And so it goes.

I did a lot of planning to write yesterday and today. Perhaps planning is my worst enemy. I finally sat down to write, and after about 350 words, I sat back and realized I felt like I was drowning. I like building characters. I like building worlds. Unfortunately, I like the details in worlds. I like the minutiae. I could get lost in trying to make sure that every little detail makes sense, is self-consistant, etc. This means that if I want something scientifically based, I have to research it.

So now I have more research and plans and notes than I have actual words on a page, and then other parts of the idea start to unravel. Maybe this is why I’ve had a preference for fantasy over science fiction, at least when I was younger. I like consuming hard science fiction. Fantasy? It’s so great because you can make up the engines that make things go. You don’t have to know about nuclear reactors, or combustion engines, or steam or whatever. You can just say, “magic that works in phases of the moons” and “fairies!” and other bullshit.

I know that the first thing you do is WRITE IT DOWN. I hate that. I hate that about as much as I hate just sitting there and doing a sketch and having it look far from what you envisioned, knowing deep inside there’s some kid out there who draws better than you.

The way you get there is practice. Does that mean I just write whatever gobbled-gook that doesn’t make sense? Filled with logical fallacies, bad science, bad geography, and worst, bad character motivations?

It’s Game 7 of the World Series tonight. Perhaps I should focus on where I’m going to watch it.

Reposts and Attribution: the “White Aurora” or “The Hem of His Garment”

Edit 2020-10-13 – I noticed traffic to my site has increased recently. Thanks for stopping by! I originally posted this in 2016, and since then there have been a few more fact-checks that confirm what I wrote below. 

Learn about the issues, and elections in your area, register to vote, and vote! Even local elections matter. Black Lives Matter. You are not alone.

One of the things that bugs me about Facebook is the picture re-posting, frequently without attribution. Pictures can be really cool photos, pieces of art, “memes” (whatever the hell that means), or worse, picture of famous person with some inspirational quote. Not only can the picture and/or attribution be bogus, but the account posting the picture that is subsequently reposted can also be a bogus account, meant to gather followers and shares. This issue isn’t limited to just reposts of photos, as that I’ve seen recipes without attribution also “shared.” I’m sticking with photos/pictures for this post.

The one I notice the most are supposedly radio stations, obviously reposting something they found from somewhere else. Then there are the multi-level marketing (MLM) representatives that when you click through, you see their account is all about promoting their business. And if MLM’s weren’t bad enough, you have the pseudoscience quackery of types like David Avocado Wolfe.

That being said, the reason I got all bothered about this one is that I don’t have a habit of making friends with white supremacists.

screenshot of fake aurora from Facebook
Screenshot of Misattributed Photo

The person who posted this, who has a “Keep Calm and Proud to be White” picture on her profile, originally posted to a group of specifically descendents of white colonialists that were pretty much exiled from the African country they once lived in, in part, because they were white colonialist. (There is much more to be said about this, it’s complicated, like geopolitical history often is, but that’s not the topic of this post.)

Anyhow, as I’ve said, I’m always curious about more than just “original” posters that raise eyebrows (this one caught me because of reference to a former name of an African nation whose former, colonialist flag was among those that Dylann Roof was seen sporting in a photograph.) I’m also curious about dubious scientific claims, such as an aurora being discovered and named, “The Hem of His Garment,” a specific Christian allusion, and a “white aurora.” I took a multi-step, multi-minute trip down a Google rabbit hole to find where this photo originated, and finally arrived to a post, in Russian, from July 16, 2010.

Google Translate to English from Russian - Fluorescent Light and Electromagnetic Field by NeverSmile
Google Translate to English from Russian – Fluorescent Light and Electromagnetic Field by NeverSmile

Not “The Hem of His Garment” (which I could find one attribute easily on Google from an Evangelical site, years after the original post), not a “white aurora in Finland,” which also seems to be a common attribution. Instead, it is light art done deliberately by a photographer.

For a piece of art with more than 100,000 shares, I think this deserves better.

Meme of Lists

I love seeing lists of the media that have impacted people’s lives. The other day I saw someone post about 15 movies that had impacted them. Then I saw another person post 10 books that have stuck with them. Today, I thought about listing 5 of the earliest Internet memes I liked/stuck with me. Here are my lists.

I think if you choose to make a list of your own, you should do so first, and then compare notes with your friends. Just a thought.

Fifteen Movies
The Princess Bride
Bringing Out the Dead
The Fifth Element
Event Horizon
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Big Lebowski
A Serious Man
Fight Club
Groundhog Day
Young Frankenstein
Empire Records
Stranger Than Fiction
The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Ten Books

The Grapes of Wrath
The Jungle
Kafka on the Shore
Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume I)
Snow Crash
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
High Fidelity
American Gods
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (Sleeping Beauty Trilogy)

Five Earliest Remembered Internet Memes/Sites
I Kiss You! (1999? I remember earlier.)
Zombocom (1999, and still live!)
Hampsterdance 1998?
Hatt-baby! 2000?
All Your Base Are Belong to Us (Invasion of the Gabber Robots – Laziest Men on Mars) (1998?)

