Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fruit Eating, Pat Robertson, and Popes

Well, another week of school in the books. Thursday afternoon always comes with a sense of relief and dread - relief that I have the weekend to work, dread because it's one week closer to deadlines for three large papers. Gotta hit the books (usually figuratively, occasionally literally).

So, my latest strategy to eat better is that each time I go to the grocery store, I pick up one more piece of fruit than I did the last time. So far, I've saved them all from their usual place on the compost pile and eaten every one. One small step for man, one giant leap for Bjorlin.

So, this is the real reason I don't do much shopping at Goodwill:

First, you know your asking a crazy question when the woman reading the question can't make it through without snickering and Pat Robertson just barely can take you seriously. Second, for once Pat Robertson and I are in total agreement if by "demons" he means "germs" and by "rebuking" he means "thoroughly washing." Also, I've heard that beginning story too, except it wasn't a Filipino girl, it was a hobbit; and it wasn't a witch, it was the Dark Lord Sauron. But boy, all hell sure did break loose when that ring came into his life!

One week from tomorrow I'll be flying to Chicago! If you are not busy on Friday the 8th come out to Sidekicks karaoke bar at 9 p.m!

Thoughts about the pope retiring:
-probably a good thing. I can't imagine JPII was really steering the helm those last couple years of his papacy.
-does papal infallibility carry over into retirement?
-does he still have some ex oficio powers?
-he's never going to have to pay for another drink in his life!
-How about a non-European pope under the age of 70 (or a woman. Too soon?)?
-I wonder if he snuck out with Vatican pint glasses up his billowing sleeves?

Last night I had my first chicken and waffles experience with the Right Rev. Christiana Tinglof. I have to say it was a pretty great experience. I mean, it's fried chicken and waffles with butter and syrup; what's not to like? If you ever need good restaurant advice in the Boston area, Christina's the person to call.

I got this picture of my niece (Paisley) in an email with the subject line, "Pretty upset she hasn't met you yet":

That's one way to get me to home to Duluth a bit more often, even if it is a bit manipulative on my sister's part.

Okay, time to get back to hymnal indices. Later!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mystery Science Theater, Oscars, and Knowledge Bowl

So, where has Mystery Science Theater 3000 been my whole life?! I didn't realize how funny it would be. I was watching it last night (instead of that monstrosity they call the Oscars) and could not stop laughing out loud. Those three are what I try to be during the previews of every movie and, if it were socially acceptable, what I would probably do during the feature film as well (I have to resort to whispering too loudly in the person's ear next to me, much to their lasting chagrine I'm sure). Here's about a minute of an episode in case you have never indulged:

I think there should be a ten year moratorium on any actor winning an Oscar for a portrayal of an actual historical figure. We don't need to hear about how you immersed yourself in the person's life and made everyone call you by that person's name for six months so you wouldn't break character. I imagine conversations like this:
Stephen Spielsberg: Hey Daniel, will you gr...
Daniel Day Lewis (in Lincoln's voice): There is no Daniel here! Who is this man you spea...
Stephen (rolling eyes): Okay, ABE, will you gr...
Daniel (fierce indignation): How dare you address the President in such a casual manner! I am the president of the United States of America, clothed in immense power!
Stephen (eyes permanently stuck in back of head): I apologize. Mr. President, would you grab Sally for this next...
Daniel: Sally? I know no Sally. Mary Todd is currently in "a mood" as we call it, and is indisposed at the moment (Sally comes in in character crying like Mary Todd and raving like Sybil).
Stephen: Okay, that's it. We're done for the day. Mr. and Mrs. President, you two can go back to your hotel suites, order dinner, and check with the generals on how the war is going. Oh, by the way, spoiler alert, the North wins (Daniel pumps his fist in delight), but I wouldn't get too excited; there's a plot twist  at the end that does not work out in your favor.

I have a hard time trusting academics/writers who don't use the Oxford comma. What's next? Two spaces between sentences?

