Thursday, December 28, 2006

You Think You Know Me? Do Ya?

Then prove it. I have created a quiz for you to test your knowledge (thanks to Cheryl and Sean for starting this).


OK I AM ANNOYED: Katie took my quiz and there's two things that really annoy me:

1) When you click the link above, it almost immediately redirects you to some crappy flashy page that has nothing to do with the quiz. Sorry about that. It may take a try or two to get it to stay on the right page.

2) Having been given no indication of a word limit, the quiz has cut short a lot of my answer options, and I see no way of editing it now that it is complete. So do your best with what is given to you, and for the record, in the question about my childhood, the third choice should read I liked Dungeons AND DRAGONS, not that I was into "dungeons."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I Done Been Tagged

3 Things that scare me: Sharks, cancer, debt
3 People who make me laugh: Erica, Katie, my Somali friends
3 Things I love: my family, Africa, volunteering
3 Things I hate: selfishness, bigotry, violence
3 Things I don't understand: Fear of change, sports, Creationism
3 Things on my desk: 3 used ink cartridges for my printer, a doll of an Ethiopian girl, and a fez
3 Things I’m doing right now: addressing Christmas cards, copying CD’s for a family in Tanzania, procrastinating
3 Things I want to do before I die: live in Africa, have children, be lucid enough on my deathbed to say “I’ll see y’all on the flipside”
3 Things I can do: make good music mixes, make a good peach cobbler, ride a bike!!
3 Things I can't do: my taxes, math in my head, debate a point very well
3 Things I think you should listen to: Tom Waits, (most albums by) Jethro Tull, Mike Doughty
3 Things you should never listen to: obvious political propaganda, crass commercialism, most crap on the radio
3 Things I'd like to learn: Swahili (proficiently), guitar, how much wood a woodchuck really would chuck if said woodchuck were to actually chuck wood
3 Favorite foods: Caper Pasta, Peanut Butter, Broccoli Cornbread
3 Beverages I drink regularly: Water, Cranberry Juice, Milk
3 Shows I watched as a kid: Dungeons and Dragons, You Can’t Do That on Television, Double Dare
3 People I’m tagging: Mr. Williams (Nationwide), Cap’n Hardqore, Bo Ba Log

Friday, December 08, 2006

My Favorite Place in Vicksburg

The Attic Gallery

In my hometown of Vicksburg, MS, there is an art gallery called the Attic Gallery. It has been around for 35 years and is a mainstay in the Mississippi art scene, known not just throughout the Southern art circuit, but across the country. Known for its eclectic offerings, from highly skilled oil paintings of nudes and landscapes to pictures of bottles of hot sauce drawn in marker on the back of scraps of matte board, the place is a must see if you are in the area. Many an artist has gotten their break by being promoted by the gallery, and it speaks volumes about the gallery's beloved status that the same artists who I remember showing their art when I was 10 are still there 20 years later, as are hordes of other artists who appreciate what the gallery and its crew have to offer.

So that’s my formal description of the gallery, but here’s why it means so much to me. I grew up going to the gallery. The gallery, owned by a cool lady named Leslie Silver, also employed a man named Daniel Boone, who is one of my family’s closest friends*. So we would go by there all the time and visit.

For a kid who loved art and ultimately did a few years of college as an art major, the gallery was just the coolest place ever (and still is). There’s just stuff EVERYWHERE, as the above picture will attest: on the walls, on tables, on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, stacked on top of each other. The place is just such a mish-mash of style and ideas that to visit is to overwhelm your senses. I always try to stop by when I am in town. It’s like a recharger. Just a quick spin through the joint makes me feel better.

It used to be in another location, further down on Washington Street, but back a few years ago, they moved to their present location, still above the ground level, thus technically still an attic. But the place now has two floors and a lot more room to house special exhibits and such (and one of my paintings, much to my inital chagrin, was in one of their shows**). And now, there’s Highway 61 Coffeehouse on the bottom floor. There’s been several incarnations of coffee shops in this location in the past, but this one is likely here to stay seeing that it was opened by Daniel. Years ago, Daniel and Leslie got married, so now the whole building is in their collective hands (When we visited over Thanksgiving, I asked Daniel who was doing the framing while he was running his new coffee shop. He just smiled, said, “Good question,” and laughed).

So if you get a chance to visit Vicksburg, please go visit the Attic Gallery and Highway 61 coffee (and get a hot chocolate with chili pepper in it- really good.) It is worth the effort.

Mom, Fuzzy, Erica at Highway 61 Coffeehouse
Mom, Fuzzy, Erica at Highway 61 Coffeehouse

Dad at Highway 61 Coffeehouse
Dad at Coffeehouse

Katie At Highway 61 Coffeehouse
Katie At Coffeehouse

Daniel Boone
Daniel Boone

*Daniel Boone is also responsible for an enormous chunk of my collection of Groo the Wanderer comic books.

**Long story short: I didn't want to enter a self portriat I had painted into n Attic gallery exhibition show because I didn't think it was up-to-snuff, but my mom went ahead and entered it anyway. I was PISSED off about that, but it ended up being a lot of fun, and a lot of people at the opening reception really liked it. So there ya go.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mississippi Masala (1992)

Mississippi Masala
Originally uploaded by baldman76.
Mississippi Masala (1992) Directed by Mira Nair (who would later direct the great film Monsoon Wedding), this film garnered some strong critical praise; the movie guide we have here at our house actually said the film worked a “miracle” with the story. So I picked it up from work and gave it a shot. Our concensus? Uh…it’s not really all that great. Definitely not a miracle, more like an obvious parlor trick.

