Friday, March 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!

You know you're a good mom when your kids wonder how they could ever live up to your example as a parent. This is a conversation my sister and I have had more than once. My mom used to tell me that she was almost born an April Fool, but I assure you, she is no fool. She has taught me much of what I might know about treating others with love and respect and the power of positive thinking. She makes good decisions based on how others are affected by them. She is not swayed by a vocal majority, but by justice and mercy. She is full of the fruits of the Spirit and blesses others with them.

When I was growing up, I just assumed that it was normal for everyone to know the 7000 people who lived in our town. I remember sitting in the front of the basket at the grocery store amazed after she had stopped to have the 50th conversation with someone she knew. I asked her, "How did you get to know everybody?" She insisted she didn't, but I didn't believe her. To this day, she either knows everyone in Batesville or something about them, which has made her really good at her job and life in general.

My mom always looks great. She insists that like her cousin Odell (who dyed her hair a bright fire engine red until the day she passed in her 80s) she will always color her hair. Fortunately mom's is a good color that appears in nature. She wears great clothes, and her jewelry and hair are always just right. Fashion plate that she is, there is one story that puts her fashion sense in perspective.

Mom works at the bank. There are other banks in Batesville, but she works at "the" bank. Years ago she was head of new accounts, so she had a desk that was right out in the lobby. Every day Drury would stop by her desk to see her. Drury is a true Batesville citizen. He was probably in his 50s at the time of this story. He knows everybody, walks all over town rain or shine, stops into all of the stores, and tells people parts of their personal history that they might have forgotten. He's like a walking Batesville history book. His mind and behavior are developmentally delayed, but somehow he remembers absolutely every detail he is told. Anyway, Drury always stopped by mom's desk during the day to talk with her. While he was there he would inevitably prop his foot on her leg and ask her to tie his shoes. It wouldn't matter what mom was wearing or what the weather was doing outside, he'd just put that foot right up there. Mom said she was always happy to tie Drury's shoes for him and never worried about her clothes or what anybody might think or say. Though I believe design is very important, mom demonstrated for me something I try to live out in my own life: the way something looks is never more important than someone else's needs.

She has tried to teach me many other things over the years, some of which have stuck. I hope she has a good time today.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Biblical Literalists vs. Miami Herald Columnist

Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald responds in a open letter to Donna Reddick, a business technology teacher at Miami Sunset High School. Reddick used the school's broadcast announcement system to compare me and the gay youth in that school to the rapists found in the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Nice. Pitt's biggest problem is with what a friend of mine calls Reddick's "selective literalism."

Here is a link to the Philadelphia Inquirer who picked up the article:

...Put simply, I've had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.

By which I mean people like you, who dress up their homophobia in Scripture, insisting with sanctimonious sincerity that it's not homophobia at all, but just a pious determination to live according to what the Bible says. And never mind that the Bible also says it is "disgraceful" for a woman to speak out in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-36) and that if she has any questions, she should wait till she gets home and ask her husband. Never mind that the Bible says the penalty for going to work on Sunday (Exodus 35:1-3) is death. Never mind that the Bible says the man who rapes a virgin should buy her from her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and marry her.

I'm going to speculate that you don't observe or support those commands. Which says to me that yours is a literalism of convenience, a literalism that is literal only so long as it allows you to condemn what you'd be condemning anyway and takes no skin off your personal backside. As such, your claim that God sanctions your homophobia is the moral equivalent of Flip Wilson's old claim that the devil made him do it.

You resemble many of your and my co-religionists, whose faith so often expresses itself in an obsessive focus on one or two hot-button issues - and seemingly nowhere else. They're so panicked at the thought that somebody might accidentally treat gay people like people. They run around Chicken Little-like, screaming, "Th' homosex'shals is comin'! Th' homosex'shals is comin'!" Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass murdered in Darfur. Where is the Christian outrage about that?

Just once, I'd like to read a headline that said a Christian group was boycotting to feed the hungry. Or marching to house the homeless. Or pushing Congress to provide the poor with health care worthy of the name.

Instead, they fixate on keeping the gays in their place. Which makes me question their priorities. And their compassion. And their faith.

