Thursday, October 30, 2008

Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards.

As the country looks forward and picks a new President, here's a reminder of those who came before (but the video was made before Bush Jr. so he doesn't make an appearance)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Please Pray

Nicky and Gavin are a New Zealand couple that I met in Lubbock when I first moved there from the U.K. They moved away and are now both nurses in Chicago, but we stay in touch regularly.

Nicky called me because her parents in New Zealand were in a bad car wreck and are both in emergency surgery in critical condition. She is flying out there this morning.

Please pray for them.

Nicky said she would try and keep everyone updated from her blog.

Thanks guys.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fat Jesus

A work colleague of mine was surfing yesterday looking at kitsch Jesus art - and I use the term art loosely here. I'm sure many of you will have seen these before.

Here we have 'Biker Jesus'

Jesus in camo gear - but apparently called 'I Am Peace'

'Jesus the Sportsman'

'Jesus the Extreme Sportsman'

In all of these Jesus is definitely a White Westerner. Even though we know he was of Jewish decent he isn't very often portrayed that way in religious art.

That has changed recently though. African and Asian Christian art has portrayed him in a way that connects with their culture.

In every piece of serious religious art I've ever seen I have never seen Jesus portrayed as overweight. The only images that I found when I googled 'Fat Jesus' were caricatures, cartoons, and an advert for a theater piece about a singer who was turned down to play the role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar because of his size.

Now historically I know the chances are that Jesus was not heavy, all that walking for one thing. But if it's now o.k. to do serious works of art that show Jesus as Asian, or African, or even kitsch pieces that show Jesus playing basketball, why is nearly every image of Jesus slim? 'African Jesus' almost has a six pack!'

Whilst surfing I even found this:

To be honest though this pic makes me feel uncomfortable.

Would a 'Fat Jesus' picture make you uncomfortable? Is it possible to take one seriously?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's Hands are you Holding?

The wires are holding hands around the holes;
To avoid breaking the ring, they hold tight the neighboring wrist.
And it's thus that with holes they make a fence.
Lord, there are lots of holes in my life.
There are some in the lives of my neighbors.
But if you wish we shall hold hands.
We shall hold very tight.
And together we shall make a roll of fence to adorn Paradise.
From - 'Prayers' by Michael Quoist

Who's holding your hands?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What is the 'Real America'?

At a fund raising event in North Carolina, Sarah Palin said:

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation,"

As a 'Resident Alien' I've viewed this current election with amusement, scepticism and some horror. As an alien I'm not allowed to vote, so I'm not paying as close attention as maybe I would if I was a member of the electorate.

I was very intrigued by Palin's concept of 'Real America'.

What makes a real American?

Is it defined by Geography, Work Ethic, level of Patriotism and Political Ideology as Palin suggests here? Is it determined by Faith Community, Occupation, Orientation?

I have never read all of the Declaration of Independence, but I know it begins "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Surely all men (and women) are created equal, even if they differ in terms of geography, work ethic, level of patriotism and political belief. I am considering beginning the process of becoming an American Citizen at the moment. My Green Card expires in a few years and I am deciding whether to just renew it or go the next step.

Will I be a real American then? The requirements for citizenship are so stringent that when they have given the exam to Americans many of them fail.

Here are some sample questions (I can answer some of them, but not all) -

  1. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
  2. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
  3. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
  4. There were 13 original states. Name three.
  5. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
  6. What does the judicial branch do?
  7. Name your U.S. Representative.
  8. Who makes federal laws?
  9. What does the Constitution do?
  10. What is the supreme law of the land?

I posted this today because I was watching The Daily Show and saw this clip and it made me chuckle. (it's The Daily Show, so be aware some of you might find some of its humor inappropriate - you have been warned)

So, what is 'Real America'?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If Lyrics matched the Video

I thought this was awesome!!!

Dogs and Beethoven

More classic muppet moments.

I actually played this peice as part of my university audition - I'm glad the the Professor didn't react like Beethoven.

(Actually he didn't just have 8 notes, he had 12 because he used the chromatic scale)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

After the Surgery, the Heat.

I blogged yesterday about my first ever attempt to Spatchcock a chicken.
Well last night was the chance to taste the fruits of my labors. I put the chicken and the remnants of the marinade into a roasting pan (adding more Rosemary on the way) and also diced up some potatoes and carrots and tossed them in some oil and then added more rosemary and seasonings.

Then it was into the oven for 45 minutes.