I just realized they showed both the Oscars and the Daytona 500 on the same day. First, that's a lot of snore material for one Sunday. Second, here's the Venn diagram on that viewing demographic. A is those who watched the Oscars and B is those who watched Daytona 500.

I'm always amazed at what I end up thinking about as I lay in bed struggling to go to sleep. For instance, last night it was a controversial Knowledge Bowl question/answer. Let me explain. Knowledge Bowl, for the uninitiated, was basically a quiz game (like Jeopardy) where schools would compete against one another in teams of five. Each rounded consisted of two other teams gathered around their own long, green sensor strip that you buzzed in on. All of these were connected to an old Apple IIe where a judge sat reading the questions and determining who buzzed in first. As you can imagine, this gathering was not exactly a who's who of high school cool kids. I remember one bus trip, perhaps after our tenth grade history lecture on the Donner party, a group of students in the back of the bus making a list of who they would eat first if we were to be stranded along the highway. Our group often went to Hibbing where we would gather with all of the other students in the auditorium, which is also the famed auditorium where a young Bob Dylan (then Zimmerman) played his guitar for the first time in public and had a principal/teacher come on stage and rip the cord out of the amplifier. So, you have that iconic moment and then this group of brainy misfits wearing Einstein ties and talking buzzer strategy. Here's a picture of a team, albeit with a yellow strip instead of green (must be a regional variation):

Anyway, this particular incident occurred in a normal meet (yup, they were called meets. Mind you, they were also held during the day, so you got to miss a day of class every other week or so, which was a big draw for me.) and the question began: "This Civil War hymn written by Julia Ward Brown to the tune of "John Brown's Body" was...". At this point I buzzed in (another subtle nuance of knowledge bowl is that you could buzz in at any point during the question, but if you got it wrong, the other teams could listen to the remainder of the question. Oh, the courage needed!) and confidently said, "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The woman checked her sheet and murmured, "I'm sorry, that's incorrect." The next team buzzed in and pronounced haughtily, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Yup, I got it wrong because I didn't put a definite article before the title (which it does not need, mind you. And do we really think I'm thinking of a different song. "Oh, yeah, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is the one that goes, "Mine eyes have seen the glory..."; "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is the one that goes, "Load your muskets, Lee is comin' with that godless rebel horde..."). So, that's what I was replaying in my mind last night as I tried to go to sleep. That's when one reaches for the Benadryl.

So, today's research has me in 4th century Jerusalem celebrating the Epiphany octave (Jerusalem Christmas). So, I better get back to that. Later.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Childhood Art, Violin Lessons, and Downton

The other day my sister Jessica sent me a picture she drew of me with my violin teacher (and her piano teacher) Sister Susanne. It's pretty flattering, don't you think?

Things to note:
1. Yes, my nun music teacher did wear Reeboks. We never could figure out why she just didn't chose an off-brand orthopedic shoe. I mean, where's the vow of poverty in that? At least they weren't Reebok pumps.
2. Jessica didn't know how to spell Suzanne.
3. Yes, she is both making fun of my haircut (notice the razor/layered look on the back of my head) and the size of my lips, which seem to droop over the body of the violin. Also, not only do I have a bad haircut, but I actually seem to have a reverse receding hairline at 7.
4. That does look like the footie pajamas I wore every day in second grade.
5. I think Jessica may have actually depicted Sister Suzanne in a more cheerful mood than usual.

