- Read the entire 2013 output.
- People's choice awards ( most "liked" on PageFace ), a tie:
- Most Techie: what breakfast sounds like, written while listening in a cafe
- Most Poetic: give them your tears
- Most Theopoetic: christian men and christian women
i was eating dinner last night at a restaurant which is frequented by people dining with their entire families, so there were lots of kids running around, lots of moms and dads have the typical kinds of battles with their kids. i heard something which really made my ears crazy.
"hey buddy, this is daddy's friend mr. yadda. mr. yadda works in the town where your mommy grew up. mr. yadda handles millions of dollars worth of merchandise every day. that is a lot. pretty impressive huh buddy."
buddy now knows there are two important things to learn about people.
friends, people i admire, who are bravely wondering about what makes church good here in the 21st century, often say something like, "i am done hanging out with the people deconstructing their faith, i need to be connected to constructive or re-constructive voices."
i have two problems with this
first, just because YOU are done, why does that mean everyone else needs to be done. give them the same permission that you wished you could have received, to question the unquestionable for as long as it takes.
second, stop saying "deconstruction"
now i flunked out of both high school and college, so i could very well be wrong about this. i certainly do not claim to understand derrida. i could barely make it into "Of Grammatology" before my head exploded
as i understand it, if you can "re-construct" your ideas after some scholarship and analysis, the thing you did just before that, was NOT deconstruction.
examining a system until you have identified the the component parts, and diagnosed which ones are not working and need replacement, is not deconstruction, that is just modern scholarship. we knew how to do that before derrida. it is still useful, but it is not deconstruction.
deconstruction has something to do with making invisible things visible, yes, but that is just the first part of a deconstructive gesture.
my limited understanding of the word "deconstruction" is that it pertains to an activity that has little to do with understanding the true inner meaning, or of stripping away the old baggage. deconstruction seems to me to be, if anything, a move away from the "inner truth quest ", even a move away from the idea of inner truth. a deconstructive gesture can even be intentionally false, if need be. it is performance art which speaks untruth if needed, leaving an imprint on existence ... truth itself is now stamped on reality, and visible in the negative space.
deconstruction does not happen outside the text, 40,000 feet above, where all context is in view. deconstruction eliminates the boundaries between ourselves and text, and places us in the middle of the text, along with the verbs and nouns, to be read and interpreted.
i don't know exactly what deconstruction is, something about artfully, playfully, outlining hidden monsters of complexity and paradox, but never with the intent of resolving them, but rather with the intent of setting them free to wreak havoc.
to the extent that i do understand deconstruction, a fully deconstructed christianity would be an offensive, personal, radical, messy, disaster. the next step after deconstruction would be a party, or a riot, but not a careful reconstruction with all the good parts cleaned up and functioning properly, and new gears and knobs connecting them.
i say this not because i want to claim a higher understanding of deconstruction, but because i think the way forward is to always have space for the trickseter, offensive, crazy thing that deconstruction is, so i want to rescue the word as from the ghetto of things that wise people should "get over".
Deconstruction is love, the love of something unforseeable, unforegraspable, something to come, absolutely, something undeconstructible and impossible, something nameless. -- Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jaques Derrida, John D. Caputo and and Jaques Derrida
At the top of the the Canyon Road art gallery climb in Santa Fe is a tea house. There are many kinds of tea. It is a great place to stop and rest, or to sit and write. There are many kinds of tea, a whole lot of tea, some of it very good. None of this matters.
What matters is the oatmeal. I know what you are thinking, "Oatmeal, something which brown sugar and butter makes barely palatable, how could that matter?" You speak from ignorance of the heavenlies, and so I forgive you. This is a food to make you weep for the beauty of life which you could never see until you ate the oatmeal and now love and joy are possible in ways previously unimagined.
I have been making this for family and friends for a couple of years, and it is mindblowingly good. Whenever I need to make it, I just go the tea house web site and there is the recipe and I cook it and we are all happy. Except it appears that the tea house is under new ownership and they no longer have the recipe on their web site.
No problem, everything on the internet is archived forever at the Internet Wayback Machine, right? Wrong! Apparently sometimes important things, like the recipe for the breakfast of the gods, are not archived. Fortunately google still had the old page cached, and so I am re-posting it here because this is the kind of thing which cannot be allowed to be forgotten. There is some work involved, if you are lazy or in a hurry, some shortcuts can be taken and it sitll turns out great. The black rice and wheat berries can be hard to find but Whole Foods seems to always have them.
