Thursday, August 30, 2012


The Tardis

A new clump of Dr. Who's is starting this weekend, so I thought I'd repost this... seeing as how I'm too lame to write a new one right now...

I love my ringtone. If I were near you and my cell phone were to ring, you might think that the Tardis — Doctor Who’s spaceship/time travel machine — was landing. ( Having that raspy, grating sound as a ringer is a silly prank, but it amuses me. Of course, it’s a joke with a limited audience... Not everyone is down with The Doctor. But I am. 

Doctor Who is a British TV show that has been around since the early sixties, and for British people, it’s like... the Andy Griffith Show. Or Star Wars. It’s a huge part of British culture. Its main character is, of course, The Doctor – a “Time Lord” from the late planet Gallifrey, who spends his time in a blue phone booth traveling through time and space. He might look an awful lot like a human earthling, but there are two hearts beating inside that chest, my friend. One of other the features of a “Time Lord” is that he doesn’t die, he “regenerates,” which is a sciency-wiency way of saying, “We have a new actor.”

The annoying Tom Baker
They used to show Doctor Who on PBS when I was a teenager but I didn’t watch it then. I found it vaguely annoying with that kind of nutty/nerdy curly headed guy with the stripey scarf. I have to say that I just didn’t get it. Of course now, that Doctor, played by Tom Baker, has a sort of geek-hip cachet, but... I still find him annoying.

In the early part of this decade, though, they revived the show... and these are the shows I love. There have been three Doctors so far in this series, all of them awesome. It’s still kind of a nutty, nerdy show, but it sometimes wrestles with themes like time, choices, duty, and humanity.

The first Doctor in this new series was played by Christopher Eccleston, a really top drawer actor... He was goofy and fun, but only signed on for a year of shows. Then David Tennant took over – he is slight and cute... and his version of the Doctor was energetic and a ton of fun, but could also show a very heavy side – rage and loneliness. 

David Tennant, my
favourite Doctor
The latest Doctor is ... well, he’s a child – just 27 years old. His name is Matt Smith, and while I love the joy he brings to the role, it is hard for me to accept him as a 900-something-year-old Time Lord who constantly saves the Universe. I was trying to figure out why, and I think it just might be because, during the David Tennant years, I began to imagine that the Doctor was a little bit like Jesus. Not in a sacrilegious way, but... more that he’s very old, completely brilliant, and comes to earth to save humanity.

Other aliens often question the Doctor’s fondness for humanity... why does he so often return to earth to save and defend its creatures? The Doctor often praises our species for its indomitable spirit... and for him, I think it is often more personal – he chooses humans to go with him on his travels, and though he pretends to be detached, he does “fall in love” with them.
Likewise, Jesus came to earth to save the crazy human race – became one of us, made specific friends with some... and did what he came to do – save the universe. Only the Doctor does it over and over. 

Jesus, of course, saved us once and for all, but ... could they make a series out of it if Doctor Who saved the world and sat down and took a load off? This is TV, right? That's more of a Christmas special than a series... Jesus’s personality was also described in the Bible as quite a bit more subdued than the Doctor’s. The Doctor is what the British might call “cheeky.”

When confronting a gassy race of ruthless aliens:
The Doctor: Would you mind not farting when I’m saving the world?”

On a trip back in time to 18th century France:
King Louis: What the hell is going on? 
Reinette Poisson: Oh. This is my lover, the king of France. 
The Doctor: Yeah? Well I’m the Lord of Time.

When asked, “Who do you think you are?:”
The Doctor: I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that? 
Rickston Slade: No. 
The Doctor: In that case, allons-y.

I can’t imagine Jesus giving answers like this, but he was pretty “cheeky” or he might not have ticked off the authorities quite so much. And even though his answers were always calmly delivered, Jesus did speak with confidence and authority, much like our Doctor. (Although I would have loved to hear Jesus corralling his disciples with the Doctor’s enthusiastic, “Allons-y!”)

Matt Smith: Too young to save the world?
While we’re comparing, they even had this one episode where the Doctor was acting as a human – and then had to choose whether he was going to remain human and have a normal life, get married, have children, etc., or be who he was and save the world. They had a little series of alternate reality scenes of him marrying and growing old as a human... just like in the Last Temptation of Christ! Of course, like Jesus, the Doctor chooses to save the world instead...

