28 December 2004

Jan Egeland Tells It Like It Is

"It bothers me that we -- the rich nations -- are not becoming more generous the more rich we become."

-- Jan Egeland, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief for the United Nations

This came after the United States announced its lavishly-appointed aid package for all of South Asia which amounted to around $15 million, which, I think but I'm not sure, is a little like saying we looked under our collective car seats and found a couple nickels to give to the homeless guy at the gas station.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

[UPDATE: "Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the United States 'will do more' to help the victims of a massive earthquake and tsunamis in Asia and said he regretted a statement by a United Nations official suggesting that it hadn’t helped enough...In an interview on NBC's 'Today' show Tuesday, Powell said that 'clearly, the United States will be a major contributor to this international effort.'" -- from msnbc.com article]

27 December 2004

Checking In With The Vendee Globe

Proof that you have to be a little crazy to sail a race like this. But, then again, do you see how fast that boat is moving? By the way, if there's anybody who knows French and can tell me what he's singing, I would be very grateful. More about the race at the Vendee Globe home page.

The Question Of The Season

"How come everything I think I need always comes with batteries?"

- John Mayer, "Something's Missing"

I know it severely damages my indie credibility to be quoting John Mayer on my blog, but, well, he's got a point...

A Moment Of Silence For Those Living Around The Indian Ocean: A Dew Drop Balancing

"People here seem bewildered by the enormity of what has happened to their country. Everywhere you go, small crowds are huddled around radios and TV sets silently absorbing the news, blank faced, as if unable to comprehend what they are seeing and hearing.

Across the land, collections are being taken for those who have lost everything, vans with PA systems driving around calling on people to give what they can. Even in the poorest and most remote areas, people flock to the roadside to hand over money, clothes, water bottles or bags of rice and lentils. There is a popular Buddhist saying in Sri Lanka: Life is no more than a dew drop balancing on the end of a blade of grass. The events of December 26 have shown just how precarious that balance can be."

-- Paul Sussman, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, quoted on cnn.com

26 December 2004

On Christmas Eve Mass: A Meditation

While listening to the organ prelude, he offered explanation...

Boy: Jesus died for us. (pointing to the cross) That's him up there.
Jen: Do you know why he died?
Boy: For our sins.
Jen: You're right. And today is his birthday!
Boy: It is?
Jen: What are you going to give him for his birthday?
Boy: (thinking) I'm going to give him a tractor. And a Spiderman. And a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Jen: I think he'll like that.

24 December 2004

Happy Christmas Eve and A Note To Self: The Directions Are There For A Reason

Just putting a note in here for next year: when they tell you to put the Christmas tree in water IMMEDIATELY after cutting it, they mean it. We were maybe just a teeny bit lax with the water thing. Things were okay for a few days, but the crispy tree syndrome is definitely in effect. I'm afraid to sneeze in the same room for fear of reducing the whole contraption to twigs and a pile of needles in the corner. Sadly, neither Jen's Christmas tree IV feed nor my round-the-clock plant misting seem to provide much hope for the patient's recovery. Maybe we should have been feeding it less of the strict water diet and more of the Christmas rum...

23 December 2004


This may not look like much as far as a picture goes, handheld and a little blurry as it is, but this is what it looks like over here on the night before the night before Christmas. And as far as I'm concerned, it's all pretty cool.

P.S. A few minutes ago we had Christmas carolers singing in our driveway. I have never heard of such a thing happening in Southern California. I always thought that was just one of my childhood memories from the old country.

Photo Of The Day: On The Water

Yes, winter has officially begun here. Can you tell?

21 December 2004


Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don't make a fist
Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

- Bono/Edge, "Yahweh"

20 December 2004

Photo Of The Day II: December in Los Angeles

In celebration of the coming winter solstice, it's Bonus Day at Zippy The Fish: two photos in one day!