“His Word Found Here” – a Ballard Coffee and Bible Shop?

His Word Found Here LogoUpdate 2020-10-15 – The coffee and Bible shop, His Word Found here, lasted the entirety of its 5 year lease. The space is now a Fleet Feet running shoe store.

If you’re local to Seattle, and spend any time near downtown Ballard (especially during the weekly Sunday Ballard Farmers Market), you’ve noticed many businesses going in and out. A few months ago a paper sign went up on a window near Old Ballard advertising “His Word Found Here” in a thorn-ringed heart (Sacred Heart). I’m sure I’m not the only one who pondered what this business could possibly be, and if it could be successful, given Washington is one of the least religious states and the Seattle metro area one of the most secular in the nation.

This past weekend I noticed they finally got the sign up for the new His Word Found Here shop, indicating (and confirming on the site) that this will be a coffee shop that also has Bibles and assorted resources. In this area of Ballard, you don’t have to walk more than two blocks from the intersection of NW Market and 22nd NW to go to one of eight coffee shops that serve fine espresso beverages, many with pastry, cake, take-away and hot food options, not to mention at least one promising a luxe coffee experience. One even has a used bookstore in the back (Bauhaus Books and Coffee.) Admittedly, I’m a bit sad that the sign for His Word Found Here has been up for months, and barely anything can be found on our neighborhood blog, My Ballard except for a fairly recent forum post which offers little except speculation that the shop would be affiliated with Mars Hill Church, a Neo-Calvinist empire headquartered near the Ballard Bridge. However, Mars Hill already has a coffee shop (well, not really, but Storyville Coffee and Mars Hill Church have close ties.)

Given that I’m a bit of a data junkie, I decided to answer my own questions since our neighborhood “media” hasn’t so far.

The business license for His Word Found Here has the governing person as Diane L. Bundrant. A Google search indicates through multiple sites Diane L. Bundrant is in her late 50’s or early 60’s she has for many years made multiple political contributions (and is listed as an employee of Trident Seafoods) both to Democratic and Republican campaigns as well as one of the largest contributors to the Lingle Victory Fund. Trident Seafoods is owned by Chuck Bundrant, and he is married to Diane.

Business and politics are easy to find, and it looks like the political contributions are heavily in favor of politicians that support the fishing industry that is their livelihood. However, since this new shop is definitely a religious one, this doesn’t answer the question of what *kind* of Christianity they’re selling.

You don’t have to be Christian to have absorbed all these ideas of what “being a Christian” means. It’s so entrenched in our culture that you can be raised outside of Christianity, and know just as much about Christianity as a self-proclaimed believer (or maybe even more.) Some forms of Christianity and their believers do not make a big deal about the private choices of individuals. While clergy and members of some of these institutions may personally be against women’s reproductive choices or the right for all people to engage in a marriage contract, not all believe it’s the responsibility of the state to govern these decisions. In Seattle I’ve seen congregations supporting the GLBT community with rainbow flags including Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal and Lutheran churches. Not all Christians support the state infringing on privacy and human rights.

However, we know there are a vocal and well-moneyed group of people who claim Christianity, and push their agenda by political contributions to the masses, with the outcomes like in Texas, where women’s access to preventative care, including birth control, has been greatly restricted because of restrictions on safe abortion.

In my searching, I have to say that the religious affiliation of the Bundrants is not easily discerned. Charles Bundrant gives multiple thanks to the Lord for his success in an Evansville, Indiana magazine. The Sacred Heart, used on the sign, is typically used by Catholics, but I usually see the Sacred Heart and Catholic paraphernalia with people who have strong ties to immigrant communities (exception: hipsters.) If they are Catholic, that tells us little because Catholics can range greatly from nuns who believe social justice was more important than “denouncing artificial birth control, abortion and homosexual conduct” to not just political action restricting privacy and individual rights, but access to comprehensive health care.

Charles Bundrant was listed as Director and Vice President of the Safe Harbor Church and Community Centerin Akutan, AK. The ministry of that church is through Arctic Barnabas Ministries, but no denomination listed. Indications are that it’s an Evangelical organization.

I look forward to finding out more. The Bundrants probably have enough capital to keep this place floating for awhile (records also indicate they own, or have owned, large amounts of land in Hawaii in addition to Trident.) I’m curious if their niche will have the response they’re looking for. Come to think of it, the Q Cafe is still going, but they’re non-profit, and the one time I went in, was not in the business of selling religion though religiously affiliated. (Their website actually states the cafe is a non-religious extension of their church.) What do you think? Will a coffee and Bible store thrive in Ballard? Where will the money go? Will this be a progressive or regressive institution? I’m considering breaking out of my little blog to actually email the info@ to see if I can get a little more information. Admittedly, this was a lot of work so far, so I’m taking a break. 🙂

My American Utopias

The thoughts presented here have been a long time coming. Thanks to Mike Daisey‘s recent performance of American Utopias for inspiring me to finally write this down.