A new series starts on BBCAmerica pretty soon, and I for one, can’t wait. Even though Matt Smith seems a little young to save the world, the writing is always good, and it always manages to take the viewer somewhere unexpected. It’s a wild ride... hmm... sort of like following Jesus...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Redemption Song

Bob Marley
I love Netflix. I know they’ve made some missteps, raised prices, etc., but I still love them. They have soooo much to choose from, and paired with my husband’s love for staying abreast of the latest releases via the New York Times, I have a wealth of movie viewing experiences that would not have been mine otherwise.

The other night we watched a film called Marley, which is NOT, as I earlier suspected, about a dog. Nor is it an alternate view of Dickens’ Christmas tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge. No... it’s about the OTHER Marley. BOB Marley. And while his image and many of his songs are ubiquitous, I have to admit that I knew very little about the most famous reggae musician who ever lived before watching the film. And I’m sure, to big fans, I’m going to sound just like the super ignoramus that I am. But here goes...

I found the whole story entirely strange, but also beautiful. A gorgeous, but flawed man and a powerful poet and songwriter, Marley crafted lovely, lazily energetic (yes, I know that’s an oxymoron) Jamaican dance music – AKA reggae. He defined the sound, look and identity of Jamaica from the time of his fame and forward. There was even a scene in the documentary where he got the two opposing leaders of Jamaica's violent political upheaval to shake hands. He became so identified with his country that he received a state funeral when he died. 

Many of the songs he wrote are about joy and freedom for everyday Jamaicans, and many are deeply spiritual, reflecting a sincere reverence for God, or “Jah,” as the Rastafarians say. Songs like Redemption Song, and One Love, and Forever Loving Jah express a love for God that is clear and true. Now, I know Bob was a Rastafarian for most of his life, and I don't mind telling you that this is a bit strange to me. When I read the description of this religion, I’m going, “This sounds good...” until I get to the part about how they believe that Ethiopians are the lost tribe of Judah, and that former emperor of Ethiopia Haile Salassie is Christ come again. And I think, ”well, that sure is strange...”

Of course I would think it was strange. I mean – first, it’s a completely Afro-centric religion, and I am not African or of African descent. It is chock full of liberation theology, and I, personally, have never lived in deep poverty in a politically-torn country, never felt even slightly marginalized – unless it was as a woman. (Interestingly, the Rastafarians described in the documentary, were focused on freedom, but had pretty strict ideas about the roles of women.) And I certainly care about eradicating the oppression of others and believe that Christians should work for justice throughout the world... but I also feel that the freedom the Christian religion describes is freedom from the tyranny of sin.

Of course, I know that when one stands back and considers the claims of orthodox Christianity objectively: A guy lived, was a brilliant teacher, died. His friends say he rose from the dead. Another guy says his death paid for our sins. Other people wove it into the tapestry of a complex, yet utterly simple theology. And people build their lives on it. Center their hearts on it. Put their complete trust in it. 

You have to jump into the mosh pit
before you know if you'll be held up.
I’m reminded of my niece – the one to whom I gave her first Moonpie, incidentally... Well, when she was little, she never really bought the whole idea of Santa Claus. At times she pretended to believe in him, but really knew she was pretending. And one time she asked my brother, who was then a Methodist minister, something like this: “Daddy, is Jesus like Santa? Is He not really real, we just pretend He is?” Well, my brother rushed to explain that Jesus is REAL and that he would not have devoted his study and professional life to serving Him if He wasn’t. 

And as to how we know the difference between crazy myths and the Object of our Faith, well... for one thing, in the case of Rastafarianism, the Emperor Haile Selassie TOLD the Jamaicans to worship Jesus Christ and not him. But in general, it would be really hard for me to defend or even describe how I know the difference. Except that I was honestly dead in my transgressions and now I am joyfully, achingly alive in Christ. 

