Jul 31, 2008
"God" in Song
I'm surprised that few are jumping to my mind, but maybe that's because I'm typing from 10,000 ft. where the air is thin. Here's what's hitting me:
Dear God -- XTC
Closer -- Nine Inch Nails (thanks, TPB, for the correx)
Thank God I'm a Country Boy -- John Denver (which Barry R. reminded me of at Thanksgiving Mix Tape ).
Baby Got Back (I Like Big Butts) -- Sir Mix-a-Lot*
God Will -- Lyle Lovett
What if God Was One of Us -- Joan Osborne
My God -- Whoopi Goldberg and the nuns in Sister Act**
Once in a Lifetime -- Talking Heads
Counting Blue Cars -- Dishwalla
What you got? Extra credit for songs where "God" does not appear in the title.
p.s. does anyone know how to make a two-column table in TypePad?
*Bonus -- the Alvin and the Chipmunks mix of Baby Got Back:
**which co-starred Kathy Najimy who of course does the voice of Peggy Hill.
A Pattern, Once Set, May Last for a Lifetime
A conversation between one of my Asian friends who had just moved from DC to Raleigh and her mother (who lives abroad):
Asked the mother, "But what are you doing for meals? Have you found a grocery?"
"Yes, we have many groceries here. And restaurants."
"But how are you going to manage everything? Who is taking care of the yard? And what if your car breaks down, do you know where to find a mechanic?"
"Really, I can handle it. Everything will be fine."
"Oh, you should have never gotten divorced! You should have stayed in DC with [husband]. Oh, I'm so worried that you won't be able to look out for yourself..."
"Mother, I am sixty years old!"
Jul 30, 2008
Salt Lake City Public Library, Part II
In the Part I: a T-shirt and a professional photo.
Today, a telephone photo from the roof, looking southwest toward the Wasatch Mountains:
AND two wholly unprofessional videos important only because one of them takes you on a rooftop view of Salt Lake City and the nearby mountains. Download salt_lake_city_public_library_rooftop.3gp This first video starts at the top of the 6-story arcing stairway that goes all the way to street level. I've never seen anything like it and I think it's very cool. At 1:25 in the movie, you can briefly see the bottom end. Oh and cute: the top stair is marked "The beginning" (text oriented to be read if you're facing downhill) and "The end" (oriented the other way, of course).
I Can't Swear on Sundays
Photo snapped yesterday at the unbelievably awesome Salt Lake City Public Library.
To mention briefly before getting back to work tasks:
1. Utah is estimated to be ~63% Mormon (in 2004). Salt Lake City's numbers are a bit lower. The city has long been described as a place with two identities -- the Mormon and the non-Mormon. I can believe it. I often feel the same way about my Durham.
2. The Salt Lake City Public Library is really frickin' incredible. See pic below (courtesy of their website which has more pix). They have a 6th floor rooftop garden with 360 degree views of downtown and the Wasatch Valley. Holy crap.
Jul 28, 2008
Balls of Salt Lake Fury
So far, Salt Lake City is more like salty sweat city.
Above, my Aunt Beth's husband Karry and his home court table with deer in the basement, where I've spent more waking hours than anywhere else in the State of Utah. After five days, I'm 19-26 against Karry, 5-3 against other relatives. Karry's definitely got my number but I think I make him run more than he's used to, so I can take comfort in that.
My psychological wiring at ping pong: After a couple of "on" games when my speed and spin completely gel, I start second guessing my body and immediately lose confidence in my topspin control. This is invariably followed by either (a) a boring and less effective mess of pushing or slicing the ball back, or (b) completely spastic smashes that can go anywhere including backward. Then after I lose a few games, my mind relaxes and the body re-starts doing what it's supposed to. Maddening.*
BTW, have you seen Balls of Fury? It has a few great moments that had me in stitches but the rest, not so much. Star Dan Fogler is played as a discount Jack Black (in the same way Jacob Pitts is a discount David Spade in EuroTrip). Some of the ping pong scenes are great (especially the ones with Maggie Q) but not long enough. Perhaps best is James Hong as the ping pong master. You may remember him as the maitre-d' in Seinfeld's The Chinese Restaurant. Hong was born in Minneapolis.
*I also have this problem with tennis, but not with pool. I play no other sports. I do not recall having this problem when I used to fence.
Jul 27, 2008
Diamse Family Reunion, Salt Lake City
Pictured here, a mess of people I'm related to in one form or another. The largest fraction of folks in these pictures are Diamses, most of whom are LDS folk, and most of whom live near each other. Thus the reason for having the reunion in Salt Lake City. Behind us, the Wasatch Mountains.
