Dependable Erection

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Church marquees in the news

John alerts me to an AP story apparently carried in the Herald-sun this weekend (i'll be damned if i can find it on their website though) about a couple of books on church signs published recently. Here's a link to it from the Baltimore Sun.

Most churches began in the 1990s to give up wooden signs with sermon schedules in favor of marquees with movable letters.

Signs with humorous one-liners or simple spiritual messages communicated more information to the public about the church and perhaps intrigued newcomers to check out Sunday services, said Colorado pastor Ron Glusenkamp, who wrote the book Signs for These Times.

"It was a way to encourage people to utilize their church signs, to recognize it's a valuable way to connect with people ... to help people kind of reflect on their relationship with God," Glusenkamp said.

Seitz's self-published book of photos, titled The Great American Book of Church Signs, highlights 100 signs covering such themes as faith, forgiveness, love, prayer and perseverance.

Featured in the book are such gems as "Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death," from Church of Christ at Brookhill in Killen, Ala.; "Love God with all your heart, then do whatever you want," from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City; and "Tithe if you love Jesus. Anyone can honk," from Southern Heights Baptist Church in Russellville, Ky.

. . .

Joel Benbow, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Evanston, Ill., whose sign "To Belittle is to Be Little" is included in Seitz's book, said that his marquee is intended to make people curious about the church and that its message needs to be catchy to grab the attention of drivers.

The article also point readers in the direction of the crummy church signs blog, which is certainly a lot more singularly focused than this blog is on church marquees. I've been more interested in documenting the signs around my town (or wherever i happen to be traveling) than seeking out true wackiness, and now that i know someone else is doing that on a national scale, i feel like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm not obligated to find the most inept, the most awkwardly phrased, the most unintentionally offensive church marquees out there. Someone else is already doing that.

Wonder if it hurts my chances of a book deal?


Continue reading Church marquees in the news

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Duke St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Not far off the daily average

In Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, victims of his three decades of autocratic rule took to the streets to celebrate, dancing, beating drums and hanging Saddam in effigy. Celebratory gunfire erupted across other Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad and other predominantly Shiite regions of the country.

There was no sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for the execution, and the bloodshed from civil warfare was not far off the daily average — 92 from bombings and death squads.


Just another day in paradise.

Continue reading Not far off the daily average

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam hanged

I'm betting the video will be on YouTube before i wake up in the morning.

Continue reading Saddam hanged

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

We're fighting them in Mogadishu, so we don't have to fight them in Crawford

Scott Stanzel,White House spokesperson:

"The war on terror is a long struggle and we will be fighting violent jihadists to secure peace for many years to come and the call of this generation is to take the fight to the terrorists to prevent an attack on our nation greater than the scale of 9/11," the spokesman said at the president's ranch where Bush is spending the end of the year.

Jeffrey Gettelman, New York Times reporter:

Islamist forces in Somalia beat a hasty retreat today to their stronghold in Mogadishu, Somalia’s battle-scared capital, crumbling faster than anyone expected after a week of attacks by Ethiopian forces.

Burhakaba, a large inland city, fell first, followed by Dinsoor, not far away, and then Bulo Burto, where just a few weeks ago the Islamists in charge were threatening to behead people who did not pray.

The Islamist fighters, who had seemed invincible after taking Mogadishu in June, now seem powerless to stop the steady advance of the Ethiopian-backed forces of the transitional government.

By this afternoon, the transitional government troops were within 60 miles of Mogadishu and calling for the Islamists to surrender. The Islamist leaders refused, saying they would take their fight “everywhere,” which some people viewed as a veiled threat to expand the guerilla tactics and suicide bombs they have already used.

The fast-moving developments seem to confirm what United Nations officials and witnesses in Somalia have been saying since the fighting erupted a week ago: that the young forces of the Islamists, however religiously inspired, were no match for the better trained, better equipped Ethiopian-backed troops who have tanks and fighter jets.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Seems to me that Bush and his minions are only interested in creating a state of perpetual war, not, you know, actually fighting it or winning it.

Continue reading We're fighting them in Mogadishu, so we don't have to fight them in Crawford

Monday, December 25, 2006

Take me to the bridge

Farewell to the Godfather of Soul.

Continue reading Take me to the bridge

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bonus traffic circle blogging

Markham Ave., Durham, NC


here's a daytime shot:


Continue reading Bonus traffic circle blogging

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Guess Rd., Durham County, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Extreme Makeover in Raleigh

Two very different takes on the recent "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" episode which wrapped up filming in Raleigh a couple of weeks back.

