Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Tomorrow night, ladies and gentlemen, connoisseurs and novices alike will arrive on my doorstep for the Second Annual Single Malt Tasting Party! I am getting really excited, because I think it's going to be a fantastic party - bigger than last year's. I have my bottle of the Scapa 12 all ready to go, a sweeter malt from the Isle of Orkney. I've confirmed bottles of the Dalmore 12 and the Cragganmore 12, and, ladies and gentlemen, I've even heard a rumor a rare bottle of the triple distilled Auchentoshan 21 yr might be making an appearance. The Bruichladdich 10 may also show up. Other bottles have RSVP'd, but have felt it was best not too announce their distilleries and years too early. Many will come: some will come for the scotch they know, love, and sometimes fear, some will come to learn, some will come for the company, and some will come to hear Buterbaugh try and pronouce a few of these names again. Today, I went out and bought fancy bottles of water and ridiculously expensive cheeses to serve up as complements. I also spent a lot of time on Rhapsody downloading that perfect assortment of tunes to be playing melodically in the background. Tomorrow, I will clean up the apartment and make it ready, transforming it from its humble beginnings into a haven for snobbery normally unseen this close to Howard St. Ladies and gentlemen, get your palettes ready, clear your sinuses, and get ready to remove those corks you've been having to guard from yourselves all week! Tomorrow is the night!
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I like both bourbon and scotch.
I like both tea and coffee.
I like both cream of wheat and oatmeal.
I like both bacon and sausage.
I like both pancakes and waffles.
I like both blondes and brunettes.
I like both grits with cheese and with butter.
I like both Coke and Pep....wait, that's going too far. I'm a Coke man.
Ok, and I've realized most of that list has to do with breakfast foods, in fact the whole list could make a good breakfast given the right situation. Ok, enough about breakfast. It'll come soon enough.
So, on to my American Idol predictions for tomorrow night.
For the boys, I think Kevin Covais and Will Makar will be voted off.
For the girls, I think Stevie Scott and Heather Cox will be gone.
For my favorites? Guys: Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry. Girls: Katharine McPhee and Mandisa. But, seriously, Becky O'Donahue is the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen, will you marry me? And Brenna Gethers is hilarious. If I could pick a third favorite it'd be her.
Now, who are my picks for the final six? Guys: Ace Young, Taylor Hicks, and Chris Daughtry. Girls: Paris Bennett, Lisa Tucker, and Katharine McPhee.
So, calling all American Idol junkies, what are YOUR final six predictions?
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Speaking of characters, his are a wonderful collection of anti-heroes (not quite to the extent with which Moorcock crafts his main characters, but still significant) and interesting foils. Their lives fuel the story and keep it going, especially for the first 100 pages before the main plot really takes off. And the bad guys are so well conceived, so evil, and yet, strangely likable for their ingenuity. That's hard to pull off. The main character, the eccentric yet amazingly genuine rogue scientist Isaac der Grimnebulin, is likable despite his flaws and the beauty of language with which Mieville describes his love relationship with his girlfriend Lin (who is of another race altogether not human, so Mieville tackling some social issues as well in a very sci-fi sort of way) is brutal, yet graceful. These are real characters.
The basic story line goes something like this: a half-man, half-bird person who has committed a major crime in his culture has had his wings chopped off as punishment, condemning him to a life on the ground. He comes to Grimnebulin seeking a way to make him fly again. In the course of the research, an unexpected result is yielded which inadvertanly wreaks havoc on the city. Flight research goes on the back burner while the characters attempt, almost futilely, to clean up the mess they accidentally created. Just wait to you read it; I cannot do it justice here.
Syntax and diction are both quite unique and unforgettable. I had to work at some the British colloquialisms present, but as I am a bit of an anglophile, it wasn't too difficult. The vocabulary he employs is direct, gory, and harsh, all adding to the unpleasant ambiance of the city. Some may find some scenes too sanguinary, but it didn't bother me.