The smell in the kitchen was wonderful - very comforting. And I needed comfort, I climbed on my bike for the first time in 10 months yesterday and went for a 30 minute bike ride. I'd been reading some of my old blog entries over at Myspace where I was cataloging my weight loss. As it's now become 'former weight loss' I figured I should do something about it. So out came the bike.

And - after making my kitchen smell yummy, out came the chicken.

I was very pleased with the glorious crisp golden-ness of the skin.

So how did it taste?

To be honest although I could smell and taste the Rosemary, I couldn't taste the lemon from the marinade at all. It tasted o.k. but not brilliant. I do wonder about the quality of the chicken. If I had splurged and bought one of those 'run free on the hills and fed on a diet of fresh air and angels before being laid to rest in the most humane manner possible (a sort of poultry Logan's Run)' kind of chicken whether it would have tasted better than my 'cheap, fed crap, hung upside down and brutally slaughtered' chicken that I used.

I was rereading the hilarious 'Julie and Julia - my year of cooking dangerously' last night. In it Julie talks about how cooking styles had changed. Her parents would take a mediocre piece of meat and work with it until it tasted fabulous, whereas today's style of cooking involves finding the most superior ingredients that you can find and doing as little too them as possible.

The cookbook I got the recipe from did go into great detail about how to pick the best bird possible, so it seems there is some truth to her assertion.

I either need a better chicken or a better marinade.

Time for more culinary experimentation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chicken Surgery

I've been reading a lot of cookbooks again recently, especially Nigella Lawson's, and one of the items that caught my eye was 'Spatchcocked Chicken'.

To spatchcock a chicken basically involves some good kitchen shears and some wrestling. Nigella describes what you have to do in one sentence, but that one sentence doesn't even hint at the carnage you will witness when you attempt this for yourself.

Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board and cut along each side of the backbone.

You can then totally remove the backbone and discard it.

It's at this point that you begin to see the gruesome reality of the inside of a chicken's cavity. Nigella says to just flip the chicken over and flatten it with the heel of your hand, but after doing research online, and actually finding a video on how to Spatchcock on youtube(!!!), I followed their advice and added an extra step by removing the sternum (or keel bone/breastbone as it's sometimes called.)

Pretty horrific isn't it. I felt like Halloween had come to the house earlier than usual this year. There's no need to go to a haunted house, just watch Peter mutilate poultry!

The sternum is the white phallic bone right in the middle of the chicken. You basically slide your fingers along each side of it to separate it from the meat - not a pleasant sensation, and then pull!

And here is the fully spatchcocked chicken. It can be easily cooked on the grill like this, or it can be roasted in the oven in about 45 minutes! I put it to bed in a ziplock bag with some lemon juice, olive oil, onion and rosemary. I'll let you know how it tastes.

And for those of you who are really curious here is the Youtube video - it's entitled 'How to Butterfly a Chicken' - which is what I've done, it's just that 'Spatchcock' is the old English term for the technique and is fun word to drop into conversation to see how people react!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Forgetting French Class

I am not really gifted at foreign languages. I have a quite good ear for pronunciation, but grammar is my downfall.

High School french was torturous for me, I even took German instead as I got slightly better marks in German in one exam, but as my High School exams show I was actually even worse at German then French!

I've forgotten the names of many of my High School Teachers, but not my french teacher Mrs. Greeney. She would often skip down the aisle of her mobile to the chalk board, and she was known to hit students on the head with the chalk eraser leaving a line of fine white power across the scalp like some kind of dusty Mohawk.

Like most classrooms we sat in rows, 4 students each side of the center aisle and four rows of desks. What made Mrs. Greeney's class different was you would change seats every few weeks.

After every test and pop quiz you would get a new seat assignment based on your result. You would be seated in order from the front row to the back with the 8 front students having the lowest marks in that test. I spent most of my time at seat 9 or 10, struggling not be on the front row.

Everyone became very protective of their position because they knew that the next test was never far away. I say everyone, but I think the back row seat was permanently occupied by Rebecca Anderson who's knowledge of french was unsurpassed (or it might have been Nicola Evans in pole position, I was seated so far away from them that I can barely remember).

Nobody wanted to help each other in French Class. If I help you, you might do better than me in the next test and take my seat. My status depends on your ignorance.

French Class was a microcosm of society. Whenever I used to meet someone new I had to rate them on my scale to see how we compared. Unlike french class however my scale was totally weighted in my favor.

