't you always want a baby onesie with the words "Galileo was wrong" plastered all over it?

Screw that. I'd crash the conference wearing this Calamities of Nature t-shirt:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Prends Gardasil à toi!


Cervical cancer is anything but warm and fuzzy. (Image credit: Giant Microbes)

A few years ago, Merck developed Gardasil, a vaccine against two strains human papillomavirus (HPV), or the virus that causes 70% of cervical cancers in women.

It's a vaccine against cancer! Brilliant!

Not so fast. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. The CDC recommends the vaccine to girls aged 11-12, and girls and women aged 13-26. The vaccination course consists of three shots at $125 each, spaced out over six months.

NPR asks, "Should boys also get vaccinated for HPV?" DUH, YES. Although boys are cervically challenged, they're also carriers for HPV and should get vaccinated.

OK, so that's a total cost of almost $400 to vaccinate girls--and boys--as young as 11 years old against a sexually transmitted disease.

According to that NPR article, Dr. Doug Lowy, co-inventor of this vaccine, says that only 11% of girls get the full course of shots.

Why such a low vaccination rate? Come on, it's a vaccine against cancer!

Cost is one factor. Some of those greedy insurance companies out there may not cover much--if any--of the cost of the full vaccination course.

According to CNN, "Some parents aren't comfortable vaccinating young children against a virus they can only get from having sex."

Really? Let me repeat: IT'S A VACCINE AGAINST CANCER!

These parents would rather put their children at risk of cervical cancer than protect them against it. Would these same parents not be comfortable with an AIDS vaccine, either, because such a vaccine would obviously encourage needle sharing and sinful gay sex?

Ugh, the stupid makes my head hurt.

Topic via Jezebel.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time for a drive-by baptism.


I think it's time for a good, ol'-fashioned watergun fight! (Image credit: Hasbro, Nerf)

Just about everyone and their mothers are against Florida evangelical church leader Terry Jones' plans to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 [NPR].

According to the Religious News Service Blog, protesters include the Vatican, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and actress Angelina Jolie.

I am generally against book burning. I think book burners are assholes. Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when the Nazis are burning books, and Indy goes to save his father's Grail Diary? Yeah. Evil jerks burn books.

I don't like defacing any kind of book, either. I mean, I make the occasional pencil notes in the margins, maybe add a post-it note, but that's about it. Heck, I got upset in high school when I lent a friend my copy of Le Petit Nicolas, and it came back frayed and dog-eared at the end of the school year.

I am especially respectful of reference books and sacred texts. You don't mess with that sort of knowledge.

Terry Jones is being an asshole with this 9/11 anniversary stunt. It accomplishes nothing, and it's horribly unethical. Spare the air, and love thy [Muslim] neighbor, Minister Asshole.

This calls for a water fight. Epic. Massive. Protesters should arm themselves with fire hoses, garden hoses, water guns, water balloons, a bucket brigade, and maybe a sprung fire hydrant as the infrastructure allows. How about a couple RC helicopters to drop water balloons? Let's get those protesting strippers from that Ohio church to shoot waterguns, too, and it'll all devolve into a wet t-shirt contest!

Think about it! It would be so perfect if everyone just cleaned out the shelves of their local big-box store and showed up to bombard Terry Jones and company. All those summer water toys are on clearance sale anyway, right? Wet the briquettes, take away their lighter fluid, and dump water on the bigots. Like a drive-by baptism.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Survival of the fittest, what?


Evolution Kills, a t-shirt by Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content

I am two degrees of separation away from a creationist homeopath who homeschools her children. Yesterday I was informed that this was a recent Facebook status of hers:

Just spent some time editing a secular science book for kids, and talking to them about what is Biblical . Now that we've covered up the evolution stuff, it is a great book :)

Are you freakin' kidding me? And why can't evolution be the work of God? And while you're at it, VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN!

Seriously, sometimes I think there should be a special category of Darwin Awards for parents who manage to snuff out their own kids through incompetence.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Should the Other Woman warn the Cuckolded Woman?