First Sven gives his take:

There's a Triangle, but non-Durham note that was too 'extreme' for me to pass on posting today in the N&O. I had previously read that the not-so-reality-based tv show 'Extreme Makeover' decided to help out a low-income family in Raleigh's Mordecai neighborhood and National Register district by 're-doing' their house with the added kitsch of sending the family to Disneyworld while this happened. A cool and worthy endeavor, I thought.

I was shocked to read today (and, particularly in the world of real estate and development, I am not easily shocked) that not only did the show plan to tear down the 70-year old bungalow, but 1) they did it in an over-the-top staged 'Braveheart'-emulating event of demolition derby cars pulling apart and ramming the house to death, and 2) the replacement house would be built in a week.


The meager humor is that the cars couldn't actually do this - they pulled the columns off, but the porch roof stayed up. The crew had to pre-chainsaw the framing of the house in order to get the walls to fall down when the cars hit it. So then it looks like the place really was not-worth-saving. After all, if a car can knock it down....

And, bottom line, you cannot build a quality house in a week. You can build a functional, servicable, and ultimately, disposable house in a week. The irony is that what they build almost certainly could be knocked down by a car. What results is questionable charity - renovation of the now-demolished house is not the kind of project that meshes well with Pez-dispenser television, but the end result would be a much greater appreciation of the property value for the family than when they sell the house-that-was-built-in-a-week. Given the holiday season, it's reasonable to ask if the net result is 'Giving', or 'Taking'?

Sven, as he always does, makes some excellent points. I'm not always pre-disposed to saving old buildings in the way that he seems to be, but his arguments are sound and he knows his stuff.

Derek Jennings, in this week's Independent, provides a different perspective:

The recently completed Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project in Raleigh was a scripted Christmas miracle. Hollywood celebrities came through on a shiny white horse—er, bus—and, aided by a local builder with a heart of gold, saved the day for a struggling-yet-deserving family. The community came out in droves, demonstrating generosity and love, confirming the best of what we believe about ourselves. Let the studio audience say awwwwww.

As with any Christmas miracle, the setting wouldn't be complete without a chorus of bah humbugging. An alternate take on the above would be: Media conglomerate comes to town and bombards us all with the message that corporations are our salvation and that happiness and success are attainable through over-consumption and the redemptive power of things.

From an abstract, political standpoint, of course I recognize the program is "entertainment"—a show to ABC/Disney—and a highly rated, Emmy Award-winning one, at that. It is most certainly an advertising opportunity for Sears, the show's main sponsor, which stocks each house on every episode chock full of appliances and plasma TVs from their stores. And, sure, the way in which the producers tell the families' stories are carefully calibrated for maximum tear-duct drainage. But so what?

. . .

In Raleigh, the program chose a family in the Mordecai-Halifax Court neighborhood just north of downtown. In recent years the area has undergone a Hope VI HUD grant-funded transition from the Halifax Court public housing project to a gentrifying, mixed-income neighborhood. New, detached $400,000 homes share space (for now) with older, modest and often deteriorating dwellings dating back to the earlier part of the last century.

I'd actually found out early about the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project coming to Raleigh. I'm on the board of directors for a local charity that provides services and transitional housing for the homeless, and an e-mail forwarded to our distribution list from one of the show's producers piqued my interest. The e-mail asked people in local government and community organizations to nominate families we felt were deserving of a new house and being featured on TV. The Rigginses received several nominations and overwhelming support, certainly fitting the Extreme Makeover prototype in that they're highly regarded and display selflessness despite adversity.

The husband, William, has been blind since 1985 and works as an assembler for Lions Industries, which provides jobs and services for the visually impaired. His wife, Linda, a social worker, has suffered a number of health issues over the past year resulting in large medical bills which, piled on top of day-to-day expenses, threatened to overrun their modest resources. Through it all, the couple remain tireless workers at Building Together Ministries, a nonprofit, Christian community organization that provides tutoring, after-school services, summer camps, a thrift store and life-skills classes for disadvantaged youth and parents. Building Together shares its facility with Hope Elementary Charter School, right across the street from the Rigginses' residence.

Their home (like, sadly, far too many downtown) was in extreme disrepair and easily could have been condemned by the city, leaving this couple and their three young children, ages 3 to 6, with no affordable place to go. Even in the midst of that, and living in a house so small they had to keep their refrigerator in the dining room, they took in another family for a while last year, letting them stay in their converted attic. Friends, coworkers and neighbors say that type of concern and willingness to push their needs aside to help others typifies the Rigginses. Their strong faith ascribes this timely intervention to divine providence.

. . .