"Intellectual constipation" kind of says it all, but the rest of the article rings true as well.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday Weigh Down

Sorry to have not been posting. The conference in Chicago is always a busy one and I've been playing catch up since I got back. I was up a pound last week and since I spent the week with museum educator foodies I can't imagine that this week will be any better. I don't weigh in until Saturday. The good news is that mom was down 4 and dad was down 2 so someone is still on task! Keep up the good work you guys!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Millennium Park, Chicago

Millennium Park, Chicago
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Sorry to be so slow in posting. I'm in Chicago for the annual National Art Educators Association Conference and have been really busy. Took some time to visit Millennium Park. This is a photo of Cloud Gate, an Anish Kapoor sculpture. You can see Frank Gehry's bandshell in the top left.

Gehry Bridge over Lakeshore DR

All pedestrian bridges should be this fun.

The Glories of Brown

The Glories of Brown
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
The title is a quote from our gardener friend, Chris. This is the garden part of the park. I like the structure of it. The bare forms of plants are important in a northern garden, because gardens here are dormant a good part of the year. I think the contrast between the grasses and the Chicago Skyline is cool.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I'll Run in 2008--Away from Mike Huckabee!

Ugh, last weekend Arkansas governor and potential Republican presidential nominee, Mike Huckabee showed just how close he is to the scary branch of the religious right. From Daily Kos:

This weekend, Huckabee spoke at a conference for the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ. The Center's mission is to "To inform, equip, motivate, and support Christians; enabling them to defend and implement the Biblical principles on which our country was founded." The five goals Huckabee aligned himself with are described as the "five key fronts of the modern-day culture war: (1) Religious Liberties, (2) the Sanctity of Life, (3) the Homosexual Agenda, (4) Pornography, and (5) Promoting Creationism."

Don't get me wrong. I believe it is a good thing for us as Christians to live out our Biblical values in the U.S. I just don't want THIS group defining what they are. At the conference:

"I don't think most Americans are turned off by people of faith. I think they're turned off by people who are phony," Huckabee said to a small group. He added that Christianity is not represented "nearly enough" in Washington.

I agree that most Americans aren't turned of by people of faith. But doesn't it seem a little "phony" to suggest that Christianity (at least Huckabee's brand) is not represented "nearly enough" in Washington? Has he checked the Supreme Court lately? How about Congress? And last time I poked my head out from under the covers, the buddy president of the religious-right was still in office. If conservative Christianity were any more represented, Capitol Hill would have to relocate to Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church.

I think what the American people are turned off by is a lack of fairness, equality, and progress. And none of these seem likely items on Huckabee's presidential agenda, at least if one looks at the company he keeps.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Uzbek Style

Uzbek Dinner
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Last Sunday our church youth group and the youth workers gathered at Chris and Eric's house for a traditional Uzbek dinner. Eric is in the bottom right corner. His partner Chris is a PhD student who does research in Uzbekistan (right above Afgahnistan on the map). The food was great, and check out those digs?

In an effort to help the economy of Uzbekistan, Chris has been bringing back textiles of all kinds to sell in the U.S. for the folks there. It is great to see how much Chris loves the Uzbek people and the country. He gets so excited when he talks about them. And the stuff is cool and Fuh-un! The textiles cover their whole house including the raised platform we are sitting on. It's like a dining porch in Uzbekistan.

Big Hat Chris
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.

That ain't no 'fro Chris is wearing. It's a hat. It's my favorite, actually I like the turbans best, but this is my next favorite. Chris has brought back tons of Uzbek hats. The way each looks identifies which people group made it. Chris said he wore this one to class at IU when it would get really cold.

We have a great time with Eric and Chris. They are very fun friends to have, and they feed us. Chris will go back to do research this summer. Eric, who teaches Spanish at a high school just around the corner from where John and I live, hopes to go, too. I can't wait to see what they bring back next!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mexican Chicken Casserole for Jen

Jen over at TrimandFashionable, requested my mom's Mexican Chicken Casserole recipe. I'm happy to oblige. It's easy to make and smells good while its baking (I like that in a food).

Oddly, Jennie's comment was posted in my e-mail box as being from Jennie Kendrick, the name of a mutual friend of ours. Not sure how that happened, but it did make me think of our friend the other Jen, whom I miss. So here is one of my favorite Jen Kendrick memories: Jen is allergic to cats. In the summer of 1989 some of the Batesville crew drove down to Dallas to visit Six Flags. Lori and I had recently visited a little carnival in Batesville. We had such a good time (we love rides) that we immediately decided we were old enough to travel unsupervised to Texas to ride some big ones (in the past we only got to do that when we were on church mission trips).

