Monday, December 31, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bilbo Turns 50 Today

Today is my birthday... and... it is just not any's my 50th birthday!Boy how times flies. I don't feel 50 but my drivers license and birth certificate both say I was born in Santa Cruz California on December 20, 1957, so, I guess that makes me 50 years old. Collaborating evidence is always difficult to refute..Although my birthday is today I actually celebrated my birthday last Sunday so I could share this special day with my friends, some, who had to travel out of town. All but one of my close friends was able to make the party and it was great to spend this day with so many wonderful friends and people I care about. Some of the friends I have known for over twenty years which made this a special, special, occasion... The food was great...the games were fun...and...while the dancing was a bit embarrassing everyone seemed to get a kick out of watching me fumble about my dining room floor not really knowing which direction I was headed next and everyone seemed to have a great time. It was one of the best days I have had, in many, many, years...and... It was one of those rare days one just doesn't want to end...and...although the day is now four days old the memories will never be again Jan, for making it all happen...You're the best...and...thanks to my two sons Paul and Wesley who were there...and...all the great friends who have remained loyal, all these years...Thanks to everyone who shared this day with me. I'll never forget...and...thanks for all the wonderful gifts, which included numerous gift cards from Barnes and Nobles, a couple of framed record albums of U-2, a beautiful silk shirt, some Pistachio nuts, a Gnome wall plaque, and last but not least, twelve beautiful fairy Christmas ornaments...

Bilbo's Birthday Cake

Opening My Presents

Bilbo Enjoying Himself

Playing Pinata

My Fairy Christmas Ornaments

Fantastic News

It's official....Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema has officially ended their feud and Jackson has agreed to write and produce the Hobbit. This is fantastic news. Personally I never thought it would happen because of the public comments made by one of the New Line executives about a year or so ago. One of the executives said that Peter Jackson would never do the Hobbit but I suspect there was just too much money on the table in the end to follow through with their threat...and... personally I don't care...all is forgiven. Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh are the right team for this project because they possess both the vision and the passion for such a monumental task. I have supreme confidence Jackson will pull this off even though the film industry has been suffering a slump the last couple of years at the box office.....Apparently Jackson will not direct the film which has led to numerous rumors about who will direct the film. Two names that have come up several times are Sam Raimi who directed Spider Man and Guillermo del Toro who directed Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth. Both men have expressed interest if approached. Personally, I hope Del Toro gets the nod. Pan's Labyrinth is an incredible film and Del Toro has deep roots in fantasy and fairy tales. The Hobbit will have a sequel which is scheduled to be released in 2010 and the Lord of the Rings the two films will be shot simultaneously....I can't wait....and I look forward to following this story for the next couple of years and I'll pass along the latest news when I hear it....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Origin of the Nativity

When it comes to Christmas decorations I like to mix the secular with the sacred/religious….probably… because I am more interested in creating an artistic ambiance that is pleasing to the eye than I am about espousing a particular religious or philosophical statement about Christmas. So, my Christmas decorations include everything from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, to Gnomes, Viking Ships, Celtic designs, Cardinals, and Nativity scenes. Don’t ask about how Gnomes fit into Christmas, I’m including a separate blog entry on them later…. I have been interested in collecting Nativities ever since my in-laws gave my wife and I a beautiful hand carved Nativity Scene from Israel early in our marriage. While I currently only own two Nativity Scenes I do have numerous Christmas Cards which depict the birth of Jesus….

Prior to writing this blog entry on Nativity Scenes I decided to do a little research on the origins of the Nativity and here are a few things I learned about the history of the Nativity. According to tradition, and there appears to be historical evidence for this particular tradition, Saint Francis of Assisi introduced the first Nativity Scene in the 12th Century. Apparently, he put together a life size straw filled manger scene which was set outside the monastery between a real live ox and donkey and this manger scene was used to enhance the mass during Christmas. Over the years, this tradition spread across Europe and by the 16th century real life size Nativity Scenes adorned with gold and jewels were displayed in front of medieval churches and temples across Europe. By the 17th century famous artists in Italy were commissioned to carve miniature Nativity scenes out of wood, ivory, and stone….Originally, Nativity’s were called crèche which is a French word which means crib….and…it is believed the tradition of the Nativity was first brought to the U.S. to the town of Bethlehem Pennsylvania in 1741.
I believe the essence of Christmas ought to be about love and hope and Nativity scenes can be a potential important reminder that despite all the problems in the world there is always hope... and... God helps us all to not lose faith in hope and love and help us to restore hope to the world by helping us love one another in our own unique way with the talents God has given us all...

A Couple of my Nativity Scenes

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Favorite Christmas Cards

Since I am still in the Christmas Spirit I thought I would post some of my favorite Christmas cards I have received and collected over the years. I started collecting and keeping Christmas cards about ten years ago in an effort to use the cards for decorations each year. Some of the cards are as far away as Nepal and others were hand produced by friends. I don't get as many cards as I used too because I am single and I don't think people, in general, make the effort to send out cards as they once did, but whatever the reason, I enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards. I hope you enjoy these cards...Merry Christmas

Folk Art Christmas Card

Celtic Christmas Card

Illuminated Manuscript Christmas Card

Christmas Card from Nepal

Rembrandt Nativity Scene

Father Christmas

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner Postscript

All things considered my first Thanksgiving meal went pretty well for the most part. Nobody complained after it was established by my unilateral decree that ham was replacing the traditional turkey dinner. Although the cranberry/apple stuffing and the mashed potatoes were a bit on the dry side the honey baked ham was succulent...and...delicious.... the corn was just right, and the cranberry sauce which was provided by a friend was excellent. We never got around to eating any pumpkin pie because we stuffed ourself with blueberry, chocolate, and pumpkin pie while watching USC maul Arizona State at a friends house. All in all, the day went pretty well, better than I expected. I don't know if I want to make this a new tradition, that is, me cooking dinner for everyone, but for this year I am grateful that I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my sons and some friends... and...who says a 49 year old bachelor can't pull off doing something that is traditionally excluded to the female species.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Since 2003 I have spent some time early Thanksgiving morning reflecting and journaling what I am thankful for regarding the past year. Here are a few things I recorded in my journal this year.

