Saturday, October 31, 2009

Moosilauke at Low Res

I realized recently that a few of the videos I have up on Youtube have not been actually posted here.

This was taken a few years ago during a hike I took up Mt. Moosilauke in NH. I had been up north on business, and I needed a break. So I brought my gear with me and made plans to play hooky for the rest of the day. It had been raining, but that is no impediment to the truly mean dedicated hiker. I changed out of my suit and into my walking clothes and headed up. I only had a few hours before dark to make 8 miles up and back, so I did not dawdle. It began to clear a bit after I reached the summit. It was a great walk. Being in mid November, I pretty much had the mountain to myself.

The poor video quality can be blamed on the fact that I shot this in 15 second clips with my 2 megapixel digital camera.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tyrant's Forge

Much to think about in this short quote. Read it three times. I found that in a single reading I tended to catch only the buzzwords, but not some of the more fundamental ideas.

"Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."

-Patrick Henry


I'm not a big Halloween guy. It's OK, but I don't get particularly exercised about it either way. I think part of that comes from the fact that growing up, the trick or treat thing was not very practical. I lived in a rural area where the density of housing was pretty thin compared to city or suburban neighborhoods. To really canvas a reasonable number of houses would literally require a few miles of walking on streets without street lights. Now the challenge wasn't that my Mom objected to all this on safety grounds. That wasn't her issue at all. While I do remember one time when I was very little when my Mom drove us around to some houses around town, as I grew older we were pretty much on our own. If we wanted to engage in the Halloween ritual, it was our responsibility to come up with a costume. If we wanted to trick or treat, that was fine, but we were walking. When asking for candy (which I'm not all that crazy about anyways...I've always been much fonder of baked goods) involves that much work, it just becomes less important.

And while the whole satanic scariness sturm und drang that infected the evangelical subculture of the 70's and 80's gave me some thought, I never really got that upset about that angle either. We are pretty far removed from the ancient druids. Whatever spiritual teeth may have existed in the rituals of defunct cults of bygone eras have long ago been pulled, leaving Halloween an ineffectual doddering invalid that can't even manage to gum the demonic candy it is blamed for chewing up and spitting all over our children.

I have a hard time thinking that kids begging for candy while wearing Scooby Doo outfits and princess dresses are really channeling demons. Unless you consider incipient diabetes and insulin hangovers as demonic.

Having said that, I don't care for some of the costumes I'm seeing over the past few years, although mostly on aesthetic grounds. I think dressing up as a movie monster a la Chucky the killer Cabbage Patch Kid, or Jason the Hockey Mask Slicer is kind of lame. I understand that these are the monsters of our time -- I just don't like them. When Dracula and Frankenstein were the dominant monster stories, those were the costumes. Today our monsters are, I think, more monstrous and more monstrously bland for it. To read Dracula, and to read Frankenstein (and to a lesser extent to see the movies) one catches glimpses of deeper aspects of the human condition. These stories show us something about ourselves. Even ghost characters have some kind of mirroring charm. But these latest movie monsters, if they are mirroring our selves or our human plight, it seems to me mostly a dismal and wretched view. These guys aren't really even fun. They are one sided and ultimately banal, in spite of the temporary terror they inspire.

Moreover, they are humorless. Vampire jokes abound, and Frankenstein humor is plentiful. The jokes that arise out of these slasher stories are grim and gritty; to hear them makes me feel like I've just eaten sand.

And as monsters they are purely materialistic, without spiritual dimension. There is no spiritual fear involved. Our older monsters seemed dangerous because in large part the danger they presented went far beyond physical danger. There was something of them that always endangered our souls (even Frankenstein...where the real monster was not the creature, but the Doctor who toyed with God's work by reanimating the dead). Today's slasher monsters are merely gaping pits full of blood and screams and darkness; the terror they induce arises from a soulless view of humanity. All of the terror is fear of physical death - albeit by a variety of creative and dramatic means.

So as you see, all my objections seem pathetic and anemic, a matter of taste rather than of principle.

I guess I'm probably both over simplifying and over-analyzing, but that's what blogs are for. I was inspired to this rant by an article in the NY Times on how schools are systematically de-fanging the celebration of Halloween by attempting to remove any remaining vestiges of fright from the children's costumes. Reading the article, I found myself rooting for both sides of the argument, but also not really caring. I don't see this as a critical front of any kind of culture war and it seems odd the people get so exercised about it either way. Mostly, I think the whole thing is kind of funny, but I can't quite explain why.

BTW - my kids are dressing up as a Peacock, and as Nancy Drew. Those are their own choices, and they are putting together their own costumes. They will be doing the candy begging circuit with some friends as a gang in a van.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hungry? or just Snacky?

Listening to the radio on one of my looonnnggg drives today. On Point, a pretty good issues and interviews radio show produced by WBUR of Boston had an hour on "Jobs and the Class of 2009." It featured a panel of three recent grads discussing their not too terribly successful attempts at finding work so far. I got the distinct feeling that they weren't so much searching for gainful employment as they were rooting through the refrigerator trying to find something to eat. I noted that none of them seemed truly hungry. They were still at that sort of snacky stage where they knew they wanted something to eat, but weren't quite sure what and they seemed more than willing to stand there with the door propped open until inspiration struck. I wondered how long it would take before pretty much anything mom plopped down in front of them would be the most delicious thing ever.

Of course, this is because the question you face at 24 is very different than the question you face at 46. Early on it's about passion, joy, meaning. How can I find a job that I love? What do I really enjoy doing?

At least, that's the question if you are a middle-class recent college grad who has supportive parents with a basement room with free internet access. On the other hand, when middle aged become a more important descriptor than middle-class; when dependents become a bigger fact than dependence; when you have no financial margin and not even any margarine...the choice becomes simple, although not necessarily easier.

I found the discussion fascinating, but I kept thinking about what these kids will do in 20 years if they find themselves in a similar spot. Probably, like me, they will take a job selling appliances, while launching out on an entrepreneurial adventure just to try to forestall the foreclosure monsters and keep everyone in shoes and oatmeal a little longer. grateful for the opportunity. At a certain point, fulfillment becomes more about a full belly then a full heart.

And that's OK.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Rodrigo y Gabriela have come out with a new album titled 11:11. Holy Smokes. All new original material, no covers. What I have heard is just outstanding and every bit as energetic and passionate as their original album. This is music that make my hair stand on end and puts fire in my belly.

This is a live performance of one of the numbers from the new album. I love how Gabriela is so sweet, with her halting french at the beginning, but give her box with some strings on it and she is all business.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nutty (and bolty) Anglicans

Thanks to InternetMonk, I'm pulling this pretty terrific video over that has an outstanding (and very thorough) explanation of what exactly is going on in those wooly Anglican worship services. You know, wazzup with all those robes and candles and smoke and chanting and kneeling and all that crazy stuff. It turns out that there's a reason for all that, and the reason is that it all points to Jesus -- just not with words. Could it be that we can actually worship God with water, bread, wine, cloth and all those mundane material things? Could we even use our bodies? (gasp!) As if Jesus actually is the Lord of all of it, and not just the ethereal and intellectual. A pox on gnosticism.

I particularly loved his take on the the Anglican Altar Call, the reaffirmation of baptism through the use of the aspergillium, the historical development and essential meaning of vestments, his simple explanation of real presence, and the description of Anglicanism as holding that delicate spot astride both the Protestant and Roman traditions. This resonates powerfully with me.

The Nuts and Bolts of Anglican Liturgy from St. Peter's Anglican Church on Vimeo.