Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thank you, Roger Ebert

I posted this the other night at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance. The only reason I didn't post it here is that there had already been a number of new threads that night.

Also at My Left Wing, Street Prophets, and Booman Tribune

I wasn't planning to try to write anything tonight, given that I'm tired from working overtime all week and am preparing to attend the consecration of our new bishop. But Roger Ebert has gone and made me admire him again. I suppose some background is in order...

Back in the year 2000, when the movie 102 Dalmatians was coming out, my big issue was dog rescue/humane education. Simpler times, remember? Bush had not yet taken office and made such a pig's ear of this country, so I wasn't into any sort of political activism at that point. But, being involved in a local animal rescue organization, I had become aware that a big reason dogs end up being surrendered by their owners is that the decision to add a pet to the family is often made too lightly. And with Disney's live-action Dalmatian movie coming out, people in the rescue community were bracing for a rash of "impulse adoptions" of the spotted dogs. Which would be followed, inevitably, some months later, by a rash of owner surrenders because "It just didn't work out."

I don't even recall how I got the idea, but at some point it occurred to me that Roger Ebert would probably be writing a review of the movie, so why not drop him a note asking him to address this issue when he did? So I found his e-mail address, wrote to him, and in less than an hour received a quick note back, which read "I'll see if it fits."

As it turns out, it did fit. And I'm pretty sure that I wrote to him and thanked him at that time. But I don't think I've ever put into words what that meant to me to have someone with such a large audience take my request seriously. That early positive experience of calling on someone who had a big enough "soapbox" to be heard and potentially make a difference is a significant event in my life story. And it was certainly on my mind as I became more involved in blogging.

About's easy to get burned out, isn't it? Or at least to have those days when you wonder, "What's the point?" or "Am I really making a difference?" Well, I don't imagine I'll ever be able to completely banish those rough times, but I'll tell you what helps keep them at bay.

*Really celebrating* the good stuff--especially those moments when we make a real human connection. Like the time, after the Washington Post article was published, Maryscott wrote:

One little old lady sitting at her kitchen table alone in Virginia stopped feeling so alone yesterday because of something I did; that is enough.

I remember reading those words, and thinking, "A-freaking-men!" Because, that is what it's all about, and we'd be wise not to let each other forget it.
The article that inspired this post is well worth reading.

Ebert: We spend too much time hiding illness

Originally, that article was going to be the focus of my post, but once I started writing, it turned into something else. And, almost seven years later, the "Thank you" was long overdue.

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Take Back the Blog

The Take Back the Blog blogswarm is today.

Clicking the logo will take you to the host page, but I'm including some of the basics below.

NEW: WHAT, EXACTLY, IS A BLOGSWARM? I cannot top this definition:
A "blogswarm" is when a bunch of people blog about the same crap ON PURPOSE! It is a premeditated thing, as opposed to the usual randomness that tends to rule the Internet. Order from chaos. Entropy. Call it whatever you want.
The goal is both to provide a convenient compilation of (undoubtedly excellent) content for readers' benefit and to make a show of strength and of organization within the blogosphere from bloggers with different perspectives towards common concerns.

If the term "blogswarm" does not appeal to you, that's ok! You can call it a "virtual march" or, if you contribute, anything you like!

NEW: HOW TO SUBMIT POSTS to the Take Back the Blog! Blogswarm. I have set up a new email address at:

solely to receive links for TBTB. If you don't have a blog, but want to contribute, email me and we will work something out. The "cut-off" time will be 7 PM on Saturday, April 28.
I'm off to the consecration now. Just me, and 2500 of my closest friends. Sigh...I *really* don't feel up to this, but I don't want to miss it either.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Riverbend leaving Iraq

New post by Riverbend, about the infamous wall, among other things. Including this:

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?
On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that it’s the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I've had since the age of four? Is there room for E.'s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.
Click here for the rest.

