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Monday, January 31, 2011


Blue white light does not reflect
from their deep black eyes,
those black holes in grey space
from which nothing escapes.

I was taken from my truck
as I drove, alone after a day’s work.
The engine stalled; the radio died
and strange pale fire burned the sky.

It’s hazy, but I remember being watched
by three fetus-faced creatures;
a forth stuck long needles
into my skull, lungs, and groin.

They came halfway across the galaxy
for kinky medical experimentation,
fifty-three thousand light years to
fulfill their interspecies perversions.

I didn’t ask for this, not for any of it,
not the black outs or missing hours
not the midnight nosebleeds or the stifling paranoia.
I just want my life back.

You can keep the new age platitudes
and the science-fiction mysticism,
these visitors from the stars tell only lies;
the truth is not out there.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Various Birds

I think we're in real trouble. I don't know how this started or why, but I know it's here and we'd be crazy to ignore it... The bird war, the bird attack, plague - call it what you like. They're amassing out there someplace and they'll be back. You can count on it... Unless we do something right now...
-from The Birds

Important! Read This First

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I'm Reading: Disaster Training

During the past couple of days I have been sitting through a series of training classes for Disaster work - specifically deployment to international disaster events. 

The Sphere Project's Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response has been our primary text  and, nerd that I am, I have really appreciated reading it. 

This guide book is intended as a tool to measure success.  How do we evaluate the work that we do?  What does success in a disaster event like the Haitian earthquake or Pacific Tsunami?  This guide was crafted by a committee of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization) to provide common standards for NGOs (like the Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc...) providing relief.
These are basic and universal  human rights - essential to a life with dignity.

How much water per person per day? (15 litres)
How many calories per day? (2,100 kcals per day - 10 - 12% from proteins and 17% from fats)
How much shelter space per person is appropriate? (3.5 covered square meters per person.)

It's detailed.  It's specific.  With it we can describe with transparency to our donors and partners what we were able to provide to those affected by a disaster event. 

In the next few weeks I'll probably be heading off to disaster work again - probably up in Fargo and Jamestown, North Dakota.  We're anticipating record water levels this year. There's already 60+ inches of snow on the ground.  The ground is already 100% saturated.  Last year the Red River crested at about 40 feet.... the city of Fargo is preparing for 44 feet this year. It could be bad.

Monday, January 24, 2011

El Topo - A Movie Review

El Topo is not a western. It goes beyond any western.
It is not a religious film. It contains all religions.
It is a mystic film.
El Topo is bloody. It is tender. It is sexual.
El Topo is marvelous and terrible.
It’s funny. It’s violent.
El Topo is monstrous and cruel.
El Topo is more than spectacle. It is an event for all your life.
-from the movie's trailer

Though it begins as many westerns do – with a grim and weathered gunslinger rinding in from the desert waste - Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1970 film El Topo is only superficially a western. We’ve seen this before in countless other westerns – with Wayne or Cooper or Eastwood. But El Topo is different, disturbingly so.

With this gunslinger rides a naked little boy. Why is he naked? This is only the first of many enigmas within El Topo.

There is minimal dialogue. Little is explained.

To explain would obviate the need for the movie. To explain would be to short cut the journey. And if it is anything, El Topo is about a journey, a journey toward spiritual enlightenment.

In the first half of the film El Topo (the Mole) battle four master gunmen in order to win the love of a woman who has convinced him to become the greatest gunman in the land. El Topo soon realizes that he cannot win against these Masters in a fair fight. Their skill outstrips his, and they have spiritual lessons to teach him if he would only submit to their teaching. Instead he resorts to trickery and lies in order to defeat them.

And this is his undoing. In winning he loses everything and is left to die alone in the wilderness.

The second half takes place many years later. He was rescued by a community of subterranean deformed outcasts. He vows to realize the lessons of the four masters and to rescue the underground dwellers. He performs tricks and stunts in the neighboring community to beg money for his project. El Topo (the Mole) needs money to buy dynamite in order to dig a tunnel to free his adopted community.