What snarky blog posts and pissed purists miss while decrying all of the resources being concentrated to aid one family (and often one whose needs may not differ much if at all from many other members of their community) is that when Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes into a city, they help to create a volunteerism infrastructure. There are folks who are lifelong activists, volunteers and community servants who daily go about their business of quietly making miracles in the lives of their fellow citizens. Our society would fall apart (or at least do so more quickly) without them. Yet on the set of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in Raleigh, I met not only those diehard stalwarts, but also a large number of folks who told me that this was their first volunteer or community service project.

Triangle Homeworks saw its roll of registered volunteers double due to its involvement in the project. And were it not for the opportunity to participate in a TV production, receive a blue T-shirt, and the slim chance of an autograph or getting on television, I'm sure the number of folks showing up to work on the Rigginses' house would have been a lot less.

But here's the thing: Doing good for others and playing a part in doing something on a scale much more grand than you could accomplish on your own changes a person.

I don't know if Derek was specifically responding to Sven. I don't think so, and honestly, this is such a busy time of year that i haven't been able to keep up with everyone in town who might be writing about this. But both of these writers are making very legitimate points.

Jennings goes in to describe the condition of the house in great detail: "The family's 6-year-old son was living in what was about a 10-by-10 foot plywood addition tacked onto the back of the house. There was no heating there, except for a space heater," he said, his eyes watering.

"Don [Mead] said, 'I don't care about a TV show. Whether that happens or not, we're gonna do something for this family regardless. And when it was announced and finalized, and we got to actually meet the family, the first thing that Don did was go seek out that little boy and tell him, 'I promise you, you won't have to sleep in the cold ever again.'"

So here's the thing. When you give people a chance to help out someone else who's less fortunate, but clearly deserving, 99 times out of a hundred (oh , hell, 100 times out of a hundred) they'll come through. But the larger picture is that you don't get a hundred times to come through. You basically only get that one chance. And the other 99 deserving folks, well, they might as well not even exist.

and then there's that deserving thing.

By all accounts, the folks whose house was just rebuilt were deserving of a more comfortable existence. I'm happy they got it.

What we can hope for is, i think, two things.

First, that this new community of energized volunteers can keep things going and find all of those other residents in the Triangle living in equally difficult conditions, who are equally deserving, and figure out a way to help them out as well. And by deserving, i mean that they're living, breathing human beings who aren't doing any harm to anyone else. You don't need to be a saint to deserve being lifted out of squalor. And if these new volunteers start thinking about just why it is that all these deserving people are living in deprived conditions, maybe they'll start trying to tackle the systemic problems that our society creates which result in so many people living in substandard conditions. I hope Derek keeps us up-to-date on new projects this community takes on.

The second thing, is to incorporate a little of what Sven brings to the table. There are things from the past worth saving. It's not always necessary, or even desirable, to plow down the old to make a new start. Just because it makes a better TV show, it's not always the way to go.

Continue reading Extreme Makeover in Raleigh

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No tengo futuro

Truer words have never been spoken.

The shadow of President Bush seemed to loom large over his younger brother on Wednesday, as the outgoing Florida governor ruled out any plans to return to elected office.

"No tengo futuro (I have no future)," Jeb Bush told Spanish-language reporters in Miami, when asked about any possible political ambitions after he steps down next month.

The popular, two-term governor has often been touted as a savvy politician with a good chance of following both his brother and father, George H.W. Bush, into the White House.

But the unpopularity and dismal job-approval ratings of his brother may have scuttled any plans Jeb Bush may have had for a future in politics after running one of America's most crucial swing states for the past eight years.

Le's make sure that all of the Bush grandkids get the message as well.

Continue reading No tengo futuro

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Person of the Year

I wrote elsewhere last week "I can see Time giving PotY to some fictional abstract like "Democratic centrist voters" this year."

Which would have been ridiculous enough.

But no. This year, Time made a choice which ought to convince the powers that be to retire the Person of the Year designation for all time.

This year, Time chose You.

The thing that's really annoying is how close they are, rhetorically, to getting it right.

It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Noble sentiments.

But really.

YouTube, in the end, will be America's Funniest Videos on steroids.

You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.

That's the vision.

Forget about YouTube for disseminating those "macaca moments" which helped change the balance of power in the US Senate this year. We need more peeks into rumpled bedrooms, and more distractions. And the new web will be pretty good at that.

A couple of years ago, i saw a movie called "Dare mo shiranai" (English translation: Nobody knows) by the director Hirokazu Koreeda (After Life). A fascinating movie based on a true story of four children abandoned by their flighty mother in a Tokyo apartment to fend for themselves for the better part of a year.

At the end, we learn that the role of Keiko, the mother, was played by You.