But let us explain ourselves. Here at Zippy The Fish, Inc., we think the winter solstice is worth celebrating, but not because of some goofy-ass plan to "rediscover the ancient druidic mystery" or, like one website we recently visited, "reclaim Santa Claus as a Pagan Godform" (did you know that Santa's reindeer can be viewed as forms of Herne, the Celtic Horned God!) or any other fashionably silly idea like it.

No, we at ZTF just think that it's pretty great that there are such things as seasons and that everything just keeps on working year after year without needing new batteries or fossil fuels or winding up. We're pretty glad that soon the days will start getting longer and warmer and that the heating bills will to go down and that maybe there will be hope again for the potted basil on our back patio (which has been making it very clear that it is not a fan of the whole winter thing.) So, when it comes down to it, it's hope that we're talking about, hope that we think is worth celebrating. The sun is coming back, life is moving on, and the thought that there's a God out there somewhere orchestrating the whole thing doesn't seem so farfetched after all.

So, hooray, it's a good time to celebrate.

Photo Of The Day: Stop

Here's another shot from my walk a few days ago. I like the sense of time in this one. Cacti are not what you'd call speedy plants, by any measure. If they could talk, I'm sure they would speak slowly and take a long time to get to the point. They always make me feel flighty and a little embarrassed by my own lack of patience. So, coming around this corner, I was taken a little by surprise. Who knew that a cactus could be so concise?

17 December 2004

If I Owned The Moon

Sometimes the moon is like 25 cents up in the sky
And it shines bright
And if I could reach it
I'd spend it
I'd buy a continent all for myself
With fir trees and hummingbirds and mountain lions

Sometimes the moon is like fingernails up in the sky
And I have to wonder
Who has been doing their personal hygiene
Up there?
What with the cost of flying a spaceship
And the size of those fingers

On our way home
The moon was like a chunk of gold
Hanging just above the city
The air was so clear
I had to stop to think if there was anyone over there
Who I should call
To warn them
Don't go outside tonight
That thing could fall at any second
As for me I wouldn't want to be driving down Fairfax
When it came down BANG! on my roof
But if it did I guess I'd drive it to the bank
That much gold
It could buy a continent
And a spaceship
And a car with a brand new roof

Life would be so much different
If I owned the moon

14 December 2004

Dallas Willard on Having Enough

This, as far as I can tell, is something true...

The overshadowing event of the last two centuries of Christian life has been the struggle between Orthodoxy and Modernism. In this struggle the primary issue has, as a matter of fact, not been discipleship to Christ and a transformation of soul that expresses itself in pervasive, routine obedience to his "all that I have commanded you." Instead, both sides of the controversy have focussed almost entirely upon what is to be explicitly asserted or rejected as essential Christian doctrine. In the process of battles over views of Christ the Savior, Christ the Teacher was lost on all sides.
Discipleship as an essential issue disappeared from the Churches, and, with it, there also disappeared realistic plans and programs for the transformation of the inmost self into Christlikeness. One could now be a Christian forever without actually changing in heart and life. Right profession, positive or negative, was all that was required. This has now produced generations of professing Christians which, as a whole, do not differ in character, but only in ritual, from their non-professing neighbors; and, in addition, a massive population has now arisen in America which believes in God, even self-identifies as "spiritual," but will have nothing to do with Churches--often as a matter of pride.
What is new in the current revival of interest in spiritual formation is the widespread recognition that by-passing authentic, pervasive, and thorough transformation of the inner life of the human being is not desirable, not necessary, and may be not permissible. We are seeing that the human soul hungers for transformation, for wholeness and holiness, is sick and dying without it, and that it will seek it where it may--even if it destroys itself in the process. We are seeing that the Church betrays itself and its world if it fails to make clear and accessible the path of thoroughgoing inner transformation through Christ.

