Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Astro

It's been running rough! To be honest I can't tell you what is wrong with it. It shakes and shivers when I brake. I can smell gasoline every time I step out of the vehicle. There are small but growing spots appearing on the concrete under where my van rests over night. It's time to take it in. Not too long from now I will need to jam my family into it and head up north to Red Deer to visit my in-laws. Now I'm not clueless about vehicles but you could hardly translate my knowledge into any sort of real advantage when it comes to repair. There's too much that can go wrong and I certainly do not want to make my situation worse.

So I gotta take my beater into the garage – it has to be done. Now I have worked really hard to develop a relationship with a garage that I feel that I can trust. But I can't help thinking that I am sorta getting screwed – every time I leave. And the bills are never small. I should say that I know enough that if my mechanic were to suggest that my bumper needed replacing I could tell he was shafting me. But even if it is not something as obvious as that I have to admit that I am pretty suspicious every time I get the bill. That's partially due to my ignorance – but it's mostly due to my position – especially that of a customer. By bringing my vehicle in I am already giving over authority to my mechanic to tell me what is wrong. Sure I can tell him what the symptoms are but the basic reason I am bringing my van in is because I am unable (whether due to time or expertise or ability) to fix the vehicle myself. So he holds the conch. "You need a new gympson saddle on your left value deliberator!" he says. "Alright," I say, caring less at this point about whether I can figure out what his terms mean than what it is going to cost me. You know what is weird – the more the bill is the more I wonder about my mechanic integrity. And he's the good mechanic – don't even get me started on Canadian Tire! One time I even had a tow truck drag my van in - really reaching for the pity response. Stupid thing was that was the highest bill I ever paid on the van and you know what it never has run the same since. I'm the customer.

Then something totally weird happened to me. This guy flagged me down on the highway between Lethbridge and Coaldale. He came up to me – total stranger – and said he had been following me since the lights. He said he had noticed my van shaking as I pulled up to the light and said he could tell the engine was running rough. He asked me if I was looking for some help. I jumped out of the van not sure what to make of this guy but his diagnosis seemed trustworthy (not because it was any different than that of my mechanic but precisely because it came unsolicited). After some conversation and some rooting around under the hood he asked me if he could adjust the carburetor on the van. Then he said, "Listen here's my number – call me and let me know if that gas smell is still showing. And if you want we can talk about some time when I could come over and we could look at the vehicle in depth." While I was trying to wipe off the grease stain on his business card so I could put it in my wallet, he disappeared back into his truck. When I got home – the smell was still there but the van was running more smoothly – it did not want to stall mid-idle. I think I might give this guy a call…

Wouldn't it be nice if this is how the story goes? See what I mean.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The self defeating nature…

Of right-wing politics' espousal of capitalism.

I think that John D'Emilio draws some fascinating conclusions about the way that the project of Capitalism is one that contradicts the strength of the classically defined family. Read his article here. Essentially he points out that with the advent of Capitalisms 'free labour' market, the family needed to shift its identity. Formerly when the family was the locus of production and was essentially self sustaining sexual identity (as a way to define yourself) did not exist. Sex was essential to procreation to produce labourers that sustained the family fortune. When individuals sought employment outside the home and no longer required the home to be the main source of production (since they could essentially purchase the products they needed). Sex, then, gradually came to be experienced as more dominantly an emotional expression and experience. As such D'Emilio contends that people were now free to form a sexual identity which was not available to them previously. His contention is that homosexuality became an identity at that point – not just an act. He points to several crucial historical events that he feels have shaped the growth of homosexuality in the last hundred years. I'm not nearly as interested in D'Emilio's claims to the establishment of the homosexual identity – even though I would find them mostly amenable. What I am really interested with is how he frames the oppositional nature that the essence of the family is to capitalist ideology.

"Finally, I have suggested that the relationship between capitalism and the family is fundamentally contradictory. On the one hand, capitalism weakens the material foundation of family life, making it possible for individuals to live outside the family, and for a lesbian and gay male identity to develop. On the other hand, it needs to push men and women into families, at least long enough to reproduce the next generation of workers. The elevation of the family to ideological pre-eminence guarantees that capitalist society will reproduce not just children but also heterosexism and homophobia. In the most profound sense, capitalism is the problem."

Bigotry of any form is certainly not foundational to the values of western society (let alone Christian values). And it is not that D'Emilio blames the family for the problem of bigotry rather the contradictory nature of capitalism to nature of the family. I think he coyly hints that the rise in divorce rate could be attributable to this contradiction as well. What is interesting is that right wing politics which has advocated more strict adherence to capitalistic principles in regards to economy is also the 'side' that claims to most ardently defend the nature – essence of the family. It also occurs to me that the rhetoric around the moral defence of the family serves only to heighten the tension that produces hatred toward people who choose alternate lifestyles. These idea could apply far more broadly to include racial and economic prejudice.

Again, I am not sure that D'Emilio's solutions in the last few paragraphs of this text are ones I agree with but I think there could be some value, for those of us who defend the family (of which I am one) as the essential component to a healthy society, in talking about how our ideological frameworks inform our political positions.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

If Dolly Parton...

read this blog she might be encouraged to drink more coffee. check this out!
People this just goes to show that coffee is not only a fabulous tasting beverage but it also has body modification properties - SWEET!

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Interesting Dichotomy

John Stewart (The Daily Show) pointed out and interesting dichotomy at work in this video. Apparently Arab and 'decent family man' are at least vauguely dichotomous positions if not directly oppositional ones. why don't we all do our best to nurture fear?!?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What does it mean to be poor?

Poor is a relative condition. And as such it is has become a nominative virtue which one can easily ascribe to one's own condition. It is also a negative ascription which is based primarily on our identification of another who is deemed to be rich. By negative ascription I mean that we name ourselves poor only as not being rich – like they are. And as such we bestow upon ourselves the merit of a position that refuses to identify with excess. Filthy rich – we say. And we mean rich as wasters of money.

The hummer is an example of a symbol upon which this image has been transferred. The vehicle itself – while vaguely envied – is seen as an excessively expensive to purchase with a horrible fuel consumption waste. It is not uncommon to hear it referenced with statements that speak of our impending environmental crisis predicated on over consumption. Because the vehicle is both a symbol of a bourgeois lifestyle and it is associated with something evil like climate pollution, it transfers onto the 'rich' status an even greater negative connotation than the 'snobbery' of being rich could connote on its own. We gladly drive our 95 Chevy Astro.

But if we are poor because we are not rich then we are also not very poor by the same process. We again negatively assess our condition in the light of not being as poor as others we can clearly identify. This again is a valued position because we suggest to ourselves that there is merit in avoiding the wretchedness of the very poor. In this we are appealing to our sense of accomplishment or achievement. And as Max Weber would correctly deduce we are ascribing our virtue through identification with the symbols of a material status. Our work ethic has once again proven just who good and up right. It is important therefore to own and have available those material possessions that allows us to avoid dependence on others. Examples of this are seem in the 'need' of every dwelling to possess a lawn mower or every child in household to have 'their own room'. This concept can be seen just as clearly in third world slum where ramshackle 'homes' may lack any amenities whatsoever but a television set is prominently available.

So what?

We, the proletariat, wring our hands in frustration and despair at the 'plight of the poor'. We point easily to the immorality of the rich with disgust. We are quietly and vaguely heartened that our ethic has kept us from the agony of the desperately poor. So it is with exasperation and relief that we approach poverty. And as long as poverty is framed in the context of virtue we are condemned to inaction and ultimately to failing the real needs of our human companions.

"Blessed are the poor…"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ugly: an Advent/Christmas Liturgy

Mom and Dad were talking about possible themes for Advent in their church so I gave them an ear full of my theological perspective. See here and here. As we talked about it we began brainstorming what advent series might look like if we followed some of these themes. I have sketched out some of my thinking below…


John 1:1-5, 14 "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Incarnation is the heart of the Gospel (Good News) message. God not only accomplished our redemption to himself by providing the ultimate sacrifice but he demonstrated how the human life/experience was meant to be lived. Ask yourself what required more sacrifice from God's perspective: accomplishing the work of redemption (cross) to bring his beloved back to himself; or identifying with the failing, feeble - generally ugly condition of human existence. (Obviously, I think the latter) The incarnation represents a profound reality about God's grace – we were not just worth saving – we were worth identifying with. This good news can speak profoundly to the kids/people in your ministry. The crap of their lives is not an isolated experience that they need to find their own way through. Our crap is God's crap – cause he knows. In a sense advent can be seen then as a preparatory shift that Christ had to take to identify with us – From the 'God of Glory' or the 'Son of Man'. He got Ugly.


Usually the advent season is this build up to 'glorious' climax of Christ's birth. Angels sing, wise men visit, etc. This time take the opposite approach – almost in the mood of a Tenebrae service except stretched out over a few weeks. The idea is to create a progressively uglier setting and motif for your meetings.


Start the first week with a polished celebratory service utilizing all the best aspects of your 'congregation' – this will reflect the tenor of heaven. Decorate with as much flare and beauty as possible. Have a banquet. Make the event celebratory. As you progress through the season allow the decorations to fall into disrepair and add junk and garbage till you have created a truly ugly (even smelly) place by the end. Or as you progress through the season remove decorations till you are left with a bare/stark motif for your gathering place. Also scale your 'production' back. In fact incorporate less and less 'talented' people in presenting the music or other content of the events. You might even want to orchestrate some actual failure into the flow of your meeting times. Awkward pauses and hiccups could reinforce the point in a powerful aesthetic way. Start with the all the candles in the Christmas wreath lit and extinguish one each week. End the Christmas Eve with only one light glowing from the manger.


