Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A thought for the day from Mr. Mark Twain:

The great humorist Mark Twain once said, "In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language."

(The "What would an Orthodox Country look like?" theme will continue, just as soon as I figure out the answer to that question!)


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture, Part VI

Christian Sub-Cultures

I'm not sure if I'm making my point yet that Christianity flies in the face of popular culture. But I want to digress and talk about Christian sub-cultures. Next I'm going to try to jump into: What Would A Christian Nation Look Like?

Or maybe I shall swap those two things.

When Steve Taylor wrote about a Christian Cow, it really meant something to me:

So you need a new car? Let your fingers take a walk
You'll be keeping all your money in the kingdom now
And you'll only drink milk from a Christian cow.
Don't you go casting your bread
To keep the heathen well fed
Line Christian pockets instead
Avoid temptation Guilty by association.

It meant something to me, because my parents had a Christian Yellow pages tucked away for that very reason. Thankfully they weren't nuts about it and didn't take it too seriously, but they definitely tried to "keep the money in the kingdom" - something that I felt was the height of absurdity.

So, my first point: When Christ said "you are in the world but not of the world" he didn't mean that we have to be total isolationists, keeping ourselves entirely from the secular world. I have relatives that have lived for most of my life on "Christian communes" because they didn't want to have anything to do with the secular world. They didn't celebrate Christmas, because it was heathen and secular. They didn't watch TV, and they didn't send out birthday cards, because birthdays were a secular thing, and in Christ you have no birthday.

One of the great things I love about Orthodox Christianity is the way the Church spreads itself out like leaven all over the world. Far from separate herself from the world: the Church has as one of her main goals the "restoration of the cosmos."

And then, on the other hand, you end up with your little Christian sub-cultures. There are a whole bunch of protestants that I work with. They all listen to the same radio stations, and same music (CCM). (And I'm always thankful when I mention Daniel Amos, the Seventy Sevens, Randy Stonehill, etc. to them and they've never heard of them... that reminds me that I am the one that's sane.) They all the same "straight-laced" values and narrow view of the world, and they find people like me and my Catholic friend at work to be just plain old odd-balls.

Well, okay, so I am an odd-ball. I cannot speak for my friend.

It turns out that when these guys all listen to the same radio stations, the all have pretty much the same points of view on everything. The problem is that their POV is about a Christianity that has no definitive form, and yet can somehow claim to be the moral authority on everything in the world.

In my line of thinking: if you goal in life is to secure a particular moral state for all society, then you are a Muslim, and Christ has no need of you, thank you very much, have a nice day.

Christianity is not about moralizing the world so that it will be clear cut who is on God's side and who isn't, so that he can come back from Heaven on his white horse (with robes dipped in blood) and slay all you HEATHENS.

No, on the contrary, Christianity is about restoring the world to a state of being where it is in harmony with God. If any soul is lost, it is OUR FAULT, so we have no room to rejoice in the fact that someone is condemned to hell.

You know, there have been some saints that prayed for the salvation of the Devil himself (and there have been some fathers of the Church that speculated that it was possible that the Devil might be saved.)

We weep at the fact that anyone might be punished by God. We don't rejoice in it. We sorrow at the loss and separation endured by so many people.

It is a fact of social structure (something you might learn about in a sociology class) that there will be sub-cultures, and even Christian sub-cultures - and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. We like our little Greek and Russian clubs, our strange Arab ways of doing liturgics (and of singing). And we like the fact that we are different, but we've got something in common in our differences. The Church transcends these little pockets, these little cultural groups.

The main problem I have with the Main-Stream Protestant culture is that it is a far far cry from anything even remotely resembling Christ's Church. And (as I've noted above) it more closely resembles Islam, with it's emphasis on morality.

So, my next question (because it should be clear now, I do not think THIS is it): What would a Christian nation look like?

~ basil ~

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mr. BenJava's latest short-short.

Mr. BenJava has recently written a very wierd little short-short.


I hear (rumble has it) he's going to be writing several more in the upcoming days.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Next Episode is Coming...

You get all inspired... and then you go to work, and they STEAL all your inspiration. They zap you clean.

Well, it isn't totally an unconscious choice. You want to do your best at work, and when you are done... you haven't got any energy left for anything else.

The next installment is coming... and I've had some thoughts for spin-off installments. Plus there is going to be an episode on The Pioneer Spirit over at my other blog: Simplicity.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture, Part V

Christianity -vs- Popular Culture

The Christian Counter Culture

It is difficult to think of Christianity as a "counter culture" when you supposedly have a "Christian President" and when your legal system, political system, judicial system, etc. all like to try to take "stands" that are apparently Christian.

Last election all of the candidates had to show their credentials as "good solid Christians" to get the votes they wanted to secure. And really, you had Christian voting against Christian for their favorite version of Christian politics.

Yet at the same time, you only have to go outside your house, or watch the news to see that the culture all around us is predominantly NOT Christian.

I could drop off into a soliloqy about "how bad things have gotten" but I am a firm believer that things right now are probably almost exactly the same as they were in Constantinople in the 900s (at the height of the Byzantine Christian Empire) or in England under King James or some other such thing. All those in power seem to want to put on the best face of being a Christain, but society and culture itself is decidedly pagan.

So, the True Christian stands out as a sore thumb in such a world, does he not?
Society takes "freedom of Choice" and emmerses itself in consumerism. The Christian, on the other hand takes "freedom of Choice" and choses to make certain sacrafices in order to help others. Society takes "freedom of expression" and wanders about the streets half-clothed, or with ear-rings piercing our necks (think Frankenstein, here folks), or blogs endlessly with scribbling that isn't fit for the bathroom wall. The Christian takes "freedom of expression" and can use it to point beyond the filth and mire of this world into a supernatural realm where everything cases to exist but God.

Yet, somehow, in the midst of it all, we develop a distinctly "Christian" sub culture that is not, in fact, the least bit Christian. We think it is "Christian" because it listens to Christian music, and goes to Christian stores, and "drinks milk from a Christian cow" to paraphrase our brother-among-the-saints Steve Taylor.

I have always been a rebel against that little Christian sub culture. I couldn't stand the way my mom and dad had stacks of Christian 8-track tapes playing in the living room, while the Tele-evangelist preached from the TV in the den, and the local radio-pastor preached from the radio in the kitchen. It was like that all my growing up years. Some of you folks were shocked to see what Tammy Baker looked like when Jim and Tammy finally came face to face with God and found themselves criminals. But I wasn't. I watched her morph over the years from someone wearing just a little too much hairspray and looking a lot like my own pastor's wife, into the Babylon Whore she finally became at the peak of her career when she was on the cover of Christian Record Albums.