Kickin' it old-school in Ellora.

Just recently, someone I know discovered that her boyfriend of two years was engaged to someone else.

I know, right? WTF?

She found the guy's wedding website while things were fizzling out between them.

So what can she do now? She's in quite a position to screw over this guy's life. Should she alert the fiancée that this guy's an asshole, or just say good riddance and move on with her own life?

On the one hand, if I were in the fiancée's position, I would want to know. I would want someone to tell me that the dude is a deceptive jerk. And I'd certainly want to know before the wedding.

On the other hand, if I were in my friend's position, my wimpy non-confrontational side would want to walk away and avoid the drama altogether. I mean, given the guy's history, he'll probably screw it all up himself eventually, right? Does it matter whether it's sooner through one's own involvement or later of the guy's own incompetence? Well, yeah, it matters, because it would be a lot less complicated to break up pre-wedding instead of divorce post-wedding.

How much does the Other Woman have the moral imperative to alert the Cuckolded Woman?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Overpopulation, education, and responsibility



While people cite many reasons both for and against having children, when it comes down to it, it's unethical to have children if you can't muster up the resources and responsibility to care for them. Money cannot buy love, but money can buy comfort, especially in terms of the basics, like food, clothing, shelter, and especially education.

Overpopulation puts a huge strain on our planet's limited resources. Recently, Your Call on KALW had a show on the controversy of population control. Clearly, population control is controversial because people don't like their genital functions controlled by some third party. Population control also brings up the nasty idea of eugenics. Another interesting and obvious point, education plays a huge role in population control, for birthrates drop and family sizes shrink when women are educated.

Yup, birth control is fantastic. The Vatican is not a fan of birth control. Lack of birth control easily leads to unwanted pregnancies, perhaps abortion, perhaps child neglect, etc. It's easier to deal with the upstream causes than the downstream effects, isn't it?

I just generally feel that it is unethical to bring a child into an environment where he/she will not be cared for. That includes homeopaths and anti-vaccination freaks; those irrational behaviors endanger public health, and that's just downright unethical. Perpetuating bigotry (e.g., racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc.) is also unethical.

Well, it looks like education fixes a lot of things here, and not necessarily advanced education, either. As I mentioned above, an educated society has a low birthrate. Come on; we all learned sex ed when puberty hit, right? I sure hope so, anyway. Theoretically, the homeopaths and anti-vax freaks could mend their ways with one high school science class. In an ideal world, a high school history class could fix the bigots, too.

I guess the resources and responsibility of caring for children should really go towards the classroom, just like UC Berkeley's Michael O'Hare wrote in a letter to his students, on fixing California's woefully broken system.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Xenophobia, Islamophobia, and why I care

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
Looking towards Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

When I was in Denmark some years ago, I learned that there was a fair amount of xenophobia going on. People would explain to me that the neighborhood where I was living, Nørrebro, was inhabited by a lot of immigrants, where the word "immigrant" contained quite a negative connotation. One of my friends implied that it was a rough neighborhood, but that I would be fine because my hair is black. My co-workers had a low-level disdain for the stereotypical immigrant who takes advantage of the country's generous welfare services. Citing one example of immigrants' opposition to co-ed swimming pools, my co-workers even said that Danes are very tolerant people but will not tolerate intolerance.

This Danish xenophobia was about 30 years behind the xenophobia I've seen in France. The French xenophobia arises from post-colonial bitterness. Of course, the French xenophobia also incorporates the disdain for lazy immigrant welfare moochers. In both Denmark and France, these immigrants that stick out the most and are easy targets for the xenophobia come from chiefly Islamic traditions.

I thought that this Islamophobia was a distinctly European thing. After all, here in the States, we already have historical xenophobia (post-slavery issues with African-Americans) and various waves of fresh immigrant xenophobia (Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, you name it). However, this Park51/Cordoba House thing has really brought out the worst in my countrymen. It's ugly, and I really don't like it.

