Labor Day Listening

I can just be walking along and break into a chuckle for no reason that is apparent to the casual observer. Usually when I do this it is because something I saw or overheard reminded me of one of Kevin Kling’s stories.

For instance, after I heard Kevin talk on NPR about his recovery from a motorcycle accident, I will never again encounter a cocktail weenie without a little chuckle. And not for the reason you might guess.

Any long term listener to NPR will probably have heard one of Kevin Kling’s commentaries or stories. I bought both of his CDs, one of which almost killed our entire family. Heidi was driving us to San Antonio and laughed so hard while listening to Kevin describe his harrowing experience marching behind the Clydesdales in a Labor Day parade that I had to grab the steering wheel for a few moments. He does some of the best spoken word stuff around.

So, if you have a little time and bandwidth to spare, his fan page has a more or less thorough archive of his online recordings. His irreverent yet loving skew on American life in general and Minnesota in particular will make good Labor Day Weekend listening. Enjoy.

Rewinding Merton

I’m starting over. Three chapters into Thomas Merton’s “Seeds of Contemplation,” I realized that this book cannot be read like a normal book. So I’m going back to read and contemplate more deliberatively and reflectively. The words and thoughts are too rich to be consumed quickly. In the spirit of sainteros, whose blog has been an inspiration to me, I’m doing Merton lectio style.

“In all created things we, who do not yet perfectly love God, can find something that reflects the fulfillment of heaven and something that reflects the anguish of hell.” (p17)

Any fulfillment we find in created things belongs to God. It is the disorder of our souls which imposes undue desires and expectations on created objects or people — i.e. they will make us “happy” or make others admire us — which creates the anguish. To be “holy” is not to turn away from created things, but to turn away from the undue desire that our imperfect souls place upon them.

Perhaps this is what it means to be “in the world but not of the world?” Perhaps these undue desires we attach to the things and people in our lives is the “baggage” that everyone talks about needing to unload? Are these the “issues” we refer to when we say we have “issues?” Ooh, I am almost afraid to take this idea to prayer because I don’t want to have to think about removing the “baggage” I attach to everything in my life.

But I must eventually:

“Instead of worshipping God through his creation we are always trying to worship ourselves by means of his creatures. But to worship ourselves is to worship nothing. And the worship of nothing is hell.”

Sometimes I wish I lived in Portland

Gracies has got to be the coolest alternative culture collective I’ve ever seen. Check out the variety of happenings and grassroots inspiration going on there.

I came to Gracies via a cobweb site I found while trolling for Yerba Mate sources — the Cafetistas. They (used to?) get beverages donated by organic, sustainable, fair trade companies and then show up at events and give the drinks away for free. The idea was to subvert the corporate domination of certain beverage markets. Sounds like a really cool concept, huh? Problem is, their site hasn’t been updated since 2000. So who knows when the Cafetistas last struck.

With a Starbucks sprouting up on every suburban corner, wouldn’t it be a cool exercise in culture jamming to revive the concept?

Crazy, Man.

I was browsing Red Rock Eater Digest (link’s on my sidebar) when I came across this link. It’s a page of MP3 downloads from a jazz musician named Steve Coleman. He is the brains behind a concept called m-base which, from what I can tell, is a methodology for composing improvisation, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron.

Well, I don’t know much about it, but what I do know is that his music page has hours of free downloadable jazz MP3’s. What I’ve explored so far is some very respectable bebop and hard-bop. Worth a listen if you’re into jazz. Any piece of music called “The Tao of Mad Phat” should be downloaded for the name alone.

Gummy Bubbles

Seeing as how I skipped lunch, industriously working at my desk, I was looking for a snack while out running errands on my way home. I passed this place in a strip shopping center intriguingly named “Bubble Island.” It appeared to be a food establishment, but what kind?

Apparently they serve Vietnamese (Taiwanese? Chinese?) Tapioca drinks. Their menu has the unfathomable depth that only combinatorics can provide — about forty different drink flavors with many possible add-ins. Apparently the most common add-in is Tapioca — these black chewy pearl-sized balls which taste, I dunno, kind of like walnuts or something, but gummy. To my gringo American palate, it tasted good, but very strange.

I ended up with a coconut milk drink with about two inches of the little black bubbles in the bottom. The cup itself was interesting. The lid was a thick cellophane that was heat-sealed onto the cup and then the straws — big enough in circumference to accommodate the tapioca — are pointed and you just pierce the cellophane with the straw and suck away.

The sensation of getting three or four little chewy balls with every sip of your drink takes some getting used to. But I could get used to it. I’ll definitely go back.

While I was sitting there sipping gummy bubbles and coconut milk, eating my peanut toast (the only food item they serve is toast. Yes, toast. Seven different flavors of toast.) I became worried that this place was too exotic to survive in the land of Taco Bell and the Olive Garden. I asked the guy behind the counter how business was and he said it was pretty good. It is steady during lunch and after work on weekdays, but on weekend nights the place is packed, the line stretching out the door.

Cool. Good for them. I’ve got to take Heidi and see what she thinks. A little local color is a good thing.

Nota Blogay

Wow, apparently Futurescan has been named a “blog of note” on the Blogger homepage. I guess I should update more often.

Indeed it is supposed to be a collaborative blog, but I have been the only “Vato de Futuro” to post lately.

I need to roust up the futurist posse so we can look good for our 15 minutes of fame. I’d settle for not looking lame.

A Little Window

On weekdays, especially now that school has started, I have a little window of time to spend with my kids. I get home at 5:00 and my kids go to bed at 8 or 9-ish. That leaves me three hours a night to spend with my children.

Somehow, with dinner to fix and clean up after, that time seems to just fly by. I find myself bathing an putting them to bed before I’ve even gotten a chance to do much with them. I can’t let that time go by mindlessly. Though I often do.

Last night Heidi gave me a nice gift. Mr. Freshpants wanted to go play immediately after dinner and Heidi told me she’d do the dishes (she cooked too, the dishes are usually my job) and I got to go spend some “floor time” in his room. We played with cars and made lots of vroom sounds.

Then I got to spend some time working with Girlzilla on her spelling homework and then she and I worked on a journal/blog page we are putting together for her. I showed her how to make an HTML link.

Nothing very grand, but that forty-five minutes or so with them made me realize that I need to block out some time for each of my kids every day. As regular as prayer. It is prayer of a fashion, isn’t it?

It’s a small window and it closes so easily. Especially when you’re not looking. Lord, help me to see.

Intersections

I love it when two apparently unrelated realms of human endeavor intersect. I especially love it when I come across two delicious examples of it in the same day. Serendipitydo!

First the Internet Scout pointed me to a page of links that explores the use of artificial life algoritms to compose music. And then my own scanning took me to this treasure trove of resources about the intersection of science and art.

Warning: Don’t go to either of these unless you have some time to kill. They’re infectious.

More web Archaeology

I found another web ruin (last updated 1998) that stands as a cyber Mount Rushmore of sorts of the preeminent minds of our time. This Technoprophets page apparently was a class assignment at pre-9/11, pre dot-com bust Duke University. I’m sure all the students, starry-eyed with Internet dreams, are probably a bit sadder and wiser about tech these days. But this list, ancient as it is in Internet years, still holds up pretty well. You could get lost in there. Leave bread crumbs.