1. Relationships. As I have gotten older and have been single now for six years running I have become increasingly sensitive to the need of meaningful interpersonal relationships. I am grateful for all my friends and one particular relationship this past year which has brought me a lot of joy. Relationships and intimacy are gifts from God and I never want to take them for thank God for my friends,my family, my two sons in particular and one special lady friend.

2. My home. Last year I moved into a house by myself for the first time in my life. My living situation prior to last years move was very stressful and I am very thankful that I have my own space where I have can express myself and live in peace.

3. Church. After six years in self exile regarding church I am grateful I have found a church, where I at least feel comfortable. I haven't decided to join the church and have yet to get too heavily involved but I have made a number of friends and it feels good to be a part of a regular community again.

4. Deeper understanding about relationships. I have spent a significant amount of time and energy over the past few years thinking and pondering about the nature of interpersonal relationships and while I am not presently married I do feel I am at a much better place regarding my own understanding about the "nature" of relationships...and...have been told more than once by people close to me than I really know how to do relationships....which....has been very encouraging to me. I intend to write more about this in the weeks and months to come. It has been a long hard road at times but I do feel I am making progress.

5. Growth in the "practice" of spiritual disciplines. For years I read about spiritual disciplines but it never really got much further than between my two ears. This past year I found myself praying, journaling, and meditating more than ever. I didn't set out to do any of this intentionally but have found myself gravitating, naturally towards practicing and creating my own style of what some might call spiritual disciplines and I feel good about it.

6. Gifts from a "special" friend. About six months ago a lady friend of mine celebrated my birthday by showering me with some really cool stuff. She took me to a Moody Blues concert and bought me some clothes for the special occasion. It was the best birthday present I have ever received and I was totally blown away...especially considering it wasn't even my birthday!....She decided to give me a surprise birthday party after learning how I spent my birthday alone last year trying to find a place to live because of my difficult living situation. I was so moved by her sensitivity and graciousness.... I cried...It was one of the highlights of my life...

Breaking New Ground: Gobble, Gobble

It's Thanksgiving morning and I am about to do something I have never done before...I am going to cook a Thanksgiving meal, all by myself. That's right. This year I have decided to stay in town for Thanksgiving and cook dinner for my two sons and an old friend of mine who doesn't have anywhere to go. The meal I am cooking is not extravagant by any stretch of the imagination and will be simple. There will be ham, mashed potatoes, corn, bread, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Thank God for Costco. The ham is pre-cooked, the stuffing and the mash potatoes are pre-packaged, and the pumpkin pie is already cooked and ready to roll out at any time after dinner. This might not sound like I am really cooking but I don't mind confessing and conceding this is the best I could do considering my limited experience in such matters. Originally I was not particularly happy when all of my other plans for Thanksgiving fell through but I am actually kind of excited now and feel much more upbeat about the whole matter. Later we will watch USC, hopefully crush Arizona State and I'll be back with a report on how things went....

Monday, November 05, 2007

You must see this film!

Yesterday I saw a movie that made me laugh and cry...I was inspired…I was reminded of what is important in life…and…I was deeply, deeply, touched…This is a great, great, film…This is a beautiful film. This is a film about life, family, and following one’s passions and dreams...It is simply, the best film I have seen in a long, long time. Into the Wild is based on a true story by best selling author Jon Krakauer who also wrote Into Thin Air. The movie was directed by Sean Penn and, Eddie Vedder, the front man for Pearl Jam, provides the musical scores for the film. Into the Wild is a story about a young man who gives up everything in this world to follow his dream to go to Alaska. His journey begins after graduating from a prestigious college in West Virginia. While telling his parents he is thinking of enrolling in Harvard Law School he instead hits the road and heads west. The rest of the story is about the adventure and the people he meets along the way as he travels from the East Coast to Alaska. While some may sarcastically assert that this film is a moral tale about how foolish it is to follow an idealistic pipe dream I do not share such sentiments. I prefer to see this film as a metaphor about the meaning of life and the critically important lessons one can learn if one follows their passions and dreams. We live in a world where much of what we do is based on the expectations of others, our families, our friends, and society, in general, but this film explores what can happen if one follows their heart....but...This is not a sentimental film and grit and reality are not sacrificed at the altar of romanticism. This is a gut check film. This film cuts to the core for him who has ears to hear...This is a must see film...You won't regret it...and...while you may be haunted by the images, music, and ending for days, in the end, this is a story that celebrates the life of what one young man who decided to follow "his" dream...and...while I would never suggest to anyone that they follow in the footsteps of another, I would recommend that we seriously consider following his example of following the desires of our heart, even if we cannot follow the exact footsteps of his particular journey.....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Really Loved this Film

