Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spy Wednesday 2021

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”  And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Matthew 26:6-16

Today marks Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday.  The point in the Holy Week that begins the transition from Triumphal Entry to betrayal, torture, and death.  The events of the day reflect two disparate treatments of Jesus: lavish praise and betrayal.  Two responses to Jesus we still see today.

The passages for today open with Jesus at the home of Simon, identified as a leper.  Likely someone who has previously been healed by Jesus.  Its into this scene a woman enters, bringing an alabaster jar of spikenard, a very expensive perfume or essential oil.  The alabaster jar in itself is significant.  It was an expensive jar to hold an expensive oil.  It was special to signify the special contents inside.  And it had to be broken and cracked to pour out the contents inside.  This woman took probably the most precious thing that she had and poured it out to anoint Jesus's head and feet.  Lavishly adoring him.  Her praise, her love literally spilling out because she had been forgiven.

And in response, what do we see?  The disciples quarreling because of her lavishness.  Because the gift could have been put to better use.  Because the money could have been spent "better" in their estimation.

How often do we do this?  How often does our inner voice question the extravagance of someone else's worship?  Of someone else's gift giving?  While I'm not calling for us to put aside all scrutiny, perhaps we should start from a place of granting the benefit of the doubt more often.  To start from a place where we assume the best intentions of other people more often than not.

We also see on this day Jesus's greatest betrayal.  The day Judas decides and confronts the chief priests to discuss handing Jesus over to them.  Selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  We can debate Judas's motives, whether he was a zealot trying to force Jesus into action or whether he fully believed Jesus had become too dangerous to allow him to continue his ministry.  Either way in Judas, we see that it is possible to be so close to the truth and completely miss the point.  Judas had the best pastor, the best teacher, the best leader, the wisest and best friend, and an incredible small group of friends to help provide guidance, but still ended up betraying Jesus.  Our reflection for today should be how often we miss the point.  How often we are in it for our own motives, our own pursuits, our own desires.

Where are you this holy week?  Are you one lavishing praise on Jesus today?  Are you questioning someone else's motives?  Or are you pushing your agenda through your Christian life?

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts through which thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Letter From Birmingham City Jail

In thinking of the events of the last few weeks, of the insurrection, of the lukewarm condemnation from the right, of their half-hearted calls for unity, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day yesterday, it led me to King's Letter from Birmingham City Jail, written April 16, 1963.  

On April 12, an ally had smuggled him in a newspaper dated April 12, that contained an open letter from eight white Alabama clergy.  Called "A Call For Unity," this letter referred to King as an "outsider" who was directing the events, and urged activists to take up their issues in court not in the streets.  

King rightly saw through these calls for unity for what they were - attempts to control the environment.  To maintain the status quo and avoid the hard fights.   In response, he penned his letter, his famous Letter from Birmingham City Jail, explaining exactly why such actions must continue to occur.  What struck me most, I have highlighted in bold.

"My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals."

What we have seen over the past couple of weeks are the privileged trying desperately to cling to their privilege.  The privileged that have convinced themselves that they are the oppressed and have been assured of that "fact" by their leadership.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

Today we have a reminder of the influence of the Irish on our American heritage. Thirty- three million people or 10.5% of our population tracing their heritage to Ireland. There are over five times more people with Irish heritage in America than there are Irish in Ireland.

Today, we recognize them as a pillar of the American melting pot. Celebrated communities in the Northeast. Pioneers in the westward expansion.

And yet, for the majority of their immigration pathway here, they were discriminated against. Viewed as less than. Inferior.

Hated and feared for their religious differences (Catholics v Protestants). For their ethnic differences (Celts v Anglo-Saxon). For a language barrier. For their work class. No Irish Need Apply.

On this day when we celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. His capture into slavery and conversion. His ministry and dedication to Ireland. His driving out Druids, or “snakes,” out of Ireland. And the Irish history and heritage of our country.