I am reading this really bleak Scottish book called The Cone Gatherers. In it, a main character, Neil, is worried about who would care for his disabled brother if he died, and his employer assures him that the brother would always have a job. This doesn't expel the worry completely, but when it pops up again, Neil reviews the promise his employer made, and “...When he had examined that promise anew, he found it fresh and sound.” Now, I know this has nothing to do with what I am talking about but each and every time I examine the promise of Christ anew – and I find myself doing it pretty often, I find it fresh and sound. 

I know this is not a really great defense, but it's all I've got. If you want a solid argument, there are plenty of Christian apologists who have done good work at arguing for the validity of the faith – from the Apostle Paul to modern day writers like C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft and Lee Strobel. 
The program from
Bob Marley's Ethiopian
Orthodox funeral

But even they might not convince you. You see, another thing I have found about the Christian faith, is that you almost have to give into it before you can see it. Jesus says to the Pharisees: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” And He also said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So... it’s like KNOWING the truth of it FOLLOWS jumping into the mosh pit of grace. No one’s going to hold you up unless you jump in.

Anyway, back to Bob Marley.... You know who he reminded me of? Apollos. I am sure you’re saying, “Right! Apollos!” or maybe you’re not. To explain... Here is what the Bible says about Apollos: “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”

My meaning is this: Bob Marley had knowledge and faith in God, but required further instruction. I also kept thinking about something a pastor at my sister’s church once said, and that was, roughly: “There will be a lot of people with wrong theology in heaven, myself among them.” As smart as the smartest theologian is, as wise as the most spirit-filled person is, our knowledge here on earth is incomplete. Of the day we meet God, Paul said: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears... For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Cor. 13)
If you want a coherent defense
of the Christian faith, read C.S. Lewis...
because you won't find it here.  

Now, as often happens when I see a movie, I got curious. Yeah, that’s right. I googled Bob Marley. I was particularly interested in some of his more spiritually tinged songs. So, I’m listening to Redemption Song on Spotify and looking up "Bob Marley + religious songs," and ... to my surprise and cautious delight, I found from several sources, the assertion that he had actually converted to Christianity before he died in 1981. 

Of course, I am not absolutely certain of the validity of the sources, although most quote Abuna Yesehaq, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere in Jamaica.  In an article in The Christian Post, a nondenominational, Evangelical Christian newspaper based in Washington, D.C., Yesehaq says he baptised Marley near the end of his life, despite pressure from those around him. He assures the interviewer that it was more than a “deathbed confession,” but in my view... who cares? Even if it was... I have no problem with that. I mean, isn’t the thief on the cross next to Jesus in paradise with Him right now?

So like I said, I have no idea what to make of Bob Marley's alleged conversion. Some of the sources say outright that his Rasta posse, and the Jamaican government had too much stake in his reputation remaining the same – the voice, the conscience of Jamaica. But...obviously it would make the Ethiopian Orthodox Church look good if it were known more widely that Bob had come around. Of course CHRISTIANS wouldn’t make stuff like this up now, would they? You’d hope not, but maybe they would... but I don’t know if they DID!

The most objective site I studied is called, which gives the story of Bob’s baptism into the orthodox church, which requires converts to profess Jesus Christ as Lord rather than Emperor Haile Selassie. “No one really knows what [Bob Marley’s] baptism meant but it has caused some controversy as both Rastafarian and Christians claim Bob Marley as their ‘own’.” And no one DOES know at this point. But... wouldn’t knowing Jesus be a great ending (and beginning!) to his Redemption Song?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Food! Glorious Food!

General Washington cracks a nut with
his bare hands at Raleigh Tavern in 
Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot.
I wrote here about how I love food but find writing about food boring, but here I am ... writing about food. Truth is, I have a great fondness for food and plenty of opinions, but... your everyday food reviewing/writing is an activity that I find less than interesting. There are things I find fascinating about food, though, so – lucky you – I’m going to share some of these crazy loosely-connected, half-baked (wink) musings regarding everyday sustenance. Here goes...

Raleigh Tavern doesn't serve food today, 
but you can go there for plays and such.
To begin with, we just got back from Colonial Williamsburg and at every meal, I was reminded me of how NOT simple a basic bodily need like food can be. You see, in Williamsburg, there are several historic taverns either rebuilt or still operating that attempt to recreate ye olde tavern of yore... through period-style furnishings, decor, dim lighting, staff in colonial garb as well as roving musicians playing colonial-era tunes and actors who will plop their historically-clad rumps in a chair at your table and ask you what colony/territory you hail from and which coach you came in on. 