A few Ganzons (which include me) came out for the event, as well. This is the first time I've ever hung out with any third cousins (or second cousins once removed, or first cousins twice removed) in any quantity. It was fun. I had to ask a bunch of people how we were related, so I could be sure to properly call someone auntie, uncle, or cousin, regardless of age. (Note that in Asian-land, you would call your parents' cousins auntie or uncle. The terms don't only apply to your parents' siblings.)*
My grandfather, Felix Diamse Ganzon, was first cousin to the Diamse who was father to five or six of the senior generation now living in Salt Lake City. It's nice to meet more kin, especially when they're all very fun, and all so extremely kind and generous. My understanding of the word "hospitality" is getting both wider and deeper on this little road trip around the country. It's also a pleasure to spend more time around people of the LDS, of which I've known almost nothing. I'm surprised that one of the most important features of my trip so far has been to spend time with evangelical Christians (in Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming) and now with Mormons.
*the song "I'm my own grandpa" did come up, which gave folks a chance to hear my North Carolina accent.
Jul 25, 2008
Salt Lake City Pride -- Awesome Photo Not by Me
I think this picture is from last month's Utah Pride festival in Salt Lake City. I yoinked it from the User Photos section of the Salt Lake City Weekly -- "Salt Lake City's Independent Guide to News, Arts, and Entertainment". (You know, them liberals.)
So anyway -- here I am in Salt Lake City, which is larger than I thought and of course more diverse than I thought. I haven't had much reason to think about this place except for its cultural significance as home of the Latter Day Saints, and for the 2002 winter olympics. I'm here now for a week visiting family and hope to learn more.
Jul 20, 2008
Santa Please Stop Here -- Iowa City Flood
"Santa please stop here" says the little red sign. I didn't hear much about the Iowa City floods while I was in Honduras last month, but when I swung through town today I thought I'd help out with some of the cleanup.
In its way, volunteering for cleanup can be fun work. You meet lots of people. Feel like you're being useful. Do something different. Get lots of thank-yous (and a good workout). The local TV station grabbed me for a quick interview and they asked me why I volunteered. I told the TV guy that a big reason I and many people volunteer is because it makes us happy -- not just because we're doing something we're supposed to do or need to do for someone else. Anyone who says different is lying, or lacks self-awareness, or is some kind of freaky angel person. I also told the TV guy that altruism does exist and is a real motivation, but that I doubt it's ever the only one. Incidentally, I'm glad I'm doing the helping and not needing the help. The ability to give help seems an easier virtue than the ability to accept it.
Here's a pic of what people look like after three hours of slinging heavy, wet, abrasive bags of sand and riverwater:
Not evident -- just how much everyone's biceps hurt. I told the volunteer coordinators that they need to put packets of ibuprofen in every lunchbag. Forget the bags of Fritos and chips (that everyone seemed to skip in favor of a second sandwich) -- people need their vitamin I!
In any case, this was a long day that started with bedding down at a Flying J truck stop in Davenport (where I was wakened at 3:30 a.m. by the water sprinkler shooting through my window), continued with the flood cleanup followed by a swim in a beautiful Iowa City park pool, followed by a spontaneous invitation to an afternoon wedding (to which I got to wear a sarong and my knock-off Crocs, bought at the Flying J that morning), and eventually -- finally -- hauling my luggage into an over-priced Super 8 motel down the road from Grinnell College. ("Grinell Iowa -- where the hell is it? who the hell cares!" said my Grinnell friends' t-shirts back in the 80s). The first four days of this road trip have been really nice. For this once, it's nice to be crossing America slowly on the ground where I can see every mile of changing landscape, instead of the normal voyage a 30,000 ft.
*Speaking of virtue: In recent years I've come to the sense that our common concepts of "character" and "virtue" are really (a) more complex than I can get my mind around or (b) not real. Philosophers have written on these topics at length, but my way of looking at it for now is more simple: there are some acts that make the world better and some things that don't. Acts that make the world better I call "virtuous". And "character" is what you have if you make a habit of doing "virtuous" things. Simple enough, right? But when it comes to judging souls, forget it. Why do some people do more "virtuous" things than others, and get assigned the label of good "character"? Beats me. Are their souls any better or worse than someone else's? Yeesh -- what a question. I try not to worry about assigning labels. I just think that encouraging "make the world better" more often than "make the world worse" is a good idea, whether the person getting encouraged is me or someone else.
Jul 12, 2008
1 – Write the title to your own memoir using exactly six words.
2 – Post it on your blog.
3 – Link to the person who tagged you.
4 – Tag five other bloggers.
I'll bite on 1 through 3, anyway:
"Heredity. Environment. Chance. That's What Happened."
Please follow up if you'd like.
Not long ago, I wrote up a rough business plan for a company that would write memoirs** for other people. The idea was that there are lots of 30- and 40-something people scattered around the world and wishing that they knew more about their parents' wisdom and stories, and that they could pass that down to their own kids who didn't get to spend much time with the grandparents. The business ("Memoir Maker" is what I tagged it) would take the kids money, interview the parents and ghost write the memoir and/or put together multimedia recordings for deployment on web or CD.