The only glitches I perceived with the novel is that it does take a little bit of time to really get going, but I am a patient reader, so that did not bother me and I relished the character development. Towards the end there is a bit of a deus ex machina that was annoying and cheapened the scene, but as some of the same characters appear in the next of Mieville's New Crobuzon stories (The Scar), I am hoping this will be somewhat explained or the vague character who effected the deus ex machina will be more fleshed out. All said and done though, this was a fun read that kept me interested to the last page and I cannot wait to dig into more of Mieville's work. The Scar awaits on my bedside table as I write this.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
This should not be a newsflash, but maybe the single ladies of Chicago are simply behind the times. So, in the interest of humanitarian aid, I am sending out this free piece of hidden wisdom.
The scene in Duffy's bar on Saturday night began normally enough. I met two other friends there on purpose and another friend by happenstance. We sat on one side of a long table and the other side was empty. Three young ladies walk up and one, the cute one, asks me if anyone is sitting there. I say, be my guest. Fast forward five minutes and we are chatting pleasantly, even a bit flirtatiously. She's from Georgia, relatively new in the city, definitely interesting, and has a killer smile. They she asks the dreaded question.
"So, what do you do?"
I've tried to come up with so many ways to answer that question, but they all end up making me feel slimy unless I just come right out and say it. "I'm studying theology." In an unusual deviation from the norm she gets a funny, strange look on her face and says inquisitively, "Geology?" I said, "Well, some people might find them somewhat the same, but no, theology."
The conversation went on from there the same way they all do - predictably. There is actually three ways they go, all bad. But, at this point, it's like a choose your own adventure. You can try and guess which way this one will go. It's fun, in a sad sort of way.
Option #1 - Feigned interest followed by a quick exit. In this example, the woman will say, "Oh really? That's interesting. What are you gonna do with that? Be, like, a pastor?" She will then quickly find some reason to leave.
Option #2 - A spiritual autobiography. Followed by a quick exit, stage left.
Option #3 - A guilt-ridden confession, followed by how long it has been since they went to church. Followed by a quick exit.
Now, in the current example, I got a mixture of #2 and #3. She said she was raised United Methodist, but quickly left that because "I have a gay brother, and they don't like gays, and oh, can I just tell you, that's what I like about Episcopalians, that they like gays. I don't know anything else about them but that, but I like that." She then alerted me to the fact that if she were going to go to church, that she would go to a Unitarian Church. I am bored at this point and somewhat disappointed. After all, she's attractive, talking to me, and somewhat interesting. Then she continues, "I'm a Deist. Do you know what that is?" I try to be witty and say, "Yes, you believe in watches, right?" She didn't get it or didn't think it was funny. Then she says, "Oh, my friend here is Episcopalian, she should sit here and talk to you." - as if I'm actually sitting in a confessional booth waiting to absolve young women of their guilt, instead of a bar wanting to meet young women who I might like to date.
And just like that, I've been passed off to the friend while she goes and chats up some guy wearing a seersucker jacket in the middle of winter. I make nice with the friend, listen to her guilt ridden confession about why she hasn't been to an Episcopal Church yet since she moved here, help her figure out St. James' Cathedral is the closest church to where she lives that suits her professed style, and make my own exit in a polite and not too hurried manner.
Well, as if as soon as the words, "So, what do you do?" popped out of cutie's mouth, I didn't know what was going to happen, but still, it sucks a little bit each time. But at least I did my duty to the Lord, right? I got a soul connected to a church. That's my business, whether it's the work week or the weekend, whether in church or in a bar. One of these days though, I'd like to get a soul connected to me.
But, I'm not allowed to try that when I'm at my best. Cause I'm at my best when I'm leading a group, in church, maybe preaching, maybe teaching, but definitely working the vineyard of the Lord. And there's a strict no dating policy in that office, at least at the local branch. And I'm just not comfortable enough yet with saying to a woman, "I like you. I would like to date you. Would you consider going to St. Jimmy's-by-the-Pond so this is not illegal?" So I have to try it elsewhere, where other guys are at their best and I'm in a some what guarded position to begin with.
So, single ladies of Tampa - let's avoid this whole issue until at least the first date. Let's get past initial contact before we ask, "So, what do you do?" Cause, I'm about this close to just saying, "I'm in fire insurance."
Saturday, February 18, 2006
This morning, the alley is calm with no sign of last night's brouhaha.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
All that said, I have thought Simon Cowell has made unusually harsh and unnecessarily mean comments so far this season. He has targeted contestants for things that have nothing to do with their singing ability, most notably weight and physical appearence. And he has been unrelenting, likely all in the name of ratings (i.e. stirring up controversy) and in what he thinks people like to see. Well, tonight, on the final Hollywood night, an unusual turn of events unfolded.