It's been awhile since I have seen a really good film but today the drought was broken when I went on a hunch to see a film called Across the Universe. The movie didn't get an overwhelming endorsement from the critics over at Rottentomatoes but I really did find Roger Ebert's review intriguing, so I went on his recommendation...There is just so much to like about this film. It's interesting, very well done, emotionally gratifying but most of all, it's unique. The visuals, particularly in the second half of the film are stunning and the performances all the way around are very good. The movie is set in the nineteen sixties and everything is covered from the Detroit race riots, to the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King. I really don't know how to describe the film because it is so unique and there is nothing I have seen to compare it to, really... It's a love story, musical, and backdoor social commentary all wrapped up into one. All the music is the Beatles but everyone but none of the songs is performed by the Beatles. There are cameo performances by Bono, Joe Cocker, and Izzy Izzard. I found the film very gratifying but I like eccentric artistic endeavors and this film has it in spades. If you open to musicals this is the best one I have seen and consider it better than Almost Famous which is another sixties movie I really enjoyed...and...if you have a soft spot for the Sixties or Beatles music this film is a must see...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Return of the Ring?

Entertainment Weekly’s most recent edition has reported that “after years of feuding, Peter Jackson and Nine Line Cinema are getting closer to making the Hobbit”…This is potentially great news for the fans of the Lord of the Rings. While nothing has been settled on either side, Bob Shay, New Lines project CEO has offered an olive branch to Jackson by reporting in a recent L.A. Times interview that, “I really respect and admire Peter Jackson and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in the Hobbit”. This is extremely good news considering that Mr. Shay earlier accused Jackson of being arrogant and stating publicly that, “I don’t care about Peter Jackson anymore”….as a fan reading between the lines….This sounds like an invitation to me…but…admit it may be wishful thinking on my part…Good news bad news scenario…Bad news…Jackson has reported that he will not entertain any proposals until the lawsuit with New Line is settled…good news… apparently the civil case is “finally nearing resolution”…Bad news…Someone else may direct the film and Jackson may simply act as an executive producer…potential good news…The name of Guillermo Del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, has been mentioned. Guillermo has a significant amount of street cred with the fantasy community because of his ability to integrate great storytelling with emotion and special effects…and now some really potential great news….Entertainment Weekly has reported that Jackson has suggested “he would make two films, with the second one filling in the story arc between the end of the Hobbit and the beginning of the Lord of the Rings”. While Tolkien never wrote a book connecting the two stories he did make references in the epilogues of The Lord of the Rings. Personally, I think it would be fantastic if Jackson made a film bridging the gap between the Hobbit and the LOTR’s. While some hard line Tolkein fans may not welcome such a proposal, I am not one of them…A bit of speculation and merry mythmaking may potentially make a contribution to one of the great myths of our time...My prediction…I predict Jackson will make the Hobbit for a couple of different reasons. There is just too much money on the table for the studios to allow this particular project to die, especially considering that the movie industry has been slumping for years...and…Jackson can save the studios big bucks because he has the infra-structure already in place to take on such a potentially daunting project…and…name recognition alone will almost certainly guarantee a handsome project…and…does any other director really want to attempt to follow up Jackson’s masterpiece? Think of all the potential comparisons and questions. I can’t think of two many directors, if any, of stature, who would want to put themselves in this kind of a situation….If Jackson doesn’t get the director gig I am confident he and his special effects studio, Weta, will have their fingerprints all over this project…So…I predict it is only a matter of time before New Line Cinema announces to the world that Jackson is on board with the making of the Hobbit…and…when that day comes, all the hobbits of this world will rejoice and get in line for their ticket to the midnight showing of what promises to be another great adventure into the fantasy world of the Middlearth and the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien who has brought a lot of joy to this world with his merry mythmaking….

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Suicide Watch

It looks like I'll be on suicide watch for the rest of the week-end after my beloved USC Trojans fell to the lowly Stanford Cardinals. I admit I didn't see this one coming...but...suspect I am in good company because no one else did either. I don't really have much to say. No excuses...USC did not play well enough to win and I give Stanford all the credit in the world. They played their hearts out and deserved to win...I can't and don't want to point my finger at any particular player or coach on USC, other than to say, I don't think I have ever seen so many passes dropped. The USC receivers are young and green and this will no doubt be an important learning experience. Just sad to see USC's hope for another National Championship go down the tubes in this way. I don't intend to give up on my Trojans and am interested in seeing how they rebound from such a terrible loss. At the end of the day, I guess it just goes to show that talent, alone, doesn't win championships or games. Today, the men of Troy, no doubt learned this hard lesson....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Enchanted Words

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Can you guess what all these phases mean?...hint...they all mean the same thing...

Afrikaans---- EK het jou life
Albanian---- Te dua
Arabic---- Ana behibek
Armenian---- Yes kez sirumen
Bulgarian---- Obicham te
Cantonese/Chinese---- Ngo oiy ney a
Creol---- Mi aime jou
Danish---- Jeg Elsker Dig
Dutch---- ik hou van jou
Finnish---- Mina rakastan sinua
German---- Ich liebe dich
Hawaiian---- Aloha wau ia oi
Hebrew---- Ani ohev otah
Hindi---- Hum Tumhe Pyar Karte hai
Irish---- Taim I’ ngra leat
Japanese---- Aishiteru
Korean---- Sarang Heyo
Mandarin---- Wo ai ni
Mohawk---- Kanbhik
Nepali---- Ma Timilai Maya Garchhu
Norwegian---- Jeg Elsker Deg
Pig Latin---- lay ovlay ouyay
Sioux---- Techihhila
Swedish---- Jag alskar dig
Taiwanese---- Wag a ei li
Thai---- Phom rak khun
Yiddish---- ikh hob dikh
Welsh---- Rwy’n dy garu