This isn't a unique idea -- there's a whole small trade association of "Personal Historians" out there. And of course there are more sophisticated people (with PhDs) who do corporate histories. But it seemed like a decent idea. I canned it because I wanted to travel and because it seemed awfully labor intensive and non-leveragable. I hope other people will do it as well (or better) than I aimed to. If the Association of Personal Historians' website is any indicator, their standard for entry is very low.
*See also here for Doc at the War, Literature and the Arts blog.
**Now that you mention it: I once had dinner with a 60-something fellow who was moderately irritated that both of his kids had published their memoirs before he had. One son was an (eventual) photojournalist who wrote a memoir about living with Tourette's syndrome and other things. The other son was an accomplished actor who wrote his memoir about surviving cancer. The father, an outgoing and achieving fellow, was understandably uncomfortable at being behind the curve. To the best of my knowledge, the father hasn't yet written his memoir, but the younger son has written his second.
Image from the website of Jerry Waxler who will sell you his book so you can write your book.
Jul 10, 2008
Here are the addresses:
I'm guessing that few of the Archer Pelican's regular readers are heavy texters with AYCE plans. But maybe I'm wrong? (It seems that my friends come in two varieties -- either no texting at all, or they have a CrackBerry and/or iPhone.) I suspect that most of my friends will pay something between 10 and 25 cents per message, so I promise to be judicious with this new-to-me function. Even after discovering that there's a service for sending anonymous texts for free: AnonTxt.com.
Demographic disclosure: My all-I-need-to-eat AT&T media plan costs $10 a month and I use it to check email from my phone, and to send/receive very occasional text messages. If I text a full word (e.g., "see" or "you" or "fine") and then realize that I could have used fewer letters (e.g., "c" or "u" or "fyn"), I delete the full word and type the shorter one. It is annoying to enter Michael Bacon's last name into my telephone, and I've had to do it at least three times. I have a paper subscription to PCWorld and generally read it in the bathroom. I find their online version difficult to navigate. Text messages from the Obama campaign are, thankfully, rare. I'd still like to turn them off but I haven't taken the time to figure out how.
Image from 4Productions which offers yet more ways to insert yourself into someone's pocket.
Jul 09, 2008
Today at the Orange Congregations in Ministry thrift shop in Hillsborough:
When I brought the three books I wanted to the cashier, she said, "Today is our 'half off for fours' day. If you buy one more, you'll get all at half price."
Thing was, I only wanted the three books. So I grabbed a random book to make four, got all for the price of two, then put the random book back on the shelf before heading home with my three.
A perfect catalyst* moment!
Well not really.
I kept the fourth book** but it was cool to think of how it might have gone.
*from dictionary.com: catalyst -- Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
**not randomly selected, either. Transitions is a great book and now I have two copies. I'm sure I'll find someone nice to give the second to. Though I'll wonder if the author made radical changes in his more recent edition.
Jul 08, 2008
Vonnegut and Gas
[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around.* And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.
--- Interview by David Brancaccio, NOW (PBS) (7 October 2005)
*Last week I saw the "fart around" line in some magazine and wanted to quote it, but then I lost it. Dang. Then I found it online. Yay! I hope it's accurate. Of course Vonnegut has another more famous quote on why we're here: "A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved." I hope that's an accurate quote, too. I'm being lazy today about double checking.
Illustration: Vonnegut self-portrait plucked from PBS.
Jul 06, 2008
"Smiles Everyone, Smiles!"
At first glance, the coconut shell beanie is indistinguishable from the Dave-fro. But indeed, it's something he found on a northern Utila beach (which may or may not have been Rock Harbor) along with tons of broken shoes and other detritus.
When Dave hopped off the Utila Princess ferry, I forgot to greet him with a "welcome to Fantasy Island. I am your host, Mr. Roark." Fortunately, he still managed to catch on to the smile thing and made lots of friends, most of whom he shared with me. Yay for the smiling coconut beanie head!
A week or two later at a restaurant on the Honduran mainland, I overheard an American guest say this about his attractive-but-never-smiling waitress, "Man, it's like she ate a shit sandwich last week and the taste is still in her mouth." Though it was rude of him to speak so loudly and crudely of a nearby human being (who he presumed knew only Spanish), I have to admit his description wasn't far off.*
Smiling is an interesting thing. Filipinos do it all the time. Koreans not so much. Americans do it all the time (outside certain cities and regions, anyway). Russians not so much. Lonely Planet says this about the Russians:
On a personal level, Russians have a reputation for being dour, depressed and unfriendly. In fact, most Russians are anything but, yet find constant smiling indicative of idiocy, and ridicule those who constantly display their happiness.
