Saturday, December 30, 2006

DL4?

Anyone looking to unload a Line6 DL4 in working condition? I might be interested.

Hit me up, yo.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Peace On Earth

This is a little video I put together using Dan Dixon's haunting rendition of Silent Night. May the birth of the Savior bring about Peace by us following in his Way.



Don't despair. Do something.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Big 3

Just felt the third earthquake in 72 hours. All based just east of Berkeley. While they have been 3.7, 3.7, and 3.5, we have still felt them. Are they warning us of something larger? Oh geez. The last two have kind of freaked us out. The frames on the wall that hung over our heads have been taken down.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Knowledge ≠ Power

Man that is disheartening to write. But after much deliberating, I think it is a universal truth. Take that postmoderns!

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set ye free.

Al Gore, in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, makes the statement that people generally move from ignorance to despair whence informed, feeling that they can make no difference given the new information. I get that.

It's not that knowledge cannot lead to change or empowerment, but it has become an end of the line for a great many of us. Being "aware" is kind of a last stop before the train ride gets terribly scary, racing around corners in the dark. So it seems that most of us opt there. Well at least I'm informed. I'm not sure that's enough.

I watch the cigarette TRUTH ads and read the emails from ONE or Sojourners...but still people are not changing in really "significant" ways...or it at least appears that way. Sure people are changing their minds about the war by the dozens, but are they changing their own lives?

I wonder if this is why the message of Jesus has been so domesticated and weak in our modern world (or perhaps for all time?). I wonder if we have attempted to disseminate information instead of embodying a new Way of Life. Now don't get me wrong, I believe that paradigm shifts can help people understand things in new lights, but I wonder if information, even if leading to a paradigm shift, is still less potent, life-changing, and integrative than embodying an alternative Way.

Anyone?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Consciencious Living

I am convinced that In-and-Out Burger is to McDonald's what Target is to Wal-Mart. It feels so much better to buy goods from the former, but the difference, in reality, is quite minimal.

But please God, don't ask me to give up In-and-Out and Target!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Apocalypto and the Mayan Collapse

Travers and I saw Apocalypto last week. Wow. It's taken me this long to process (and perhaps recover) from the film experience. It was that intense. I'm gonna share a couple things about the plot, so you might consider this post a spoiler.

People have asked me if I'd suggest that they'd see the film. I've found that difficult to answer. Also the question of, "Did you like the movie?" is hard to respond properly to.

Mel Gibson (in my opinion) is an incredible director. I still think of Braveheart as one of my favorites of all time. And while I wasn't any huge fan of The Passion of the Christ, I did think the movie was a bold move for him...and I really applauded the use of Aramaic instead of English. I could have even gone without subtitles.

Anyway, Apocalypto followed by using it's own indigenous language...Mayan.

Well, I have to say the movie wasn't what I thought it'd be. After recently reading Jared Diamond's Collapse, I thought this for sure was going to be a film about the Classic Mayan Collapse...and it would perhaps be a warning to our own society in our own time...about treading heavily upon this earth and warring over natural resources.

Nope. It was a movie about a guy...who was pumped up to be this sort of Chosen One...who basically ran away from being captured...and because the gods were on his side, he lived. Hmm. I mean that's cool and all, but it wasn't what I had hoped for.

I kept wondering what Mel was trying to say with this film. Certainly the follow-up to his last film would really say something. I'm just not sure what it was.

Was he pointing to the purity of the indigenous, disparate tribes amidst the vulgarity of this Mayan Empire? Was he trying to remind us that all empires were built on the backs of slaves? Was he critiquing the use of power by the religious? Or showing the hypocrisy of using "God" to justify anything? And when the Spaniards arrive near the end, did they symbolize hope for this savage continent? Or further oppression...perhaps that empires build off of collapsed empires? Or was it kind of one evil canceling another out?

And what of this Chosen One? Is he advocating a sort of Essene withdrawal to "begin again" while letting the world go to hell in a handbasket? Ignore the oppression of the empire?

I dunno. I am still scratching my head, wondering why I sat through what might be the most disturbingly violent film I have ever seen.

After this and the last film, I'm pretty certain that Mel is enamored with violence. (I know you're saying Duh.)

So, all in all, it was an interesting film, but too violent for me...and not macro enough. The whole last half of the film was a chase sequence with the Mayans dying in interesting ways. What's up?

Anyone else see this film?

BTW, here is an interesting take on the film by an anthropologist with some formed opinions.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Simplicity Revisited: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

We just finished a revised personal budget for 2007. Wow. It meant taking into account how much we made last year and how we spent it. There is nothing like an honest accounting of how we spend our dollars and time to put this idealist up against a wall. Mark says, "This is where we really live."

"How we spend our (dollars and) days is indeed how we spend our lives." - Annie D (and me)

We discussed our proposed budgets as a community, and man, it was a heavy night...really thick. Money is something seldom discussed on a real personal level. It's far too risky really. But when has that stopped us before?

For all the ways I rage against the philosophy of the American Dream, I sure seemed to profit from it this last year. As it stands now, we bring in the bulk of our income indirectly from Rupert Murdoch (that's right, the FOX News guy...or the OJ Simpson book-show guy). And we speak of divestment.

This last year has been hugely enlightening to us, but most changes we all know that we should make are hard to do...I know this. Still, the Master calls us to embody another way...and he reminds us that it will come at the very cost of our lives.

I have budgeted this next year for us to get out of all consumer debt (save student loans of which we owe $60-100k depending on lenght of time we repay) this year. It is going to be tight, but we're going to try it. It may seem like a "no, duh" to a great many of you, but a budget is a fairly new idea to me...not that it's never been suggested to us, but that we've never done one for real.

I am tempted to post our proposed budget here to the blog for transparency's sake, but I think the info might be best exchanged person to person. If for some reason you want to see it, let me know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This Past Weekend

What a great, tiring, wonderful weekend.

We had our friend Daley up for the weekend. That was swell. He's an incredibly talented photographer (amongst other things), and we had the pleasure of showing him around the City. In exchange, he took a buttload of photos for us...family photos, band photos, random photos...and he posted some of them on his blog.

The Cobalt Season (which these days is Holly, me, and Dan Dixon) played a couple shows...one in Sacramento and one here at our place. Good times...playing some new stuff and old stuff. Lots of later nights, but Pax champed it for the most part. He was obviously tired though because he then slept really long stretches at night.

We had almost 3 dozen folks packed like sardines at our house show...wow, was that tight...er, intimate.

It was great to hear Deccatree...and really great to meet Brett Bixby and hear his tunes. It was also wonderful to have Dan playing with us...and to have Katherine in town.

Adam threw down some mad poetry.

All in all it was a great weekend. God, we love this city, this community, this place in life...when we're getting enough sleep and our computers are not dying on us.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This is Your Life. Are You Who You Wanna Be?

