I’ll take up Lloyd’s challenge

Lloyd invited a number of us by name to write about The Passion Of The Christ:

A hope (and a challenge?!) -- a few people I would like to see
write in their weblogs about the movie (and not necessarily a response
to the above): mom ... Pepe ... Raymond (a friendly nudge to Raymond:
dude, just write what you feel, without that inner editor/censor. it
might be liberating, it might be frightening, but the point is: it will
be you, and for that glimpse of You, this reader for one will be

I'm working on a response on my wiki -- and as an act of openness and vulnerability (and/or foolishness!) -- I'll let anyone interested see it in process. I've not seen the film yet, so my response is tenuous. When I finalize my response, I'll publish it here on my blog.

For now, let me quote (without comment here) the part of Lloyd's essay that jumped out at me:

The breadth of the crime against children perpetrated by priests is simply, agonizingly, appalling: 10,667 documented cases in the past half century, in America alone. Even taken at face value, that number is harrowing, and difficult to imagine. And can there be any doubt that the actual figure must be higher? I'm not going to say much more on this issue than this: this is most certainly indicative of a systemic flaw in Christianity. It is a cancer in the corpus of Christianity. Whether or not this cancer is inevitable or accidental is not the point; the point is that it exists, and it must be confronted for what it is, an absolute, horrifying evil. How this generation of Christians confronts it will define all our common humanity for the foreseeable future.[emphasis mine]

The blog/wiki connection

What I write on this weblog is a small part of what I typically write on the web any given day. My wiki has become the primary place I work out my ideas and dump random thoughts and observations. If you care to follow it, I recommend looking at TodaysNotes. There's a lot there that hasn't been well though through enough to "publish" here. But I'm growing increasingly comfortable with airing the materials on my wiki....

Form drives freedom

I've found it difficult to speak freely, from the heart, on my
weblog; maybe my wiki will be more freeing. Indeed, it has already
given me space to be messy, tentative, and downright wrong in my ideas
and fact-gathering. At the very least, I've not worried about literary
quality in this space. There is a blend of "high" and "low", really
refined pieces juxtaposed with a pastiche of URLs, cryptic phrases,
uncontextualized observations.

What drives this dichotomy? As Laura pointed out, perhaps it's because I've made a promise on this blog
to be rational, fair, even-handed. I've made no such promise on this
wiki. It's not that I don't embrace those qualities. Rather, I let
myself be freer to take on many other modes of communication -- and
that's what she observed to be missing on my blog. Hmmm....

Oh no, Laura, I managed to misrepresent what you said! How
embarrassing. Yet so appropriate. In my feeble attempt to write a bit
more freely, inspired by what I thought I had heard from you, I
stumbled. Will I now just stop writing now? No -- I must push on, write
first, and ask forgiveness later. Hmmmm....

Pitter Patter and the Superorganism

How was I supposed to get to work today without getting soaked? The answer was simple: avoid the instant tributaries that swept my street and work at home. Driving in might have helped -- but no, I didn't want to keep driving into work. I felt it lame to move a ton of metal just to keep water from soaking my feet. But I don't like wet feet either.

As quickly as the waters gushed outside, a train of ants marched across the carpet of our rumpus room. A preternatural force, no doubt, because they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. I thought first of ant traps, the long struggle of ant wars past. But all the ants wanted was what I wanted -- to stay away from the flood. The rhythm of the ants matched that of the rain. I couldn't stop the latter; why did I think I could stand in the way of the former?

Dualistic diatribe

When I write and when I speak, I try to do so with utmost
propriety -- carefully, responsibly, discreetly. When I am unsure about
some matter, I try to calibrate my language to indicate the appropriate
level of uncertainty. I am not rash in my judgement.

So what do I do with that part of me -- even the dominant
half -- that is full of rage, prejudice, passion, irrationality? I just
want to scream sometimes to let loose, to let it all hang out,
unapologetically, without shame even.

I channel that unruliness into...silence.

I'm so tired...let's get on with it.

Notelets for Valentine’s Day

Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers
(NYT). A glitch at the amazon.ca (the Canadian
affiliate of amazon.com) revealed the identity of many previously anonymous
reviewers, confirming some interesting patterns for anonymous reviews (e.g.,
book authors who post positive reviews of their own books; authors answering
their critics; people manipulating the book lists feature). This article made
me question the weight I had put in the reviews -- and make me want to put more
value on named, trusted reviewers. At the very least, it's helpful to know the
reputation of a reviewer and some understanding of the motivation behind the

The current issue of the New Yorker is
incredibly engaging. Some of the pieces that I've read are:

  • Nancy
    Franklin writes about The Apprentice
    , which I've gotten hooked on. Somehow
    it speaks to some the current challenges I have in my own life.
  • An amazing piece by David Grann on the Aryan Brotherhood, thought to be
    one of America's most murderous prison gangs. You'll get a taste of the article
    through reading the online
    with Grann. What hellish placess are these prisons. I wondered
    what influence the power of the Christian gospel can have in such dark places.
    It's time to learn more about ministries such as the Prison
    ; I once delivered Christmas gifts to children of prisoners
    in Richmond as part of the Angel
  • A nice piece by the classical music review Alex Ross on how classical music
    got to there its current place in the US, weaving in his own how he grew up
    on classical music but discovered the joys of "popular music" as he got into
    his 20s.

