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28
Dec

Duck Dynasty Palaver

So, we already know from following the media in the past few weeks, that the Duck Dynasty guy, Phil Robertson by name (of the Robertson family whose exploits the “reality” show is about), got his Constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of religion violated by the evil A&E Network, who put him on hiatus because of a crude and homophobic rant he delivered in in interview with GQ– and A&E has already restored Phil to the show, having caved in after much protest.  (Note to U.S. Constitution non-experts: Only the government can violate one’s First Amendment rights to either freedom of speech or the practice of religion; a private company like A&E Network can’t.  I expect Sarah Palin not to know that, but Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is both a lawyer and a Rhodes Scholar, so he should — a almost certainly does– know better.  Just playing to the base, ya know.)

Note to those who decry the alleged “political correctness” that got Robertson busted: Connecting homosexuality to bestiality is the very definition of homophobia.

So, On Duck Dynasty, the Robertson clan is a depicted as a ZZ Top-bearded, all-camo-wearing clan of duck hunters and backwoods sages.   But, hey, they manage to run a successful business selling duck calls and other hunting products, so someone must actually be working hard.  And in their natural state, they seem to be Polo-wearing, clean-shaven golf lovers, as the picture below shows:

Duck Dynasty's Robertsons, sans beards

Duck Dynasty’s Robertsons, sans beards

What do we learn from this?  Well, other than TV “reality” shows are not the same as reality, I just don’t know.

And by the way, the photo above as well as other photos of the Robertsons (including one from patriarch Phil’s days playing quarterback at Louisiana Tech, where he was the starter ahead of Terry Bradshaw) come from here: http://starcasm.net/archives/185517

23
Dec

Lessons & Carols

Today, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church here in Gainesville, FL, we had our annual Lessons & Carols service, which precedes the Christmas Eve service every year.

GalaxyM74 -- right after "formless and void"

GalaxyM74 — right after “formless and void”

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21
Dec

Coolest. Book. Ever

I order books from Amazon fairly often — sometimes it’s a download for the Kindle, and sometimes it’s an actual paper book that comes through the mail (no Amazon ornicopters (octocopters?) in the sky yet).

When it’s paper-mailed, I tend to forget I ordered it and therefore get a surprise when it arrives.  Which happened today — Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky.  Seemed as if it oughtta be a paper book, since it has maps; the Kindle probably just wouldn’t do justice to the graphics and layout.

St. Kilda, far north of the British Isles

St. Kilda, far north of the British Isles

Pictured above is St. Kilda, far to the Northeast of the British Isles.  The book locates it, “at the furthest edge of the United Kingdom, beyond the outermost of the Outer Hebrides” (34).  There is one village, and Schalansky notes that between the seventh and ninth day of life, “two-thirds of the newborn babies die, boys outnumbering girls” (34).  The cause is unknown — the diet, inbreeding, suffocation from peat fires in the middle of rooms.

The book is beyond amazing; I’m only 50 pages in, and I’ve read about island after island that I’ve never heard of and didn’t even imagine was possible.  Some of them were discovered hundreds of years ago, some more recently, and some were discovered long ago by famous sailors (e.g., Captain Cook, Vasco de Gama) and couldn’t be found again for a time (being in Earth’s remote regions, like the far south Atlantic or the far north seas), in a time before there were airplanes or Global Positioning Satellites.

I’ve loved maps ever since I was a child.  At St. John of the Cross School, which I attended from grades 1-6 in the 1950s, our teachers, mostly nuns, made us draw or trace maps for homework.  I guess the idea was to familiarize us, by hand and by eye and mind, with geography.  I loved doing it and have been in love with maps ever since — paper maps, globes, Google maps, everything.

Fascinating book.  Fascinating maps.

19
Dec

Carleton Christmas

I got my Bachelor’s degree from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and since I’m an alumnus (and an alumnus who donates), I get emails, including an email yesterday with an electronic Christmas card from President Steven Poskanzer.

Carleton Christmas

Carleton Christmas

The card, when played, showed alternate views of Carleton College buildings in the summer and in the snowy winter, with an accompanying musical chorus.  If you’d like to play it and see\hear for yourself, click on this link (no point of clicking on the arrow in the picture above, as that’s only a picture of a forward arrow that plays a slideshow\video):  http://apps.carleton.edu/campus/president/card/2013/

I’m keeping the email in my Inbox to look at it from time to time — it’s a nice thing to have in this Christmas season.  Since Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, I’ve decorated the outside of the condo with a few tasteful lights (after overdoing it and then cutting it back, I think it’s tasteful), and there’s now a decorated tree in the living room, a great comfort when I get up in the darkness or come home in the darkness.

Christmas lights are pretty clearly an effort to light up the increasing darkness of the Winter Solstice season.   Like most human efforts to fight back against all kinds of darkness, it’s equal parts pitiful and heroic.

13
Dec

Dementia of Another Kind

Don’t mean “dementia,” really, which is a medical term.  What I really mean is “dementedness,” which for me is when people act like they’re nuts.  (“Nuts” is not a psychiatric diagnosis, to be sure — but I’m not a psychiatrist.) Crazy, demented.