Dish of Pork... my favorite!
In addition, they include on their “Bill(s) of Fare” dishes that are similar to what may have been served back in the day, like, say, “Dish of Pork” (my favorite), or “Colonial Game Pye,” or “A Chop of Shoat.” I know that these dishes have been altered to accommodate available ingredients, and to please our modern tastes – or at least not offend them... I still like to imagine that I am back in time, quaffing a frosty mug of draft cider and tucking into a steaming dish of Dueling Beef Collops. 

Communion – best meal ever!
The food is hearty and delicious... and while there, I couldn’t help but wonder how long people have been taking food – a basic necessity – and making it into something altogether different... It is apparent from the stories in the Bible, that people used special meals to foster community and seal contracts. Communion is my favorite “meal” of all in this regard. And ever since, people all over the world have been making food into an experience, an extravagance, a complex scientific creation, even a way to be trendy. 

How did baking evolve from this...
First of all, science. I have always wondered about the evolution of cooking. First of all, early man must have been spectacularly hungry. I mean, who was the first person to eat an egg... and why?! Who thought of cooking meat? How did baking evolve from ground grain + water, baked on a rock, to a rockin’ creation like Death By Chocolate (invented and served at Colonial Williamsburg’s The Trellis restaurant)? And there’s a reeeeeally stinky fruit called a durian that I came across on my trip to Singapore... who was the first person who tried to eat it? this?
For every food that we take for granted, there had to be a first time. In his diaries, Samuel Pepys wrote lovely descriptions of the first time he ever ate toast... or drank orange juice: “I drank a glass, of a pint, I believe, at one draught, of the juice of oranges, of whose peel they make comfits; and here they drink the juice as wine, with sugar, and it is very fine drink; but, it being new, I was doubtful whether it might not do me hurt." I don’t know why, but I thought it was funny – I guess because we regard foods like OJ as part of the everyday table of life and here is the actual record of someone trying them for the first time when they weren’t ubiquitous. It’s a bit like watching my kid encounter new foods when he was an infant and would actually try new things. I loved watching the faces he’d make, the grins and grimaces. I gave my little niece (who’s now 18) her first Moonpie at two, and she gobbled it down and licked her fingers to pick up the crumbs.

I love this fan/artist's idea 
of how the hero of 
the Outlander books
would look.
And speaking of food in the old days, I’m a big fan of Diana Gabaldon’s sexy Outlander novels, about a World War II nurse who time-travels to Jacobite Scotland, marries a hot, hotblooded – but educated – Scot. In one scene, when the husband is traveling with friend, he shows him how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, telling him that his wife taught him. It’s really hard for me to imagine a time without that most basic of foods, the grilled cheese sandwich.

One of the
Rich Kids of Instagram
On this same note, I read in Slate that there is a show called Time Machine Chefs, in which the participants have to cook something using ingredients and methods available at a certain time period. I absolutely can’t wait to see this... it sounds right up my alley... Although... despite my weird interest in this topic, I in no way wish to revert to those times. I’d be cooking all day, wouldn’t I? No time to blog!

Here's how those a-holes 
spend money.
Anyhoo, another thing I wonder about food is how we have managed to turn food into such an extravagance. The town I live in has a humongous gourmet food store/restaurant... which I love. Lots of people love it! Need a weird food from another country, a rare gourmet ingredient, a state-of-the-art cooking utensil, or obscure microbrew? This place has it. I remember, though, going there when I was fresh out of college and making $5 an hour... picking up a $15 jar of marinara sauce and thinking, “That’s a LOT of beans and rice.” Or store brand mac and cheese mix, or ramen, or whatever your “poverty-period” diet consisted of. 

