Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"Are You Afraid of Bees?"

"Are you afraid of beeeees?" a voice shrilled at me as I got out of my van in the parking lot behind my apartment.  It was, I found upon careful inspection, coming from a doorway into the back alley.  The new owner of a cafe in front of my apartment building was calling out the back door of her cafe, through the screen.  

Being a man, I said "no," (of course I wasn't afraid of anything) and walked over to see that there was a huge cloud of wasps around her garbage pails.  She had had the delivery of a box of lettuce which was heating up in the sun, and was afraid it might have wasps crawling around in it.  She got me to kick it hard a few times, and when no wasps flew out, I carried it around front for her, to the Robin's Nest Cafe.  She was grateful.  

I took a look today at what I'll be teaching and even went into the school.  I made up a bunch of classroom signs and posters to get printed.  My "common errors to avoid" one for 14 year olds now looks like this.  

I swear if I could get them to stop making any of these errors on the poster, that would be most of their writing problems fixed as to errors.  Formal language is a foreign language still, of course.

I've been taking hour-long walks down dark farm roads around here like I used to do when I was a teenager living at my folks' house.  Very calming.  I love when there is a strong wind blowing like there was tonight.  It was very dark, though.  Not a star or moon visible.

I picked up some tablets of melatonin on a friend's suggestion, in order to try to get my sleeping clock somewhat back to a diurnal pattern.  Interesting to try out.  They are supposed to trigger your brain that it's sleep time, even if your brain isn't getting the "it's dark now" cues to shut down, nor the "the sun is shining, so it's time to wake up now."  Seems to work.  Watching House reruns to get to sleep, with the occasional James Burke's Connections 2.  Doing a lot of happy thinking about teaching things fairly differently this year.

Monday, 24 August 2009

A Good Christian Testimony? Really?! Are You Sure?