Enter, the Christian counter culture... that's how I came to love Daniel Amos singing things like "Autographs for the sick" or "You think I built this for me?" - and Randy Stonehill singing "American fast food, what a stupid way to die!" and Larry Norman singing "drinking wiskey from a paper cup..." and Steve Taylor singing "I want to be a clone"

But those guys were only a start down the right path. St. Basil walking on the water of the Moscow river (when it wasn't frozen) or putting out the fire in Novgorod from hundreds of miles away (in Moscow) or making the Prince Ivan Grozny (Ivan "The Terrible") cower before him - now that's Christian counter-culture for you! St. Seraphim kneeling on a rock for prayer 100 days in a row, and feeding the bears that came to him in the woods... THERE's Christian counter culture for you.

It flies in the face of the things we like to think of as normal, even as Christians.

I believe it pretty much goes without saying that wanting to have bigger and better goes against God's will. (Even though I DO want to have bigger and better.) It certainly makes sense when wanting to have "what's paid for" is your goal instead. (Sure, I get a raise: so what do I do? Go buy a bigger house? And when I say "buy" of course, I mean I make larger monthly payments on something that is luxurious to live in.) Or rather, do I make larger payments on what I currently live in so that I can get it paid off? What does the Scripture say?

Pretty clear, huh?


Saturday, October 29, 2005

We interrupt this blog for a post on
Rosa Parks

I supposed you can't watch the news these days and not know about Rosa Parks. Well, I don't watch the news so I'm not bombarded with these things.

At any rate, I want my children to know who Rosa Parks was.

She was working as a seamstress in 1955, riding the bus. Well, in those days blacks were not allowed to associate with whites. They had their own special public restrooms: Men, Women, Blacks. And the law treated them as if they were not the same level of humanity as whites. In Montgomery, Alabama the law said that a black person had to give up their seat on the public bus if a white person got on and wanted that seat.

Rosa was arrested in 1955 for not giving up her seat to a white man.

Her act of courage spawned a movement across America of blacks standing up for their rights. We call it today: The Civil Rights Movement.

Rosa died this past week and is being honored with the dignity of "laying in state" in the capitol rotunda: an honor only given to 28 other Americans over the past 100 or so years.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture, Part VI

Good Things and Bad Things about American Culture, Part III

The Pioneer Spirit

I love the Pioneer Spirit. I'm a pioneer myself, and I'm not just talking about the busy beard here. I'm a member of the Southern Oregon Historical Society designated as a "Pionner" member since my great-grandmother came on the Oregon Trail as a baby in a basket.

It doesn't start there. Actually, if you go back far enough, there was Daniel Boone's grand parents who came over on one ship or another and settled in the new world. Two generations later, young Daniel was making his way into the vast wilderness of the Wild, Wild West and settling there. They called the place Kentucky. Well about four generations later finds my ancestors in Illinois.

Then about the time that many were beginning to travel along the Oregon Trail, these folks headed into the Wild West and settled in a place called Kansas. From their, the same family sent their son on into the REAL Wild, Wild West: Oregon. Oregon was not even a part of the United States when those first settlers began to come. This great-great uncle of mine became a gold prospector outside of Jacksonville Oregon in the 1850s. Later his family moved from Kansas to a home in the Rogue Valley,
Southern Oregon where they were farmers.

About four different families met there in the Gold Hill, Sams Valley, Jacksonville area. Their daughters and sons married, becoming my great great aunts and uncles.

Some of you know I've been researching "The Old West" - the pioneer expansion of the United States as background material to a novel I'm working on (set in Southern Oregon in the 1850s.) Several things have come to amaze me about these people and how they survived:

Cowboys: For one thing, you watch a lot of cowboy movies, and you think that the old west was nothing but lawlessness and crime. Well it simply isn't true. A person could easily live out his whole life and not see a killing (unlike today when it is constantly shown on TV). One of the most profound things I think about the gold prospectors that came to Southern Oregon is that they were all strangers, and they all came to a lawless land that didn't officially belong to any country and the established law and order! The entered into agreements together as to how they would operate the mines and share the duties. An example for you: someone had to cook, right? But if you cooked you couldn't be out there digging up gold. So they established a rotating schedule where everyone would sometimes have to cook. And on their cooking day, everyone else had to share some of their gold with them - so it ended up working out equitably.

What amazes me is the amazing endurance of these people: the way they created things from nothing. They were incredibly innovative. When they first started west on the Oregon trail, the only gun they had was something that fired one single shot and had to be loaded with gunpowder, a ball, and a tiny bit of cloth. By the time my ancestors were coming to Oregon (on the later wagon trains) Sam Colt had invented his six-shooter, and repeating rifles that you could load several cartridges into were starting to come into being. These things were important back then. You needed a gun because there were wild animals roaming around, and unfriendly indians who would ambush you to steal your horse.

The Pioneer Spirit, I think, continued in American society, and continues to this day. Everyone wants to start his own company: doesn't matter if it is waxing floors, or printing business cards. Everyone wants to innovate and create: look at the web, that has grown up to be this enormous thing: and people do it for no other reward than the reward of creating, the satisfaction of knowing that you MADE something.

Look at the American homeowner today: he works hard to constantly upkeep his house: always improving something, always changing something. And if it isn't his house it's his yard. I've lived among natives in other countries (well, in Russian anyway) and I can tell you, people elsewhere in the world do not have this sort of Pioneer Spirit. They don't come home from a hard day at work, and then work several hours at home the way we do.

Well, unfortunately there is a flip-side. Pride and selfishness can creep in. At one time there was "Manifest Destiny" and the concept empowered many to conquer the New World and bring it into submission (without carefully preserving the natural beauty of all that was there before them.) It still happens today: one man lives in a house and plants beautiful gardens, but in his old age he has to sell it because he cannot keep it up any more. Someone else takes it and paves it all over with a parking lot.

There are other negative things I can say here. I suspect in many ways the Couch Potatoe is slowly conquering the The Pioneer. We are worked so hard at the office that we come home and have little more energy than to pop some frozen dinner into the microwave and turn on the TV. Not a good thing, I think.

Up next: How is it that Christianity flies in the face of popular culture?


