Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vacation and Les Mis

Well, it's been a whirlwind Christmas tour of the Midwest, which I think was pretty successful. I'm currently sitting in Chicago at Matt and Elsa's after eating a breakfast of bacon and cinnamon rolls. I'm glad I'm finishing my trip with the same balanced breakfast that has typified my diet throughout the vacation. When I go for a run on Monday, my body will either protest loudly or just spontaneously combust from the shear shock of it all. Either way it will be a sight to see. However, the one thing that might make it bearable is being up at Pilgrim Pines! I'm heading up on Monday for New Year's Eve and staying for the better part of a week to do some writing with the likes of Stefan and Kiera Fritz, Britta and Dan King, Hannah Anderson, Maria Cathcart, Taryn Johnson, etc. It should be a good time had by all.

Also, my sister is still pregnant. It's like she kept the baby inside just to spite Stephen and me. Although seeing her walking on the boardwalk in sorels and Peter's union jacket (the only things that fit) was somewhat of a consolation.

So, I saw Les Mis on Thursday, and I know you are dying to hear my thoughts (SPOILER ALERT). So, here they are in no particular order:

1. Anne Hathaway stole the show. Her "I Dreamed a Dream" was heartbreakingly beautiful. That scene alone deserves an Oscar.

2. Russell Crowe just can't sing. It sounds like he is singing through vocal chords in his nasal cavities. "Stars" was painful. I kept wondering what the outtakes must have been like if these were his best takes.

3. Eddie Redmayne as Marius was for the most part good, but he does have some vocal similarities to one Kermit the Frog. I was hoping for a Rainbow Connection/Empty Chairs at Empty Tables mash-up.

4. Hugh Jackman played a pretty mean Jean Valjean, even if I didn't always love some of the songs (i.e. "Bring Him Home.")

5. Most unnecessary shot - Javert's body hitting the concrete after jumping off the bridge.

6. I thought the way they juxtaposed "Lovely Ladies" with Cosette's own descent changed the entire song for the better.

7. The entire finale was a sob fest. It made me want to either join a revolution or convert to Catholicism or both.

Anyway, it's about lunch time, so I am going to sign off. Merry Christmas (until Jan. 6th!) to you and yours!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Minnesota, Hail to Thee!

Well, I've made it to God's country, even if I had to drive through Wisconsin to get there! You know you're in Wisconsin when they're still renting out movies at the gas station (I was actually surprised they weren't VHS).

First, my time in Chicago was great! It was definitely a reunion with many cherished friends, capped off by singing at the Grafton. I mean, at what other pub could you sing "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" with a group of 40-50 of your favorite people in the whole world (along with some who were missing)? Special thanks goes out to Matt, Elsa, and Lucia (9 months old and only initially freaked out by the strange man staying with them) who housed me and remain some of my favorites.

Then, yesterday morning my brother and I headed out in his rickety Ford Focus for the Promised Land. Now, if you don't know, a road trip with my brother can be a somewhat tenuous proposition. We get along great, but we're not always the best in close quarters over long durations. As I've said, we're good city brothers but not great apartment brothers (e.g. when he came and stayed with me for three weeks in Chicago, by the time we drove home for Christmas, we bickered the entire 8 hours between Chicago and Duluth). So, our trips are usually one part sing-along, one part fighting, one part laughing, one part making jokes about being ready to kill the other, and one part complaining about the musical choice of the other.

For instance, on today's leg from the Twin Cities to the middle of nowh...I mean, my parents' beautiful home in Breckenridge, we travelled during the peak time of 5-7 p.m. on a Saturday evening. It probably goes without saying, but this is during Prairie Home Companion, which is mandatory listening, especially if you happen to be driving in Minnesota. Here are just a few of the comments made my brother during the course of the show (obviously accompanied with requisite eye rolls and head in hands).

- "Who does this guy think he is singing with his guests? He can't sing!" (as Keillor sang harmony)

- "We get it! You're Norwegian, Lutheran, and Minnesotan! Get on with it!"

- "Did they even practice this?!"

- "Well, we haven't heard a lutefisk joke in thirty seconds, so it's about time."

So, it was obviously a relaxing trip for both of us. Now, to be fair, there may have been some comments about the lyrical quality of some of his musical choices, but why cry over spilled milk?

Uh, my niece is great! Here's a picture of our first meeting, me looking like a dirty hippie/hipster:

So, that's pretty great. Now if my other sister would quit being lazy around the holidays and have this other one, we would all have a Merry Christmas! (Looking in the general direction of 4125 Emerson Road, Duluth).

Well, I need to go because I'm about to kill my brother as we try to pick out special music for tomorrow's church service (just kidding...I mean, about killing him, we are having a rather difficult time picking out a song, which is par for the course).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Facing Our Violence

Things like the Connecticut shooting shouldn't happen. Elementary children should be safe at school. Teachers should not have to worry about protecting their students from a mad man. Our first response to this tragedy should be a mixture of prayer and lament. Why does God allow such things? Where is justice and compassion and peace in this world? Lord, have mercy!

Yet, if we do not ask what we can do as a nation to end such tragedies, I fear our prayers (mine included) are hallow. It is not politicizing a tragedy to ask how we can keep tragedies like this from happening again. Do you know what is politicizing a tragedy? To disingenuously say that the days preceding a tragedy is not the time for a conversation on the U.S. love affair with guns, to attempt to wait out the grief and pain so that we can yet again do nothing and ask after the next tragedy why nothing has been done. We must have an honest and open debate on gun control in this country.

From a purely civic perspective, is the unfettered right to bear arms worth this? Let's be honest: the framers of the Constitution could not have dreamed of these semi-automatic monstrosities that shoot hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes, whose only seeming purpose is to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time. They also thought there should be well-regulated militias in conjunction with the right to bear these weapons, but that doesn't seem to matter to most. In the end, no one (or almost no one) is looking to take away hunting rifles and shotguns. The question is not whether one has the right to bear arms, but what type. So, you're a staunch supporter of the second amendment. Does a person have the right to own a handgun? semi-automatic weapon? automatic weapon? grenades? missiles? nuclear weapons? These are all arms of one sort or another, but we have decided as a society that no individual needs to own an intercontinental ballistic missile, for example. There is a line of destructive capability past which no individual should be able to go. Most advocates of gun control are not friends of Big Brother looking to rid the world of hunting rifles, but people who think individuals do not need guns capable of firing 50 rounds a minute. They simply draw the line at a different place because the destructive capability of such weapons are too great when weighed against the potential for terrible destruction.

Also, in an age where mental health funding continues to be on the chopping block, shouldn't we at least question why it is easier for most americans to purchase a gun than to get the help they need for mental illness? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1.6 billion dollars have been cut from mental health agency budgets since 2009. People in need of help simply aren't getting it, especially low income patients. People who need help in a just and peaceable society should be able to get it.

Since Thursday, I've had a snippet of the second stanza of Fred Kaan's "For the Healing of the Nations" (#724 in the Blue Hymnal) in my head: "All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned." Maybe it's not realistic; maybe it wouldn't stop the violence, but how can we not at least think of a world without all these implements of war and violence? How do we not wish and work and hope and pray for it?

During Advent, we pray for the coming of God's kingdom, and we are told what that kingdom looks like: no more sorrow, crying, or pain; the lion shall lie down with the lamb; the swords shall be beaten into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks. As a Christian, I believe this is the vision that we try desperately and imperfectly to enact, here and now. I just don't believe the Christian response to tragedy   like this is to make sure guns are more readily available, to give into fear and arm ourselves to the teeth. We serve a Prince of Peace; how does this change the way Christians deal with terror and destruction and violence in our world? Does it? Come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

First Semester in the Books!