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Warrior Within

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The warrior inside of us helps us speak out and to fight for what nourishes our minds, our hearts, and our souls, and to vanquish those things that sap and deplete the human spirit by speaking the truth about them and refusing to accept them or to allow them into our lives…The warrior teaches us to claim our power and assert our identity in the world…and assert that we have the right to be alive…the warrior inside refuses to give up on anyone and anything…warriors learn to trust their own judgment about what is harmful and, perhaps most important, they develop the courage to fight for what they want or believe in, even when doing so requires great risk—the loss of job, a mate, friends, social regard, or even their very lives…but…warriors often become burned out because they live life as a struggle against others and against parts of themselves that they regard as unworthy…stoic warriors sacrifice everything else to become performance machines. I sometimes think that men who die from heart attacks induced by work related stress can be seen as dying from hearts broken by believing that on one cares how they feel as long as they make money for the company and the family....The Hero Within, Carol Pearson

Back on Track?

I haven't posted anything for the past week because I couldn't figure how to access my pictures on my Photobucket account. For some strange reason I couldn't send any pictures to this blog. Finally, I gave up and opened up an account with Picasa. I have used Picasa in the past but I had problems so I switched over to Photobucket. If anyone reading this blog entry has a suggestion on any other websites that will allow me to post my pictures to my blog I am all ears. In the meantime I use Picasa until I can find a better mousetrap....

College Football Predictions

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's early Saturday morning and I have a lot to do today but I hope to watch some college football later today. I probably won't sit down and watch any game in it's entirety except for the USC/Nebraska game later this evening. There are some interesting and important games on tap today and here are my predictions....

Notre Dame at Michigan:

Michigan beats Notre Dame 17-10. It will be an ugly game for two ugly teams. No tears will be shed on my end of the things if both teams lose the rest of their games because I don't care for either team...especially Notre Dame...would you expect anything else from a USC fan???

Tennessee at Florida:

Florida beats Tennessee 31-20. I am giving the edge to Florida because the game is at Florida and Tennessee doesn't generally play up to expectations in big games...with that said....this could be a trap game for Florida because they have whopped up on a couple of pansies and they might be overrated and overconfident and Tennessee will come into the swamp with a chip on their shoulder...So, if there is a upset special this week, this could be the game.

Ohio State at Washington:

Ohio State beats Washington 21-14.The pundits are leaning towards a Washington upset but I don't see it. The Big Ten has taken its lumps the past two weeks but Ohio State will demonstrate that the Big Ten is not going to roll over. Ohio State will rise up and say enough is enough. Washington has a hot freshmen quarterback and they have won their two first games but Ohio State is too solid on defense and Washington will be reminded they still have a long way to go before they are a top ten team.

USC at Nebraska:

USC beats Nebraska 31-10. This is the biggest game in Nebraska in a long, long, time and the fans are hyped out of their minds. While the stadium will be a sea of red on Saturday the Cornhusker players will be seeing stars by the fourth quarter. I predict the hype will work against Nebraska because USC knows how to come up big in big games. They are 57-4 over the past six years and the only big game USC has lost was to Texas...and...they should have won that game. USC is too big, too fast, and too deep. Hostile environment or not Booty will calmly pick apart the Nebraska defense and the stable of Trojan runners will have their way by the second half. Over the past two weeks LSU and Oklahoma have received a lot of loving from the media but USC will demonstrate later today why they have been the most dominant college football program in the past six years.... Nebraska fans...Have fun at the tailgate party and the pre-game warm-ups...and enjoy your few moments in the sun in the early part of the game, while USC rubs off a bit of rust, but get out the crying towels at halftime because it isn't going to be a happy ending for Big Red machine. I know this isn't what you want to hear but you need to face the truth. A Cornhusker isn't in the same league as a Greek Warrior.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ten things I don't care about

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1. I don't care if my students tuck their shirts in...damn dress code...

2. I don't care who which team wins the Big Ten this year...The Pac-10
representative is going to whack whoever comes out west.

3. I don't care who wins the Republican presidential nominee. I am not going to vote
for any of them...I may not vote for the Democrat presidential nominee either.

4. I don't care about the opinions of radio talk show hosts...There all are a bunch
of losers in my opinion.

5. I don't care about what people think about me anymore...except...for the people
who really care about me.

6. I don't care if the projected Wal-mart Superstore near my house ever gets built.
I prefer Costco. They pay their workers 40% more and their top C.E.O. only makes
350,000 a year.

7. I don't care what George Bush does any more. He is going to do what he wants
and neither public opinion or reality is going to penetrate his armor of
self assurance and certainty.

8. I don't care if the housing market collapses. It may be the only way I can
ever afford a house...I do care about the people who have lost their homes to
foreclosures but I have almost no sympathy for all the speculators and others
who drove up the market to make a quick buck..

9. I don't care if my friends and colleagues poke fun at me for liking Desperate
Housewives. It's my life and I might care a little if they actually took time
to watch the show before jumping to conclusions about what the show is about.