The film follows the budding romance of an Indian (Asian that is) and a Black man in Mississippi (played by Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington) while their respective families throw a tizzy about the interracial aspect of the courtship. Some good, solid themes to work with, but it really didn’t do it for either Katie or myself. I thought the lead female was weak and through no fault of her own, very poorly developed, as was the whole take on the romance. Too quick and not enough exposition. They meet, they flirt, BOOM they’re in l-o-v-e. To be fair, it was the first film for both the director and the female lead.

That being said, the idea behind the inter-racial conflict is interesting and goes beyond the standard (though still interesting) white / black divide. One of the chief reasons that there is such a strong negative reaction from the Indian half of the equation traces it’s roots back to Africa. When the movie begins, it is 1972, when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled all Indians from Uganda, Indians that called the country home for several generations. The family in the film loses everything. The father, who had been a prominent civil rights lawyer fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised, feels betrayed by blacks and carries a deep hurt with him until the present, when he is attempting to sue the Ugandan government to regain his lost property. So when his daughter falls in love with a black man, he understandably latches on to ethnic identity and forbids it, a move no doubt to protect those he loves. This storyline is the most interesting, but sadly, the rest of the movie just doesn’t live up to its emotional punch. Not bad, but not great, and definitely not a miracle.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Salad Fingers

So, this last Saturday night, Katie and I went to a baby shower for our friends Ger and Angela. Also at this party were our friends Nicole and Brian. After a few hours at the shin-dig, we four headed over to their place to ultimately spend an evening watching YouTube videos. Earlier in the evening, they had asked us "Have you ever seen Salad Fingers?" No, we had not. So that evening, we were introduced to this...thing.

Y'all, this is some strange, strange stuff and it is really creepy...and I love it. A lot. I have links to six episodes below (the first two you can watch right here.) I think that may be all of the "proper" episodes, but there's plenty of other stuff floating around about this character on YouTube. I haven't even watched all six myself, so there's no telling what happens on the last few. But if you think you're ready, check out Salad Fingers. And tell Hubert Cumberdale I said hello...

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

Episode Five

Episode Six

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Update on My Father

Originally uploaded by baldman76.
I imagine most everyone who reads this blog knows that for the last few years my Dad has been battling metastatic cancer. Diagnosed in 2004, he has had major surgery, radiation, and numerous chemotherapies, but alas the cancer is proving to be quite tenacious. What started in the rectal region spread to the liver, then after surgery, it spread to his lungs, then back to the liver. So for the last year, we’ve been dealing with the lung and liver issue, though the lungs are the real worrying part. And I haven’t really mentioned the cancer much on the blog for a while, partly because often any changes are so minor that there’s not much to tell, and also because it is so prevalent in the life of my family (directly and indirectly) that I just get tired of talking about it. Cancer gets old. But here’s a bit of an update.

Good News: Dad is doing very well, considering. He looks better than he has in a long while. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he was sick with anything, much less with something so serious. He has changed his diet, lost 35 pounds, still works 40+ hours a week, hangs out at a coffee shop, and is one of the cheeriest folks you could know. Both my Dad and my Mom have kept an upbeat, spiritual perspective throughout this whole ordeal.

Bad News: There’s still cancer in his lungs and liver. What was there already has grown in size, and there are new growths in both areas from the last time he was tested, ie, it’s spreading. So, he is starting a new chemo regimen of Avastin and something called Erbitux (interestingly enough, produced by ImClone, made famous by Martha Stewart). Along with diet and supplements to help bolster his system, hopefully this will start to have a positive impact and get rid of this crap once and for all (with as few side-effects as possible).

So there you have it. Prayers and good vibes are still appreciated. For more regular updates about Dad and his health, check out my mother’s blog Tricia Dishes.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thanksgiving Was a Jumpin' Good Time

Hello, Dear Readers! Since I now know that many of you have loyally stuck by my side even as I was AWOL on the old blog, I hope to break that streak and post more. But true to form, Thanksgiving was over a week ago and I am just getting around to blogging about it. Better late than never…

So Katie and I made the trip down to my hometown of Vicksburg, MS to see my family for the holiday and it was a lot of fun. We arrived the afternoon before Thanksgiving, and my sister Erica and her husband Fuzzy arrived late that night. Turkey Day celebrations were to be at our house the following day, with 12 of us total, so we were prepared to do whatever it took to help mom have a low stress morning of preparations.

But instead we jumped on a trampoline all morning long. ‘Tis true. Now granted, we did help out. We straightened up a bit, did a little vacuuming, but by and large we just jumped on the big trampoline in the backyard for hours. And when the company started to arrive, we’d just yell things like “Hi, Mamaw!” from the trampoline. There’d be plenty of time for hugs and visiting later.

Now, the funny thing about this trampoline is that we didn’t have it as kids. This is not some Reid family tradition. My parents bought the trampoline 3-4 years ago, well after us kids had moved away from home. (Hmm…the same can be said about their nice big house…I sense a conspiracy here!) My mom wanted a trampoline, so my dad bought her one. I remember the conversation when dad told me of this purchase like it was yesterday:

Chris: Excuse, did you say “trampoline?”

Dad: Yeah. A trampoline. Your mom wants one.

Chris: A real trampoline? Why?

Dad: She wants it for exercise and she thinks it’ll be fun.

Chris: ….

Dad: Really. She wants one.

Now, I am not opposed to my parents owning a trampoline. But we’re talking about someone who one time actually broke her foot standing still. (OK, there’s more to that story than I just told, but it’s funnier without any of the actual facts behind it.) And to be fair, she did jump on it. But by and large, it has sat unused and killing the grass for most of its time at my folks’.

But the weather was just right, and there must have been some magic in the air calling out to us, cuz we jumped on that thing the whole time we were there. Mostly it was Erica, Fuzzy and I, but we did get Katie up on it once and even coaxed mom into climbing up and sitting on it as well. And my two cousins Matthew and Scott got on it and we discovered that Scott is the all-time champion of “Crack the Egg” (in the role of “egg”, that is. It was actually one of the best visits we have had with them in a while, and I am not too ashamed to admit that while jumping/wrestling on the trampoline I got a good fart out on both of them. And Erica got me once, too.) The following video pretty much sums up the trip.