For me, Facebook is a main connection to other human beings. I often go for four or five days without speaking when I am not teaching. And Facebook tells me what friends and relatives are up to. And like clockwork, every Saturday night, the Internet lights up with apparently everyone Christian on there saying things very much like:
Albert Schister just wants to fall deeper and deeper in love with his beautiful, glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the King of Kings and the truly lovely Lord of Lords who he has been devoting his entire summer to serving most productively in various communities! Let me fall deeper and deeper into your arms my savior as I gaze into your loving faithful eyes! Praise Him! 5 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister and Winona Schister like this.
Faith Stadt is truly looking forward to a blessed time tommorrow morning when she can just serve and praise and worship and bless the Lord in our truly blessed Whipstock Repeating Bible Chapel which is full of such wonderful, Christ-centred on-fire Christians! I am delivering a very special and annointed message to the ladies auxilliary rectory so please pray that they will just listen attentively and just really take in this Word From the Lord that I have Been Given! What a Savior! 5 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister and 158 others like this.
Joey Phillips is totally stoked to be going out to Brindlewood tomorrow morning and having his face. Preached. Off! God is awesome! (ps get SerpentCrush's new album "Flow" Thank me later) 10 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister likes this.
Nicole Thom wants 2 say god rawks!!! goin 2 church with my besties beth n jeff n laying down da PREE-aise acts 2 style!!! u go god!!! ;> 10 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister and Roberto Sanchez like this.
Roberto Sanchez wants everyone to know he enjoyed church when he was asked to just give a small talk about evangelism, leadership in outreach ministry and retreat conferences so much last week and spent a very productive week preaching in four prisons and distributing over 400 tracts for God! My God I ask you to warm my heart make me love you more and more as I should you are worthy help me feel it my heart is so cold sometimes but I seek to serve YOU and YOU only and not my own desires!!! Trust in HIM! 15 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister likes this.
Jeremiah Poule says he needs prayer as he is sliping so far frum GOD now i dont even rilly wont to go 2 church sumtimes but i will go enny way tomorrow maybee it will warm my heart with love for HIM pray for me pleese!!! i am SO far from GOD but not as far as rob and sarah pray that tehy will learn that HE is LORD and to stop serving SELF but hate it and serve HIM and HIM ALONE like i told them but they luv the World! Praise the LORD!!! seek to serve HIM! 15 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister and 10,438 others like this.
Todd Wilkenson has a special word he has been asked to give tommorow morning (click for the simulpodcast at about how we really need to, as Christians, remember to pray, as God's Word tells us, that Obama not be allowed to totally RUIN our country too much before we can get him voted safely back out again!!! Remember, Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!!! Gay SHAME more like!!! LOL :P What a Savior!!! (click here for an mp3 of my pastor's heartwarming and inspiring ministry for our "All About Him Month" on why The Shack is of Satan and what you can do to get it banned from your city library using the 49th ammendment) 25 minutes ago - Comment - Like - Albert Schister and 2,746 others like this.
(That is my "amplified version" of what they actually type, but they are all real people with their names changed here who really say that kind of stuff.) This all makes me want to slap people. Tell them "Find a closet. And go pray in THERE, rather than broadcasting your homoerotic prayers to your 1, 573 friends on Facebook. Remember who you're talking to, and talk to Him." Tell them "Don't advertise the details of every one of your pious works on the Internet! Your left hand isn't supposed to know what your right hand has done if you do charity work. Some "Jesus" guy said that one time." Tell them "Don't ask God to make you love Him because you think you don't. That's kind of insulting, and again, go pray in private instead of broadcasting it." Tell them "Don't plug your sermons on Facebook like you're selling watermelons or having a sale in your lawnmower dealership." Tell them "Don't try to be a 'Christian Testimony' while dissing people at your church, or the Christian president of your country!" Don't send mixed messages like "Jesus Loves You God Hates Fags." Tell them, "God doesn't have a Facebook account, nor should one text Him."
If I say anything like that on Facebook, of course, five people immediately, rudely tell me off and refuse to discuss the matter at all, and if any are friends, they will immediately unfriend and block me after saying I should be ashamed of myself, and five other people I don't know or never thought to hear from on God's green earth again after all these years will then immediately friend me and say "I agree with you SO much but can't find the courage to just SAY that!" Makes me wonder. What's the what? (as Buffy used to say.)
This sort of thing really is an absolute magnet for abuse from Christians (and, in one notable case, a Muslim, who wrote "u r gay get help for ur anger issues" and when a friend jestingly and inaccurately replied "I am a gay and was quite disappointed with the quality of your post. Please address more gay issues in your next comment" the gentleman duly responded "allah sez gays r evil")
People wonder, "How can you be a Christian and not feel a warm glow deep down in your stomach when you read Facebook statuses that are such clear examples of being a good example to nonChristians who might read them, and Christians alike?!" I think if I wasn't a Christian, I wouldn't care a bit what they say. That's what I think. And I do care. I am mortified. And angry. And confused.
Not the least because I have perfectly reasonable, good conversations, on and off the Internet with them, 6 days out of the 7, and then Saturday night and all day Sunday (or at seemingly random intervals) they bust out stuff like that.  I like most of these guys a lot.  (the guy I based "totally stoked Joey Phillips" on, I directed to check this out and recognize which one was him.  I don't even think he was mad.  He said he didn't think he'd said "face. preached. off" for some time.  It has been months since he talked like that, it is true, but I only put it on here for colour anyway, not because I thought it was a really bad testimony.  And he thinks people should actually check out Project 86 right now, and not SerpentCrush's "Flow", because I just made that one up.  He sarcastically thanked me for "memorializing [him] in the annals of my blaugh" and so in return I thanked him for using both "n"s in "annals.")
So, you like people, and then they suddenly post in tongues on Facebook.  What do you do with that?  They're not idiots.  They know stuff.  So can you have a private word about the impression they're giving?  Dunno, really.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Mountain of Transfiguration

There's a part in the New Testament, a bit before Jesus actually goes to Jerusalem to die, but once he's already got his life's work well underway, where he goes up a mountain with three guys who weren't understanding what was going on.  The three guys take a nap.  Like he's getting ready to meet somebody out of the ordinary, his face and looks change and his clothes start glowing brilliantly.  Then Moses and Elijah (one long dead, and the other rather mysteriously caught up to be with God without dying properly at all) meet him there, likewise "in glory" (i.e. shining). 