A contestant who was overweight walked into the judging room; Simon had previously remarked after this contestant originally auditioned that they would need a bigger stage this year if she got through. However, tonight, when she walked in, she spoke first. She said that there were a lot of people out there who want her to say a lot of things to Simon Cowell tonight, but she was only going to say one thing. She said that she was angered and hurt by him, and that she did cry, but that she forgave him for what he did. She went on to say that if Jesus Christ could die for the sins of the whole world, then she could extend to him, even if he had not apologized, some measure of that same grace, because grace comes even if you don't say you're sorry. Randy quietly said, "Amen."
Simon replied that he felt humbled and about as big as an ant. He apologized and embraced the contestant. I don't know what Cowell's religious proclivities are, but I hope tonight he felt the grace that was extended to him in the name of Jesus Christ and I hope it inspires him to judge in the future only what he is called to judge: singing talent.
Monday, February 13, 2006
I chatted tonight with a friend who said he didn't care for the American TV coverage of the games. He comes from close to the Canadian border and used to watch them on the Canadian national television channel, where, he said, there is little commentating, no stories, and all action. Now, I don't mind the short stories about the competitors cause I don't know that much about these athletes otherwise.
What does irritate the dickens out of me though is the commentating. You get lines like, "This performance isn't up to par, it isn't perfection tonight. They're really taking this tenatively." I get frustrated with that a lot. These athletes are the top competitors in the world at the highest level of athletic achievement. Period. I want to see commentators who make these sorts of comments get out there and show me perfection. Nothing less will do. Until they do that, shut up.
I also caught myself off guard tonight as I was moved to tears by the performance of Tatyana Totmiyanina and Maxim Marinin from Russia in the couples figure skating. Apparently, the last time this pair competed, she was dropped from a lift onto her head, sufferred a severe concussion and was obviously eliminated from the tournament. They came back though and won the gold tonight. At the end of the skate, he got down on one knee and kissed Tatyana's hand, thanking her for sticking with him and trusting him again. That's courage. That's loyalty. That's the indomitable spirit of the Olympics.
The next pair to skate was China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao. Early in the skate though, Zhang Dan hard on her knee after attempting an apparently near impossible spin move. After some time, she managed to go back out and finish the skate with her partner to win the Silver. That's courage. That's loyalty. That's the indomitable spirit of the Olympics. So, it is not perfection. They fell. But it's amazing and no one can say otherwise. I'd rather watch the whole show minus any commentary. Performances speak for themselves. Go get 'em Olympians!
Friday, February 10, 2006
But, my mp3 playerwas on random and the next track to play was some monks chanting plainsong, which was way too much like work, so I had to wrap it up.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
For Christmas, I received from various family members some liturgical vestments I'd be needing for Field Ed and future ministry - specifically an alb, an amice, and a cincture. The alb took a little longer to make as it had to be special ordered and so had not arrived in time for Christmas morning. Therefore, my mother brought it to me when she came this past weekend. I had previously asked my field ed supervisor if she would bless them once they all arrived and then I could begin using them. She responded, as I knew she would, "That's one view. Another view is that the vestments become blessed in the course of sacred use." I said, "Well, yes. Will you bless them anyway?" She laughed and agreed. So today, at the 10am Eucharist, she made some very kind introductory remarks after the Peace about how St. Luke's is helping to prepare me for ministry and that this morning they have the unique opportunity to bless my new vestments which "would clothe [me] in ministry for many years to come." (Before the service, as I laid them out on a spare credence table, the Altar Guild lady smiled knowlingly and said, "Blessing your new vestments today?" God bless Altar Guild members! They know everything!) So, it was a very nice little blessing ceremony, adapted out of the Manual for Priests.
