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June 3rd, 2009


01:18 pm - Communities in the Virtual/Physical World
I presented a paper today at a conference held jointly at the UM-D campus in Michigan and in Second Life. The conference focused on "Using the Virtual World to Improve Our World," highlighting the Campus of Hope projected developed by faculty and students from the Computer and Information Science Department, with a grant from the Ford Motor Community fund.


Find the paper here.Collapse )
Current Location: Campus of Hope, Second Life

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April 6th, 2009


07:42 pm - the holy host of others
Chapel of the Cross
(Photo: Ildar Sagdejev)

Hoagy has been much on my mind of late. Not surprising, because High Church Anglican liturgy and Carolina basketball were two of his favorite things, and both are in riotous bloom this weekend. Hoagy was my first and perhaps best friend in Chapel Hill, introducing me to the gay community, taking me to Chapel of the Cross for the first time, and making me watch my first Carolina basketball game. (Apparently, you could be gay *and* like Carolina basketball.) Six months after I met him, we were housemates; soon after that he hired me to work at his bookstore.

He was one of the wisest and most caring people I have ever known. I can still see the twinkle in his eye and hear him laugh; in my mind’s eye he is almost always laughing. (The other times he is arguing passionately about gay rights and thinking of ways to lift up the community.)

He would have loved the incense in yesterday’s Palm Sunday procession and the excitement of the Final Four. Somehow these rituals, shaping who we are and who we become so deeply, are woven together with the memories of the people with whom we shared them, and share them still. (And I know we grow tiresome on the subject, but there’s something about Chapel Hill that seems, at least to me, to be particularly productive of such nurturing moments.)

Yesterday at the Cathedral we sang the Byrd “Ave Verum,” which was sung at Hoagy's funeral on that April morning — can it be 26 years ago? I think that music has a way of connecting us with those ineffable ties that bind us, not only deep in our memories but in realities we see only dimly.

”O dulcis, o pie,
o Jesu, fili Mariae,
miserere mei.”


Hark, the sound; hark, they sing!
Go, Heels!
Current Music: James Taylor, “Carolina in My Mind”

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February 20th, 2009


04:11 pm - The Carnival
No, we’re not in New Orleans this year. And won’t even be celebrating in Dearborn, because I’m out of town on a professional thing.

And that’s OK, I guess. I’ve been aware of the schedule of parades, but not so much consumed about imagining what’s going on down there. I did change my Facebook status this morning to "Randy is thinking about the Avenue." This made one of my friends ask why I was thinking about a store for plus-sized women, and I responded:

Ah. As I tell my students, I should have been more specific, used concrete details.

I am thinking of St. Charles Avenue, graciously curving in harmony with the Mississippi River a mile away, the live oaks overspreading the streetcar tracks, the sounds of distant drums as evening settles in, the pungent smell of the flambeau lighting the way for colors, lights, tinsel, imagination, hands waving, people screaming, girls dancing, boys marching and the whole mad show of papier maché, cheap beads, cold fried chicken and spilled beer. And yes, my dears, it is the old Carnival come again with the spring.


And now I’m thinking it was more on my mind, than I realized.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Cowboy Mouth, “The Avenue”

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February 4th, 2009


08:13 pm - What mothers know
Every now and then, my mom would look out on a low grey sky (of the sort we’ve been seeing so often in Michigan in the last month) and say “That’s a snow sky.”

What’s odd about this is that she was looking at a south Louisiana sky, whence no snow would come. But that was something she knew, something she wanted to pass on to us. And after 15 winters in Michigan, I can say that she was right. Those are the kind of skies that bring snow, be it be a flurry or several inches or a blizzard.

I wonder sometimes where she picked up that knowledge. How does someone born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge and often visiting the family home in Crowley come to know about snow? From the one winter she spent in New Haven? Perhaps. I like to think that her father, born in northern Tennessee with family stretching back up into Kentucky, told her that bit of useless information looking at those same grey south Louisiana skies.

