Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Notes in My Back Pocket

Lately I've been collecting little snippets of news items and personal things that I find interesting or noteworthy. I write this stuff down on paper and tuck it into one of my back pockets, where they sit until I get the chance to sit down and write. While somewhat archaic in the age of smartphones, it's a system that seems to work, and gives me a sense of tactile nostalgia for things at a slower, more simple pace.

I pulled several pieces of paper out of my back pocket today. The items I wrote down all deserve some mention in a timely fashion, so without any more of a lead-up, here's some stuff that matters, at least to me:

Persistence, Humility, Vulnerability

The sermon at our church on August 7 has been on my mind ever since. Our pastor introduced us to Chapter 18 of Luke's Gospel. The virtues listed above are among the key points of this chapter, as illustrated through several parables.

I just found an excellent template and outline for a group bible study that encompasses, and has helped me make more sense of, what Luke 18 says about human behavior in contrast to the teachings of Christ. This particular chapter has some serious lessons about this. For example:
William Barclay states "(i) No man who is proud can pray; (ii) No man who despises his fellow men can pray; (iii) True prayer comes from setting our lives beside the life of God."
If you're so inclined, grab your Bible and follow along with the Lost Pine outline. Enjoy a little journey inward, maybe.

Memories of Growing Up in Sewickley

The link above is for a Facebook group started by Sewickley native William Gittins, who now resides in Jackson, Miss. I went to high school with a couple of his brothers. Since its start a few weeks ago, it has amassed over 1200 members and creates a tremendous online time warp if you spend too long reading the myriad recollections of many who called the Sewickley area home for some part of their lives.

Sewickley Patch picked up on the phenomenon earlier this week, and spoke with Mr. Gittins for a story they ran about the group. It's still going strong, and will hopefully also serve as a means to educate current residents about what it was like to grow up here.

A memory that popped into my head while writing this was the existence of at least 3 hardware stores (Hegner's, Sewickley Hardware, Sickeler's) in downtown Sewickley. There's something ironic to that, considering that I work for a big-box home improvement place now.

If you grew up here, and haven't checked this out yet, you should. Make sure you don't have to be anywhere for a couple of hours first, though. It's a true testament to the power (good or bad) of social media.

London Calling

The title of one of my favorite records from the early 80's, if not of all time. The Clash continued the activist tone of their previous two albums, but the album is also more polished and tempered somewhat to make their music and message more accessible. Perhaps this why my son likes this record and the band as well.

During the recent riots that tore into several London neighborhoods, songs from this record were going through my head, particularly The Guns of Brixton:
You can crush us, you can bruise us, but you'll have to answer to...
While on the surface the recent unrest in England may be similar to the anger and angst expressed by the punk movement of the 70's and 80's, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to some of the destruction. Young people burning down their own neighborhoods for sport, or because they are bored, disaffected, or the product of a dysfunctional society. London's burning with boredom now..

All kinds of little theories pop up in my head when I read about this, and then are quickly dismissed as nonsense. One theory sticks around, though - is there a correlation between lack of self-respect and and initiative and what we saw in London? Is that all part of the equation? Do we not see this as much in the US because we have these qualities in comparative abundance, or because we are better controlled?


Speaking of control, there has always been much discussion of the influence of wireless communications and social networks on the ability to rapidly mobilize people into action. From the Arab Spring to the G-20 protests right here in Pittsburgh, Twitter and other systems have been used to get people moving and taking direct action, whether for good or ill.

A recent action by San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has raised the hackles of activists and regulators alike. Seems that as a part of preparations for protests over the shooting of a homeless man by BART police, BART administration shut down access to wireless networks through its subway tunnels.

Access to communication systems is important to life in these modern times, whether it be as part of an international commerce engine, or just a way for families to keep in touch. Arbitrarily shutting down these systems as a means of quelling dissent, or the lawful expression of ideas in a manner uncomfortable to some, is a 21st century affront to the First Amendment, and needs to be dealt with as such.

BART was wrong. This reminds me of a retail cashier rule, expressed as an acronym, with some Luke 18 and Simpson-esque connotations:

LISA - Look InSide Always.

'Gasland' Comes to Sewickley

A year ago last week, the acclaimed documentary 'Gasland' was shown in Grand Junction, Colorado. Josh Fox, the film's Director, was on hand for the screening to field comments and questions. I wrote about this at the time because I was living there, and also lamented the absence of a local media presence to publicize and report on the event. Granted, it's a much smaller media market over there.

Tonight at 6:30, the film gets a screening at the Sewickley Public Library, albeit without Mr. Fox in tow. The publicity has been fairly robust, at least online, and it's a good bet there will be an interested crowd at the library this evening.

Regardless on which side of the drilling debate you may fall, the film is worthwhile
because it helps to document the activities of the drilling industry would otherwise not see the light of day. I've seen enough of the effects to the environment, and on society and culture, to know that jobs and money are great but are not all sweetness and light. We have enough of an industrial past here to (hopefully) remind us of that.

Time to persist on some house projects. Have a great day.

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