The three have a chat and they continue to emit the eerie, majestic light. (This light isn't a revealing of Jesus being God's son, as the other two are shiningly "in glory" as well. It isn't what ghosts look like either, because only one of the gentlemen was dead. It might, however, be what people look like in bodies which can deal with heaven and its people, and with still being around hundreds of years after your first body rotted away just outside of Caanan and so on. Moses' own face (on his old body) had shone with light when he spoke to God in person, and now Jesus in turn shines when he speaks to Moses, who is likewise "in glory.")  

This light and the guest stars impress the guys who have just tagged along enough that Simon (renamed Peter) has the nerve to actually interrupt these radiant men talking, just so he can make a stupid religious suggestion about building shrines to the three of them. Rather than being in the moment, and wondering or asking things like, "Why are THOSE two guys here, of all people?" and listening to what they were talking about (Jesus' next moves, including going up to Jerusalem to die, which event Peter handles quite badly when it does occur), Peter gets all religious and wants to show respect to something and to some guys that he doesn't understand, rather than shutting up, listening, thinking and getting more understanding of what was going on.

When he interrupts, he doesn't even do it to ask a question. He proposes a religious thing that he thinks the three tagging along guys should probably do now, rather than talk and listen, as they'd been doing.  He wants to have a role, that of showing respect, and in attempting to leap in and play this role, he actually not only shows disrespect, but halts the whole thing.

There were so many things he could have asked them.  Like, why Moses?  Moses was the guy who spoke to the entire Jewish nation on behalf of God, and was frustrated with them and their stupid religious behaviour (like inventing a system of religious worship (with Mooby the Golden Calf, of all things) which would be easier than actually dealing with a God who they needed to see as part of daily life, and who did things following His own time-line). God was frustrated with the Jewish nation and was offering to get rid of them and give Moses better people to lead.  Moses struck a deal with God to give the Jewish people time to figure things out, and asked God to view him, not as the exception to the rule, and the only one to be spared the brunt of God's frustration, but rather, as just a typical representative of the Jewish people.  Moses asked God quite forcefully to accept him as this, rather than as the exception which proves the rule.  And God did. Moses basically said "Accept them too, or reject me right along with them" and there's really nothing God doesn't do like He doesn't get rid of good people and stuff.  This thing Moses had done was just like what Jesus was about to do himself.  

Moses could do almost anything, but what did him in in the end was overstating God's now-soothed frustration, and lecturing the people in an angry, judgmental, religious way; once he had already ensured that God wasn't going to be looking at them in that way anymore.  That was manipulative, an abuse of his position, and not properly representing God and His true feelings in the matter.

And why Elijah?  Elijah had come from God and told people to stop messing around, and that when God spoke it was real, and it was serious, and wasn't just some religious thing.  Elijah exposed the religions of the time and their invented gods as fake and ineffectual.  He insisted upon dealing only with a God he himself could never have invented, and Who insisted His people deal with reality and His actual personality, and not superstition and religious crap they had invented, mostly based on human personality, weather and animals around them.  

Elijah could do almost anything, yet what did him in in the end was that he felt too discouraged,  unsupported by his community, and alone to go on.  He got depressed.   Once he couldn't deal with people and just wanted to go off by himself to be religious in a cave, he was no longer of any use to God, and God took him up to keep him company and give him stuff to do later, once he felt better.