It’s kind of a tease, telling a Louisiana child about snow, but you never know where life will take that child. I can imagine her looking out on a Connecticut sky 55 years ago and thinking, “Oh! That's a snow sky — Pop told me about those!” And so she told me, just in case, neither of us dreaming that I would spend these many winters in Michigan, or that my sister and her family would see so many Wisconsin snow skies.

More often, I remember her saying, as puffy thunderclouds seemed to fill the sky, threatening a cancelled picnic, or a valuable summer afternoon spent inside, "Look — there’s just enough blue to patch a Dutchman’s pants!" Even in those years before we learned about being politically correct, that seemed a bit old-fashioned to me, and I’m certain that was something she heard often from her mother or grandmother or great-aunt.

And oh, the storms that has gotten me through! Not the image of the Dutchman’s pants so much as that indomitable ability to look at the gathering clouds, to acknowledge the threats and darkness and coming wetness — and in the face of that, see the blue. As clearly as there was gloom, there was also a bright blue patch: the promise of hope, light, newness, change, all as incontrovertibly present as the looming thunderclouds. I think of these words: ”He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps” which I always hear in Mendelsohn’s setting in Elijah. We hear it too in these words, also memorably set: “The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun!”

Someone asked me once how I remember her, how I miss her, how I grieve her. I was tongue-tied and confused and, as I recall stammered out not much of an answer. I should have said what was in my mind then, though it seemed not to be serious an answer to the question: Most often she is present to me singing. At times I can hear her voice as clearly as though she were standing beside me in the church pew, or sitting around the campfire: always joyful, always loving, always singing to that patch of blue.

And I can but raise my voice to join hers.
Current Music: Pie Jesu, Arleen Auger

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January 24th, 2009


01:47 pm - Breathtaking
It’s hard to know what to write now, after a week of such eloquence: from the President, from the Bishop of New Hampshire, from Elizabeth Alexander. (Her poem “Praise Song for the Day” can be found here.

Every day, the news brings amazing news of bold decisive moves by the President (less secrecy, more money for birth control abroad, no torture), simple acts righting a multitude of wrongs. And somehow, I don‘t know how to react; it’s so far beyond “I told you so” and into uncharted territory. My mind goes for comparable events to Disney‘s Sleeping Beauty and the climax where love’s first kiss awakens the country: the sun rises, the thorns fall away, the music swells.

Sleeping Beauty awakes:  www.enchantedcastle.gallery.com

And maybe that’s a little over the top, but it does feel to me like change of comparable magnitude.

Even as my sober rational mind says that the difficult problems are still before us, that there is still much darkness and difficulty and pain, there is an unaccustomed feeling deep within of miraculous contentment. Now, we can see our way plain to move forward.

As Dr. Alexander said on Tuesday:

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.


And so it begins, a new thing, a rebirth, a second chance. By the grace of God may we do better.

The catchy tune I’m listening to now is by Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, with Congolese legend Samba Mapangala. I heard it on the All Songs Considered podcast; it’s available for download from their website.

If this is a dream, don’t wake me up yet.
Current Mood: high as a kite, still
Current Music: Obama Ubarikiwe - Samba Mapangala, Occidental Brothers

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January 18th, 2009


08:16 pm - It’s a prayer; it’s not HBO
A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN.

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November 5th, 2008


01:10 pm - Tell about the South.
Florida? VIRGINIA? Maybe North Carolina? That would be a shade of Carolina blue we never thought to see. They never tire of telling us that "The South will rise again!" Never in their nightmares have they imagined it would look like this.

So many images and emotions churning on this joyful day. My Composition class this semester focuses on reading and writing with and about images. We talked today about what images historians will use to commemorate this campaign. My choice would be the sight of Jesse Jackson in the crowd at Grant Park last night, slain in the Spirit, tears running down his cheeks.

Jesse Jackson at Obama victory rally

As much as Obama's graceful evocation of King (and Lincoln) in his speech, Rev. Jackson embodied the moment for me: his the body that cradled the dying King, his the body propelled through a quixotic campaign for President, his the body standing in the night air, not posing and posturing for the cameras, not risking the role of Fool to make the points that needed to be made — lost in himself, in his memories, joy and sorrow flowing over his face.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr
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Florida? VIRGINIA? Maybe North Carolina? That would be a shade of Carolina blue we never thought to see. They never tire of telling us that "The South will rise again!" Never in their nightmares have they imagined it would look like this.

