Monday, June 30, 2008

Meme Weaver

I got memed some time ago by Al Hsu. Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Just to mix it up, I'll add three lies about myself. The first person to get all three lies right gets a free copy of Deliver Us from Me-Ville.

Seven Facts and Three Lies
1. I'm left-handed.
2. I'm right-handed.
3. I once met music legend Little Richard.
4. I once met music legend Grace Slick.
5. I own every season of 24 currently available on DVD.
6. I own every season of the U.S. version of The Office currently available on DVD.
7. I own four saxophones.
8. I own two guitars.
9. I own one piano.
10. I drive a Hyundai.

I'll meme Heather, Dan, Daphne, Jenn, Tony, Becky and Kami.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reunited and It Feels So Weird

There will come a day when I will be forty. I accept this. What I'm finding harder to accept is the sheer span of time I've been an adult. That reality came into stark relief this past weekend, when I attended my twenty-year high school reunion. The last time I was a child I was in high school, and I've now been an adult for longer than I was a child. I cannot seem to accept this.

Anyway, at my reunion I was, not surprisingly, reunited with lots of childhood friends of varying degrees of intensity. The first few people I encountered, as a matter of fact, I had no memory of whatsoever. I then helped my friend check people in to the evening event; he knew everyone while I knew nearly no one.

That meant that this weekend was largely a blank slate. The folks I remembered I rediscovered; the folks I couldn't remember I got to know. All of the insecurities I carried with me throughout high school were still there--I'm not going to lie to you--but they were mitigated by this freeing notion that I am not the person I once was, and these others are not the people they once were.

I suppose, then, that "reunion" is a bit of a misnomer. "Reacquaintance" is closer to the truth. And I can honestly say, it was nice to make my childhood friends' reacquaintance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spam of the Day: We Deliver!

Today's spam of the day comes from a source I supposedly once signed up for; I think some Christian bought an e-mail list from some other Christian, and so on, and so on, and so on. Which leads me to the following subject line:

Want to eat pizza with LIVING SACRIFICE?



Which leads me to the question of the day: What toppings would you never want added to your pizza--even if they were on special?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back Hair

We're taking care of our pastor's two cats while his family is away. We have two of our own, so we're accustomed to feline peculiarities, but one of these two cats does something I'd never seen before. When you bend at the waist--to pick something up off the floor, to pet the other cat, to see whether you can touch your toes yet--the cat walks on to your back.

It's freaky at first, having a cat on your back. Four paws with claws, each carrying the cat's full weight in turn, circumnavigate your spine. Loud purrs surround your head. The chin of a cat pushes against your head and shoulders, marking territory. I couldn't move, because if I did the cat might fall to the floor or dig in its claws out of self-preservation. But I couldn't stay still either, because quite frankly, I still can't touch my toes yet.

I was reminded of a cartoon I saw as a kid. A guard dog adopts an abandoned kitten. The guard dog is worldly wise and sees all the ways a kitten could get itself into trouble, and so the guard dog does what it does best: it guards the kitten.

The kitten, by contrast, is hopelessly naive, freely exploring the construction site it now inhabits, happily embracing the mortal enemy that has adopted it. But naive as the kitten is, it's totally safe, because that dog has fallen hopelessly in love with it.

The moment I'm reminded of takes place twice in the cartoon: the kitten climbs onto the back of the guard dog and nestles in, kneading the dog's back with its paws and claws. The dog cringes and weeps throughout the process. Cat scratches aren't pleasant regardless of how adorable one finds the kitten. But the nestling in eventually ends; the kitten falls asleep and the dog falls in love with its adopted child.

I'm like that dog. I fell in love with that cat while it took possession of my back. So if you run into me today and are shocked by the sheer volume of cat hair collected on the back of my shirt, here's my request: just deal with it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Get into Me-Ville Free

Quick update on my new book:

My publisher has posted the introduction and first chapter of Deliver Us from Me-Ville on its website. There you can read about the scandal of the spilled coffee on the church carpet, my prideful portrayal of the apostle Peter, my celebrity-studded wedding to my niece, and oh yeah, begin the journey from the kingdom of self to the kingdom of God.

If you've read the book, I'd love to hear what you have to say about it. Feel free to post comments here, or join the Deliver Us from Me-Ville Facebook group and post comments or questions on the wall or in the discussion forums.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stupid Political Analysis Tricks

I have a new working theory, which came to me in an epiphany while, as is usually the case, I was watching TV. Here goes:


Barack Obama's success is owed in part to David Letterman.

Letterman's regular pillorying of President Bush in the segment "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" evoked in the American cultural memory a longing for a great orator, someone whose words could capture the significance of a moment, add meaning to it and rally people around a vision for the way forward. Phrases such as "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," even Reagan moments such as "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" reminded us that great moments call for great presidential speeches, and that it's been at least twenty years (and I would argue that it's been at least forty years) since a president has provided that for us.

There have been important speeches, of course, from the aftermath of 9/11 to the concession of Al Gore in December 2000 to some of Bill Clinton's state of the union addresses. Some of those speeches have been pretty good even; I remember watching Chris Matthews, himself a former presidential speechwriter, fight back tears during the Gore concession speech. But the days of momentous American oration ended, so far as I'm concerned, in 1968 with the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, which incidentally was before I was born, and I'm no spring chicken. So for millions of us, great speeches have been effectively prehistoric.

Until now. Obama is talked about for a few key things: his ethnicity, his experience, his associations, his oration. Talk of his ethnicity is always equivocal; it shouldn't matter in America. Talk of his experience has been handily countered with talk of the need for change. Talk of his associations is tricky for any of Obama's critics, since they likely have more and less savory associations by virtue of being in the business longer. That leaves his speaking skills, which leaves everyone in awe. I think he leaves everyone in awe in part because he's so dang good at it, but in part because we've been reminded for eight years by David Letterman that once upon a time presidential speeches--really, speeches of any kind whatsoever--could be worth memorizing, studying, discussing, living into.

I'm sure that David Letterman will find ways to mock and tease an Obama presidency, but he will surely have to retire the segment "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches." It won't be funny anymore, it'll only be great.

Both Inspiration and Cautionary Tale: Excerpts from Middling

What follows is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 edition of Middling, my quarterly newsletter on music, books, work, and getting older. I'...