Monday, July 30, 2007

“Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religiouscomplexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In itsstead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activitieswhich occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and theservile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testifythat we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcelyat all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must firstdetermine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as alwaysGod discovers Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from thewise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. Wemust strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). Wemust put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor ofchildhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond. When religionhas said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. Theevil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in fullrevelation. In the “and” lies our great woe. If we omit the “and”, we shall soonfind God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives beensecretly longing.” A W Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 1948

Sunday, July 29, 2007

She's Filled With Secrets!

I've been writing a lot lately. I'm trying to put together some coherent body of work to use as a pole-vault to another goal. It's the dirt-work, if you will, of a greater ambition. It's good for me. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. And most of all, it makes me feel connected with other art. And that makes me feel alive. This weekend, David and I went to the Carver Theater to see the short films made as a part of the Sidewalk Scramble for the Sidewalk Film Festival. To be honest, we only went because our friend Jason had edited one of the films, but we ended up enjoying ourselves immensely.

This year, scramble participants based their five-minute films on the work of a particular director (Quentin Tarintino, Sofia Coppola, David Lynch, M. Night Shyamalan and Woody Allen), an assigned phrase and a particular object. With two exceptional exceptions (Jason's film and an interesting tale of corporate evil called "Branded") the Tarintino and Shyamalan imitations weren't very notable. Woody Allen had a good representation in a film called "Cutting Teeth." But my favorite films were based on those directed by David Lynch. Most of the directors had the same idea in copping the backwards-talking dwarf from "Twin Peaks," but one in particular had an irregular dream scene (what is a regular dream?) and even a reference to Garmonbozia! (You're gonna have to find out on your own. I really don't think I can explain it, except for that in my mind, it's going to be HARMONbozia from now on!)

Last night, I even had a dream about the Twin Peaks dwarf. He shuffled into our bedroom and said "This is where the pies go to die."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Sometimes, when people talk to me about theology, I want to kill myself a little bit.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Artist in the Art

Boom-Go-Round, Remy Hanemann (At the Harleyville Project)

This is a photograph from the Matthew Marks Gallery. (That's Nan Goldin's gallery representation in the U.S.)

I had an opportunity to see an exhibit of photographs by Nan Goldin at the Chicago Institute of Art back in November. I didn't like them. I dismissed her work as cheap porn shot in "available light." Her work is cheap porn shot in "available light." Some critics are quick to point out that she used a slideshow exhibition because museums and galleries weren't really interested in photography back in the late seventies when she began to work, and she could exhibit a slideshow in indie film festivals. I think that's silly. I think she exhibited her work at little sticky-floored porn theaters. I didn't know anything about Nan Goldin back in November. I know a little bit more now.

She describes her work best: Every time I go through something scary, traumatic, I survive by taking pictures. You also help other people to survive. Memory about them does not disappear, because they are on your pictures. It is about keeping a record of the lives I lost, so they cannot be completely obliterated from memory. My work is mostly about memory. It is very important to me that everybody that I have been close to in my life I make photographs of them. Because these pictures are not about statistics, about showing people die, but it is all about individual lives. In the case of New York, most creative and freest souls in the city died. New York is not New York anymore. I've lost it and I miss it. They were dying because of AIDS.

It makes sense to me now. I get it. In that exhibit, I saw pictures of beaten women, dying men, people in the shower, people having sex. She even took pictures of herself having sex. In a sense, she made a record of her life in photographs. And then, she shared her life in whatever way she could. Perhaps, and this is where I could go off the existential rails, she thought she would cease to exist if she couldn't show her work somewhere. Anywhere. I still don't like Nan Goldin's work. Sorry.

This makes me wonder about what draws us to art in the first place. I consider the work of two artists I admire. One of them made beautiful sculptures in public places. He made iron reflect the sky and interact with the environment in which it was placed. I don't know him, though. I just know his work. And I like it. Another, makes art from iron scrap that looks like various weapons of mass destruction. He makes crazy little bombs and missiles and adds wheels and tires and propellers. What he ends up with are wonky little vehicles that look like toys (if toys could blow up and kill you.) I like his work. But, I also like him. So, is it possible that I like his work because I like him? Can the two be separated? I'm not sure. It might be that this is a conundrum even more readily applied to writers. Maybe.

You know who I don't like? Thomas Pynchon. I think he's having a big laugh at us. Somewhere, nobody seems to know where, Tomas Pynchon is sitting in a fancy living room drinking Courvoisier giggling at all the academics pretending to get his work. The joke is that there's really nothing to get. Sometimes, the emperor really is naked. But then again, I've never read an interview with Pynchon. I've never seen a picture of him. He's never given any explination of his work. So, I look at it in a vacuum and I hate it. But would I hate it if I really liked him? I don't know.