So many images and emotions churning on this joyful day. My Composition class this semester focuses on reading and writing with and about images. We talked today about what images historians will use to commemorate this campaign. My choice would be the sight of Jesse Jackson in the crowd at Grant Park last night, slain in the Spirit, tears running down his cheeks.

<img src="http://images.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/11/05/obama/story.jpg" alt="Jesse Jackson at Obama victory rally">

As much as Obama's graceful evocation of King (and Lincoln) in his speech, Rev. Jackson embodied the moment for me: his the body that cradled the dying King, his the body propelled through a quixotic campaign for President, his the body standing in the night air, not posing and posturing for the cameras, not risking the role of Fool to make the points that needed to be made — lost in himself, in his memories, joy and sorrow flowing over his face.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr <a href="http://www.theroot.com/id/48731" title="H. L. Gates, "In Our Lifetime"">articulates with such clarity </a>the historical moment:
<blockquote>Nothing could have prepared any of us for the eruption (and, yes, that is the word) of spontaneous celebration that manifested itself in black homes, gathering places and the streets of our communities when Sen. Barack Obama was declared President-elect Obama. From Harlem to Harvard, from Maine to Hawaii—and even Alaska—from "the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire … [to] Stone Mountain of Georgia," as Dr. King put it, each of us will always remember this moment, as will our children, whom we woke up to watch history being made.</blockquote>

It will surprise no one who knows me well that the words I can't get out of my head this morning are James Weldon Johnson’s:

<blockquote>Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died.
Yet with a steady beat ,have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers died?

We have come over the way that with tears has been watered;
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered:

Out of the gloomy past 'till now we stand at last
Where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.
</blockquote>
Go ahead, sing the high note.

Current Mood: exuberant, exhausted

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November 4th, 2008


06:57 pm - Election stores
Something to read while we wait for news.

Yes, they both made me cry.

Avoting-place story from San Francisco.

This writer explains why he didn’t vote for Obama.

Here, have a Kleenex.
Current Mood: anxiousanxious

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09:51 am - Yes, we can.
8 a.m.
Precinct 17, Dearborn, Michigan.
Fifty people in line at my precinct, ten times as many as I've seen there in 15 year. An hour later, when I'm done (Voter # 129) , there are 60 people in line.

This is what history feels like.

Vote Obama

Yes, we can!
Current Location: Dearborn, Michigan

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February 5th, 2008


10:12 am - Why is this day different from all other days?
I'm sure I've posted this before, but it bears repeating. This is from the late Phil Johnson, of WWL-TV:

Transcribed from broadcast.com video archive from the 12 noon newscast; Lundi Gras (Monday, Feb 15, 1999)

And what is there to talk about
except that which everybody else is talking about?
Of course -- Mardi Gras.

It’s that time again.
That wonderful, crazy, colorful, crowded, happy, mixed-up, but glorious time

When all New Orleans forgets itself for a day, lets its hair down,
puts on a rubber nose, a funny hat and walks around laughing at the
silly people and the crazy costumes.

It’s a day for contrast, a day for change;
a day when legions of quiet, timid, introspective, little men
forsake their neat clerks’ desks,
put masks across their faces,
and suddenly become Don Juan;
a day when a secretary can become queen of England,
a housewife, Annie Oakley.

Mardi Gras is fantasy in a fright wig,
reality with burnt cork on its nose,
a dream with a scepter in its hand,
pompousness about to be punctured.

Mardi Gras is fun, laughter, vulgarity, coarseness, color, light,
and -- at the end – quiet.

Mardi Gras is a state of mind, an attitude, a pose, an opinion.

But at its most basic and perhaps most satisfying of all, Mardi Gras is the one day in the entire year when New Orleans can tell the whole world, “We’re going to have fun.”

And we do.

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