So, as of today (well, actually yesterday evening at 5!), I am officially done with my first semester! Yesterday I took a German final from 10-12, had class from 12:30-5, and then skipped out of that building singing, "Schooooools out for December" (obviously to the tune of Alice Cooper's "School's Out"). Now I can turn in the library books (anyone have a forklift I can borrow?), recycle a ream of paper, and start singing Christmas songs in earnest! I am still struggling with PASD (post-academic stress disorder) and feel like I'm being really lazy by blogging and watching Two Towers right now, but these side effects pass with time. Plus, there is something deeply satisfying about getting to remind yourself that you in fact don't have anything you need to do. It's kind of like a programmed cell phone alarm going off in the morning and then realizing it's Saturday, and you don't actually have to get up.

So, I just finished Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, which is a book about Chicago during the Columbian Exhibition (world's fair) in 1893. The book has two main story lines: one looks at the architectural wonder that was the exhibition (following Burnham, Olmsted, et al) and the other following a serial killer whose murders took place in Chicago during this same time. Honestly, I could have gone without all of the serial killing (I listened to it on audiobook and made liberal use of the fast-forward button, which I'm pretty sure is not actually what you call that button on an iPod), but I found the story of the fair's building fascinating. I mean, can you picture this in Chicago near the Museum of Science and Industry (one of the only buildings from the fair still standing):

Also, it made me really excited to head to Chicago on Monday!!! I'm going to eat a Lou Malnati's hot dog pizza with giardiniera and Garrett's popcorn on top with a Half Acre while riding the el to the top of the Hancock building to watch the Bulls Sox battle against the Cub Hawks. And THEN I get to go to God's country to see my family and meet my niece(s) (it will be nieces if Anna would quit being lazy and start pushing already).

Also, where has Freaks and Geeks been all my life, and how did I not know that every post-2000 TV/movie star seems to be in it? It's like an edgier Wonder Years without the Daniel Stern voiceovers, young Marilyn Manson [sic], and 60s-early 70s social commentary.

Here's my Christmas recipe for the holiday season:
-Go to Trader Joes
-Buy the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe-Joe's
-Drive Home
-Take out of cellophane
-Pour one glass of low-fat milk
-Try not to eat all of them in one sitting

You're welcome.

I wish the Pope's first tweet had been something like, "Cardinal George was totz crazy last night, LOLZ." That would be worth following.

One thing I've noticed in New England (at least in the Boston area) is that gas pumps do not have the hold open latch that allows you to pump without actually holding the pump handle the whole time. What's next? Are you going to make me refine the crude oil too? I've started using my wallet as a makeshift lock, which I'm sure is both safe and sanitary.

Anyway, I'm going to finish watching Two Towers and maybe take a nap. Ahhh...livin' the dream. Later.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent/Christmas Music

So, as you know, Advent/Christmas music is one of the reasons I can tolerate summer without crying myself to sleep every night. Through out the years, I've come to realize that my favorite Christmas songs are those that both sing about the joy of the incarnation but also speak truthfully of the human condition - that don't just jump right to light and hope without acknowledging that there is also real darkness and despair in the world. So, here are four Advent/Christmas hymns that do that particularly well.

4. O Come, O Come Emmanuel - I mean, how can you not love this song? It's an ancient poem to an ancient tune with a solid liturgical history speaking of a nation in exile waiting for the coming of their Savior and Redeemer. And the way the minor key breaks into a major chord right on "Rejoice!": Perfect. One of my professors spoke of the song as rejoicing in a minor key; I like that idea because I think we all at one time or another have to figure out how to rejoice in minor keys.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
our spirits by Thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
all peoples in one heart and mind;
bid thou are sad divisions cease
and be thyself our King of peace.

Here's the now-split The Civil Wars singing their version:

3. O Holy Night - Not only is "a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices" one of the greatest lines of all time, but the final verse is stunning:

Truly he taught us to love one another,
his law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother,
and in his name all oppression shall cease.

I'll stand by Mariah Carey's "O Holy Night" until the end, but I thought this version was wonderful, even he only sings the first verse.

I mean, Nat King Cole could sing the phonebook and I'd tear up.

2. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - This was written by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War. In quick succession his wife died and his son was gravely injured in battle, and it was in the midst of this that he wrote the poem. Placed on the backdrop, the last two verses are especially poignant:

And in despair I bowed my head,
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, goodwill to men. [sic]

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
with peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Goosebumps. Some of the more specific verses got left out of the hymn:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
the cannon thundered in the South,
and with the sound the carols drowned,
of peace on earth, good will to men.

Here's the Carpenters singing it out.

1. It Came upon a Midnight Clear - My biggest gripe with most recordings and even versions in hymnals is the cutting out of the middle verses, which to me are probably the best verses in Christmas hymnody.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
the world has suffered long;
beneath the angel strain have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
the love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
and hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow.
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!

That last verse always reminds me of an old crone (like the person carrying a bundle of sticks on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV) as the person walking painfully down the road when she sees the light and sound of this choir of angels and is lost in wonder and joy.

Here's the one and only Mahalia Jackson singing it, albeit with missing verses:

In other news, I have drafts of all my work for the semester done! Now, a bit of editing, a German final (thanks be to God for pass/fail grading), a sermon on Sunday, a bit of worship planning, and you've got yourself a completed semester! See you all in Chi-town/H-town!

I'll say it again: undergrad migration patterns can be primarly tracked from their initial gathering in the fitness center in the first week of each semester to their final gathering in the library the last week of the semester. In between, one has to watch out for tumbleweeds in each of the buildings.

Okay, time to get ready for a presentation this afternoon. Later!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Meeting Pumba, Visitors, and Chicago!

So, it's been a while since my last blog post. I'll start with the most important story of the past week. When I was in Connecticut with Andrew and Jessie, we went to a brunch place about twenty minutes away to meet up with a friend of Jessie's. When we got there, there was a significant wait, so we put our names in and hung out by the door. As we were waiting, an older gentleman with really hip glasses walked in to the restaurant. I immediately thought, "Hey, that guy looks like the guy who is the voice of The Lion King's Pubma." Now, this raises a good question. How did I know what the guy who voiced Pumba look like? I really have no idea, but I must have seen a video on the making of The Lion King or  something. So, as I was thinking, I turned to Jessie and said something like, "Doesn't that look like the guy...", and before I finished my sentence, she stated emphatically, "It is!"

However, I was not easily swayed. What would the very voice of Pumba himself (not to mention the owner of the beach resort, Leon Carosi in those summer special episodes of Saved by the Bell) be doing at this out-of-the-way brunch place in Nowhere, Connecticut? So, we're debating while we're being seated, and Jessie finally has it confirmed by one of the long-time waiters that it was in fact Ernie Sabella, the voice of Pumba.

So, we're obviously googling and IMDBing, seeing what else he has been featured in (who knew there was that many Timon and Pumba spin offs?) and trying to figure out how we could talk to him. So, when he was passing, Jessie called out, "I love you, sir!" He put his hands on her shoulders and said in his Pumba voice, "Hakuna Matata!" shuffled a few more steps, and turned again, exclaiming, "It means no worries!"Obviously, we were enraptured by this turn of events. Since it was a brunch place, I thought breaking into this song would be especially appropriate:

 So, that may have been the highlight of my post-Thanksgiving weekend.

After a great weekend in Connecticut, Andrew and Jessie came up to Boston and spent some time up here sightseeing (by sightseeing, I mean they saw the sights while I was in class and then we ate our way through different parts of Boston). I didn't realize how starved I was for people that have known me longer than three months. Whenever I felt that way before (what some call "loneliness"), I decided it meant I needed to read some more books or write a paper. So, I decided to go down to Connecticut Thursday-Saturday again. I feel like this is my reward for getting the lion's share (no Pumba-related pun intended) of my work done before the end of the semester.