I went home thinking that the director had made some insightful commentary as to how we all had some responsibility as adult members of the community to have been aware of these kids and provided for their care, that we really couldn't have just said, "we didn't know." Our social contract obligates us to take part in our communities, and to watch out for the most vulnerable among us.

I learned later that there's really an actress named You.

Unfortunately, for Time magazine, there really is no You.

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Continue reading Person of the Year

More Beatles

This one from RJ Matson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

(h/t to TM)

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Continue reading More Beatles

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Guess Rd., Durham County, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, December 15, 2006

Downtown Durham renaissance in the NYTimes

Interesting article in the New York Times the other day about Durham's downtown renaissance. It's generated the usual discussion on local listservs about what they got wrong, which, if you've ever read an article in a big newspaper about people and places you know well, just comes with the territory.

They actually did better than average, and i particularly like the focus on using the reconstruction of downtown to tell Durham's story. The story is important and instructive to know, especially for those of us who have chosen to live here. I grew up in a rapidly developing Suffolk County, NY during the 60s and 70s. At the time, there were kids who thought that knocking over tombstones in Revolutionary War era cemeteries was a good time.

As more and more people from out of town move to this area, we need to do a better job letting them know, for example, why the Royal Ice Cream building was worth saving.

But what i wanted to talk about was an interesting chicken and egg question that arose in the midst of the story.

Directly across the street is the SunTrust Tower, a 17-story Art Deco building completed in 1937, which the developers also bought. It will be converted into apartments and condos. Meanwhile, the restoration of historic midrise buildings is under way up and down both Parrish and Main Streets, although little in the way of new commercial activity has taken place.

“We’re going to keep ground-floor retail spaces off the market until the residential is built up more,” Mr. Lemanski said. “We’re going to market the entire area at once. The worst thing is if people trickle in, businesses fail, and people trickle back out.”

“We’re investing over the long run,” Mr. Webb added, “so we don’t mind waiting until more pieces of the puzzle are in place.”

Downtown Durham is currently a pretty vacant place, especially after dark and especially since Joe and Jo's closed. But prices for some of the residential condos coming on the market are reaching and exceeding the $200/square foot range, which is not any discount to other downtowns in the state or region, or even to many of the neighborhoods that surround the downtown..

The developers have clearly determined that residents are going to have to come before the service oriented businesses that they will support are started up. The big question is how many people are going to pony up to buy an apartment in a downtown that provides, for the foreseeable future, almost none of the amenities you would expect in a modern downtown.

I guess the market will tell us.


Continue reading Downtown Durham renaissance in the NYTimes

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Augusto Pinochet, meet Jeanne Kirkpatrick

Hope the two of you have a lot to talk about for the rest of eternity.


Please remember Victor Jara, in the Santiago Stadium.
Es verdad.

[ An Unfinished Song ]
Victor Jara

Translated from the Spanish by Joan Jara

There are five thousand of us here
in this small part of the city.
We are five thousand.
I wonder how many we are in all
in the cities and in the whole country?
Here alone
are ten thousand hands which plant seeds
and make the factories run.
How much humanity
exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain,
moral pressure, terror and insanity?
Six of us were lost
as if into starry space.
One dead, another beaten as I could never have believed
a human being could be beaten.
The other four wanted to end their terror
one jumping into nothingness,
another beating his head against a wall,
but all with the fixed stare of death.
What horror the face of fascism creates!
They carry out their plans with knife-like precision.
Nothing matters to them.
To them, blood equals medals,
slaughter is an act of heroism.
Oh God, is this the world that you created,
for this your seven days of wonder and work?

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Continue reading Augusto Pinochet, meet Jeanne Kirkpatrick

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Club Blvd., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, December 08, 2006

Heaven and Hell

If i believed in the afterlife, i suppose i would take comfort in the knowledge that Jeanne Kirkpatrick would be spending eternity fricaseeing in the authoritarian climes of Satan's domain.

As it is, i'll just say good riddance to the woman whose cruel twisting of the English language paved the philosophical way for the current administration to implement torture as legitimate foreign and domestic policy, and think about Oscar Romero instead.

Continue reading Heaven and Hell

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Too little, too late, I'm afraid

From the Iraq Study Group report released today, as quoted by the AP:

It warned that if the situation continues to deteriorate, there is a risk of a "slide toward chaos (that) could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe."

"Neighboring countries could intervene. ... The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized," commissioners said.

In what universe has this not yet happened?

Continue reading Too little, too late, I'm afraid

If only

From, via DU

Hat tip to sz

Continue reading If only

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Quogue, New York


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging