Saturday, August 11, 2007


No, I am not referring to things Potter at all. I ran across this bit of Yo-Yo Ma on Firedoglake and wanted to share it with the lovely people who stop by here.

Check out the Silk Road Project.

Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake tells us it's from his first Silk Road album. Thanks, Christy! (I love that woman.)
--the BB

Friday, August 10, 2007

Just in the mood to share photos

New Year's Day 2007, 6:01 p.m.,
looking southwest from my bedroom window

Epiphany 2007, 8:33 a.m.. with the moon in the western sky

One of my favorite photos

This is a view of Ácoma Pueblo that I really like. It was a a gray day when I took the photo. I have used this as my desktop photo on more than one computer over the past few years. Click on it to get a larger view with more detail

--the BB

Pilgrim memories - 1 in a series

In summer of 1997 I was blessed to spend two weeks in Durham attending a seminar on Celtic Spirituality and Modern Mission. We stayed at the Durham Castle, now a dormitory of the University of Durham, and had several outings. One was to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, where St Aidan chose to base his work. He was the first Bishop of Lindisfarne and St Cuthbert, patron of our parish in Oakland, was one of his successors.
This is a photo of Hobthrush Island viewed from Lindisfarne. Just as Lindisfarne is cut off from the mainland at high tide, so Hobthrush is cut of from Lindisfarne. We were there at low tide. Hobthrush is where Cuthbert first tried his hand at being a hermit. It was, however, too close to the priory on Lindisfarne and folks could shout across to him, so he ventured further to Inner Farne Island which can bee seen from Lindisfarne but is a good distance away.
Here I am on Hobthrush, standing in front of a wooden cross among the foundations of a stone Saxon building that was later than Cuddy's time. I am holding the parish icon of St Cuthbert that I had written the previous year. Taking it on pilgrimage was my way of ensuring the presence of Cuthbert during this pilgrimage.
Cuddy and me with the Rev. David Adam, at that time Vicar of St Mary's, Lindisfarne, a prolific author on Celtic spirituality.

My home in Albuquerque is named Desert Farne, my own retreat from the world. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Archangel Raphael, and St Cuthbert.

Nothing profound to say about it all at this time, just sharing old photos. Well, the one very unprofound thought that occurred to me is that I looked so young ten years ago.
--the BB

Yes, I've succumbed to another one

This time it's the university quiz. I took it three times. Is that cheating? Maybe, but when the results make no sense....

However, I was actually accepted at the following institution of learning and have, in my day, known a few "seedy Reedies" as we called them. Nonetheless, I have never been a suicide risk, though I have been depressed. After decades of avoiding politics I have become political again, I reject many societal (read "bourgeois Protestant") values, and I am a proud child of the 60s. Never did LSD, never dropped out of society, never lived in a commune--but I have inhaled, I have twice dropped out of graduate studies, I had a bumper sticker that read "America: change it or lose it," I protested the Vietnam War, and I did live in West Hollywood in the 70s.

I wonder what I might have become had I chosen to attend there.

You're Reed College!

With intense emotions and an unstable lifestyle, you are
often seen as depressed by those around you. Many even consider you quite
a suicide risk, and statistically this is probably true. You do manage to
have fun, however, and are willing to try nearly anything once. Quite
political and thoughtful, you've decided to discard most values that society
would have you adopt, in favor of living the 1960's dream. You refuse to
accept others' judgments of you.

Take the University Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I also wonder what answers I would have had to give to come out with my alma mater, Pomona College (class of '68--Amon Ra!).
--the BB

At least I'm consistent

To match my flag, here it is:

Your Inner European is Spanish!

Energetic and lively.
You bring the party with you!

Though I think the whole "you bring the party with you" part is bollocks.

--the BB

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One side effect of Hiroshima-Nagasaki

Churchill waves to crowds in Whitehall on the day he broadcast to the nation that the war with Germany had been won, 8 May 1945
(Photo from Wikipedia Commons: public domain)

I remember reading John Hersey's Hiroshima when I was a young lad of about ten or eleven, perhaps twelve, years old. One more tile in the mosaic that is my abhorrence of war.

Back in those days every American calendar noted V-E and V-J (or V-P) days, when the wars in Europe and the Pacific ended. I was born on the first anniversary of V-E day, so there were always little crossed Unites States flags marking my birthday on the calendar in our kitchen.

It is amazing how slow one can be to do the math. Only as we approached the fiftieth anniversary of the end of WWII did I realize that I would have been conceived on or around the days when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. In other words, I may have been a byproduct of the atomic bomb.

