Saturday, January 31, 2009


Reading his obituaries this past week, I marveled at the variety and vitality of John Updike's work and thought about the fact that this came out of (and maybe was only possible because of) his definite, singular, articulated worldview. From the ground he stood on he was able to engage with the whole smorgasborg.
Colossians Re:mixed has been reminding me that we all have a worldview, though I would guess for most it is not clearly articulated. I have been wondering about my own worldview and how it connects with belief. The belief is solid (Holy Trinity is the absolute shortest way I can summarize) but my outlook is very shaky and sloppy, which is disheartening.
My friend Richard sent me Updike's poem Seven Stanzas at Easter a few years ago and Bishop Alan reminded me of it again this week on his blog. In the poem Updike addresses the earthy reality of Jesus resurrection with all that this implies for the way that one sees the world.

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

where would you like to wake up

Fifty People, One Question: Brooklyn from Crush + Lovely on Vimeo.

I love this - from Crush and Lovely - I assume that really they must both be lovely.

I have been wondering, How do you communicate to people that we are all in this together? Their answer to the question is genius.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Questions about torture seem intended to deliberately confuse. As soon as the questions, 'Is this torture?' or 'What is torture?' are asked a line has been crossed. A willingness to entertain the idea of inflicting harm on someone has been shown. This, alongside the acts that are known to have been approved and committed, has been in my mind for the past few weeks watching the current administrations swan song in the media.

I finished reading Q by Luther Blisset this week. It was rough going at first but I became totally caught up in the novel and the characters. And I like the etchings and quotations that follow the epilogue; the are demonstratively against the violence and torture that sickeningly pervade the novel.

"We have never been interested in generic calls to peace: there is an extremely strong rationale for the existence of war today, just as there was four centuries ago [the novel is set during the Reformation]. Itis deeply rooted in the criminal economic and political choices made by the states and multinational powers, whether they are the United States or the empire of Charles V. And similarly there is a rationale behind the ethnic cleansings and reprisals, one to which we do not adhere and to which we have always been fervently opposed [...]. It would be immoral and incoherent not to use every space and every public occasion to denounce the madness of those in government and the apathy of those governed by them." (from the press communique by the authors of Q against the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, 1st April 1999).

Q is available for online.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

sita sings the blues

A lot of the art that I most immediately connect to (that moves me most, makes me think) ties biography and history into a whole that is inseparable and beautiful. The film Level 5, by Chris Marker, makes connections between the (fictional) story of a woman in the aftermath of a breakup and documentary footage of the history of the mass suicide on the island of Okinawa after WWII. I have never seen another movie like it and think about it and what the story means for us now a lot. I saw the film once, ten years ago.
Nina Paley, in Sita Sings the Blues, has created what looks to be an amazing film based on the epic Indian tale of Ramyana. Roger Ebert has written about this much better than I could here. (I keep forgetting how much I love Mr. Ebert and the way he champions movies - you can read this to learn about his own relationship to film and learning to draw.) As far as I understand, Ms. Paley's film focuses on Sita, the cruelly rejected wife of Ramyana. The story has parallels with Ms. Paley's own life. She tells both their stories using animation, a voice over documentary conversation between three Indian's trying to remember the details of the story from childhood memories, and songs from the 1920s by Annette Hanshaw. So it has all of my favourite elements (biography/history/documentary/song). I can not see the film yet as Ms. Paley's use of the songs from the '20s has led her into a copyright fight with some behemoth or other. Nina Paley does have a plan though. She blogs about all this and displays a lot of her work at her wonderful blog site here.
The trailer says much more than I can here:

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Well, that's just over a week of 'blogging' and I have to say that even this short post format output has been quite hard. [And several/most/all of my posts consist of little more than quotes and/or drawings with one or two words from me.]
The difficulty comes from not knowing exactly what I want to do with the blog and from a self consciousness that descends every time I want to post something (to try and escape that this time I drafted this post on a post-it note - several post it notes, actually). There are two main results arising from the self consciousness:
1) I sound very pretentious (maybe its that I am very pretentious). This is best illustrated in the post on economics - going for pithy insight I spout incomprehensible twaddle. See also my film posts, though I like them better.
2) Nothing is expressed very clearly. It is only now sinking in that I need to think about what I write before I post it.
That said, I like blogging (the process of putting something up), having a place to store things I have made or like, a diary, a journal, a record, media center, whatever I might want it to be or become. It would be nice to be less self conscious about it all. Maybe even to reach the point where I tell other people that this exists.
I want to have some original thoughts (is this sounding pretentious again?) and to write about drawing and baking (or at least post pictures and photos), link to films and things that move me and make me think, that give me hope, to write some personal theology (isn't all theology ultimately personal?).
Right now I want to get better at this, the drawing and the baking, not to mention the relating, loving, befirending, contributing, etc.
So, here's a picture of two loaves of bread. These are among the first, from June, 2008 (we have not bought bread since then).
It's beautiful; made by me collaborating with time, yeast, Ed Espe Brown's recipe, the sustained world and its maker.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

does enlightened self interest exist?

Trust in enlightened self interest did and undid a lot.

"It is not true that individuals possess a prescriptive 'natural liberty' in their economic activities. There is no 'compact' conferring perpetual rights on those who Have or on those who Acquire. The world is not so governed from above that private and social interest always coincide. It is not so managed here below that in practice they coincide. It is not a correct deduction from the Principles of Economics that enlightened self-interest always operates in the public interest. Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightened; more often individuals acting separately to promote their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain even these. Experience does not show that individuals, when they make up a social unit, are always less clear-sighted than when they act separately."
John Maynard Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Doesn't really look like Sean Penn or Harvey Milk. Maybe it lands somewhere between them both.

The film is a great recreation of a person and a moment. Both remain wholly relevant in excruciating ways. The documentary footage was moving - from the opening scenes of gay men clandestinely gathering in bars and hang outs in the '50s and '60s through to news footage from the '70s. As a whole, it was a very specific celebration of being alive, present, and someone doing something with their life after forty. At the end of the film there were images of the actors and then the people they played - young, idealistic and alive. Excepting one instance, this was profoundly joyous and celebratory.

A. O. Scott, describing one scene in the NYT:
Everything is happening here — votes are tallied, hearts broken, lives risked and saved, tactical decisions made, emotions expressed and suppressed — but only one thing is happening. What makes all of this cohere is art, and history. This is how change happens. This is what it looks like.
This is exactly right, and ties this film to the one I wrote about yesterday.

subtle heroes

Are all Parisian films love letters to the city? For a lot of Flight of the Red Balloon the camera follows Simon and his nanny, Song, around Paris. The streets become familiar. Simon's mother, Suzanne, has some problems but, for the most part, she keeps them from touching Simon. The characters live ordinary lives. Throughout a lot of the film a red balloon hovers, like an all-seeing eye.
The balloon is featured in a film that Song is making. Outside of her film it also seems to stand for the way that art (or spirituality?) affects the ways that we see things. In giving extraordinary attention to the moments that make up the characters' lives the filmaker, Hou Hsiao Hsien, elevates them and makes them subtle heroes to one another. In the midst of her own stresses, Suzanne jokes with Simon as she asks him about his school day. Song freely gives her film and language skills to a needy Suzanne. People sharing their lives.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

"...just try and make it as beautiful as possible..."

James Yorkston was my best music find of 2008.

This video says a lot about why. There's something very encouraging about someone working on their art as straightforwardly as Mr. Yorkston. And the music is very wonderful.

Friday, January 2, 2009

what history fails to mention

What history fails to mention is
most everybody lived their lives
with friends and children,
played it cool,
left truth and beauty to the guys
who tricked for bigshots
and were fools

Gary Snyder
from, Left Out in the Rain: Poems

'What history fails to mention' would be a good title for something as well. Someone in another blog said that this is a poem about 'subtle heroes'. I think this is true. Not that I am a subtle hero myself, but subtle heroism is certainly something to aim for.

Thursday, January 1, 2009