20 February, 2008

Urban Aesthetic and Reanimation

Despite many recent posts to the contrary, this blog is supposed to be about the Urban Aesthetic; the rediscovery of forgotten value. I want to write about the rebirth and renewal that I see every day in cast-off things. My goal in community development is to find value where I live. This disinvested neighborhood needs to be appreciated and nurtured, rejuvenated and loved. The Urban Aesthetic is finding new use -inspired by the muses of necessity- for unwanted things, ideas and people. For lack of a segue, I give you:

The Reanimation Library

The Reanimation Library collects books that have been deemed useless and out-moded by the rest of society and returns them to circulation as a resource for "artists, writers and other cultural archaeologists." It is based in Brooklyn and claims to harbor books from "thrift stores, stoop sales and throw-away piles across the country." My boxes of forgotten books are no longer the only collection of its kind. The curator is slowly scanning interesting pictures from the various volumes, re-envisioning library like Dr. Frankenstein saw rotting corpses.

All the pictures are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license. creative commons license

(This means you can use the images, but you can't make money off of them and you must credit to the source.)

The curator, Andrew Beccone has this to say about his delightful collection:
Although unbeknownst to me at the time, the collection that would become the Reanimation Library began at 3:19 P.M. on September 8th, 2001, when I purchased Karl U. Smith and William M. Smith's The Behavior of Man: An Introduction to Psychology for $1.37 at a Goodwill in Saint Paul. Although I had frequented thrift stores since the early 1990's, I had rarely purchased books from them. I was absolutely amazed by the quality and number of graphics in The Behavior of Man, and my subsequent thrift outings became focused on finding more books like it. This turned out to be easier than I had thought: once I began searching thrift stores, garage sales, library sales, and junk stores, I found many more books filled with diagrams, illustrations, and pictures covering a wide expanse of human knowledge. And the surprising thing was that for the most part, these books had been removed from the public sphere of information - they were the unwanted discards of libraries and personal collections. It was fortunate for me, although somewhat confusing, that no one seemed to want these books. [emphasis mine]
I have seen too many boxes of unwanted books sitting by the curb after an unsuccessful yard-sale. I have probably taken too many boxes of those books home with me too, but if you want to hear complaints, talk to my bookshelves. Mr. Beccone is encouraging a new environmentalism: reuse before recycle. Or maybe this is recycling...or maybe both at the same time. The point is: someone found "useless, unwanted things" and has turned them into something new and beautiful. These books have been rescued from their societally abandoned ash pile and are being digitized (and improved) as an affordable and shareable medium.

This reminds me of Christ. He is in the business of making all things new: my neighborhood, our political system, our ways of life. He restores my soul, our souls. The restoration that he brings to our lives allows us to holistically renew the communities around us.

If you have had any meaningful interactions with the Urban Aesthetic lately, drop me a comment. Anyone want to roadtrip to Brooklyn?

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19 February, 2008

Goody Goody Link Drops!

Small sampler of what has held my attention recently:

"...It's because the editors of the NIV pee sitting down..."
Video of a sermon; the Man's Church meets the KJV.

America: Seven Deadly Sins by Geography
from Forbes.com via Tall Skinny Kiwi

Library DDR
I will trade you a Rock On rating on Symphony X for 3 overdues and a lost book. <BB>

Where's The Banned Beef?
The life of a dairy cow. That's enough for me.

Emergents Do Not Hate Scripture!
At least, that's what the conspirators want you to believe!

Apparently Karl Barth is fine for Wheaton, but Tony Jones is not...

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15 February, 2008

On the Results of Political Activism

Disclaimer: None of the activities mentioned in this post took place during paid Americorps time.

On Feb 12, I posted a facebook event to help publicize a donation drive for Obama. Being Lincoln's birthday, this event which was originally promoted here, sought to commemorate the connection between Lincoln and Obama by encouraging his supporters to donate $5.00 and $.01, the denominations we use to honor our former president. I had a lot of fun putting everything together and my group potentially raised about $500 for Obama (not bad for a little inspired facebook trolling).

Now that you have the background information, I can get to the point. I found the responses to my invitations much more interesting than the awareness and fund raising they generated. Many of the Ron Paul supporters (or Paulites as I like to call them) immediately left anti-Obama/pro-Paul messages on the wall of the event. I didn't mind very much that the messages were there, but I think a better response would be to create their own events to reach people instead of piggy-backing on my own work, so I deleted most of them. (Ack! Obama Supporters Censor Free Speech!) In case you didn't know, I can't stand Ron Paul...but I deleted the Hillary and Huckabee comments also [Get Your Own FB EVENT!].

I find political banter to be highly entertaining and I love hearing arguments for and against my chosen candidate. (however, I do not enjoy being baited...unless it's done in fun.) However, some of the responses directed personally at me were disturbing. They showed up in my FB Inbox in response to notes I had sent to all of the people I invited.

The first one reads:
I don't know that this response really deserves another riposte, but note the fact that the responder is calling my faith into question. All-caps signifies Yelling in an online medium. The main point of the argument is based on a fallacious email being maliciously spread by uninformed forwarders. Perhaps this is why the less-educated states are going for Hillary? I'll come up with a terse yet kind response to this later.

Here's the second of note:
"Chris, I will not help nor vote for a candidate who supports the murder of the unborn. Also, could you help me understand how those who say they know Jesus Christ can adamantly advocate such an individual? I am trying to wrap my mind around this."
This one is more insidious and just as fallacious as the first response. Again, my faith is called into question and the basis of outrage is mis-information. Oh goodness, I could talk for hours about churches that tie their Christianity into a political party (on both sides of the aisle) and Christians who only believe what James Dobson tells them. I grew up listening to Dr. Dobson. I like him as a person. His radio shows engaged me with interesting topics from a young age. Adventures in Odyssey totally rocked. However, I think he's allowing his political affiliation and societal standing to influence his interpretation of scripture. It's a different facet of a syncretism that is vehemently condemned from traditional pulpits across the country.