In a universe where everything is linked to everything else, I can hardly distance myself from that horror, now, can I?

--the BB

Borrowing shamelessly from Padre Rob

Teaching Grounds by Mandy Davis

I have never cared much for the service of Benediction for multiple reasons. The primary one is that it takes the Sacred Body of Christ out of the context of the Eucharistic celebration in which the faithful share in Communion, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, intimately sharing in the divine life and being renewed in their identity as the Body of Christ in the world. Secondly, Benediction has an atmosphere of sacerdotalism. The priest handles the monstrance. The monstrance encloses the Sacrament, keeping it sealed off from all but view. The priest does this only with hands covered by a humeral veil (if you don't do church jargon, thank God for that mercy--it's the shawl covering his shoulders and arms lest he touch the holy things).

The reverence in all this does not offend me at all. The distancing does. Having someone make the sign of the Cross over a congregation with the consecrated Bread is no substitute for faithfully consuming that Bread. When the People of God almost never received Communion, this was their consolation prize.

The imagery bothers me too. The priest looks like one of the angels in an icon of the Baptism of Christ.

The reason the angels have their hands covered is not because they have the towels to dry Jesus with; it's because even the holy angels are not privileged to "touch God." But in the mystery of the Incarnation and the amazing event of the Theophany, John, a sinful human being, is commanded to touch the Creator. This is a very great mystery, a profound grace, and is pondered and proclaimed in many ways in the Orthodox services of the Theophany of our Lord and God Jesus Christ (known in the West as the Epiphany).

The image of a priest settling for the role of an angel instead of the whole People of God claiming their role as God's children, redeemed and invited to partake, leaves me cold. It speaks too much of keeping God at a distance, keeping ourselves safely sealed off from the one who no longer calls us servants but friends.

Having said all that, and dumped my daily load of anti-clericalism, the following video from a charismatic Catholic community takes Benediction in a new direction. This is liturgical dance that is not esoteric but simply exuberant and joyous. The joy seems to grow and explode and fill the entire congregation. Iberian Catholicism meets Ladino aesthetics and is infused with joy in the Spirit. In other words, I like it.

If I have any of the Spirit's charisms, it is probably joy. My heart responds easily to any expression of joy. I would love to see more liturgical processions, Good News parades, with happy people in motion. Color, music, movement, devotion -- no didacticism, just faith and joy expressed with our bodies and through the senses.

Dance, my sisters and brothers! Rejoice in all that is good and loving, joyous and life-giving.

h/t to Padre Rob+

--the BB

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

No me digas

Parece que esta imágen del BB no debe sorprenderme:

You're Spain!

You like rain on the plain, as well as interesting architecture and
a diverse number of races and religions. You like to explore a lot, but sailing,
especially in large groups, never really seems to work out for you. Beware of pirates
and dictators bearing bombs. And for heavens' sake, stop running around bulls!
It's just not safe!

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

The flag is delightfully familiar since the BB is a vexillophile. I love flags and collect them. Alas, I do not have a flagpole these days. My collection includes 29 countries, a few states, one Canadian province (British Columbia, way cool), and a few others (Episcopal Church, Imperial Russia, United Nations, the rainbow flag, and a couple of homemade ones).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Simple Joys

I have been intending for about two years to resume baking bread, something I did often in my junior year of college. (Don't go counting on me, it was long ago in a galaxy far away.)

This spring and summer I have actually done it, using all those wonderful flours I have collected with this very thing in mind. It has been great fun and deeply satisfying.

I use no recipe and to call my loaves "multi-grain" may be an understatement. I just start grabbing tossing into the mix.

Well, it's not quite that haphazard. I start with a sponge that invariably involves a cup of whole wheat flour and two packages of rapid rise yeast. The sponge usually has a bunch of extra gluten and a good cup of oat bran, maybe a little this or that. Water at around 115 degrees Fahrenheit (aren't those instant-read thermometers lovely?). I leave it alone for 20-35 minutes and it doesn't take long before I can smell yeast in the kitchen.

In another bowl I toss all the "exotics" that are going into any given batch: buckwheat flour, rye flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, cracked wheat, sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, soaked and softened wheat berries, etc. This includes a scant tablespoon of kosher salt. You don't want the salt in the sponge lest it interfere with the yeast early on.