Do they drive a nicer car than me? Then they are worldly, shallow, and don't care about spiritual things.

Do they drive a worse car than me? They obviously have bad credit and can't afford a loan.

My self esteem depended on me seeing myself as better than you.

Over the years I've done a good job of dismantling the lessons of French Class. I've begun to see and value the person God has created me to be without having to minimize other people to do it.

Unfortunately the lesson of the Seating Plan reared it's ugly head again last week. I was on Facebook and I spotted a comment a friend had made. I disagreed so I responded back, then he did, then I did and before I knew it I was in a flame war.

I lay awake that night with my mind racing with all the things I should type and say to defend my position and win the argument. I was going to teach him. Needless to say I didn't sleep well as I didn't like who I was becoming.

I made a conscious decision to step away from the argument, though I shamefully admit that even in doing that I had to leave a parting jab. I've chosen to not read any further responses and I heard that the entire discussion thread has been deleted.

I could have defended my position. I'm OK with people disagreeing with me. What I'm not o.k. with was who I became in that argument. Being right became more important to me than being loving. I minimized the other person and then looked for ways that I could 'keep my seat'. I don't like that part of myself.

I may have left french class, but french class has not left me.

Comparaison n'est pas raison, as they say in France.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Muppet Show Fun

I've been watching Series three of the Muppet Show on dvd, and these three clips stuck in my memory.


Why did the chicken cross the road?

(I'd seen some of these before, but it made me laugh this morning so I thought I'd post it - thanks Jeremy.)

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road... ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz


HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of crossing?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmers Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never crash.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Presidential Debate Drinking Game

(Taken from

Each time McCain or Obama says one of the following words or phrases, shout it loudly and take a drink of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. To keep score, circle ahead of time the buzzwords and phrases you think the candidates will employ tonight, worth five points each time they are uttered by either candidate -- or moderator. And have fun! Here is the list:

Bill Ayers
Tony Rezko
Tony Romo (double shot)
Brooksley Born (double shot)
My Friend(s)
North Korea
Great Depression
Alan Greenspan
Paul Krugman (double shot)
Lehman Brothers
Golden Parachute
Middle Class (triple shot if McCain says it)

Bonus Question: How many times will McCain say "my friends"? (Can he possibly top last week's count of 22 times?)

I've been composing again.

I'm currently working on a simple Christmas Lullaby for choir, but I just finished my new setting of the text of 'In The Bleak Midwinter' by Christina Rossetti.

You can listen to the music (and see it) by clicking here. - You'll have to download a music plug in called Scorch, but don't worry, it's perfectly safe :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Perils of Non-Verbal Communication

She winks more than any other politician...
...maybe she should read Proverbs 10:10 "He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow" GRIN

Why Me?

I'm currently in a small group that is going through an adaptation the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. The first few weeks have just been setting the ground work, this week is the first full week. The first topic for reflection?

The Negative Force of Sin in the World.

I must confess I had an inward groan - that continued when I saw the sub-categories
  • The Sin of the Angels. Luke 10:18
  • The Sin of Adam and Eve. 1 Cor 15:21
  • The Sin of Adam and Eve (part 2) Genesis 3: 1-19
  • The Sin of One Person. Luke 12:20
  • Reflection on Judas. Matt 26:24
  • Reflection on your own life.
  • A Meditation on Hell. Matt 25:34, 41

This is not exactly the way I want to spend my week. A large part of my own faith journey has been shaking off the labels of 'Sinner' and 'Fallen' because they obscured me from seeing the goodness that God has placed in me. I've spent all this time bolstering my fragile self-esteem, why go back to berating myself?

I could write a long post about Augustine vs Pelagius vs Aquinas and the doctrine of 'Original Sin', but although I find the differing views interesting, the reality it would be 'head games' for me.

In wikipedia it says about Original sin: "In the history of Christianity this condition has been characterized in many ways ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a "sin nature," to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt by all humans through collective guilt."

I could wax eloquently about 'deficiency' vs 'tendency' vs 'total depravity', but it's all an emotional smoke screen. The truth is that I sometimes do things wrong. I sin, I 'miss the mark'. I think all of us, if we are honest, would say we sometimes 'miss the mark' even if we disagree about what that mark is and how it gets set.

This morning as I prayerfully reflected on the 'Sin of the World' the phrase 'Why Me?' rattled around my brain. Normally it is my mantra whenever things go wrong, but today as I thought about the world and my place in it, 'Why Me?' was a statement of wonder and gratitude.