I started to respond to the second responder in an angry fashion. It suddenly occured to me that this person was probably feeling as cynical toward me as I felt in reaction. I know from previous experience that this person has no understanding of social justice or racial reconciliation and makes no effort to mask contempt for the concepts. Instead of being very very mean, I ended up responding harshly, but with a personal vulnerability. My deepest thoughts on abortion are too personal to share here, but if you want, I'll relate them privately. Overall, I don't feel that attempts to legislate this issue out of existence will work. I agree with what John Perkins said (at Wheaton, no less):
"I believe in the Right to Life...that means ALL life, not just the life of the unborn..."
I believe in the right to Life, as well as the right to Live. We cannot neglect one for the other.

This interview with Barack Obama, published in Christianity Today, was written by my friend and former classmate Sarah Pulliam. It showed me a politician who understands the need to balance religion and political office. His Christianity informs his actions, but his Christianity is not informed by a voting bloc.

Election issues aside, I think this whole facebook exchange has shown me that we need to pay closer attention to what political candidates have said instead of considering someone's support for them to be a tacit acceptance of a socio-political issue (and then questioning their faith). No one should become a one-issue voter. None of our choices are good enough for that.

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13 February, 2008

Mixed Media

Barack Obama Won Maryland!!

To be honest, I am shocked. I had expected Hillary to squeak by him in my home state. I remember so many people in PG county, MontGo county and pretty much everywhere around Frederick county (quite red) ADORING the Clintons while they were in office. Oh, heh...I just said 'while They were in office,' oops. :)

Obama actually carried my home, Frederick County by 3%. County-by-county Results

"We will not allow our dreams to be deferred..."
He mixes his literary/cultural references so well.

Ok, enough gushing. Although I may have raised close to $500 for him through a FB event...I'm not allowed to campaign or raise political funds for anyone while on Americorps time, and I don't.
Ok, really enough.

I'm headed out to Wheaton in the morning to hand out promotionals for the upcoming CCDA Conference in Miami. Dr. John Perkins is speaking for the annual Missions in Focus event there. I'm super excited. Interestingly enough, the man who inspired me at the MIF in 2005 will be a plenary speaker at CCDA08: Rev. Soong Chan Rah. He and I are acquaintences, we've had lunch a few times. I would love to study under him and Dr. Mary Nelson at North Park Seminary.

CCDA (Christian Community Development Association - where I work) has finally rolled out its new website. There are still things for me to fix and interesting taxonomy issues, but we are very happy to see the fruit of our labors. TechMission has done an excellent job in creating new online resources for us. Anyone who wants to subscribe to our eNewsletter (assembled by yours truly) can sign up right on our home page.

Ok, enough plugging.
I have to be up early. Goodnight!

04 February, 2008

Why Politics Make Me Cry...sometimes

The last time I remember crying because of politics, I was 8, and Bush Sr. had just lost to Clinton. Now I find myself heavily invested in politics again, but this time, all of the potential I see has brought out this emotional response. I'm not the only one reacting this way. Across our country, a wave of the sorrowful past is crashing down. We ride the crest on the swells of Yes, we can.

Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices crying for change

I have been following this election closer than I have followed any other. For the past year, ever since Barack Obama announced his candidacy, I have been glued to polls, fund raising estimates, outbursts and politicos. I was fascinated with Obama after the 2004 Democratic Convention. I am even more fascinated with him now.

It is funny to think that I fall directly into my demographic; pre-to-post-college grads. It's also funny to realize that all of my friends except one or two are supporting him with me. It says something about how I've changed and something about how my friends have changed.

My earliest memories about Bill Clinton (that made an impact) had to do with disgrace and adultery. He taught me a great deal about adult life and the consequences therein. I also grew up listening more to impersonators of Clinton on Rush Limbaugh's Radio Show than I did to Clinton making speeches himself. My fondest memories of Hillary are tied into a remix of "All I wanna Do"(...is rule the world), sung by someone sounding like the First Lady. An auspicious backdrop to be sure.

I like both candidates, but Obama has resonated with many of the ideas and ideals that I hold to be precious. Consistently, he has offered policy ideas that make perfect sense to me. I find him to be a student of history, not a revisionist; he is someone willing to stare the ugly parts of this country in the eyes and not back down.

Quick note on why I'm voting Democrat:

I simply find their attitudes towards the people of the world to be closer to what Jesus meant when he said "Love Your Neighbor." Of course, there are bad people that call themselves democrats, but even a system that doesn't work perfectly is better than a system that promotes unrestricted capitalism (which I think is a pretty good economic idea, but sucks as a religious one). One side of the aisle glosses over the sins of the past while the other gives them a glossy finish, framed on the wall of "progress." Like I've said before in previous posts (here and here), I'm firm in my belief that we all need to think globally, not just nationally, or as a state. We are all interconnected communities. Man's actions and political policies do not happen in a vacuum. I think that some of the ideas and strategies of the republican party could work, I simply think that these strategies have other interests in mind. This sort of thinking runs both ways. I want a president who understands these realities and wants to reconcile the damages of the past decade. I grew up in the Newt Gingrich era of super-partisanship. The way to get something done in politics was to divide and conquer with superior numbers and filibusters. I believe that it is time for something new, something hopeful.

I want to post soon about my neighborhood. I've got the title written already.