We did do more than just jump, like walk around downtown Vicksburg, go to Jackson to see a concert with my boy Ian and our friend/relative Chad, and hung out at Daniel Boone’s new coffee shop above the Attic Gallery. But I’ll post a little about those later. It was great to see everyone, the visit was remarkably low-key, and a good time was had by all, with or without the trampoline. Here’s a few more photos taken by various peeps.

Erica and Fuzzy
Erica and Fuzzy

Erica on Trampoline

Erica and Fuzzy on Trampoline
You don’t even have to jump to enjoy a trampoline.

Fuzzy on Trampoline
But jumping is fun, too!

Christopher on Trampoline
Photo by Fuzzy Gerdes

My purty girlie (she hates this picture).

Mamaw Bane and Christopher
Mamaw Bane and Christopher (in a rare moment off the trampoline). I assume this shot was taken by Fuzzy on our camera.

Erica and Mamaw Reid
Erica and Mamaw Reid (Photo by Fuzzy Gerdes)

Good Eats

Good Eats II


Reid Family (with a Little Gerdes in There, too.)
The Family (Photo by Fuzzy Gerdes)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bring It.



Saturday, December 16th
7:00pm - until...

Absence Makes the Folks Go Wander?

Hello? Are y'all still here? Is there anyone still checking my blog? Or has my absence led y'all to abandon me to my errant ways of non-blogmanship?

Well, this will hardly make up for it, but at least it's something. For most all of last week, I was sick sick sick in the bed. Dizziness. Coughing. Runny Nose. And that was on a good day. So I spent most of the time sick from work and in bed, hardly touching the computer. Not a particularly exciting story, but there it is. Such is my life.

However, I did read a few really good books. And I have seen a few movies in the last few weeks as well. And I did a corn maze shaped like a dinosaur (the maze, that is). So I'll get some blog posts up about all this- and more- soon. But the wife and I are headed to Mississippi tomorrow. And that'll be even MORE stuff to tell y'all about, with some pictures to boot. So be patient, Dear Readers. There's some exciting blogging just around the corner.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Freakin’ Huge Fish

Georgia Aquarium

I’ll begin this post with my usual refrain of “Sorry for not posting yada yada yada.” Been a little busy. One of the things that we have done lately is go to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta (the largest in the world). Perhaps you have seen Katie’s post about our trip, no?


Thanks to Katie’s brother and his family (who bought us the tickets) we headed off on a day trip to ATL this last Saturday (11/4) with our friends Adam and Sarah. Now, for those of you who know me well know that there are many things that give me the willies, but if there’s ONE thing that REALLY freaks me out, it’s sharks. Now when I say “really freaks me out” I mean it. Here are some examples:

1) Exhibit A
2) While sitting in a theater in Florida with my friends Billy and Jeremy (Cap’n HQ), they forced me to stay in my seat during a trailer for Deep Blue Sea rather than flee the theater.
3) I didn’t actually make it through the trailer of Open Water. Even with the eyes closed, I had to leave the theater until the trailer was over.
4) The same way a picture of a snake will freak people out, I can actually break into sweats at a picture of a Great White.
5) While contemplating the plane trip to Africa, I would freak myself out with thoughts of plane crashes over the oceans. I breathed a sigh of relief at the realization that, if a crash would occur, I would likely die in it and not be stranded in the ocean and then subsequently eaten by sharks.
6) For a while, before any other thing, I began my nightly prayers with a request that God please never let me be eaten by sharks (This is not only true, but this was only about a year ago).

I have really narrowed it down to Great Whites. Other sharks can still get to me, but it’s Great Whites that immediately hit the panic switch. They’re just freakin’ evil and serve no purpose. (And I’m gonna head you off at the pass, Paula. I don’t want any rebuttals about “keystone species” and such. This is my blog. Sharks are evil here.) However, I can easily sit through Jaws and I love aquariums. Oh, the irony.

But there are no Great Whites at the Geogia AQ. So with just a little trepidation on my part, and a lot of sick curiosity on the part of the others, we headed off to the AQ. “Will he have a meltdown at the shark tank?” There was the distinct possibility. The tank has two Whale Sharks, the largest of the shark species (but they eat plankton so they’re our friends). Read the stats on the link. The one’s at the AQ aren’t even that big at all.

Well, the short answer is, NO, I did not. The AQ was great with a fantastic design, and the tank with the whale sharks? Amazing. That one tank has 6,200,000 gallons of water in it! There was some statistic about how many school buses could fit in it, but I don’t remember it, but rest assured it was a lot, and we ain’t talkin’ about short buses here either, folks.

Class in Session

So here are a few shots and some videos. This first one is in an exhibit where a tank actually sprawled above you as you walked throughout it. It was cleverly designed and very impressive. {WARNING: All these videos have loud crowd sounds, so turn down the volume, as there isn’t anything to really hear but noise.]

This next clip is of the Beluga whale tank, which I think was my favorite exhibit. Amazing. They have five whales at the AQ.

And finally, here is a clip of the aforementioned whale sharks (and a gagillion other fish). I will forewarn you that in the moment of filming, I forgot that I needed to keep the camera at just one angle, so for a few seconds the shot turns sideways before it corrects itself. Hey, what can I say? This ain’t National Geographic.)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, Dear Readers.

I hope your Halloween’s are filled with happiness and spoooookiness. I celebrated my Halloween with the first session of my Storytime cycle, where I celebrated my Storytime Spooktacular with 6 adorable preschoolers. I was surprised at how quiet they were, even when I was trying to get them to yell “Trick or Treat!!!!” There were quite a few of our “regulars” there, and I think they were a little surprised to find some bald dude there instead of Ms. Pat, who is quite a different thing from some bald dude.