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Debate thread

Apparently, there's a debate tonight.

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Open Thread

So, what stories have caught your attention today?

Here are a couple of links I'd like to share before heading off to work...

Roger Ebert to make first public appearance since cancer surgery

Tell the story, turn chaos to Shalom, Presiding Bishop tells Communicators

(That's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who's coming to Columbus tomorrow.)

And here's a picture from Cute Overload, 'cause we can always use some cute animals to lift our spirits.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bill Moyers' Journal

Quick reminder that Bill Moyers' Journal is on tonight.

A new season of the series (which last aired in 1994) opens with a look at coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War by the mainstream media.
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McCain versus Stewart

Click here to wish Jessica a happy birthday.

This is worth checking out, especially if you missed it last night.

Jon Stewart Delivers Greatest Dem Performance in 6 Years

The video link is Quicktime--hopefully it will show up on YouTube or something as well.

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Happy Birthday, Jessica!

Happy birthday, Jessica. Hope it's a great one!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Are Rove's Days Numbered?

Low-Key Office Launches High-Profile Inquiry
By Tom Hamburger
The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday 24 April 2007

The Office of Special Counsel will investigate US attorney firings and other political activities led by Karl Rove.

Washington - Most of the time, an obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel confines itself to monitoring the activities of relatively low-level government employees, stepping in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in prohibited political activities.

But the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

Maybe not. This report, pointed out by TC in the comments, discusses the investigation into the potential investigator.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

VA approves Wiccan symbol for soldiers' graves

I just found this via The Wall (the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Bush Administration Agrees To Approve Wiccan Pentacle For Veteran Memorials

The Bush administration has conceded that Wiccans are entitled to have the pentacle, the symbol of their faith, inscribed on government-issued memorial markers for deceased veterans, Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced today.

The settlement agreement, filed today with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, brings to a successful conclusion a lawsuit Americans United brought against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in November.

The litigation charged that denying a pentacle to deceased Wiccan service personnel, while granting religious symbols to those of other traditions, violated the U.S. Constitution.

“This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation’s veterans,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It is a proud day for religious freedom in the United States.”

Continued Lynn, “Sadly, the refusal of the federal government to recognize the Wiccan pentacle seems to have been built on inexcusable bias, a foundation that has crumbled under the press of this litigation.”
See also this CBS News report, which included a picture of Sgt. Stewart's memorial plaque.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Bishop!

Originally posted at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance

(The Bishop was the title of a classic Monty Python sketch, and, in this household, anyway, it's hard to talk about a bishop without getting this in my head!)

A week from today, the Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal will be consecrated as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. I just found out yesterday that I have received a ticket and will be attending the ceremony. It's weird to think how long we have been anticipating a new bishop. Our previous bishop, the Rev. Herbert Thompson, Jr., retired in December or 2005, and died unexpectedly on a trip to Italy in August of 2006. But before he retired in 2005, the diocese had begun the process of selecting his successor, but that process was halted due to a moratorium on electing any new bishops. That moratorium was put in place (as I recall) in reaction to the response of some to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

I have not yet met our bishop-elect, but I've been learning a bit about him. Some sermons he gave as Dean of Religious Life at Princeton can be found here. I also know that he has written a book: Sacred Unions: A New Guide to Lifelong Commitment

I haven't read it yet, but I'm intrigued by this description

Sacred Unions is a book about true love. By true love—or romance—the author refers to sexual passion that deepens into the permanent union of two persons in heart, body, and mind. The book is therefore addressed to all true lovers: straight or gay, deep into the adventure of a shared life or just contemplating it, or emerging out of a failed attempt. Lifelong union, Breidenthal asserts, is of central importance in all circumstances; and it remains a viable option for all of us, no matter who we are or what our story is.
It occurs to me that there is something a bit...poetic, maybe, about this. The reason we had to wait so long for our new bishop in the first place, is that a moratorium was put in place because of the way some people reacted to Gene Robinson's election and consecration. Just now, I'm reminded of what Bishop Robinson said about the Holy Spirit in his sermon during last summer's General Convention.

