Monday, November 22, 2010

My Favorite Tweets This Weekend!

Darth Vader
The Dark Side: Where *every* Friday is Black Friday.
 
Jim Lee
Tron! Omg just saw the extended sneak peek in 3-D. Felt like I was watching Star Wars again for first time...
 
Stephen Colbert
I'm just about to collapse from exhaustion. Just have to position my face above the Z key... There. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
 
The New York Times
Worker Fired in War-Hero Dog’s Death
 
Darth Vader
The Phantom Dentist
 
Darth Vader
The Empire Gets a Snack (via @)
 
Real Name = Taurus
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
 
Katie Nicholson
Is not doing anything Christmas related until Friday.
 
BloggerFather
RT @: Best thing at German festival. Reindeer. // You mean they're not mythical 
 
Sky Bluesky
Note to selfish people: family restrooms are for FAMILIES.A single woman does not need to use a family restroom, ever.
 
DRUNK HULK
SAY YOU! SAY DRUNK HULK! SAY IT FOR ALWAY! THAT WAY SHOULD BE! SAY YOU! SAY DRUNK HULK! SAY IT TOGETHER! NATURAL!
 
MichaelsDaddy
When twitter, youtube and facebook finally merge, we'll call it "youtwitface"
 
Aaron Gouveia
Harry Potter was incredibly disappointing. The most exciting part of the movie was the couple behind us having sex.
 
Brian
Ha! RT @ My husband complains that I over share on Twitter. Clearly, his hemorrhoids are just making him cranky.
 
Aaron Gouveia
Hey ESPN, are you kidding me with this Brett Favre tribute bulls***? Why not stroke his tiny d*** just a little more?!
 
Dan Usher
What we gonna do today brain?
 
Bobblehead Dad
RT @: Driving in the car w/ my 2-yr. old son and "Don't Fear the Reaper" came on. I said More Cow Bell. He didn't laugh.
 
Mike
Nothing empties dorms or wakes children like burnt popcorn
 
Real Dad
quite nipply outside
 
Chris Tilley
You know you are a if you have ever used a screwdriver to separate frozen sausages.
 
marc maron
Almost all of my old Conans are viewable at fyi.
 
Aaron Gouveia
My piece over at @ about the time I got a 36-pack of condoms for Xmas- from my mom!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Superman: Earth One

When I heard about this project a number of months ago, it simultaneously intrigued and frustrated me.  The story of how Clark Kent leaves Smallville, goes to Metropolis and becomes the world's greatest hero has been told and re-told a number of times before in multiple media and historical periods.  The past 9 1/2 seasons of Smallville, have milked this concept for all it is worth and then some.  Why tell the same story all over again?  Given the fact that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have been telling it over the past year in Superman: Secret Origin within the current continuity of the DC Universe, what possible reason could there be to tell it in an alternate continuity? 

On the other hand, J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) is definitely one of the very best writers in comics today.  Read his work on Silver Surfer: Requiem, and the first story-lines of Thor's current incarnation that he wrote back in 2007 and one comes to the conclusion that this is a guy who has a unique voice, something to say, and he knows how to write a compelling superhero story.

Then there was some of the promotional artwork that DC released over the year.  This image from artist Shane Davis was enough to get me all excited.

Finally, the format is relatively untapped in comics.  Instead of telling the story in monthly periodicals, the Earth One project tells it in one long-form book.  Normally, when you pick up a graphic novel, you are buying four to six monthly installments that have been collected into one edition.  This means that each story is really four to six little stories, each with their own plot arc within a larger plot arc.  In other words, you can count on a cliffhanger every 22 pages.  I definitely wanted to see what JMS would do when freed from the 22-page per chapter restrictions in traditional comics.  The longer format alone might not have convinced me, but combined with the writer and the artist, I was determined to get this book and pre-ordered it on Amazon.

I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.  JMS has written an interpretation on Clark Kent and his decision to become Superman which is deep, introspective, and resonant.  The tone is defined by the fact that this is the youngest Superman anyone has ever presented to us.  Clark is 20 years old when he arrives in Metropolis.  His plan is to get a job in the big city and fit in - something which has eluded him for most of his life.  This is what he wants to do, but through the use of flashbacks to his youth with his ma and pa, we discover that this is not what his parents think he should do.  In this version, the Kents are the ones who see Clark's purpose most clearly, and encourage him to be who he is supposed to be.  He comes around eventually, and reveals himself to the world when the alien Tyrell invades the earth, and threatens its complete destruction if the last surviving Kryptonian refuses to surrender.  Big surprise here: Superman saves the day, defeats the genocidal alien invader, and is revealed to the world in the process.  Finally, Clark Kent, now complete with glasses and "mild-mannered" persona, arrives at the Daily Planet with the world's first exclusive interview with Superman.