Reza Aslan writes that European Islamophobia Finds a Home in the U.S. [NPR]. Daisy Khan, one of the leading organizers behind Park51, likens American Islamophobia to "metastasized anti-Semitism" [Politico, via RNS].

It's remarkable how quickly people forget history and then doom themselves to repeat it. Ever since Europeans first graced these shores five centuries ago, they've marginalized those different from them, from indigenous Native Americans, to Blacks, to Jews, to Asians, to Hispanics, etc. As each group gets stirred into the melting pot stew, some new Other becomes a target for hate. This time, it's Muslims.

I care a lot about religious persecution because I've had a taste of it myself from people close to me. Here are a few examples:

1. One of my college friends, who was a non-denominational Christian (i.e., Baptist), asked me if it was a sin for her to date her Catholic boyfriend. Heh, as if my sinful Catholic answer would make a difference. (By the way, she married him, and they seem very happy.)

2. My ex gave off anti-Semitic vibes for what he thought was preferential hiring of Jews by his Jewish supervisor. I also think he was bitter that he wasn't a shoe-in for high-profile investment banker jobs because he didn't go to a grande école. (Aside: Jorge Cham of PhD Comics did a great summary of the rigidity of the French educational system: parts 1 and 2.)

3. My mom has once said something to the effect of, "Well, I'm glad the Spanish imposed Catholicism instead of Islam in the Philippines!"

4. My parents had a major shit-fit when I told them that various Vatican teachings bothered me and that I was attending an Anglo-Catholic church. They even said they'd come to mass some time to check it out. Lies.

Ignorance breeds contempt. I think that if people on both sides of the divide actually did their homework about people different from themselves and replaced their prejudices with knowledge, there would be fewer jerks and assholes in the world.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Birth of Impressionism and the death of the idealized female form


The Birth of Venus, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

This weekend I went to the de Young Museum for the Birth of Impressionism exhibit. With a couple wings of the Musée d'Orsay closed for renovations, a bunch of their Impressionism and Post-Impressionism collections are going on tour, baby!

I learned that Impressionism developed in opposition to the French state-run Salon d'Exposition and their stringent academic requirements of their featured artwork. Edouard Manet brought back a Spanish technique of short, distinct brushtrokes. This technique lent itself wonderfully for depicting light reflecting off the surface of water or the dappled light filtering through leafy trees. However, the unfocused look of it all scandalized the Salon juries, who preferred things like the above Birth of Venus, with its classical subject matter and clean execution of the idealized female form.

Wait a minute. Idealized female form? Yeah, she's lost at least fifty pounds in the last hundred years. See?


From Photoshop Disasters, via Boing Boing.

That just ain't right.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Cordoba House

DSC00803
Did you know that Islamic art reveals a complex understanding of math?

People really need to chill out about this Cordoba Initiative thing. It's that Islamic cultural center slated for building in Manhattan, the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." Those opposed to it think it's going to be some big gloating gesture two blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center.

Seriously, you ignorant rednecks? Man, you guys suck.

Have we forgotten about that whole freedom of religion thing in the First Amendment of the Constitution?

President Obama said it best:



Excerpt:
But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

Amen to that. Take that, you ignorant rednecks.

Furthermore, Little Green Footballs notes that Most Manhattanites Support Cordoba House:

But there’s something the New York Post isn’t telling you. When you take a look at the actual poll’s cross-tabs, you discover something interesting: a clear majority of Manhattan residents — the people who live and work near Ground Zero, and who experienced the 9/11 attacks first hand — support the Cordoba House.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Irrational rant about my afternoon adventure


A t-shirt from Threadless that I really don't need.

I had to run an errand yesterday, picking up some blood samples from an animal research facility. It's in a very sketchy corner of town. Like, I wouldn't want to walk around there during the daytime, even if accompanied by a rugby team. I got lost and got scared and came back to work and ranted because I needed to blame someone.