In the mixing bowl goes a bunch of canola oil, 3-4 eggs, one melted stick of butter (I like it rich, thanks, and moist), either honey or cane syrup or both (honey acts as a great preservative).

The sponge and the dry ingredients are added to the wet and I let my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer do the hard work, at least ten minutes of working that dough. I used to use the dough hook but am working on moister mixes and just use the regular beater. I add unbleached white wheat flour until it is fairly thick but not forming a ball.

Then I take it out and put it on the floured counter and knead by hand, adding as much flour as necessary but no more, using my dough scraper. Then I put it in a large bowl with a bit of oil in the bottom, swirl the dough about to coat with oil, turn it over, punch four holes in it to form a cross, invoking the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as I do so. (I acquired this habit from my Armenian friends and would never make bread without doing this; it is, after all, a sacred act.) Finally, I cover it with plastic wrap so the top doesn't dry out.

I recall reading, zillions of years ago, that 85 degrees is good for bread rising. That is usually in the neighborhood of the ambient temperature in much of my house this summer, so all I have to do is leave it alone for an hour. Bulks up beautifully.

Punch that sucker down, shape some loaves, brush them with beaten egg, slash the tops, turn on the oven to preheat (425º), let loaves rise for maybe half an hour, pop in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375º. (Opening the oven drops the temp about 50º so the higher preheat was to keep it at 375 the whole time.) I check in on them around 35 minutes when they are usually done. Cool on racks, though the first slice comes off almost immediately, is slathered with butter, and consumed with ecstasy.

That is hardly a poetic hymn to bread or the baking thereof; more a free-wheeling recipe. There are days I am more prosaic and this is one of them.

With all the oil and honey in the bread, I don't have to refrigerate or freeze it. I usually make three loaves and give one away. The loaves keep perfectly in 1-gallon freezer bags. Of course, they don't have to hang around all that long--who is going to walk past without cutting a slice?

One of the treats I have enjoyed is putting some cream cheese on a small plate and putting it in the microwave for ten seconds. Yes, the usual commercial stuff. After nuking it, the stuff spreads easily. Of course, if you have access to fresh schmear, by all means enjoy! I have to drive across town for that, so usually take this shortcut. Then I slice tomatoes from my yard and put them on the bread and cream cheese. That's it. No salt, nothing added. Just the wonderful nutritious bread, the creaminess, and the sweet tartness and essence of tomato on top. Heaven!

Simple joys.

--the BB

Monday, August 06, 2007

OK, I admit it...

... I've had my nose buried in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the past few days. I told myself I wouldn't start reading it until I had finished writing my own book and pretty much kept to that. (One little chapter of Rowling before I finished re-reading and proofing my own book). Tonight I finished.

Now back to working on the plotline of my own next book, the immediate sequel of the one just finished. The sum of my fantasy series will be a voluminous as Rowling, though I am certain not as profitable. It would be nice to be published, though.

Right now I am spinning out possibilities. There are just a few "gottas" in the next tale, the rest is all as my whimsy takes me (ah, the motto of Lord Peter's family) and as the story emerges.

There is so much that comes out of an unfolding tale that I had not expected, no matter how detailed my timeline/plotline. I enjoy the surprises.

Marigolds, for no particular reason

I hope y'all are having fun with your summer reading.

Speaking of which, many years ago (it had to be '78, '79, or '80) the book review editor of the Los Angeles Times suggested that instead of fluff one take up the Greek tragedies for summer reading - after all, one has the leisure to do so. I took said editor up on it and read all the extant classical Greek tragedies and most of the comedies. I had a wonderful time doing so. It did help that I had soaked up mythology like a sponge when a young boy and had some background on the tales from my education.

If anyone is looking for a suggestion, I offer the following:
Antigone to remind us that there are higher laws we answer to and the power of the state is not absolute. (First read this in high school and acted out a scene; part of my background in civil disobedience, along with M. L. King, Jr., Gandhi, and Tolstoy.

The Trojan Women by Euripides, whether the play or the fabulous Cacoyannis movie of the play. This reminds us that war has victims, something the Cheney-Bush administration brushes off.

Speaking of whom, a friend I met for lunch today told me Darth Cheney was in town today. I took a bottle of holy water with me when I left the house in case I came anywhere near the Dark Lord. [In my book, Satan is a Cheney wannabe.] Made it to lunch and home again without any sightings. Perhaps I should take some salt, my violet stole, and the Rituale Romanum down to the Rio Grande and bless the entire river to cleanse the whole valley.

Libera nos a malo, Domine!
--the BB