Thursday, February 28, 2008

star trek synchronicity

Strange how these things happen. Almost as if someone's trying to tell me something.

I was in the locker-room at the gym yesterday and this cute guy I often see came in. We always say hello when we see each other but I don't know much about him. He said "Hi," and I told him, "you've shaved." noticing that the mustache he usually wears was gone. He said, "Yeah and my head, too." as he lifted off his cap to show me. He said he had done it for a job. I said, "Acting?" and he said "Yes." A little later I heard him talking to someone on his cell phone and he mentioned that he had just gotten a role on Star Trek.

That night I was teaching a theology class at church. The class was sharing their homework which was to write personal mission statements and the first person to share made the joke. "Well the first thing I thought of was, "To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before."

Today I met with a spiritual direction client. He told me it was his birthday. I asked if he was going to do anything fun to celebrate and he said he already had. He had gone with his friends to a touring version of the Star Trek experience down in Long Beach. Apparently he's a big fan. He even had two small models of the star trek ships in his office which I don't remember ever having seen before.

short ride

Today I went out on the bike determined to conquer a hill I had to turn away from on Tuesday because I didn't have time. This morning I had several hours available before an afternoon appointment. And I wanted to use the time on the bike to put my thoughts together for the sermon I'll need to write tomorrow for the Sunday service. The theme is, "balance" and what better metaphor can there be for balance than the act of riding a bicylcle.

On Tuesday I rode into Griffith Park and took a small hill that goes behind the golf course. At the top of the hill thr route either continues straight ahead, down the hill, or a left turn which takes you up an even larger hill eventually reaching the crest of the mountain that divides Hollywood from the Valley. (The Hollywood sign is further to the west on the same hill.) I started up the hill but realized there was no way I'd be able to make it and get to my 4 o'clock appointment so instead I turned down the hill and came back home.

Today I had plenty. I rode further out through the park and then came up the hill from the other side (the side I went down on Tuesday. But now when I got to the turn off to take the route up and over the crest a trucking crew waved my off. They were using the access road with several heavy trucks and didn't want cyclists in the way. So I had no choice but to continue forward and come home early.

I suppose there's still a lesson in there somewhere about "balance" but I'll have to think about it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

back on bike

I finally got back on my bike yesterday. I'm supposed to be training for the AIDS/LifeCycle again this year, but with rainy weather and a lot of weekend commitments the last few months I haven't been out riding in nearly two months.

But yesterday was gorgeous and I suddenly found myself with two free hours in the middle of the afternoon. I rode the bike into Griffith Park and did a loop up behind the gold course, which is a small hill, and then down the other side of the hill and back on the bike path that goes beside the LA river. About 12 miles, I'd say.

It felt really good to be out in the air and the sun. And cycling is a major part of my spiritual practice so I'm really looking forward to getting disciplined about it again.

If you'd like to donate to my AIDS/LifeCycle ride I'd sure appreciate it. I need to raise $2500. The money goes to HIV/AIDS services provided by the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles. The ride itself is a 7-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles the first week of June. Here's the link to my donation page:

no pictures please

There's an incredible view from my bedroom window now. From the second floor window we look east, across silver lake toward a low hill and the homes on the other side of the lake. Behind that hill there's a more distant, taller, hill called Mt. Washington in the Highland Park, Eagle Rock and south Pasadena area of Los Angeles. And behind that hill there's another more distant range, and beyond that, about 80 miles to the east I can see three peaks of the San Gabriel's covered in snow. Yesterday when it was clear and warm in Los Angeles the view was stunning.

I asked my husband to take a picture for us and he said that he had tried before and couldn't do it. I'm sure a professional photographer with the right equipment could capture it but with the camera we have the distant view just washes out and the mountains disappear into the sky.

But I like the fact that some parts of life are only available in the moment. I enjoyed the view even more perhaps knowing that I would have to look well now because I would have only my memory (and future views) to look on.