Why don’t we celebrate by honoring that history. By owning up to complicated history that it is. And by looking at how we treat any immigrant to our country. By committing to not making the same mistakes.

We can keep up the old traditions. Wear green. Drink green beer. Raise a glass high.

But I think that the list above might be a far better way to celebrate today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


When we think of satellites, I think Sputnik and the like are usually the first things that come to mind. Those man made objects that give us television, internet, and radio signals. The things we keep littering space around us with. But the word originates from a much earlier concept. A celestial body orbiting another larger celestial body. The moon is our satellite.  The earth is a satellite of the sun. And so on and so forth. 

The idea of satellites is an interesting one in our faith. As followers of Jesus, we called to be in his orbit. Constantly circling him. Staying close, pulled in his direction. Our smaller body orbiting his heavenly body. 

Another aspect of satellites is their reflective properties, particularly when we talk of those orbiting stars. The moon as a satellite has no inherent ability to emit light. The only light that it gives is what it reflects from the sun. From space, that is also why the earth is as colorful as it is. The earth doesn’t naturally emit its own light. The colors we see on the shots of earth from space occur from the sunlight reflecting off earth. 

Again, so it is in our Christian lives. The only light we have in our lives is what is given to us from the Son. That is what should be radiating out of us.  The overwhelming brightness of the Son. “As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are becoming more like him with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18. 

This is such an important concept in our faith and such a simple one. It highlights why it is so dangerous for us to rely on people, even godly people to spiritually enrich us. At the end of the day, each and every one of us is a cold, dark rock, only reflecting what light and life we receive from the Father. The best and most on fire preacher you heard and the backsliding believer - both the same in that they cannot generate light on their own. The spark you see in them is what comes from the divine. They are just in different phases. One may be more like a full moon, fully facing the Light and reflecting it back to the world. The other may be in a crescent stage. A little light coming in but mostly turned away. 

Think of it, it comes in phases in our lives too. Times when we are fully facing God and His light is just radiating off us. And times when we’ve turned away to some degree, reflecting less, hiding more. 

Two things about that our pastor recently reminded us about. 

1. You cannot face the sun and the moon at the same time. You cannot be looking at the light source and the reflective satellite at the same time. When they may align, one necessarily blocks the other - an eclipse. So in the context of our spiritual life, you cannot be fully facing God and someone else at the same time. When you elevate your pastor, your spouse, your friend, your mentor to a level that they do not belong, you will find yourself seeking light from the satellite. Something it cannot give.  Something that is destined to disappoint. Other Christians in this world are going to hurt us, to disappoint us, to injure us. We’re all fallen and broken people. We’re all cold, barren rocks orbiting the true Life.  This isn’t to excuse that behavior, that disappointment. It should, however, contextualize it and remind us to put our full trust in God, the source, not men. 

2. We don’t stop seeking the sun because we find out the moon is a lifeless rock. 

This is the big point. The reminder that for everyone who has been burned by the church, who has been hurt by other Christians, etc. that this is no reason to stop seeking God. We didn’t stop seeking the sun because we realized the moon reflected its light. Likewise, we shouldn’t stop seeking the Son because of the people who may be poorly reflecting His light.  It’s a reminder for those of us who are hurting and a challenge to those of us who are serving - to remember that there are people watching us. Who are getting some of God’s light from us.

That is humbling. 

That should push us all to be better satellites. To orbit more closely.  To send better signals. To reflect more fully  

Fully face the sun, fully embrace His light. And be that reflection to the world around you. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Ides of March


Ha! who calls?

Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Set him before me; let me see his face.

Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass."
Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

In Ancient Roman days, they did not number their days from start to finish of a month.  Instead, they had three fixed points in the month, the Kalends, the 1st of the month, the Nones, around the 5th to the 7th of the month, and the Ides, the 13th or the 15th.  In March, the Ides falls on our March 15.  