Speaking of papers, I am consistent in one part of my paperwriting: when I am finished, I've at least made one consistent mistake in every citation throughout my footnotes. This time, it was putting the last name first (like you should do in the bibliography) throughout the footnotes - rookie mistake. So, I'll get to spend some fun time reformatting my paper. I guess it's lucky that I'm so details-oriented (sarcasm intended). Hopefully, this won't one day be the source of my academic undoing.

Anyway, 18 days until I am in Chicago! I'm already scheduling who to see at which restaurant, so it's going to be a great way to gain 20 pounds amongst friends. Well, class is about to start, so I should get going. Happy (soon to be) Advent! (not that I'm excited about that!)

Friday, November 23, 2012


I am currently sitting in bed at Bob and Bev Freeman's in West Hartford, Connecticut waiting for Andrew and his sister to wake up after their late night Black Friday spree yesterday (I stayed at home and judged from a distance). I'm also putting off getting up and going for a run, which after the gorging that took place yesterday might better be entitled, "roll." In my opinion, the Black Friday run is both the most needed and most dreaded run of the year.

Yesterday was a great time of eating, drinking, and being merry with the Freeman family. It was fun to have a bunch of kids running around (until one decided to throw herself down the stairs; I think it was a performance art protest against the consumerism of Black Friday, in which we throw ourselves down the stairs of consumerism and greed. (She was fine, which is why I can write this)) and served as a vision of future Thanksgivings in the Bjorlin family.

Things I am thankful for (lately):
1. Faith, family, friends, blah blah blah.
2. The community at Trinity Covenant Church for welcoming me into their church!
3. Internet shopping - the preferred method of shopping for recluses everywhere.
4. The Freeman family and their hospitality in inviting this Midwestern exile to their home.
5. Paying off my credit cards and feeling financially stable. I'm not even sure what to do sometimes when I don't have to do some creative accounting to pay all the bills (and pay for my lavish lifestyle obvs).
6. Ends of semesters that arrive, come hell or high water.
7. A plane ticket to Chicago on Dec. 18th and a ride to Minnesota thereafter.
8. Not putting my latest iPod in the washing machine for over a year. Apple's been wondering why its stock has been tanking...
9. Advent...duh.
10. Being able to listen to Christmas music without judgers judging.

Also, this is pretty funny.

Well, I'm going to go play some Super Smash Brothers Brawl. So, with that, may your days be merry and bright. Later. If you're going to shop this weekend, make good choices. May I suggest small business Saturday?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turabian Niiiiiggghhhts

(The title is obviously to the tune of "Arabian Nights." I hope you passed that test.)

So, in getting ready for Thanksgiving, my goal has been to get as much work done as I possibly could, which has meant many days and nights curled up at my desk with my computer, a pile of books, and Kate Turabian. For those of you who have social lives, Kate Turabian was the woman at University of Chicago who put together A Manual for Writers, which is the citation guide for many different academic fields. I always assumed she was a recluse (because how could you care so much about citations and not be?), but here's a quote about her from one of her colleagues:

...a legend on the University of Chicago quadrangles. … A devout Episcopalian, an accomplished cook, an enthusiastic and adventurous traveler, and a voracious reader whose erudition earned the respect of scholars of all ranks despite her lack of the customary academic credentials. After her years of devoted service to the University, trudging in her sturdy oxfords from her apartment on the south side of the Midway to her office on the third floor of the Administration building, she acceded to her husband Stephen’s longing for a warmer clime, and retired to California.

Anyway, I could not help but think of her name in association with the Aladdin song, "Arabian Nights." I didn't think I could be the first to make this connection, so I googled it. Here's one of the things I found:

Not great production quality, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the good news is over the past few weeks, I have been productive with the help of acute anxiety and Kate Turabian. I think over the past three weeks I've written about 70 pages (some of better quality than others) on four different papers, which will allow me to enjoy Thanksgiving without a constant sense of impending doom (now it will just be intermittent).

Right now I decided to be an adult and bring in my car to get the windshield fixed. I only waited a week or two, so I think that's pretty good.

Tonight I'm headed to Connecticut to the Freeman house for Thanksgiving! I have to say my anticipation was only heightened when Andrew called and told me that his mom was ordering a bunch of Swedish food for Wednesday night dinner. Elastic-waist pants, here I come (or return to, elastic-waist stone-washed jeans were my clothing of choice in elementary which then switched to nothing but sweatpants until right around freshman year. I've been classy for so many years.)! I'm also looking forward to what always proves to be an interesting ride on a Greyhound bus.

Remember when I was bemoaning the lack of good Christmas albums coming out this year? This all changed with another monstrous release from Sufjan Stevens: Silver and Gold. It has a little more electronic weirdness on it than his previous holiday release, but it's still wonderful to listen to and has some deep cuts from Christian hymnody. For some reason, this is the song that always gets stuck in my head:

Anyway, I'm about to start class. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chicago, Not Impressed, and City of God

So, I'm in the midst of reading a novel, and last night the characters were driving into Chicago. This is how it is described: "Chicago happened slowly, like a migraine. First they were driving through countryside, then, imperceptibly, the occasional town became a low suburban sprawl, and the sprawl became the city." First, such a great description of that drive. Second, it probably shouldn't, but it makes me very nostalgic for Chicago. In that same vein, I will be back in Chicago a month from today. WOOO! And then MINNESOTA to meet the newest member of the family!!

Okay, I know it's poor form to brag on your blog, but I have to tell someone that I finally finished St. Augustine's City of God! Coming in at almost 1100 pages, I've been working at it piecemeal for over a year now. Turns out (spoiler alert!), Augustine was dead the whole time! I did not see that Shyamalanian twist coming. Also, for some reason, I always sing the title to the tune "The Wizard and I," who nows why. "Held in such high esteem,/ when people see me they will scream/for half of Oz's favorite TEEaam, "the City of GOD!" Bum  bum bum bum        bum       bum

And if you don't think this is kind of funny, check your pulse:

Also, I finished my second paper, which will make my Thanksgiving infinitely more relaxed and enjoyable. I'm pretty happy about it, but I am know having a difficult time motivating myself to do anything but blog.

And here's some inside footage of Karl Rove after the election:

I think that was me in 1996 or after any of my sports teams lost (personal or state-wide) between 1989-1998. It ended in 1998 in the NFC championship game when Gary Anderson missed the field goal, the Vikings lost, and my soul was crushed to such an extent that I could no longer feel sorrow or pain.

When will I be at an institution that no longer engages in the archaic practice of library fines? I'm a graduate student not Scrooge McDuck! (Don't give me that personal responsibility talk either; this is my uncontrollable vice, and I think it's a fairly tame one).

Okay, I'm now at my new favorite coffee shop and need to actually get some work done today (reading day!), so I bid you adieu, adieu, to you and you and you. Later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

German Tests and Christmas Music

Well, I know you're dying to hear about my German mid-term so I'll tell you: it was rough! The only consolation was that it was rough for everyone. On a positive note, I was one of the few to finish the translation; on the other hand, many of my sentences were missing key know, like a subject or verb or an intelligible idea running throughout. Seriously, some of my translated sentences sounded like Yoda suffering from some type of dissociative disorder. So, hopefully my breadth will make up for a general lack of depth (or sense).

I've been postponing listening to Christmas music this year, mostly because I'm anxious about how much I have to do between now and Christmas break, and I'm pretending if I don't acknowledge the season, it will delay in coming (reasonable, I know). However, after charting out some work time this weekend and finding out that I have one less paper than I thought (albeit a small one, but every little bit helps), I felt prepared to face the music. Oh, how I have missed it! On the way home from choir I was driving home misty-eyed listening to some of my favorites (or Mariah Carey's "O Holy Night" on of the two).

Well, I'm glad to see people are handling their disappointment in the election in a healthy way: starting petitions to secede from the Union. That seems reasonable. You could split all the seceding areas into different districts and then send 2 children from each district to a tournament where they all battle against one another...