Monday, February 25, 2008

oscar thoughts

No Country for Old Men won four oscars (picture, director, adapted screenplay and supporting actor) and lost four others it was nominated for. The second biggest winner of the night was The Bourne Ultimatum which won all three oscars it was nominated for (Film editing, sound editing and sound mixing).

Not only were all the acting oscars awarded to foreigners (Day-Lewis, Bardem, Cotillard, Swinton) but foreign accents dominated the awards throughout the evening from art direction, to make-up to song. The Coen brothers, Diablo Cody and Brad Bird were some of the few Americans to win.

Same sex couples won big. The documentary winner, Freeheld, is the story of a New Jersey detective's struggle to give her pension to her same-sex, unmarried partner. And the co-producer of the best picture, Scott Rudin, thanked his partner and held up his oscar saying, "Honey, without you this is just hardware."

One of the shows montages showed the Best Picture winner for every year since 1929 the first year of the awards existence. Unlike the list of grammy winners for Record of the Year the oscars can be proud of their honorees. I was surprised to see how many musicals had won best picture from Broadway Melody in 1930 to Chicago in 2003. At least 10 in all including 5 between 1959 and 1969 (Gigi, 1959; West SIde Story, 1962; My Fair Lady, 1965; The Sound of Music, 1966; and Oliver!, 1969)

call to action

The other criticism I hear of Barack Obama on conservative radio (I heard it from a host named Mark Levin) that was repeated in the New York Times today, is the idea that Obama represents the kind of liberal who will cast the government as saviors of a passive public who will have nothing required of them. The proof text both on the radio and in William Kristol's editorial, actually from Michelle Obama, says nothing of the kind.

"Barack Obama... is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."

Every phrase insists that "you" need to to take action (put down, move out, push yourself, engage, get involved and get informed). The role for Obama is as an inspirer, not of dependence but of action. It takes quite a lot of effort to twist that message into the standard conservative trope against the liberal state. Here's WIlliam Kristol's attempt:

"We don't have to fight or sacrifice to help our country. Our uninvolved and uninformed lives can be changed --by our choosing Barack Obama. America can become a nation to be proud of--by letting ourselves be led by Barack Obama."

The only people who seem to think that Obama has a magic wand are his critics; that's not what his supporters see, expect, or desire.

flag fashion

I've been listening to conservative talk radio lately and two criticisms of Barack Obama that come up repeatedly there made it to the editorial page of the New York Times today. One is Obama's decision not to wear a flag lapel pin, supposedly a signal of his lack of patriotism. Here's how Obama responded to a reporter's question.
"You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as were talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest."
Despite the convoluted sentence his meaning is clear and shouldn't be controversial. Wearing a flag-shaped pin is an empty symbol, easily done by anyone regardless of their true feelings. Patriotism isn't proved by empty gestures. Love of the country is meaningful not when it's proclaimed but when it's shown in actions that flow from our core principles, for instance speaking out against our government when it betrays our values by engaging us in an unnecessary and ill-prepared war.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Life Until Death

In March, up until Easter Sunday, in the Christian liturgical calendar we’re in the season of Lent. The spiritual focus of Lent is a sober appraisal of our mortality. Our human nature is finite, not infinite. There is a time when we will not be, at least not in the form we are now. In traditional Christian theology that’s supposed to be a scary realization that knocks us into dependence on the mercy of God and the salvation act of Jesus dying on the cross.

More liberal Christians, and Unitarian Universalists don’t have to go there, either to fear or dependence. The fact that we will not exist eventually is certainly interesting but not necessarily frightening. There are many ways our finite natures limit us, most of which we don’t find scary. The fact that I can’t experience life beyond my death is no different from saying I can’t now experience someone else’s life. A disappointing truth, perhaps, but not scary.

And rather than give up in the face of death, the fact of our limited span should inspire us to really live while we live. We have only a few years to make meaning, to fulfill our purpose, to help move the world in the direction of holy ideals. Rather than give up for Lent, get busy.