The Ides of March are most associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar, particularly as dramatized by William Shakespeare.  In 44 B.C., as many as 60 conspirators stabbed Caesar to death at a meeting of the Senate.  Caesar had been previously warned to "Beware the Ides of March!"  On his way into the senate that fateful day,  Caesar joked to the Soothsayer, 

[To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.

Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I

So, should someone tell you to beware today, perhaps you should keep an eye out.  Or at least don't laugh at fate. 

"Why should Caesar just get to stomp around like a giant while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar, right? Brutus is just as smart as Caesar, people totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar, and when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody because that's not what Rome is about! We should totally just STAB CAESAR!"
Mean Girls

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day all!  A celebration since 1988, Pi Day recognizes the mathematical constant pi (π), whose first significant digits are 3.14.  Pi day is celebrated with the homonyms of both savory and sweet types.  Pizza pies and dessert pies are often eaten.  My office is celebrating tomorrow and sent us gift cards for pizza to enjoy during the Zoom call.  Our church distributed slices of dessert pies to all the teachers in the Brownsburg School district this past week. 

For this monumentous occasion, I can think of no better words to share than the following:

3 . 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3 8 4 6 2 6 4 3 3 8 3 2 7 9 5 0 2 8 8 4 1 9 7 1 6 9 3 9 9 3 7 5 1 0 5 8 2 0 9 7 4 9 4 4 5 9 2 3 0 7 8 1 6 4 0 6 2 8 6 2 0 8 9 9 8 6 2 8 0 3 4 8 2 5 3 4 2 1 1 7 0 6 7 9 8 2 1 4 8 0 8 6 5 1 3 2 8 2 3 0 6 6 4 7 0 9 3 8 4 4 6 0 9 5 5 0 5 8 2 2 3 1 7 2 5 3 5 9 4 0 8 1 2 8 4 8 1 1 1 7 4 5 0 2 8 4 1 0 2 7 0 1 9 3 8 5 2 1 1 0 5 5 5 9 6 4 4 6 2 2 9 4 8 9 5 4 9 3 0 3 8 1 9 6 4 4 2 8 8 1 0 9 7 5 6 6 5 9 3 3 4 4 6 1 2 8 4 7 5 6 4 8 2 3 3 7 8 6 7 8 3 1 6 5 2 7 1 2 0 1 9 0 9 1 4 5 6 4 8 5 6 6 9 2 3 4 6 0 3 4 8 6 1 0 4 5 4 3 2 6 6 4 8 2 1 3 3 9 3 6 0 7 2 6 0 2 4 9 1 4 1 2 7 3 7 2 4 5 8 7 0 0 6 6 0 6 3 1 5 5 8 8 1 7 4 8 8 1 5 2 0 9 2 0 9 6 2 8 2 9 2 5 4 0 9 1 7 1 5 3 6 4 3 6 7 8 9 2 5 9 0 3 6 0 0 1 1 3 3 0 5 3 0 5 4 8 8 2 0 4 6 6 5 2 1 3 8 4 1 4 6 9 5 1 9 4 1 5 1 1 6 0 9 4 3 3 0 5 7 2 7 0 3 6 5 7 5 9 5 9 1 9 5 3 0 9 2 1 8 6 1 1 7 3 8 1 9 3 2 6 1 1 7 9 3 1 0 5 1 1 8 5 4 8 0 7 4 4 6 2 3 7 9 9 6 2 7 4 9 5 6 7 3 5 1 8 8 5 7 5 2 7 2 4 8 9 1 2 2 7 9 3 8 1 8 3 0 1 1 9 4 9 1 2 9 8 3 3 6 7 3 3 6 2 4 4 0 6 5 6 6 4 3 0 8 6 0 2 1 3 9 4 9 4 6 3 9 5 2 2 4 7 3 7 1 9 0 7 0 2 1 7 9 8 6 0 9 4 3 7 0 2 7 7 0 5 3 9 2 1 7 1 7 6 2 9 3 1 7 6 7 5 2 3 8 4 6 7 4 8 1 8 4 6 7 6 6 9 4 0 5 1 3 2 0 0 0 5 6 8 1 2 7 1 4 5 2 6 3 5 6 0 8 2 7 7 8 5 7 7 1 3 4 2 7 5 7 7 8 9 6 0 9 1 7 3 6 3 7 1 7 8 7 2 1 4 6 8 4 4 0 9 0 1 2 2 4 9 5 3 4 3 0 1 4 6 5 4 9 5 8 5 3 7 1 0 5 0 7 9 2 2 7 9 6 8 9 2 5 8 9 2 3 5 4 2 0 1 9 9 5 6 1 1 2 1 2 9 0 2 1 9 6 0 8 6 4 0 3 4 4 1 8 1 5 9 8 1 3 6 2 9 7 7 4 7 7 1 3 0 9 9 6 0 5 1 8 7 0 7 2 1 1 3 4 9 9 9 9 9 9 8 3 7 2 9 7 8 0 4 9 9 5 1 0 5 9 7 3 1 7 3 2 8 1 6 0 9 6 3 1 8 5 9 5 0 2 4 4 5 9 4 5 5 3 4 6 9 0 8 3 0 2 6 4 2 5 2 2 3 0 8 2 5 3 3 4 4 6 8 5 0 3 5 2 6 1 9 3 1 1 8 8 1 7 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 3 7 8 3 8 7 5 2 8 8 6 5 8 7 5 3 3 2 0 8 3 8 1 4 2 0 6 1 7 1 7 7 6 6 9 1 4 7 3 0 3 5 9 8 2 5 3 4 9 0 4 2 8 7 5 5 4 6 8 7 3 1 1 5 9 5 6 2 8 6 3 8 8 2 3 5 3 7 8 7 5 9 3 7 5 1 9 5 7 7 8 1 8 5 7 7 8 0 5 3 2 1 7 1 2 2 6 8 0 6 6 1 3 0 0 1 9 2 7 8 7 6 6 1 1 1 9 5 9 0 9 2 1 6 4 2 0 1 9 8 9