Geez life has been chaotic as of late. And there's been all this talk about simplicity and man, it feels false in some ways. Our life these last few weeks has been anything but simple. The house just began to quiet down today. We were planning on making Christmas gifts and getting some work done...and Holly's computer crashed. And I cannot seem to fix it myself.

All I could think of doing was singing, "I'm so excited. I'm so scared." ala Jessie Spano.



(For those of you syndicating this blog, you'll need to click here to get the full effect thanks to YouTube.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Ideas

I'm happy that so many folks are attempting to re-imagine what Christmas could be this year. It is such a tricky time of loving sentiment and gross materialism. How have these two merged so? And what are we to do in the thick of it?

Will has some good gift-giving ideas here.

Another friend sent me this link.

Also, my friend Melvin sent me this in an email. I thought it was worth posting here.

In this Advent season the hearts of those who follow in the way of Jesus can't but feel ambivalence as we celebrate the coming of the world's lord and saviour to bring "peace on earth" and "goodwill to all humanity" and then must acknowledge our shortcomings in not doing all we can to make this dream of God, which God has entrusted to us, a reality. The Love Your Neighbor Advent Campaign is just one small way we might make God's missional hopes come true.

Two summers ago I met a young man, Elias D'eis, at a Peace Workshop. Elias is a 20-something-year-old Palestinian from a town you might recognize, Bethlehem (of Judea). He is working to bring about peace in his homeland through his social service work with children and entrepreneurial work with young adults. Peace is more difficult that most of us are even capable of imagining when everyday those who live in the region must wake up and face the very real possibility that some member of their household will not return home that evening. Can you imagine? As I heard him tell his story my heart broke. We were sitting in a circle sharing what we were grateful for as we brought our Peace Workshop to a close. I will never forget that Elias thanked us for giving him a brief space in time where he could feel safe and know hope. I want to invite us to help Elias provide moments of safety and hope for other Palestinian and Israeli children.

The concept is simple, yet unique. I am inviting you and your constituencies to give a monetary gift that is a multiple of 12 ($120... $240... $360...). Why 12? Because for every $12 dollars, $6 will purchase a gift for a Palestinian child who frequents the YMCA where Elias works and the other $6 will purchase a gift for that Palestinian child to give to an Israeli child. Imagine with me the goodwill that might be engendered should the next generation of Israeli and Palestinian children grow up giving gifts to one another. Imagine further how the cause of peace would be abetted should these young people become pen pals sharing their lives with each other. The opportunity to be a small part of embracing Israel and Palestine in the peace and goodwill that the birth of Jesus was intended to hail brings tears to my eyes.


If you'd like to donate, go to his Kid's Cultivators site and scroll down to the donate link.

Monday, December 04, 2006

On Simplicity

So we thought this would be a good season to practice the art/discipline of simplicity. As a community, we wanted to engage in a counter-cultural Way that would seem truer to us. We decided that we would observe some common rhythms and really check in with the grit of life.

So here's what we did/are doing...

• Sharing income statments and budgets with each other
• Inventorying all that we own
• Learning the art of giftmaking
• Giving away as many of our possessions as we can (or selling them at a community garage sale and giving away the proceeds)
• Experimenting for a week without any media (TV, books, magazines, etc.) and only wearing 1 or 2 sets of clothes and not purchase anything for ourselves

This has all been good/hard stuff. I am in the same shirt I was wearing almost a week ago...and you know what? It doesn't stink so bad. And the need to shower once a day? Yah, might be a made up thing.

Each of these things has helped to reveal what is truly important to us. It's been hard getting rid of things that we only wear once every couple of years, but it's been freeing all the same. One of the other community members pointed out that simplifying really just means clearing away the clutter so that we can devote ourselves to what is really important to us.

I like that definition.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two Life Questions

This morning, Holly and I were chatting about a book cover we are designing. It's a book about living with questions. It prompted us to ask each other what our two life questions are...that is, the two questions that, if answered, would make things alot clearer...or perhaps easier.

It was kind of a knee-jerk, on-the-spot thing...kinda like a Rorschach Test.

Holly answered that her's would be...
• How will I die? (...thinking of Big Fish and how it afforded him freedom...)
• How can I, with the skills/talents I have, bring the most goodness into the world?

Mine were...
• What am I supposed to do with my life?
• How are we to pay for it?

Funny that our questions were so existential and not theological or philosophical. Perhaps this shows what is really important to us.

What are yours?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

House Show Next Weekend in Oakland

If you're around next Saturday night (Dec 2nd), please swing by Casa Burnett in Oakland. Map is here. It should be a nice evening of music and conversation.

Feel free and download this poster and put it up on your blog, MYSPACE account, or at work. Can you dig?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trav and Borat

My brother-in-law and Borat...in Sydney...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oh Lord.

Ckeck this out.

Losing My Freaking Mind

It's been a rough day. Honestly, it's been a rough six weeks of parenthood.

Some things that have typified my days...

lack of sleep,
lots of coffee,
raised voices (usually me or Pax),
screams (usually just Pax),
general craziness,
too little time to do anything really,
hopes for doing a great many things,
willingness to give stuff up, but wondering what to give up,
schedules,
friends and family from out of town,
sugar highs (and lows),
washing clothes/stuff every other day,
loading/unloading the dishwasher,
staring at a garden that is doing nothing but growing weeds,
reading,
not reading enough,
canceling Netflix because it takes us a week to get through a movie completely,
smelling cat crap every time I enter our front yard (which angers me more because I paid $40 for chickenwire to fix that problem),
driving a dirty car,
always cleaning the house,
making a little time here and there for wine,
picking up the guitar,
putting it right back down,
arguing with my wife,
telling my child that I love him,
telling my child to shut up,
etc.

I took a nap this afternoon and still woke up sour. I am frustrated that my time to get anything done is determined by the length of his naps...which is generally 30 minutes - 1 hour these days. Who can do anything in that amount of time?

And it feels like he is back to crying all the time. Good Lord.

I was told that everything with a newborn is a phase...everything...good or bad. So don't ever expect anything to last too long.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fun To Have Friends In Town

Emma from Colorado/Waco/Bangkok/Seoul...

And Matt and Brooke Gonzales from Oceanside...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Cobalt Season on the EV Podcast

We're featured on the latest Emergent Village Podcast with Troy Bronsink and Melvin Bray. It's an interview from almost a year ago. It's kind of wild to hear our thoughts at that time...well, sorta interesting to me anyways. Is that narccisistic?

THE SEVEN SOCIETY

So I haven't really blogged too much about this, but it's something I feel I ought to share in the interest of showing you a somewhat "fuller" picture of us and our life...since we spend a good deal of our time involved in it...

Part of the reason we moved to San Francisco (I have blogged about earlier, I know) is to be part of a community of kindred spirits. It seems that in our short lives, we have been a part of several communities, locally and internationally, and we wanted to find a place where we could set down some roots.

We, of course, considered several places to live, but San Francisco just made the most sense for this season of life. And it continues to.