The residents of this neighboring town are as spiritually deformed as the underground outcasts are physically. They abuse and molest and murder and oppress the poor.  They worship the all-seeing-eye-within a pyramid – and insist that God loves them and God wants them to be rich and that nothing bad will ever happen to them. They play Russian roulette and proclaim each empty chamber a miracle until a small boy shoots himself in the head.

The movie has its own spiraling circling logic. The desert is a spiral. To find the way through it El Topo has to travel in a circle - and it makes little sense to evaluate the movie except within its own context. Jodorowsky uses Christian and Eastern religious symbols – but does so in his own idiosyncratic fashion.

This isn’t an easy film. It is violent and it is cruel. But for those who would, like El Topo, dig through its complexities and its difficulty there might be the light of the sun – or there might be only madness and death.

Ancient, Dreamless, Uninvaded Sleep

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Most Dangerous Man

I am, to my wife's chagrin, watching my way through the X-Files television series, revisiting Mulder and Scully, the Lone Gunmen, and, of course, The Cigarette Smoking Man.

He's the most dangerous man alive, not so much because he believes in his actions, but because he believes these actions are the only ones life allows him.

The Call of Isaiah

When the leprous King Uzziah died he took
his prosperous reign into the mists of history;
the peace and security of fifty years
collapsed beneath the threat of encroaching Assyrians.

That’s when I saw the thousand flaming seraphs
surrounding the One upon the throne;
their thundering voices shook the Temple posts
with the constant refrain: Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh!

My liquid knees collapsed beneath the weight of fear,
undone and unmade; I am obliterated by a vision
of the unseen God. I am an unclean man
with unclean lips living among a polluted people.

A six-winged seraph took burning coals from the altar fire
and flew through the glowing Shekinah cloud,
sizzle and smoke as he scorched my lips
Your guilt is gone; you’ve been set free.

         Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?

And as small as I am, I spoke with fresh-seared lips
‘Here I am. You can send me.’
With tremulous legs I stood to receive the word,
conscious of the Divine mercy that held me in place.

         Go and speak

But they’ll not listen. Speak and they won’t hear;
show them, but they’ll refuse to see.
Harden their hearts and dull their ears
or they might understand, change and be healed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where to go next?

Here's another little piece of music created with sounds available at the Freesound Project.

You can, if you want, download it here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Prognostication for the Disillusioned

And, for the wind, I drew myself behind
my guide, because there was no other shelter

Madam Sosostris has ditched her bohemian gypsy garb
to put on a respectable grey pant suit.
She writes articles for Better Homes and Gargoyles
in this ultramodern age; she bakes cookies.

But she still plots the course of stars and planets
through their heavenly arcs and will,
          for a modest fee,
reveal the reason why so many little birds are falling from the sky.

“It’s as if reality’s become an Irwin Allen movie,”
she says as she stares at the cards spread out like a bow
on the green felt lined table in front of her,
“and we’re just about to enter the second act

“when mutant catfish monsters and
smug secret agents will come staggering up
from Floridian swamps, intoxicated with madmen plans
for world domination and outrageous medical experiments.

“A coprophagic cult of newsmen and pundits
will lie in wait, hidden and ready to attack
under the hemorrhaging light of a red eclipse.
Most of their victims will never be found.

“Strong winds from the north and west
will sweep down across the plains, wild and hoary
like a hound from the frozen circles of hell,
driving men to madness
and media induced mass hysteria.”

The seer shivers and folds the cards back into the deck.


I was a sailor. I was born upon the tide
And with the sea I did abide.
I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico
I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow
And when the yards broke off they said that I got killed
But I am living still.

-Johnny Cash - "Highwayman"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Oubliette

An oubliette
a dungeon, a hole accessible only through a hatch in a high ceiling,
a place of forgetting,

a place to be forgotten...

What's Your Favorite

Here is another of the little painted cards I've finished recently.  (Other examples are here, here, and here.) 

What's your favorite?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Do ye' ken where a man'o the sea can find a hearty meal an' a cold cup'o ale?

...on slick glossy magazine paper

This one and this one are part of a series of 18 little paintings / collages I've finished recently.  They're made with acrylic and spray paint on slick glossy magazine paper. 

They're each a little smaller than 4" x 3".

Master Padlock Security

Acrylic paint, spray paint,  and paper cut outs

Don't let thieves steal yours.