Adam and Lori's brother Chuck went with us. We picked up Jen along the way in Texarkana and met our friend Daphne in Dallas. We stayed with the McClain's cousin Susan. When we finally arrived at Susan's late that night Adam was battling his gastrointestinal demons, and in fact, a few noisily made their way into our world with the most bizarre high pitched wails. Jen was taking out her contacts in the other room and became noticeably irritated, "I thought y’all said Susan didn't have any cats?" No one had a clue what she was talking about. Adam let loose a few more demons, which prompted even more rants from Jen who stormed in from the other room, "I keep hearing cats. Y’all know I'm allergic to cats. Why didn't you just tell me they had them before we got here?" Finally we figured out that Adam was the source of the cat voices. Thanks to Jen, "Catman" has been one of Adam's nicknames ever since (He also goes by Cramps, but that's another story).

Here’s the recipe:

Mom’s Mexican Chicken Casserole

1 (3 lb.) chicken, cooked and cut bite size
1 (7 oz.) pkg. Doritos
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. milk
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1/2 lb. grated Cheddar cheese

Grease oblong pan. Put crushed Doritos chips in the bottom. Put chicken oven Doritos. Mix remaining ingredients, except cheese, pour over the chicken. Sprinkle cheese over top and bake 40 minutes at 350 to 400 degrees.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wednesday Weigh Down

(Sorry the post is so late. Blogger was down this a.m.)

Lost 6.2 pounds this week. Jennie said that happens all of the time on The Biggest Loser. Someone will lose nothing one week and then a lot the next week. I only watched that show once. It was when the already sad and pretty washed up Jeff Conaway (he starred on TV inTaxi and in the movie Grease) started getting stoned on the show! It was like he woke up around week 2 and said, “This is all my agent could get me? A gig where I have to lose my gut? Man, my career’s really in the toilet!” While I was happy to see a very determined Chastity Bono on the show, the Conaway business was a little too much reality for me... Excuse me while I call my therapist.

Tina, my therapist (not her real name): Hello?

Me: Hi Tina. It's me. I watched Jeff Conaway crash and burn on The Biggest Loser a few weeks ago. He's fat, lacks all self-control, and frankly his career could use a little comeback mojo. I've got the fat and no self-control things going for me. Should I be worried about sabotaging my career?

Tina: You have a career? Just kidding. No Troy. You're doing that thing where you over identify with pathetic underdogs. Remember the Clinton years?

Me: Oh. But can Clinton really be lumped in with that particular neurosis? I mean, could one really call him a true underdog? His approval rating during his darkest hours only dipped to 43% (in 1993 at the beginning of his administartion--during the Lewensky debacle it hovered at 68%).

Tina: Yeah, but you had that "vast right wing conspiracy" telling you how pitiful he was.

Me: Oh. So I'm not the next Jeff Conaway?

Tina: No, you're the next Chastity Bono.

Me: (pause) Does that mean my mom will have some ribs removed and start making infomercials?

Tina: This phone call is costing you 80.00 an hour.

Me: G'bye.

Okay, I’m back. The woman who weighed me on Saturday (I really like her. She is always so nice) said that our bodies all have their own patterns of behavior so we lose in ways that we can start to recognize and work with. That made sense to me.

I think I’ll start watching for my body’s pattern. I suspect it looks like a very cool Spirograph drawing. In the short time that I’ve been thinking about my pattern (the last five minutes), I’ve become aware that I can get in too big of a hurry to get the weight off. I start putting too much emphasis on one week and on weight as opposed to health.

So I’ve decided to look at my weight loss in 3-week increments rather than single weeks. And there’s no way I’m going to count those %*&$# Weight Watcher points every week. But I really find them useful in helping me track just how much food I put in my body (I don’t have that auto shut off switch that says I’m full), so I’m going to try counting every other week to keep in practice and aware of that kind of thing. I have to find some system or skills I can live with all my life.