So, in attempting to put some structure around this Common Kingdom Life that we're attempting, we took vows a couple weeks ago. There are seven vows, all rooted in the Way the Master lived. We, along with a dozen or so others (who have been working at pounding these out way longer than us), drafted up and conversed for months about what sort of Common Rule (or vows) we would take as a community, how long they would be for, how we would encourage folks to honor their vows, etc.

It's been a beautiful thing. We were a little put off at the vows seeming "prescriptiveness" early on, but once a part of the community, we found them easy to embrace...and, in many ways, we were already embracing many of them on an informal level.

So, a couple weeks ago, a bunch of us met at Mission Dolores Park and took these vows publically, with friends and family present. It was a beautiful thing.

We've realized that taking vows is evolutionary, not all-at-once. That is, introducing these new practices into one's life requires time and adjustment. So we are attempting to spend several weeks on each vow, listening to other voices in the community, sharing, helping along, etc.

We call ourselves the Seven Society...we want to create a counter-culture of mutual encouragement, missional-artifact creation, rootedness, mission of healing, balance and integration...in short, Kingdom lives.

Right now, we are working through our vow of simplicity. We'll be meeting several times in November and December to share budgets and finances, we will inventory all our possessions, we will be getting rid of our excess, etc. It's a beautiful thing...particularly in a season like now.

I've said to friends that I hope my life is at least good prophetic theatre. Doing stuff like this is difficult for me, but it also feels true to me. So here we are, attempting to follow the Master in our unique time and space, amidst friends, in San Francisco. And that's all I have to say about that...for now.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Scratch Trax

Craig came over today, and we recorded scratch tracks for 10 songs. He was a wonderful engineer (and photographer).

I'm thinking that most of these songs will end up on the new album...but probably not all of them. About half are piano-based and half are acoustic guitar-based. I'm still planning on writing a few more in the weeks to come. And then I'll start recording the album in the end of Nov / beginning of Dec.

I uploaded one scratch track at The Cobalt Season MYSPACE account. It's called HOME. Check it out yo. And enjoy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Might Find This Helpful

A Guide to Produce: Which Fruits and Vegetables are Better Organic as rated by the amount of pesticides generally on sprayed on them.

I printed one off and stuck it on our fridge so we can prioritize our organic purchases. Certainly it'd be great to go all organic, but when you can't find certain things or can't afford the full switch, this might prove helpful.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hegemony or Survival
Chapter 2a: Imperial Grand Strategy

See Chapter 1.

So far I have only read through page 36, which seems a good half-way point for this chapter. Geez this book is heavy...but enlightening as well. This chapter seems to focus on the US operating as rogue state and utilizing the UN for it's own ends as opposed to submitting itself to it.

Chomsky begins by quoting the White House's National Security Strategy:

Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.

He goes on to define the Iraq war (and really all wars on terror at this point) not as preemptive, but as preventive...very different. [Read that again.] In fact, he says that preventive might be too charitable a way of putting it.

Quoting from Arthur Schlesinger (historian and Kenedy adviser):

The president has adopted a policy of "anticipatory self-defense" that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor...The global wave of sympathy that engulfed the United States after 9-11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism [and even in friendly countries the public regards Bush] as a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein.


Wow.

Chomsky goes on to show how the powerful write the rules. The US government has used international law when it suited them...and disreguarded it when it was inconvenient, often choosing military action over diplomacy or international law because it was considered expedient for "the national interest." When the UN fails to serve as "an instrument of American unilateralism" on issues of elite concern, it is dismissed.

After the Iraq war, the UN again proved "irrelevant," because its "complicated trade system for Iraq" caused problems for US companies granted contracts under US military rule.
Here's some recent information about contractors and oversight.

I wish to interact with these thoughts as a follower of the Way of Jesus, who seemed to have some things to say about retaliation...on personal, communal, and, I'd say, societal levels. He pointed to a higher way of being...a truer way.

Now I understand that different folks understand differently how Jesus' teachings intersect with culture. I still find a strong case for thinking that Jesus was calling humanity (not Christianity) to a higher way. This Kingdom (the way the world could work if truly right/good) was for all, his temple a house of prayer for all nations.

The ideas of preventive war seem nothing more than empire-building to me, amassing unmatched power and exerting it through force...how can these things be ethical? I understand that self-defense is being called into question (How did Christ respond to that?), but not just self-defense. It is going after anyone who the US government would consider a threat to their position as head of the human household. Can this really even be called self-defense under any sort of ethical definition?

And what of setting up democracies? One principle remains invariant: the US must end up in effective control of Iraq, under some façade of democracy if that proves feasible.

The US will "enforce the just demands of the world" even if the world overwhelmingly objects.

Could things change? Perhaps the US is at a place to take stock of its place in the world. Dr. Bello has some interesting thoughts about where we could go from here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Some Updates

It has been a crazy past few weeks...adjusting to life with Paxton, having family in town, attempting to get work done, writing for a new album, looking forward with schedules, getting plugged into our community here.

For stuff about Pax, click here to check out his blog. I'm updating it every day (which is why posts have been more infrequent here).

Holly and I have committed to be here for at least a year (or so it says on our lease). But seriously, we did just commit to some common vows with other friends in the area. We are part of a small community of folks who want to discover more fully what it means to live in a truly good way, as the Master has called us to. We'll be launching this site as a place for discussion and news about any upcoming events, like our "Giving Stuff Away Day" which will be on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving.

This group of people have become dear friends in the area...and are a good part of the reason we moved here.

On Monday, some of us are going to make an early morning start down to Burlingame for the Business of God seminar. It sounds like a cool deal...discussions around doing business with Kingdom ethics.

On Thursday, Craig is to come over to help me record scratch tracks for the first 10 or so songs for the album. I'll hope to post a song or two around here or on MYSPACE.

Also, we've a friend coming into town next weekend, Emma. She's someone we met in Thailand...and she spends her time between Nepal, Bangkok, Cambodia, and soon S. Korea. I just pitched to her the option of going to the Alemany Farm (just down the street from us) and harvesting for the afternoon (and getting some of the bounty!). Anyone else interested?

Later this month, we'll be a part of another Emmaues Road Cohort, hoping to connect with others who are wondering some of the same things we are about life, God, spirituality, economics, and the like.

Some Cobalt Season shows are coming up...that's pretty exciting for us. One in Oakland on Dec 2nd, one in Sacramento the following Saturday (Dec 9th), and then one in SF (possibly at our place) on Dec 10th. All free. All with Deccatree and Brett Bixby.

Please download the image and post it on your blog or print it out and put it up at work or places you frequent. We'd be mighty obliged.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holy Zinfandel, Batman!

These guys make a lovely estate-grown Zinfandel. They have a small 6-acre crop of 16-year-old vines just miles from Yosemite at the foothills of the Sierras. I am really bummed that we didn't visit their estate. We will plan on making a trip out there soon enough...anyone care to join? Husband and wife team who decided to start a new life in Mariposa County as wine-growers and vintners. Brilliant!