Pat Robertson spreading some wisdom on the General Petraeus affair: "The man's off in a foreign land and he's lonely and here's a good-looking lady throwing herself at him (shrug). He's a man." Way to hold him accountable, Pat!

One of our songs we're singing in the choir at Church sounds a lot like, "If Just One Person," and all I can think of is this clip from Jim Henson's memorial service:

How am I supposed to make it through the song when I'm thinking of muppets singing a tribute to Jim Henson? Answer: you don't.

I am extremely excited for my trip down to Connecticut for Thanksgiving at the Freeman household! My only concern is whether I will be able to re-adjust to social situations where I have friends and people I know talking to me. Will I need to sit silently in a corner for a few hours to slowly transition back into human society? Will I be able to distinguish between internal and external dialogue? Will I attempt to footnote my dinner table comments with citations to back up my assertions?

Finally, I just finished a rough draft of one of my final papers. BOOM!

And in celebration, I'm going to take a nap. Later.

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Week in Pretentious Things

So, on my re-occurring segment, Why Are You Being Pretentious? (okay, maybe this is the first edition of this re-occurring segment, but I stand by it), I'm going to tell you a few things that have been bothering me. Among other things, I'm going to go after two news sources I really enjoy, but who occasionally toe the pretentious line (or trample it underfoot):
1. NPR (Boston) - Love love love NPR. Anyone who broadcasts Garrison Keillor every Saturday will forever hold a special place in my heart (and speaking of this, I'm going to stream the show from this Saturday as I type!), not to mention the reporting without all the crazy rhetoric and finger-pointing. Anyway, this week they were sponsored by the upcoming motion picture Les Miserables (obvious excitement for this opening - that goes without saying), but instead of pronouncing it like most people - "Lei miserab" - we have to hear some lady who took a few French classes in college say, "And this week's shows are sponsored by the upcoming motion picture Lei MiserUAH," which included this nasal, throat-clearing French accent more akin to the crazy French chef in The Little Mermaid than anyone wanting to be taken seriously on Public Radio. We get it, Pierre; you speak French; CongratulatiUH!" (You have to read that with a similar French accent if it's going to be funny. I think this joke would work better in person, but I'm holed up reading books somewhere, so you'll have to make do with what you get).
2. Also, every once in a while I enjoy reading The New Yorker, but one think that I simply cannot abide   by is their use of the pretentious umlaut over the second of a repeated vowel in a word. So, they "coöperate" and "reëlect" instead of "cooperate" and "reelect" like the rest of us. I guess we wouldn't be able to decipher these words that we use everyday without the umlaut. Apparently, the mark is actually called "diaeresis," which just makes it even that much more pretentious. You can visit The New Yorker's website and read their explanation for this pretention yourself. I'm not buying it; kind of like I'm not buying that all your cartoons are funny and mean something. You know what clip I have to play:

3. Anytime you start arguing which Radiohead album is the best, you're right on that line.
4. Same goes for talking about certain chefs at highfalutin restaurants, unless its one of the cook at Diner Grill and you're ordering a slinger (which is hashbrowns, two cheeseburger patties, grilled onions, and two sunny-side eggs all with a few servings of chilli generously ladled over it).

Note how one side of the sign says, "Dinner Grill" while the other edits it to "Diner Grill," just to give you the option. This was less than a block away from my old apartment in Chicago.
5. Any discussion of craft beer that lasts over 5 minutes. I'm sorry; it's true...even when I am guilty of it.

The Vikings remembered that they are a football team this weekend (and Ponder recalled his history as a quarterback) and took it to the Lions again! You heard it here first: I think that Adrian Peterson guy is going to be quite the halfback in the National Football League!

Last night I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some food and the song "Groovin' (On a Sunday Afternoon)" came on, and I think just about every person in the store was whistling or singing along. It was kind of like this:

Maybe it was a little less choreographed, but not much.

Well, I have a German mid-term in and hour and a half, so I should probably sign off now. I can't believe Thanksgiving is next week. I have so much that needs to get done. My only consolation is knowing that Thanksgiving is extremely early this year, so I do have an extra week after to finish work before the semester ends. Okay, don't know why I added that part. Later!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Wrap-Up

So, here we are on the other side of the election and the world still spins on its axis and orbits around the sun. I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for my post-election coverage, so without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on the election:
1. Nate Silver wins, pundits lose. Silver is the man. He predicted all 50 states right and declared he would vote for ebola or a third party before he voted for pundits. I'm sure his inbox is full of apologies from those pundits apologizing for their scoffing (sarcasm).
2. Twenty women Senators! It's probably a bad sign when you're celebrating half the population having a fifth of the power, but it is a step in the right direction.
3. Demographic shifts. Latino/a voters and young voters can no longer be overlooked. I remember hearing in my civics class many years ago that the Latino vote was the "sleeping giant" of electoral politics. It looks like the giant has awoke, and it turns out they don't like the negative ways they are portrayed by those on the far right, nor the overall immigration policy of the Republican party (who would have thought self-deportation wouldn't be a hit?). This will be a huge challenge for Republicans if they want to contend in national elections in the future.
4.  I DVRed some political commercials on Monday so I can slowly wean of them. I do not want to go through those 2008 withdrawals with the terrible side effects of peaked interest, lucidity, and sudden onsets of joy (This would be true if I had a TV, let alone a DVR).
5. Minnesota had the highest voter turnout in the country again (past 8 elections in a row)! I think it is because it combines the mixture of the three greatest motivators of Minnesotans: guilt, duty, and peer pressure. Also, we still won't call the Democratic Party in Minnesota "Democrats." We prefer to keep it DFL - Democratic-Farmer-Labor, just to keep things interesting.
6. The big question in the twittersphere: Was Diane Sawyer drinking during the coverage? Exhibit A:

Frankly, I think all pundits were just way too tired to be speaking coherently, but you be the judge.
7. Karl Rove, who spent millions of other people's money to beat Obama, did not want to hear Ohio called for Obama:

8. We need to overturn Citizens United so that all the crazy amounts of money being spent on political races should at least not be anonymous with no accountability attached.
9. I confess I'm going to miss the debates.
10. Now that the election is over, I think Christmas music is in order (or at least Advent music!).

In the 2012 salute to my fine motor skills, every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I come to campus and have to feed a meter with a copious amount of quarters; I don't think I've done this once this year without dropping at least one quarter on the ground. Each time feels like my own little occupational therapy session.

Okay, folks. I'm going into a weekend of heavy writing. Let's all hope and pray I get soooo much done so I can enjoy Thanksgiving without feeling like a blade is swinging slowly over my head (a la "Pit and the Pendulum"). Later!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints', Advent Music, and Big Spender

Happy All Saints' Day everybody!

I remember esteemed Professor John Weborg once saying that as he got older, All Saints' Day grew in its personal significance as more and more of his friends and family entered into the Church triumphant and the communion of saints. While I'm a bit younger than Dr. Weborg, All Saints' Day does seem to obtain additional significance each year not just because of the reason Dr. Weborg cites, but also because I have realized more and more the ways in which each of our worship services joins in the greater worldwide praise of the Triune God that connects us with all Christians throughout time and space. Plus, who doesn't love singing, "For All the Saints?"

So, since I can't listen to Christmas music until a bit into November, today I decided to listen to Advent music instead. I ended up listening to "Canticle of the Turning" on repeat as I drove, which made me feel very mainline (Lutherans/Methodists/Episcopalians can't get enough of this song...and during Easter it's "Now the Green Blade Rises"). Now, this isn't a very good version, but it will give you a taste of the song:

My favorite verse:
"From the halls of power to the fortress tower
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more
for the food they can never earn.
There are tables spread, every mouth be fed,
For the world is about to turn."