But whatever. I enjoyed it, they enjoyed it (I hope), and I gave them candy, so they shouldn’t complain a bit. And here are my Storytime books for the morning.

Halloween Storytime

1. Very Scary, by Tony Johnston
2. A Woggle of Witches, by Adrienne Adams
3. The Halloween House, by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Jon Agee (A four-star storybook, in my humble opinion)
4. In a Dark Dark Wood (with special pop-up ghost), by David A. Carter

Monday, October 30, 2006

"You're Death Incarnate. You Don't NEED to run."

It's not everyday you get to say that at work, but this evening I did. And the Li'l Reaper did, in fact, stop running in the library.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Party (AKA, I Give Love a Bad Name)

This last Saturday night, Katie and I attended a Quentin Tarantino themed Halloween party in Tega Cay, which is essentially Rock Hill, SC. The party, hosted by A.J. and Nicole Hazen, was fun. We were a little apprehensive about going because a) I worked all day and we had to drive over an hour to get there (and back), and b) we don’t really know A.J. and Nicole very well, and figured we’d know very few people in attendance. The Hazens are friends of OUR friends Adam and Sarah May, but we’ve always gotten along well with them and they’re nice folks, so we figured we would enjoy ourselves.

And we did. Didn’t know many of the people there, but enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. The house was sufficiently decorated in SPOOOOOKY objects, and the Tarantino theme was pretty fun (but surprisingly, no Tarantino movies were played over the course of the evening, though we did watch some crazy violent zombie video game being played).

So you may have read Waldie’s blog asking folks for costume ideas. Well, we did hit upon something, and I spent Friday afternoon constructing it. And it seemed to been a big hit. What was it?

Why, an overdosing heart and a syringe full of adrenaline from Pulp Fiction, of course!

Heart and Syringe

More shots of the party:

The Par-tay

Adam "Zed" and Sarah "The Bride" May

Our Host, A.J.
A.J. Hazen, our Host (sorry, but I got no pics pf Nicole!)

Be sure to to Waldie’s blog to see a quick video of some party-time fun.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Another Important Election

As the November 7th Congressional Elections loom before us, there is another election that bears watching. And actually, it’s a runoff.

Congo. Zaire. DCR. All these names refer to The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that is a microcosm of everything that can go wrong in a country. And it’s a mighty big microcosm, too, since it is the 2nd largest African country, next to Sudan. It’s history is full of some of the worst violence the continent has known.

Starting in the late 1800’s, King Leopold II of Belgium made it his mission to help free and emancipate the native Africans from the Arab slave trade. He convinced world leaders to support his goal and made the Congo (then known as the Congo Free State) essentially his own private property, largely in part because of his influential role in the Berlin Conference in 1884-5. He was well respected for his philanthropic goals. Unfortunately, this was all a terrible terrible lie, as Leopold’s involvement in the region ushered in the very worst of all the colonial exploitation in Africa.

Leopold II

The Congo made him and his cronies very very wealthy from the profits of rubber collected from the rainforests of the Congo, and he did this through an administration unmatched in it ruthlessness and violence towards the Africans. All those photos of people with their hands lopped off? That was the punishment for resistance. Need more motivation? Collect your daily rubber quota or we’ll lop off your little children’s hands, too.

Leopold's Victims

Millions are considered to have died due to the direct or indirect implications of this system. Luckily, Belgium and the rest of the world realized it had been duped, and Leopold’s personal reign came to an end. [To read an absolutely riveting account of this mess, please read King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild.]

One would think that it would have to get better. Skip ahead to 1960. Belgium follows the tide of independence sweeping across Africa and grants the Congo its independence. Elections are held, and Patrice Lumumba is elected prime Minister. Unfortunately, Lumumba couldn’t get the aid he wanted from the USA and began talking with the USSR in hopes of getting some assistance for his fledgling nation. Since there was a Cold War on, this didn’t sit well with the US, and with CIA assistance, one of Lumumba’s men led a coup which resulted in Lumumba’s execution within weeks of his election. The guilty party, Mobutu Sese Seko, relinquished power only to lead another coup and take control of the nation in 1965. He would later rename it Zaire and rule the nation with an iron fist. [To read a good first hand account of Mobutu’s rise and fall from power, read In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, by Michela Wrong. Also, read Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, set during the Congolese independence struggle.]


So what’s the significance of this in regards to the upcoming elections on October 29th? Well, this is the first election held since the election of Lumumba in 1961. Mobutu, with the help of his friends in the USA, clung to power for the next 32 years until he was ousted in 1997 by rebels led by Laurent Kabila and backed by Ugandan and Rwandan troops. [While Zaire remained one of the world’s poorest nations, what were Mobutu’s estimated personal assets at his death in 1997? No one knows for sure, as the man was adept at hiding his money. However, all estimates point to at least several billion dollars.] After Kabila took control, unfortunately these armed groups then turned on each other and have been in a guerilla / civil / proxy war with each other ever since. According to a June 2006 article in Time magazine, this has been the world’s“deadliest war,” killing 4 million people since 1998.

This run-off on October 29th ( the follow-up to July elections) will determine the first democratically elected president in 40 years. The election is between the current president, Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent Kabila, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader. There have been clashes between the supporters of these two men since a run-off was announced. Will this election help usher in some semblance of peace? We can pray that it will, but history doesn’t shine so optimistically on this struggling nation.