Other fond memories from violin lessons:
1. Sister Suzanne swatting my butt with her bow. Even at 7 I knew that was inappropriate.
2. Going to Hardees after with my dad if I got a B or better on my lesson grade...and sometimes even if I didn't out of pure sympathy (Yup, she graded us. She would right comments in this blue lacquered notebook in this annoyingly perfect handwriting and then give you a lesson grade).
3. Giving Sister Suzanne a Christmas present and watching her take a scissors and spend about 5 minutes opening it so she wouldn't rip any of the wrapping paper. It took everything in my elementary body not to grab the present, shred off the wrapping paper in a fit of impatience, and throw the contents back in her lap, yelling, "Merry Christmas!"
4. All those stinking Suzuki variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle" and the really awkward Suzuki Festival that I went to with my dad, where I faked many of the songs (you were supposed to have them memorized) and wished I was playing catch rather than getting group lessons on Humoresque (why do I remember the song?!). I'm actually fairly confident that my dad also wished we were playing catch instead.
5. The dank basement hallways of St. Scholastica (the college/convent where my lessons were held) that seemed to go on forever in an underground labyrinth. I always hoped I would turn a corner and see Splinter mentoring Raphael after another one of his all-too-common temper tantrums.

Old Man and the Sea has taken the lead in the most-hated American classic novel poll. There's still lots of time to vote! And I know I mistyped "Finn," but I can't edit it without deleting all the votes so far. Trust me; I tried.


So, at this rate, I think Downton Abbey should have a spin-off: Downton Afterlife in which we follow all of the deceased characters and their exploits in the next life. Will Lady Sybil and Cousin Matthew overcome the meddling of Mrs. Bates to seal their eternal love? Or will Cousin Matthew realize that Lavinia was the woman for him after all, even after her brief fling with former Downton footman William? Plus, we'll get to meet the two heirs that went down on the Titanic. Maybe the Turkish attache will a reappear to seduce another woman? Who knows? The possibilities are endless...and eternal! And the rate Downton Abbey is going, new characters will be added to the Afterlife almost weekly! Maybe there will be a special door by which people enter the afterlife upon death at Downton. We'll see!         © David D. Bjorlin, 2013. Also, I'm calling it right now: Lady Mary and Tom Branson will be hooking up sometime in season 4.

Sometimes in my pre-bedtime reading, I purposely withhold moisture from my lips so that chapstick right before bed will feel that much more amazing. It may be weird, but it's the little things in life.

Welp, it's time for me to head up to Lexington for meetings/small group. TGIW. Bjorlin out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidents' Day Post

Happy Presidents' Day, everyone. I'm sure you are all have travelled to be with you family and loved ones, bought presents for the gift exchange, put up the decorations (wooden teeth and a black top hat on the mantle, sprig of a cherry tree on the table, a life-sized version of William Taft stuck in the bathtub), been to a few ugly powdered wig parties. Yet, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday, I encourage you to take time to remember the reason for the season.

So, basically my life now rotates on a three-day research schedule:
Day 1 - The origins of Christmas - Two theories: one says that Christians took over the pagan sun-worshipping holiday Natalis Sol Invictus (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) that also fell on Dec. 25 and made Jesus the Son/Sun whose light shines in the darkness, etc; the other argues that ancients at that time believed great holy men and women were born or conceived (in this case) on the day of their death. So, various calculations at the time put Jesus' death/conception on March 25 and adding the obligatory 9 month gestation period, Jesus would have been born in December 25. Puts you right in the Christmas spirit, huh?
Day 2- Methodist hymnals - Charles Wesley wrote a ton of hymns: 6,000-8,000. Apparently, he often wrote them in his head on horseback (the Wesleys rode so much they were nicknamed centaurs -part man, part horse), get to his destination, and before talking to anyone demand pencil and paper so that he could scribble the lyrics down before he forgot them.
Day 3- Social gospel hymns - high view of humanity, social justice, peace, brotherhood, etc; low view of sacraments, creeds, and gospel hymns.

Then, I return to Day 1 and begin my journey anew. I know that's probably completely uninteresting, but I feel like I need to tell people what I do all day to validate the majority of my daily academic existence.

There is no curse in entish, elvish or the tongues of man strong enough for my dislike of the weather as of late. I am over winter and ready for spring.