Does anyone else believe this pattern business?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Coolest Shopping Site

I'm kind of interested in creative ways of presenting data--and when the data represent retail merchandise I'm REALLY interested. is a shopping/selling community sited in an online funhouse. You can shop by color, creating fun designs as you go; by geographic location; or by newest item with the "time machine." Has everybody seen this but me?

Speaking of time, about the picture above from the Etsy blog:

This is an image of all the items listed during the 24 hours of November 6, 2005. Click for a big version to see just how detailed it is (2mb JPEG file). Items are arranged organically around a circle representing all 24 hours of the day. Follow the blue line from any item to the center to determine precisely what time of day that item was listed. The slowest time of day is the notch towards the bottom while the busiest listing activity seemed to be around 10 or 11 pm EST.

Hit the road mister bar graph. I like the social, creative, and fun approach to online browsing Etsy offers. Shopping doesn't always inspire personal creativity while lighting up your brain, but Etsy do.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"When Would Jesus Bolt?"

Interesting article in Washington Monthly by Amy Sullivan about how the coin is dropping for some politically powerful evangelical Christians. They are realizing just how pawn-like their role is in the Republican party. Read the entire article by clicking here. It's long but really interesting. Some highlights (good Bono quote at the end):

Dr. Randy Brinson organized Redeem the Vote, a Christian youth focused voter registration effort that registered more folks in 2003 than the combined efforts of Focus on the Family, American Family Association and the Family Research Council:

One of the leading advocates of the Bible course, Dr. Randy Brinson, met me at entrance to the state house. Brinson, a tall sandy-haired physician from Montgomery who speaks with a twang and the earnest enthusiasm of a youth-group leader, is a lifelong Republican and founder of Redeem the Vote, a national voter registration organization that targets evangelicals. Since discovering the Bible literacy course, he has successfully lobbied politicians in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri to introduce bills that would set up similar classes. But it is here at home that he's encountered the most resistance. “You should see who's against this thing,” he told me, shaking his head.

Indeed, when Brinson and the other supporters—including several Pentecostal ministers, some Methodists, and a member of the state board of education—entered the state house chamber to make their case, they faced off against representatives from the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women of America, and the Eagle Forum. These denizens of the Christian Right denounced the effort, calling it “extreme” and “frivolous” and charging that it would encourage that most dangerous of activities, “critical thinking.” The real stakes of the fight, though, were made clear by Republican Rep. Scott Beason when he took his turn at the lectern. “This is more than about God,” he reminded his colleagues. “This is about politics.”

Actually, it's about both—a fight over which party gets to claim the religious mantle. Nationally, and in states like Alabama, the GOP cannot afford to allow Democrats a victory on anything that might be perceived as benefiting people of faith. Republican political dominance depends on being able to manipulate religious supporters with fear, painting the Democratic Party as hostile to religion and in the thrall of secular humanists.

Realizing religious concerns involve more than a single issue.

The Democrats wanted to reach out to evangelicals, and Brinson wanted to connect with politicians who could deliver on a broader array of evangelical concerns, like protecting programs to help the poor, supporting public education, and expanding health care. It had seemed natural for him to start by pressing his own party to take up those concerns, but Democrats appeared to be more willing partners. They even found common ground on abortion when Brinson, who is very pro-life, explained that he was more interested in lowering abortion rates by preventing unwanted pregnancies than in using the issue to score political points.

The lights are going on.

Every few days, Randy Brinson calls me with another revelation. Republicans? “The power structure in the Republican Party is too entrenched with big business. It's not with evangelicals—they're a means to an end.” The Christian Right? “They just want to keep the culture war going because it raises a lot of money for them.” Abramoff? “Evangelicals were being used as pawns to promote a big money agenda.” His fellow evangelicals? “Can't they see that Republicans are just pandering to them??”

Why are Republicans so concerned about the Religious Left?

And if the Democratic Party changed its reputation on religion, the result could alter the electoral map in a more significant and permanent way.

That's why, insiders say, the word has gone forth from the Republican National Committee to defeat Democratic efforts to reclaim religion. Republicans who disregard the instructions and express support for Democratic efforts are swiftly disciplined. At the University of Alabama, the president of the College Republicans was forced to resign after she endorsed the Bible legislation."

Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE):

A month later, I ran into Cizik at the National Prayer Breakfast. That morning, he had opened up his Washington Post to find an article based on a letter to his boss from the old guard—Dobson, Colson, Wildmon, and the rest—suggesting, in the way that Tony Soprano makes suggestions, that the NAE back off its plan to take a public position on global warming. “Bible-believing evangelicals,” the letter-writers argued, “disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue.” The leaked letter was a blatant attempt to torpedo Cizik's efforts, and it had worked. The NAE would take no stand on climate change.

There was no doubt that the administration had prevailed on the more pliable figures of the Christian Right to whack one of their own. Cizik was beside himself. It was hard to resist the “I told you so” moment, and I didn't. But when I suggested to him that this was an example of the way that business seemed to win out most of the time when religious and business interests came into conflict in GOP politics, he stopped me. “Not most of the time,” he corrected. “Every time. Every single time.” And he's no longer sure that can change. “Maybe not with this administration.... We need to stop putting all of our eggs in one basket—that's just not good politics.”

I know I appear like a lefty, but I'm actually a balance-of-power-y. Though my personal perspective is progressive, I'd prefer bipartisan control of things to avoid larger than tolerable corruption. This article is at least a sign that such a situation might emerge someday. Finally:

On U2's Bono very warm reception at a National Prayer Breakfast:

Bono highlighted this tension between what's good for corporate interests and what serves the cause of justice. He went through a litany of examples—trade agreements that make it harder for Third-World countries to sell their products, tax policies that shift debt to the next generation, patent laws that raise the price of life-saving drugs—and then put the challenge to his audience: “God will not accept that. Mine won't, at least. Will yours?”

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Late Winter into Early Spring

We're gettin' there. Cold and rainy days duke it out with mild, sunny ones. Tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils poke their leaves and even a few buds up. The cantaloupe colored sun sets around 7:00 p.m.! To help things along I ditched the late winter decorations and "put out the Easter".

Easter Buffet
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.

Rabbit lineup
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.

My favorite Easter rabbit is the one in the green overalls. He looks bored.

Lenten services remind me that this is about the time of year when John and I met. There is a lot of hope. Even if gray days are ahead, I think I can make it to May.

Weigh Down Wednesday--Weight Loss Grief Stages?

Are there stages in beginning a journey towards a healthier weight, like there are in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of death and dying? After all, I believe her stages originally applied to any traumatic event. If so, I think I’m entering the bargaining stage. How about you?

1 DENIAL --- My pants are shrinking, and dang it, so is every one of my belts and the driver’s seat of my car! All I need to do is cut back.

2 ANGER --- I can’t believe I let myself get this way! Throw me that box of Ding Dongs. I’ll show them who’s boss. My body actually wants me to be fat! I bet the people who run Weight Watchers have a GREAT time when they get together--“No points for turnips and raw green beans—Hilarious! Which one of you came up with that? Here, you get TWO gold stars.”

3 BARGAINING --- Ok, I am gonna eat this half a bucket of KFC, BUT I’ll run to Pittsburgh and back after dinner to work it off.

4 DEPRESSION --- What am I gonna do? This health thing is really important and kind of hard. My life will be cut short if I don’t make permanent changes. Not sure…I can…go…on. Must… have…Thin Mints

5 ACCEPTANCE --- This is the way it is. It will be a long process full of good days and bad. Get on with it. Do the next right thing.

I’m no expert on this stage theory, but I’ve heard you can be in more than one stage at a time and that they aren’t always sequential. And rethinking food for some of you may not even be a tragic event. It is for me I guess. I actually gained a pound last week! Ugh.

Monday, March 06, 2006

78th Academy Awards Recap

Overall impressions—This is what would happen if the Bush White House hosted a state dinner for Hollywood guests (except George Clooney wouldn’t have been invited). For an Oscars where films covered several controversial topics, the mood, dress, and even the schedule were pretty conservative. I wonder if there wasn’t an attempt by Hollywood to reflect the messagey seriousness of the major nominees.

Montage madness—from the bizarre and Disnified one at the opening to the ode to Film Noir, I got the impression that some film editor’s 16-year old son landed the job of filling in dead spots.

Host John Stewart—His opening monologue was a drag, but you could see his handprints on the nominee campaign smear commercials, which were by far the funniest pieces in the show. My favorite was, “Reese Witherspoon, now that’s an American name.” And then “…Kiera Knightly’s improbable cheekbones that may well be sprinkled with God dust.”

