Monthly Archives: March 2009

Good Birthday News

The two events are not, I suspect, causally related, but today is my mother’s birthday (Yay, Mom!) — a sufficient reason for joy and celebration by itself. Candles and song, if not a parade and marching bands, will no doubt ensue on Nantucket Island today.
Yet while I was browsing around the Web this morning, I noticed that a few days ago, the Nantucket Historical Association has opened a Flickr account and licensed their images under “no known restrictions” licenses. The NHA is relatively small (209 images today) compared with, for instance, the Library of Congress (5,621 images) or the Smithsonian (1,490 images, including a photo of Nantucket summer resident Lillian Gilbreth — see, it’s all intertwingled, which concept connects this digression to Nantucket visitor David Weinberger too) — but its very smallness makes the point that the cultural commons doesn’t exist solely from and for the Massive Institutions, but especially from and for the more modest archives that couldn’t afford the information architecture and infrastructure that would make public access so convenient. Three cheers for my Mom, three cheers for the NHA, and three cheers for a shareable cultural heritage! Hip, hip, hooray!

Tempted In Every Way As We Are

I was thinking about the gospel passage that cites popular opinion to the effect that Jesus was a glutton and a wino this afternoon, and wondering why our visual representations of Jesus never hint at the physical symptoms that might have corroborated such an assessment.
Not, that is, that I irreverently wish that our stained glass windows show the unedifying spectacle of a Jesus flushed, red-nosed, and tottering along the road — I can readily imagine that even if we take the gossip-mongers at their word, we have reasons both historical and theological to demur from supposing that Jesus regularly drank to excess.
On the other hand, though, all the figures of Jesus that I can call to mind range from emaciated to average in girth. We have the synoptic gospels’ word that Jesus fasted for forty days at the outset of his ministry; that would provide grounds for the “skinny Jesus” tradition. But once Jesus rejoins social life after his testing in the wilderness, we characteristically encounter him at dinner parties, supplying superabundant food for crowds (albeit with no indication that he used it to satisfy his own hunger), rebutting the urgency of fasting for his disciples, and again, being accused of gluttony. All of these provide at least tenuous grounds for thinking of Jesus as a big eater, and stoutness is no sin — so why should these many indications outweigh (pardon the pun) the testing narrative such that I don’t ever see a picture or sculpture of a jolly, round-bellied Savior?

Ideas Crashing Together

Darryl prodded me, the other day, to point to the Auseinandersetzung between Gardner Campbell and Jim Groom about the nature, importance, and current status of Edupunk. I had so many, such varied thoughts about it that I stalled out trying to figure out just what to say.
On one hand, I’m not a punk in any sense of the term, never was, not even in the seventies — so I don’t have an existential stake in the internal conflicts. I admire a great deal in the punk outlook, and I care that it not be diluted or poisoned by additives that mix in someone else’s great idea about what music, or punk, or some other enterprise, ought to be like (that’s one reason I try to butt out of the back-and-forth; my ideas don’t pertain, and would probably attenuate the urgent vigor of punk with my senior-citizen, bourgeois preoccupations).
On the other hand, some of what I’m up to bears clear relations to punk, and [some versions of] edupunk demonstrate ideas I advocate. Add in, then, my concern about the relation of popular music to theology (and theological education), and this very long reflection and its comment thread bring to the fore some white-hot issues for theological educators, especially since (as Michael points out in an essay on which he’s working) radical discipleship and the punk ethos converge at many points.
I don’t have a convenient take-away capsule, but these sorts of discussion matter, and they affect academy and church (and music!) in ways that we’ll be untangling for years to come.

Blister City

Not my feet, though that’s what one would suppose with my recent foray into locomotion — but my fingers. My very handsome little Sheaffer 5-30 Ringtop has a section that will not let go. This one is resisting even more fiercely than the Spors.


The ring around the bathroom washbasin means that Pippa’s hair is now some shade of purple. She hasn’t descended yet, so I haven’t seen the corpus dilecti, but I’m sure it will be fine. I think her ordinary hair color is exquisite, but if she wants purple for a few weeks I don’t mind. Photographic evidence will follow, I’m sure.
And, shamed by Halley and Dave and Pippa herself (who has been running laps around East Campus lately), I got up early and ran-walked halfway around the Duke running path this morning. I remember the first metabolic change in my life, when I suddenly could no longer eat whatever I wanted and still not gain weight. I’m coming to terms with the second great metabolic change, when I can no longer run to catch a bus, or lope upstairs, without my legs feeling leaden and my lungs straining. I acknowledged this change back in the fall, when my cholesterol reults came back; now I’m beginning Phase Two of my resistance-to-inertia initiative. Plus, I know that however disheartening my job situation may be, exercise and fresh air will always make a positive difference in my outlook. So watch out — the ungainly professor lumbering along the path might be me.

That Time Of Year Again

The FalconCam is on again, offering live coverage of the Evanston Public Library’s resident falcons’ nest-building, egg-care, hatching, and fledging process. Plus, if you scroll down the page a little, they display a lovely photo of one of last year’s young falcons.
This means that for the next few weeks, Margaret will frequently message me to ask if I’ve seen the latest photos, for she keeps what one might call a hawk’s eye on the site.

Well, That’s A First

I just bid goodbye to two of Durham’s finest, who had been sent ’round to our home to investigate a complaint that our address was selling guns and drugs. The officers came to our back door — which we neveer use — because “that’s how you have to get into the upstairs apartment,” and were a little startled to discover this disheveled old professor and his wife’s minuscule lap dog.
We went over the various possibilities: no, it didn’t seem likely that the other half of our duplex were the targets; no, we haven’t complained to the police about someone, such that the two addresses might have gotten mixed up; no, we haven’t had hostile run-ins with anyone in the neighborhood.
The officers concluded that I’m not an arms dealer or pusher, and we had a good conversation, but — alas! — no trangressors were brought to justice. And, thankfully, no record in a fingerprint file.

Out Of Shape Faculty

No, not my physique (although that’s absolutely true; in my fantasy world Margaret or I would get a job near a gym we could afford to belong to so that I could be active and healthy as Halley) — I mean, my faculty of critical recollection and assessment of musical information. I realized, the other day, that I’m losing some saved data that I haven’t used in years: the starting outfield for the 1944 Browns, for instance, or what I think of the various performers in the bands to which I listen constantly.
When Pippa and I were driving to Carrboro, listening to the Who, I pointed out Keith Moon’s delicate drum fills adjacent to his prodigiously energetic banging. Pippa, with characteristic curiosity, asked what other drummers I particularly respected — and I was flummoxed. I mean, plenty of other drummers do their work well. I just can’t pull out of my memory any examples of especially noteworthy rock drummers as distinct from “yup, there he is, good job” drummers.
Now, back in olden times, when Tuck and Matt and Johnny and Finn and mountains of other college friends and I would sit around and argue about such topics, I’d have been able to compile a Top Twenty-five list with relative ease. I still haven’t dredged up a Second After Keith Moon list — so I’m counting on commenters to leave nominations. Bear in mind — and as my students know, I’m particularly fierce on this — that I’m looking for nominations with reasons, not just boosterism, cheerleading, and other modes of fan-behavior. Evidence-based assertions only, please! And maybe the discussion will jar some dusty, cobwebbed memories back into vivid circulation.