Towards evening, I had a chance to relax a bit and spend some time in a book my mother left for me as a surprise when she visited. She hid it actually, (some what of a family custom - hiding gifts or notes upon departure) under my pillow where I did not discover it until two days after she was gone! It was a book I had been going on and on about once I saw it in a Hallmark store in Fort Myers over winter break. I am a fan of such books of local history and this one was a real gem: Fort Myers in Vintage Postcards. A majority of the scenes from the book are places I have been to, but from such a different time, it is a real treat for this history nut to see them. Some of them are of old hangout spots of mine and my friends: Hendry Street, Punta Rassa (from which many a fishing expedition was launched), and of course, McGregor Blvd. over the ages. Dad has a book of similar pictoral significance all about Lee County which is really neat to look at, especially since one of the founding families featured in the books photos are the relatives of one of his business partners!
As I was enjoying this book, I realized I was still hungry after dinner, and rather than snack on cookies or the like I figured I'd dive into another treat my mother brought up to me: tangerines from my uncle's house! Now, I grew up eating these particular tangerines off this particular tree from when my grandmother still lived in the Coronado house and have fond memories of many an afternoon snack after a game of hide and go seek in the nearby forest. Given my nostalgic mood, I would almost say that what I am about to write can be chalked up to that. Almost. Tangerines from my grandmother's, now uncle's, tree taste better. They taste sweeter, juicier, and have a slightly different texture than any others I've ever had, store bought or hand picked alike. I don't know what it is about them, but they are just delicious. I actually had two tonight, but I must do a better job of conserving them! So, here's a loud shout out of thank you to Uncle Al for sending them and Cousin Sarah for picking them!
And now for the good news. Several years ago, when I was a senior in college, I sat with one of my fraternity brothers in the "final interview" room during fraternity rush week. Brotherhood interviews were not the most fun, but by far the most important rush week event. A young man entered who looked somewhat less timid than others I'd seen that day. As Rob sat down he seemed very comfortable. After a few questions, either David or I asked, "So, Rob, what do you hope to do after graduation?" It's always good to get a feel for a person's ambitions and hopes. Rob said, "I am considering the Episcopal priesthood." David shot me a glance and an almost hidden smile. I did my best not to smile myself and said to this young man, "Thank you. I don;t have anything else I need to ask." Well, several years later now Rob is graduating after a distinguished and honorable career in the fraternity. He wrote to me today to give me the good news that Bishop Curry this afternoon accepted him for Postulancy in the Diocese of North Carolina and that he is indeed going to seminary! Congratulations to you, Rob. Many blessings!
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Sermon - Feast of the Presentation, transferred, February 5, 2006, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Evanston, IL.
And thanks for the comments on the previous post. That's good stuff. I'll be sure to tell my mother hello from Mr. Beal. To answer your questions Beal, no I do not think that mining previous sermons for nuggets of wisdom is a bad idea, nor is re-telling an anecdotal story as a way to get into a sermon, so long as they do justice to the intersections of congregation, text, time, location, and circumstances as Baruch Grazer suggests. Fr. Bob's stories about the Mullah Nazrudin preached well in a variety of circumstances and he always went on from there to say something new to that congregation at that time. His life circumstances also really influenced his preaching more than any other preacher I've heard and it worked for him. His constant preaching about his father's process of dying and eventual death, and the emotion Bob felt about that in the aftermath was some of the most heartfelt preaching I've ever heard, and it carried over from week to week to week. Likewise for his sister's death. Every year at the anniversary of her death, he preached about her, but it was never the same sermon, just the same event. It would have been inauthentic of him to try and do otherwise in either circumstance. I don't feel inclined to re-invent the wheen each time, but I do feel inclined to preach an authentic, new sermon. And certainly old, but relevant notes are always helpful. Micah also mentions something useful, sermons can and do rot, as in the example he provided. Can't think of an example of when that's happened to me yet, but I've no doubt it will. I've only preached a few sermons, relatively speaking, and Micah is the world's greatest Anglican preacher. Seriously, you type that into Google or something and his blog comes up first. Or at least it used to.
Monday, February 06, 2006
After I preached the sermon (which I felt went very well and will let you know when it is available online to download as an mp3) she asked me a good question, "Now, when you get down to St. Mark's and these lections comes up again, if you're scheduled to preach, will you just pull this sermon out of a file and give it again?"