Speaking of mainliners, somewhere between the classrooms of North Park and Boston University I transformed from a liberal to a conservative. I guess many labels are relative to your company and context! It's a very interesting experience to feel like your always sticking up for the evangelicals at BU that you thought should be stretched at NPTS. C'est la vie.

My theme song yesterday was this:

I bought tickets to a Neil Young/Patti Smith concert in November, a plane ticket home for Christmas, an alb for Sunday, and will shortly be paying off the rest of my credit card debt on Friday when a check that I deposited officially goes through. I don't know if I've ever spent this much money in such a short period of time. For the next week, ramen's on the menu!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Daphne Jo, Hurricane Sandy, and Xmas fails

First things first. I'm an uncle! Daphne Jo Kasper arrived in the world on Sunday morning weighing in at 8 lbs, 4 ounces and just over 21 inches. I got to skype with the family last night, and she's pretty great. Jessica and Isaac seem to be doing well, and I'm sure Jessica is now busy making excel spreadsheets to graph out the next few years. Also, funny story, when my brother talked to my mom, my mom jokingly said they named her Helga. Stephen didn't know she was joking and almost announced the birth of baby Helga at church. I just wish that would have actually happened. Also, I now realize why people post so many pictures of their children/nieces/nephews on Facebook. Here's one for you:

I mean, look at her!

Well, Hurricane Sandy was pretty much a non-issue up in Boston. Besides some falling limbs, there didn't appear to be much damage. This was further underscored when the news was reporting live from a Pizza Hut where roof tiles had blown right off the roof (I kid thee not)! Also, we saw a dumpster on its side and a light pole swaying heavily in the wind. I hunkered down at Christina Tinglof's with Whitney Hall and Michael Zahniser for a hurricane/Ashram replacement party. I'm still enraged that my first potential trip to Pilgrim Pines was thwarted. Plus, I was looking forward to meeting my East Coast colleagues that I have heard so much about. But Sunday night I did get to meet a few of them at a TGIFriday's in Attleboro. Yeah, it was pretty wild and crazy.

As you probably know, I'm a big fan of Christmas music. One of my favorite past times is putting together Christmas mixes and trawling through all the crazy Christmas music on iTunes to find some hidden gems. So, this year I decided to check what artists are putting out Christmas albums this year. Check out this list of winners: Rod Stewart, Lady Antebellum, Colbie Caillat, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, Cee Lo Green, Scott McCreery, and Blake Shelton. I just hope the Mayans were right about 2012...

This weekend I also went and saw Cloud Atlas with a friend from school, the new Tom Hanks/Susan Sarandon/Halle Berry/Horace Slughorn movie based on the David Mitchell novel (a really amazing book). I thought it was a huge, poingnant, beautiful movie that was visually stunning. I mean, they set me up well by showing previews for Les Miserables, The Hobbit, and Lincoln, so I was already pretty emotional by the time the movie started. The key to enjoying this movie is to take of your analytical hat that will want to connect all the dots between the time periods and enjoy the ride. And it's a pretty funny movie at times too (the section of "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish").

Well, the storm failed to cancel my classes today, so I need to go eat, shower, and get ready for another day at the office. Voting's still open on my poll that will determine whether I vote for or against the physician-assisted suicide law here in MA (not really, but I am interested in opinions). Later!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Frankenstorm, Massachusetts Voting, and Banner Week

Frankenstorm is coming! I'm so glad that the media doesn't blow things out of proportion to drum up fear, boost ratings, and get people to spend a little extra cash buying canned goods, generators, and handguns (or is that just me?). Also, if I was Al Franken, I would totally use the title, Frankenstorm. For instance, when you put someone in their place during a senate hearing, you can say, "Hope you survived the Frankenstorm!" And then, he does this:

 Also, I picture this:

So, this past week I learned that when I go to the polls in Massachusetts, I won't only be deciding between Obama vs. Romney or Elizabeth Warren vs. Scott Brown, there are two (main) questions on the ballot in Massachusetts: medical marijuana and physician-assisted suicide. Physician-assisted suicide is the one that I'm going to have to take to my Christian ethicist friends and get some opinions. Also, it's my new poll question! Give your answer on the left, and I will do whatever the majority tells me to (not really, but wouldn't that be something!).

I think the worst part about having a GPS is the stupid "estimated time of arrival" feature. It just mocks me the whole time I'm driving because it is so easy to lose time and so very difficult to gain it back. Seriously, you can slow down to let a child pass in a crosswalk, and BAM! Two minutes are gone, just like that. After losing about ten minutes this way, you attempt to gain the time back on an open street and you can drag race at 120 mph down the street for twenty minutes and maybe gain a minute only to be lost again when you tap your brake before changing lanes. It's maddening.

I recognized a friend on campus the other day. It was a good milestone for me to see someone I knew and engage in conversation. Baby steps.

Oh, and I got in my first car accident in Boston this week! For those of you keeping track, that makes this week: 1) moving; 2) locking myself out of the house and having to attend classes in running clothes (thankfully realizing I was locked out before I ran, so at least I didn't lack usual classroom resources and stink); 3) parking ticket; and 4) accident! It's been a banner week. Both of the drivers involved were trying to do something illegal, so we figured not reporting it was the way to go. My door just got dented, so it shouldn't be too big of a fix. But at least we got to see the Vikings play so well (sarcasm laid on pretty thick in that last sentence).

Yet, tomorrow I leave for my maiden voyage to Pilgrim Pines for the annual East Coast Conference pastors' retreat known as Ashram. I have heard such wonderful things about both Pilgrim Pines and Ashram that I can't help but be excited. In honor of this three day retreat, I'm spending my weekend evenings studying so I don't feel as guilty when I blow off some school work. We'll see how this actually works out.

Okay, I'm going to try and finish some homework. Here's to finishing a book and doing a bunch of German. Das ist gut! Later.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Political Signs and Too Many Coincidences

This weekend I was up in New Hampshire at the Daigle household for a good combination of relaxation and work. I think the change of scenery made me all the more productive, as I was able to pound out a bunch of books for a couple of upcoming research papers (the liturgical use of Psalm 130 and the evolving concept of Jewish Messianism in the different prayer books of Jewish movements over the last 30 years). I had so many library books in my car I could have registered as a bookmobile. I was thinking about cataloging them in order of their Library of Congress call number and creating a corollary card catalog in my glove compartment so I would be better able to locate the needed book over the weekend but thought it might end up being counter-productive.

In addition to the many great things we did this weekend, I also got to hear about Andrew's deep hatred for political yard signs.

We were brainstorming about going around and collecting them to do some type of installation art involving a large bonfire in a town square, but we thought there might be legal ramifications. The more I thought about political yard signs, the more I agree with Andrew. Here's some of my general complaints:
1. Do they really sway anyone? Are there people who think on election night, "Well, I saw 58 Smith signs and 49 Jones signs, so I've got no choice but to vote for Jones." Now, I know it gives a candidate name recognition, but isn't that offset by your opponent doing the same thing? Wouldn't it be better to sit down with your opponent and agree not to litter our beautiful cities with these eyesores?
2. Everyone breaks the law. You're not supposed to put signs on public property or right-of-ways, but anytime someone has an inch of grass in a median, you have 34 signs sprouting up like rabbits for every Tom, Dick, and Sally running for office. It's gross.
3. Do people think that multiple signs for the same candidate on one tract of land will change someone's mind? Do they think it playing out like this? (Driver and potential voter passes first sign for "Jack Numbermuncher for County Auditor" sign). Driver: There's no way I'm voting for that numbskull. (passes sign #2). Driver: I don't think I like that Jack, guy. (passes sign #3) Driver: I'm totally ambivalent about Jack. Maybe I'd vote for him, maybe I wouldn't. (passes sign #4) Driver: Yup, I'm definitely voting for Jack. (passes final sign, rolls down window) Driver (yelling): I'm voting for Jack Numbermuncher and nobody can stop me! (as he drives to Numbermuncher's campaign headquarters to sign-up for the phone bank for any minute he can spare between now and the election). The same goes for signs. Does anyone think, "You know, I don't know about this candidate, but since I saw a much larger sign in my neighbor's yard, it must mean that this candidate is that much more serious and qualified to run my city/state/country. He/she has my vote!"
4. They are an environmental disaster. I think when these sign printers die, they will have to spend 1000 years in an environmental purgatory planting saplings before being allowed through the pearly gates (not that I believe in purgatory or pearly gates).
5. (One of Amy's complaints): Yeah, we get it; you're patriotic. We still don't need every sign to be some variant of red, white, and blue.
5. And one of Andrew's complaints to finish it off: If you are going to support a candidate, at least have the decency to install the sign so it is level with the ground and will stay standing if anything over a 10 mile-per-hour gust of wind hits it. Sloppy signage = lackluster candidate.