The first time I went there was a couple months ago. The directions I had were a little off. I had to circle around this rundown neighborhood in a shiny rental car to find my way. I was already pretty nervous, then I got downright scared when I saw two pitbulls sauntering across the street. Their heads were solid bone, and their bodies were solid muscle. Yeesh. I finally found where I needed to go, and it all worked out.

This second time, I went to the right gate, and it was closed with a huge sign that said to use some other entrance. So I drove around to this legendary other entrance, which was non-trivial because of the winding, hilly roads. The security lady had two different people try to guide me to the animal facility, over worn-down pavement punctuated with the occasional ill-labeled trailers and dilapidated buildings. I could tell we were heading towards the closed entrance that I had initially tried. Of course, it was a restricted construction site. Although I could see the animal facility, that fence gate was closed, and no one seemed to be able to give me a FREAKIN' STREET NAME to access the place!

I had to call my work because I left my contact person's phone number at my desk. Yeah, I'm smart. My side of the call went something like this:

"Hi, [co-worker]? It's [me]. I'm in [sketchy neighborhood], and I'm horribly lost, and I need [contact person]'s number. It's on a post-it on the left-hand side of my desk. Could you give it to me, please?"

A nice construction worker led me out of the derelict labyrinth and back to the closed entrance. Where I had started. Well, well, well, there was my contact person with the samples I needed. So the road beyond the "DEAD END" sign, with a fence labeled with some random contractor/construction company name, that was the access point.

GAAAAAHHHH!

So I got back to work to process my samples and said, "Ya know whom I blame for my [sketchy neighborhood] adventures? PETA! That's right! People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. If it weren't for them, maybe we wouldn't need to hide our animal research facilities in super-sketchy parts of town with NO SIGNS!"

I probably swore a bit in there, too.

Don't get me wrong. I generally support animal rights. I don't wear fur. I've been eating mostly vegetarian food. If I do eat meat, I try to go for meat from happy animals. I steer my bike around critters that cross my path, like snails, slugs, and the occasional mouse.

But, come on, animal research is kind of essential. It sucks, but what else can you do? We're trying to cure diseases here. There's only so much that cells in a dish can tell you. Eventually, you gotta move into higher organisms until you can do clinical trials in humans.

The animals live in carefully controlled conditions: temperature, light-dark cycles, food and water, clean bedding, etc. Researchers themselves don't exactly get these ideal living conditions, in comparison.

What I don't like is that sometimes there are militant PETA jerks who break into animal research facilities and let the animals free, thereby screwing over scientific progress and putting the animals in danger. And every once in a while, you hear various news stories about militant PETA jerks who harass--and sometimes even kill--animal researchers. Oh, the irony.

Plus, any time these guys take any sort of medicine, they conveniently forget that those drugs probably went through lots of animals before getting to the drugstore.

So yeah, I irrationally blame militant PETA jerks for the necessity to hide the animal research facility in the sketchiest corner of town with no signage.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Healing prayer service at Lakeside Presbyterian


Lakeside Presbyterian, San Francisco

At Lakeside Presbyterian on Friday evening I went to a healing, laying-on-of-hands prayer service for a parishioner whose breast cancer metastasized to her brain. It was a healing, restorative experience for me, too.

The Big Choir Meltdown of '09

A year ago, there was Major Drama in the chorus I was singing with. The outgoing Board of Directors made one unpopular decision that the Board elect (of which I was a part) supported and that the chorus at large did not support. A good ol'-fashioned flame war ensued over e-mail. There was much mudslinging and backstabbing. The chorus at large passed a vote of no-confidence to oust the Board elect. The chorus lost a large chunk of its membership. A lot of friendships ended over this, but the incident strengthened the friendships among the outgoing Board and the Board elect.