And now that I am older and do a bit better than $10,000 a year, I also purchase extravagant food items occasionally. Probably more often than I should. Remember the Death By Chocolate dish I mentioned? $10.95 a serving. I guess it’s about more than food, but everything in life. Have you seen The Rich Kids of Instagram? When I first scrolled through the tastefully antiqued snaps, I thought, “What a waste, and what a bunch of a-holes.” But, really, I can’t point fingers at anyone with the amount of cash we blow on non-necessities like dinners out, books, movies, music, clothes, toys for Bill, i-gadgets, and etc.. So, really it’s just a matter of degree... they are only slightly bigger a-holes than I am myself, seeing how there are hungry people all over the world who could buy a lot of beans and rice for the dough I blew today on a locally-made-cheese sandwich with sauteed mushrooms and pickled red onions at Neal’s Deli (which was delicious, by the way.)

Marie Antoinette, one of the Rich
Kids of the French Monarchy
I know this isn’t new – royal personage's have been dining on delicacies while peasants scratched for food for centuries. I guess that was one of the big complaints of the French Revolution when Marie Antoinette famously said, “Let them eat cake,” in response to the news that the peasants had no bread. 

Bob Geldoff, bless his heart –
he TRIED to feed the hungry...
As with most things, I don’t have the answer to this. I do like the local food movement... it is a case where people with money actually transfer that green to local hard-working farmers. Our farm share has made us feel a like a cog in this machine. And how about giving money and/or time to charities that help feed people? Couldn’t hurt, I guess. And though it shouldn't stop us from trying, this doesn’t always work. In the early 80s, Bob Geldoff tried to feed starving people in Ethiopia, but it is my understanding that the country’s corrupt government, actually used to food to control the people. In that case, food was power. 

... with a little help from his friends.
On a much smaller scale, in our house growing up, lack of food felt to us like a lack of power and maybe even a lack of love. We were kids who had plenty of clothes, toys, cars, vacations, etc., but our food was rationed out as if it were gold... due to a mom who, 1. grew up in the depression, and 2. was a champion weight watcher. I know food isn’t love, but somehow, my childish brain translated a lack of food as a lack of love. That’s why the Moore house is full of great things to eat, and weirdly, my child could not care less. Of course, he's probably imagining that love is contained in some other thing we aren't giving him! Although, I hope not.
Remember this?

Moving right along, another thing I think is odd is how nowadays food is a matter of fashion. Remember the seventies? Quiche and spinach salad... you know, the stuff real men don’t eat! My husband reads the New York Times religiously and follows what trendy people eat, trendy restaurants serve, and trendy cooks are all about at any given moment. 

Two trends in one!
A maple bacon cupcake!
Cupcakes was a phase... Right now, it’s bacon.  Of course, bacon may be on its way out now that Burger King offers a bacon sundae. And, as with music and movies, Tom likes staying ahead of the curve... he loves food trucks right now. If food is ordered from a little window and cooked and served from a mobile unit, he is there. Luckily our area has a lot to offer... my favorites being Will & Pops — a yummy grilled cheese sandwich truck, and Only Burger — best fries in the ENTIRE WORLD!

Great grilled cheese! The 
Will & Pop's truck is in town!
Anyway, I’m about to wrap up this journey through tasty world of food for thought and history and such in a double layer of wax paper and a Ziploc baggie... concluding nothing definitive except some arcane insights like this: Food is, apparently, not just food — unless you’re REALLY hungry, which many of us in the West, are obviously not. 

Yes, I know... I 
needed a pizza.
My bout with anorexia actually has given me the rare experience of being an affluent Westerner who has actually experienced real starvation. Not just, “Wow, I haven’t eaten all day,” hunger, but honest-to-goodness “I haven’t eaten in a while and don’t know when I will eat again” starvation. Yes, it was self-imposed, but it was not intentional. The result? When I finally allowed myself to eat, EVERYTHING tasted like heaven, even the most mundane of foods. No matter how the food was prepared, whether or not it was trendy, that food was going in my mouth and filling out my scrawny frame. And yes, I could have chosen haute, trendy foods, but honestly, I was too hungry to care. I chose quantity over quality at that time. Now that I am sated – maybe even over-sated! – I am able to pick and choose. That is a privilege not everyone in the world has, and my gratitude is profound.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gold Star if You Get Through This One!

Kenan Thompson as the "Fix It!" guy
I have no destination in mind for this ramble, just getting stuff off my chest...