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

So, as the picture shows, stormy weather is always a possibility, and stormy times have to be gone through.  A good friend of mine, Bill, called about an hour ago, drunk and at home (again–this seems to happen every few weeks or so).  Tough talking to him when he’s all slurry, and just making an excuse and hanging up isn’t really an option — he needs some help, and the least I can do is talk to him for half an hour.  And that’s what I did.  (And now it’s the next morning, and I talked to him again — he’s a little better today.)

Upsetting when this happens, but it reminds me of all the times that my friends and family had to deal with me when I was in my cups, large and small.  (Or I imagine they did — no memory of it.)

So I took my dog Siouxie for a walk, then called another friend in the program, Tom, when I got back.  He knows Bill pretty well, Twelfth-Stepped him once, understands and sympathizes.  Good to talk with Tom — I see him 4 or 5 times a week at meetings, we usually talk (sometimes for quite awhile), but this is the first time I’ve phoned him. Maybe it’s good for me to talk to another alcoholic, whether he’s drunk or sober; maybe it’s good for me to reach out and ask for help.

The blessing here is that God gives me the opportunity to help others, which is a way of helping me.

9
Dec

Frontal Lobe Dementia

At the New Freedom A.A. meeting today, we finished up our year-long reading of the Big Book — reading the not-so-interesting appendices, today including the “Twelve Concepts.”    Not much there to spark an interesting, personal discussion, so people in the meeting  bloviated about how grateful they were that A.A. had all sorts of layers of administration, advisory councils, committees, etc.  As for me, I’m just not interested in committees, committee meetings, passing resolutions, all the administrivia that goes along with what is to me, over-organization.

But my friend Ruth shared something interesting: Her mom, she said, suffered from frontal-lobe dementia for about 10 years until her death, and the symptoms of Frontal Lobe Dementia more-or-less mimicked the symptoms of Ruth’s alcoholism.  (When the Big Book was written in the 1930’s, the medical profession as well as society was slow to come to terms with the fact that alcoholism is a disease, not a moral error.)

Ruth’s comments interested me because in 2002, I had surgery and then radiation treatment for a Temporal-Frontal Lobe brain tumor (an Atypical Meningioma).  During the run-up to my hospitalization, everyone who knew me simply attributed my strange behavior to drunkenness.

This included my physician, who noted the awful tremor I had in my left hand but diagnosed it as a hereditary tremor, late onset in my 40’s and 50’s.   Even worse, I was in detox in March of 2002, and my doctors didn’t think to order an MRI for a brain tumor — though one of them is now the Medical Director of the Florida Recovery Center (our local drug and alcohol treatment facility) and the other is a neurologist in recovery, they thought my symptoms were due to alcoholism.

A spectacular illustration of the saying, “If your only tool is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail to you.”

Meningioma

Meningioma

The happy ending is that, unnerved by my increasing tremor and problems with balance, and having slipped and fallen pretty badly while hiking down Blood Mountain in northern Georgia in the summer, I’d scheduled an appointment with a neurologist.  Before the appointment, though, on the morning of August 6, 2002, I was running with the dogs in the woods as usual, slipped and fell, couldn’t get up.  I crawled out of the woods on my face, mostly, the dogs alerted my neighbor, Glen, and I was off to the hospital.  After the MRI, I was stabilized for a few days (I’d had a seizure in the woods, causing the fall and inability to get up), then had surgery.

My friend Tom said to me in the hospital, “Lucky you had that seizure warning.”  Lucky, indeed.

8
Dec

Altar Service

I had a job at my church today (St. Michael’s Episcopal), as I do every 3 weeks — Altar Server.   I light the candles, assist Father Rich, our rector, on the altar, read from the Scripture to the congregation, and serve the communion cup.

First thing about Sunday church, I get to take a 10-minute walk over there — and today in Gainesville, Florida, it’s a low of 60 degrees and a high of 81, clear and dry, so it’s a lovely walk.  When I arrive at church, the choir is rehearsing, a lovely sound.  A few people I know, Gloria, B.J., and Vaughn, are in the Narthex (little room right outside the door to the Worship Hall), and I chat with them.

Stmichaels

Soon it’s time for me to go put on vestments and light the candles.  I also make sure that the day’s readings are on the podium.  Check.  I see Father Rich back in the sacristy where we’re vesting, say hi.  Then it’s showtime — we pray briefly and head out to the front.

I do my job, which includes a somewhat long reading from the Letter to the Romans (well, not just reading out loud but instead proclaiming the Word of God to my brothers and sisters.)  Father Rich does his sermon (on one of the readings, about a useless “stump” becoming transformed into the gift of Jesus, whose birthday is coming up).  We share the Peace with one another, recite the Creed, and I lead the Prayers of the People.  Then a bit of this and that, and it’s soon time for communion.  I give the cup to each person, calling them by name if I know it (e.g., “Sue, the Blood of Christ, shed for you”).

Doing this every 3 weeks helps my spiritual life and also helps my recovery, which requires that I stay in continual contact with a Higher Power, whom I choose to call God.  Contact with God is very strong on Sundays; it’s like charging a battery, and sometimes the charge lasts all week.