So, why those two guys?  They'd both clearly screwed up what Jesus himself was now going to need to do properly.  They both had been through and experienced stuff more like what Jesus was himself dealing with than probably anyone else had.  So they're perfect guys for him to talk to, and they're putting their heads together and commiserating and planning and sharing, and Peter jumps in and says "Hey!  You know what would be good?  Let's make three shrines!  One for each of you!  To commemorate this great event when you guys came here and did this!  And there could be a miniseries and a whole bunch of paintings made of the event!  We could sell tickets to this holy site!"  (I "amplified" that last bit somewhat) 

At this point the voice of God Himself actually now has to interrupt the whole thing that Peter has just wrecked and tell him to focus on Jesus and what he was doing, and not do stupid religious stuff.  This needed to be said to Peter, to the other guys, and to every one of us who reads the story later, just so there could be no possible way we might think that Peter had a pretty good suggestion, but that we'd understand that no, this would NOT have been good, and that the point of the thing was the actual guys living actual lives, and not the tag-along-guys doing something religious, respectful or worshipful.  (Never mind that Peter was planning on worshiping not only the Son of God, but two mere human beings as well, on a pretty much equal footing.)  It wasn't about flattery, or ego stroking or anything of that kind.  It was about "Ok, so here's what I've been thinking..." and "...So then after I do that, I'll go to Jerusalem, and I guess I'll have to do this other thing because of the Old Testament stuff.  Thanks for writing that, by the way..." and so on.

ps: I tried to find a good image to put with this blog entry, but though many, many paintings of the event exist, they all have "Abracadabra Jesus making grandiose gestures and shouting 'Ta Daaaah!' while trying to get a tan from the light shining down on him from on high."  Despite the fact that the account in Luke says that Moses and Elijah "appeared in glory" (glowing), they only depict Jesus glowing.  Despite the fact that his clothes were what was shining, they paint him standing in a shaft a light from on high.  Despite the fact that he is there to talk to those two guys, they paint them gazing at Jesus as he poses on a higher pedestal, looking upwards away from them.  And usually, they make Jesus levitate.  I'm not sure why.  And in every painting, despite the fact that they call the scene "Transfiguration," (which means "face changing to look different") they paint Jesus with the same face and look that they always do in all of their other paintings.  I picked the one you see above because at least Jesus isn't levitating.  His clothing isn't glowing and he's not transfiguring either, but it almost looks like he's very close to actually looking at or listening to Moses and Elijah.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Descent of the Sweltering Doldrums

It has suddenly, in the first half of August, started to get summer hot for the first time this summer.  Not record-breaking, but terribly humid at 30C/86F.

Bethany came to visit my sister.  I waited up for her to arrive and we went for a walk.  She can't see the stars in Brooklyn, and at my folks' place where she's staying, it's nothing but tree-framed, star-filled sky.

Having pretty much managed to stop writing my book The Screwtape Emails, and eagerly awaiting feedback and grammar and spelling vetting from various people, I have finally cast an eye toward doing some music.  Because I spent all spring messing around with recording the music for our high school musical and editing a video of it and so on, it took me a good while to get back in the mood to work on music again.  I haven't been playing guitar at all this summer, really.

But I started the process of taking all the sound files I've recorded for my eternally picked-away-at and re-redone album and cuing them up in my laptop under Pro Tools.  With the superior effects and a newfound sense of taste, I am able to make the individual sounds work better with less tinkering, and can get more of a cohesive, evocative mix without so many effects.  Lots of sound effects (in the sense of funny sounds), but less digital effects put on the instruments and so on.

I've started taking walks at night, which is something I used to do, and is good if, like me, you don't really get exercise.  I went to the unlit local park and sat on the bleachers and watched the meteor shower this week.