And when Easter arrives we can celebrate not that death is overcome, it isn’t, and doesn’t need to be, but celebrate the life we have and enjoy while we have it.

I'm in

I made a small donation to the Obama campaign just now. I've never made a political donation before. But I'm excited by the Obama campaign. And I was thinking about the results of yesterday's elections and realizing that I ought to listen to the same message that I was talking about on Sunday during a newcomers class at church. We were talking about pledging and what would be the appropriate amount to pledge. I shared that my philosophy of giving is that we give not in exchange for what we get back but in order to be invested in the values of what we're giving to.

If Obama is elected I will receive the same benefit whether or not I gave. And my small donation will have no practical bearing on whether he wins. But it's not about giving to get back. It's about giving to be involved.

Obama was not my first choice for the democratic candidacy. I still have my reservations about him. And I would be (almost) as happy if Clinton ends up the nominee. But after eight years of evidence of how crucial the office of the presidency is to our nation and the world, I don't want to be a bystander to this decision.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Message from God

Driving home this afternoon I passed an interesting graffitti. Someone had taken white spray paint and whited out a large rectangle on the face of a large billboard. Then in black spray paint they posted this message "Sambo, I love your Mambo." Not sure what that means.

But the interesting thing is that the message was signed with a dash and the four letters, in caps, "YHVH." Those four letters are (almost) the four letters known as the Tetragrammaton, the four letter name of God. The four letters are usually rendered as YHWH, but the W is pronounced the German way, as a V, so YHVH is an understandable variant. When you fill in the consonants you get the name Jehovah, although I learned in seminary that a more accurate rendering would be Yahweh, pronounced "Yah-Vay."

So God loves the way someone named Sambo dances the Mambo. Not surprisingly because God is love (John 4:8). And I remember from a song I used to sing in Methodist Church Camp that Jesus is "Lord of the Dance."

The Billboard with the graffitti message, by the way, rises above the St. Francis of Assisi Parish School in Silver Lake. Perhaps God favors them, or perhaps a student who paid attention in his religious studies class is playing a joke.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clinton Giuliani

Clinton's strategy of ignoring the small races in February in order to concentrate on Texas and Ohio on March 4 is starting to remind me of Giuliani's strategy, with similar results. While Giuliani campaigned in Florida he watched state after state fall to his rivals. By the time Florida voted his opponents had gained so much exposure and momentum, that Giuliani lost Florida as well and quit the race.

As Obama wins 3 states on Saturday, Maine on Sunday, two more states and the district of Columbia today, Clinton continues to campaign in Texas with the hope that a primary still three weeks away will turn the tide. Before we get there Obama will continue to win in Wisconsin and Hawaii, continue to get great press coverage, continue to sit on a lead not only in States carried but in delegates as well. Even if Clinton does win Texas and Ohio with the delegates split proportionally it would not likely put her back in the lead.

Monday, February 11, 2008

music writing

I've been using a free download called Finale Notepad music writing software to input dozens of musical scores I've written over the last twenty years and that had only existed in handwritten form until now, some only in pencil sketches. The software also has a playback option, that assigns relatively realistic sounds to the various instruments. that means that some of the scores that I'm not bale to play on the piano I've actually been able to hear for the very first time. I'm especially pleased with a string sextet that I wrote in 2003. After entering the sore and hearing it I did some minor revisions. When I figure out ow to post an audio file I'll share it with you.

In the meantime I'm going to upgrade to the for purchase Finale software called Print Music. The notepad software has two significant limitations that prevent me from entering several of my scores: it can't handle music written in odd meters like 7/8 or 5/4, it doesn't allow you to change meters within a piece, and it doesn't allow a score of more than eight parts.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

evolution sunday

I'm not preaching this Sunday so I got my evolution sunday sermon done early. You can read it on my website