Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour

This evening, between 8:00 and 9:00, is Earth Hour. Thousands of people are turning out their lights in support of the Earth. Toronto is one of the biggest supporters of Earth Hour in North America. All of downtown is supposed to be blacked out.

It should be easy for me to go without lights. Between 8:00 and 9:00 is usually the time when I am falling asleep while putting Amado to bed. The question is, whether I will wake up to turn the lights on again.

UPDATE: Toronto Hydro reported that energy use was down a whole 5% in the city during Earth Hour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

House of the Rising Sun

Music for your Friday evening: "House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals.

Eric Burton (the singer) looks much too inspired in this clip to be wearing a tie.

North of Pearblossom

Sometimes the desert looks so inviting (click to make big). Don't know what those little dibbits are along the road on the bottom. Maybe my brother will go and check 'em out for me?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


...the short articles I wrote recently for Sojourners have become the cover story of the April issue. I'm uncomfortable pointing this out, but I think this is the first time my name has been on the cover of this magazine. (It's there in the picture above, though you can barely make it out. I'll post a bigger image when I can get one.)

It's just hitting the newsstands now, so watch for it. Or you can subscribe to this leading journal of prophetic, justice-seeking Christianity here. Or you can go ahead and read the articles here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thug Life

I downloaded 50 rap songs to my iPod (mostly stuff from the '90s - Tupac, Biggie, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg), but every time I listen to one I feel gross.

I'm intrigued by the gangsterism of the Biggie vs. Tupac, Puffy vs . Surge, East vs. West story and all the unsolved murders which were a result of this supposed hip-hop war. This is the Sopranos episode I would like to see. But I am also drawn to this music because I knew young people in D.C. who were deeply influenced by its (largely) nihilistic message and I miss them. Some, in fact, are no longer with us. Like it or not, this is the real deal.

Here's one of my favourite articles from Sojourners (1996) that offers a sympathetic perspective on Tupac Shakur and gangsta rap, written by Tupac's pastor, Rev. Herbert Daughtry: "Who will weep for Tupac?"

New Testament Cuisine

Kind of puts my humble lamb stew to shame....

From my favourite food blog,

What would Jesus eat? we asked as we thought about a special Easter dinner this year. Well, obviously lamb, yogurt, onions, rice pilaff, pine nuts, something with lemons and olive oil. Garlic, absolutely garlic. Lamb grilled over wood found in the desert, like mesquite.

With Middle-Eastern spices and ingredients in mind, we pulled together a truly delicious dinner of elements, that with a few exceptions — tomatoes, asparagus and red bell peppers on our skewers, and a Meyer lemon pie with crème fraiche - might have easily been found in the markets of Nazareth.

Okay, so the apostles didn’t have Peeps. But had they, they surely would have enjoyed them. Our pink peeps this year were genuine añejo - aged for over one year in a top cupboard of my kitchen. Just dessicated enough to give a unique depth to each bite.

[Read more here.]

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Weekend

There's something in the light that tells you spring is coming. But it's not here yet, even in southern Ontario. Coots Paradise (above), in Hamilton where Wendy's parents live, is still pretty much frozen, though if you look closely you can see a sliver of open water on the far shore. Tomorrow we are scheduled to get another snowfall, inching ever closer to the snowfall record for one season.

One great thing about Canada is that many people get a four-day weekend at Easter. It's a big family holiday here, more so than in the States I think. We had a great time seeing folks and catching up on sleep (and if you don't care to hear the details of what we did all weekend, feel free to stop reading now!):

Good Friday: Wendy went to a service at St. John's Anglican up the street. Amado has been sick and we missed a lot of sleep this past week (actually, I don't think we slept much at all), so I stayed home with the kid and we took a long nap. Later I took him for a stroller ride outside, but he just wanted to jump in puddles, even though he wasn't dressed for it.

Saturday: We woke up early and drove about 30 miles to Guelph for a play date with Simone, the daughter of our friends Beverley and Pat who is the same age as Amado. We had a fantastic Mexican breakfast, then Amado and Simone played in their indoor playground, which I guess is something Canadian kids do when it's cold out. After we got home, Wendy did some laundry, I went grocery shopping - mistakenly ending up at a pretentious rich person's strip mall. I found what I needed, but paid the price. I stayed up late cooking lamb stew.

Easter: We all woke up late, then went to church at Emmanuel-Howard Park United Church. Amado isn't totally comfortable in the Sunday School yet, so I stayed in the nursery with him. Wendy didn't find the service to be what she expected (I think she posted her review on Facebook, for those of you who use it). Afterwards, we had subs and took a nap. Then we went to a great family dinner at Wendy's sister's house. Amado was being a pill though, so we left early.

Easter Monday: We woke up early and took off with the lamb stew to Wendy's parent's in Hamilton. It had snowed a bit on Sunday night, and we had some scary sliding on the ice as we left our neighbourhood. But we made it and had a great visit and great lunch. On the way home, there was a crash right next to us on the Queen E. At home, Wendy went grocery shopping and I played with Amado, who's learning words at a rapid rate. Also, our friend Brett Grainger's new book arrived and Wendy and I both started digging into it. It looks like it's going to be really great. I will post something on it later.