-- Dallas Willard, Inquiries Concerning Spiritual Formation (thanks to Dashhouse.com for the link)

Yvon Chouinard on Not Having Enough

Many of us in the United States live in what is thought to be abundance, with plenty all around us, but it is only an illusion, not the real thing. The economy we live in is marked by "not enough."...We don't have enough money, and we also don't have enough time. We don't have enough energy, solitude or peace. We are the world's richest country, yet our quality of life ranks 14th in the world. As Eric Hoffer, a mid-20th century philosopher, put it, "You can never get enough of what you don't really need to make you happy."
And while we work harder and harder to get more of what we don't need, we lay waste to the natural world. Dr. Peter Senge, author and MIT lecturer, says, "We are sleepwalking into disaster, going faster and faster to get to where no one wants to be."

-- Yvon Chouinard, mountaineer and owner of Patagonia, quoted in "Don't Buy This Shirt" on the ChangeThis website

13 December 2004

More Venezuela Pics

I've assembled a randomly organized photo gallery of a few more pictures from the Venezuela trip. Check it out if you're interested.

Photo Of The Day: Grateful

I went for a walk in my neighborhood yesterday, on the hunt for things that were beautiful. As this is arguably the most beautiful time of year in Los Angeles, I found plenty of them. 65 degrees and sunny, with a touch of leftover fog in the air, the mountains looming big above me, there was not much I could do but be grateful.

08 December 2004

San Pablito Gallery

One of the small projects I worked on in Venezuela was a photo series on the kids in the Barrio San Pablito.

San Pablito is one of the oldest barrios in Caracas. Established over 40 years ago, it is notorious for its violence in a city where violence is commonplace. Although it's a relatively small community, it is divided into three distinct sections which have historically been at war with each other.

The InnerCHANGE staff we were staying with have been going into San Pablito once a week for a long time to meet with the neighborhood children. The kids do art projects and listen to stories and watch puppet shows. In the past, no one crossed the invisible lines within the little barrio. But that is changing. These days the children are pioneering a subtle reconciliation between the sides. In the past couple years, there has been a noticeable drop in violence in the community.

I wanted take a few simple pictures to honor the courage of the InnerCHANGE staff as well as the innocence and beauty of the kids of San Pablito. These pictures are a tribute to them as well as a prayer of hope for the future.

go to San Pablito gallery.

07 December 2004


We were standing in the will call line outside the Troubadour last night when it really sunk in. Just a few days ago I was in South America, staying for a week in what is by anyone's definition a rough neighborhood, where the night is "very not safe", where everyone goes home when the sun goes down and locks big metal doors and windows shut behind them. Slam! go the doors. The keys jingle in the pocket.

That's where I spent last week. Last night, the contrast was dramatic. I dropped my wife off at the door before driving off to look for parking without any concern for whether she'd be safe or not. When I got back, we stood on the shadowy street without worry. At home, surrounded by the familiar, I'm finding it hard to know what to do with the memory of last week.

Just because I've come home doesn't mean that the darkness in that Caracas barrio has gone away. The things I experienced/survived/feared/explored for one week remain daily facts of life in that hillside neighborhood. For me to forget seems irresponsible and lacking in compassion. But how can I hold both of these things at the same time? It doesn't come naturally to me. The hardness of the present bangs up against the daydream of the past and the present wins every time.

But it's important that I remember because mostly I forget.

It's important that I remember because if no one remembers nothing will change.

It's important that I remember because I get selfish when I don't.

It's important that I remember because they deserve to be remembered.

Mostly I wake up in the morning and stumble out the door and cuss at the drivers on the freeway and do shoddy work on the job and call it genius. The day flies past and I eat bad food and drink expensive coffee and go home crabby to get up and do it again. That's not how things should be.

And so I pray: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy.

05 December 2004

Catching Up

I'm back and getting in my week of sleep in the space of about two days. The Venezuelan bugs that followed me home have been mostly disarmed and I'm feeling like I can face the Monday world again. In the meanwhile, I'm enjoying the rain and the frigid, wintry weather (45 degrees! rain!) that Los Angeles is offering.