We have only had their 2004 Zinfandel...and it was amazing. Spicey and fruity, with subtle sophistication. Tasty. It was so good I called the owners to tell them so and to see if SharpSeven could design their next wine label. We shall see about that.

Have I told you about my dream to some day own land with a vineyard on it and make the best Zin around? And I spoke with the owner for a half an hour or so today on the phone. She tells me that land prices in and around Mariposa County are down. Perhaps now's the time to buy? Live in a yurt until I could build some sort of earth-shelter or eco-home? Commune? Anyone out there feelin' me?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Honesty and Relationality

Well, Holly and I (and Pax) just got in from a 2-day, 1-night trip to Yosemite with my Dad and Stepmom. It was a good, albeit tiring, time. I tasted some of my newly favorite zinfandel. I'll find their site and blog about that later.

The last few days have been searching for me, being with my father and stepmom. We are on very different (yet sometimes very similar) paths. It's always interesting to attempt to engage in conversation with them. It's as if we speak different languages, but share some common words. The words mean different things to us though...and that's difficult.

In the last couple days we discussed the tragedy of Ted Haggard. I also heard about yet another pastor who had "fallen" and had been let go of by his faith community. I also heard about a 1-800 number that Dobson (or someone else?) set up for pastors to call in to anonymously report their struggles with infidelities or homosexuality or whatnot. Apparently, like 600 pastors a month have been calling in.

It really got me thinking. That's really sad that the solution for all this crisis is an anonymous hotline. I hate to be a critic of a solution, but honestly...anonymity? Is that really helping anything? As I said in the last post, Craig reflected on how this Haggard situation indicts the whole system. I think that a call to real, honest relationships with people is the only way that stuff like this can be properly "dealt with" and that people possessing that sort of fame and power are products of a system where you are more honored and perhaps even "Godly" if you keep all your shit to yourself.

So, that being said, let me share an alternative.

For the last several years of my life (back into High School even), I have always remembered struggling with pornography. It's always been there.

I thought when I got married this would change. It didn't. I soon met others who said the same thing. Holly has known about this for a long time...even her knowing didn't necessarily cause me to change my behavior (although it always pained me to report it to her).

This last year for Holly and I was a year of attempting community in experimental ways. If we really believed that we could not journey through the most difficult parts of life without community, why not explore the boundaries of that. I shared my struggles with so many of the guys I saw along our pilgrimage. It was amazing to hear others' stories of struggle, addiction, pain, emptiness...and sometimes hope. It was both freeing and salvific.

You know, I don't mean this post to paint me in some sort of saintly light...a Pauline "follow me as I follow Christ"...but I must report how healing those conversations with real friends were. It was in real relationships that we are healed...not in some 1-800 anonymous hotline.

I feel bad for all these pastors who slept with whoever. Really, I feel for them and their family. Who likes to have their past catch up with them when there are skeletons in their closet? But can I speak frankly? Some of us would propose that a person given that sort of "power" amidst a community might be a bad idea. Elevating the pastor (as so many in this tradition do) to the status of God's Interpretor is just plain dangerous. And stages do nothing but promote double-lives. Trust me. This I know to be true from personal experience.

So what are we to do? Begin to honestly engage with each other about how fucked up we are...and remind each other about how beautiful we are...and realize that that sort of honesty is a good place to begin...even if it's way messier.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Heavy Weekend.

As many of you know, this has been a heavy last few days in the news. Ted Haggard was officially dismissed from his duties for immoral conduct. Craig's latest podcast regarding that whole incident is quite thoughtful. Will's post was great as well.

Also, I read this...

Associated Press:
Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces…


Wow. I wonder what the backlash of this will be. It's amazing how certain people can become heroes with enough time passed and the right conditions.

Also, filmmaker Robert Greenwald was on Bill Maher as captured here. Good interview discussing his latest film entitled, Iraq for Sale. You might remember Greenwald's last film on WAL-MART called The High Cost of Low Prices. I'm excited to get my hands on this latest film and do a film night at our place. Perhaps pair it with a book club around Confessions of an Economic Hitman?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Looking for Some Executive Producers

Well today is a brand new day, I'll start again...

So, as I said, I have begun writing for a new album. I have about 7 songs done thus far...and I hope to work with some other musicians to get this album created. It will be a largely piano-based record, still with the same folky feel of But I Tell You. I had thought about going in a different direction, but Holly says, Ryan, you're a really good folky singer-songwriter. Don't try to be something different. Damn, I think she might be right.

So, I have started down this path. Next week, I'll begin recording some scratch tracks of the first few songs. But I have already run into a dilemma. This album is going to cost me more than I have currently...and being that we didn't really profit off the last album (which was never the goal anyway...although it did help offset some of the cost of travel), we don't really have a pool to draw from. It's caused me to wonder if there might be some sort of community-supported artistry that we could conceive of.

I wonder if you would you be interested in partnering with me in this album as an executive producer? All it means is saying that you believe in what I'm doing and want to help get this album created without me going broke. You would be part of a community that would help get this album produced. I feel a bit lame posting this on my blog and not emailing friends that I think might be interested, but I also feel lame asking for financial support, so this seemed the best bet.

Would this be of interest to you?

Costs involved...

• Used MacBook - Purchased by selling iBook and some gear
• Used Studio Monitors - Purchased by selling some gear

• Mastering
• Duplication/Printing

Incentives would include...

• An executive producer credit
• Several copies of the album when it comes out
• And a rare :) copy of the scratch tracks in the weeks ahead
• Oh, and a house show (which are always free of charge, but I'd bring some of my homebrew perhaps)

And you'd get the gratification of supporting and partnering with an artist in a unique way. I am not looking for one single "sugar daddy (or momma)", but rather a few people who would partner in this together. And there would be no financial incentive for you in this (just to be clear!).

What do you think? Would you be interested? If you are, email me or call and we can chat about details. Or comment here telling me how much of a moocher I am for asking of this...and then I'll just delete this post and never recall it if you bring it up in future conversation.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sivin Kit's Garden: Letters to Christians in the U.S.A.

Sivin had an interesting post entitled Letters to Christians in the U.S.A. It's great to hear a voice other than our own.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in North America,

We know that your country, the United States, is one of the most exceptional, resource rich, lands-flowing-with-milk-and-honey of our present day. When the world looks at America today however, it immediately, wrongly and rightly, perceives of disproportionality, in terms of political clout, air-time, military force, or even basic things you take for granted, like opportunity–compared to the rest of the world. Some are legitimate woes, brought about by the workings of a system of national and international economic and political governance that treads on the rights of the poor. But some are woefully inaccurate, as one need only to look at the situation in your Deep South and elsewhere to see the unequal balance still existing between the different peoples and races within your country, as well as the tremendous resilience, at least on the rhetorical level, of attempting to right some very grave historical wrongs.