More links:

Wikipedia entry on the DCR

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pop Quiz

Sorry for the lack of posting. Been very very busy lately. I’ll try to get a bit more up in the next day or so. But until then, here’s some educational games for you to play, ‘cause learnin’ is good for ya:

United States Map Quiz

African Countries Quiz

World Geography Super Quiz

For all sorts of other quizzes, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Right Attitude to Rain (2006)

Right Attitude To Rain

Alexander McCall Smith has a new book out. Seriously, the man needs to take a breather. There’s just no way my reading can keep up with his output. I was under the false presumption that I would soon to be able to claim to have read his entire catalog (though not only is he a book-writing machine, but I realized that I was nowhere close to actually having read everything he has written) That being said, I’ll never be wanting when it comes to his books, and as per usual, this newest one was really good.

The Right Attitude For Rain is an Isabel Dalhousie novel, and I must say that though the Botswana series is still my favorite for obvious reasons, I think Isabel may be my favorite of his characters. She is the most fleshed out, real character he has writes, and this is by virtue of the character being a philosopher. Isabel ponders life and mulls over situations in a very human way, and I think this lends a very realistic vibe to the novels. This book deals with an unhappy American couple and the possibility of Jamie becoming more than just a friend…I seriously recommend this series. They’re good, easy reads. Light enough if you want something simple, but with enough meat to allow you to chew on some of the ides for a while if you want something a little deeper.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy

Keeping with the YouTube video clips, here's one via Matt Cazessus. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Dear Readers. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Rize + Two More Films


Rize (2005) This critically heralded film is my top recommendation right now. What a fascinating film! The documentary (filmed by David LaChapelle, not to be confused with Dave Chappelle) focuses on the rise of “Clowning” and “Crumping,” two related dance styles that have taken hold in Los Angeles. The styles are chaotic, intense, and often violent looking, but they serve as a positive alternative to gangs and violence for the people who participate in the movement. Watch the following clip of “Crumping” to get the full picture of this style [Be forewarned: the only YouTube clip I could find has French over-dubbing, so you can’t understand the speakers in the clip- unless you know French, of course (I’m looking at YOU, Hazel.)]

And to exemplify the maxim “Truth is stranger than fiction,” please watch the following clip of “Clowning.”

Absolutely crazy. The dancing footage is great, but it’s the personal stories of the dancers that really drives this film. These people are fighting the odds and trying to make something positive from the bleak circumstances in which they find themselves. Please take the time to check this one out if you have the chance.


Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) This is an example of the benefits of working in a library. I happened across this little film when a patron returned it while I was working the desk. The story follows a small child as he attempts to help his village escape the clutches of an evil sorceress. It is very much a folk-tale that assumes you’re willing to jump right into the story: “There was once an African village where a brilliant and clever child was born who could talk and who wanted to help save the village from a sorceress.” You just accept the set-up and run with it.

The music is by Youssou N’Dour and the animation is very good. It does a good job of creating an “fairy-tale Africa.” I was surprised at the amount of breasts and genitals that were shown (though in no way was this crude). The female characters wore no shirts and were drawn to represent all sorts of shapes and sizes of women. Kirikou himself is nude the whole film, and all the children innocently wear no cloths (which makes me think of a funny instance in REAL-world Africa where Katie looked out of the window of our train to see a group of naked boys around a water hole laughing and doing a little dance that let them “wave” at the passing train without using their hands, if you get my drift.) It’s a good little film (70 minutes) if you get the chance to see it.

Six Degrees of Separation (1993) Citing the theory that everyone on the planet is separated by no more than 6 people (the term is derived primarily from Milgram’s “small world theory” , which is also the source of “The Kevin Bacon Game”), this film was surprisingly thought-provoking. I’ve heard of this film for a decade but had never seen it before. I assumed it would be a “comedy of errors” type of movie, and it was funny, but it gets more and more serious as it progresses. I felt that the film was a little choppy, bouncing back and forth between past and present (which I assume is because if its origin as a stage play), but the acting was very good. Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing give solid performances, but kudos to Will Smith. This was one of the first films that he was in, and what a departure from his role as Fresh Prince. Check this one out as well, but be aware that there is a fair amount of strong language and sexual situations.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Liberation Theology

Liberation image

In Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, Paul Farmer keeps referencing Liberation Theology as one of his inspirations. I had heard of the movement, but I really knew nothing about it other than it primarily cropped up in Latin America. Intrigued, I checked out the book Liberation Theology by Phillip Berryman to learn a little more about it. Written in 1987, the book is unabashedly in support of the cause. Berryman was an active proponent in the movement and was, in fact, with Oscar Romero the night before his assassination.

For a brief overview, I’ll let Wikipedia speak for me:

In essence, liberation theology explores the relationship between Christian, specifically Roman Catholic, theology and political activism, particularly in areas of social justice, poverty and human rights. The main methodological innovation of liberation theology is to do theology (i.e. speak of God) from the viewpoint of the economically poor and oppressed of the human community. According to Jon Sobrino, S.J., the poor are a privileged channel of God's grace. According to Phillip Berryman, liberation theology is "an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor".

Liberation theology focuses on Jesus Christ as not only Savior but also as Liberator of the Oppressed. Emphasis is placed on those parts of the Bible where Jesus' mission is described in terms of liberation and as a bringer of justice. Matthew 26:51-52 [1] notwithstanding, this is interpreted as a call to arms to carry out this mission of justice -- literally by some. A number of liberation theologians, though not all, also add certain Marxist concepts such as the doctrine of perpetual class struggle.

The root of the movement sprang forth primarily from an increasingly radicalized group of Roman Catholic Priests who were dismayed at the poverty and human rights abuses they witnessed daily due to the corrupt political regimes of their respective countries. Taking their cue from Vatican II’s emphasis on inclusion and the “opening up” of the liturgy to the masses, these priests felt that the next step was to become politically active on behalf of the poor. This was ostensibly a non-violent movement, though there was a minority of priests and theologians that believed that to truly liberate the poor from their oppressors, Christians should take up arms and overthrow corrupt governments.