The Way Things Were

Before I got into the backstage, administrative dealings of the chorus, I was the soprano section leader. Yes, it is like herding cats. One of my sopranos had a lot of professional and semi-professional experience in the singing world. Every once in a while during rehearsal, she would blurt out a smart-ass one-liner about said singing world. It was a light way to break the tension of rehearsal with a funny insight into the industry. So over a year ago, during my last year with the chorus, she underwent treatment for breast cancer. Treatment was successful, and her hair grew back and everything. We thought she was in the clear.

Boobs For Brains

Then a couple weeks ago, we got word that the cancer was back, this time in her brain. After the service, it was apparent that she still had her sense of humor. She said that one of her old choral directors would joke that the airheaded sopranos had boobs for brains. Then she tossed around the idea of starting a blog entitled Boobs For Brains, about her fight against metastasized breast cancer. Yikes.

Arming Ourselves at Dinner

A few of us in the scorned ex-Board group got together for a classy dinner at the Olive Garden before the service. We were all still a little bitter and cautious about going back into the lions' den that was our old rehearsal space. But we agreed that we were going there to support our soprano friend and to support each other. Of course, it probably didn't hurt to have that round of cocktails at dinner, either.

The Service

We were handed programs at the door, and we walked into a candlelit sanctuary. The church was sparsely populated, maybe one-third full if everyone sat next to each other. We saw many, many familiar faces in the pews, people we haven't seen in over a year, for the most part. Pastor Kim Nelson led the service, assisted by Rev. J. D. Ward. Pastor Kim's wife Becky played the piano. There was also a cellist and a harpist.

Pastor Kim opened the service with the words, "Welcome, all." It quickly became clear to me that this healing could easily apply to the choral rift from last year. Immediately, Pastor Kim had us exchange the sign of peace. I think this is where a lot of the reconciliation happened with the old chorus members and me.

There were many readings and hymns centered around the theme of healing. You could tell that there were a lot of musicians in the congregation. Clean tone, good tuning, and impeccable final consonants graced every hymn.

Pastor Kim did something interesting with the Gospel, playing a DVD (!) for this particular reading from the Gospel of Matthew. It was a little hokey. And wouldn't Jesus have worn a yarmulke? I think so, but he didn't in this DVD.

At the laying-on-of-hands portion of the service, the family (our soprano, her husband, and their daughter) sat in front of the altar, and the rest of the congregation was invited up to form small group prayer circles around them. There was not a dry eye in the house.

We're Like a Family

At the reception, Pastor Kim presented the family with a very generous gift of almost $9,000, which is a huge help to them. Besides the medical bills, the husband had been laid off, and their house was just a few days away from foreclosure.

There were some really tasty flourless chocolate cookies and caramelly florentines, too.

Debriefing on the ride back home, one of us said that we're like a family. Something tears us apart and makes us hold huge grudges against each other. Then another tragedy brings us back together.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More on the ordination of women - Mary as the first priest

Natural light
Mary in St-Sulpice, Paris

Sunday at church (no, not in Paris), the music director managed to get me to sing the alto line of a soprano-alto duet, Ave Maria, by Josef Rheinberger. It's a really pretty piece, and I didn't screw up too badly. The music director also preached the homily on Sunday. I had never seen him preach, but I know he has an amazing brain full of church history, music history, and liturgical history. I really liked his homily about Mary as the first priest.

Here are a few key points that I remember:

1. Within Christianity, there's a range of how people deal with the end of Mary's time on Earth. Roman Catholics believe that Mary was assumed--body and soul--into heaven, and didn't necessarily die. Others believe that she did die, and was buried, and that a small chapel was built at her burial site.

2. "Ave" reverses "Eva." Remember when I wrote about Mary being the new Eve? Yeah, crazy, huh? Ave Maria, thank you for rescuing Eva's (Eve's) assist in the fall of Adam.

3. Mary was a smart cookie. When the angel Gabriel told her God would give her a baby, she had two responses. "Yes," and "Um, how?" She put her trust in God and also willed her intellect to understand God's plan, too. This is in line with the greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

4. Mary was the first priest. Priests today take food and drink (i.e., bread and wine) and consecrate it into the body and blood of Christ. Mary herself took food and drink and nourished the baby in her womb, the body and blood of Christ.

5. Mary sets a great example for us. She put her trust and intellect in God. She also shows us how to process the Eucharist, as nourishment to pass on to future generations.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good man satire, scoundrel missing the point


Re-imagining the Gospels, this time with 100% more sibling rivalry! (image credit: Neal Fox)

In this novel, Pullman presents his very thinly-veiled disdain for organized religion with a creative retelling of the familiar Gospels. Pullman splits Jesus Christ into twins: the generally good-to-a-fault Jesus, and the more complex, morally ambiguous, and ambitious Christ. Pullman's sources are the Gospels and the Epistles. In fact, according to the review on NPR, "Pullman says he hopes his book will send readers back to one of the other versions of this story: the Bible. He believes they might be surprised by some of the inconsistencies they find there."

Read some excerpts here [Guardian] and here [NPR]. The above picture links to a short parody distillation of Philip Pullman's latest novel, Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reviews the book mostly positively, praising Pullman's clear storytelling and clever presentation of the centuries-long battle between truth and truthiness in doctrinal authority. "Mark's gospel, in particular, presents a Jesus who insistently refuses to use his own miracles to prove his status, and a company of disciples who are chronically incapable of understanding Jesus's challenges. [The New Testament] seems to recognise the irony that the more you say about Jesus the more you risk getting it wrong."

Fr. Gerald O'Collins misses the point of Pullman's novel, however. Jesuit priest accuses Philip Pullman of waging war against Christianity [Guardian]. I guess the words "THIS IS A STORY" on the book jacket didn't fool Fr. O'Collins, who docks Pullman for distorting the historical Jesus. Fr. O'Collins also sees right through Pullman's unsubtle satire against organized religion and accuses Pullman of misusing the Gospel story to undermine Christianity. Thank you, Fr. Obvious, S.J.!

Pullman's latest novel is definitely a thought-provoker. He gives us a very clever retelling of the Gospels in modern, accessible language. For those of us, like me, who grew up hearing the same stories at church, year in and year out, this novel offers a fresh look and challenging perspective on familiar stories. While I thought some moments of his satire were as subtle as a sledgehammer, my favorite moments are the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Garden of Gethsemane. Of course, I wouldn't suggest the book to, say, my parents, but anyone who enjoyed Christopher Moore's Lamb would find Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ as its more dour, emo, little brother.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ordination of Women - It's all about Mary

Virgin Mary Santiago
Mary shrugs as if to say, "Women priests? Why the heck not?" (image credit: Fairlytall on Flickr)

Tobias Stanislas Haller best expressed the argument in favor of women priests here:
If God had wanted women to be priests and bishops,
He would have made a woman
the means of His Incarnation,
the agent of the first manifestation
of His Real Presence
in Body and Blood.

Oh, wait...

Fr. Tobias goes on in today's post to say that because Christ redeemed all of humanity in his incarnation as a human, gender should not be a barrier to ordination. Bravo, Fr. Tobias.

It's a great read for the eve of the Feast of the Assumption. You know, the one where some pope from back in the day said that although there's nothing in the bible about Mary going to heaven, we can assume that she did. So there ya go.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest blogger - my husband, on why Jews aren't generally for Jesus

My husband very elegantly fielded a question from his former roommate's friend's son. The question and my husband's reply are lightly edited for punctuation, spelling, and anonymity.

Question:
I guess the biggest question I have right now is why Judaism (and other religions) doesn't believe Jesus was the son of God? As my Mom mentioned I have started learning about different religions and studying the Bible (finished Genesis and Exodus). And I believe this is one of the main differences between Judaism and Christianity. Feel free to correct me if my understanding of it is not accurate. Appreciate your willingness to help answer some of these questions.

