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? Oh...me 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.