My answer to that is no, but the question is a good one and bears some explanation. When I told her I would not do that, she said, "But they've not heard it before. It's not like you'd be repeating a sermon to the same congregation." That is true, and in all likelihood, I could probably get away with it. But I want to take my cue, in part, from St. Paul here. He could have written one letter and sent it to all the churches, saying what he needed to say, sermonizing, theologizing, philosophising, and edifying at length. But, for Paul, and for the preacher, I don't think that's all there is to it. Paul wrote individual letters to individual congregations. I believe strongly that the Holy Spirit can influence and direct the sermon preparation process, if the preacher so prays and is so willing. I also believe the preacher has a relationship, like Paul, with the congregation and the setting to bear in mind. While a generic sermon might suffice, the emotional and spiritual connection will not be as strong or as immanent. Because I believe the Holy Spirit guides me as I prepare my sermons, I believe that the finished product, so to speak, is what the Spirit would have that particular congregation hear on that particular day in response to those particular readings and circumstances from my particular lips. In other words, it is an un-repeatable theological event. While others can read it later or listen to it on audio file later, the theological event aspect for that particular congregation of the sermon is passed and so the experience will be different. So, were I to drag an old sermon out of a file and re-preach it to a different congregation in a different parish at a different time following a different set of circumstances, it might make sense, it might move someone, it might even be regarded as an excellent sermon, but, for me, it would be like dragging out a love letter long sent to someone else, re-writing it word for word and sending it to a new flame. It would be used emotion and I believe would be a disservice to the new recipient. While the new recipient of the love letter might be overjoyed (or revolted), moved to tears of excitement (or agony), and be waiting for the next opportunity to tell me how much it meant (or didn't mean) to them, it would still be a cheapened experience. If and when they discovered the secret, it would no doubt make them feel cheapened. It might evoke emotions and questions like, "Wasn't I good enough to get my own love letter?" So too, then, with the sermon; for essentially, a sermon is a love letter from the preacher and from God to the congregation. While a love letter or a sermon might have similar themes or even repeated words or phrases ("I love you" comes to mind for both circumstances), I wouldn't copy the whole thing and send it again.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The main reason I'm frustrated this week is I got into an argument with a friend of mine that was not entirely resolved. Essentially, I think it's a case of two separate worlds colliding. It's not that we don't see each other's points so much as it is we operate from two different premises. While I tried to get them to understand the ground from which I stood, they tried to convince me that was inappropriate ground on which to stand and that I should change my ways. In some regards, about certain things, they were right. There are some things about myself I need to change and work on and there are others that are just a part of who I am. Part of the argument centered on my status as a privileged person and how that colors the way people hear what I say quite often. I come from the top of just about every power spectrum out there. I'm white. I'm male. I'm heterosexual. I'm physically in good shape. I come from a financially secure background. I have an excellent education, and come June, I will be more educated (degree-wise) than about 95% of the population. I'm statistically more intelligent than most people I meet. These are the facts of my life and I cannot change them. I'm not black, and so I cannot ever know what that kind of racial prejudice is like. I'm not gay and consequently have never had to deal with someone who thought I was an abomination to God. I'm not poor and have never had to deal with economic oppression. I'm not fat and have never been looked down upon because of my weight. I'm not uneducated or of below average intelligence and so have never had to deal with being looked down upon in those regards. But just because these are not the realities of my life does not mean that I cannot sympathize and fight against injustice. And I have to do so in my own way, myself ackowledging that I do so from a privileged position and have others do the same. To do anything else would be inauthentic. And I'm, once again, wearied by having to preface everything I say with, "I know I can only say this because of X factor," or apologize for the realities of my life. I feel like I'm in a place that puts such a high value on championing the downtrodden and oppressed, but when I try to join in, I get dirty looks as if to say, "your kind isn't welcome here. You're part of the problem."
So, it's been frustrating.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
I really enjoyed the show, and more than anything, enjoyed watching live theater again. I really miss that, having gone to every show the theater department put on in undergrad (and acting in several of those). It's somewhat frustrating to live now in a city with such great theater but to not be able to ever afford to go. Having never seen an opera before, I was very excited. I was also somewhat intimidated because I worried I might not know what was going on or be able to appreciate it. But neither happened to be the case. The lyrics were translated for you on a little screen at the top of the stage, but you could get the story even without them. The voices were incredible, and not a mic to be had. The set design and costume design were stunning, and the grand scale of it all was impressive. I am glad that I can now say I went to an opera while in Chicago and hope that I might get to go again while I remain here these last few months.