Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Social Consumerism

My buddy Guy Wonders strikes again over at Cul de Sac Blues. One of his cronies termed group shopping trips as "social consumerism". Not sure if he coined the term or not, but it is a handy term indeed.

Like most other people of the heavy left leaning persuasion, I've had consumerism on the brain in recent years. My right leaning buddies don't seem to talk about this as much, but they do seem to warm to the subject when I bring it up in conjunction with, "Where the heck is all my money going? And how did all this crap end up in my basement?"

I resonate with those photo spreads in Yes! magazine showing the sea of abandoned cell phones and the island of forgotten Ford Fiestas. I'm forever frustrated by ridiculous packaging, the wasteful "simplicity" of so many items in grocery stores, and the inability of Richmond, VA to take up recycling 5/6 of the plastic containers I end up with. I don't find shopping relaxing. It creeps me out.

But then there's "social consumerism" which is the co-mingling of interaction with others and buying. This combination is very alluring to me. I LOVE charity auctions. We have one in our congregation, as does our sister congregation and I get all excited about those. In Cul de Sac Blues, Mrs. Wonders and other neighbors go on a second-hand-store odyssey. And here at our church quilting group, we love to go on a fabric and notion binge together. These are wonderful, memorable community occasions, but there's the eternal consumerism problem - I always end up with too much stuff.

I don't have answers to this. It is something I struggle with as I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle and be a good role model for my kids. Then my son and I go to the quilting store and buy twice as much as planned because he wants to make a quilt with frogs and race cars.

My daughter seems to have a plan, however. This morning in our ongoing struggle to get her potty trained she made the defining statement. She peed on the bag of quilting stuff.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What are weddings?

Those in my profession spend a lot of time waxing about the meaning of marriage, the purpose of a wedding, the religious and spiritual significance, and blabbady blabbady on we go. I include myself in the blabbady crew.

One of my brides just sent me this photo which takes all the blabbady out. The photographer snuck this while I was greeting guests after the ceremony. For all we say about weddings, marriage, and the timelessness of love - yes, it is all true. But on a hot summer day - this is what this minister is feeling.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What I did Without a Summer Vacation

Still laughing about Lilly the dog (see yesterday's post) and I'm glad some of you are, too.

This summer, in addition to much travel and way too many conferences, I have had the joy of some summer reading. I always appreciate when others give me a thumbnail of the books they've read. Maybe you do, too? Maybe you agree, maybe not, but here's my take on some of the more recent books I've read.

Good to Great, Jim Collins - Non-fiction, business leadership. Believe the hype. Very thoughtful book, incredibly well-researched and mostly well-written. How his team comes to their conclusions is as interesting as the companies they profile.

Fish!, Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen - Non-fiction, business leadership. Skip it. Nice idea, but I'd rather read interviews with the Seattle fish guys. This felt like an infomercial.

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard - Non-fiction, business. Better than I thought it would be. Borrow a copy just so you can be in on the jokes.

March by Geraldine Brooks- Fiction, civil war. I think I may be done with the "fill in the blanks on a minor character" books. (See The Red Tent, Ahab's Wife, etc.) But I loved Little Women as a child so this was a must. Brooks is a writer with a gentle and subtle touch.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk- Fiction, pseudo-mystery. Chuck Palahniuk is a real cool guy in a creepy, cross to the other side of the street sort of way. Reading his uneven stuff is still better than other ways I could spend my time. My favorites on this one were the leitmotifs of what they don't teach you in art school and the weather reports. It's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, but using your eyes instead of your nose. And it's way funnier.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk - Fiction, oral history form. I was sick and in bed anyway so I went for a Palahniuk two-fer. I really think that this is his best work since Fight Club and Choke. Different feel for him because of the oral history format. Some weasel book reviewer ruined one of the best surprises for me, though. When I find you, evil reviewer, I will give you my ear infection.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk - Fiction, Nobel prize winner for literature. This is a re-read for me. I'm a big Kafka fan and had heard there were similarities. There are. One of which is that if you put the book down for more than a day, even if you are on page 347, you gotta' go back and start again from page 1. I make myself read a Nobel Prize winner a year to keep my literature degree feeling meaningful. This is certainly doing the trick.

I've read a couple of others, but they didn't make lasting enough impressions. I spent 20 bucks on one of those Harvard Business Review books only to find that it's written on a fourth grader's reading level. Grumble, grumble. And I've been reading things for sermons and Vespers but I don't usually count those because I read differently when I need things for work. Perhaps in a later blog I'll do a thumbnail of the half dozen religious book I've read this summer.

But I would like to share one more.

Possession by Susan Williams - Poetry. Susan is a member of my congregation and a delightful poet. I was looking forward to this coming out, but little did I know. I laid down to browse it on a hotel bed in Virginia Beach. 1 hour later I had devoured every poem like they were my beloved peanut M&M's. But Susan's poems are better because they never run out. I got to the end and just started reading some again. Congratulations, Susan! There was one of these on Amazon when I checked. Go for it or order from Finishing Line Press directly.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Laughter reigns again

I've been travelling all summer and have just returned in the past week. Sorry for the blog silence, but I couldn't get internet most of the time.

So now I'm back from outer space, as Gloria Gaynor says, and everything is a wreck. The server at work is angry angry.

A seal blew out as the guy was power washing the window directly above my desk. That was wet.

I have what the doctor called "air trauma" in one ear. I call it deafness.

And then there's just the usual summer stuff.

All of this is to say that maybe blogging is not what I should be doing with my half-deaf, soggy, internet-deprived self. But at least it's all in perspective.

In the past 3 days I've been to a funeral and a visitation for two different men I've known. One lived a long good life and I'll still miss him. The other died suddenly and tragically. All who knew him will be troubled by his death for a long time to come. That kind of experience makes the little things more obviously little things.

To show that I'm not all gloom and doom, I give you Lilly. Lilly is a Weimaraner who belongs to one of my mom's friends. She has some ailment, obviously. She's undergoing acupuncture therapy. And, sorry Lilly, but I can't stop laughing at you, girl.