You could take this one of two ways (maybe more) in terms of teaching focus. Typically Advent includes five events (including Christmas Eve). Here's two outline that might be possible:

#1 Celebration – The Glory of God (use scripture passages that speak of God's greatness, holiness, glory and majesty; have a sharing time that identifies the goodness of God; sing praise songs; Hallelujah chorus; trumpets;)

#2 God identifies with my World – Global focus. (use scripture passages that focus on the condition of the poor or war or disease and calamity; don't forget to include some of the beautiful things in nature; focus on specific world events; have a presentation from a relief organization; reflect on the lowliness of Christ's world at the time of his birth; read the stories of Christ's compassion on the poor and helpless)

#3 God identifies with my culture – national or cultural focus (use scripture passages that show how Christ took on the establishment of his culture; talk about the busyness of technology and how it affects our lives, media influences, you could add a bunch of busted TV's to the display; identify other cultural values that Christ challenged or reinterpreted – use the sermon on the mount as a guide)

#4God identifies with my community – local focus (read scriptures about the local setting that Christ was born in, take a tour around your town, focus on local issues; help participants to identify both the ugly and pretty side of the local setting imagine the birth of Christ as it might of occurred in this local setting.)

#5 God identifies with me – personal focus (read scriptures about how God loves each person individually; talk about personal garbage like broken relationships, woman at the well, woman caught in adultery; talk about personal fear and anxiety; talk about insignificance especially in light of the glory of heaven; end with a prayer services and personal sharing. Ask participants to reflect on how Christ's identification with them give them hope for their own lives and for further action in the world they live in)

Or you could develop a more topical approach to identification with something like this:

#1 Celebration – the Glory and Majesty of God (as above)

#2 God identifies with human relationships -- #3 God identifies with human fears -- #4 God identifies with human suffering -- #5 God identifies with human condition – sin

A few more thoughts. It seems to me that sometimes we approach Advent with a sense of anticipatory relief. I have often seen how the Advent season has been used to parallel the expectation of the return of Christ. This is a valuable parallel but in our times when some of our theological perspectives seem to be alienating us from reality (you know that sense that we need to just remain faithful while the world around us crumbles) I think it could be refreshing to see that Christ models the type of identificatory life that we should lead – the essence of our 'mission' in this world. While a progressively uglier advent season might be difficult to pull off in many of our churches or youth – it is precisely because of the 'glam' factor of the Christmas season that we should possibly consider a different approach. This type of approach could help us to regain some of the vital aspects of the incarnation regardless of whatever your theological 'priorities' might be…

Friday, October 3, 2008


Just wanted to send a big shout out to Natasha for tipping me off to this "fabulous" article from MASS TRANSPORTATION reprinted in Savvy and Sage. I passed it along to my prof in my anthropology of gender class and he used it to illustrate some of the theories of female subordination that exist. Here is Natasha's post

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Voting is a private thing. It is an action that at its best offers freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom from coercion. And if we choose, freedom to disavow our public representations with a completely contradictory selection. The ballot box we are told provides us with invisibility. So then, why the apathy? Regardless of how un-engaging anyone, or all, of the political leaders or their platforms are, why don't we make the effort to do something that apparently costs us nothing and potentially allows us the opportunity to have our ideological perspective represented.

It is hardly accurate to suggest an individual's vote is anonymous. There is a lot of information that can be constructed from the results of the voting process. But identification is still concealed. So what if our names were attached to our votes? Sure we might compromise some of the aspects of freedom that we now seem to enjoy (yet clearly don't exercise). And we might find ourselves ensnared in the cult of personality to an even greater extent than we are currently. On the other hand I wonder if we might actually benefit from an increased sense of responsibility to vote. Politicians could certainly use that information to prejudice their policy making but if they were as smart and as good as we might hope they would be they could also use this information to begin meaningful dialogue with people with dissenting views. Instead what we have done is marginalize dissention in the aggregating force of the majority and recognize 'other' voices than the ones that win only if they are accompanied by significant funding.

Sorry, but I'm not telling you who I'm voting for…

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

As I might have appeared in yearbooks from the past

circa 1954
circa 1974
circa 1976
circa 1988 - I actually graduated in 87 and this photo is not too far off from some of the shot in my actual yearbook

circa 1990 - the mullet i never had
try in out here

mother mother

Mother Mother - O My Heart

So I heard these guys on Q this morning and I was impressed - listen to the pocast of the show here

In memory of…

Linger in the last touch of daylight

Coaxing firelight

Out of the backyard pit

Losing track of the receding flame

The split wood your penance

Allowing the night to sneak up again

And for a moment while flames live bright again

You forget the night


Grey ash is hardly a fitting memorial

Grey ash can't tell you of the fever dance of flames

That lubricated virile conversation

Grey ash can't tease your mouth with fire-licked


Grey ash forgets

Grey ash gives up

Grey ash is convinced that the night is longer than it really is

That spruce sparks will never light the candles of the sky

That morning is impossibly far away

Flame to soot

Revelry to clean up


I lingered there beside it

I breathed it in till it choked me

I watched it glow as the audience faded

I should have stayed

"Did you make sure to put it out?" she said

and the night leaks in