Let’s start with a status update my brother put on Facebook: “What is up with someone saying that I or someone like me ‘clearly just does not understand the issues this country faces’? Maybe I just disagree...” I’m sure we have all heard this tagline plenty of times regarding the current election. And while I am not going to spew out my political views, I AM going to say that it is clear that we all have them. And while we can understand the issues facing America just fine, we may differ on how best to fix things. (Remember that faux news commentator on SNL Weekend Update that would just yell out, “FIX IT!”?)

For instance, my aunt, a liberal to the core, is completely sure that Republicans have absolutely no regard for the poor whatsoever. In a recent conversation, I told her that it was my understanding that at least some Republicans are actually pretty dang concerned about the poor. It’s just that their idea of how to help them involves supporting businesses so they can hire the poor, and the poor can then help themselves. So it appears that they only give a sh*t about the rich, ie. businesses. Well, apparently this aunt of mine who is in her seventies had never heard such a thing! She just labeled them all a-holes and didn't look back. And some ARE a-holes. But some are not.

It is my impression that many people – like my aunt – tend to immerse themselves in opinions they already have. My Facebook newsfeed is chock full of people spreading their views in accordance with this or that side of the political debate... some are perfectly civilised and well-reasoned (and if you are reading this, then of course this is you!); sometimes they offer humorous memes; sometimes they frame their plea as a life-or-death situation; sometimes they are downright jerkish... and I emphasize – the jerkishness comes from BOTH sides. They certainly have a right to post whatever they want, but I tired of it all early in the process, and ceased to read the rhetoric from either side, including my own. I wonder if any of the posters (I typed “posers” at first - Freudian slip?!) know that the only people who are likely to read the stuff is people who already agree with them... and they are probably not going to convince anyone to switch sides at this point in the game. 

OMG! Tom Petty looks hot in this pic!
That said, I have actually switched sides in the course of my life and I’m not going to say where I started or where I ended up, but ideological change IS possible, so I myself am proof that what I just wrote is not necessarily true. Often those who have been converted to a viewpoint are the most adamant to defend it, but I think that having held varying views at different times helps me to see both sides. Yes, I have been moved... but it was over time, and not because of anyone’s Facebook post.

Anyway, so I’m thinking about this question my bro asked and everything I just wrote above and the guy who gave the sermon at church, a passionate fellow called Rick Hove, said that many people have a certain way of perceiving reality, and believe that this is the way things really are. Of course, when he said this, I thought, “That’s EXACTLY how my husband is,” and my husband was probably thinking, “That’s EXACTLY how my wife is.” 

Really, I’m guessing this describes just about everyone, right? Of course I like to think that I’m flexible, but the very fact that I am writing a blog shows that I have a point of view to air. I would like to point out, though, that my view includes a certain amount of confusion, questions and I-don’t-knows... which, earlier I considered sort of wishy-washy, but now I’m starting to be kind of proud of. Of course pride goeth before the fall, so I’m looking to trip up any minute now... Maybe you’re witnessing it right now?!

And I do realize that some people admire a person who has firm opinions and stands by them. Heck, I used to know people who would say, “I may disagree with Jesse Helms, but I vote for him because I admire how he sticks to his guns!” This made no sense to me. I mean, in effect, they were voting for a person who was working mulishly hard for all that they’re against. Now is it just me, or does that seem odd?

And while I’m talking about my blog, I have to wonder if the wishy-washy nature of it means I am trying to please both sides? Because that would be like me, right? Always trying to please people? I have to hope that my questions and confusion are genuine, not just a way to avoid controversy. In my mind there ARE many issues that have all sorts of facets that are worth exploring, and I can’t claim to know the right and wrong of it. I remember once when I was a new Christian and confounded about the whole free will vs. determination question, the following thought came into my head, “Julie, this is one of those things you’re allowed to not know.” It seemed like a revelation and a huge relief to me – that it isn’t necessary to figure out the answer to every single question.

The Apostles – love their creed!
And while I have many such questions, there are other tenets of the faith that I hold in the deepest part of me... The basics of the Apostle’s Creed, for instance. Here’s how we said it in the Methodist Church I grew up in: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Yeh... I’m not going to back down on that stuff – even if stood up against the gates of hell, as Tom Petty would say. Other than that, though, I’m pretty chill. I do HAVE political opinions... but I have no idea if they are correct. And since debate is so heated just now, I’m just going to keep them to myself. 