But our plea, at the present time, from the rest of the world, is that you look beyond your borders, and we don't just mean your physical, geographical ones. Look beyond your borders of class, of race, of creed, of political opinion, of your own little townships and hamlets, of your cities and corporations, beyond your façade of high-school, college, and grad-school, beyond your spiritual myopia, into a reality that you and the rest of the world face. Look towards the destitute, the defenseless, the millions going to a certain death because of war, poverty, disease, and the tens-of-millions already living a crushing mortality through the grind of their mere daily existence. Look towards a world and environment that has witnessed savage brutality. Think of yourselves as citizens of the world, as we are–who groan, as you do, for the righting of wrongs. Make these things, the concerns of the world, your concerns as well. And live it.

Look beyond the introverted world of media and glossy magazines, towards the bleak, stark faces of the world looking back at you. Stand from a viewpoint removed from where you usually stand–detach yourself from your pedestal, destroy it, and attempt to gaze back at the world as it truly is. Growing up in any strong, overriding culture carries with it a certain habit of under-appreciating the viewpoint of the other, or worse, dressing these opinions around your own. You will realize that the rest of the world understands you better than you understand it, due to your central, prevailing position–so be humble as you speak.

You have much to teach the world and much to give. But we long to see you, brothers and sisters, as that...beloved siblings, but on the same level playing field. Not above us in terms of a self-perpetuating aggrandizement, but as equals, who hold the keys to each other's mutual enrichment, fulfillment, and leadership in the many shared arenas of our common lives. The world does not like to be bullied, have its name sullied, or have causes dropped when their time in the limelight has passed over. So treat us and the problems of the world with honesty, integrity, and we'll protect your names as well. We want to stand by you as brothers and sisters, fighting the battles that matter, on the same turf, for the same reasons. That is, as our wish is for the rest of the world, our hope in these perilous times.

Sincerely,
Reuben Liew
International Civil Worker in Malaysia

ReImagining Investment

I know I posted this on Pax's blog, but I'd like to broaden the post's exposure.

So we have no savings, no stocks, no bonds, no investments other than the few things we own. This does not really bother me...not currently anyway.

I am deeply skeptical of making money by supporting unethical corporations or governments and do not really care to play that game. However, I understand that there are needs out there for capital...but I only want to provide capital to something I'd feel good about, even if the return was lower.

That being said, I am looking to open a Roth IRA or 529 College Fund for the kiddo.

I know that there are a few "ethical" investment services/firms, like PAXWORLD or Winslow Green or the Social Funds Site. Are there other things like this out there? Does anyone have experience with this? Or are there socially progressive investment opportunities? Ways to use this investment to make the world better, not more greedy and militarized?

I want to set up an account for my kid for when he's 18 to do college or travel or start a business. I do not want to make money off of corporations/governments that I do not trust.

Is there anything out there for someone like me? Help?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hegemony or Survival
Chapter 1: Priorities and Prospects

This first chapter of Noam Chomsky's book is very short. But it seems to set the stage for the remainder of the book (or at least I am thinking that's what's going on). I appreciate his thoroughness (without being pedantic [like that Mike?]) and his referencing of many different sources. Note that all quotes from the book are italicized.

His thoughts on the "manufacturing of consent" and "the control by the elite" are what captivated my imagination for most of this chapter. He goes back to the days of the beginnings of the United States, when Madison had faith that the "enlightened Statesman" and "benevolent philosopher" who were to exercise power would "discern the true interest of their country" and guard the public interest against the "mischief" of the democratic majorities. He goes on to quote David Hume in saying that the control of opinion is the foundation of government, from the most despotic to the most free. Trippy.

He moves forward to President Wilson's Committee on Public Information which had great success in whipping the population into war fever. Then he turns to the Reagan administration's Office of Public Diplomacy which [manufactured] consent for its murderous policies in Central America. (A side note: To understand Iraq, you must read some material on the 1980's Central American affairs that the US was involved in. Seems like Deja-vu in so many ways. Confessions of an Economic Hitman is a good starting place for this.) Also, the White House...installed and supported forces in Central America that could "easily compete against Nicolae Ceausescu's Securitate for the World Cruelty Prize."

He actually begins the chapter in the present, remarking tha the war on Iraq had popular opposition that was without historical precedent. And that due to this, propaganda had to be used to sway the public...the linking of Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden, Al-Queda, and WMDs, etc.

Watching V is for Vendetta, of course, stirs similar suspicions...that the powerful manufacture consent in order to sway the masses. It's an interesting thing to consider. I do not watch TV news anymore because of this very suspicion.

Chomsky closes the chapter with these thoughts that I'll quote to wrap up.

Destroying hope is a critically important project. And when it is achieved, formal democracy is allowed–even preferred, if only for public-relations purposes. In more honest circles, much of this is conceded. Of course, it is understood much more profoundly by [the masses] who endure the consequences of challenging the imperatives of stability and order.

These are all matters that the second superpower, [that is,] world public opinion, should make every effort to understand if it hopes to escape the containment to which it is subjected and to take seriously the ideals of justice and freedom that come easily to the lips but are harder to defend and advance.


As an addendum, tonight we watched The Future of Food at home. This film, which documents the move to GMO foods in the US and it's effects, is very important to every N. American consumer. It offers a great example of the rule of the many by the power of the elite few (or perhaps I need to be corrected that it is by the power of the many...the shareholders?)...but instead of being a strictly government-run operation, it's corporate-run. Perhaps scarier?

The worst of all is that many of those who work or who have worked for MONSANTO are in Congress, the Supreme Court, or the Cabinet. Spooky. This is not unusual. Look at the list of Bush's appointees. Okay, just rambling, but it's a film worth checking out.

Okay, thoughts from others who read the chapter?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Readings

So, if you contacted me (or didn't), let's go on the whole Hegemony or Survival reading. For those interested, I'll just post comments here and there when I finish a chapter (sorry to make it so Ryan-centric), and then everyone can leave comments? Everyone in? I've read Chapter 1 and might blog some thoughts this weekend. Let's get going. I encourage cross-postings as well.

In the meantime, I have been reading Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, which has been fascinating. I mean, sure I've been brewing for a couple years, but I had no idea the history of beer, how it's been used throughout the millenia, what yeast actually is. This account of the history of beer and mead has been wonderfully enlightening. I recommend it to all fellow brewers [read: Sean, Brett, Matt, Toby, anyone else?]. It gives me more respect for the process.

Now I'm thinking of making a mead next. The health benefits sounds unbelievable. "The Drink of the Gods" it's been called. Wow. Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thank God for Keith Olberman

Am I the only one just tuning into this guy? Thank God for some prophetic voice in the media. Here's a bunch of his video clips on YouTube.

Good night and good luck.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Can Intentionality Become Contrived?

A person said to us today: Wow, it sounds like you're trying to live very intentionally. And I thought about it for a few seconds before I said that yes, we are.

I wondered how she processed that word: intentional. For me, it means living by conscience, not convenience...taking the less-traveled road...on purpose. Not that we always do this, but it's something we have strived for. But I could also see it sounding kind of contrived...too on purpose or something.

It caused me to recall that Taoist phrase Wai Wu Wai...uncontrived living. Do; don't do. Attain goodness by not grasping for it.

And I thought, Perhaps intentionality can act as teacher so that we will learn to live naturally in this enlightened state. That is, it is not our end goal to live by any regimen...but at times it can be very useful to commit to some intentionality to help us re-center our core. What, after all, is at our core but values often created by our behaviors and life-patterns?

I stood in line at the supermarket and saw a lane open up. I walked over to that lane and asked an elderly woman in front of me if she wanted to go ahead of me. I did not think about it. I just did it. It was mere reaction to my situation. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here...I'm just saying that it was natural...not intentional, per se. But that natural response was trained at some point.

So I think there is great value in intentionality...for the sake of training and re-calibrating how we understand our world.

Perhaps today it is recycling and composting as much of my trash as possible...so that someday I will understand this world is not our trashbin and that you can live life without so much disposable stuff. Or perhaps I'll attempt 15 minutes of prayer and meditation at the beginning and end of each day...so that someday it will be a part of my daily fabric.

Quito Anyone?

Just found out about this happening from this site (that Emma has pointed me to repeatedly). Interesting. Anyone else interested in taking a little trip south? I/We might be.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Compromising With Integrity

This week was a wonderful, heavy week. The whole newborn thing has been both amazing and trying. Having good friends back in town from New Mexico has been comforting and disappointing...comforting for obvious reasons; disappointing for perhaps less obvious reasons. We've wanted to badly to get "plugged back in" to our community here, see friends, hear stories about the Gathering...and get to visit with our out-of-town friends, Mike, Stacy, and Ella. But it's all been more difficult than I anticipated.

It was so nice to have them close by this week. It was almost as if they lived here and that took some stress off. It was a stress that was not put on us by anyone else but ourselves. I just think we had unrealistic expectations about these first few weeks. That sounds a bit like me, doesn't it?

Holly and I have attempted to live intentionally and deliberately. We have spent most all of our marriage in each others' presence...literally almost every single day. We have traveled where/when we felt we ought. We have attempted to live out convictions, to doubt honestly, and to change when we need to. We have attempted to flow with the Spirit, but we also make up our minds and do stuff.

That is complicated by a child. Our midwife says, "Now you're more fully human." And another friend says, "People are but shadows of themselves until they have children." I am reminded about McKibben's thoughts on how we are small parts in a larger schema...and that we must understand ourselves in that light. Somehow, having a child makes me feel more that way. Perhaps simply because I cannot say, "Today I will go here; Tomorrow I will go there." I mean, I could, but it would come at a cost. I couldn't honor the deliberateness of Holly and I really doing life together if I left her with the kiddo all the time, you know?

Craig said something along the lines of, "You simply cannot bring another life into this world and have nothing change." And certainly I understood that things would change...I just didn't/don't know what things to expect change in. A great many people have felt the freedom to tell us what things in our life will change...perhaps some are right on; perhaps some are not. And I embrace some change...after all, I said that was something that excited me about a child...that something outside myself would force me to be more grounded, less theoretical.

But what sorts of changes will we make? Will we continue to live out our convictions? Can we follow Jesus in the ways we think so important? Will Holly and I be able to sustain a partnership where we are together almost 24 hours a day / 7 days a week? Will we travel? When?

These are just a few of the questions that rattle around in my head...and please, I am not asking them for you to answer. :)

Mike and I walked Hayes Valley last week with Blue Bottle Coffee in hand, talking about idealism and how difficult it was for me to "get my hands dirty". He said there is a way to compromise with integrity. That is, to live the future...but in the now. To live our convictions...but in our broken contexts.

Another friend said that we must focus less on the Best Scenario of this Kingdom of Goodness and more on the Better Scenario. Damn, didn't I blog about this a couple months back?

Well, turns out I am still figuring out what this all means. I guess there's an upside in that I have been writing some new tunes and am hoping to distill some of these thoughts into songs for an early 2007 album perhaps. We shall see.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Did I Mention I Love Brewing?

I do. I love it more and more each time.

Here's me making my wheat beer wort. Mmm. The aromas, the energy, the fun! If you're around in November, please do swing by our place and let me pour you a pint straight from the tap into a frosted mug. My treat. And my pleasure.

And here's my crown jewel of homebrew (at this point). My spiced belgian ale. Man, I can smell how this beer will taste. My brother-in-law said the scent was a bit like New Castle. My hope it will be a bit more spicey and a bit more "yeasty" in flavor (Damien, you hear that?). It will be ready (as I've said before) around New Years. Take that as an invitation to invite yourself over to our place in January for a sampling.

Thank You, Mr. Bush

Thanks to President Bush, Barbara Boxer, Mike Thompson, and Richard Pombo for approving this land conservation bill.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Peace in Utero...and in Retrospect

Hard to believe that we were in Europe 6 months ago. Seems surreal. But there it is. And to think that Holly was hiking the Swiss Alps with Pax in her belly. Wild.

Here's a snapshot of us in the Cinque Terre, Italy just before leaving. We happened to run into some friends from the States on a main thoroughfare of that village. Weird.

Sacred Text for Today

1 John 3:16-20, The Bible

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Does anyone know how to live out this way? As we sit watching our televisions or reading our newspapers, being exposed to the starvation of epic proportions in Africa, what do we do? When I see the homeless man on the street, should we just give him our clothes? Why is doing good so complicated?

I have a hunch. Perhaps it's a hunch that is unattainable, but perhaps not. It requires us constantly being in the flow...and that is where our ethical, relational decisions are made from. I so badly want to make a universal rule from these words, but I seem to think it's more about walking enlightened and engaged with the activity of God all around us at all times. And then all decisions are thoroughly contextual and relational...but out of a core that is connected to the deepest parts of the Universe.

But perhaps I use that kind of language because it seems near impossible to me, and if it's impossible, then I must not be called to live it out. What a wretched man am I!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Some Reading

Like I said, I started Hegemony or Survival...got through Chapter 2 and decided to wait until some other folks could pick up the book as conversation partners. I'll try to post thoughts here from time to time. Perhaps we'll get going again with this by the end of the month?

In the meantime, Mike let me borrow some good-looking books: How (Not) to Speak of God, Post-Rapture Radio, Free of Charge, and The Comforting Whirlwind. I am excited about all of them...and am doubley excited because I have not bought a book in so long (inspired by Nate's vow) and I keep coming upon them via friends. Ahh.

Anyways, I just finished The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation by Bill McKibben. Great book for understanding the purposefulness of the wilderness. And I don't use that word meaning some time of spiritual dryness or wandering in life...I mean actual wilderness. He is a wonderful naturist / Methodist Sunday school teacher who uses the book of Job to help situate ourselves as humans in the larger story. He speaks about how we are but a part of the Great Story...not the focal point. Simple enough, but the implications are heavy.

He explains how Job's friends were continually repeating the same old lines, just with growing intensity...the same orthodoxy, as he says. They said, "God is just. He rewards the good. Therefore, you must be bad, Job." And that was that. Job brought a new "fact" into the conversation, of course...that he had been good...and was not being rewarded. He uses this conversation dynamic to explain the situation we are in now where people are saying things like, "The Earth will repair herself infinitely. We can use and throw away whatever we want...live however we want." And then he brings in the new "facts" that we must consider.

He attacks the theologies and philosophies of "more" that have led us to the place we are at now, where we can never learn to be content in what he calls, "simple elegance". And he offers some challenging ideas for what we might do to live better, more in rhythm with Creator and creation.

A quote from the end of the book...

And of [our] gifts, the most unique and the most paradoxical is the ability to restrain ourselves. Conscious self-restraint belongs to no other creature, and for us it is the hardest of all tasks, both as individuals and as societies... Can we wean ourselves from cheap fossil fuel? Can we ignore the easy path? Can we muster the discipline to learn what we really want, and to follow that desire unwaveringly?

Let's hope that we can...and let's lead the way in doing it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Torture = American Value?

Thanks Will for this post: It seems indeed silly that as a nation we require a National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Imagine a national religious campaign against robbery or murder, values that are not only imbedded in all three predominant religious traditions but are also cornerstone legal values of almost all organized societies.

Read the rest of the post.

And then sign the petition...or head out to demonstrate.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Tragic, True Cost of War

I am saddened to have another gut-feeling proved by research and statistics.

From the God's Politics blog: A group of American and Iraqi medical researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a new study on civilian casualties in Iraq Wednesday morning. Their conclusion? 600,000 more civilians have died as a result of violence since the U.S. invasion than would have died if there had been no invasion, an estimate based on interviews with nearly 2,000 families in 47 neighborhoods across the country. The survey shows the range could be from 425,000 to 800,000, but they believe 600,000 is the best estimate. The causes of death include gunshots, car bombs and other explosives, and air strikes.

The cost of war is not just felt by the leaders or the government. In the words of Howard Zinn, "all wars are essentially wars against children."

Lord, how long?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No Sufjan; Yes Imogen

Our friend Darin had gifted us tickets to see Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond. The show was tonight...the night before our official "Due Date". But alas, with child in lap I think we'll pass on the show this evening. With Darin's permission, we handed off the tickets to some uber-fans.

But in exchange (sorta), we found that Imogen Heap and Magnet will be playing here in the City in early December. So I bought us tickets for that. Anyone want to babysit that evening? Really looking forward to that show. Jasen has gone on and on about those cool cats.

In other news, my iBook is running so freaking slow and it's killing me. We have been attempting to simplify and reduce the amount of stuff (and upgrades) we get (present rock concert tickets excluded)...but I'm feeling like I need a newer computer. Does anyone have a last generation g4 powerbook (15") or MacBook (not Pro) they're looking to unload for a reasonable deal? Perhaps we could even do some of it on trade? For a website or some design or production or kid's clothes? Anyone?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Peace Over War

Here's a video of a friend of ours who served in Iraq for 6 years and then filed for Concientous Objector status. A courageous guy. He has some good stuff to say.

On Friends

We're some of the luckiest people in the world. Such wonderful friends all over the place. Like this past weekend, Glenn and Shatrine Krake (+ extended family) came over for a visit on our "last day". It reminded me of some other mutual friends who are in Europe presently. Months ago, I was with them these mutual friends and said, "Holly's sick. I think she might be pregnant." I was saying this only half-kidding...weeks later I would find out that I was fully-right.

Anyway, Glenn and Shatrine are old friends. Glenn and I played music together for years in the band called Timber. He and Holly and I went to college around the same time...and Shatrine was there just a year or two before us.

I also think of how we had dinner with some good friends Craig and Lora Saturday evening, just hours before Holly would go into labor.

And just to think of this week causes me to well up with emotion. You see, yesterday started the Emergent Gathering, a sort of family reunion of sorts for us. We've always said that this annual gathering has been the advent of our year...well, turns out our advent in 2006 included a baby. And while we cannot be there this year, we think of all the life-giving friendships we have formed through that "network".

Some of those friends are the Stavlunds. And they'll be coming here to SF the week following the Gathering. Wonderful.

And then to receive allthe kind emails, blog comments, and gifts...we are truly blessed.

Monday, October 09, 2006

www.paxtonsharp.com

Thank you everyone for your kind words and support and love. We felt it. It was fun to read the comments out loud to Holly last night.

We are well. Tired...last night was long...but we made it.

Okay, I'll continue to post some Paxton stuff here from time to time, but I am going to attempt to post religiously at www.paxtonsharp.com, so bookmark it or RSS it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Vox Paxus

Here's a little snippet of Pax singing. Wish I knew how to embed the audio, but alas, I'm very Web 1.0. Just click the link.

More Photos

So far, so good. He already looks like a different baby in these 9 hours or so.






Paxton Sharp, 8 lbs., 54 cm

We're enthralled and tired. A quick rundown in words and photos.

10pm - Go to sleep
12am - Wake up because Holly's cramping contractions aren't sleep-through-able
3am - Call Lis, our midwife
3.30am - Clear out living room, blow up and fill up birth pool
4am - Lis arrives
5am - Other midwives arrive for support, I keep warming up the birth pool with boiling water
6.30am - Holly guides Paxton to safe arrival in the birth tub
7.30am - Paxton is asleep on my chest

So there are the words...now, some photos...











It's Begun

Saturday, October 07, 2006

S7

If you didn't know, we do graphic and web design to pay the bills. And we just launched our new website here at SharpSeven.com. Check it out yo.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Year In Retrospect

One year ago today, we left on a 10-month pilgrimage of sorts that would eventually bring us to San Francisco...with child.

For those of you new to the blog, I attempted to chart our first 3 months of that trip in detail on the blog starting here.

Oh the things we saw and experienced...and the people we met and kindled closer relationships with. It was a wonderful season of life for us.

I have been writing some new songs that are very shaped from the questions/thoughts/feelings I gathered along the way. It's interesting how we exchange questions for other questions. I have long thought that the role of an artist and world-changer is to help people exchange their petty, mundane questions for deeper, more probing and important questions. I hope I can help folks (myself included) accomplish this.

Today is a beautiful, wintery day in the City. Yesterday we had real rain. Lovely. Now child, come forth!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Just finished Confessions of an Economic Hitman. Wonderful book. Even more, important book.

This book dives into the dark world of the International Banks, Third World Debt, Greedy Nation-Corporation Marriages...and all from first-hand experience. Perkins does not write a survey on something he has researched...he's writing a personal confession.

Pulling back the curtain (so to speak), he shows how all US invasions post-WWII were economically driven. Even further, they were all attempts to excercise imperialistic power in aquiring another nation's natural resources...and setting the country up to be in debt to US (er, I mean international) banks and corporations.