Clothes and Awards Highlights (with additional notes from Dave who was sick and had to give his opinions by phone)

Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)—I thought her dress was beautiful but that Williams looked a little overwhelmed by it. She has such a pretty face. It was a youthful color, but it still looked a little old for her. Dave didn’t like the canary color with her skin tone, but I was thankful someone was wearing something besides champagne and black. Though rarely wrong, those two got a little monotonous on stage.

Charlize Theron (North Country)—Her dress had potential, but as Dave pointed out, the fit was wrong. I thought her hair had a flat sheen that made her look like a chain smoker who'd o.d.’d on Aquanet. Ken, Dave’s partner, thought she looked old. What a body though.

Matt Dillon (Crash) Aging nicely. I think it’s his cheekbones.

Nicole Kidman I thought she looked best of the platinum/champagne crowd. Dave thought she looked a little botoxed embattled and that her hair was “stentioned”. I thought she embodied the unannounced theme of the night—STRAIGHT—straight hair, straight dress, even the part in her hair (the feature that I think set the tone for her look)--exactly straight. Maybe this means she’s given up on marrying gay guys.

George Clooney (Syriana) The 21st century Cary Grant. My goodness he looked handsome and smart. He had what I thought was the most interesting acceptance speech of the night “How do we compare art?” A question worth discussing. But I loved his response to the notion that Hollywood is out of touch with mainstream America due to the subjects of the nominated films. The gist: Hollywood is the one who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered about everywhere else, and civil rights when black people were still being made to sit in back of theaters. If that is what being out of touch means, he’s proud to be a part of an industry that is.

Ben Stiller wearing his green footie pajamas. Very funny.

Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) Can’t say I’m not disappointed that Felicity Huffman didn’t win. I think Reese was great in Walk the Line. I just thought Huffman’s performance was in another league. Reese looked good. I think by the time I saw her I was already tired of the color of her dress. And Carol Burnett wore a similar gown during an opening monologue on her show back in the 70s, not that Bob Mackie is anyone to sneeze at and vintage has been in for awhile. But Dave, who knows a lot more about fashion that I do, thought she looked really good. Maybe I was just bored.

Dolly Parton (Transamerica) Her performance filled that hall. She actually got the subdued crowd to clap, and you could tell people just LOVE her. A pantsuit, nothing that special, is a big change for her on an awards show. What a sweetie.

Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” wins Best Song though, which I think is fine. One word of advice for the group. Take a note from Dolly and refuse to have the Solid Gold Dancers choreographed for your Oscar performance next time.

Jennifer Aniston Has a Marlo Thomas That Girl thing going on. I actually like her dress. The jewels are kind of a nice contrast. The cut and gauzy look is interesting enough to support the chunky sparkle. She’s understated in black, and it’s the same old hair. Probably appropriate since she is not up for any awards.

Will Farrell and Stever Carrell Hilarious make-up job—Will looks like a tanorexic Carmel housewife. Steve’s false eyelashes make him look like Sam the Eagle from the muppets.

Rachal McAdams Looks like she let her 11 year-old niece loose with a rhinestone gun on a Nike Jersey address. I don’t understand. Dave, am I wrong on this one?

Up for Best Supporting Actress:

Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain--see above)

Amy Adams (Junebug)—looks great.

Catherine Keenor (Capote)---kind of “slutty grandma”.

Frances McDormand (North Country)—Looks like Howard Stern on a bad hair day.

Rachel Weisz (Constant Gardener) I thought she looked so good. Nice upswept hair, beautiful little earrings. It is so rare that pregnant women manage to be styled well for the red carpet. But she is. Her open and cut shoulder and form-fitting black dress is a little daring. Fitting the form of a pregnant woman can make her look like a python that’s swallowed a goat, but it works here. She looks sort of monumental and matronly, perfect for an elegantly expecting mother.

Jessica Alba Dave really liked her look. She just doesn’t do it for me. Don’t know why. It’s all there I think. I heard someone say she looked like an Oscar statue. But now that I think of it, it seems like every year someone does.
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves John noticed that Keanu and Sandra look alike tonight! He also wondered if Keanu has had work done.