Thousands go to bed, hungry, cold and fearful. I go to bed, content, overweight and snuggled in my comforter - why me?

Thousands have no employment and health coverage. I have a well paying job, medical insurance, and access to the drugs I need - why me?

I never thought that starting a week meditating on 'Sin' would lead me to 'Gratitude'.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Armpits and Cheese

I've been having way too much fun watching bad 80s pop videos on Youtube.

Bronski Beat
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Dexy's Midnight Runners
The Communards
Chris De Burgh

It's awesome retro time on Peter's Blog

Does any other pop video have as many unwashed armpits as this one?

Or how about this - a video just dripping cheese :)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Parody of a Parody

In 1992 the synth pop group Erasure released an E.P. that was 4 covers of songs by Abba and was appropriately called 'Abba-esque' - all performed in the style of Erasure.

In response the Abba impersonation group Bjorn Again did a cover version of Erasure's song 'A Little Respect' under the album title Erasure-ish.

And here's the video of 'Abba' does Erasure for your viewing pleasure!

Jesus for President? Heck No!!!!

I've had enough of the Presidential Race.

The Obama camp has been talking about McCain's involvement with the Keating Five Scandal. It seems some unethical financial dealings took place by someone McCain knew. This makes him unfit for President.

Using Democrat logic, this means Jesus is unfit for President because of his close ties with the disciple Matthew the Tax Collector. Tax Collectors were known to charge the poor more than the taxes required and pocket the difference. Jesus must have known this but still chose to associate with Matthew.

Too bad. You can judge a man by the company he keeps.

The McCain camp has been talking about Obama's involvement with Bill Ayres. It seems some terrorist activities took place by someone Obama knew. This makes him unfit for President.

Using Republican logic, this means Jesus is unfit for President because of his close ties with the disciple Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were known 'terrorists' who rebelled against the political leaders of the day with acts of violence. Jesus must have known this but still chose to associate with Simon.

Too bad. You can judge a man by the company he keeps.

In my naivete I thought Politics was about Policies not Personalites.

Maybe it's just as well I can't vote.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Mathematics and Humor?!

Yes I'm a math geek, and this is one of my favorite Tom Lehrer songs (lip synched!)

What is weird is that I was taught 'New Math' at school, so the explanation of the sums (both in Base 10 and Base 8) make perfect sense to me. But when he explains how people used to do it, I'm lost!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I don't want to consider the Lilies

(What follows are some random thoughts for the Contemplative Service this Sunday)

Matt 6: 28-30 says "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? "

I've been reflecting on this passage for a few weeks now and thinking about Solomon. He was the 'Golden Boy' of Israel, wealthy, intelligent, good looking a cross between Harrison Ford and Bill Gates. He brought in wealth, ran elaborate building projects including building the First Temple, had great relations with foreign countries and apparently had a fashion sense that rivals Vera Wang and Michael Kors.

Trouble is, good fashion sense is not very high on my list of priorities. I don't have a particular desire to wander around dressed like Solomon, and even though I work for a church, biblical garb is neither expected or desired. So I've been wondering how I would rewrite the passage to make it more attractive for me.

Maybe instead of dressing like Solomon it could read:

'Compose like Sondheim'
'Cook like Bobby Flay'
'Design games like Reiner Knizia'
'Write books like Terry Pratchett'

My list could go on and on detailing people I want to look like, sing like, play music like, think like and earn like.

Who would be on your list?

Making a list like this - although an interesting exercise, is ultimately depressing. It shows my passions, but it also highlights my limits. I'm never going to play piano like Jelly Roll Morton or lift weights like Charles Atlas. In the midst of desiring to be healthy, slimmer and more gifted I need to remember that God will 'clothe me'. He doesn't dress me in a Solomon costume, but calls me to be uniquely me. I'm not supposed to compose music like Sondheim, my call is to compose music like Peter Johns. I'm not designed to cook food like Bobby Flay, I am designed to cook food like Peter Johns. I am not supposed to live, look like or act like anyone else but me - and be me with my flaws, faults and failings.

God calls me to celebrate the unique giftings He has given me and to stop comparing. Underneath comparison is worry. Worry that I'm not good enough, slim enough, fast enough, talented enough, creative enough etc.

Into our worry and comparison Jesus says 'Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?....Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.'

So I will try and give my list of names over to God. I'll thank him for the gifts and the limitations that make me unique.