Happy Pi Day!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Norton Juster

"It provides the same shock of recognition as it did then - the same excitement and sheer delight in glorious lunatic linguistic acrobatics.  It is also prophetic and scarily pertinent to late-nineties urban living.  The book treats, in fantastical terms, the dread problems of excessive specialization, lack of communication, conformity, cupidity, and all the alarming ills of our time.  Things have gone from bad to worse to ugly.  The dumbing down of America is proceeding apace.  Juster's allegorical monsters have become all too real.  The Demons of Ignorance, the Gross Exaggeration (whose wicked teeth were made 'only to mangle the truth'), and the shabby Threadbare Excuse are inside the walls of the Kingdom of Wisdom, while the Gorgons of Hate and Malice, the Overbearing Know-it-all, and most especially the Triple Demons of Compromise are already established in high office all over the world.  The fair princesses, Rhyme and Reason, have obviously been banished again.  We need Milo!  We need him and his enduring buddies, Tock the watchdog and the Humbug, to rescue them once more.  We need them to clamber aboard the dear little electric car and wind their way around the Doldrums, the Foothills of Confusion, and the Mountains of Ignorance, up into the Castle in the Air, where Rhyme and Reason are imprisoned, so they can restore them to us.  While we wait, let us celebrate the good fortune that brought The Phantom Tollbooth into our lives thirty-five happy years ago.  Mazel tov, Milo, Norton, and Jules!"

Maurice Sendak, 1996 in his introduction to the book

Norton Juster passed away yesterday at the age of 91, from complications from an earlier stroke.  An architect by trade, Juster had been given a grant by the Ford Foundation in 1954 to write a children's book about cities.  Instead, he began to be preoccupied with the story of a boy who asked too many questions.  This grew into his most popular and beloved book, The Phantom Tollbooth.