Rinse all grains (separately) under cold water, and drain. Soak the rice and wheat berries overnight (they can soak together). Be sure the water level is a few inches above the grains so they remain covered. The oats need to soak two hours before cooking.
Be sure to soak all of the grains regardless of what elevation you live at.
Place the soaked rice and wheat berries in a pot and add enough water to cover the grains by about 2 inches. Cook at a low simmer for 45-60 minutes. At the same time in a separate pot cook the oats again adding water to cover the grains by about 2 inches. Cook on a low simmer for 30 minutes.
After everything is cooked and it’s still warm, add the oats to the rice and wheat berries. If you want you can let it cool at this point and even freeze it.
If eating now, then you add ... The Whatnot
Mix brown sugar and butter into the warm grains (or adjust the amount to desired sweetness).
Add maple syrup to 1 cup heavy cream (you can also use a non-dairy substitute for the cream), mix well.
When the oatmeal is served pour sweetened cream some over the warm cereal. Don't skimp, you will just come back and pour more if you do.
At the tea house, this is served with bananas and berries, but you can top with any available fresh fruits, or as Dionne grew up eating it, you can top it with lardons for a sweet and savory combination.
Beat the rest of the heavy cream until firm and top each bowl with a dollop.
Makes 6 servings
... and here is apparently Dionne herself at the Santa Fe farmer's market, showing you how it is done.
this post is skipable if you don't care about petty squabbling among protestant christians about who gets to be the cool hip thing that is happening now who has the way forward.
once upon a time a few people, with some access to power, became almost accidentally branded as "emergent" christians. emergent sort of meant something new, something natural, something surprising. these people cared about finding a faithful and beautiful faith, and not so much about the word. to the extent that the word made it possible for people to search for and find this kind of faith, they were happy to be called "emergent"
once upon a time, people who have been trying to do things which are new and different for decades and decades got pissed off at the emergent people. why did they get all the press? where was their blood, their broken bones, their long suffering?
once upon a time, the people who know exactly what christianity is, who spend all their time defending christianity against new ideas, because all new ideas are really evil in disguise, noticed "emergent". these people had access to more power and more money than the people who became branded as "emergent". as a result, it became advantageous to trash "emergent" christianity. money and influence became available to you if you just threw emergent under the bus.
so it became very unfashionable to be emergent. you have people from two different directions claiming that anything under the "emergent" banner is automatically not interesting.
recently there is this new word, "convergence", and it seems like people are spinning in circles in excitement about how great this new word is.
i am trying to not say anything bad about this, because if that word helps people find a way of faithful living which is generous and good, hallelujah.
i am going to say this. i don't think "convergence" is a particularly great word. it implies a center, a place where jesus really is, and i think that idea is the opposite of what was beautiful about "emergence". which suggested a series of non-centered outbreaks which might have a common center deep at the roots, but would necessarily disburse and distribute once they hit the real world. this distinction is why i prefer the unfashionable label of "emergent" to this shiny new "convergence" thing.
[ Postscript: I really like Anthony's different spin on this same topic of the power of labels, it is mentioned in the comments, so I thought I would include the link ]
This post is part of a series on Perfect Films, please read the original post if you wonder what I mean by "perfect".
I am looking at my list of possible perfect movies and I am beginning to feel more afraid about sharing them. So today I pulled one off the list which felt safe. The Shawshank Redmeption is a film which I missed when it first came out, but since then I have watched and re-watched and re-re-watched.
I am particularly happy with the ending of this film, which wonderfully finishes the story and starts a new one, but without saying much, and without making you wish the movie would keep going. I don't really have much else to say because I am pretty sure everyone has seen this one.
This post is part of a series on Perfect Films, please read the original post if you wonder what I mean by "perfect".
Waking Ned Devine,a glorious little film about people in a town in Ireland trying to figuring out what to do when the death of Ned Devine leaves them holding a winning lottery ticket. It's a sweet comedy, a little bit of farce, a little bit of slapstick, a little romance, a little larceny. Loads of lovable quirky characters, fun story, cheering for the little guy and a very pleasing ending.
I think my favorite part of this film is the genuine affection that the people in this town have for each other. I would love to live in a world where we cared for each other that much.
This post is part of a series on Perfect Films, please read the original post if you wonder what I mean by "perfect".
Today we visit the perfect western. Silverado. OK, there are probably many perfect westerns, because so many of them were made, they had to get it right a time or two. When I first thought of the list of perfect movies, this was one of the few which instantly popped into my head.