Enter the Vatican: Though the movement came about through predominately Catholic circles, the Vatican officially did not approve of this movement because of it’s focus on purely earthly matters as well as what were at times strong Marxist undercurrents. The official document outlining the Church’s stance on the movement was Instruction on Certain Aspects of “Theology of Liberation,” (1984) written by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now, of course, Pope Benedict XVI. Berryman’s book contains a rebuttal to this document. Both have valid points.

As for Berryman, I think he is right to say that you can look at political / economic situation through the lens of Marxism without being a Marxist. Just because Karl Marx is quoted doesn’t mean the one who spoke it is Communist. [In Fact, Marx is considered one of the founding fathers of Sociology, so the “conflict theory” approach is indeed based on Marxist ideas and is VERY useful in examining the real world.] As for the Vatican’s issues with the movement, I think they also had a strong point in that if you believe that revolution is the only way to go, you are just entering into the cycle of violence without addressing and fixing the broken foundations (and spirituality) of the society in question.

I’ll end it here, as these issues are deep, cover decades of theological thought, and I can quickly get beyond my personal understanding of the topic. But this is interesting stuff that still has an impact today. Some relevant links if you are interested in reading more about this idea:

”Liberation Theology,” Wikipedia entry, with many external links included

Instruction on Certain Aspects of “Theology of Liberation,” (1984)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Common Mistake

Originally uploaded by baldman76.
This man has evidently mistaken this beluga whale for a large piece of white chocolate.

Monday, October 09, 2006


One of the more interesting things that I have the opportunity to do at my job at the Cooper Branch of the Richland County Public Library is to lead Storytimes for children. They take Storytimes very seriously at the RCPL, and before I was allowed to do one, I had to go to a 3 hour training AND lead a group under the observation of the head Librarian for the Children’s Room at the Main Library downtown. I have been officially given the “OK” and may now be unleashed upon the children to warp their little minds.

Well, tonight my coworker Pat had a sore throat. She was scheduled to lead the “Bedtime Storytime” (in which children wear their pajamas and bring their blankets and stuffed animals with them. And yes, it’s that adorable.) With her being sick, I agreed to lead the group tonight. It was great. We had a good crowd: 11 or 12 kids and a good number of moms, dads, and grandparents to boot. In between each book I read, I lead the kids in the singing a song (If You’re Happy and You Know It…etc).

I really enjoy the experience and hope to get to do more soon. I think when the new year comes, I’ll lead one of the Storytime cycles, which lasts a month or two. Here are the five books I chose for this week’s Storytime, which are also pictured below:

StoryTime Books 10-9-06

1) I Took My Frog to the Library, by Eric A. Kimmel.
2) To Bathe a Boa, by C. Imbior Kudrna
3) The Cat Barked? by Lydia Monk
4) Duck on a Bike, by David Shannon (This book is awesome.)
5) How Do Dinosaurs Good Night? By Jane Yolen (ALSO Awesome.)

I Now Have a Bike / I am a Wuss

This last Tuesday, with a little assistance from our buddy Ann, Katie and I got bikes (as seen on K’s blog). And let me tell you I got the best Huffy bike that $80 can buy (and I say that with both sarcasm and honesty). I’m not expecting too much from this bike. I just wanted to get something simple to roll around on and get a little exercise.

I’ve never been very good on a bike. I didn’t learn to ride one until I was probably 10 years old or something like that, I was never that good on it, and I got my driver’s license when I turned 15. Goodbye bicycle, hello cruisin’ with Homeskillet and Billy. So bike riding was never that big a deal with me.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike, right? Well, for years it seemed that I was the exception to this rule. Since childhood, anytime I would attempt to ride a bike I could barely stay upright, falling over and barely able to roll forward. One terrible instance in Cape May involved me struggling along until I just slammed into the side of a parked minivan. Sad but True. So it became accepted wisdom that “Chris can’t ride a bike.” Which would make sense, because

a) It involves balance.
b) It involves physical exertion.

However, the last few weeks have revealed something quite interesting: During a visit from Ann W. and her new roommate Christina, who had ridden their bikes over to our place, I jumped on one of their bikes and lo and behold, I actually could ride a bike. Evidently, I had only been riding bikes with thin little tires, but on a simple bike with two-inch wide tires, I was OK. It was much like when everyone assumed my sister Erica was a terrible driver until we realized she just had a really shitty car. VINDICATION!

So now to the wuss part. We rode the other day and it was fun, but we rode again this morning and HOLY CRAP RIDING A BIKE IS HARD. I mean, I had to walk the bike up a hill that had, MAYBE, a 5-degree incline! Terrible. I was sweating and panting and wobbling and struggling to keep up. I assumed that I always had muscles in my legs, but I may have been mistaken, evidently. I know/hope it will get easier as I ride more, but I just hope it doesn’t take long until I am no longer stumbling in the front door and scrambling for my inhaler after 30 minutes of light riding. Oi!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Three More Movies

Film Strip
Originally uploaded by baldman76.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)- As good as the reviewers (and my Mom) say it is. A dysfunctional family takes a road trip to California so that 7-year-old Olive may compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Solid performances all around. Every actor is very well cast, and even though everyone shines, Steve Carrell and Paul Dano really stand out in my mind. The scenes of the family’s inability to communicate with one another (not just talk, but too really connect) are just as sad as they are funny. There’s real pain and anger behind all the sarcasm and pithy exchanges between the members of the family, and I think the films does an excellent job creating realistic characters. I won’t say much more on this one, but it is a perfect blend of humor and pathos, which is what a comedy should be, right? We laugh at other people’s pain- that’s comedy. I laughed hard throughout the whole thing, all the while feeling that I was watching the emotional death of a family… Great little film.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)- We borrowed this on DVD from Adam and Sarah during our recent trip to Charlotte. I had seen this movie before but it is no exaggeration to say it had probably been closer to 20 years since I watched it. Mom rented it when we were kids and I remember not being all that enthralled with it. However, as an adult (and one who is a wee bit obsessed with all things Africana) I thought this film was really funny. For those of you who have not seen it, a Bushman in Botswana is chosen to rid his tribe of an “evil thing” which has corrupted the ways of his people (the evil thing is a Coke bottle, btw). At the same time, a clumsy scientist tries to get into the good graces of a newly arrived teacher, and an Angolan rebel group is fleeing from the country with the army in hot pursuit. All of these things combine to form a very funny movie which is surprisingly full of slap-stick jokes that remarkably work well within the context of the story. There were several times during the movie that, although the Africa of this movie was obviously exaggerated for the comedic aspect of the story, Katie and I found ourselves saying “That is SO true.”