Heh. One of my uncles is Russian. I won't say whether he smiles a lot, but I will mention that my dad and I have an itch to visit Russia and to maybe do a river cruise along the Volga. I've read that Moscow is craaayzee expensive but that other places may be more manageable. If and when I find out for real, I'll let you know. Just look to see whether my blog posts from there have me smiling or frowning.
*She smiled once while talking with me -- whether out of good will or amusement at my grammar, I'll never know.
Viktor Frankl -- "What Life Expects from Us"
Optimism is based odds. Hope is based on principles.
I've been turning this idea over in my head for a few months,* occasionally revisiting the Cornel West / Peter Gomes blogpost that got me started on all this a couple of years ago.
Viktor Frankl has a related take. In my copy of Man's Search for Meaning, a previous owner wrote "HOPE" (all caps) in the margin next to these words:
The observations in this one case [Archer Pelican note: in which a man died shortly after his dream of liberation on March 30 did not come true], and the conclusion drawn from them are in accordance with something that was drawn to my attention by the chief doctor of our concentration camp. The death rate in the week between Christmas, 1944, and New Year's, 1945, increased in camp at beyond all previous experience. In his opinion, the explanation for this increase did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of weather or new epidemics. It was the simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naïve hope that they would be home again by Christmas. As the time to near as there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them. This had a dangerous influence on their powers of resistance and a great number of them died.
As we said before, any attempt to restore a man's inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how," could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygienic efforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why -- an aim -- for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from my life anymore." What sort of answer can one give to that?
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life -- daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
-- Viktor E. Frankl, from the chapter “Experiences in a Concentration Camp” in Man's Search for Meaning (originally published in 1959, revised and updated in 1962 and 1984)
*You don't need to visit a poor country to find places where optimism would be misplaced. There's plenty in any US town and I see it often enough in Durham. Thus my never-ending appreciation for people who fight for causes that aren't easily (or likely) winnable.
You've all seen the bumper sticker, "If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention." There's much truth in that, but I don't think you can get much done if you're outraged all the time. At some point, I think, you have to settle into something closer to patient, hopeful work, accepting the joy (not the same as "happiness") when it comes. Speaking of Joy, some time ago I suggested this bumper sticker. I'm not sure it makes sense but/and I still like it. I wonder if a smiling Elie Wiesel would like it, too?
Jul 05, 2008
Dancing and Snarking with "Where The Hell is Matt?"
Things like this make me cry like a happy bride. Matt travels the world and gets people to dance with him.
The Where the Hell is Matt FAQ made me laugh almost as much as the video made me cry. Turns out that Matt traveled on Stride Gum's nickel, and he's low-key snarky (or at least awfully cavalier) in responding to his fan questions.
I'm too lazy/chicken to come up with and execute anything like this dance video* while I'm traveling, but I'm glad that Matt did it. And I'm glad that Stride "The ridiculously long lasting gum"** sponsored him. I look forward to being wealthy so that I can sponsor stuff (or at least give out awards).
*some time ago I wanted to tour the world visiting libraries. I'd take photos and do interviews. I guess I could try that, though I'm feeling less excited about it than I used to -- perhaps because the internet has replaced a whole lot of what used to make libraries magic for me.
**coming soon, a blog on Black Black gum.
Jul 04, 2008
Snorkeling, Sunburning and Sustainability in Utila
Coral reefs. They might not look like much from above water, but underneath, they're something.
I went snorkeling here for about an hour. The coral and the fish were fascinating, as was the experience of swimming past the edge where I couldn't see anything but water and some refracted light. It was dreamy. And eventually sunburny (my first peeling burn since ~1980).
Below, a Stoplight Parrot Fish photographed by Adam Laverty, pulled from his gallery at AboutUtila.com.
I saw several of these fish (~12-16" long?) in various places around the island. But in other places, I saw almost nothing.
Utila was hit hard in 1998 by a bleaching event and hurricane Mitch. This
combination was likely responsible for a large amount of dead shallower
corals <10m dominated by Montastraea annularis (mainly on the south side of
the island). Since Ma is struggling to recruit across the Caribbean the
ability for this to recover seems limited. As the cover of this major reef
builder declines the space is increasingly being taken up by algae, likely
hindering coral recovery further. In Utila this is augmented by the
decreasing population of herbivorous grazers through by catch and removal of
top predators, grouper etc.
Utila is a classic example of the necessity for ecological balance on reef
systems and the limited capacity of reefs to recover from major disturbances
if their fish populations (and other key species) are removed.
On the north side of the island and on the outer banks and deeper reefs,
coral cover is far healthier but their resilience is also likely to be
severely degraded, they just haven’t been as impacted by external influences
On the UCME website, Box says that he hopes that the reefs will still be around when his daughter is old enough to dive.