From what I've read in interviews with the people at DC Comics, Superman: Earth One will be an ongoing series; sort of a comic book version of the Harry Potter and Twilight book series.  I could not be happier.  The long format worked wonderfully.  JMS gave us an interesting new take on Superman, and left all sorts of unanswered questions, while delivering a complete story.  The artwork was spot-on.  Shane Davis needs to be given credit for the most realistic version of Metropolis that I've ever seen.  I'm not necessarily a fan of a smaller, younger Superman, but I can't fault Davis for his the execution. 

The fact that DC has had to crank out a second and third printing of Superman: Earth One is completely justified by this book.  It is great.  I recently read that DC was pulling JMS off of his writing duties on the monthly Superman comic book to begin working on the follow-up immediately.  That is great news.  I can't wait.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reusable Coffee Cup Sleeves

I stopped by one of the local Starbucks here in the District this morning and noticed that they were selling little felt coffee cup sleeves for $3.95/ea.  In an attempt to be "green," Starbucks is trying to get us to buy something completely stupid and unnecessary. 

Don't get me wrong.  I consider myself an environmentalist.  Thanks to my awesome "man-bag" and a few high-quality reusable shopping bags, I rarely need the plastic bags they charge us $0.05 for here in DC.  I am pro-reusable anything.

But I am opposed to the creation of a product, manufactured who knows where creating who knows how much carbon, which, under the guise of being "green" is anything but!  Think about it.  The little cardboard sleeves Starbucks has had for years are reusable.  All you have to do is take them off your cup before you toss it and put it in your wallet or jeans pocket or use it as a bookmark or something. 

To be honest, this never occurred to me before, but the very presence of a "reusable" sleeve got me thinking.  So now you get this rant.  Rest assured, I'll never buy a "reusable" coffee cup sleeve.  I have decided instead, to start reusing the old cardboard ones instead.

Have you seen any other ridiculous examples of "green" marketing?  Maybe you know of something else that we are expected to use once then throw away which is actually reusable?  Share!

How to Be A Stay-At-Home-Dad: Step 3

Get Organized!

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsGuys, I don't know about you, but when it comes to household management, I was never very intentional or organized about it as a young man.  In college we didn't clean anything until the smell became unbearable or our female friends and acquaintances stopped visiting.  After college, I only vacuumed and dusted to keep my roommate/landlord just happy enough not to throw me and my dog out on our asses.  Even when my spouse an I moved in together, I was not what one would call "pro-active" about my responsibilities around the apartment. (I vacuumed and mopped pretty regularly, but you absolutely must do that when you, the love of your life and your English bulldog are living, sleeping, and eating all in the same room.)  When you are a SAHD, however, there is no question: you must have a system.  This system must incorporate every responsibility you and your partner decide is yours.  Whatever system you use must be effective.

It took me way too long to learn this.  During the first 5 months of our daughter's life, I should have been practicing.  My spouse and I were both at home while she was studying and there was time to figure it out.  But, being the knuckle-head that I am, I didn't realize how much more difficult it was going to be once my spouse was going to work every day and I was basically stuck at home with an infant, a bulldog, and a lot to get done one way or another.

So I started with a list.  "Things to do EVERY DAY."  It included stuff like, "empty the diaper pail," "walk the dog," and "feed the baby."  Was it a little ridiculous?  Of course.  But I kept adding to it as I discovered there were other things I had to do as the homemaker.  "Make dinner," "do one load of laundry," and "vacuum" for example.  There was a problem, though.  The list was never quite right.  Some of the things on the list actually didn't need to be done every day.  Other things needed to be done more frequently.  My self-made system wasn't very flexible.  I had even listed tasks according to when I should do them each day.  The inflexibility in my system drove me nuts.  But I stuck with it until recently.

I should say, that when you are organized, and you get everything done that you were supposed to do life is good.  You feel great about yourself.  Your partner feels great about you.  You can look everyone in the eye with confidence and self-respect because you know you are awesome.  When you abandon organization; when you miss something or forget something, even something as simple as picking up the dry-cleaning so your partner has her/his favorite shirt for the meeting on Tuesday, you feel miserable.  You start doubting yourself as a father and as a partner.  That doubt infects your relationships with your partner and your children.  Simply put: it's not good.

I recently posted about the Get-it-done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More.  This is the system I use these days (more or less).  It has helped a lot.  It is flexible, realistic, and purpose-driven.  The application of "productivity tools" from a business perspective into my "job" as a SAHD has been a real help. 

If you are going to be a SAHD, you need to start getting organized now.  Don't leave it until you are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless responsibilities of being the primary care-giver for one or more children.  Get it under control now, and learn to leave room for things to go crazy if they need to.  Learn to be organized enough that you can deal with the unexpected when it happens.

So what do you think?  Do you use a system to stay organized?  Are you naturally organized?  Or are you someone who is more laid back about what gets done and when?  Are there any good books or podcasts about personal organization you might recommend?  Let's help each other out and share whatever tips we have for what works for us.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creep: Drawing From My Distant Past #8

This monster character was inspired by Spawn, the Incredible Hulk, and Doomsday.  He was a huge, deadly, silent, homeless demon who befriended inner-city kids and kept them safe from the deadly circumstances in which they lived.
I drew him first sometime in 1993 on the same day and on the page immediately following the character I posted last week.  I am disappointed that I cannot find that sketchbook.  I remember I had committed to putting one new character on each page.  I was inspired at the time by Erik Larsen, who was notorious for creating an incredible number of useless characters and actually using them in comic books like Spider-man, The Savage Dragon, and Wolverine.  I was amazed that such a popular comics writer and artist just made up some of the stupidest characters ever and had no shame about putting them in whatever comic book he was writing or illustrating at the time.  Much like Larsen, I took visual cues from more than one popular character and put them into a new one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memory Inventory: Bless This House

Between July of 2000 and July 2005, I worked as a youth minister and pastoral associate with a small Catholic Church and mission community in Northern Virginia.  Over the five years I was there, I met a lot of wonderful people, and some of them gave me presents, usually around Christmas and end of the school year.  One of these gifts falls into the category of "stuff I carry around with me wherever I go and don't really know why."

This small plate, dish, or whatever has literally served over the years as a "catch-all."  I kept it on top of a small shelf and daily emptied the contents of my pockets onto it.  However, in our last two dwellings, I relegated it to the crate of stuff I move from place to place hoping that the irritation of its very presence will be lessened by its itinerant character.  [This crate and its contents are the inspiration behind my project to inventory the memories brought to mind by things in this apartment that I have not been able to leave behind.]

In absolute honesty, I cannot remember the person or occasion that brought this piece of steel into my life.  I vaguely remember the mother of one of the participants in our summer program presenting me with a gift at the end of the program.  I remember not expecting it.  I remember opening it and thinking, "What the heck am I going to do with this?"  I remember thinking, "I don't even have a house."  In fact, for the past 6-8 years (I estimate I received this in August of 2003, give or take a year) I only lived in a house for 3 of them (if you count the 2 years we spent on the third floor of a row-house in New Haven, CT).  What I do remember is parents' gratitude every year that I did that summer program.  It went through ups and downs, but the parents and the kids really appreciated it.  As cynical as I have become about youth ministry, I can't deny that there is something special about offering children a safe place to have fun, and to be an adult whose company they enjoy and with whom they enjoy their summer afternoons.

I don't really miss youth ministry.  But I do miss the kids and their parents.  This little plate calls those sentiments to mind.  That is a blessing to me.  I'm going to take it to Goodwill and hopefully it can be a blessing to someone else too. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dental Experiment

Yesterday I called a dentist to schedule appointments for me and my daughter. I was flying blind; I just picked one that was in a nearby building and called. Finding a dentist in our network using the online locator was as far as I took the research. I figured that experiential research would be more effective.

I scheduled my appointment for today and my daughter's for next week. That way, I will be the guinea pig, and neither my daughter nor my wife will be subjected to a dental experience that I don't find satisfactory.

There is one problem with this, however: I HAVE TO GO TO THE DENTIST TODAY!

I hate the going to the dentist! I never felt this way as a kid, but as an adult, my own procrastinatory habits caused me to put it off and put it off. As you know, the longer you put it off, the worse it is when you go. So when I finally went to the dentist for the first time since. High school back in 2004, the hygienist, sighed, said, "bear with me," grabbed her metal-scraping-pointy-things, and proceeded with the bloody, painful work.

From that point to now, my procrastination is bolstered by that extremely painful experience. I promised myself that I'd floss every day, that I'd go to the dentist every six months, that I'd never let it happen again. But it has happened again. I left my job and had no insurance for a while. When I got a job in CT in 2006, the procrastination began again. I didn't go to the dentist again until fall of 2007, when I was about to lose my I insurance again. The experience was horrifically similar.

And now, it is 2010, and I have no one to blame but myself for the misery I am about to endure (how Catholic is that?). But I'll take my medicine just to make sure that my punkin's first dental experience doesn't traumatize her too much. Who knows? Maybe I'll get an appointment for six months from now like I'm supposed to. Maybe I'll floss a little more too!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Drawing from My Recent Past #2

In the summer of 2007, I had just finished paying off my last credit card (and haven't carried a balance since!) and, with my wife out of town summering with law firms here and there, I have a few extra dollars in my pocket for the first time in a while.  I actually got back into comic books for a (very) short time.  I was smarter about it than I was my youth: This time I only bought stuff I knew I was going to enjoy.  So I got back into the classic characters.  Here are the "big three" of DC Comics. 
I'm actually pretty proud of this one.  I actually thought about the composition and the look I wanted to give it.  There are a couple anatomical anomalies: Superman's head is way too small; Wonder Woman's breasts are sitting too high on a rib-cage that is too short.
 
About a month later, I would discover that I was a daddy, so I stopped spending the $15/week on comic books and eventually even gave almost my entire collection to the local Goodwill, though I kept a few gems.  These days, I wait until the collected editions come out and get only the ones that are well-reviewed.

Favorite Tweets of the Weekend

Tim Thraeryn
If you can read this, I hope you're happy. If you're NOT happy, I hope it changes quickly. <3
 
Rian van der Merwe
Here's your weekend reading. You're welcome. "The glorious return of the high five" -
 
themuskrat
Which one of you assholes gave my 4yo cymbals?
 
Commonweal Magazine
Patrick J. Ryan, SJ: Confessions of a five-minute atheist
 
FEMINIST HULK
CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO RIGIDLY DEFINED GENDERS: LIKE TRYING TO PAINT PORTRAIT WITH ONLY MAUVE OR TEAL. HULK SMASH BINARY!
 
dadofdivas
Fatherhood Friday Tips and Advice – Portland Dad
 
christopher
I want to move to New York.
 
The Kid's Doctor
News study: teens are waiting longer to have sex but still taking risks. Parents, talk to your kids!
 
Jason Mayo
My lizard had a normal bowel movement today and I did too. Our male version of menstrual synchrony.
 
Hugh Weber
Was pretty sure I had a squirrel in the car. After 10 minutes of trying to get it out, I realized it was just an empty taco bag. Sad.
 
Neil Gaiman
Taxi driver just told me there was no such place as airport Hilton, and showed me the list of airports his GPS had given him to prove it.
 
Neil Gaiman
Taxidriver drove me to a bank and said "the Machine says here" Me: points to high building with big red Hilton sign on top. "Maybe there?"
 
Aaron Gouveia
From this day forward, the term "jackwagon" will be my preferred insult of choice.
 
The Good Men Project
Congratulations, ! Boxing legend and a GoodMan in our book.
 
CoupleDumb
TheJackB
Junior high memories: Some Wounds Take Longer To Heal
 
Huffington Post
WATCH: George W. Bush & Kanye West Reconcile On 'Weekend Update'
 
Ms. Magazine
RT @: "Do you think is in crisis?" Via @: How did get less manly?
 
NPR News
Out Of The Closet ... In The Pulpit Of A Megachurch
 
Jezebel
A Call to Arms (And Abs, Quads, Calves, and Shoulders)
 
The Good Men Project
But “is that manly enough?” | What do you think?
 
Darth Vader
For those of you who asked, all I want for Sithmas is my two legs back.
 
Conan O'Brien
My favorite thing about November? Limited Edition Turkey M&M’s.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stewart, Maddow and Koppel

In the aftermath of John Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear and the recent 2-day suspension of Keith Olberman for unauthorized political contributions, some of us have started thinking a bit about the role of the media in American political discourse.  How has that role changed?  What should that role be? 

Stewart got beat up by liberal pundits after his rally for committing the apparently unforgivable sin of "false equivalency," or painting liberal and conservative media with the same broad brush.  He spoke with Rachel Maddow recently, and they went back and forth for over an hour.  In my opinion, she consistently misunderstands him, and the distinctions she makes about how MSNBC is different from Fox News (other than the obvious) aren't really convincing.  Both of them get it wrong in their belief that Fox News supported George W. Bush no matter what; they seem to forget about the immigration debate and TARP.  If you have an hour, though, it is a great interview to watch. 

I can't wait to hear what Olberman and Maddow have to say about this opinion column in The Washington Post by Ted Koppel.  Much like Stewart, he blames the polarization of the media for the increasing polarization of American political discourse.  With journalistic ethics and in-depth coverage seemingly going out the window in favor of profits and cheap talk, there can be no national conversation.  Two sides trying to shout louder than each other is what television cable news gives us.  No one really hears anything.  And nothing really gets accomplished. 

Gridlock is in the air, America.  The Constitution was written in such a way that compromise between opposing sides is necessary in order to pass legislation.  If the polarized media on each side continues to encourage an American citizenry which refuses to allow their elected leaders to compromise, nothing can be done, and the status quo, however ineffective, unjust, or incompetent will remain firmly in place.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Be A Stay-At-Home-Dad: Step 2

FINISH IT!

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsI write this advice not as someone who actually took it.  Absolutely everyone I knew and everyone who cared about me gave me this advice and I all but ignored it.  This is a "do as I say and not as I didn't do when I should have done..." bit of advice.

If you have something on your plate, like an education, a thesis (me!), a class, a project, a dissertation etc. which you aspire to complete, get it done before you take the leap to stay-at-home-dad.

In my case, I had begun a master's degree a few years before my daughter was born and only had to complete my thesis.  I put off my thesis for a year before, and then I learned I was going to be a daddy.  Instead of dropping everything and finishing my thesis as quickly as possible (it's pass/fail after all), I made little real progress while distracting myself with all the other preparations for the arrival of my daughter.  Yes, I spent time writing and reading and note-taking, but at no time did I buckle down and get it done.

For the past two and a half years since her birth, I have struggled to make time and give energy to my paper.  After a full day of taking care of an infant (now toddler) and her mother, I struggled to do anymore than read a few pages and take a few notes.  We currently have our daughter in day care three days a week just so I can finish it this semester, fully 4 1/2 years after I finished classes.

The mere fact of this unfinished project has hung around my neck like a millstone for the duration of my life as a father.  My previous inactivity and apparent inability to get it done made me feel like a failure even as I was succeeding to all outward appearances in taking care of my two ladies.  Not being finished with this important project has raised my baseline stress level, and when you add the stress of keeping an infant alive and happy, keeping a wife happy and lively, keeping a home happy and livable, and managing the day-to-day business of happy living... ugh.  Let's just say that being a stay-at-home-dad has been more stressful for me than it needed to be.  It's my own doing.  Had I finished my thesis before my daughter was born, I am sure everyone in this family would have been a lot happier for the past 32 months.  When I finally turn in my paper this month, I look forward to a lower baseline stress level, a better self-image, and a happier family altogether.  I set my watch and warrant on it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Drawing from My Distant Past #7

I don't think I ever gave this guy a name.  I had a vague idea to draw darker, more violent characters after the creators at Image Comics gave us characters like Spawn, Deathblow, and The Maxx.  This character is not very original in appearance, but I found it easy to draw faces in deep shadow.  I therefore decided that this character's face would always be in deep shadow.
Deep shadow also means you don't have to draw feet apparently, and even a couple years later (I think I drew this guy in 1993) I still refused to draw fingers.  I should have just cast the hands into deep shadow too, but probably figured, "I'll just draw the outline and get to the fingers and shadows... NEVER! Check out the awesomely huge signature!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Memory Inventory: Senior Year Memories

I can only imagine how ridiculous someone's senior year in high school must be these days.  Even way back in 1995, there were all these weird products and expectations and things you had to buy in order to preserve the memories forever.  Along with name cards, invitations, announcements, and photos, for some reason the "package" I chose came with a shiny black book entitled Senior Year Memories.  I still have it, even though only a few pages contain anything memorable.

Apparently the expectation was to fill in the pages with all the details you were supposed to remember from your senior year.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't receive it until May or June and therefore had forgotten most of what I was supposed to remember.  By that point, the homecoming dance back in October was a distant memory, the swim season had been finished for 2 months.  My mind was on the future (as usual) and not on the recent past.

The few pages that contain any writing don't really help me recall any memories at all.  Instead, they draw my mind to those relationships from high school and how they developed or diminished over the past 15 years.  The "Signatures" pages contain entire pages written by friends, most of whom I haven't even spoken to in years.

But there are a couple pages which stand out.  A couple pages that I look at now and wonder to myself, "How could I have been so blind?"  For those who don't know, I went to high school with my wife.  We dated for a little over a year, but had broken up.  By the end of senior year, we were back to being really good close friends.  There was a page at the front of the book where you were supposed to write down your thoughts about "a special friend."  Here's a bit of what I wrote about her: 
"She was my first girlfriend and my first kiss.  She is one of the strongest and weakest people I have ever known.  Sometimes she needs to lean on me, and I am a willing crutch.  Sometimes she just needs a hug, and I am a happy supplier."
 A few pages later, on one of the "Signatures" pages, she wrote back.  I'm not going to quote her here because I haven't asked her, but rereading these two pages now, I see the connection which continued to draw us together over the course of our very different lives.  Over the past 15 years since that time, we've drifted together, apart, lost track, back together, and fell in love.  After scanning the six or so pages that actually contain written memories into the old HP, I tossed them and the rest of the book in the trash (I'm cleaning house here).  But these two pages aren't going anywhere.  I'm going to frame them, hang them up, and keep them close to me for the rest of my life.  Just like I'm going to hold her for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Changing My Blog's Name

I began this blog in 2005 using the name "Zuke."  I chose that name because is was my grandfather's nickname and, even though I can barely remember him (he passed when I was very young), I always felt some sort of connection to him when I wrote on this blog.  I've written about memory before, and though I wasn't really remembering him, I was certainly calling him to mind.

Recently I've written a few things on my blog related to my opinions about the institutions and hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  It was brought to my attention that my grandfather may have disagreed with or taken offense at some of the things I've said regarding our current pope, and that by expressing my opinions with his name in my blog's title I was dishonoring his memory.  Whether or not I agree with this sentiment, I have no wish to even appear to do anything of the sort, especially if it damages relationships which I hold very dear.  

Now I'm only using my initial, "Z" in my blog's title.  I've also changed the web address to http://yourdailyz.blogspot.com.  I'll be making the rounds to the sites where I am listed and making the appropriate changes there as well. 

Make no mistake: I am not planning to change my opinions or shy away from expressing them as forcefully as I can, but if I am being uncharitable or cross a rhetorical line, I need to know it.  Post a comment, write a response, link me, whatever.  I love a good debate, and over the years I've been known to change my opinion, no matter what you've heard.  

I am going to take some good advice and let things simmer a little before I post about them.  Not everything requires an immediate response; some things need more time and consideration.  I'm going to do my best to discern which is which.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Church of England Falls

Okay, I may have overstated the issue with that title, but after reading this article by Tim Ross at the Telegraph.co.uk my plans to review last Friday's episode of Smallville are officially on hold. 

Some of you may already be familiar with the many problems I have with the institutions of the Roman Catholic Church.  Recently, as Ross notes in his article, the Pope created an opportunity for Anglican Bishops to leave the Church of England and enter into full communion with Rome.  The hierarchy essentially marketed this opportunity to the most conservative members of the Anglican communion.  The basic pitch was, "we in the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church  have stubbornly refused to make those changes in our institutions required by the commitment to justice found in our theology - like allowing for the ordination of women - which your church has adopted.  We know that this pisses you off because you identify faithful Christianity with institutional sexism.  Here's a way to have your sexism and your Anglican liturgy all in one.  All you gotta do is leave the Church of England and join up with Rome."  I've already dealt with my personal struggles regarding this marketing of injustice and what it means for me as a self-identifying Catholic in a post some time ago.  But what does it mean for the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the future as this marketing is bearing fruit?

First of all, it is nice that the most sexist and homophobic bishops in the Anglican Church are so helpful in identifying themselves.  I'm sure most of the Church of England already knew who they were before hand, but that kind of openness eludes us in the Catholic Church most of the time.  If there are differences of opinion about the treatment of women and homosexuals among the bishops of the Catholic Church in the US, we'd be hard pressed to find them.  The resignation of 5 bishops from the Church of England to join into full communion with Rome identifies them and where they stand.
The five are said to be “dismayed” at the liberal reforms to the Church in recent decades and intend to join the Ordinariate in pursuit of “unity” with Rome when the new body is established next year.
While I'm sure there are those in the Church of England who are glad to have these most blatant sexists leave their fold, I am also disturbed that they are finding welcome in the Roman Catholic Church.  I, and progressive Catholics like me, continue to hold out hope that, as time moves forward and the sinful institutionalization of sexism in the hierarchical structures of the Catholic Church becomes less and less tenable, the bishops will call for the end to the prohibition of the ordination of women.  It will take courageous bishops and a courageous pontiff.  However, the current crop of bishops and their pope cling to the sexism which they believe insures their continued power and influence.  Benedict XVI has continued to reach out, in the name of Christian unity, to the most radical conservative elements in the Roman Church and now in the Anglican Church.  This will have repercussions for decades if not generations. 

On the other hand, these five bishops will soon find, no doubt, that communion with Rome has downsides as well.  Within the Anglican communion, bishops have had much more autonomy than bishops in the Roman Catholic Church have.  These bishops may find the bonds of unity with Rome to be more restrictive than they like.  And, of course, there is always the chance (slim and growing slimmer with each new bishop and each new cardinal) that our next pope - or the one after that - will  be a man of courage and justice; someone who will recognize the face of Christ in the women who have been serving in roles of leadership in local parishes and dioceses for so long.  Where will these bishops and their respective flocks turn should a new pope make a new policy?  We will probably have some sort of schism again.  They and their ilk will go their own way and claim the rest of the church apostate and heretical.  The fact of the matter remains that the majority of the world is extremely sexist and homophobic.  Sexist and homophobic doctrines and structures will continue to appeal to people all over the world for a long time to come.  I wish they weren't so hell-bent on making those rather theologically insignificant doctrines (though not practically insignificant) the main selling point for Christian faith moving forward.

What we will have is a church bound together, not by the love of Christ, but by common hatred of women and homosexuals.  There is nothing in the gospel of Jesus Christ which requires Christians to hate, exclude, denigrate, or belittle anyone.  And yet, on the basis of all these things, the pope and these five bishops claim they are working for the cause of Christian unity.  There is nothing Christian about sexism.  There is nothing Christian about homophobia.  The great tragedy of our age is that these two things have become identical with Christianity in the minds of, well, just about everyone; believers and non-believers alike.  Only a handful of progressive Christians see it differently.  Hopefully these prophets will be heard or these injustices will continue to be perpetrated in the name of Christ.