WDW July 1985By the time I arrived at Burning Man, it was already too big. In August of 1999, a friend I met through the Internet met me in Chicago with his (unknown at the time) dying truck, soon to be filled with all we would need for our road trip and week in the desert. Through car trouble, $300 for a broken water pump in Wyoming, and a busted transmission that left us hitchhiking in Utah, we made it to That Thing in the Desert that would rise to a population of over 20,000 people that year.

I was in my early twenties and had recently changed my college major to religious studies. Through the dust storms, the glittering night skies, and alkaline dust that permeated my skin, cracked my feet, the most amazing thing to me was the rise and fall of this city. I had lived for three years in one of the great American cities, built on big shoulders and “no little plans.” The sweat and blood that built Chicago was stained into the concrete and bricks, the human hands that built them forgotten like a mobster built into a bridge.

Every hour of every day in Black Rock City was humming with life and work. The building never stopped, as with its destruction. When it wasn’t the people tearing down and burning, it was the wind, rain and dust chipping at the foundations. Hard work and hard partying, the community brought everything they thought they and the city needed: community colleges, 12-step meetings, a movieplex, a coffee shop, a smut shack with grilled cheese, bars, clubs, souvenirs, fantastical sites, body art, sinners and saints, prayer, yoga and on and on – but all on the terms of the small groups of people, and all as a gift. A shining, blinking, strobing, face-melting gift.

The beauty of Burning Man was what I was learning in my religious studies work in college – human beings are creators. Like my professor, Dr. David Gitomer at DePaul University pointed out, even our July 4th barbecues connect us to our ancient ancestors. We gather in reverent groups for intoxication and gluttony, making a burnt offering over charcoal briquettes to the spirit of freedom, our love and identification with our home and country. The beauty of Burning Man was seeing the play within a play – America within America – freedom pushed to the edges of what the law allows. And I still marvel, today, and wonder at the hands that, before my very eyes, built this city that Daniel Burnham would envy.

Five years and three Burning Man attendances later, I went to Walt Disney World for what I expected to be a torturous nine days. I had been hoping for a Hawaiian vacation instead, but was outvoted by my in-laws. The Goth deep within me shriveled at the thought of The Mouse, the happy and perfect artifice that would surround me. It was painfully ignorant of the horrors of the world, which for all I know, was why Disney was discouraged in my house growing up.

Four days of drinking Florida water, bad coffee, and eating Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, I was hooked. One by one, I started accumulating Tinker Bell-festooned items. We gathered as a family in Epcot one evening to see Illuminations, their spectacular firework extravaganza. As the sun went down, carts of blinking and spinning lights started appearing. People, young and old, wore glow necklaces and children danced with blinking, twirling batons. Oontz-oontz-oontz sounds rose from the shrubbery, and every so often, a voice from the ether would remind us that we were just moments away from Illuminations.

To this day, this is my favorite fireworks show. The park is full, the crowd is electric, and the entire vibe sinks within me, pulling out the psychedelic glasses that make the world shine in the dark. A lit, spinning globe, covered with images and movies takes a journey around the lagoon.

A beer from the Rose and the Crown before Illuminations in 2009

My first Illuminations hit me hard. I realized that Disney was Burning Man and Burning Man was Disney. Some will argue that Disney is for spectators, where Burning Man is for participants, and that the economic differences between the capitalist and gift economies are enough to make them distinct, but I would say no – these places share the same ancestry that Daniel Burnham shared as the architect of Chicago’s White City, these places are testaments to the magnificence of human creation and destruction. They touch on the monuments of fallen cities stretching through the millennia. While Burning Man sees its lifecycle in only a week, it gives us a taste of that ecstasy that every builder of every great palace and cathedral evoked.

Mike Daisey is currently doing a show called American Utopias, and I saw it in Seattle this past weekend. The major elements are Disney, Burning Man, and Occupy Wall Street, two elements I am familiar with, and the final less so. I stood in a disorganized queue after the show, wanting to talk more with him, and specifically ask him about Illuminations, but I didn’t get my chance. Oddly, as another person was talking to Mr. Daisey, I piped up to talk about how even at Burning Man in 2004, I saw the Default World seeping through the cracks, specifically bringing elements of commerce, and though I didn’t mention it, the violence of growing cities. In a flash, I found myself, not standing face to face in a three-person conversation, but rather, talking to a circle of people listening to me, with Mr. Daisey being one of them.

American Utopias, by Mike Daisey, is not my favorite work. It speaks well to the uninitiated, but for me, I wanted to have a longer conversation. Burning Man, Disney, America – there is no singular experience that defines it. We are all building our cities and engaging with a consensual reality, and at times deliberately engaging in subversion. Utopia literally means “no place,” but what I observe is beautiful about the human experience is that so many of us engage with the world and with each other as if there is a means to create or travel to this place physically or spiritually. I am excited that Mr. Daisey finds this subject interesting enough to bring to his audience to engage.