Wine, Wine, Wine

Once upon a time, marketing wine involved extremely little obvious panache or verve: bottles had labels, price tags, and some had reputations, and one bought the bottle with the most suitable combination of qualities. Most of us shopped for wine almost randomly, a pattern aggravated by the way labels drifted into and out of stock at particular vendors.

I’ve lately observed two new tacks for marketing wine. The first, which I detest, involves cooking up a cutesy name for the wine, and designing an loud, eye-catching label. Since I do my best to make marginally-informed decisions when buying wine, the uninformative-name-and-label combination adds frustration to condescending insult. Here’s a message to wine marketers: no matter how good your wine is, I will not buy it if you slap a puerile joke name onto it. My (almost) twelve-year-old daughter noticed this trend the other day, and she was insulted by it. Call your wine “Mynah Triumph” and label it with a bird, and you can guarantee I won’t buy a drop of it.

The other tactic I noticed was Hugh’s campaign on behalf of Stormhoek. Hugh has persuaded Stormhoek to give away wine to bloggers — no questions asked. He reasons that (on the whole) bloggers will tell the truth about the wine, and that the odds suggest that a good many will write about it, and so Stormhoek gets the free publicity, the market research, and the meta-PR buzz of having developed a snappy campaign.

Oh, and the name isn’t a cloyingly clever joke, and the label actually tells you useful things about the wine.

[Full Disclosure: No, I haven’t gotten a free bottle of wine to promote the “free bottle of wine” campaign; if offered a bottle, I would accept it, but it doesn’t look as though U.S. citizens have a chance for the time being. I’d rather pay for a bottle of wine I know I’ll enjoy, than try to weed out the noble, workmanlike claret from the throngs of trendy “Goats Do Roam,” “Mad Housewife,” and “Smoking Loon.” For short, my Weinberger Real Disclosure Forward Looking Statement (WRDFLS) = FT2 SUT IJND]

Wily Chicagoans

Margaret spotted a story in yesterday’s NY Times, vindicating yet again her contention that she saw a coyote walking down a street in Evanston a few years back. At the time, I mocked her — but since then I’ve had to eat those jests over and over again.

“Professor Gehrt says with confidence that the sensible suburban toddler has little to fear from the suburban coyote, but he will not say the same for the suburban Shih Tzu” — or Bichon Frisé, so watch out, Bea!

On the Academic Front

I plan to try to work David Weinberger’s newly-re-available philosophy articles (“Austin’s Flying Arrow,” and “Phenomenological Ethics”) into papers and presentations, if I can (I mean, at the very least I can throw in a “contra Weinberger” here or there).

And we’ve had some encouraging developments on the Disseminary front, which I don’t want to get specific about till everything’s nailed down — but even a drop of good news over there feels exciting.

IP Madness

I hope that whoever’s behind the story to which David pointed yesterday has made a big mistake, or that the patent office (not having evaluated the patent application yet) will dismiss it outright. But the fact that someone might think it plausible to patent a story line — just throw in the actions against Google Print, and these cases amply illustrate the chilling winds generated by recent IP laws and decisions.

Sorry, Hawkeyes

This morning got off to a rough start — for Pippa, at least — when the parking lot across the street began to fill up early with partisans of the visiting college football team. As this is our seventh football season living on the Northwestern campus (gosh, that seems like a long time; I haven’t lived anywhere longer since I left high school), rowdy visiting fans are not a new phenomenon to us; still, this bunch seemed earlier and more ardent than most we’d experienced, including the Michigan fans from a few weeks ago. Before nine o’clock, someone had blared a klaxon reveille to rally the visiting tailgaters, and it got more lively from there.

I should say that although people were obviously excited and had drunk more beer than advisable before eleven in the morning, I didn’t see anyone misbehave except for the over-endowed student in a Porsche who made a sudden left turn into the parking lot without signalling, and who refused to back up when it became clear that there was no way forward for him, and who finally did back out slowly, blocking traffic on Noyes Street longer than necessary because he seemed to harbor the notion that if only a few cars rolled forward out of the lot, he could squeeze in. Hey, we’ll all wait in gridlock while you come to terms with reality, dude. But I saw no signs of hooliganism or predation (unless you think of beer kegs as an endangered species).

It turns out these early-rising lagermeisters were Iowa Hawkeye fans, so I was predisposed to think the best of them, since some of my very favorite students are from Iowa. On the other hand, I hated to think what the parking lot might be like after the game. The game started at midday, so there would be plenty of time for gloating if the Hawkeyes won, which seemed especially likely when they went ahead 28-7 or thereabouts, or for vindictive vandalism if the Hawkeyes lost.

In the end, Northwestern won with just seconds left in the game, and thunderstorms moved into the region right about that time — so even if the Iowans had felt embittered and destructive (and I have no reason to think they would have — sometimes beer just mellows people out), this would not have been favorable weather for rampaging. Instead, everyone skulked back to Iowa, leaving the customary heaps of trash, bottles, and smoldering charcoal briquets.


Living apart from your beloved entails a number of discomforts and frustrations, as many of you can easily imagine. Many days I wish I were at Margaret’s apartment to give her a back rub or fetch her a cup of tea while she reads, or just offer my shoulder on which she might rest her study-wearied head.

Today I wish I were down there so I could take her out to dinner, someplace romantic and quiet (that serves gluten-free vegetarian entrees and a good red wine), so I could laugh and reminisce with her, so that I could hold up a glass and promise all my energies to making the next twenty-seven years together even better than the first have been.