10. I don't care if USC wins the national championship or not. It's just a silly
game...just emotional well being depends on it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

I’d rather be a dysfunctional soul than a well adjusted robot....Thomas Moore

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Moral Outrage

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Bakersfield newspaper headlines read, "Lawmen cleared in incident"...Yesterday 11 local police and sheriff officers were cleared of a killing a lone 24 year gunmen in Bakersfield who refused to drop his weapon. The Bakersfield Police Department's shooting review board determined the police officers were acting in self defense and within the state and federal guidelines. Apparently the officers were being questioned regarding whether they used excessive force in the killing...Now the rest of the story...Apparently the officers were responding to reports of shots being fired in a neighborhood. The officers arrived at the scene to find the suspect hiding underneath a camper shell in the backyard. The officers attempted to get the suspect to surrender his weapon and when he refused, the officers shot and killed the suspect....Now some of the details. While the suspect did refuse to give up his weapon he did not shoot at the police officers, although it reported he waved his weapon in their direction. There is also no evidence the suspect shot at anyone else prior to the arrival of the police officers...and now the outrage...The police officers shot over 100 rounds at the suspect...The corner recovered 35 bullets from the the worst of it. The police chief testified that the police officers showed incredible restraint before the shooting began...and now, I can't believe what I am hearing....According to the police report the officers spent 4 minutes trying to get the suspect to surrender his weapon before the barrage of bullets ended the suspects life....I confess I may not know all the details but if these facts are true I can't questioning what the hell is going on!!!!
This is not the first time the Bakersfield police department has been publicly scrutinized. Over the years they have gained a reputation of shooting first and asking questions later...and...statistics appear to support this perception since Bakersfield has the highest number of suspects killed by police officers in the state, if not the country. So when does a four minute conversation amount to using incredible restraint?..Couldn't they have given him a couple of more minutes...Couldn't they have used tear gas??? Asked a family member to get him to surrender???? I can think of numerous other things they could have done....Couldn't they have made a couple of shots and then try again?....This sounds like a senseless killing to me and undermines the faith people are supposed to have in our local law enforcement agency....I smell an outside investigation brewing and a potential lawsuit against the Bakersfield Police department.....I don't mean to jump to conclusions but I sure as hell hope I don't get pulled over by the local police in the near future....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My angle on Mother Teresa

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Apparently a lot of people are bent out of shape about the recent revelations of Mother Teresa's lack of faith regarding her personal "experiences of God". Personally, after some reflection, I am not surprised and here is why...
From what I can gather about the life of Mother Teresa she lived a life of severe personal deprivation
on numerous levels. She took a vow of poverty and sexual abstinence,
for starters...and...I suspect that during her years as a nun in
Calcutta she probably didn't take too many relaxing vacations or eat
at too many nice restaurants...and...I wonder if she ever received a
soothing massage...or...relax on a beach and feel the cool ocean
air...or...walk through a quiet forest and enjoy the sound of
silence...and...I wonder who took care of Mother Teresa?...Did anyone
cook her a nice meal on a regular basis?...Did anyone ever give her
any money and encourage her to spend the day doing what "she" wanted
and pampering herself?....I doubt it...As far as I can gather she
lived a life where she was deprived of many of the creature comforts
we often take for granted...Personally, upon further reflection I am
not surprised Mother Teresa didn't feel the presence of God
"whatsoever" for apparently much of her adult life. Who would, under
such severe circumstances? Personally, I think it is impossible to
separate our experience of God from the world and our surroundings. We
live in a beautiful world teaming with life and beauty where the birds
sing, the sky is blue, and enchantment abounds for those who know what
to look for...From what I know of Mother Teresa, and it isn't much,
she apparently spent the vast majority of her time helping people who
were themselves deprived of the basic needs of, shelter,
and someone who cared about them and in many ways her own deprivation
was probably as great as those who she served.

So Mother Teresa apparently wore a mask much of the time hiding deep
seated doubts about the presence of God in her personal life.
Personally, I feel sad for Mother Teresa because I can't help
wondering why any institution would allow their people to live a life
of such deprivation for an "ideal" of what it means to be spiritual. I
am not suggesting or implying we should not help the poor or make
personal sacrifices but from where I sit, I don't, for the life of me,
understand, how such personal deprivation, for such a long period,
can result in anything but doubt about the presence of God...
unless... one believes God is not present in nature and every other
aspect of the world we live in...Yes Mother Teresa made her choice to
live the life she did but if I were deprived for much of my life of
being able to hike along a trail where I could see snow capped
peaks...and...I never went to a movie...or had a good meal...or
experienced the healing touch of others on my body...or bought myself
something I wanted and desired from time to time...."I" know I would
be depressed and wonder where is God...For me, in some ways, Mother
Teresa's life may have been a tragedy...No one should live a life of
such deprivation...and...I am not sure if it is Mother Teresa's
apparent lack of faith one should question...or the religious "ideal"
that has been established and apparently wasn't all what it was
cracked up to be for, at least, one person who devoted their life to
the ideal...

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Myth about Myths

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"Myth is an initiative story, an experience of the emotions and the imagination in which we make a significant shift from one level of awareness to another"
Thomas Moore

During the summer of 1987 I read the Lord of the Rings triology and this marked the beginning of my interest in mythology, fantasy, and fairy tales. After reading the LOTR's I went on to read the Chronicles of Narnia, Norse Mthology, and the writings of Scottish Victorian author George MacDonald, the father of Christian fantasy. Along the way I also became interested in the subject of fantasy and myth and gradually began to suspect that myth and fantasy were misunderstood especially among Christians. In fact, many Christians feel threatened by fantasy and go bonkers when someone even, suggests for consideration, that some of the Biblical stories may by mythical rather than literal history. I suspect myth is threatening to many Christians because they associate mythology with "falsehood and irrelevance" rather than understanding or interpreting myth as potentially "life-shaping, sacred, and instrumental in helping individuals and societies establish their identity, values, and find meaning in the cosmos."