So, while I'm really enjoying Ken Follett's Winter of the World, I am finding his plot technique of always getting a main character to the most memorable battles/events of World War II a little contrived. Uh oh, the Dewer family's departing on a poorly-timed trip to Hawaii in early December 1941! Wonder if anything will happen? Guess who just signed up to be a paratrooper in early 1944? Another main character just got assigned to something called the Manhattan Project and watched Enrico Fermi develop the first nuclear reactor. I mean, if anything monumental is happening, one of these ten main characters somehow gets a front row seat.

Today I'm in the process of moving. I am almost completely set up in Jamaica Plain but just am running a few more things over this afternoon. So, I should get going. Getting geared up for the debate tonight! Later.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Offensive Bathrooms, Debates, and Zombies!

Do you know what is offensive? Faucets that are weighted to shut off immediately after you take your hand off them. How are you ever supposed to actually clean your hands if your hand always has to be on the grimy handles to keep the water going? I always end up with very soapy hands and an angry disposition directed towards whatever germy, viral monsters designed these faucets.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, dream jobs: parish pastor of the Shire or chaplain of students at Hogwarts.

For some reason, when I take a foreign language and make vocabulary cards, I feel this visceral need to write down every word,  no matter if I know it or not. So, for instance, in German class we have a vocabulary quiz on the most frequently used words on Monday. So, this past week we got a handout of these words to study from. Obviously, I made flashcards to study, but I cannot keep myself from writing down words I obviously know. Do I really need a flashcard for "gut," "danke," or "in?" For some reason, it's a compulsion.

My thoughts from the debate:
1. Someone isn't used to people standing up for themselves.
2. Obama's response on Libya was probably the moment of the night.
3. The town hall format stresses me out. I like them to be standing at podiums so they don't seem to be wandering around aimlessly or they don't confront each other in the middle of the room and accidentally throw a punch or something.

4. Who knew binder full of women would get such viral airtime? My favorite meme:

You know you've been watching too many shows about zombies when you start seeing all buildings in terms of their post-apocalyptic utility (i.e. "This bell tower would be perfect to get above the hoardes," or "I bet this desk is heavy enough to barricade myself in this room for a few hours at least"). It also is probably not a great way to end my day, as I've been doing the past few days. Last word on zombies: I don't think zombie pub crawls are a good thing. One day you'll see a group of zombies and assume there's a happening pub crawl, only to find out too late that the shuffling and screaming isn't an act. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Facebook had an ad on the side that said, "Jesus is Lord," and underneath: "Christian Singles Dating." Is this a statement that you must agree to to enter the Christian dating site, or is it a promise that Jesus is still Lord even after you have gone on dates with some of these Christian singles? I'm not sure how I feel about it.

I'm heading up to New Hampshire for the weekend! Daigles, fall colors, and a Sunday off! (I won't know what to do with myself!). Well, class is about to sign off, so I think I should get going. Happy weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Favorite Christian Art and Other Ramblings

I want "Christian art" to start living up to both the adjective and the noun it claims. Why is there so much bad Christian art? (as I've said before, often high on Christ, low on art). But instead of being negative, I thought I would give a shout out to some of my favorite Christian artists.

1. He Qi - a Chinese artist that is ResCov's take on bulletin art (joke, but a favorite at Resurrection Covenant). His work is theologically rich, pays attention to women, and seems to have something for all your lectionary needs!

2. Sadao Watanabe - I love this Japanese artist's prints. I think he would be perfect for a stations of the cross.

3. Marc Chagall - An early 20th-century Russian-French artist, his colorful style gives many religious themes a modernist push that helps one think about the subject in a new light. I love this christocentric (obviously) interpretation of the Exodus.

4. Jan Richardson- This contemporary American artist's work is more a visual meditation on a particular passage of scripture (usually from the lectionary because she's a good methodist!). Here's one of her Pentecost works. You can see more of her work here.

5. Anything from the St. John's Bible. This is the first handwritten Bible in hundreds of years commissioned by the Benedictine Abbey at St. John's in Collegeville, Minnesota (no surprise beauty is coming out of there!). They just completed the entire Bible in an illuminated manuscript, and several portions have larger pictures that were made in collaboration with both artists and theologians. So, for instance, here is their take on the first chapter of John:

The ResCov community got me a framed print of this when I left. It's the Acts 4 passage about Christians living life together and sharing what they had over the breaking of bread. I think they got it because I love potlucks a little too much. It was the perfect parting gift!

And, let's be honest, I'm a sucker for any type of icon.

I think there's something romantic about typing with just your two forefingers - the hunt and peck method. This is further exacerbated if one is engaging in the said hunting and pecking on an old, mechanical typewriter. It just seems like you should be writing a screenplay or magnum opus of some kind.

No one should have to eat cooked celery. Why does everyone ruin decent chicken noodle soup with these big, bland chunks of cooked mush? It's an unappealing texture and a nasty flavor. There, I said it. You can put this on the same shelf as white condiments. Gross.

On the recommendation of one Luke Halvorsen, I read Cloud Atlas. It is an amazing book that you should read, and I'm hoping the movie won't disappoint. It looks like great cinematography! Speaking of which, whenever someone says a movie isn't as good as the book, it seems akin to watching a movie based on a musical and saying, "It was better on Broadway." Of course it is; that's life. Further, when you complain that they didn't get in that fourth sub-plot of your favorite book into the 2-hour screenplay, it seems like you could show a bit more charity to the writers/directors and the space-time continuum. Also, for a good storyline, I think Ken Follett is hard to beat. I've been reading (actually listening to, but what's in a word?) "The Century Trilogy," his novels about a group of American, Welsh, British, and Russian families as they live through World War I and II. They aren't going to win a Pulitzer, but the plot really hooks you! And obviously you can't beat Pillars of the Earth and World without End for great historical fiction.

Well, another Monday is upon us. I will be leaving for the great state of New Hampshire on Thursday to spend the weekend with Amy and Andrew Daigle. I'm sure the leaves and company will make for a glorious time. Until then, make good choices!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Coalition Against PBS, Roundabout Fail, and Social Calendar

You just shouldn't have roundabouts in the U.S. There are far too many of them in the Boston area. No one knows how to use them, and it turns into a vehicular hot mess. If you tried to inch in at a roundabout in Quito or Paris (for example) like they do here, you would be stuck there for quite possibly the rest of your short life (reason for untimely death: starvation, exposure, and/or angry mobs behind you).

How are the Vikings 4-1? I'm not complaining, but I'm not sure I quite believe it.

My social Columbus Day weekend included seeing Peter and Michael Nelson, Maria Cathcart, Britta King, and Hannah Anderson. I think I saw more people I know in the last two days than I have in the previous six weeks of being in Boston. It also included my first time to the North End and Davis Square. The North End is where all the Italian restaurants are, and we (Peter and Michael's family came down and took us out!) went to Regina's, which is to Boston as Lou Malnati's/Giordano's is to Chicago. We capped the evening out with a few cannoli from a local bakery. Also, I didn't know Boston had a Lincoln Square, but they do, and it is called Davis Square. I think I could live there.