Samuel L. Jackson Looks really good. Fitted tux, fitted collar. I like the small diamond pin he’s wearing.

Jake Guylenhaal Dude, look at your big fat bowtie. He has kind of a big head and a lot of hair, so maybe that was meant to provide some balance. Not working for me though. Still, how can you not love this little man?

Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep Neither looks glamorous, but they both look real, which is refreshing. And their little comic aria introducing Bob Altman is surprisingly effective. One of the brighter spots in the show.

Jennifer Garner Wooo… not a good night for her. All I see are spread apart and flabby boobs and her tripping over her dress. Hair is wrong, too. Not good.

Ziyi Zhang From Memoirs of a Geisha looks stunning. Choker is fabulous. Dress is perfect, elegant black and silver glitter, beautiful bell shaped and sweeping. Like a Chinese Audrey Hepburn. Hair is perfect for her beautiful face.

Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash I didn’t see Crash (hope to) so I can’t say I didn’t think it deserved the Best Picture award. I am thrilled Ang Lee won for Best Director and that Osana and McMurtry won for best adapted screenplay. I was happy to see how evenly distributed awards were in general. I don’t really enjoy those Lord of the Rings years when one movie wins everything. Back to George Clooney’s question of “How do you compare art?” All of the nominated films I did see were excellent and so different from each other it would be hard to compare them in terms of quality. Sure John and I were both disappointed that Brokeback didn’t win Best Picture. But I can’t say I think the film was ripped off. It certainly deserved the awards it won. Like parents rooting for a family member who didn’t win everything, we were sad, but we still love Brokeback Mountain.

Who Did it or Ruined it for you?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Boy, Giraffes are Selfish

GrowingSense readers have heard me talk about my friend Adam, one of the Batesville friends. Adam lives and works in Beijing. China's Great Firewall blocks Blogger so Adam cannot read GrowingSense and was disappointed to learn that he cannot set up his own blog. His stories are way too funny not to share with the world, so I'm making him a guest blogger. Adam may be the biggest Andy Griffith fan I know. He had his own take on Don Knot's recent passing.

"Boy, giraffes are selfish!"

This has always been one of my favorite Barney quotes.
The scene is this… Barney is trying to allay Opie’s
fears that the stray dogs he and Andy had just left
out in a field outside of town will come to harm
during a thunderstorm.

Barney says, “You see Opie, dogs are low to the ground
so they can’t be struck by lightning. So they’ll be
okay. Now if they was giraffes running around out
there, then we’d have some problems.” A loud clap of
thunder is heard, and Barney continues, “Also, Opie,
dogs look out for one another, the big ones they’ll
take care of the little ’un” Another awkward pause…
“Giraffes don’t… no, they don’t look out for one
another. They just run around all day, looking out for
number one… Boy, giraffes are selfish!”

There is something so immediate and identifiable about
the character of Barney… maybe it’s the fact that we
all have our Barney moments (or years, or decades),
where we find ourselves in utterly absurd situations,
created by our own stupidity and stubbornness, like
the time when Barney and Gomer got lost in the woods
while trying to show off their mountaineering skills
to the Mayberry Scout troop on an camping trip.

Or maybe it is that, especially those of us from small
towns, can really identify with this character because
there were so many colorful characters like Barney
walking down our Main Streets. It seems that my
hometown of Batesville, Ark had more than our fair
share of Barneys. Lones O’Daniel (ed.- "Lones" is pronounced Loan'-is) is one dear soul who
pops into mind here. A thin, diminutive man, he could
become quite animated, or at least long-winded, when
talking about things he loved, like the Razorback
Football team, the Boy Scouts, or the Royal
Ambassadors for Christ (or RAs, ed.-- Southern Baptist Boy Scouts).

He was known for cornering people
in our church and beginning conversations that seemed
to have no ending, or beginning for that matter. It
was like he was having a conversation with himself and
he would just start speaking/mumbling out loud
whenever he found someone within earshot.

Lones, like Barney, loved wearing a uniform, though
Lones’ was a scout leader uniform. And Lones, also
like Barney, loved music even though he wasn’t blessed
with a great baritone voice (like Rafe Hollister) or
the musical talent of the Darlin’ family. However,
nothing dissuaded Lones from sharing his voice with
our church whenever he got the chance to sing a solo…
for some reason those opportunities always seemed to
come to him on Wednesday night potluck when the fewest
number of people were present.