It starts with the west itself as a character, and then you slowly meet the various people that you are going to be riding with. Even with all our years of iconization of the old west, each character you meet seems to be a newer even purer distillation of someone familiar. By the time the whole gang is together, you are ready to ride with this gang from here til past the sunset.
It has great actors. It has a a huge classic sounding score which, as I write this, is playing in my head. It has humor, superhero good guys, evil schemeing bad guys, gunfights, gambling, justice, revenge, and not a single kiss to mess all it all up.
It has one strange note, there is this not quite perfect sub plot with the farmers who have come to Silverado and the beautiful widow. Normally that one not perfect thread would cast this movie out of the perfect category. However the rest of the movie is extra perfect, so this one gets on the perfection list, even with a small blemish. Eveyone who made this movie, there is a place for you at my fire anytime.
Update: My friend David also has this movie on his list, and he has a great comment about the sub plot, a nice viewing which I was not clever enough to catch: I would argue that the sub-plot with the widow is what makes the film perfect, as awkward as that part of the movie is. It humanizes three otherwise superhuman characters as they each try to relate to her in their own way--as sexual object, as a romantic connection, or as a victim--and all come away baffled by the fact that she just wants someone to share the work.
For me, the perfect film to start the list of perfect films is "That Thing You Do". This is a film set in the 60s, about a band which gets a hit song and is suddenly thrust into the crazy world of rock and roll. I could gush for hours about what I like about this movie ... I have just deleted a lot of gushing. I will probably have to be careful about that when I start writing these. There is no time, let me sum up.
The story is sweet and heartwarming. It is set in the imaginary 60s that I grew up in, so it has a rosy nostalgia to it that makes me pre-disposed to enjoy everything about it.
I love every single actor in this film, even the ones who have 10 seconds on screen. The dad ranting about the son who can't remember to turn the store lights off, the waitress at the jazz club, the host of the TV variety show, the old wise jazz musician, the movie is overflowing with these wonderful gems.
I love the writing, there are many really beautiful words, words filled the with the sort of trouble-blind exuberance of the post teenage post war era that I barely caught the tail of when I was growing up. These kids would have been my role models when I was becoming a teenageer. Faye's speech in the dressing room is possibly the most amazing piece of film dialog ever, it is so perfectly what that character would say, exploding with emotions which she doesn't have the cool words for, instead writing like a writer they wrote it like a young woman who was looking for her own poetry in someone else.
If you watch it, do not watch the extended edition directors cut. That version of the film is fine for people who are in love with the characters and story, because you do get to see more of some of those things, but the theatrical release is the one which is perfect.
I was chatting with Christopher this weekend and we came up with this idea of perfect movies. These are not the best movies, or the deepest movies, or the most important movies. They are the movies that, after you have watched them 10 times, you still wouldn't change a single thing. I have always had a small secret list of these films and now I have decided that I want to share the list.
I like movies for many different reasons, and I admire the ambitious movie, as well, the one which dreams big but misses, either a little or a lot, and that list of movies which you admire for their courage, might be another interesting list. However, for now I am thinking of maybe of posting about one perfect movie per day, until I am out of perfect movies.
The one slightly embarassing thing about this list is that I tend to prefer watching fluffy movies which do not address to real issues of the day. Movies are totally an escape for me, and they can, while providing escape, also reflect on the broken world, but I took a spin at being a serious movie goer in my early 20s and decided that I could not do that to my soul. So my list of perfect movies contains many light and fluffy movies. I assure you, I am a deep and complex person who appreciates the paradox and pain of this world. I just don't want to see it on the movie screen.
What is perfect to me is not perfect to everyone. I know more than one movie on this list which, though I think they are perfect, make some other people want to scream in pain. I am also certain that the makers of the "perfect" films could point out many places where they didn't quite accomplish what they wanted to. I just like the idea of a "perfect little movie" as a class of films, and here we go!
I'm creating a category for this series, you can always check the list of articles by going straight to the category page. Keep watching the blog ( or the social media stream ) for the movies, the theory is, one post per day until I am done.
... or subscribe (RSS) to the Category Feed: Perfect Films (RSS)
i helped to build a recording studio, not to make money, but to make beauty. it wasn't made by me alone, and in the end, it wasn't even run by me, but it lived for a long time.
today we had the closing party for the studio, after roughly, maybe, ... a 14 year run.
here is the eulogy for the studio which i wrote as i was thinking about what it meant to close the doors, which i could not speak at the party, but which i wanted everyone who came to hear.