Answer:
The term "Son of God" can mean several things, depending on the tradition you are coming from. If you believe the term to mean that we are creations of God and are all his children, then Jesus was a child of God the same as you or me. I don't think that there will be any Jews who disagree with that. In Christian tradition, the term "Son of God" is used along with other honorifics such as "Son of Man," "The Christ," or "The Messiah." It is this meaning of "Son of God" that I assume you are asking about. Why do Jews not believe in Jesus as the Messiah?

The Messiah is a very old concept that has strong roots in Judaism as well as other early religions. Though you don't hear much about it in mainstream (reform, conservative, modern orthodox) Judaism today, the concept of the Messiah was very alive in the religiosity of Jews at the time of Jesus. There were many people claiming to be the Messiah that just didn't get enough followers for their messages to survive. Today they are thought of as false messiahs. At the time, there was already a long developed tradition of scriptural interpretation that led Jews to believe certain things about who the Messiah was and the promises from scripture that he was going to fulfill. I think that, at the time of Jesus, many Jews rejected him for two big reasons. One was that he was attacking the religious organizations of the day. They thought that the Messiah should be one to save them from Roman occupation and persecution, not attack the religion from within. Though he attacked much of the negative aspects of the Judaism of his day, the people wanted their Messiah to focus on the external threat, not the internal threat. The second reason he was rejected was because he did not fulfill the believed promises of bringing about the messianic era. He didn't bring peace to the world, bring eternal life to the inhabitants, destroy evil in the world, and rule over the peaceful earth. Christianity has dealt with this problem by claiming he has done these things spiritually (washing away sins from believers, giving eternal life in heaven to those who believe, brings peace to the flock) and that he will fulfill these promises physically when he returns.

The "Son of God" title in Christianity also has some distinct trinitarian overtones in that Jesus is God the Son (Trinity being that all three--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--are fully separate and fully the indivisible God. I can't really explain that one. It's supposed to be a contradiction. The church teaches that it is a sacred mystery.) This belief came to full fruition after Jesus had died and early Christians worked to understand who he was. There were centuries of fighting between Christians over this concept, but it is now basic, fully accepted Christianity. Another important concept that divided early Christians but is basic, fully accepted Christianity now is the concept of the humanity vs. divinity of Jesus. (The answer to this one is that Jesus is one entity, fully man and fully God. It is also taught as a sacred mystery. I can't really explain this one either.) This idea that Jesus was God does not work with Jewish teachings. In Jewish interpretations of scripture, the Messiah will be a special man, but just a man. For Jews, the idea that God would be man is unthinkable. God is God and man is man. We have a special relationship, but God would not come down as a man.

The reasons above are theological reasons for Jews to not believe in Jesus as "Son of God." I personally believe, however, that there are also a lot of cultural reasons. During the lifetime of Jesus, his followers thought of themselves as Jewish and an important debate was whether to teach his message to Jews only or everyone. They decided to teach outside to both Jews and Gentiles, but this argument lasted decades after his death. Most Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah during his lifetime, and many who thought themselves followers of Jesus rejected him after his death. It wasn't long before the early Christian church had more Gentile converts than Jewish converts. Consequently, the early church began to pull its identity away from the Jewish identity. After the Roman emperor converted to Christianity in the early fourth century, Christianity began to grow in power and for centuries after persecuted Jews for their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. Much of modern Jewish identity has been shaped by this persecution. Even though most modern Jews don't really believe in the concept of messiah from the scriptures and they don't care much about whether God would come down into a man, they do remember the centuries of persecution over this issue. Countless generations of our ancestors have been slaughtered because of their religious conviction and to convert to Christianity would feel like a rejection of their sacrifice. It is ingrained in Jews from a young age that, "You are Jewish; they are Christian. They believe in Jesus; you don't. They have killed us for a long time over this." Even when one doesn't care much about the theology, one doesn't easily forget this.

Anyway, I know this is long, but I hope it helps. Feel free to follow up with any questions you may have. I don't claim to have the authoritative answer to the question, but this is how I understand it.