Another opinion I have is this: politics can do a lot of good, and also a lot of bad, but I don't believe it's going to save the world. However, Christ actually has done so already, and THAT'S what I'd rather spend time talking about!

Monday, August 6, 2012

And Now for Some Blatant Advertising

This isn’t going to be one of those spiritual, thought-provoking posts that (in my mind) some of the others are... No, this is just a bit of housekeeping... revising an earlier misspeak, along with a bit of blatant advertising... 

Because of Nina – we're on, as the
Fleshtones say, "the right side 
of a good thing."
A month or so ago I wrote about our little episode with head lice... and, like so many things, I may have spoken a bit too soon. Yep, I thought we were in the clear, but.... noooooooo....! I kept feeling the itchies, despite repeated treatment and extensive nitpicking sessions. And no, it wasn’t, as I first suspected, “all in my head.”

And as with many problems we begin with trying to solve them ourselves only to find that we must in the end hire a professional. A season of melancholy turns to full blown depression and we stew in it – sometimes confiding in a friend, and finally we may seek professional help. Got poison ivy? Reach for the calamine lotion (rhymes with...), discuss home remedies with the Graedons... until you can’t stand it anymore and find yourself at your family doctor begging for a prescription unguent. 

And this is how we found ourselves after more than a month of homeopathic, over the counter and prescription lice solutions, calling a lice eradication service. Until this summer, I had no clue such a thing even existed! And then, I thought, “It’s probably reeeally expensive... just for rich people... people who have money to burn and are too lazy to do it themselves...” But now I know, this service is also the refuge of the desperate. I mean, I absolutely DON’T have any flammable money, and I had expended a LOT of effort trying to do it myself... I just didn’t have the psychic energy or training to solve the problem myself. Even with the help of my great friend Grace, it just proved too much... and I don't think I'm out of line when I say that Grace had reached the end of her rope as well!

I swear they aren’t paying me a cent to plug them... but I am totally going to do it. It's called Lice Happens and here’s how it works: You call and someone answers. You don’t have to leave a message or go through a bunch of “for English press 1” stuff... You set up an appointment – usually pretty soon after the call, and the “lice lady” shows up at your door with all the equipment needed to render you and yours LICE FREE. I am not kidding.

The “lice lady” who services this area is named Nina and she is super cool. Not only does she get the job done, but she has great taste in music and art and all. You see, you end up chewing the fat a bit while she does her thing, so I was able to size her up, both professionally and as a fellow human being.

No, I don't have money to 
burn... I'm just desperate!
Anyway, she checks the entire family... then all she does is wet your hair and spray some foamy stuff on it – which, she told us, is completely natural and non-toxic. It loosens up the lice and egs and then she has this amazing comb that is like.... velcro... or sandpaper... or something. Whatever it’s like, it really scrapes the pestilence out of your hair. Anyway, with this super lice-catcher comb, she combs your hair over and over and over and over until no lice at any stage of development come out on that super-sticky comb. 

For kids, she’s got a little DVD player so they can watch a movie while she works... because it can be a tedious process. But absolutely NOT as tedious as sitting there while your clueless mom tries to pick each individual nit out of your hair. And when she’s done, she gives you instructions to carry on with the treatment for the next couple of weeks. And again, the stuff you have to do is NOT like picking over an entire head of hair every day. It’s more of a quick comb-through while you’re washing your hair.

And yes, it DOES cost a bit. But you know what? I had already spent a ton of money on special combs, over-the-counter remedies, prescription remedies, doctor visits... I am now wishing I had just called Nina to begin with! Because, as I stated before, sometimes you just have to eat your pride and call in a professional. Not only do I feel UN-lousy for the first time in a long time, but I made a very cool friend.

So, just for Nina, here's a song by the Fleshtones that I think she'd like.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Love, Communion... and Aurocks

The Orpheum Theatre in Oxford
With the high cost of movie-going, and with all the options available for film viewing these days, it is surprising that people still frequent theatres. Maybe that’s why filmmakers add on so many bells and whistles these days – Imax, 3-D, smell-o-rama... to offer people something they can’t get if they watch at home. Anyway, for whatever reason, the theatre I mostly go to never seems to be hurting for business. So I’m guessing the experience of seeing a film on the big screen won’t be completely replaced any time soon. 