So, another sign of adulthood. I knew I would have to pay taxes this year for various reasons (mainly because my school stipend is not initially taxed), so I actually saved some cash in an envelope (I can see the tears of joy/pride in my father's eyes as I type) to cover the expenses. Total cash saved: $420; Total taxes owed (plus the price of e-filing): $425. I know I should be proud that I saved almost exactly the amount I needed to pay, but I still just felt cheated sending all that money away. I was hoping by some miracle that there would be some type of loophole or exemption that TurboTax would find, and I would get to keep that money for leisure (read: food/rent/bills).

I think they should teach a class at Seminary on how to use the washroom while wearing your alb/robe, not to mention the pendular motion of the cincture. It could be called "Voiding while Vested." It could be an elective at NPTS, but it should probably be required in the high church traditions.

This video makes me cringe. I stopped twice before I could make it all the way through without being so revolted by the sounds that I had to stop.

If you have yet to vote on my latest poll, go ahead and tell me which obligatory American classic novel you secretly (or not so secretly) hate. You can even vote more than once. Stephen, you can vote for those novels you secretly hated having me read and write the book report for. I'll tell you mine: Great Gatsby. I think F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing is fantastic (obviously), but I don't understand why people think that book is the creme de la creme of American novels. I mean, I guess I don't hate it; I just think it's vastly overrated. Also, as I've said before, Catcher in the Rye is as good as the reader is angsty. The less angst the reader has, the more likely you are to see Holden as a selfish, whiny teenager who needs a good kick in the pants from do Sal and Dean in On the Road...that and a good stint in rehab.

And I signed up for Grandma's Marathon (Duluth's very own marathon) this weekend. If I don't have a race or something to motivate me, I will not run one step further than 3 miles.

Friday, February 15, 2013

February is the worst, Secretary of Defense, and the Flying V

Have I mentioned how I think February is quite possibly the worst month? You feel like winter should be over, but it's often punctuated by terrible storms and a string of heart-numbingly cold days. My perfect weather would be a blustery November, a true white/cold Christmas, and then Aslan would arrive in Narnia and spring would break across the eternal landscape of winter.

So, I'm no meme expert, but I tried to whip one up in honor of winter storm Nemo and Gov. Chris Christie's response. Here's what I came up with.

So, now Senate Republicans are blocking Republican appointees for cabinet positions? Are the only respectable nominations for Senate Republicans the reanimated bodies of Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, and William F. Buckley? Granted, I think we could use some major cuts in the Department of Defense, so maybe this is a step in the right direction. Next: total nuclear disarmament, stop using drones, and reduce our standing army to pre-WWII levels.

As that liberal hippie peacenik Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.  It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Or, as hymnwriter Brian Wren hymns:
"And all the powers that wreck and rule
must lose their glamour, strength, and skill
to dazzle minds or crush the will.
The waking hopes of God's oppressed
will not be beaten, bowed, and awed:
They tell the world that Christ is Lord."

While we are working on this, I think we also should be able to agree that people that buy guns should have to go through a basic background check and not be able to buy a high-capacity magazine even if you do pass the test. So, if you have any other problems that need to be fixed, let me know, and I will solve (read: rant about) them in my next blog.

Just once when a lone Wild defenseman picks up the puck behind his own net, I want him to yell "Flying V!" and watch it form up and fly down the ice.

It's a childhood dream; don't kill it by telling me how the flying V is ridiculous and would be destroyed (like it was by the Icelanders) in the NHL.

Question: if my final paper for my early liturgical year class is going to be on the origins of Christmas (which it is), and if I'm studying Christmas all day today, does that make it acceptable to listen to Christmas music? I'm not necessarily asking for permission...

Also, there's a new poll in the upper left of the page allowing you to vote on which classic American novel you actually hated reading, even though you thought you were supposed to like it. You can vote more than once, for all the haters out there.