It's that part of God which refuses to be contained and confined to the little boxes we create for God to live in--safely confined to the careful boundaries *we* set for the Holy Spirit.

The problem is, and the miracle is, and the gift is, God just won't stay put! And God won't let you or me stay put, content to believe what we've always believed, what we've always been taught, what we've always assumed. But change is not just something to be wished upon our enemies, but it is something God requires of us as well.

When the General Convention came to town last summer, I was working days and was thus unable to attend any of the actual convention, but made it to a couple of "off campus events" like the Integrity Eucharist where Gene Robinson gave the sermon I excerpted above and the U2Charist (see Bishop Michael Curry's sermon here.) I knew nothing about the candidates who were being considered for Presiding Bishop, but once Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected and I started to learn more about her, I was quite pleased. That worked out really well, you know? We got a great bishop, who just happens to also be the first woman to become Presiding Bishop of the national church, but, since I wasn't paying close attention *before* the election, I was spared any nailbiting anxiety/anticipation. And, as far as I can tell, something similar happened with the election of Thomas Breidenthal. I even went so far as to download the audio of a forum where all the candidates spoke, so I could learn a bit about them, but never got around to listening to it.

I wryly remarked to someone yesterday that elections seem to turn out better when I don't get emotionally invested in them until after the fact. Nah...I'm not really that superstitious. Maybe it was just the Holy Spirit, doing what the Holy Spirit does. And/or wise, strong people on the search committee, able to resist any pressure to go with a more conservative choice. However these things happen, I'm looking forward to hearing our bishop-elect speak at my church this evening.

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Gizmo, Whizbang, and Me

by Subway Serenade

I've learned a lot this week in my studies, and I'm going to try to relate it on a personal level without it sounding like a commercial. I have called my new gizmo the "Bliss-O-Matic" and there is no point in recommending it until such a purpose is realized. Yet this is a journey of self discovery and it seems fitting that I chart my progress.

During the past eight days, I've not been able to play the game as much as I would have liked, and I've been slowly trying to adjust my schedule so that I could have more time at it. I've been hooked up to the game controller for a total of two hours, and frankly it's kinda like using a HAM Radio to contact someone speaking another language.

I have never been good at things like Transcendental Meditation, because whenever I'd try to quiet my mind through the use of the mantra, it would be flooded with the most obscure thoughts. Just when I thought I was making progress at finding that inner stillness, I'd hear that small voice:

"Did you lock the door?" "Remember that day with your cousin when you were a kid?"


Geez, no wonder folks have to sit in caves for years just to try to turn the mind off long enough for the heart to provide any kind of insight. So the first thing I learned about playing the game was that watching and concentrating on the butterfly on the screen tended to be the mind distraction that I needed. I've learned to simply follow the butterfly as it moves. In this way I can let my heart guide my meditation as if it were my own private Guru, and in just a short time I was beginning to feel the subtle changes that begin when I 'follow my heart,' so to speak.

This week, I've been concentrating on what the inventor calls "Harmonic Inclusiveness." I've learned to follow the peaks on the graph and how to increase the peaks when they occur. It is said that as you increase the height of the peaks, you are opening yourself up, so that the same harmonic frequencies can enter from outside of yourself, creating a kind of vortex of concentric waves folding in on each other.

Yet probably the most profound thing that happened this week, was that as I was out doing my normal routines, I was slowly becoming aware of the peaks that I see on the screen, even when I'm not playing the game, and I can also feel myself trying to increase them.

This is what the inventor calls "Recursion" or "Self Referencing," and it will be the focus of my studies in the coming week.

One more thing: I typed this post while hooked up to the game and in spite of the movement of my hands and fingers, the program continued to display a 'clean' reading. I'm impressed.

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