I know I will still love and pay money for the sheer event of watching a film on a giant screen in the dark as the smell of “golden flavor” makes me crave popcorn. When I was a little kid, we’d go to the Orpheum in downtown Oxford — a grand example of Art Deco style ­— to watch Disney films... that is, until they began to show nothing but kung fu and blaxploitation films. I’m sure we’d have gone to see those too, had my mother permitted it. Popcorn was a dime, a coke was 15 cents. And a good time was had by all. Of course, I didn’t know it then, but the theatre was segregated, so half the people were having their good time up in the balcony. But I’ve already written THAT blog...

I made much ado about
Much Ado About Nothing.
My love of the movies (not just movies but THE movies... I mean, movies you can watch on TV, THE movies is a whole different animal), grew exponentially after college in my single years, when I would go see movies just for the sake of the whole giant screen, golden flavor experience. I just liked sitting there in the dark, feeling the stories. And if I found one that particularly grabbed me, I would see it over and over – and make other people see it with me... like Amadeus, and Much Ado About Nothing. I saw Braveheart over and over, too, but refrained from inflicting it on others... Not everyone has the stomach for all that mace-to-head contact. 

Yeah, I know the dude's a nutter
– but I still like his movie.
Now my husband and I love seeing movies together. Our second date was seeing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. We see “grown-up” films when we can get a sitter, and take Bill to see “family” films. It’s just part of our lives when we have the time and there’s something we long to see. Even after all these years, seeing a movie in a theatre is still a magical thing to me. And it’s even better when the film has a magic of its own... like the one we saw today: Beasts of the Southern Wild.

No, it’s not about my kid and his friends at Camp Clearwater... Here’s the synopsis: Faced with her father’s fading health and environmental changes that release an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy leaves her Delta-community home in search of her mother.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
But, really, that sums it up about as thoroughly as saying “Michaelangelo made art.”  I mean, that stuff DID happen in the movie, just like Michaelangelo DID make art. But... Beasts of the Southern Wild was a gorgeous, gruesome, funny, poignant, triumphant, painful bit of magic realism — a picture of a far-flung culture and the people who inhabit it, and, more specifically, one particular father-daughter family.

Wink and his daughter Hushpuppy live in a ramshackle little cluster of buildings, filled with garbage and pets. Nonetheless, Hushpuppy is the happiest of children, living in the happiest of communities – a forgotten bayou down in the gulf called “The Bathtub.” They work as much as they need to, they dance, they live and love. And they take care of each other. She has a beautiful connection to nature and animals and every part of her world. At the same, this father she loves drinks and is in poor health, and the unsteadiness of an unreliable parent leaves her calling — out loud — for her mother — the woman who walked off into the bayou when she was four days old.

When a scary natural disaster floods their community, Hushpuppy and Wink survive and forge ahead, determined to avoid being swept up by the government’s “disaster relief” efforts. And despite his weaknesses, Wink asserts over and over that he can and will take care of her. And he does grow her up in the way that he knows how. In one great scene, he teacher her how to catch a catfish with her bare hands, then punch it in the face. 

After an episode in a shelter, it becomes clear to Hushpuppy that her father can’t take care of her, and she seizes control. She seeks out her mother, and really, it’s hard to explain what happens next – especially without giving away some of the sweetness in store for you, should you decide to go see it. I will say, though, that her mother utters one of the best lines of the movie: “Don’t nobody like no pity-party-havin’-ass woman.” Good advice, that. I’m taking it to heart.
Hushpuppy and Wink and 
a big pile of crawfish

And since I’m not going to give away the end of the film, I will say that the whole thing is just a brilliant, beautiful picture of the power of nature, the charm and curiosity of childhood, the illusion of self-sufficiency, overwhelming fear, love, Communion... and aurocks. And set against the backdrop of an intriguing and joyful, but sort of puzzling culture, this gorgeous story of life and love and loss – and lost and found... just sings. It’s a mysterious trip into another world, as only a really wonderful movie can be.