This is the thank you, to all of you, that I will not be able to deliver. As I was thinking about the day when the doors close, and this event, even imagining opening my mouth left me choked up and mute. So at enough of a distance that I can make it from line one to the last line, I am writing this down.
Let me tell you about how this thing came to be. This was not a vision cast by a future looking person. This was not a long hidden wish suddenly come true. This was for me, a dream I discovered, in small pieces. It was a dream which I never really understood enough to own, but was continuously beautiful to enough people that it became something real.
Once upon a time I had a corner of my basement where there was a place for me to play bass. Then there were a few microphones and a drum kit so the Sunday morning band from my church would have a place to rehearse, then there was the ability to record rehersals, then suddenly it started to look like a recording studio. As this transition is happening, I am somewhat amazed at this transformation, it is like I woke up one morning, looked out into my backayrd, and a tree I did not plant is suddenly bearing fruit. It felt like the hand of God was writing something down, and I was watching a story unfold.
There are many great stories about the studio, the two that capture the story that I think I understood best are these. One day, a band which was stuck in between being famous enough to have fans in multiple cities, but not famous enough to catch the attention of a record label was in town, and needed a place to rehearse, and so ended up in the basement. They looked around in wonder at what was growing into a really excellent little setup and asked what the heck was going on. I said something like, "I am not sure, but I think what is happening is that God is trying to make a place for musicians who have art to make, words to sing, which are powerful and beautiful and which change the world, but are not intended to be mined for either commercial profit or worship service support." Which was something I was sort of making up, as I tried to figure out why I had a recording studio in my basement. When I said this, the lead singer broke into tears of simultaneous grief and joy. The pain of long days feeling alone, and the wonder that she had walked into a place God had apparently made for her, both at the same time, and no response but tears.
This much like how I feel about today. There is a grief at the passing of this place that has no proper response except tears, but there is also a joy that must be sung also, of the beauty that has happened here, and that will, as it did in my basement, inevitably find a way to make something unexpected and marvelous appear. It has been a privilege to be a part of that process, and know that there is plenty of hope and new dreams of wild wonder waiting to walk through the curtain that today feels like an impenetrable ending.
The second story of the studio is of a day I happened to be reading poetry at a house concert, along side an artist who had recorded in the Red Rock Recording version of the studio. I had read my poems and was settled in to listen to the songs and stories of the young man and his guitar. He told the people in that room. "Here is my CD, please take it for free. These crazy people recorded it for me, and wouldn't let me pay them. I just don't know what to do about that".
This too, is how I feel, about all of you who have worked to bring beauty from this place. I am undone by the generosity that has happened here, and there really is no action that seems adequate to such a gift except to give what I have whenever I can and maybe learn to be a little bit more like the kind of crazy person who is willing to take chances, to make this kind of thing happen.
at the tail end of the party, after almost everyone was gone, we started writing on the walls with markers, and there were many fun things on the walls, and that was a blast, and then i decided i wanted a poem there on the wall too
I was reading an article and I came across this:
When I was a teenager in Korea, the lesson was called Three Men on a Shovel. Koreans used to dig trenches using one guy steering the shovel with the handle and two other guys pulling with ropes tied to the shovel. How Americans would laugh! Dumb Koreans, takes three of them just to dig a hole! Then the Army did a test with three Americans with three shovels against the Koreans, and the Koreans kicked our asses.
I don't know if you have any idea how freaking revolutionary this would be. In the world of programming, we have a story which we tell over and over again, The One Month Pregnancy, it goes like this: "You can't make a pregnant woman give birth in one month by assigning 8 more women to the task." Here is, if it is true, a beautiful counter example of three people on the same task, with fewer resources, accomplishing more than the same three people working alone. An enormous blow to the individual-as-productivity-superhero cult.
I found a 1911 article on "The Principles of Scientific Management" which is one of the most alarming and horrible documents I have ever read, about which I will write another day, but does talk a lot about shoveling.
Even snopes.com was no help. So I give up. I have no idea how true this is. I want it to be true. Anyone out there have better data?
Dear Prospective Employer,
Thanks for being interested in me enough to want to know more. I appreciate that.
I don't think the things I blumble here on my blog or what I twittle about on the facespage are that pertinent to your decision to offer me a job or not, unless you are considering offering me a job in which my main task will be to have purposefully contrarian opinions about as many things as I have time and energy for.