I understand that fantasy/myth is not everyone's cup of tea but I do believe it is a powerful potential "source for tracing the patterns life takes at a very deep level", and it is unfortunate, imo, that so many people miss out on what myths have to offer simply because they have fallen under the spell of the modern myth that asserts that relevancy must be quantified in numbers and literal is better than fantasy...This summer while I was layed up with my back injury I watched season two of the television hit show Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives is pure fantasy but after watching both seasons one and two I have concluded there is more truth found in this fantasy series about the nature of relationships and the struggle of day to day life than most of the relationship classes and seminars I attended earlier in my life. But how could this be, one might ask?...I think it has to do with understanding one the purposes of mythology.

Thomas Moore says,.... "Mythology is a special tool for enchantment..Mythology keeps our imagination at a level where emotion and meaning have a home but where rational analysis has no entry. One of the purposes of mythology is to transport our imagination to a level beyond the factual, giving full articulation to matters that can't be measured---things like love, hate, death, fear, and evil...mythology leads us deeper into the complexities of our emotions and personalities... Myth gives a person the sense of living in a meaningful story, the feeling that one's life makes sense and has value, and these sensations are the basis for self-confidence and stability, purpose and poise. Without myth, life has to be proven valuable every day and is lived from profound anxiety; but with the awareness that one's life is grounded in eternal stories and motifs, one's own personal story begins to feel enchanted, and this feeling gives rise to a love of one's own life that is the cure for narcissism, insecurity, and self doubt"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Things I Wonder About

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These are the things I wonder about from time to time?

1. Is our economy going to collapse sometime in the next five years?

2. Are my sons going to find their niche in life?

3. Why is it so hot on the west coast where I live?...I live about a 100 miles from
the ocean?

4. Why do so many people fight over theological "particulars"?

5. Why do so many people want to impose either their religious doctrine or their
secular ideology on everyone else?

6. Why don't people have more sex?...It is free...and it feels good!...

7. How do so many incompetent people end up in leadership positions?

8. Why do I make some of the same mistakes over and over again?

9. Does God really care if we believe in the virgin birth story?

10. Will I ever be able to afford a house again in my lifetime?

11. Why aren't more people really pissed off at what is happening in Iraq, the state
of health care, and what is happening in the real estate market?

12. Why are there so many different kinds of insects?

13. Why did God create grasshoppers?

14. Why do interpersonal relationships require so much effort to get it right?

15. Why are so many people in this country afraid?

16. Why aren't more people concerned about the growing national and personal debt
problem in this country?

17. Why are test scores more important in education than creativity and imagination?

18. Why don't more people take time to relax and chill?

19. Why are their planets and stars?

20. Why did God create Dinosaurs and then allow them to become extinct?

21. Why do so many people feel threatened by non-conformists?

22. Is Bree, from Desperate Housewives going to ever reconcile with her son?

23. Why don't more people live in Washington and Oregon? They are incredibly
beautiful states.

24. Why are so many churches behind the times?

25. Does Bigfoot really exist?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Twelve More Days!

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Twelve more days until the College football season starts and I am stoked...because...USC is the favorite to win it all this year. The AP poll came out earlier today and USC received 62 of the 65 first place votes with LSU receiving the other three. On paper this is a potentially great USC team...but...privately I am going to try to remain cautious and am going to refrain from making any bold predictions about another national championship. College football in the last six or seven years is littered with pre-season powerhouses who bit the dust. Note, Ohio State loss to the Gator's last year, USC's loss to Texas, Oklahoma getting annihilated by USC and Ohio State victory over the mighty Hurricane's of Miami....On the bright side...USC has been a juggernaut over the past five years and they have crushed all comers except Texas... and... they should have won that game...All their losses in the past five years have come at the hands of Pac-10 opponents and all those games went down to the wire...To put it another one...has taken SC to the woodshed for a good ole fashion whopping in over five years...The strength of USC is their defense this year. Nine starters back and their front seven are monsters. Their big, fast, and they will knock your socks off. Their linebackers are some of the best in recent college football history....and...their deep...Offense is the only question mark but they are loaded with high school all Americans, especially at tailback....but they are inexperienced...USC's road schedule is brutal which is why they might not make it to the big dance... but... I don't expect them to lose...unless...they become overconfident...sustain an injury to the quarterback...or have an access of turnovers on the road...anything is possible and it's tough to run the table but if you don't come with your A game when playing the "Men of Troy" this year you're going to get trampled by a juggernaut that has been running at peak speed for the past five years...just ask Michigan twice, Arkansas twice, Nebraska, Cal three times running, Oklahoma, Iowa, Notre Dame four times running, and Auburn...Recently the coach of LSU questioned that the toughness of the Pac-10 conference. LSU just better hope they don't have to face USC in the championship because SC has outscored the last 4 SEC opponents by 119 points. That comes out to almost 30 points a game... So much for the SEC...and...don't forget the macho talk of Oklahoma two years ago when the Sooner players and coaches implied that the Pac-10 was a pretty face finesse conference and USC hadn't played the kind of teams in the rugged Big 12 conference...and...last but not least...Michigan was supposed to out muscle the Trojans last year but SC, which was in a rebuilding year crushed the Wolverines in the second half...So much for size and toughness over finesse and quickness, speed... Remember...Speed kills...and...this version of the Trojans is not only fast but they are plenty big to handle anything from the SEC, Big 12, or the Big of Troy...go out and fullfill your destiny and make us west coast fans proud!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some thoughts by Sam Keen

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"Sam Keen was, in his words, "overeducated at Harvard and Princeton" and was a professor of philosophy and religion at "various legitimate institutions" and a contributing editor of Psychology Today for 20 years before becoming a free-lance thinker, lecturer, seminar leader and consultant. He is the author of a baker's dozen books, and a co-producer of an award winning PBS documentary, Faces of the Enemy. His work was the subject of a 60 minute PBS special Bill Moyers--Your Mythic Journey with Sam Keen."