And if Barney would show off his creative side by
writing poems for Juanita over at the diner, Lones
also had a creative side… he wrote a song entitled
“I’m Glad I’m an RA” If I remember right, it went
something like this:
I’m glad I’m an RA, yes I am.
I’m glad I’m an RA, yes I am.
I’d rather be an eskiman, than be the king of many
I’m glad I’m an RA, yes I am.

I can’t remember any other verses, maybe there weren’t
any, but I do remember feeling puzzled the first
couple of times he sang it for us. Doc McClain
especially, was perplexed trying to figure out what an
“eskiman” was. He was thinking it was some sort of
northern Native American tribe that was related to
the Eskimos. But we were finally able to figure out
that Lones was singing, “I’d rather be in His

Lones was also, not unlike Barney, attuned to the
world around him, even the Far East. Remember how
Barney would often go to Mount Pilot with Thelma Lou
for Chinese food, and he even took Judo lessons when
he turned his body into a ‘lethal weapon’. Well, Lones
had an affinity for things Korean since he spent
some time there back during the war. He once cornered a
poor Korean teenager who had come to our church with
a Korean youth choir that was performing at churches
around the US. Lones insisted on singing the
entire Korean national anthem to him, in Korean. The
youth fidgeted nervously and planned his escape route while
trying not to look Lones in the eye. Since none of us
could speak Korean, or K’reen, as the McClains
pronounced it, we don’t really know if Lones was able to
pull it off, but you can’t help admiring the guy for
trying. And if he got a few words wrong here and there
(after all it had been 40 years) he made up for that
in earnestness… though the Korean boy did make a mad
dash for the bus as soon as Lones finished.

Sadly, neither Barney, nor Lones, is with us these
days but both have left us with more than a few warm,
if flaky, memories.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fade to Grace

Forgive the cheesy title. John and I went to Ash Wednesday services at our church last night. Pastor Mike talked about it as “Freedom Day.” I wasn’t raised with this front bookend of the Easter season. When I was young, Southern Baptists popped right into Easter like one of those plastic chickens attached to a spring and two suction cups.

I suppose the “giving up” associated with Lent could have struck some Baptists as looking a little too much like salvation through works, who knows? Anyway, Baptists are great storytellers and not as big on ceremony ritual* as some of the other mainline denominations. Instead, I remember the Bible stories around Easter being told in big ways like musicals I’ve mentioned in the past. I don’t undervalue the Broadway proclivities of the church I grew up in. They had a profound impact on me.

In any case, what I value about Lenten rituals at this stage of my life is the slow and steady focus on Christ’s grace. After 29 years of following Christ I still feel like I’m learning about this key part of my faith. You know how when you are learning a big new concept or activity, like knitting or how to run a marathon or throw a ceramic pot or string theory—you know who you are—it takes time and attention and practice, thought and rethought before you really know how to do that. That is what the Lenten season provides for me, a slow dawning of grace, and subsequently freedom as Pastor Mike said. Like the earth, I turn toward the always present sun and the light illuminates the dark parts of me. (I guess when we get to heaven the sun goes all around us, or through us? Or do the planets flatten out? It's just a metaphor, Troy, let it go.)

It isn’t that I’m not swimming in grace 24/7. I believe that’s why Jesus came in the first place. It’s like the “matrix”—all around me, but I don’t always have the eyes to see it. Sometimes my earth slows down or stops turning (wait, did I just say I was a planet, when did this metaphor become so unflattering). Lent is like an annual refresher course in how to see grace and share it. And the more I see it and act like I see it, the more freedom I walk in. And the more my heart, which is often harder than I like to admit, softens for those who for whatever reason are blind to it.

(*Ritual had negative connotations in my childhood church. There seemed to be an underlying fear that what we were doing in worship could become rote and meaningless if it became ritualized. I’ve since come to believe that ritual is meaningful structure and it exists in all churches. In a Methodist church the ritual structure may be more permanent like architecture. In a Southern Baptist church the ritual structure may be more changeable, like interior design. In any case, I wonder if whether or not any ritual becomes meaningless doesn’t depend more on the heart and mind of the worshiper than it does the ritual.)