How much of who I am goes into what I do? Can something be just craft, or do we fingerprint things in an unavoidable way for better or for worse? Is art really art if you don't know the artist? (And wow, could I go off on the theology of that. )

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Flotsam and Jetsam of a Life

November 1976: A Little Girl's Answered Prayer
January 1986: The Restlessness to Come/An Explosion in the Sky
September 1995: The Ugly Ducking Deceives Herself By Finding Something True
December 1999: The End of Something Big/The Despised Day of Small Things
September 2001: The Confusion to Come / An Explosion in the Sky
October 2002: Resolution
May 2003: Confirmation of a Course
February 2005: The Green Green Rabbit Trail to Boneyard Beach

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Let's Encyclopedia Brown This..Ahem...And Some Random Observations

I just saw 1408. I was the only person in the theater. I was so frightened that when it was over, I grabbed my bag and ran out of the theater waving my arms like a little kid playing Red Rover. Someone somewhere is laughing at the security tape of me sucking my thumb and running out of there. This movie is worth the $$ to watch in the theater.

Here are some things I've been thinking this week as I've been watching the Operation Rescue people protest. I haven't seen any NOW protesters. I heard that OR picketed Briarwood on Sunday and told the Birmingham News that they had permission from "a senior pastor." That turned out to be a lie, however, and apparently, no one from Briarwood was at all thrilled or inspired (to anything other than irritation) about the protest. This reinforces my belief that these people are crazy and tend to play a little loose with the truth. I'm also hearing that my neighbors who were actually here for the Eric Robert Rudolph bombing (it was about 5 blocks away from here) are a little traumatized by all the hoopla happening this week. And so am I, actually.'s some randomness.

I'm starting to believe that the end of the world might actually be near. I see the harbingers of that great Apocalypse in Revelation. And they aren't in the candidacy of Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton. They're in the church, in our homes, in the heart of Christians. Perhaps the black doom I've been taught to watch for on the news and in Supreme Court opinions has been hiding in the church all this time. "We're Christians!" We say. But we don't read the scriptures. We don't speak to God. We don't believe in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We don't believe in anything but "Social Justice." And the problem is that we don't even believe in that.

Yesterday, I saw a woman blowing a ram's horn by the fountain on Five Points. This is a battle cry to end abortion! She said. I saw little children leaning over a wall at Vulcan Park holding a banner with a picture of an aborted baby for passers-by to see. End abortion now! And, I realize that this is the way the world has always been. Mothers have always sacrificed their babies to idols whether it be Molech or college. This is nothing new. What's new, I reason, is the flaccid response of the manic Christians who drive their cars with their pro-life bumper stickers and take pictures of grief-stricken teenagers being hauled into abortion clinics so they can post them on their blogs. The evil in America is us. The evil in America isn't the New World Order. The evil in America is us. And I feel crazy creeping through the streets like the black plague.

I need Jesus to return to save me. I need him to save me from sin. I need him to save me from Hell. I need him to save me from you. I need him to save me from myself before this world makes me stark raving mad.

T Minus 30 Years: Houston, We Have Liftoff

I always cry when I see yellow footage of the Apollo launches. It's something about American hope during that era. Maybe it grew from success in a collective push to defeat the common evil of Soviet communism. Maybe it grew from the naive ideas that America would always be for Americans, that our destructive impulses could never compete with Nature's power to heal itself, and that our consumer urge was propelling us toward greatness like a Saturn V rocket. Anyway, it makes me emotional. We don't hope like that anymore.

In my favorite view of what I think was Apollo 8, you can see the towers that tether the rocket to the launch pad give way in succession as the rocket rises toward the Wild Black Yonder in a cloud of fire and ice and steam. I don't know what those towers are called. My father-in-law, who is a genuine rocket scientist, does. To me, those towers represent fear. If my life were a Saturn V rocket, I would be prepared for liftoff.

If I were to name five of my greatest fears, I would realize that each one of them has come to fruition over the course of the past few weeks. I've faced demons and giants that have haunted me for years in a very narrow span of time. I've found them to be every bit as daunting as I imagined them to be, but I conquered them all. I'm left in the rather uncomfortable place of being without excuse. There really isn't anything left to dread. Of course,there are always unexpected disasters, but the old mountains, the really old demons, the fears I've treasured and fed and cherished all my life are conquered. I think there might be nothing left to do but launch.

And yeah, I editied this a lot. My previous draft really, really frightened me. And I try not to scare myself.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Listen to the Mandolin Rain

So, Bob Riley asked Alabamians to pray for rain. And it did. And it has been ever since. And all the grass on my street is growing tall, but no body can mow it. Because it won't stop raining. All of my roses are going to bloom again. My tomatoes are blooming again. My allergies are acting up again because everything is growing tall and green under the rain.

And I admit, I was as cynical as everyone else. I'm starting to really believe that God could do any miracle you can think of for everyone to see and if you didn't believe in him already, you wouldn't then either.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Susan Returns to the Piano

So, this is kind of embarrassing, but one night I was sitting at home and the little Story and Clark piano that sits against the wall in the living room said "Hey Chick. What am I here for?" So, I called Miss Jane, my piano teacher from childhood and she started giving me lessons. I have my lesson right before a very tiny girl with a giant music bag and uneven ponytails. I love her and I would like to keep her, but she loves her parents. She can play the piano better than I can.