Happy birthday, Margaret — you give us around you such a brave example of seeing what’s right and pursuing it, of holding up under stress, of always continuing to learn and to teach, of offering your time and strength to so many others who need your gifts as a friend, a mother, a counselor, a scholar. Happy birthday, many happy returns, and let’s get together soon!

Beyond. . . .

The seminar for which I’ve been preparing came up this morning, after the keynote presentation by Prof. Gary Dorrien, and a presentation on the psychology of religion by Prof. Lallene Rector of Garrett. The morning presentations were satisfactory; Prof. Dorrien’s talk started later and went longer than scheduled, so Prof. Rector hurried through her talk, and I had to leave early to get ready for preaching at the communion service.

Now, the service planning operated on several planes. All I knew was that the fellow who had organized the seminar hoped that I would preach, emphasizing the New Testament, on a topic pertinent to the conference. “OK,” I thought, “ ‘Beyond Dichotomous Theology’ is a plausible neutestamentliche topic.” I thought about other services I’d attended, and figured I could fit in to that mode of worship. I asked various Garrett contacts about what I should wear in worship, and all of them demurred — whatever I felt like. (Since I was preaching, not presiding at Eucharist, I brought my cassock and surplice.)

What I didn’t anticipate was that the conference organizer would assign my sermon a title that derived from the topic: I was expected to preach a sermon whose title was, “Liberal and Evangelical Viewed from the Discipline of Biblical Scholarship.” Oh!

Moreover, it turns out that (listen up, Jane and Susie and Frank) Thursday is Praise Worship Day. A rollicking praise band was rehearsing and the PowerPoint screen was warming up as I trundled in wearing my cassock and surplice. I think I might have been able to look more out of place, but I’m not sure how.

I took a quick read of the circumstances and doffed the surplice (the Keanu Reeves/Neo look). I followed the projected lyrics for the first few hymns, and when it was time to read the gospel, I used the terms that Garrett’s President Ted Campbell taught me. (No one responded, except Ted.) Then the sermon began.

I think that no one was disappointed that the sermon departed from the title that had been assigned. It went by fairly smoothly, and one of the very positive effects of the Praise setting was a smattering of “Amens.” (I’ll post the sermon in the extended section.)

Now, it’s the afternoon and we’ll have presentations from Prof. Nancy Bedford of Garrett and Dr. Marti Scott of the Northern Illinois District of the UMC. Then Prof. Dorrien will conclude the series of presentations, perhaps responding to the other presenters, and we’ll have a panel discussion. After that, I’ll collapse in a heap.
Continue reading “Beyond. . . .”

Scribble, Scribble

I’ve been trying to concentrate on my sermon for tomorrow’s “Beyond Dichotomous Theology” seminar across the street at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The featured speaker, Gary Dorrien, is a professor of my foster-daughter’s at Union — so if the pressure to preach a true word before God’s people and all the saints and angels assembled weren’t high enough, I’ll be trying to make a good impression for Jennifer’s sake.

Since I have that sermon to finish, and a Bible study group at St. Luke’s tonight, I’ll conclude for now by pointing to A Light Blazes in the Darkness, the Advent devotional book by the RevGalBlogPals, featuring contributions by Jane and Susie (among other people I know — I’m not sure who-all else is in on this). All the proceeds go to Katrina Relief — so by ordering a copy, you’ll be doing good both for your soul and for the survivors of the Louisiana-Mississippi hurricane.

(Unfortunately, it looks as though we’ll need to write a whole lot more devotionals if we’re going to shelter and feed the survivors of the Pakistan-India earthquake. . . .)

All Saints

Today is All Saints Day, and tomorrow All Souls Day — a doubleheader of my favorite holy days. I appreciate All Saints Day not only because it was the day Pippa was baptized, but also because it’s a feast that whose honor extends even to me. While I rejoice in remembering the feasts of my favorite hero-saints, there is no risk whatever that I would attain to that degree of the eminence. On the other hand, these days embrace even the least of the saints — people like me — and allot them a feast day. Those of us who miss the cut for “saints,” even loosely construed, are commemorated on All Souls.

So I think of the All Saints tapestries at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, but I also remember one of the very favorite things I’ve read online: Halley Suitt’s column called, “When My Dad Wakes Up Today.” If you haven’t read it before, go read it now and then come back. I can wait.

The punchline — “I’ve died and gone to heaven” — hit home to me especially this All Saints/Souls Day. I’ve had a fair helping of pastoral-care work to do on- and offline over the past few weeks, and have been touched by the sad circumstances of several other people who didn’t call on me as a pastor. As I reflected today on the beautiful souls who have entwined their lives with mine, as I think about Elway, and Halley’s dad, and Pem’s dad, and all the saints, I realize that even now, at every moment, I’m surrounded on every side by Pippa, Si, Nate, Margaret, and Juliet and Jennifer, and our family back east; by a tight and tremendous community of bloggers and readers, some with whom I email and message day by day, and others whom I will never know.

It’s not just Halley’s dad, but me, too: surrounded by so marvelous a cloud of witnesses, I can wake up with Jacob and say, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the very gate of heaven!”

Hurricane Metrics

I recognize that it wouldn’t measure any real quantity, but just out of curiosity: does anyone have a record of the number of “category-hours” of hurricanes this year, and how that compares to other years? Everyone seems to agree this year has been dramatically more active; it would be interesting to see that we had X hours of category five hurricane, Y hours of category four, Z of category three, and so on, compared to past hurricane seasons.