For some reason, you are here, so I might as well take this opportunity to say the things that I would never say in a job interview.
If you want consistent measurable progress towards a well defined goal, you would be a crazy fool to hire me. If you hire me, you will spend long months wondering why you did, and you will have exploratory conversations with HR about putting a performance plan in place, and then there will be this six month period when I will do three things which will transform your business for good in ways you could never have imagined.
I have an enormously high opinion of myself, and of my opinion. I enjoy a good argument, and the people who can make me change my mind are my favorite kind of people. Sometimes it is only in the middle of a good argument that I can figure out why it is that I have this gut feeling that things need to be a certain way.
I like to think the things I am working on are a good idea, and sometimes it will take some arguing before I could honestly think that. If you don't put in that time, things are much less good.
I have a fanatical devotion to reality based decision making. One of my ancient catch phases is "Reality is a Good Thing". This phrase is meant to address the tendency to treat criticism of product or process as some sort of attack or distraction. This means that I will give voice to truths that some people would prefer that we didn't notice, because I think it is always better to start with the actual truth. This will be annoying an uncountable number of times.
You will find on reading the TwittlePages, that I am a Christian Person. I am not a Fox News Following Christian Person ( which may either be a relief or a disappointment ), but I am a Christian Person. It is all over my blog and my HeadBook because the task of being a Christian Person at this place in history is a mystery worth some long wrestling.
Anyway, thanks for caring. If you are a person or company that I liked when we spoke, I hope this has been helpful and has not frightened you away, but "Reality is a Good Thing", if you read this and don't want to hire me, I understand.
At the Wild Goose Festival, I had a chance to preview a film, "Hellbound". This is a "conversation starter" movie, which examines a variety of approaches that Bible reading Christians take on the idea of Hell. I did not like the movie, but this is the kind of dislike that is worth talking about, even for people who are completely uninterested in what any person silly enough to read the Bible thinks about hell, so please bear with me.
There are three really interesting possible movies that I saw inside of Hellbound. One is about three biblical views of hell, with a strong slant towards one of them as the best choice. One is "rhetorical burning" ( a phrase from an article by Frank Schaeffer which I will get to in a second ) against particular reform theologians. One is about how certainty can turn reasonable people who try with all their hearts to serve Love, into raving lunatics.
Hellbound, when it is the first movie, is excellent. It lets the holders of the various views speak their piece, it makes room for you to disagree, it gently but honestly suggests that the film makers prefer one of the three, but leaves you with a human and acceptable choice to disagree.
When it is the second movie, it makes me sad. In the article "Resisting Condemnation to Save America", an ex right-wing mouth piece talks about having to leave behind not only his theology, but also his previous mechanics of argument, in order to find a hopeful way. I'm with Frank Schaeffer on this one when he says
Instead of damning each other, maybe we can learn to show mercy to those with whom we disagree, taking our cue from a teacher who said that love of enemy -- not correct theology or politics -- is all that can make us whole.
( this is me getting on my soapbox )
When "Hellbound" is the third movie, I want it to be much much better. It is only 1/2 finished. It shows raving lunatics, it shows reasonable sounding people becoming lunatics, and it demonstrates a beautiful way to consider a divisive topic, and still hold an opinion. However, it fails to make the most important point, that it isn't only the people that we disagree with that do this, that we are all in danger of letting our certainty turn us into monsters.
The real "Hell" that we are bound for is the world we create when we fail to acknowledge our own eagerness towards this evil.
( now climbing down from the soapbox )
I liked Kevin Miller ( film maker who made the movie ), and I hope his film does well. It isn't really fair for me to dislike his movie because he made the movie that was interesting to him and not the one that is interesting to me. So I guess I am giving thumbs up to "Hellbound", it does cause conversation.
If anyone wants a writer to work on a script for a film about the dangers of certainty, I'm interested in that job.
UPDATE! I traded some e-mail with Kevin Miller, and while I still think that the third movie that I wanted Hellbound to be wasn't very well made, Kevin makes a a strong defense of his telling of that third story:
I appreciate your honest response, Michael--and for dialoguing with me personally. I'd urge you to watch the film again, because to my way of thinking at least, it is an argument against certainty. But not just in "the other." As Michael Hardin points out in the film, any time any of us is pointing the finger, we become "the Satan," the accuser. I agree that we are somewhat hard on certain types of theology, but once again, the purpose is to reveal the paucity of their certainty--and its potentially destructive real world outcomes.