CIA asassinations, US-led coups, supporting dictatorships, hundreds of thousands dead...this is the stuff of some action movie...but it's his personal memoir.

It's not all gloom and doom...and he calls people to wake from their slumber and stop the atrocities. We, the masses, he believes, are the ones making these decisions...by allowing our leaders to act in such ways. He offers some pro-active steps to curtail the US imperialist tendencies...and ways to make a difference for the better in the world.

And there's an interesting few details about the whole Jim Elliot missionary expedition that is quite eye-opening.

An excerpt:

The real story of modern empire...has little to do with what was exposed in the newspapers that morning and has everything to do with us. And that, of course, explains why we have such difficulty listening to the real story. We prefer to believe the myth that thousands of years of human social evolution has finally perfected the ideal economic system, rather than to face the fact we have merely bought into a false concept and accepted it as gospel. We have convinced ourselves that all economic growth benefits humankind, and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. Finally, we have persuaded one another that the corollary to this concept is valid and morally just: that people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation.

A timely book indeed.

Now, I'm off to start Hegemony or Survival. Anyone want to be a reading buddy? I'm one chapter in and would love a discussion partner.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Kitchen as Meditative Space

I made my second San Francisco batch of beer yesterday with the help of Aurora. It was a fun day of beer-making. I opted for a recipe completely over my head. It's a Belgian Spice Beer. It's the first beer I am brewing in which I'll use a secondary fermenter. This is a big deal for me. It's also the first beer that I'll really age. It should be ready around Holly's birthday (Dec 31st) and we're hoping to tap the keg that night, so if you're in town...

But I've realized that the Kitchen has become, for me, a meditative space in some ways. Despite my inability to make a proper Eggs Florentine, I have found that I have a knack–albeit raw and undeveloped–for cooking. For the most part, I have found that I do enjoy the process of smashing the garlic, slicing the onions, pouring oil onto the wok.

I guess this shouldn't be too much of a surprise...that is, I do love brewing beer in the kitchen.

But I've realized that I can kind of get into a zone when I am doing this...and the work of my hands becomes a bit like a prayer...or something.

And it's given our kitchen a more 'sacred' feel to me...when I'm thinking about it.

PS - I'll be brewing another batch this Saturday or Sunday, so if you're in the area and would like to come over and help out, just lemme know.

Happy Birthday Gandhi

Gandhi is one of the few people who seemed to take seriously the teachings of the Master. Captivated by Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You and thorough in his study of the Sermon on the Mount, he took Jesus at his word.

In constant dialogue with people of other religions (particularly British Christians), he was convinced that the Jesus of Scripture was not the Jesus of Christianity. Christianity, as played out in his context, was concerned with where you go when you die, said there was no partnership with God in the salvation of the world, and focused on the evil of humanity and the goodness of God.

Gandhi refused that mindset...the mindset that said it was all God and nothing to do with humanity. He felt that there should be a partnership...that we should be active agents of goodness and healing in our world...agents of God. Sad (or perhaps enlightening) to think that he might have been more inline with the Hebraic understanding of Tikkun Olam than his Christian contemporaries. You see, Jesus' tradition said that we are co-redeemers in this whole Creation experiment.

Happy Birthday to the Mahatma.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dollars Expose Priorities & Paradigms

This sure seems a great way to spend 1.2-??? billion dollars.

Certainly this question has been dragged through the mud, but weren't we all just immigrants at some point?

Getting our feet wet.

So one of the hopes of spending some time in San Francisco was to get our feet wet attempting to live out the teachings of Jesus. Many of us have realized that to fully understand the Man's teachings, you must delve deeper into the Hebraic tradition in which he lived and was raised. The words of the prophets of old were seemingly a part of the very social fabric of the First Century Palestinian-Roman Jewish world. In order to understand the very nature of the "good news" to which Jesus spoke of, one must turn to the prophets.

Anyways, we have been attempting some common life rhythms with friends in the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods that resonate with this good news. We have been participating with a group where we're putting up propaganda pieces around the Mission district to encourage folks to take care of their neighborhood...and not to just look to others to do that. It's called Barrio Libre. Nate and Mark and Adam have shared some wonderful thoughts on this particular experiment with truth that we're embarking on.

Another part of our common rhythm is the reading of sacred texts. In reading these below suggested passages for this week, I was struck at how Isaiah–while traditionally held that he was speaking of Jesus–could have been speaking of himself or perhaps any who would attempt to live out the sacrificial way of recalling people to a covenant of humanity...of justice, peace, and life. And perhaps this is not unusual to think...that those who were to follow the example of the Master would be treated as he was treated and should encourage the initiatives that were Kingdom initiatives.

Isaiah 1:17
"Learn to do right! Seek justice. Encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."

Isaiah 42:1-4
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

Isaiah 53:1-12
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 58:6-12
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 1and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."

Luke 4:16-21
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What's Up With Us

I am sick...some sort of Upper Respiratory thingie. I'm getting over it by drinking lots of water and Emergen-C packets. Mmm. And sleeping when I can.

Holly is good. Our midwife says she's in a really good place (so is the baby) and just needs to be patient.

We've both been reading in our spare time. Me, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, borrowed from a certain Lora Burnett. Wonderful, probing book about international banks/loans, US-Global Empire, and a guy who "got out". Wow. Holly finished Gandhi's Biography...a beautiful book from all she relayed to me. He was someone who took seriously Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Her bookmark has now become my bookmark, and I'd like to share it with you. It's a airplane ticket stub from our first (or second?) trip to Thailand last year. It's a little note to herself that Holly wrote.

A life of substance, a life of meaning. I want my life to count for something more than my own personal gain. I don't mean this in the small things I do on the side, a couple of hobbies or a trip here and there...I mean I want the very substance of my life to be consumed with helping others. I want my job (or lack-there-of), my money, my family, my house (or lack-there-of) all to be decisions based around these thoughts.

I know as I return it will be easy to return to comfort, self-seeking behaviors, money, stability, safety, and all America has to offer. Some of these 'ideals' are good, but I want to look beyond them and forgo the good for a potential better. I want to be a part of that 'better' and I want to be responsible for helping bring that to others as well. I believe this to be the teachings of Jesus. I don't know exactly what 'better' looks like, but I want to wholeheartedly pursue it and hopefully bring hope to others with the hope I find.


That was written while in Thailand by the woman I love.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Saw This Coming

Iraq war fuels terror. I just wondered if it'd ever be admitted to.

Honestly, did you think it'd go differently? Violence breeds violence. Injustice breeds further injustice.

How long must we go over this?

Didn't the Master speak to this?

But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

If the Master teaches that this is the better way, why would we think that in matters of politics or global terrorism that it'd be different. It's a sad thing to me that so many people under the label Christian do not see a connection between the man's teachings and their world. Truly something has been lost.