The hoops
that a restauranteur has to jump through to open a new pizzeria in South Berkeley
does seem excessive. Where's my gourmet pizza?

I was surprised to find Avenue Books on College Ave in Berkeley closed. There's
no sign on the store windows explaining the situation; the answering machine
sounds business as usual. I always did wonder how long it would stay in business,
however. OK -- here's a Berkeley
Daily Planet article
from January on the closing. Later: one of
my housemates told me about that there were going-out-of-business sales throughout
January. How did I miss them?

I should read The Berkeley Daily
more often -- I was intrigued by stories such as Big
Food Court Planned for Gourmet Ghetto

    Already signed up to move in are Kirala, south Berkeley's well
    known sushi restaurant and Cesar, the popular tapas-bar started by
    ex-Chez Panisse manager Richard Mazerra, who has agreed to help
    Modarressi as a consultant for the project. On the waiting list are a
    number of other restaurants that are trying to meet the qualifications
    Modarressi and Mazerra have set out for the food. Other shops the pair
    are currently considering include a rotisserie and chocolate store.
    Several local wine producers have also been approached about possibly
    creating a small co-op space.

    "We're not going to rent to just anyone," said Modarressi.

I signed and sealed my ballot for the UC
Administrative Professionals Election

A new view of Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn, the superstar 23 year old violinist, played last night at Zellerbach Hall. Since I had never attended a recital of a world class violinist, I thought that it would be a novel treat to hear Hahn play. Actually, the real reason I decided to go was that she had on her program the Bach Partita in D Minor, the ultra-famous piece that obsessed me two years ago in the form of Morimur. Although Krista, my friend and violinist, and I sat about 15 rows back from the front, placing us close but not that close to Hahn and her accompianist, I brought my shiny new cheap binoculars to take a closer look. It was silly of me to think that I could make sense of Hahn's graceful fingering and effortness bowing -- she made playing the violin look so easy that I began to doubt all the stories coming from my violinist friends about their struggles to master the instrument. Of course, Ms. Hahn was displaying the fruits of 19 years of disciplined training and abundant natural musical gifts.

Still, the playing seemed a bit too smooth, not gritty enough somehow. But then, what do I know?

To get a taste of what Hahn might be like in person, go listen to an interview with her on NPR. I particularly enjoyed her comments about JSB. (Yes, it all comes back to Bach in the end.)

NPR: You have said in some print interviews that "Bach is the touchstone that keeps me honest." What do you mean by that?

Hahn: I guess basically by that I meant that when I'm playing Bach I can't cheat on anything. You know, I can't have bad technique, forget about phrasing and I have to remember everything. Everything works together. So it's a great balancing act. It's kind of a mind trainer, something like playing chess or something like that.

Incent my writing through random harvesting

I would like to write about a lot of truly significant things...but I'm too tired. Instead, I'll cull little pieces from what I've stored up in my wiki or Ecco file

Behind the Home Page, a Call to Worship

    Mr. Reese and his Web site, www.tothenextlevel.org, embody an
    increasingly popular strategy for evangelism in the Internet age. In
    the segmented realms of the Web, said Tony Whitaker, editor of a guide
    for online evangelists, sites that use overtly Christian material will
    reach only people who are already Christians, while everyone else can
    click by. Unlike Christian radio or television, the new medium calls
    not for powerful religious symbolism or rhetoric but for the absence of
    them, he said.

In culling through my pile of old issues of The New Yorker, I came
across David Denby's review
of Matrix Revolutions
. The ending the essay made me ponder my own misconstructed
sense of helplessness, about which Tokyo
actually has a lot to say:

    In the first movie, the lifelessness of the humans’ speech made one
    doubt that humanity was actually worth fighting for. But if one ignores
    the wilder speculative meanings that have been drawn from the series
    (we are all wired together in a simulated reality), there remains
    something halfway palpable in these movies: in a period in which
    gigantic corporations and entire governments devote themselves to
    promoting made-up realities, people may genuinely wonder what world
    they are living in. The fact that so many intellectuals in particular
    found “The Matrix” fascinating suggests how impotent they feel to
    change anything around them. Movie critics, however, are fascinated by
    the aesthetic life or death in the object right before their eyes, and
    they tend to fight one machine or pod at a time rather than recast
    their helplessness as a theory of subjection. It’s better, perhaps, to
    win or lose small battles than to never start fighting at all.

21st-Century Japan, More Contented Than Driven

    China, long the center of Asia, fell under foreign domination in
    the last century and a half. Japan, long content in its relative
    isolation or as a tributary nation to China, went out into the world,
    competing against the West and dominating Asia.

    But China never lost its sense of being a great power and appears comfortable now in reassuming its traditional role in Asia.

I had been using the word incentivize. Recently, I heard someone use the word
incent. Which one to use? Perhaps neither
to avoid

OK — the Superbowl was a lot of fun….

I went for the company but stayed for the football game -- much to my surprise. Generally, I'm a fair weather sports fan. However, because the game was so close and the ending so suspenseful, I had a wonderful time watching today's game. I'm still unhappy with CBS that moveon.org wasn't allowed to broadcast the winning ad from Bush in 30 seconds competition -- so we downloaded it and projected it on the screen anyways. All in all, a wonderful afternoon, save for the overeating of tasty snacks.