Another interesting little tidbit from the IMBD site on N!xau the San Bushman:
N!xau, a San from the Kalahari Desert, was discovered by director Jamie Uys and cast in the lead role in the 1980 movie The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980). He received only a few hundred dollars for his work in that film, but was astute enough to negotiate for over half a million for his appearance in the sequel, The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1989).

Though the IMDB site says his cause of death was unknown, it has been attributed to MDR-tuberculosis. The DVD has a short documentary about going and finding N!xau. It was interesting to watch, but I didn’t think the short was very well done. The narration was pretty lame (and we didn’t get the subtitles to work until the very end and once we figured it out, we had to watch all the Bushmen parts again).

The Station Agent (2003)- This is another great little film (no pun intended). Fin McBride is a loner, a dwarf who is obsessed with trains and is so tired of being the object of people’s staring curiosity that he has long since created an isolated life with his only friend Henry, both of whom work in the model train shop below where they live. When Henry dies, Fin inherits an old train depot in rural New Jersey and leaves to go live in peaceful isolation. Needless to say, his life becomes anything but. I thought this was going to be a slow, talky film, but it was really funny and Katie and I laughed throughout. It is a solid character study, realistic, very well acted, with great music. If you get the opportunity to check it out, do so. It’s a very enjoyable film.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy Ramadan!!

Happy Ramadan! Merry Ramadan?! I don’t know what to say, but the holy month of Ramadan started yesterday for the Muslims around the globe. And with all the talk of angry Muslims in the news these days, I thought I would write a little about the Somali families we have here in Columbia, who are both Muslim and NOT angry at all. As most everyone who reads my blog knows, Katie and I have been involved with several of the families from Somalia who have been recently resettled to Columbia (and many other places across the US) from refugee camps in Kenya.

Katie and I and our friend Nicole go over to the apartments of two families every Thursday to tutor. Nicole (and Katie when she can get away from work) tutor several of the adults, and I work with any of the kids that need help with their homework and such. Our friend Ann and I are going to start tutoring the kids on Wednesdays as well and Katie is going to help teach one of the ladies to drive! That’ll be fun, teaching someone who knows very little English how to operate a vehicle (she does have her permit, though, so she obviously knows enough for that). I had my camera with me last week to take some pictures, but I didn’t get any because it was a little chaotic (and 12 year old Khadija didn’t think her hair looked good enough for a photo). So I have no photos yet, but maybe next week I can snap a few to share with you, Dear Readers.

However, I DID get a picture of Aden Mabruk and his friend Abdi, who were all too willing to pose for the camera. Abdi’s on the left and Aden on the right.

Abdi and Aden

I have tutored Aden for about 10 months, and though I am not an official tutor to Abdi, I try to help him a little whenever I get the chance. Both come to the library a lot, as a large chunk of the Bantus live in the northeast area of Columbia, not far from the Cooper Branch of the library where I work. I first started going to Dent Middle School (where Katie works) once a week as a tutor for CIS-M to help Aden with his work back in January, but he is now in high school, so we meet in the library when I get off work and work for about 1 1/2 hours. He is an amazing person and has learned so much in the brief time that I have known him that it is mind-boggling. Before coming to America, he had had very little formal schooling, and within about a year and a half, he has brought himself up to about a 5th grade reading level. Now, this is problematic since he is in high school and I do worry about him becoming frustrated. But all that being said, he is amazing and one of the most dedicated students I have ever seen. He is in the library all the time. He has three or four tutors and he takes classes in Arabic at his mosque. Relentless.

So I hope to have some other pictures sometime soon of the beautiful families we work with. And on a related note, this Monday the Pope is supposed to meet with numerous ambassadors and dignitaries from the Islamic world to try and mend the wounds that his supposed affront to Muslims has created. I think the reaction of the Islamic world was uncalled for but I think it’s a great thing that the Pope has extended this offer. I mean, that’s pretty major, right? I hope it helps facilitate some good earnest dialogue between the two faiths. Lord knows we need it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I'm TOTALLY Being That Guy.

You know, that guy that gets a cat and then starts blogging about it all the time. Sigh.

But since I have been talking a lot of smack about the kitten lately, i thought I'd post a picture and a video ( yep, a video) that shows how sweet she actually is.


Get this video and more at

The Pope vs. Islam

[ADDENDUM- I have added this as a preface to my original post as a preemptive clarification on my words that follow. I feel the need to do this because the first comment I got really seemed to agree with me BUT took a much more condemning stance to Islam as a whole than I do, and I wanted to make sure I was not misconstrued as attacking the whole faith. In regards to that first comment, I think the commenter was a non-native English speaker, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they were just agreeing with me and simply limited in their vocabulary, not wholly condemning Islamic faith.

I want to say that my statements about Muslims are really only about the people who are rioting (not a small minority, but a minority to be sure.) These are the ones who demand that the Pope be “removed from office” and burn effigies of our dear Padre. Not the Muslims that may go, “Well, I certainly disagree with what the Pope just said!” and then do their own thing. The rational, moderate voices.