The Phantom Tollbooth was a foundational book in my childhood.  There is a reason that it made my top seven books.  My sister read it first and originally had the copy, I would discover and devour it later.  The wordplay and the concepts resonated deeply with me.  It's a book I revisited in college, as a new parent, and will start re-reading now.

The book is a love letter to learning.  In it, Juster created a version of Wonderland, Oz, or Neverland filled with wordplay and puns, celebrating language and math.  Ruled by King Azaz the Unabridged and his brother, the Mathemagician, the world was filled with the most interesting characters.  The Whether Man.  The Which.  Tock, a literal watchdog.  The Humbug.  The Spelling Bee.  If you saw my online presence in the early internet, you would have discovered my appreciation for Dr. Dischord and the awful Dynne.

Beyond The Phantom Tollbooth, Juster has written such beloved works as The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, The Hello Goodbye Window, and The Odious Ogre.  

Though he will be missed, we are fortunate his work lives on, continuing to delight and surprise new readers, and to inspire us all.

"You must never feel badly about making mistakes ... as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons."

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

One Year of Change

My first photo in Indiana

It's amazing what all happens in a year.

One year ago today, I started this new journey - my new job at Cummins, my new home in Indiana, and not far removed from an adjustment to work-from-home life.  March 9, 2020, I got to go into the office, to meet all my coworkers and to start getting adjusted to this new life.

Jamie and the kids had not come up yet.  They would wait another week so Jamie could spend a little more time, see Wills Point's OneAct, and stay through her mom's birthday.  Splitting it also allowed us to drive both cars up.  I drove up first, would fly back and leave my car at the airport.  Then would drive back with Jamie the next week.  

For this first week in Indiana, I stayed at a Stay Alfred apartment just a few blocks away from the airport.  Got to walk downtown Indy for a bit, past Soldiers and Sailors Monument every day, and generally get to know the city.  Everything was still open at this point.

When we brought up Jamie and the kids, everything closed down.  Work from home and Zoom training.  We still didn't have a house at this point and spent a month in an AirBNB in Old Northside.  

In the months since, we've found out home to rent and have settled in very well.  We've found our hometown here in Brownsburg.  We've met and made friends with neighbors.  We've found our church and developed deep friendships with members of our church and our small group.

We've seen family and friends come up to visit, and we've shared a lot of good food we've found, and the aspects of this life we've come to love.  The trails and the walkability of the town.  The great bakeries.  Snow and sledding.  

We've laughed a lot, we've cried some, we've been stretched and we've grown a lot this year.  We've started our adoption journey, and have a lot a plans a head to travel when everything is open.

It's been a year of change and it has felt like a decade, but it has been a great year.

I can't wait to see what is ahead.

Monday, March 8, 2021

International Women's Day 2021

Women belong in all places decisions are being made.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Today is International Women's Day.  Originally created and celebrated on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, March 8 became the day of celebration after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917.  The day was finally adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.  In some places, it is a day of protest, in others, a day that celebrates womanhood.

The day is a national holiday in 26 countries.  In others, it is widely observed but not an official public holiday.  In the United States, it is recognized but not an official public holiday, though attempts have been instituted since 1994.

Each year since 1996 has had an official theme named by the United Nations.  This year's theme is
"Choose to Challenge," reminding us that a challenged world is an alert world.  That a challenged world leads to a changed world.  We can join in by challenging and exposing gender bias and inequality where we see it.

The goals for the initiative seek to:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Gender equality is one of the things that always amazes me that we still have to keep talking about it.  That we haven't solved it yet.  And that there are people who would view it as a negative for society.  Sure, they won't couch it in such terms, they'll focus on traditional women's roles or "family values."  Look no further this year than the pastor who encouraged women to be trophy wives to keep their husband's interest, and relayed that Melania Trump was the ultimate trophy wife.  Yeah, there's a lot to unpack there in a future blog.