Okay, now I have to read all those books about Christmas that can suck the Christmas spirit right out of you. Later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Luggage, Ash Wednesday, and Spring Training

So, I'm currently on hold with a United representative trying to get my luggage. Yesterday it was supposed to be delivered between 10-2. I knew I probably wouldn't be home yet from class, so I went online to the link they provided in an email and checked the box for leaving it at the door. When I got home, there was nothing on the porch. I got a hold of the woman at the luggage delivery service who was not happy I wasn't around. I told her I checked the box to leave the luggage on the porch to which she replied, "Oh yeah, we don't check that online stuff; you need to leave a note on the door." My bad. I was foolish enough not to read between the lines and know that the online system I was sent to via email was a technical facade set up to make me feel like I was doing something. Hopefully the representative comes back soon because my phone charger is in my bag, and my phone is on the last dregs of its battery. Maybe I'll just give up luggage for Lent. I'm also committing to at least two hours of facebook a day to make up for everyone giving up social media. You're welcome, Mark Zuckerberg.

I have to say, unexpected three day layovers in Chicago, even without my aforementioned baggage, was a gift. The only downside is trying to get back into the swing of things here in Boston. I almost forgot I was in school the last few days, but the list of books to read upon return quickly reminded me of my status as a full-time student. So:

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day you think your co-worker has a smudge on his/her forehead until you realize what day it is. My favorite Ash Wednesday quote comes from T.S. Eliot's poem "Ash Wednesday" (creative, I know):

"Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still."

If Ash Wednesday is about facing our mortality, reminding ourselves that we will die, I think this line sums up our necessary outlook. Teach us to care about the things we too often overlook: our interior life, spiritual disciplines, the poor and marginalized, our long-term vocation, the grand and redemptive story of God to which we are called to inhabit. Teach us not to care about those things we, as Eliot says, "too much discuss/too much explain," to ourselves: money, body image, social status, clothes, what we will eat or drink (I think Jesus said something about the last two: look at the lilies! look at the birds of the air!). Teach us to sit still. I think this one may be the hardest. In a culture that places high value on movement and action of any kind, I think we are called to sit still, to breathe deeply, to listen for the silence that speaks. In this silence, I believe we learn what we should care about and not care about, what has taken too much of our lives and what hasn't taken enough. I will now descend from my soapbox.

Okay, one more liturgical soapbox. Don't turn Lent into forty days of Good Friday. Lent was originally a preparatory season for those catechumens to be baptized during the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday. It became a time for all of us to remember our baptisms and be called back to Christ and Christ's Church through prayer, fasting, penitence, spiritual disciplines, etc. It is not forty days of suffering on Golgatha, just like communion shouldn't be a monthly (in too many evangelical churches) funeral for Jesus. Also, no hallelujahs during Lent. As "Every Day I'm Pastorin'" reminded us with this gif, which is one pastor's reaction to "realizing mid-service that I let an alleluia slip in on one of the hymns."

Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training over the past couple days. Nothing gives me hope that winter will indeed end (whether Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not like) pitchers and catchers reporting and spring training beginning. Just when winter seems to take the heart of me, replacing all joy with shades of melancholic grey and dismal, leafless, washed-out landscapes, it is then that pitchers and catchers renew my hope that the world will turn, leaves will blossom, 6 p.m. will have light. Okay, maybe this is somewhat hyperbolic (especially since I'll be complaining about the heat in mid-April), but baseball is a tell-tale sign of spring!

Okay, now I'm just stalling. Time to hit the books.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Midwinter Midweek

Well, folks, I have made it to San Diego and Midwinter! It has already been great to see so many friends and colleagues, and we're only halfway through! My day of travel was uneventful, which is exactly what you want out of a day of travel. However, I did not realize how long the flight was from the East to West Coasts! I was not emotionally or spiritually prepared for a flight over six hours. You know, when you're flying internationally, you set yourself up (or drug yourself for) a long flight and expect it. I thought this flight would be more in the ballpark of four hours. By the time hour five hit, I was pacing up and down the aisles hitting people a la Stillwell:

So, hopefully the remainder of the week will be filled with friends, food (and drink), and fellowship. You know the list is from the Holy Spirit if its alliterative. This morning I reached my limit of extroversion, so I'm currently bunkered in my room enjoying my isolation. It's a nice change of pace to have to choose to be alone. After a much-deserved nap, I will again join the land of the living for a free afternoon in San Diego! Some people have talked about going to the beach, but today's high was maybe 58, so the beach might even be a bit cold for me.