A few pulled quotes from my post emphasize that my post is NOT an attack on Islam: First, I believe in an earnest dialogue between Christianity and Islam (and Judaism and other world religions, for that matter.) And I believe that a vast majority of Muslims really do value peace…I don’t believe at all that this reaction [violent protests] is representative of all Muslims, not even a majority of Muslims…I don’t dislike Islam, don’t want to invade the Middle East, still respect my Muslim friends and their beliefs, and hope that sometime in the future the world can all be friends…

And later in my post, when I state that I do not believe Mohammed was a prophet, I am not attacking Mohammed. He is a prophet to Muslims, but I am not Muslim, so it makes sense that I don’t believe he was a prophet. This is just simple doctrinal difference between the two faiths. Christians believe in Jesus Christ. Muslims believe that Mohammed was the final prophet. No insults there. Just simple, obvious differences of faith. But please note the main point of that paragraph: Christians who choose to have any type of reverence for Mohammed (such as myself, and indeed, the POPE) do so purely out of respect for their Muslims brothers and sisters’ faith and a belief in religious freedom. Just because we don’t believe the same doesn’t mean we are slandering the other’s faith. We agree to disagree. Might not be perfect, but it’s a good start toward peace.]


OK, so there has been much discussion on this topic, but now that I have a moment, I want to weigh in ever so briefly about the “Pope vs. Islam” affair (which of course isn’t the situation at all).

First, I believe in an earnest dialogue between Christianity and Islam (and Judaism and other world religions, for that matter.) And I believe that a vast majority of Muslims really do value peace. But I am just annoyed at how ridiculous many Muslims can get over anything that can be construed as a slight against Mohammed or Islam in general. These protests and reactions within the Muslim world are fraught with hypocrisy so thick I would love to think it was a joke, but alas it is not. I think many in the Muslim world are incapable of grasping irony.

“Muslims are not violent! And if you think so, we’ll kill you!”

Ok, so I don’t believe at all that this reaction is representative of all Muslims, not even a majority of Muslims. Certainly the Muslims in the USA haven’t taken to the streets. But if the crux of the matter comes down to offense taken because a 600-year-old comment makes Muslims sound violent, then Muslims need to do some serious navel-gazing and start criticizing their own back yard.

Nothing new here. People have been saying this for years. But this situation is the epitome of this hypocrisy. For instance: In a speech about the incompatibility of religion and violence, reference a 14th century Emperor (Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus) in an academic lecture, and include a quote IN CONTEXT OF THE TOPIC ("Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" [the Emperor’s words]), and you get this:

Pope Effigy


You have a group of modern day terrorists (the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda) claiming Islam as their inspiration and ideology who issue this statement:"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya…We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen” and you get this:

Muslim reaction

No protests or effigies of Bin Laden burned here today, folks. It seems to me that a group pf psychopaths murdering in the name of Mohammed can do a lot more PR damage to Islam’s “peaceful” image than the words of a dead-for-600-plus-years emperor can. Hypocrisy, indeed. And granted, the quote used by the Pope is not a flattering view of Islam, but I promise the Pope can say some pretty unflattering things about Christianity as well.

And to those who would say that it is disrespectful to criticize another’s religious beliefs and that I am supporting religious intolerance by supporting the Pope in this instance, I say this: There is indeed a lot of religious intolerance evident in this circumstance, but I’m thinking most of it’s on the side of the fence that’s burning crosses and declaring the destruction of Rome. Where can I pick up my picket sign and burn an effigy of Mohammed? Protesters burned a cross in disrespect of my religion. It’s OK if that offends me, right? Tit for tat, people. (Actually, tit for tat is a very un-Christian mentality, so I’ll opt for forgiveness, instead.)

And here’s another thing Muslims don’t seem to get: Christians who choose to have any type of reverence for Mohammed (such as myself, and indeed, the POPE) do so purely out of respect for their Muslims brothers and sisters’ faith and a belief in religious freedom. It has nothing to do with Mohammed himself. I am not a scholar on Islam or the Middle East, but I do have Muslim friends, and every week I am a guest in the homes of Muslim families and tutor anywhere from 1-7 Islamic children per week. I ask questions and inquire about the belief. But I don’t in any form or fashion think Mohammed was a prophet. It goes against MY beliefs. But YOU can think so. Doesn’t bother me at all. What DOES bother me is seeing Muslims burn crosses and effigies of the Pope. But as much as it pisses me off, I don’t wanna kill ya. Sorry. I guess I’m just not “peaceful” enough.

And here one last thing that struck me: I’m Catholic, and there’s a good chance that I never would have read one word of the Pope’s speech. So how do thousands and thousands of Muslims hear about the Pope’s comments? And why do they go ape-shit over it? Three things in combination: poverty, ignorance, and religious fervor (and we’ve got it here, too, folks, in all sorts of flavors). Religious leaders who have a vested interest in a struggle are stoking the flames and inciting people to rally around factual distortions and “attacks” against their faith (no context required). And many believe what they hear. They have faith that if their religious leaders tell them that the West (and/or the Pope) is out to get them, they believe it. They likely have no way to independently verify the truth of these statements, so they believe what they are told. (And we do the same thing, getting our news in snippets from talking heads.) Protest ensue, and slowly but surely words are used to destroy dialogue. And those in power remain in power. Poverty + ideology can create fanatics. It's a simple equation that works all over the world.

Anyway, it's late and I am just rambling on now. Here's a happy ending to my rambling post: In summary, I don’t dislike Islam, don’t want to invade the Middle East, still respect my Muslim friends and their beliefs, and hope that sometime in the future the world can all be friends.

Read the Pope’s entire speech out of “sound-bite” format.

Gashwin’s blog is a great resource for commentary and links to sites concerning this situation.