The Riddle

Hey diddle-diddle
this is the riddle
of a boy that flew to the moon;
the rockets were scrapped,
and the beer kegs were tapped
to provide enough lift for the balloon.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Covus Corax

But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it; and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein: and he will stretch over it the line of confusion, and the plummet of emptiness.

               Isaiah 34:11 (ASV)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Brother the Cat

According to a myth in many cultures, cats have multiple lives. In many countries, they are believed to have nine lives, but in some Spanish-speaking regions they are said to have seven lives, while in Turkish and Arabic traditions the number of lives is six. The myth is attributed to the natural suppleness and swiftness cats exhibit to escape life-threatening situations. Also lending credence to this myth is that falling cats often land on their feet because of an inbuilt automatic twisting reaction and are able to twist their bodies around to land feet first, though they can still be injured or killed by a high fall. least that's what Wikipedia says.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Songs of the Servant

I wrote these poetic intrepretations of Isaiah's servant songs some time ago.  Since I'll be preaching from the first of those songs (Isaiah 42: 1 - 9) on Sunday, I thought I'd share them with you.

Songs of the Servant

The First Song

It’s time, now, to reveal something of my greater plan,
it’s time to show you someone I hold fast.

He’s not like the others
        Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!
clamoring for attention,
shouting from televised church pulpits,
desperate for public authority.

Nor is he like those who
impose their self serving views
with violent coercion:
         Submit or die! Submit or die!
This one will hold the smoldering wick carefully
till it burns bright once more.

I’ve formed you to be a light,
I’ve formed you to be a vow,
to open closed disinterested eyes
and to open death-row doors.
I’ve told you what will come.

The Second Song

My mouth is Yahweh’s sharpened sword,
he fires my words like swift and polished arrows.
He declares me his servant to win him glory.
But all my strength is spent:
the quiver is empty;
the blade is chipped and dull.

This mission is too small for you, he says,
to lift up just one race in an isolated corner of the globe.
Instead you’ll shine for all nations
the saving light of justice.

They despise you. They abhor you
but they will kneel – kings and princes
presidents and premiers,
all in my good time.

The expanse of space rings with joy
and the earth echoes back:
the Lord of the Universe has comforted his people;
the Lord of the Universe has nursed the wounded.

The Third Song

I’ve been given the disciples tongue,
         a well taught tongue,
ready to share the right word
of comfort for the weary.
And my ears have been opened;
awakened every morning
by the voice of Yahweh my LORD.

I know the stroke of the lash
on the bound slave’s back.
I’ve been whipped and scarred,
and whipped again.
And these children that you spit on
can look to me – I did not hide
from your contempt and insult.

I’ll be waiting on the courthouse steps.
I’ll hear your accusations; I’ll beat your charge.
Who is it that could declare me guilty?

The Fourth Song

Speechless: What could we say to rationalize?
                   How could we justify?
                   His disfigurement was inhuman.

Who would have believed us, anyhow?
He was nothing from first to last:
a dirty-yard weed
        put down like a junkyard dog.

But he carried away the weight of shame that crippled us,
that man of sorrows, that man of pain.
There is only one brow that this crown of thorns will fit.

Yahweh chose to crush him beneath
the weight of that great plan,
but he gave himself in silent surrender for me.

Hunting At Night

Creatures of the night, flying through the dark - this is a song for them.

Once again I used some great sounds from the Freesound Project:

Marching Mice
D Min
D Minor 1
Bats Hunting For Insects 8X Slower
Crash 18

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exploring Cardboard Caverns

When exploring the cardboard caverns, be sure to notice the corrugated features formed over countless millennia of dripping water and mineral deposits.  These are some of nature’s strangest works. But be very careful to avoid the Kobolds.  They take any intrusion into their underground territory as a call to war.

Le Vainqueur

And the healer
Makes better and better and better

Le vainqueur

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walkin' On

The movie clips I used to make this video all came from the Internet Archive.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Fragile Flash of Lightning

A fragile flash of lightning
between ground and sky
and I want to leave this place.

And God is on Your Side

And God is on your side
Dividing sparrows from the nightingales
Watching all the time
Dividing water from the burning fire... inside

Monday, January 10, 2011


It's time, once again, for some music.