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Ric Dragon
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TheJackB
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Friday, November 05, 2010

How to Be a Stay-At-Home-Dad: Step 1

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsSome of my fellow daddy bloggers out there probably already know a bit about what it takes to be a Stay-at-home-dad (SAHD), but I've also heard from others like DaddyFiles that they just don't know how we manage it.  Joking about beer and hot wives aside, there are some important steps men need to take if they are considering being a SAHD.  The first one is the most important.

First, you have to realize that American concepts of what it is to "be a man" are social conventions.  Masculinity is not an objective concept: it has evolved and changed across history and today varies from country to country, state to state.  The "traditional gender roles" are societal constructions which an individual either buys into or does not.  I've seen any number of websites out there trying to tell us "what it means to be a man in today's world."  Though some are purely misogynist, others list things like "integrity," "honesty," "hard work," "humility," and any other number of virtues that are, when you really think about it, neither masculine nor feminine, but simply human.  When you choose to be a SAHD, you must embrace the concept of a deeper humanity which is more important and more basic than the socially constructed concepts of masculinity which have been laid on your shoulders because of the simple fact of living in this place at this time.  If you do not accept that gender roles are only social constructs and you still decide to be a SAHD, then you will not be living a life of integrity.  Your actions will not match your beliefs and you will suffer all the mental disorders that result from living in such a state of cognitive dissonance.  Only after you redefine your own role according to what you believe is the right thing for you as a human to do for your family in your given situation can you transcend the gender roles which have been imposed upon us all from without.  You can re-define your own masculinity accordingly.  I like to tell people who get on my case, "you be a man in your way, and I'll be a man in my way."

Choosing to be a SAHD is difficult because it challenges the accepted traditional gender stereotypes we have been conditioned to believe are somehow normative.  Many men and women will find their concepts of what it means to be male or female challenged by your decision.  I think this is a good thing.  The world will be a much better place when we all stop trying to impose our way of doing things on others for whom our way simply doesn't work.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Drawing from My Recent Past #1

I drew this after reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while at our family reunion in July of 2005.  I imagined Harry as a teenager about to enter his 18th year, and he is tired of being everyone's whipping boy.  
I'm always a little too pleased with myself when I actually put in a background of some sort.  I prefer to just draw the character standing there looking grim and doing nothing without any setting or context whatsoever.  Having never seen the "dark mark" in the movies at this point, I used my eraser to quickly and simply draw something like what was described in the book.  My Hogwarts is pretty simple too.  Like I said, I don't draw backgrounds very often and have no experience whatsoever drawing architecture or ornamentation.

Drawing from My Distant Past #6

Here we have another dude I just thought up off the top of my head sometime in 1992 I think.  As you can see, I have introduced both ink and color to the mix, but still found it nearly impossible to draw a human face (nostrils?  Who needs 'em?).
After making a valiant attempt to draw one hand, I gave up on the other and put some kind of propulsion blast there instead.  After spending way too much time drawing all those little bumps under his right arm, I must have been really tired out, because I used the same propulsion blast trick on the entire lower body.  It must have been past my bedtime.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Memory Inventory: My First Role of Film

I asked and received a 35mm camera for my birthday in 1991.  I thought it was the best thing ever!  I immediately took a picture of our dog, Taffy, and forgot about the camera until the last day of school.  I was in eighth grade.  I have kept the book with the pictures from that first role of film ever since.  The pictures are terrible; nearly all of them are back-lit, but they continue to represent my middle-school years to me as I grow older.

My mother used the camera in May of that year to take pictures of the "May Crowning" ceremony.  I went to a Catholic K - 8 school in Woodbridge, VA.  Every May, there was a ceremony during which a couple eight graders placed a crown of flowers on a statue of Mary (the mother of Jesus for those of you who aren't sure who I'm talking about).  Janet and I had been voted May Queen and King by our classmates.  There was no campaign - one morning the teacher just told everyone they were to vote.  The impression I got was that we were to vote for whoever we thought was the most goody-two-shoes.  I had never been voted anything before at all, and didn't know what my classmates thought of me (I figured they just thought I was a nerd).  Apparently, they thought I was a good kid (and a nerd).  Honestly, I was touched and surprised. 

After that, I made sure to bring the camera and its remaining pictures to the last day of school.  I took a few pictures of friends, the "cool" nun (there should always be one cool nun to remind you that not all nuns are hateful women whose faces break into a thousand angry pieces every time they attempt to smile), and then I handed it over to my mother again for the graduation ceremony.