And my social calendar continues to fill up! This Thursday I'm headed down to Cromwell, CT to visit Andrew and Alicia Sturdy! I'm very much looking forward to relaxing with old friends, and I'll have to see the Freeman family too! (And maybe use more exclamation points!!)!!

If you're going to use comic sans for your business signs, it tells me that you've let yourself go. I'll start filling out the paperwork for your imminent bankruptcy while you throw some plywood up over the windows, and we can call it a day. Also, I have to look up imminent/eminent/immanent every time I use it because I never can remember which is which. During my thesis defense, one of my readers (a prominent homiletician at North Park) noted that I had used the wrong one throughout my thesis. It was a proud moment.

During this season of great division in our country - republicans vs. democrats, rich vs. poor, Wall Street vs. Sesame Street - we stand united around one basic principle: Go Orioles!

Speaking of Sesame Street vs. Wall Street:

That's just funny...and a little sad, as PBS takes up .012% of the federal budget. That's like saying your going to lose weight by giving up the parsley garnishes on your dinner plate. I mean, technically you are eating less! You know who else is for cutting PBS? Him:













All of them:

Well, while that was enjoyable for me, it took up a little too much of my time. Time to go for a run and hit the books! Later.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mostly Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

So, yesterday I had to take a geography quiz on the the biblical land of Israel. First, yes, I'm taking a geography quiz in my Ph.D. program, which is probably a whole different blog post. Yet, more importantly, the key to my geographical acumen came in the form of a song:

For those of you who have better things to do than know anything about the geography of ancient Israel, the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel are also regions in the land. It's my new company: Pneumonic Devices on Broadway! "Singing your way to straight A's!" Such hits will include:
Calvinist Theology - "Total Depravity" (to the tune of "Defying Gravity")
Anatomy - "All the Features of the Brain" (to the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain")
International Relations - "How Do You Solve the Strife in North Korea?" (to the tune of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?")
Geometry - "Diameter Times Pi" (to the tune of "Corner of the Sky," beginning: "Every shape has its reasons/every shape has its why...)

Okay, I've overindulged in that last part. Moving on!

Now, to regress, I know that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is not a good musical, but here are some things you should know about it:
1. This was the first musical I ever saw live, which was mind-blowing. It will always hold a special place in my heart (the nostalgia chamber of my heart), even while I can admit that it has some truly awful parts ("One More Angel in Heaven" perhaps the best example of what not to do in a broadway musical).
2. That video is amazing.
3. Elsa (Wallgren) Johnson was in the children's choir with Donnie Osmond in the Chicago shows back in the day. My memory may need correcting, but I believe Donnie actually put his hand on her head. Also, Elsa and I were on the same dish crew in Ecuador and would often scrape and clean dishes to this while accidentally bleaching our clothes and trying not to gag.
4. My sister and brother choreographed a dance to one of the songs, and now I can't remember which one. I think it was "Go, Go, Go Joseph," but whatever one it was, I wish we had taped it and could put it up on YouTube. It was/would be priceless.

I'm currently sitting in the beautiful Boston College theology library, so I should get to work. I'm also checking out another apartment today. Say a prayer! Later.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Steel Magnolias, Debates, and Apartments

Do you ever drink orange juice and pretend you're a hypoglycemic Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias? No? neither....just checking. Speaking of Steel Magnolias, did I ever tell you of the time I was alone in a hotel room during the Midwest Annual Meeting in Omaha and called my mom to find out we were both watching Steel Magnolias on cable? It was then I knew I was going places. Although that scene in the cemetery with Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Fields, Olympia Dukakis, and Daryl Hannah is pretty amazing.

Have you ever had an ad for dating services show up on the side of your facebook page and realized that it's been a picture of the same woman for years? That happened to me today. Now, is that a stock picture or has that woman been single this whole time? Just asking the tough questions that no one has the courage to ask.

If I have to see another Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren commercial, I'm going to claw my eyeballs out. There has to be some level of overexposure where commercials begin to hurt your chances because people are just sick of hearing your voice/seeing your face. However, I am excited for the presidential debates, maybe too excited. I think my lack of a social life is making other things in my life - like politics, novel reading, etc - take on added importance or excitement. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I'm going to stick with it for now.

Seriously, if anyone knows people looking for a responsible tenant in Boston, let me know. Craigslist is like a dementor sucking all the happiness from my life. Is there something wrong with what I'm sending people? Here's my description of myself:

Hello! My name is Dave Bjorlin, and I moved to Boston a few weeks ago to start a Ph.D. program at B.U. in liturgical studies/theology. I am 28 years-old and have been living in Chicago for the last four years where I attended seminary and worked part time as a church musician/liturgist. I am easy-going, and enjoy music (play piano and saxophone and love folk music), sports (football, tennis, jogging), and reading (as I should, since that's what I'll be doing the next few years!). 

I sound normal, don't I?

Well, off to read about the liturgical history of Psalm 130 or the Messiah in Jewish thought. Haven't decided yet. Later.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Simon and Garfunkel...Mostly

September, we hardly knew thee. Well, the leaves are beginning to change here in the Boston area. You know you live in New England when the weatherman/woman ends his/her segment with a map of "Current Fall Foliage," showing where the changing leaves are "peaking."

On a related note, there has to be a better name than "leaf peeping," for traveling to these spots to see the changing leaves.

I need to get another thing off my chest: Fun's "Some Nights" is a total rip off of "Cecilia." I mean, it's a great and catchy song, but the chord structure and "Woo-oo-oh" part, totally Cecilia. Not that I'm complaining.

Speaking of Simon and Garfunkel, can we all agree that Art Garfunkel is one of the luckiest men alive? Talk about hitching your wagon to the right horse. How did that conversation go? "Hey, Paul, how about you write all the songs, sing the melody, and play guitar, and I'll sing high ethereal harmonies and take half of the credit?"

What's that? Oh, you're asking what my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs are? Here they are:

5. Cecilia - If you don't turn this up and clap along when it comes on the radio, you're probably a cyborg.

Also, did you know that St. Cecilia is the saint of songwriting? You can interpret the whole song as Simon praying for the creative muse to return.

4. Red Rubber Ball - So, Simon actually wrote this for the band, The Cyrkle (who I believe was christened by John Lennon), but here are Simon and Garfunkel doing it later. For some reason, I just love this song.

3. Song for the Asking - simply beautiful. This may be my favorite song under two minutes. It's one of those you always have to listen to (at least) twice.

1. (tie) America  - I love this song. It's melancholy, humorous, and beautiful. Here's the two of them doing it at Central Park.

My love for the song was only heightened by this iconic scene from Almost Famous:

This scene combines three wonderful things: Zooey Deschanel, Francis McDormand, and that shot of the boy flipping through those records.

1. (tie) Only Living Boy in New York - Again, heart-breakingly beautiful. Apparently Simon wrote this when Garfunkel was down in Mexico filming Catch-22 as the duo was slowly disintegrating. "Tom" was the pseudonym for Garfunkel when they first started playing together as the band "Tom & Jerry."

This song also has a personal history with me. When I was in Ecuador my first year of college, I didn't have a fan for the first half of the year (no room in my luggage). If you know me, you know what a disaster this would have been/was/is. To make up for the loss of white noise, I decided to fall asleep listening to music (which also led to the development of painful scabs on my ears...gross). My two go-to CDs were Simon and Garfunkel and Wings' Greatest Hits albums. The last two songs on the Simon and Garfunkel CD were "Only Living Boy in New York" and "My Little Town." If I got to these two songs, it meant I did not fall asleep within the hour of songs. So for years after whenever I heard these songs, it gave me that restless, melancholy feeling of not being able to fall asleep. Yet, it slowly morphed into a kind of nostalgia for Ecuador/Quito, The Andes, and the simpler times of those first few years in college when the next few years of your life are pretty much planned but the future is still so wide open with possibilities.  "My Little Town" still bums me out, probably because I haven't listened to it as much as "Only Living Boy in New York" since.

And this song is the soundtrack to another beautiful scene in the movie Garden State. It won't let me embed it, but you know the one..."screaming into the abyss"

Close runners-up: Kathy's Song, The Boxer, Old Friends. For a great Christmas song, check out Simon and Garfunkel's "Star Carol." And this doesn't even begin to touch my favorite Paul Simon songs: American Tune, Kodachrome (you know, the one that I used to think was, "Momma gonna take my coat and throw it away."), Mother and Child Reunion (inspired by the name of a chicken and egg dish at a restaurant Simon frequented), Love Me Like a Rock, etc. etc.

Man, this blog post took a different direction than I had expected. You're welcome.

This Massachusetts senate race is getting ugly. Also, I think one of every two commercials is approved by Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren. It makes for some good TV viewing. The second debate is tonight, so hopefully they can keep it civil. Then, Wednesday we'll get to see Obama and Romney square off for the first time! Romney sure has some catching up to do. Let's see if he can offend the other 53% of Americans who apparently don't eat from the government trough. My guess, in the form of a chant: YES HE CAN! YES HE CAN! YES HE CAN!

Okay, time to go take a German quiz! Later.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ideas for Ending the Referee Lockout, New Guitar, and So On

One great continuation between BU and North Park is Thursday is the last day of class. Thursday's (still) the new Friday! The long weekend is great, especially as someone who works in the church (thus, Sunday isn't always the day of rest one would hope for).

I have two ideas for ending the referee lockout:
1. First, collect all the money from fines garnered for the verbal and physical accosting (looking at you, Belicheck) of referees and use that money to pay the regular refs. One more week like last week, and I think we'll be well above the difference between what the refs want and what the NFL is willing to give.
2. Pass an offering plate. If you don't get enough, wait a quarter for the refs to blow another big call and pass it again!  Seriously, if you did that in Green Bay after Monday's game, you would probably be solvent for the next few years. Granted, you would probably have to ring out the beer-soaked bills.

All that said, the NFL is not hurting for money, so I think they just need to pay up and get over it. or suffer the wrath of fans/commentators/Scott Walker (looks who's supporting unions now!).

Thanks to Trinity, I now have a beautiful new guitar: the Seagull Maritime edition. It is solid wood, Canadian-made, and plays like a dream. I forgot what it's like to play a decent guitar with good strings. Here's a pic:

It doesn't matter what level of schooling you find yourself in, students will ask questions that have already been answered several times in class.

Things I am excited for:
-going to visit Andrew and Alicia Sturdy in Connecticut in a couple weeks.
-East Coast Ashram! It will be great to meet other East Coast pastors, and it will be my first time at Pilgrim Pines. People out here love Pilgrim Pines, so we'll see if it lives up to their boasting/my high expectations.

Well, I'm currently in the BC library (Boston College, by the way, is huge, beautiful, and seemingly loaded - as are the people that attend) and in need of a book. So, I will bid you all adieu. Later.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Liberal Intolerance, Vikings, and Weekend Update

One thing I'm learning at a more progressive school, people on the liberal end of the spectrum can be just as intolerant as those on the conservative end of the spectrum (I mean, I knew this; I'm just seeing more examples of it). We had to read something on the very conservative end of biblical interpretation, and a few people were losing their minds at the audacity of the professor (very liberal by the way) to assign something by a fundamentalist! I didn't know assigning a reading was akin to promoting the said belief. Maybe I'm too passive, but it doesn't rile me up to read someone much more liberal or conservative than me. I think some of the progressives are looking to be offended so they can revolt/community organize in the class and recapture the means of production from the bourgeoisie faculty back into the hands of the student proletariat.

Vikings: winning record and tied for first place. Skol! (I know we're only three games in, but don't rain on my parade). My favorite play yesterday was Kyle Rudolph's amazing catch:

In my opinion, the best part of it this one-handed grab is how he smacks the defender in the face right before the grab. And the Gophers are 4-0 (again, they've only played one real team, but that's more wins than all of last year!).. I'm assuming tomorrow the trumpets will sound and the Lord will descend, for the apocalypse is upon us. No rapture though because that's bad theology. (I have to throw that out there to allay my still-present childhood fears).

In other news, this past weekend I went to a vintage bazaar with the illustrious Andrew and Amy Daigle. What started as a cold day soon grew warm and beautiful. The bazaar itself was cool, maybe cooler if I was a 53 year-old woman into rosmaling or knitting, but it was still fascinating to see what people can make with some creativity and old junk. Then, we headed to Newburyport (which sounds like a made-up New England town whose name was formed by taking overused bits and pieces of other New England towns, but I'll let it slide) for drinks and dinner. It's always enjoyable being with those two.

You know how I find the motivation to blog? I put it on my new "Reminders" check list brought to you by Mountain Lion. It's my latest attempt at organization/a calendar, and so far it is working smashingly. Unfortunately, the list also has a dozen other things on it that should probably be given priority, but I just don't care.

If you haven't seen this website yet, you are missing out:

I've been laughing out loud about some of them for weeks. These outbursts usually happen during the middle of the day, making me look like a crazy person.

Finally, I'm excited to get the new Mumford and Sons album tomorrow! One song that I'm really looking forward to owning:

I mean, it has Mumford and Sons, Jerry Douglas, and Paul Simon. What's not to like? Okay, I need to move down my checklist. Next up, reading about Psalms 1 and 2! Eat your hearts out, general public.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing Papers, Unions, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

That was a really ugly football game last night. The only thing Jay Cutler excelled at was chewing out his linemen and sulking on the sideline. He is a class act. But I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mike Tice should never rise above offensive line coach.

Sometimes writing a paper is like a dance. Each sentence seems to flow into the next, a rhythm develops, and soon you are lost in the music of it all. Sometimes writing a paper is like a street brawl. It gets ugly fast and you use whatever is at hand to bludgeon the opponent to death. And when the fight ends, you stand maniacally laughing over the lifeless carcass before you wonder what people will think when they see this cadaver/paper. This last paper I wrote was a street brawl. I might have lost a tooth on page 4.

One of the small things I miss about Chicago is that it was so solidly blue we never had to watch political ads. Here I'm watching a constant stream of attacks, feel-good stories, half-truths, and poorly-scripted conversations with "real people."

So, I am some issues with teacher's unions. I student taught/substitute taught with many bad teachers who had not changed their curriculum in 15-20 years (I did see Leningrad (you know, the city that changed its name back to St. Petersburg after the USSR fell in 1989) on a longitude and latitude test in 2006) and deserved to get fired but had tenure and protection from the teacher's union. That being said, I also understand that teachers in Chicago are underpaid, under-appreciated, and don't deserve to be evaluated based on standardized tests, which are horrible assessments that don't tell you much about how good a teacher is. Also, students in Chicago deserve better than 350 social workers who have a case load of around 1000 students. They deserve rooms that aren't 95 degrees and falling apart. And with the practices of big corporations lately, I no longer believe that companies/governments will make the right decision because it is right; they're too concerned with the bottom line. So, with all that said, one of my favorite folk songs:

Nothing is worse than a bad contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" It's embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone. "The Pentagon's a big square, so that doesn't have a big hump." Say that one more time...the pentagon's a big square. That's like saying the octagon's a big triangle.

Okay, I'm going to practice my sermon. If you're in the greater Boston area this Sunday, come on over to Trinity Covenant Church in Lexington at 10:45! Later.