You can, if you like, download it here.
This song was made with some sounds from the Freesound Project:

Eerie Strings 
Stretched Out Cathedral Glitch

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Sound of No Hands Clapping

Arise My Darling

My love spoke and said to me
“Arise my darling
my fair one, come
for look, the winter is past
the rain is over, gone”.
Song of Songs 2: 10 - 11

Thursday, January 6, 2011

For What Crime?

"So what do I do with this man you call King of the Jews?"
They yelled, "Nail him to a cross!"
Pilate objected, "But for what crime?"
But they yelled all the louder, "Nail him to a cross!"
                                                    Mark 15:12-14

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I'm Reading: The Liturgical Year

I didn't grow up in a liturgical denomination.  My denomination doesn't have much use for the liturgy.  So I'm mostly unfamiliar with the liturgical cycle.  I don't know the appropriate colors for Lent.   I don't know my feast days from my fast days; the only St. day I'm familiar with is St. Patrick's day and Ordinary Time sounds, to me, so very ... ordinary. So reading The Liturgical Year: the Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister has been a venture into unfamiliar territory.

Let me give an example.

Christmas - for me - has always come at the end of the year.  And this makes a sort of obvious sense.  The holiday comes toward the end of the last month of the civic and solar calendar.  But for centuries the Christian Church has celebrated Advent and Christmas as the beginning of the year.

Similarly, Sunday has always been a part of the week's end.   We'd go to church on Sundays -at the end of a long weary week - to "recharge our spiritual batteries," as it were.  But, like Advent, Sundays are the beginning of the week. Sunday (the little Easter) shouldn't the drooping and dragging end of a week but the joyful celebration of a new beginning. I've got things all together backwards.

The liturgical calendar might seem like an arbitrary arrangement of feasts and celebrations, but it has been deliberately designed and over the centuries carefully refined as a subtle teacher, teaching by pattern and repetition the foundational truths of the Christian faith.   Like Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel karate with endlessly repeated tasks, the liturgical year - when purposefully and intelligently followed - can give strength and skills to our faith.
the purpose of the liturgical year is to bring to life in us and around us, little by little, one layer of insight after another until we grow to full stature in the spiritual life.  (pg. 21)
Though most of the book has prompted me to further reading and to a deeper exploration of the lliturgical cycle, Chapter 32 on Marian Feasts was largely wasted on me.  The Roman Catholic devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, isn't something I'll be incorporating into the way I put the lliturgical year into practice. 

I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, January 3, 2011

Affected Apricots and Sad Departing

Blurred by the moon and by the lingering effects
of consuming affected apricots;
the sweet juice on my skin, apricot skin,
bleeding quietly except for the minstrels
singing funeral dirges in the back room.

We are playing abroad with clarinets
and with aberrant calculus.
You hold her well in sweet anticipation,
in sweet antiphonies of strange divisions.

Stoop now. Duck low through this
burrow that will lead us
to our aching destiny
and our sad departing.

All this and you, you accepted
and accustomed me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What I'm Reading: Historical Fiction

This, I think, will be a new reoccuring feature of this blog: What I'm Reading

Right now it's historical fiction.

I just finished Airman by Eoin Colfer (I guess I didn't actually read it.  I listened to it on CD during the long drive between here and Chicago and back.) We picked this one because my kids are big fans of Colfer's Artemis Fowl series.  It was in the kids section of our library, but don't let that fool you.  It's not simplistic or childish.  I really enjoyed it and am interested to see the forthcoming movie adaptation (even if it is Disney...)  Also, my daughter has informed me that Eoin Colfer was commissioned to write the sixth installment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.  Eegads! Why does my 11 year old daughter know that before I do?  Have I been sleeping?  You can expect to see that book in this new feature before too long.

Also I am re-reading Stephen R. Lawhead's Byzantium  (actually re-rereading, I guess. I've read it a couple of times already) - the story of an Irish monk in the 10th century and his incredible and roundabout journey towards his destiny in the fabled city of Byzantium (later -Constantinople and later later-Istanbul).  Rich historical detail.  Exciting adventure. Exotic locations.  Deep Faith.  Good Stuff. 

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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