Here's what we still have to fight:

  • Women on average still make only 80% of what men make for the same job
  • That gets worse in minority populations ranging from 53% to 77% (the discrepancy is slightly less in Asian populations at 85%)
  • The gender pay gap shrank between 1980 and 2000, but has largely stalled since then, closing by less than a nickel up to 2017.
  • One in eight women live in poverty and women are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men
  • 90% of adult sexual assault victims are women
  • Every 98 seconds an individual is sexually assaulted in the United States
  • One in three teenaged girls in the United States is reported as being a survivor of sexual violence, with young women of color and LGBTQ being particularly vulnerable
  • Girls are sexually abused at a rate 4.4 times higher than boys, and their behaviorable reaction to trauma is often criminalized
  • Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under 12
  • Nearly half of all female rape survivors were assaulted before the age of 18
  • Girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault
  • One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college
  • Only 66% of voting age women have access to proof of citizenship with their current name
  • About two-thirds of individuals in the United States believe it is easier for a man to be elected than a woman
  • We still cannot pass the Equal Rights Amendment, making gender discrimination unconstitutional
  • Maternal mortality rate has risen in the United States by 27% from 2000 to 2014

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

We have a long way to go, but we can get there.

Together, as equals.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:2

I #ChoosetoChallenge

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Remember the Alamo ... Drafthouse!

In one of the saddest bits of corporate news for me personally coming out of this pandemic, the Alamo Drafthouse has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The company is selling all of its corporate assets to Altamont Capital for restructuring and reorganization. The worst part is the closure of three of their theater locations:  Kansas City, Missouri, New Bruanfels, Texas, and the Alamo Ritz, Sixth Street, Austin, Texas. 

The Alamo Ritz location closing hurts. This was a rescue of a classic movie theater on Sixth Street, restoring it to its hey-day. Built in 1929, the prime location at 6th St and Trinity had been a first run movie theater, an adult film theater, a music hall and a comedy club. Restored and reopened by the Alamo in 2007 as a replacement for their original location, the Drafthouse at the Ritz became the center of the Alamo world. A fixture of Fantastic Fest, of Butt-Num-Athons and many of their unique offerings. Sure, the Alamo had several other theaters around town, but they looked like the Alamo product opened in cities across the country. For those of us old enough to know so, the Ritz was the Alamo. 

For me, the Ritz was home to several of my favorite film experiences. The 70mm road show presentation of The Hateful Eight, with the overture and intermission. The Holiday Sing Along with two friends of friends that I just met, leading into caroling the bars on Sixth Street. The Blazing Saddles quote-along, with Tim, complete with whoopie cushions for the beans scene, a cap gun, kazoos, and a very uncomfortable confirmation that the audience was all white. Then busting out into a pie fight in the middle of Sixth Street, with oncoming traffic. 

An apple pie fight I might add. 

I’ve seen films in a lot of great theaters in Texas. The Paramount on Congress Ave for White Christmas. The Texas Theater in Dallas for a special TCM presentation of Rio Bravo with Ben Mankiewicz and Angie Dickinson.  Jaws on the water in Lake Austin. 

But the Alamo Ritz will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Remember the Alamo Drafthouse!  Here’s hoping the new owners don’t change you too much more. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021


Another milestone in the blog - post number 800! 

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  To those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I would also like to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak.  I will also likely question things that many people believe are and should be settled.  I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

Further, an update of the reminders previously posted:

  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  I also hold them more accountable partly because they are in power, and I'm going to criticize whoever has power more than those in the minority.
    • I'm going to be extremely hard on the current administration and this president in particular.  This administration has moved much farther beyond normal bounds and are in completely new levels of deterioration.  Their actions must continue to be called out and we cannot allow them to be normalized.  
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all to often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I'm generally more interested in questions than concrete answers.  I think we as a collective are less curious than we should be and settle for comfortable answers when we should still be asking harder, more difficult questions.  
  7. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
  • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
  • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
  • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
  • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts then informed opinions then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
As always, thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Texas Uncovered

Well, I guess Texas really wants a fourth surge.  Citizens of Texas should start preparing now.