One of the many things I inherited from my mother (besides my compulsion to clean before I go on vacation - feels so good to get home to a clean house/room/bathroom!) is an unwavering trust in the healing properties of alka-seltzer. For me, it's like an elixir that those traveling charlatans used to sell in the day, except it works!

I swear, if I was dying on a battlefield, I would reach up, grab the medic by the collar, and whisper with my dying breath, "Just find me four to six ounces of water and dissolve (gasp) two tablets of alka-seltzer (gurgle) in it. They're here in my top pocket. If I get them, I'll...I'll...I'll be fi....................". That's where I flat-lined. If only I had gotten the alka-seltzer earlier.

Okay, this is a short one. I could fill you in on lots of Covenant news, but I'm sure that would be a real snooze fest, so we will now part company. Later.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hymn Lyric Mishaps, Tipping, and February

So, sometimes I think I'm really healthy because I've recently turned to eating soup for lunch. Yet, I think my parallel habit of eating a half-sleeve of ritz with each bowl of soup might be counteracting the health benefits. Yet, how are you supposed to eat soup without crackers? Tell me that!

I got in a hymnic mood yesterday night, as one does this time of year, and I came upon this little gem about the Palm Sunday hymn, "All Glory, Laud, and Honor." Apparently, not all of the stanzas translated by John Neale are used modern hymnals. I can't understand why they took this one out:

Be Thou, O Lord, the rider,
And we the little ass,
That to God's Holy City
Together we may pass.

I chuckled myself to sleep after reading that. I also watched two episodes of the BBC's Songs of Praise, which is basically a show that travels around to UK churches, talks to parishioners or choir members, and listens to them sing hymns. All in all, it was a pretty killer night...if you are 87...and had your driver's license taken away.

Three more days until San Diego! As we used to sing in Sunday school, "The countdown's getting lower every day!" (yeah, terrible theology, but that's a whole 'nother post).

This is a new conversion technique:

And she's a pastor. Apparently, when the pastor found out that it was online (where the signature was not blotted out), she demanded that Applebee's fire the waitress, which they did. Later, the pastor apologized. I wonder if the waitress has been converted yet? This is right up there with those people who leave (de)tracts instead of tips at their tables (see what I did there?). I guess the internet will make these things less and less prevalent as offenders are e-shamed. Do you think it is fair game for a waiter to post something like this to the internet, or is it a breach of privacy?

I find February to be the dreariest month of the year. January keeps me going with its Christmas high and New Year's excitement; March is my birthday and the beginning of spring, but February is 28 days of this in-between phase. The thin veneer of excitement has worn of your new classes (if you're perpetually in school like I am) and the winter trudge has truly begun. And don't even get me started on leap year.

Well, I finished the one paper I needed to finish before Midwinter (take that, origins of American theological liberalism!), and now I'm going to pace around my room until Monday while pretending to do some required reading.

Isn't it interesting to see the Republicans all of the sudden open to a path for citizenship for undocumented workers? I wonder what 2012 electoral shellacking has caused them to reconsider their views? As John Stewart noted, "The arch of history is long, but it bends towards shamelessness."

Something I learned yesterday: both the quotes "The arch of history is long, but it bends towards justice" and "a government of the people, by the people, for the people" originate with Unitarian minister Theodore Parker. Not bad, sir.

Anyway, I should commence with my big weekend plans of killing time. Happy Friday to all, and to all a good day.