During the next couple of weeks I am going to feature and add commentary when time allows to what Sam Keen has written in two of his more popular books, Fire in the Belly and To Love and Be Loved. I'll begin with his book Fire in the Belly. Keen was/is active in the Men's movement, ala Robert Bly and his book Fire in the Belly is directed towards men but the implications of what he has to say is relevant to women, as well, imo...and... These quotes will hopefully be a part of the ongoing series of meditative thoughts that I have pondered and copied in my journal over the years.

Here are some of the thoughts of Sam Keen..."There are two questions a man must ask himself. The first is, where am I going and the second is, who will go with me? If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble"

Another quote: "We can't be comfortable in intimacy with women because we have never been comfortable in being distant from them. Most modern men have never learned the joy of solitude."

And finally, "No one ever suggests that men's lives have a claim to the sanctity and protection afforded in theory to women and children. It is wrong to kill women and children but men are legitimate candidates for systematic slaughter-cannon fodder"...

This last quote and it's implications are chilling to hear and think about...and...what does it teach men in regards to their value?...Here is a dirty little well kept secret about the lives of most men, imo....They don't feel good about themselves, unless they are wealthy or in positions of power over the lives of others. Like women, men are often objectified, according to their economic viability and their willingness to sacrifice their lives, at any cost...even if it is for cannon fodder in a war drummed up by politicians, religious wacko's, or the wealthy who are attempting to protect their assets at any cost, even if it is human life....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Meditative Thought for Today

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Over the years I have read a fair number of interesting books and one can always tell how interesting a particular book was to me by the amount of passages I underlined with my pen or pencil. On occasion I have gone back and reread what I have underlined and I find this helpful to obtaining depth in regards to understanding a particular author or perspective. I don't like to read books to just gather information but prefer to ponder and think about the potential implications to my own life and society at large. About four years ago I took this practice one step further by purchasing a really nice leather journal and coping particular meaningful passages from certain books to my journal. To date I have now copied about six or seven books in my leather journal. Personally I find this exercise very therapeutic and helpful because it gives me more time to ponder what I have read and I can fit the quotations of numerous books into one single volume which I can carry around with me to work or on vacation...and...when I am finished copying what I have underlined I can then pass along the book to others. I mention all this to say that I am going to pass along some of the quotes I have copied in my journal from time to time...and...if I have the time and energy I will try to add some additional commentary on occasion...

I want to begin with a quote from one of the Thomas Moore books, The Care of the Soul...Moore is a prolific writer who has written many popular books which I have found very interesting and helpful over the years....Moore writes: "When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away: It appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or try to eradicate them one by one but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, interest in, or we do not know how to nurture, heal, or satisfy the needs of our soul".....For years, like most people, I have tried this or that to eradicate my own demons or undesirable behavior with little or no success. But now, I pay much more attention to what my soul "may" need when I feel a particular temptation or compulsion coming on...and...over the years I have learned new and healthier ways to meet the needs and desires of my soul without resorting to overly destructive compulsions. I don't claim perfection but I seldom feel overwhelmed by a particular compulsion these days and I attribute that in large part to learning how to feed my soul as opposed to repeated efforts to simply eradicate or repress certain feelings or desires. Eradication doesn't work, imo, because the feelings or desires, are often, but not always, legitimate, it's the way we go about meeting our deepest desires and needs that is often the problem....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lyrics to Ponder

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I first came across the name T-Bone Burnett years ago while listening to Bruce Cockburn. He produced some of Cockburn's albums. Burnett is not a household name in the world of pop music but he does have some significant street "cred" with the critics and is probably best known for his awards associated with composing the music for O Brother Where Art Thou? He is also produced some of Elvis Costello's albums and has recorded some albums of his own. Back in the 80's I bought his album The Criminal Under My Own Hat and following are the lyrics to the song by the same title. It's kind of nice to hear someone suggest taking a look at our own lives instead of blaming everyone else.


I've seen a lot of criminals
I've seen a lot of crimes
Doing a lot of evil deeds
Doing a lot of time

We speak of these men as aliens
>From some forbidden race
We speak of these men as animals
We will lock in a cage

But there's one man I must arrest
I must interrogate
One man that I must make confess
Then rehabilitate

There is no other I can blame
No other I can judge
No other I can cast in shame
Then require blood

I see him in the shadows down the hall
I see him in the plaster on the wall

There is no crime he cannot commit
No murder too complex
His heart is filled with larceny
And violence and sex

His heart is filled with envy
And revenge and greed
His heart is filled with nothing
His heart is filled with need

He' s capable of anything
Of any vicious act
This criminal is dangerous
The criminal under my own hat.