Most of the pics from the ceremony are too far away to tell what's going on.  If you squint, you can see me and Jen standing to the side of the entire class to sing our duet during the class song ("Wind Beneath My Wings" - she sang alto, I sang soprano.  Don't worry, withing four months my voice had changed and I was belting church songs in my current baritone).  But at the reception afterward, we managed to get a a picture of me and Mrs. Baily, the choir teacher and my voice coach.

Towards the end of seventh grade, Mrs. Baily, after what could only have been a frustrating attempt to teach our class to sing "What a Wonderful World," talked to me after the class and had me sing a few lines all by myself.  The next thing I knew, I was practicing for a solo.  After that, I took voice lessons from her for the next year or so.  She taught me how to sing properly and how to sing in front of people.  That year's worth of lessons, during which she guided me from a seventh grader who sang soprano to a high school freshman with a decent baritone has remained with me to this day.  I've probably picked up a few bad habits since then.  I haven't had a voice lesson since she moved away shortly after I started high school.  Coffee and beer and city pollution have certainly diminished my vocal capacity in recent years.  But I still love to sing.  I thought I did a pretty good job at my grandmother's funeral last year.  I have Mrs. Baily to thank for that.  I have no idea where she is now.  I'm certain she went on to draw out the giftedness of other young people.  How could she not?  It was part of who she was.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It's like some kind of nightmare!

I just found the following words on the care label of a sweater I had to wash and IT IS MY SWEATER:  "reshape and lay flat to dry"!?!  How have I been living like this for all these years.  Who gave me this sweater?  Surely, I would never have purchased a sweater with these most hateful of care instructions!  What kind of a person would ever give a super-thick, knit turtleneck sweater that you have to lay out on towels for two to three days to a guy like me?  Someone diabolical, that's who!  Ooooh!  If only I could remember who gave this to me, I would definitely dedicate a few more paragraphs in this blog to shame them for their folly!  As it stands, I'll have to settle for taking this sweater to Goodwill... in two or three days after it dries. 

Clean House and Memory Inventory

Every Wednesday for the past few weeks, I've posted what I call a memory inventory.  I'm doing this because, like many people, have been holding on to stuff for purely sentimental reasons.  The material objects that travel with us through life call to mind and make memories, feelings and even physical sensation present for us over and over again.  They also clutter up our closets, junk up our dresser drawers, and make it difficult to find room for new stuff - new memories.

I have never considered myself to be very sentimental.  Even back in middle school, I would periodically go through my desk drawers and toss out old drawings, awards, papers, and so forth just to have the feeling of accomplishment that comes when you clean out a junky drawer to reveal space to put more junk!  Nevertheless, I now occupy a small apartment in the District of Columbia and there are things I have here with me that have followed me to all seven of the places I've lived since graduating from the University of Virginia in 1999.  For someone who does not consider himself very sentimental, that doesn't make a lot of sense.

So I decided to apply a little reason to the problem.  I came to the conclusion, that I keep these things around as a means to remember the times, places, people, and emotions to which they refer.  The television show Clean House would tell me that a memory is not contained in any thing, and therefore getting rid of these things is not getting rid of the memory.  But Clean House doesn't mention how the human mind forms and maintains memories.  Memories are, over-simply speaking, systems of biochemical pathways which become fixed in the physical structures of our brains.  They are a physical reality.  Every time you access a memory, some sort of biochemical electric process occurs that actually strengthens that physical structure.  If we don't remember something often enough, those biochemical neural connections weaken.  They may eventually break down entirely.  If looking at, handling, or smelling some thing causes us to remember some past event or person, that thing is a means to actually strengthening and preserving that memory.  These things I have kept for the past 10 - 15 years or longer are actually fixing the memories to which they refer more strongly in my mind.  If I simply get rid of them, I truly do risk losing those memories forever.  At the very least, I will impair my ability to access them.

At the same time, I do not want to carry this stuff around with me for the rest of my life.  So, I have decided that the best way for me to keep my memories and get rid of the stuff cluttering up my closet is to write the memories down on this blog and get rid of the thing itself.  The memory is what I want to keep, not the thing.  The internet never forgets.  Even now I can look back at things I wrote back in 2005 and feel what I felt then; I remember where I was and what I was doing.  Some of you who read this may be family and friends.  Maybe you gave me something special that I have had to get rid of and write about.  Keep in mind that the thing is not a relationship any more than it is a memory, and when I get rid of the thing, I also fondly recall our relationship and the memories we share. 

I'm going to continue going through my stuff and making a permanent record of my memories.  Writing memories down actually strengthens those neural pathways too - often more strongly.  I hope you don't mind taking a look through this window on my life from time to time.  At the very least, I know I am enjoying the view.