I ran some old song files through my new computer with Pro Tools, including this one, starting with its quirky intro to the album it should be the first track on.  I really love adding kinda cinematic sound effects and samples and things to pretty conventional songs.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


I'm in Montreal still, and am not at the science fiction convention that is here, with guest of honour Neil Gaiman, and the masquerade (people in nerdy costumes calculated to delight people like me). I am in my motel room taking a brief break from the wedding festivities.
My niece was, I thought, adorable as flower girl. and my cousin and bride were young and giggly and happy. I came up here (my hotel room) in the middle of a ten course Italian meal with dancing during it. "Billie Jean" had morphed into "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" and the wedding party were having a vigorous danceoff. ps: after more time in the reception room, I decided to compose a list of "best things about this weekend" -drunken uncle Woodstock stories (yes!) "You see Hendrix put the entire spirit of the disenfranchined in the whole nation into this one howling guitar scream while he's playing the National Anthem. and you realize that, if you like a girl's ass at noon, and you still like it at ten o'clock, you may actually prefer a fried egg and a coffee by that point." -Italian girls in little dresses dancing their asses off with tiny Italian octogenarian men. -trying Sangria -carrying my nephew around and having women of all kinds assume he was my son and asking me how old he was and stuff -Italian food that I couldn't identify appearing, dish after dish, in front of me to be eaten -having a 1 Terabit hard drive full of tv shows and movies beside my laptop in my hotel room so I could watch anything I'd watch at home, and not bothering to -having kids I used to teach tell me to check my entry, as it has two glowing reports, and one which the exstudent said must have been just complaining over a low mark, because it "didn't sound like you at all" because I did "just fine" while teaching, and her passing English wasn't a given, and we got her through it, she and I -delighting my niece by "waiting for the food" restaurant tricks with condiments and utensils and, being me, my least favourite things about this weekend so far: -drunken uncle greeting me for the first time in many years by saying I'd put on weight and guessing my age at 43 -not being able to hear what sober uncle had to say about history and politics because songs like "Endless Love" were drowning him out though he was sitting right beside me -driving. in Montreal. Ever. -completely disaranged sleep cycle and a whole lot of stiff and crooked feeling muscles and joints because of it -hot sun. being exposed to it and being in cars on asphalt in it -not having anyone to dance with

August Weddings

Well, this is has thus far been an unrelievedly rainy, chilly and uneventful summer. The high spots, however, have been writing a book, getting a line on a bunch of books which made me think, and attending a couple of weddings. I'm in Montreal at the Crowne Plaza Hotel as I write this. I have been struggling with dealing with doing things in Montreal with my mom, on a "day" schedule when I can't get to sleep at night. I have my laptop and books to entertain me when I can't sleep. I reread Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz as part of that situation. Reading the introduction to N.T. Wright's Surprised By Hope caused me (while in Montreal) to need to write an extra page and a half into my book at 3am. Walking down St. Catherines street is always cool. I did it with my mom and her cousin from England. With the civilized discourse going on, and walking by scores of scantilly-clad girls, and Club Supersex outlets and peepshows, it was wierd. My mom, of course, rather than point out the unique sights, would point out anything familiar that we have near where we live ("Oh look! A Starbucks! Oh look! Mcdonalds!") One time she did say, "A peepshow!" and paused, so I said "Well, if you want to go in, I can wait for you outside..." (in case you can't speak French, "Chateau Du Sexe" means "Sex Castle." Classy.) Then, eating at le Restaurante Bellpros, we sat by a huge mural of the Dukes of Hazzard characters and cars in there as we had club sandwiches. Daisy Duke was painted, standing to one side of the car chase. A graffito pointed to her crotch and read "all hail to the toe." My mom read this aloud and looked to me to explain what I thought it might mean, so I just said "Well, that's pretty rude to put on a wall in a restaurant" and she then didn't want me to explain, which was fine until she had a trip to the washroom and read the walls in there. My sister and brother-in-law brought the kids to our hotel prior to the wedding. My 1.5 year old giant nephew delighted in running all over and trying to knock things down. He is usually active, but this is the first time I've seen him away from home and in "force of nature" mode. This is an expression of absolute glee, not tears.