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture, Part III

Good Things and Bad Things about American Culture, Part II

This is part two of Good Things and Bad Things about American Culture. I never got around to explaining several of the things I enumerated in my previous post.

Most importantly:
* Living on Credit
* American Bigotry
* The Pioneer Spirit

Living on Credit - what more can I say? We all know it's wrong, but we all do it anyway.

I recently completed the Dave Ramsey course as I think many of my friends and readers did also. (I'm not sure, because I did the course as a "tele-course" - listening to the CDs on my own time and working out financial details with my wife.)

Anyway, I understand the concept: by buying everything I want whenever I want it even if I don't have cash, I'm slowly getting myself into serious debt. But who can argue? That's the American Way, right?

Well, on the other hand: would you rather live your whole life buying all your toys on credit and then dieing a poor man (but having lived so well!) or would you rather live your whole life scrimping by, scraping together every penny in order to purchase something and still die a poor man?

It's obvious why the "Living on Credit" version of life is so popular. I sit at the lunch table at work and listen to all my co-workers talk about their toys. I think to myself, MAN, how can they afford all that? And then I think: oh, yeah, they are not married and don't have families, OR, that guy there, his wife makes just as much as him, and so they have a two-income family, and probably make together 3 times what I make, and have no children, and so it makes sense that they can go to the Galapagos Islands and to Macho Picho for summer vacation.


At any rate: you really don't know if those people you see out there are all really THAT RICH, or if they are just living the good life on borrowed time. If you go by what Dave Ramsey says, for most of them it is the later and not the former.

It isn't hard to guess why Christianity flies in the face of such a life style.

American Bigotry
One more thing I don't like about American culture: it is our high-minded better-than-everyone-else mentality. Even if you are a relatively humble person, if you go to another country and they figure out you are from USA, they are going to treat you as if you are a bigoted American.

It doesn't help that we cram our military (or the threat thereof) down everyone's throat if we don't like something they do.

The Pioneer Spirit

The Pioneer Spirit is something I truly love about our culture, but I think I'm going to have to address it in yet another post. This is getting long.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture, Part II

Good Things and Bad Things about American Culture

Before I can make a case that Christianity should "Fly in the Face of Popular Culture" I need to make some observations here about our popular culture. I will start with my lists, and then elaborate.

Good Things About American Culture
* freedom of expression
* freedom of choice
--- I think all the good things eventually bubble up to those two, but I'll add another anyhow:
* the "Pioneer" spirit

Bad Things about American Culture
* excess consumerism
* excess commercialism
* excess reliance on credit
* "American Bigotry"

Things in American Culture that are a Two-Edged Sword
* Fast Food (this is really more of a symptom of the other issues)
* Freedom of Choice (hey, that was on the "good list" what's up?)
* Freedom of Expression (ditto)
* Consumerism

Now the details:


I've talked about consumerism before (and how the root of all evil in our lives is the desire to consume) {I will try to link, but I don't know how to search through my blog for things}.

At any rate, consumerism has a good aspect: there are many products and things to choose from - it also encourages the Pioneer Spirit (which today is mostly entrepreneurial) - the innovation of new products, and more so: new cures, new ways of conquering death and nature. Also the spirit of competition and open market encourage growth and improvement in society.

Yet, this is a two-edged sword. How we hate the constant bombardment of advertisements, the telemarketers that call us at dinner time. My own perspective on the matter is: (a) If I want or need something I will go out and investigate it and find it and buy it on my own. SO LEAVE ME ALONE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I really do need a "no soliciting" sign on my house, because I have scorched quite a few hearts that have come to my front door to attempt to sell me something. And, oh, if you make the mistake of calling my house to sell me something - you'll get hung up on (at best).

But, the really annoying thing about consumerism is the way that "the powerful" control the markets. An example: There are plenty of great novels that have been written (and some of them published) out there that are equally as entertaining, thought provoking, spell-binding, captivating, suspenseful, etc. as the Harry Potter books, or as Dan Brown's books (to give you two examples), but it is the ones that the publishing companies pour all their marketing dollars into that meet with success. On the one hand you can't blame the publishing companies: they have to make money, and they end up publishing a lot of books every year that are losers, so they rely upon the occasional best sellers to break even. But you certainly can blame it on the concept of commercialism in general, because it encourages this sort of thing: it targets the "least common denominator" because that's where you have the best chance of success, and leaves all the truly remarkable things (the ones that will only speak to 10% of the population or less) out there in the dust.

I think long term this has a demoralizing effect on society and culture. It encourages people to keep their minds in the gutters (because that's what everyone else does.) It is hard to find the "lofty" novels, the things that truly speak to the heart or elevate the mind, because publishers can't make money on those things.

Freedom of Choice
Freedom of Choice is a great thing, until it leads people to butcher their babies because they think that is their choice (whether or not to have a child.) It is unfortunate that the baby-killers have chosen this term as their slogan. But I'd like to look beyond that.

Freedom of Choice is truly a great thing in our society. Nowhere else can you find the Pioneer Spirit, because people do not have the choice to invent something, people do not have the choice to read whatever they want to read, and learn whatever they want to learn, and become whatever they want to become. In a sense, "Freedom of Choice" is what God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Yet, there must be some level of moral restraint to that freedom. A society/culture that allows itself the freedom of the choice of suicide will eventually destroy itself. Why do you think all of the master-minds of international terrorism are educated in U.S. Universities? That's because our own universities are the best places to learn how to destroy us.

If "freedom" means merely: "you get to choose what Mosque you go to" then that isn't freedom. Equally, if freedom means merely "you get to choose what Christian Church you go to" that also isn't freedom.

The freedom of choice in religious expression is, of course, very important to me. But I sometimes get the feeling that among my fellow Christians that's all they care about. There are many more aspects to Freedom of Choice and Freedom of Expression. I so value this freedom that in recent years I've become politically oriented as a libertarian, because I think government keeps taking away our freedoms.

There is no freedom of choice if you have to get a building permit (i.e. make pay-offs to the political authority) to change an electrical plug in your house! It is nothing more than feudalism.

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is closely tied to freedom of choice. Freedom of choice means nothing if you cannot express that. How would it be if you had the choice to be a Christian, so long as you kept it secret? You couldn't go to Church. You couldn't evangelize. You couldn't share your faith. Sound familiar?

Again, I sometimes feel that Christians I meet would do everything to protect our Christian freedom of expression, but would rather limit or even outlaw the freedom of expression of other faiths. On the contrary, unless you uphold the freedom to chose any religion and the freedom to practice any faith, it isn't freedom.