I am trying to make my out-of-practice fingers play a song called "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" by Michael Nyman. They are struggling. They hurt and rebel, but they are starting to remember how to play. I admire people who can play the piano very well. I would like to be able to play as well as Bruce Hornsby. My fingers say I've missed my chance, if I ever had one. My piano says thanks for the attention. It hasn't been played regularly in something like 40 years.

Here is a video of that song. It was in the movie, The Piano.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stay Home, Southsiders!

The National Organization for Women will be protesting the protesters.

I think I will not be leaving the house. New Woman, All Women is a creepy place. I wouldn't take Corduroy Dog to a vet that looks like that. Every now and then, someone comes out of there on a stretcher and gets taken away in an ambulance with their medical charts pinned to their shirt. It is disturbing. Another thing that is disturbing about abortion clinics in Birmingham is that they kind of have a tendency to screw-up abortions. Operation Save America kind of creeps me out too, or at least Operation Rescue did. NOW also creeps me out. This is going to be a pretty creepy weekend, altogether.

Maybe we could get NAMBLA and PETA and James Dobson and Pat Robertson, too. It could be Birmingham's First Annual Convention on Crazy. Our entire city council could be some of the featured speakers. Valerie Abbot could give a speech about why she doesn't care about the crack houses in Southside, but writes silly letters to national chapters of silly fraternities when their members leave beer bottles in the yards of their unofficial houses. I always get so excited when we can entertain the nation with our crazy Southern antics. Let's ketch us a rattlesnake. I hear them fat uns fries up nice.

Oh, and if anyone can tell me WHAT is going on in that video clip on the OSA blog, I'd appreciate it.
UPDATE: Alabama’s favorite Senator, Hank Erwin and Alabama’s favorite Judge, Roy Moore will be speaking during our Thursday evening rally, July 19, 2007. I think an artery to my brain popped loose just now. Hank Erwin actually had an hour-long discussion on his radio program about women and tattoos. The question was "Can a woman with a tattoo be a godly woman?" People were fired up.
UPDATE AGAIN: When you get tired of Saving America, you can Save Wal-Mart! It's the same organization!
I'm done. For real. (If you subscribe to this blog, do you get an e-mail every time I update? If so, I'm sorry.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Redemption for Rice

Some of the best advice I ever got regarding books and reading was from Mrs. Janney in the eighth grade. Read the first fifty pages before you make a judgement, she said. I still follow this rule. Last week, I read the first fifty pages of two of Anne Rice's vampire novels. I didn't finish either. Now, I know some people really love her books and, I admit, her attention to historical detail is meritorious. But, frankly, I think they might be harbingers of the Fall of the Western World. Seriously. When the appetite of the American reader is so easily whetted by the skillful substitution of superfluous erotica for good writing, the end is near.

So, I don't know why I stared Christ the Lord. I certainly didn't expect to finish, and I wasn't sure I could suffer fifty pages. But what I found in those first fifty pages, and in the two hundred sixty-nine to follow, was a work of art. There were times during my read (which took place in one spot on my comfy leather sofa over a period of a day and a half) when I had to remind myself that I wasn't reading the inspired Word. It is a craftsman's book, written by a skilled master of the language and capable of opening a hole in the head of the reader to expose her to a side of reality not previously considered. Rice writes the childhood of Christ, detailing how he came to discover his divinity as his ability to understand the will of God developed. Up until now, the best answer I had for the question all of us must ask (How did Jesus know?) was something like "Well, how did you know you were a girl?" I finally feel I have some sort of a real answer.

In the portrait of a very real boy, I saw a glimpse of divinity and gained a sense of the wonder of the Nativity that I hadn't considered. That God would make his son venture to earth as a baby and trust him to the care of ordinary people is more amazing to me then ever. To me, this fact dignifies the human condition in a way we long for. It purges the last hint of gnosticism from the religious ambrosia I've been concocting unknown all these years. Christ came to earth as a Child. A gift of God to be nurtured and cared for by ordinary people. To me, this is as much evidence of the love of God for his creation as Christ's eventual death on the cross. Rice offers a precious gift with her story of a boy-Christ growing in wisdom and knowledge. Come and wonder with me, she says, knowing as only a lover of Christ could know what joy comes from the contemplation of the greatest mystery of all: Christ came. Christ died. Christ will come again.

I wrote many novels without my being aware that they reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God. Anne Rice

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Also Tune In When....

Susan meets Beau Guff Stuff A Son and prays he doesn't make her look like a tool. (I am comforted by the fact that no one on his website looks like a tool...except for maybe the baby in a bucket. I don't want to be photographed in a bucket. Perhaps I can avoid this.)

edit: No bucket.