Yesterday, Govern Abbott issued an executive order lifting the state's mask mandate and occupancy restrictions.  "We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent."  Businesses are left to their own discretion regarding individual mask or social distancing requirements within their doors, but starting next Wednesday, March 10, 2021, any business in the state of Texas will be able to have 100% capacity with no mask requirement if they so choose.  It also removes any kind of enforcement capabilities local governments could have to enforce their own mask and social distancing requirements.

Meaning - Texas is taking off the mask come hell or high water.  And damn the consequences.

It's hard to write about this without being punchy, because it's so short sighted.  Yesterday, when Abbott made this announcement, Texas had 7,747 new cases.  271 new deaths from Covid-19.  Only around 7.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated.  Texas is no where near where it would need to be regarding potential herd immunity either from the virus or the vaccine to where it could start easing restrictions designed to stop this virus from running rampant.

The sad thing is, by easing restrictions in the name of "freedom," Texas is only making things more difficult for small business owners who want to continue to protect their employees and families by continuing a mask or social distancing requirement for their business.  Make no mistake, masks are still going to be required at your big national chains.  You will still have to wear a mask at Wal-mart.  You will still be asked to wear a mask at HEB.  And there will be small businesses who wish to continue to require it there as well.  What Abbott has done has encouraged entitled egotists to flaunt the requirements and provoke altercations with front line employees at those businesses.  

It's been sickening to scroll through Facebook and see the number of people praising this decision as if it were on the level of Texas Independence.  Or as if it "restored a fundamental freedom" on the level of the Civil Rights Act.  In reality, it revealed that we do not have it within us anymore to sacrifice for the greater good.  We do not have it in us anymore to care more for the people around us and make small concessions for their well-being.  It revealed that we don't have what it takes to endure a minor setback in the grand scheme of life.

That's the most frustrating aspect of the whole ordeal - we only had another few months to go through to where easing restrictions could start to make sense.  The announcement today indicated that vaccine production should be ramped up enough to where all American adults could get vaccinated by the end of May.  Two more months, and we could really start pulling things back and restoring normalcy, whatever that was.

But we can't wait.

Make no mistake, this was political theater.  It was designed to distract Texas from the utter failure that the Texas government displayed through their lack of preparation for a winter storm, not learning the lessons from 2011, and their total mishandling of the whole affair during the storm.

We're at that moment in Jaws where the citizens have caught a tiger shark and the mayor goes out and proclaims that everything is safe.  Everyone should go back out, everyone should go to the beach and visit Amity Island.  We need those tourist dollars.  Think of the Fourth of July.

That decision didn't work out well for the citizens of Amity and I fear this decision will not bode well for the citizens of Texas.

Stay safe.

Wear your mask, no matter what the governor may say.

Keep your distance.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; we just have to persevere.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Texas Independence Day 2021

On March 1, 1836, a committee of five delegates of the Convention of 1836 were appointed to draft a document declaring independence from Mexico.  The draft was produced, quite literally, overnight, as the Alamo in San Antonio was under siege during its preparation.  After a brief review, the declaration was then adopted by the delegates of the convention at Washington (now on the Brazos) then next day, March 2, 1836.

From that period on, Texas has always maintained a sense of independence.  A defiant attitude that is all its own.  An individualism that runs to its core.

It's a place that is big enough for everyone.  That embraces its oddballs, and we have our fair share.  Whose vast and wonderful geography contains the best of all possible worlds.

A mix of cultures and races that continue to create and develop the best in art, food, and music.

And one of the only states with international recognition and perception.

"Texas is neither southern nor western.  Texas is Texas."  Senator William Blakely

Though we may no longer reside there, we will forever be Texan.

Here's to you Texas!  Happy 184 Birthday!  To many many more...

I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America