Update: I just had to go soothe Amado back to sleep. There was a single moonbeam shining directly in his eye though a crack in the curtains.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Sol!

Definitely the coolest brother around. Above, laying it back on the P*Land ramp back in the day. Dude...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Sierra!

You're the most brilliant, beautiful 8-year-old in the world!

(Above, kicking back, cruising New York City last year in her limo!)


Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush’s menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America’s hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like [Obama's former pastor Jeremiah] Wright, or like Obama’s grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?

Yes. It. Can.

The unimaginable South African transition that Nelson Mandela made possible is a reminder that leadership matters. Words matter. The clamoring now in the United States for a presidency that uplifts rather than demeans is a reflection of the intellectual desert of the Bush years.

(From Roger Cohen's column, "America's Original Sin.")

I moved from supporting Hillary to the Barak Obama camp because of his consistent ability to raise the level of discussion and transcend politics-as-usual. I was skeptical of Obama early on, but speeches like the one he gave this week on race have shown that there is real substance behind the rhetoric. Whether or not he wins the Democratic nomination or the presidency--or even if he ends up failing us in the end like all other politicians--Obama's campaign has still been a real gift to America and challenges all of us to raise our sights higher.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Amado Dance Party 2008

I just snapped this video with our regular camera, but you can still see that Amado's a little cutie (and already a better dancer than either of his parents!).

Sunday, March 16, 2008


NOTHING YET. In fact, the past two days have felt semi-positively spring-like. I think the temperature almost made it out of the 30sF for the first time since late November! Now it's getting cold again. I've got the thermometer in the right column, so you can check it when you want.

City of Quartz

Now Reading: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis (1990).

This book is a must-read for anyone who loves L.A. (Which I think I do, though I may be confusing love with nostalgia, since I haven't spent any time in L.A. in almost 15 years--and that was just for a week.) This one has been on my reading list for about 10 years. I finally found a used copy, so I'm just digging into it.

Mike Davis writes with a lot of energy in this leftist critique of the city. It's a fasinating look contrasting the mythology of L.A. sunshine with the city's noir undercurrent. City of Quartz also looks at L.A. as a postmodern warning of things to come when a megacity falls apart into warring tribes -- a warning that pretty much became reality with the Rodney King riots which happened just a couple of years after this book was published.

A couple of personal connections:

  • One of L.A.'s earliest boosters was a journalist named Charles F. Lummis. Lummis' writing in the early 1900s built a romantic image of an L.A. rooted in the so-called harmony of the Spanish mission era. This image drew many of Lummis' East Coast readers to Southern California, in one of the first great migrations of Americans to the city. The personal connection is that my great-grandmother Rita Rivas was Lummis' secretary for 14 years while he was involved in this boosterism.
  • City of Quartz opens with a look at "L.A.'s final frontier," a socialist colony which was built in the early 20th century near the high desert town of Llano and collapsed in 1918 (see here and here). In the 1940s, the writer Aldous Huxley lived in the ruins of the Llano colony where he pursued his pioneering psychedelics-aided mystical journeys (see here). It is not far from Phelan where I lived in my teens. The ruins of this colony off of Highway 138 were well known to us back in the 1970s. As far as I know they are still out there. Ironically, in the 18 years since City of Quartz was written, my Mom (who visits the area) and brother (who lives there) tells me "L.A.'s final frontier" has now extended far beyond Llano, deep into the Mojave.

Maybe I'll add more about this book when I finish it up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Snow Record in Sight

Toronto only needs 20 cm (7.8") more to break the record snowfall of 207 cm (6' 7") for a season, set in 1938/39. There is more snow predicted for Thursday, a couple days next week, and a couple more times later in March... C'MON, WE CAN DO IT! We've had 187 cm (6' 1") so far.

UPDATE: The snow forcast for Thursday only turned out to be a dusting. So we're still waiting.

SUNDAY UPDATE: Nothing yet. In fact, the past two days have felt semi-positively spring-like. I think the temperature almost made it out of the 30sF for the first time since late November!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Being Spitzer

Nice to see a photo with Ms. Spitzer smiling. This one, however, is from 1994.

Amado's Self Portraits

On one of our snow-bound days last week, I gave Amado our old camera and let him go wild. He's pretty good at figuring out which button to push to get the desired effect--which of course is a flash, not necessarily a good photo. The results are pretty neat though.

The White Album

Sometimes you just need to go back to the things that work...

Recently I found a used copy of the Beatles 1968 White Album. It's been about 25 years since I've listened to it. It's still amazing...maybe even more so now. In an era when music comes so cheap, this album will help you remember what a singular joy great music can be.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Snow Removal

I believe the sign says, "Snow Removal Within Next 50 Years." It's referring to the built up of snow piled in the right lanes of the all the streets, making two-way traffic and parking ridiculous in many neighourhoods. However, as you can see, they have nicely plowed this street (next to the subway station), clearing it of the foot of new snow we received since Friday night. How long can this go on??

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Grid Lock

Sorry for the lull in my blogging activities... I wandered into the grid of my life and couldn't get out! I'll be back soon.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

pedrito martinez and jhair sala warming up

Pedrito Martinez (with the white hat) is one of the best conga players in the world. I've seen him perform a couple times here in Toronto. I don't know who "jhair" is, but he holds his own in this beautiful jam.