Again freedom of expression is a two-edged sword. It must have certain moral restraints and cannot be unbounded. As an artist, perhaps, I value the freedom of artistic expression about all other freedoms. I find myself at constant conflict between the good and the evil inherent in that. As a practical example: I think the human body is one of the most beautiful things in all of God's creation. It has been celebrated in art for thousands of years (so I do not think my opinion on that matter is unique). However, I must constantly struggle with the issue: at what point is it art, and at what point is it pornography?

Fast Food and Other Symptoms

Fast food is the perfect example of a practical symptom of our culture. Fast food is very convenient, particularly with our busy lives. We don't have time to sit down and make a proper meal, so we can grab something for cheap that we can gobble down even while we are driving the car. On the other hand, we all know it is killing us.

I think pretty much all of our freedoms, and all of the good aspects of our culture have a negative aspect. The negative aspect comes when the positive aspect is taken to an extreme.

This post is too long, and I'm going to have to split it. More to come in Part III.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture

I posted the Randy Stonehill song "Great Big Stupid World" two blogs before this, because I wanted to lay down a starting point for what I am thinking about here. I landed upon the Strawmen's web site, and Bill (Seraphim's) message board the other day after I got back from the Randy Stonehill and Lost Dog's Concert in Bremerton. It got me going, talking about why I became Orthodox, and two of the main reasons are also the same reasons that I like the sort of music I like.

1) It flies in the face of popular culture
2) It has the element of Mysticism that I always felt was "missing" from my life as a Christian.

I'm going to address #1 in this blog.

I have always been, quite naturally, a loner. Add to that the fact that I've never really had any interest in "doing the coolest, latest thing." So, I find it quite easy to not be immersed in popular culture. Folks at the lunch table talk about this and that football player, baseball player, movie star, latest hot celebrity: and pretty much, most of the time I don't know who/what they are talking about. Talk about religion, history, society, literature, philosophy, and I'm right there. But, anyway, as for "popular culture" - I really don't dig it.

So, I've always found the more "extreme" and more fringe sorts of music to be to my taste. I have a feeling this pushes me even beyond the ordinary "Christian that is not a part of popular culture."

It all goes back to this: Christ said of himself:

"My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) and also: ' "You are from below," He told them, "I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.' (John 8:23)

And of his disciples, he said:

"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, this is why the world hates you." (John 15:19)

So, the "not of this world" concept (think: "Only visiting this planet" or "Strangers in a Strange land" ) fits in nicely with Christianity. In fact, you could go so far to say it is one of the more important concepts in Christianity.

How did this influence my transition to Orthodox Christianity? Well, first off, when I started reading about the Orthodox Church, I found out about the Holy Fools (not to be confused - albeit the similarities - with the "Fools of the World" record label). But more than the amazing simplicity of the lives and teachings of many saints (including those off-key folks that were Holy Fools) there is the entire rhythm of the Church: the feast days and celebrations, the daily services and liturgical cycles - a veritable rhythm, that very much does not coincide with the rhythm of the world.

But it goes far beyond that. One of the most exciting and interesting things about Orthodox Christianity, is the fact that it takes every element of faith all the way through to it's logical conclusion. An example for you: a woman gave birth to God. Therefore it is okay now to refer to her as the "Mother of God." This does not imply any of the nastiness some might ascribe to it. It does not imply that she was "before Him" or in any way cosmoligically existed from all eternity, or that she has any God-like features, or that she is a "goddess" or anything like that. No, we would reject such falacy all the way to the perly gates. But, we are admitting that Jesus Christ is True God whe we call her "God's Mother". Hey, we even go way beyond that. We refer to her parents as: "The Grandparents of God." We refer to The Holy Apostle James as "The Brother of God" (though we believe he was merely a half-brother or a cousin.

Anyway, that's just an example of how the Orthodox Church has always (since the days of the apostles) taken what we believe and say seriously.

Now, I could talk about how faith exercises itself in life, but I won't because that would make me a hypocrite. We call it "Orthopraxy" (the practice of Orthodoxy). It refers to acting upon what you believe, and I wont' say I'm any good at it, but I
will tell you the experts (those I read about in the lives of the saints) agree that it is primarily things like:
* Living Simply
* Loving Others and always sharing with them God's Grace
* refusing to judge and criticize others (because we are worse than them)
* a continual struggle (salvation in the scriptures is an active verb .e.g "being saved")

(Okay, it is the "continual struggle" part that I have difficulty with. Particularly the fasting and asceticism. But I'm on a diet right now, and that may help out in the end...)

That's another thing about Orthodoxy. The holier a person is, they less they have to say about how other people should live their lives. Boasting is strictly out-of-bounds, and it includes talking about how "well you are doing spiritually" and other such things. There has never been a single saint canonized by the Church that thought himself or herself worthy of that title.

Well, you can see how all that flies in the face of popular culture, can't you?

I'm going to have to split this into a second post, I see.

Up next:
- what is good about American culture
- and what is bad about American culture


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Blogging my way into the future

Well, the "Great Big Stupid World" blog has a very definite purpose.

I'm mulling over some ideas in my head right now, and I will be blogging in the near future on the following topics (definitely starting with the first topic, and proceeding on to the others however seems to work out best):

1. Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture
-- good things about American culture
-- bad things about American culture
(tied into the song by Randy Stonehill...)
----> what about various Christian sub-cultures?
---------<> various Protestant cultures?
---------<> various Orthodox cultures?

2. What would a Christian Nation Look Like?
-- will there ever be one again?
-- what about Russia?

3. How do I raise my children to recognize that Christianity Flies in the Face of Popular Culture {this includes choices and options for School}
(those last two may be in reverse order)
-- choices in terms of school, and personal education / entertainment, etc.

4. Which would be better (or easier, or preferable, etc.)
(a) living as a Christian in a free, pluralistic society, or (b) living as a Christian in a highly restricted Muslim society. (Oh, James, you are going to love that one. I'll actually be talking about Islam!!!!)

I will probably be working on writing these blogs for several days here, and probably all about the same time. Then I will publish each when it is ready.

I have some other thoughts on things to blog about, but not sure if I am ready or will ever be ready. One thought: "Why would anyone ever want to be a Muslim?" But, if that blog ever comes, it shall come after these 4.

Great Big Stupid World
©1992 Words and Music by Randy Stonehill Terry Taylor
Recorded by Randy Stonehill for his album "Wonderama" (1992)

From : www.danielamos.com

Well we worship at the shroud of Elvis
And we're waiting for that money from Ed McMahon
And we're drinking from the Perrier fountain of youth
While we follow what the daily horoscopes saying
Taking lethal doses of MTV
Delving into pet psychiatry
Trying to treat cancer with a fruit juice cure
And waiting for the Beatles reunion tour

'Cuz it's a great big stupid world
And we're feeling kinda queasy as it turns around
Great big stupid world
And we're never really sure if we're up or down
We're on a dirt clod out in space
Where it stops nobody knows
If Jesus came back today
They'd try to book him on the Oprah Winfrey show
'Cuz it's a great big stupid world
Great big stupid world

Well we're hot on the trail of Big Foot
And we're wearing the crystals to feel the power
We're hoping that the creatures from outer space
Come to set us free in that final hour
Trying to tell the future from the lumps on our heads
Getting melanoma from our tanning beds
Channeling Houdini with Shirley MacLaine
And trying to figure out what the dolphins are saying


Well it's a Great-Big-Stupid world
Dumb dumb da dumb dumb baby it's a stupid world
It's a great big stupid, great big stupid
Great big stupid world

Well we're studying the National Enquirer
Is it true Sonny Bono is the Anti-Christ
We debate if T.V. wrestling is really a sport
While we're testing rock 'n' roll and it's effect on mice
Bonding with our little computer screens
Getting anorexic on our Lean Cuisines
Turning plastic surgeons into millionaires
So everybody finally gets to look like Cher

It's a great big stupid world
And we're feeling kind of queezy as it turns around
Great big stupid world
And we're never really sure if we're up or down

It's a great... big... stupid world Dumb dumb da dumb dumb baby it's a stupid world etc., etc., etc.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New from basil

I haven't got much to say lately. I've been concentrating a little bit on simplicity. It is a concept that has become very important to me, and so I started a separate blog (for simplicity's sake )

Also, I'm trying to change my email address on the template so that it has my gmail address instead of my pennybog/yahoo address. That's because nobody emails me from here anyway, plus I don't get any email at my gmail account, so it is a perfect fit!


Monday, September 26, 2005


"Excesses are not all that bad in moderation"
~ Author and Poet Gustav BenJava
A Momentary Mind-Bender

All Hail to Wally's rueful esquivalience!


Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Work of the Poet

This is my life quest
To collect things
And give them back to you
As something new

~ b


Monday, August 29, 2005

The Gimlet

(Hardly a worth post on the even of St. John the Forerunner's beheading)

I discovered the Gimlet in the works of Raymond Chandler (creator of Phil Marlowe, private detective brought ot fame by Humphrey Bogart.)

The Gimlet was the favored drink of Phil Marlowe. Apparently it was also the favored drink of Chandler himself.


(search down to Gimlet) - If it ain't easy to search down, you should be using mozilla instead of ie.)

Well, anyway, I've come to enjoy the Gimlet.

There are two recipes for this drink on webtender One of them is 4 parts Gin to 1 part Roses' Lime corial, and the other is 2 parts Gin to 1 part Roses Lime cordial. Well, I found the former only fainlty tasted of Lime, and I found the later too sour. So, I invented my own concoction: 1 part roses lime cordial to 3 parts Gin.

It is quite a good drink. The lime is good for you (vitamin C) and so is the Gin ( 2 helpings of alcholol per day keeps the doctor away.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

St. Basil the Blessed, Fool for the sake of Christ.

Saint Basil was one of a particular category of saints in the Orthodox Christian Church, called a "Fool for the Sake of Christ" or in Russian: yurodivy. These Saints like the prophets of the Old Testament were characterized by their strange prophetic utterings and cryptic deeds. St. Basil is perhaps one of the most "famous" in modern times because of the Cathedral in Moscow that bears his name.

Saint Basil died in 1552. What was going on in the world at that time? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1552

St Basil was wandering the streets of Moscow sometimes naked, except for heavy chains, even in the bitter cold of winter, throughout the reign of all of the following Russian Monarchs:

Grand Princes of Moscow
• Vasili III (1505-1533)
• Ivan IV "the Terrible" (1533-1547) - first Tsar
Tsars of Russia, 1547-1721
• Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) (1547-1584)

Like the prophets of the Old Testament, the yurodivy frequently interacted with the Kings and Princes of Moscow. St. Basil's most notable interactions were with Ivan Grozni (generally called Ivan the Terrible, actually Grozni in Russian means Thunderous). Ivan IV (also sometimes known as John the IV, since Ivan is Russian for the English John) was a ruthless and despotic ruler. He also happened to have united Russia as kingdom for the very first time in its history (it was previously a conglomeration of independent city-states, many of whom considered themselves enemies.) He was the first Russian monarch to call himself Tsar, a Russian pronunciation of Caesar. By so doing he was proclaiming himself ruler of the New Rome, and all the Christian kingdom of New Byzantium.

One of my favorite stories about St. Basil and his interactions with Ivan Grozni goes as follows:

On one day St. Basil was invited to the palace by the Tsar. When Basil was given his drink, he poured it out the window. The Tsar, being amused, ordered Basil to be given a second drink, which he also poured out the window. When a third drink was poured out the window the Tsar became angry with Basil. Basil said to him: "Quench your anger and know that by pouring out this drink I have extinguished the fire which is now consuming the whole city of Novgorod." With this Basil hurriedly fled the palace.

The Tsar quickly sent someone to Novgorod to check on that great city. Novgorod was at this time the Second great city in Russia, and had been the first great city in Russia before the rise of Moscow. When the Tsars messengers returned from Novgorod they reported that the city had indeed been consumed by fire, and that the townspeople had seen a mysterious stranger, a naked man with a pail of water putting out the flames. The Tsar confirmed the day and the hour of this great fire, and it was indeed at the very time St. Basil was with him in his palace.

In another story, Ivan was coming out of Church one day when he met St. Basil. He asked the saint: "Where have you been? Why were you not in Church?"

St. Basil replied: "I was with you at the Holy Liturgy."

The Tsar answered: "How is it I did not see you?"

"Ah, but I saw you," the saint replied. "You were not really in Church."

The Tsar got angry. "I have been in Church all along, and you were not even there."

The saint replied, "Your words are not true, O Tsar, for I saw you walking in thought on Sparrow Hills and building your palace."

The Tsar was smitten with compunction, for he had in fact been day-dreaming on his new palace he was currently building at Sparrow Hills.

The following story, I've always confused with St. Basil, but it actually involved St. Nicholas Salos of Pskov.

In another of my favorite stories of the holy fools is a story of St. Nicholas of Pskov, shortly after the death of St. Basil. The wrath of Tsar Ivan was quenched and put to shame by the saint as he threatened to invade the city. In Feb of 1570 the Tsar was encamped outside the city of Pskov threatening to invade. The people of the city were weeping and praying for God's deliverance from the Tsar. They held vigil late into the night interceding with God that their city be spared.

When at last they saw the Tsar approaching the city, they rang all the bells from the Churches and sent out a delegation to welcome the Tsar with bread and salt and low bows. (The traditional Russian greeting to a welcome visitor, used to this day in the Churches to welcome a visiting bishop.) But the Tsar lashed out and anger and the people fled before him.

Suddenly where the crowd had been there appeared Saint Nicholas the holy fool, riding on a child's play stick-horse. The fool cried out: "Ivanushka, Ivanushka, eat some bread and salt instead of human blood." The Tsar was furious and ordered his Oprichniki to seize him. But the saint slipped away. (Ivanuska is how a mother would address her small child if the child's name was Ivan.)

The Tsar then turned toward the cathedral, and was met on its steps by the Fr. Kornili Abbot of the Monastery of the Pskov Caves. The Tsar entered and stood through Moleiben for his health. Then when he turned to leave he was met again by St. Nicholas the fool. St Nicholas invited the Tsar to dine with him in his cell, and the Tsar consented. When he entered the tiny cell of St. Nicholas he was presented with a fat juicy-red steak. (This was in the middle of Great Lent, mind you, when no meat was eaten.) The Saint said to him: "Eat, Ivanushka, Eat!"

"I am a Christian and do not eat meat during the fast," the Tsar answered.

"You are doing worse," the saint answered. "You are feeding on human flesh and blood, forgetting not only the fast, but God as well!"

The tsar ignored him and ordered his solders to begin their sack of the city.

The holy fool spook up: "If your warriors dare to touch a single hair of the least child in this city, a fiery cloud will overshadow you and you will not escape the judgment of God." As the saint spoke lightning flashed and thunder roared. Ivan suddenly trembled with fear, and ordered his soldiers to stop. He fled the city in haste.

When St. Basil died in1552, the Tsar ordered him to be buried beneath a porch of his great Cathedral of the Pokhrov (the protection of the Theotokos) that was nearing completion. The Cathedral was to be the greatest in all Russia, and was elaborately constructed with a central Cathedral dedicated to the Pokhrov, and eight other small churches in two sets of four around the outside of the inner Cathedral. Each Church was dedicated to the Saint on whose day a great battle was won against the Tartars, and was crowned with an elaborate onion dome.

In 1588 when St. Basil was proclaimed a saint, the new Tsar Theodore Ivanovich ordered a chapel to be constructed in honor of the Saint on the porch where his body reposed. The perfect symmetry of the Cathedral was broken, when this small chapel was constructed, giving the famous Cathedral that is now known through-out the world as St. Basil's its tenth onion dome.

There's a great movie about Ivan Grozni http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037824/ written by the famous Soviet film maker Sergei Einstein. I highly recommend the movie.

About Ivan Grozni:
Ivan was crowned tsar with Monomakh's Cap at the Cathedral of the Dormition at age sixteen on January 16, 1547.
He also annexed the Kazan and Astrakhan Khanates to the east, thus transforming Russia into a multinational and multiconfessional state. He had St. Basil's Cathedral constructed in Moscow to commemorate the seizure of Kazan.

Eventually, with his enemies multiplied, his only son murdered (possibly by himself) the reign of Ivan turned bloody. He started the first Russian secret police (called the Oprichniki) that were basically a bunch of thugs that worked for him personally. He murdered many people, including St. Philip Metropolitan of Moscow. Saint Philip II of Moscow (1507-December 12, 1569) was one of a few Metropolitans of Moscow who dared openly contradict lay authorities. Yet Ivan always had a health fear or Saint Basil and wouldn't touch him.

More on St. Basil:


List of Russian Rullers:

Holy St. Basil the Blessed, Pray to God for me a sinner!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Good Enough for Jesus...

Thought for the day:

In the 1920s, while barring the teaching of foreign languages, Texas governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson picked up a Bible and famously declared, "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for Texas."


Friday, July 08, 2005

I like what one old jewish man on the street-corner said:

"Today we are all british."


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Basil The Wandering Fool Now On GMail

Well, when GMail started I never could get it to work. When I clicked on a message I never got to see it. The GMail people were kind enough to send me a response to my GMail box when I emailed them asking what was wrong. Well, of course, I never got to see their responses.

9 Months later I got a de-activation notice. I haven't used my GMail so they were threatening to de-activate.

Well, I checked it out again, and it turns out that it works now! Hurrah!
So, Basil the-wandering-fool (sometimes known as basil the bad) is available for all you GMail enthusiasts at:


Thursday, May 12, 2005

QA Angst from the QA Guru

A certain friend of mine... uh-hmmm... fancies himself a QA Guru. Actually, he only started to feel this way about himself in recent months when he started interviewing candidates to hire for several open QA positions. The fact kept slapping him in the face: here were people who had been in the QA business even longer than he had (10 to his 8 years) and were practially clueless compared with the knowledge, and, to be honest, wisdom he had gathered all these years.

Actually, the folks at work have been refering to him as a QA Wizard and QA Guru for quite some time. But he only started to realize it himself when he suddenly had the opportunity to (unintentionally) compare himself to others.

Really, it was a stroke of luck he had: stumbling upon his ultimate interview question. The second stroke of luck he had was the opportunity to re-build his own department, one process at a time.

Well, enough about that. This friend of mine has started a blog devoted to Quality Assurance: http://qaguru.blogspot.com/

Yes, can you believe it? Nobody had the blog "QAGuru"! Amazing, huh?

So many QA folks out there, and a good many of them thinking of themselves as Guru!

Well, perhaps many QA folks simply don't have time to blog. It is a rough life you know. Some of us don't have time to blog while we are at work at ALL! (A cautious wink to my friends that blog from their workplaces daily...)

Anyway, he has posted his first post as QA Guru. If you are interested in the software industry, or just quality in general, I suggest you check it out. His first post is all about the correlation between poor software quality and the end of western civilization. I think anyone who uses a Microsoft operating system can relate to the concept of poor software quality, no? :)


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Paschal Vespers Gospel

The Gospel Reading for Paschal Vespers in a language we can all understand.

Brethren, through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the aid of the online Pig-Latin to English translation tool, I have taken it upon myself to translate the Gospel of Pascal Vespers into a different language that we can all understand. Tired of listening to poorly spoken French? Sanckrit? Russian? Embarrassed about the latest translation of the Paschal Gospel into yet another ancient language that nobody has spoke for a thousand years. Well try the Gospel in Pig-Latin! Yes, now you can boldly proclaim Christ's Gospel in a language that is both completely different, and yet something we can ALL understand!

Here you go folks. Here is the reading from the Holy Apostle and Evanglelist John in Pig-Latin, or should I say "ethay eadingray omfray ethay Olyhay Apostleway andway
Evanglelistway Ohnjay":

Onway ethay eveningway ofway atthay ayday, ethay irstfay ayday
ofway ethay eekway, ethay oorsday eingbay utshay erewhay ethay
isciplesday ereway, orfay earfay ofway ethay Ewsjay, Esusjay
amecay andway oodstay amongway emthay andway aidsay otay emthay
, "Eacepay ebay ithway ouyay." Enwhay ehay adhay aidsay isthay
, ehay owedshay emthay ishay andshay andway ishay idesay. Enthay
ethay isciplesday ereway adglay enwhay eythay awsay ethay
Ordlay. Esusjay aidsay otay emthay againway, "Eacepay ebay
ithway ouyay. Asway ethay Atherfay ashay entsay emay, evenway
osay Iway endsay ouyay." Andway enwhay ehay adhay aidsay isthay
, ehay eathedbray onway emthay, andway aidsay otay emthay, "
Eceiveray ethay Olyhay Iritspay. Ifway ouyay orgivefay ethay
inssay ofway anyway, eythay areway orgivenfay; ifway ouyay
etainray ethay inssay ofway anyway eythay areway etainedray."
Ownay Omasthay, oneway ofway ethay elvetway, alledcay ethay
Intway, asway otnay ithway emthay enwhay Esusjay amecay. Osay
ethay otherway isciplesday oldtay imhay, "Eway avehay eensay
ethay Ordlay." Utbay ehay aidsay otay emthay, "Unlessway Iway
eesay inway ishay andshay ethay intpray ofway ishay ailsnay,
andway aceplay ymay ingerfay inway ethay arkmay ofway ethay
ailsnay, andway aceplay ymay andhay inway ishay idesay, Iway
illway otnay elievebay."

Oryglay otay Eethay, Ohway Ordlay, Oryglay otay Eethay!

And you could add to that a resounding Christ is Risen:

Priest (Iestpray):
Istchray isway Isenray!

The People (Ethay Eoplepay):
Indeedway Ehay isway Isenray!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Lenten Journey

This morning's sermon (it is Palm Sunday, to those outside the Orthodox world) was a good reminder to me of the purpose of Lent. Namely, it is a journey. That's something I can live with. Rather than trying to "get something out of it" I am striving toward a goal as if by passage, by traversing space and time, toward an end. The end is, of course, spiritual perfection, but not spiritual perfection for it's own sake: spiritual perfection as a natural consequence of an encounter with God. Namely, coming to find yourself in the image and likeness of Him: as you were created to be.

Lent is a journey, a passage through the soul. You come to grips quite quickly with your weaknesses and frustrations. You come face to face with them. And so, perhaps for many (at least for myself) it is a journey though the valley of the shadow of death.

What is the shadow of death? It is the darkness on the other side of the sun from DEATH, is it not? And what is death? Death is separation from God, from Life, from everything that is good. From everything that is salvific and beautiful.

I am sure I have made this journey before. I am sure that I make it often, that I pass this way again and again, seeing in myself my own imperfections, seeing in myself my own foolishness, selfishness, hatred and lust.

The point isn't to avoid self-gratification. Because even to take a single drop of water on your tongue or to eat a cracker is to some degree gratifying to yourself. God doesn't ask anyone to commit suicide. The point isn't avoidance of self-gratification, but rather sacrifice. The point is making some sort of sacrifice that you can feel. We make these sacrifice together, as a big family. Some of us sacrifice more than others, but we all aim at the same sacrifice, a simple thing: to go without meat or dairy. Well in an ancient, apostolic, historic sense, it is a simple thing. Unfortunately in modern times it has become exceedingly complex. Maybe in the rest of the world, folks live a more simple life. If they want something to eat, they make a trip out to the garden and dig it up and throw it in a bowl. But, unfortunately, in America we have become accustomed to eating things in packages, and cans, and pre-prepared foods in every form imaginable. It is difficult to go without dairy, because you can't find things to eat that don't have trace amounts of diary in them. Then on the other hand if you work real hard at refining your foodstuffs, to weed out all the dairy, you end up on the verge of starvation because all of our pre-processed food has had all of the nutritional content processed right out of it.

Well, anyway, keeping the fast with rigidity becomes complex, which is quite the opposite of the purpose of the fast (simplicity.) The point of the fast is to think less about food so you can turn your mind to God. But unfortunately we end up thinking more about food, because you are constantly thinking about how to devise the next meal so that it will be half-way nourishing, taste like something other than cardboard or chalk, and still be within the regulations of the fast.

So some of us become discouraged.

But Lent as a journey goes beyond the fast (and whatever degree you have been able to follow it.) Lent as a journey encompasses the liturgical material of the services, and the constant awareness of your sins, and how you can turn things around otherwise. Lent as a journey is an important time to consider the plight of the poor, and learn how to give: lovingly and helpfully. Lent as a journey is when you stop yelling at your wife and children, and let yourself get watery eyed over your faults and indiscretions.

I, for one, have become exceedingly aware of my sins this Lent. I have made an attempt to do a thing or two to help those in need. I have tried (and failed) to keep the dietary fast, but what is more important is that I have tried (and failed) to love my brother. But the important thing is the trying. That's what we all do during Lent. And trying is not the path, nor is it the journey, but it is a tiny slice of the destination. If we can reform ourselves to aways "try" we are well on our way in this great journey of life: from Earth to Heaven.