Back To Work

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Tomorrow I start back to work after 73 days off. Where did all the time go? After 20 years of going to work at the same place I am not particularly anxious or overly excited about going back to work but once I am in the classroom the adrenalin does start to pump and my body goes into a rock and roll mode. Up to this point I haven't given any thought to what I may or may not do regarding my teaching assignment but I do hope to change a few things and be more flexible and spontaneous this year. After doing this gig for all these years I have concluded that teaching is an art form more than a science and creativity, flexibility, and spontaneity have, by default, become undervalued and passe. Tomorrow is a teacher duty day and I don't start actually start teaching until Wednesday. Our district starts much earlier than other districts because we take a week off at Thanksgiving and three weeks at Christmas.....My summer plans didn't turn out the way I had planned due to my back issues which plagued me all summer but I can't complain because most folks are lucky to get two to three weeks off a year. This was the first summer in a long time that I didn't go on a big camping trip so I kind of feel like I haven't been on vacation yet. Kind of weird how that is. Today is my last day of vacation and I don't have any big plans except to go to see my physical therapist and the dentist and maybe see a movie this afternoon. Thinking about seeing Stardust. I am a sucker for fantasy flics and the reviews on Rottentomatoes were favorable for the most part. Congratulations to Barry Bonds and Tiger Woods, the two greatest athletes of times... Looking forward to football season. I don't expect much from the St. Louis Rams but my USC Trojans are primed and pumped to make a run at the National Championship again. Not making any predictions because they have some tough road games this years but their defense is scary looking and they are loaded with talent. Coach Pete Carroll will have them ready to go but am concerned that since they are the front runner they might get too overconfident at some point in the season and college football is tricky because all it takes is losing one game at the wrong time of the season and your chance to win it all go out the window...Getting philosophical....Life is good...short...strange at times...up and down...cyclical rather than linear...and always unpredictable...It's the nature of the beast...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Blogging Strategy

Over the past six months my blog entries have been up and down in terms of consistency and I have gone as long as a month before posting anything and I suspect there are a couple of reasons for my inconsistency. For starters, and as I have mentioned before, I really have to work at writing. It's not second nature for me and I really have work diligently at putting something coherent together...Also, I put too much pressure on myself to put something together for public consumption which is probably due to being too self conscious about what others may think...but...whatever the reason...I am going to try to post more often and not try to put too much pressure on myself to put together something too serious or profound which I am prone to try to do probably too this point I am going to put into practice what I say and end this blog entry before I ramble on too much...and...hopefully be back sooner than later with a new leaner and meaner blogging entry...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Heading off to the Wilderness

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After going to physical therapy and resting my back for the past three weeks I feel I am up for a trip to the wilderness. I'll be taking off tomorrow morning. I'll spend the first five days with my mom and aunt in San Jose and if the progress on my back continues to improve I intend to head up to my favorite wilderness stomping grounds on the North Coast of California. I love the North Coast of California and have made an annual pilgrimage now for eighteen years running. I love the North Coast because of the wilderness, ancient forests of Redwood groves, enchantment, cool weather, and the lack of people. Eureka which has a population of only 40,000 is the largest city on the North Coast. This year, for the first time ever, I won't be camping, because of my back, and intend to stay a week at my girlfriends sisters house which is only a stones throw from Redwood National Park. I can't wait to go and see the usual sights and sounds which over the years has included eagles, bears, elk, mountain lions, banana slugs, and the most spectacular forests on the North American continent...and... this year I am hoping to see and capture on my digital camera, either,bigfoot or a forest gnome. As many trips as I have taken over the years one would figure I would eventually run across one these creatures...I'll be gone for a total of two weeks and be back in time to start work during the second week of August. In the meantime, keep cool, don't sweat the small stuff, be good as my momma used to say, and I'll post a few pics of bigfoot or a forest gnome when I get back....I promise....

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mini Vacation with my sons

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My back improved well enough for my sons and I to take a trip up to the Bay Area to see my mom and a couple of days of sightseeing...which...I am very grateful for...because this may be the last summer my sons are all able to get away the same time...My mom is not doing too well these days so I was glad my sons could hang out and spend some time with her....I don't expect her to live another year...but...I thought that last summer as well....she will soon be 93 years old...she still has alot of fight in her...but...her body is no longer cooperating....After three days of visiting my mom my sons and I went up to Santa Rosa and hung out for three days...We did a little shopping, going to movies, and some sightseeing...Normally, we camp out and do alot of hiking/biking, etc. but my back restricted what we could do. We did do a little bit of hiking which I probably shouldn't have done because my back is bothering me quite a bit now. I start therapy later today and hopefully that will help get me back into shape so I can resume some of my outdoor activities which I love to do but have had to put on hold for over a month now....the highlights of the trip included seeing the new Harry Potter and Die Hard movies. I enjoyed them both...very entertaining...The other highlight was the road trip we took to the coast one day when the fog finally took a twenty four hour break...I allowed my sons to drive most of the way...They loved it....We saw a really cool lighthouse....beach....a few Elk...and...just a lot of beautiful rolling hills...Northern California is very different, geographically, than Southern California...and...imo...much more beautiful...One can actually see Redwood groves...Elk...and wilderness....within an hours drive of San Francisco...and...Unlike Southern California...the folks up north haven't cut down every tree and covered the landscape in concrete...It's a whole different attitude up north...anyway...Just got back...and spending the next week at home...doing therapy...and...if I get better I hope to go up to my old stomping grounds in Humboldt country and spend a week or so before I have to go back to work in the middle of August...

Beautiful Northern California

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