Saturday, April 23, 2005


A friend of mine wrote this tonight. He asked me to share it with you.

by Gustav BenJava

A languid look
passage of the eyes over the shoulder
smooth and slick
A limpid careening of the glance
furrowing of the brow
Sleek and fluid she walks
"Slim" he calls her
She resists with a sly smile
a furtive gesture of the body
(To Have and Have Not)
a furtive gesture of the soul

* * * * * * * * * *

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Technology at my fingertips

I have all this technology at my fingertips, and I'm thinking: why don't I use it?

I have all these ideas in my head, swarming around like bees, or like files on a carcas, and I'm thinking: why don't I do something about them?

Well, I'll tell you what. I'm going to blog. Perhaps I have something good to say. Perhaps I have nothing at all. But if I don't say something, I'll go crazy.

My Lenten Journey:
I don't know how my lenten journey is going. Am I supposed to be getting something out of it? Is that the goal? If I don't get something out of it, then it has all been in vain, right? Sounds rather pathetically selfish to me.

I think that's one of the many things wrong with society. All we think about is: "what am I getting out of it?" You see, it has to benefit you in some way, or you shouldn't do it. It just wouldn't be right to do it if there's no benefit, right?

Are you saying you derive pleasure from it? If it benefits you in some way, that is pleasing is it not? Or we have to be reminded constantly of the benefit, so that we are pleased with ourselves.

It all comes back to the same thing. We live for pleasure. Some of us take pleasure in hurting ourselves (in suffering) and some of us take pleasure in self gratification.

Well, I can't think of any benefit I'm deriving from going without meat. I won't say I've gone without dairy. Oh, I've tried to a little bit, but I won't say I've succeeded in going without dairy. In fact, I haven't even succeeded in going without meat.

One fellow greeted me at Church and told me he was trying hard to keep the fast. I confessed to him almost immediately I had eaten meat once or twice in Lent but that I was trying not to. I am afraid I may have scandalized him. I do hope not!

But the point is: I had no desire to eat meat whatsoever. But they brought me the wrong order at work, and I got chicken. Well, I said a prayer thanking God for his tender mercy at this unexpected gift of some chicken. And I enjoyed every morsel of it.

Now I suppose you are all scandalized. Well, please, let me not hold back. If you are going to be scandalized, the by all means, let me dig deeper. (If you are going to sin, they say, sin boldly.)

I personally believe it is a sin to waste food. I think people who take away perfectly good food and throw it in the trash can, in order to uphold in their mind some religious ordinance, are going to Hell. Sorry, that's just how I feel. Meanwhile, I do not believe that it is a sin to break the fast. The fast is of less benefit to you (oh, there we go again... selfish! selfish! selfish!) yes, the fast is of less benefit to you if you break it, but it is by no means a sin. It is a sin, however, to waste food.

So, if push comes to shove, and there is nothing else to eat in the cupboard, or if someone has given you something to eat, and it is meat. Then by all means you should eat it, and be ashamed of yourself for your self-righteous thoughts of throwing that in the trash can. God has given you that meat: did He give it to you to waste it?

But I digress. I was speaking of pleasure. Perhaps I shall leave that for another time. No... the thought is with me now.

Okay, so about pleasure. I have this little problem. Everything is pleasureable to me. I see the sunshine and I smile. I see the rain and I smile. I smell the flowers and I smile. I sneeze because of my allergies and I smile, because at least I can still breathe.

So, if everything is pleasureable to me: how can I abstain from pleasure? I admit, I cannot. Is the goal of the fast to abstain from pleasure? I think the goal of the fast is to make some effort. (Even effort can be pleasurable.) If you eat less, hopefully you are giving more. If you fast from something, perhaps you can give it to a stranger. I do not know the way I can only speculate. But I know what the way is NOT and it is not hypocracy and self-righteousness. Why do you think the Gospel reading as we begin the fast is all about hypocracy and self-righteousness?

Well, that's enough for tonight.

The Sinner Basil
(in a cloud of flies...)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Merry Christmas

To all my beloved Orthodox friends, I wish you a heartfelt and warm Merry Christmas!


Okay, so here's the scoop. According to Microsoft, April 27th, 2005 is Orthodox Christmas. That's right, Orthodox Christmas.

I have international Holidays turned on in my Microsoft Office Outlook (that's version 2003, SP1, for the Micrsoftie) with the country of Russia enabled. I figured I could get something close to more authentic Holidays on my calendar (like maybe I'd see Pascha?) if I had Russian Holidays on there. Well, according to Microsoft Outlook, I just noticed that next Wednesday, April 27th, is Christmas. That's right, not Easter, not Holy Wednesday, but Christmas. It reads "Orthodox Christmas (Russia)". Check out your version of Office Outlook to see if it shows next Weds as being Christmas too!


Tuesday, March 01, 2005


You've gotta love it.

Yesterday the radio commercial for "Northwest Center for Anxiety and Depression" (we cure all your emotional ills, specializing in alcholholism and drug abuse, since 19NN) came on immediately following a commercial for all the great Wineries we have here in the Pacific Northwest.

Today the same radio commercial for "Northwest Center for Anxiety and Depression" (are you feeling lonely and depressed?) came on right before the song: "I can't get no, Sat-Is-Fact-Chun!"



Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Greetings from Cleveland

Hi everyone. I am currently in Cleveland, where today was a blustery winter 64 degrees. (It is supposed to chill down again before I leave.)

The above is a fairly good arial view of the city downtown. The street on the left that you see coming all the way down to the water (Lake Erie) is East 9th. If you see the large green oval in the center of downtown, go a block above that: You'll see there a square with a criss-cross of roads going through it. That's a place called Public Square. The street between Public square and the park with the green oval lawn is Superior. If you follow Superior to the left, toward where it intersects with East 9th: That's where I am right this very moment. There's a hotel on that corner (on the lower right hand side of that corner as you look at this image) and I'm on the 12th floor. If you can see the tall white building sandwitched between the two darker buildings: that's the tall building immediatly next door (and attached) to the hotel building I'm staying in. The funny shaped sliver-white building that is at an odd angle from the street is the next block down toward the lake from me. Just past that building is a parking garage, and then the Catholic Cathedral, which is right out my window. I look down upon Christ suspended from the Cross.

When I came into town last Sunday night, the Terminal tower was lit up like this:

but it isn't any more... I guess they have to end Christmas sometime.

This was my very first business trip. I feel fortunate that I was sent here. It was great to meet a customer that I've worked for for the past couple of years, and to work with their team first hand for several days.

Well, more later. I don't really have much to say right now.