A Matter of Realities

Jef Mallett addressed the conundrum of contemporary comic strips, particularly in Covidtide, in this weekday Frazz cartoon.  Pretty smart.

Frazz Alternate and NormalI’ve decided to label this year “the Year of the Moving Targets” because everything seems to be changing all the time . . . even as things seem so steady almost to the point of bored predictability.  Not a complaint at all, mind you.  Just the realization that this thing we’re in together is no where near being over yet.

(image from gocomics.com)

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Sunday’s Best: Toss the Frozen Pizza

This week’s all-new FoxTrot is one of a few great Sunday strips this time around.  It’s a simple gag with good play on a concept that’s pretty significant in our culture today: authenticity.

FoxTrot AuthenticityToday has been an odd one.  Hurricane Douglas tracked north over most of the island chain.  Most but not all.  Hardly any rain during most of the anticipated time in our area.  We preemptively canceled the school day tomorrow, which will force some adjustment to the rest of the week as we prepare for the year to begin.  It really is a year with many twists and turns.

(image from gocomics.com)

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On the Edge

Hurricane DouglasIt’s an odd thing, waiting on the edge of a storm.  But that’s where we’re at as we wait to see what becomes of Hurricane Douglas.

Yesterday was my first official full day back at work.  It was the first time all of our faculty and staff were able to be on campus as a regular day since mid-March.  Time compresses in funny ways.  And of course, the time there was tinged with wonder about an uptick in reported Covid cases and the timing and trajectory of Douglas.

The first half of today was pretty normal.  Woke up, took a quick walk south, met a friend for breakfast, ran some errands.  The afternoon brought time to close up windows, move around some plants, and try to leak-proof a door.  It will be some time, though, before we see how successful these efforts will be.  Most of the evening was spent with the neighbors, walking and talking and eating.

And all the while, a few hundred miles away, the waters and the air are churning.  We have, of course, been here before.  But it feels a little different, a little more subdued.  I hope it doesn’t end up a “days of Noah” type thing where we don’t realize what’s actually going on.  Or maybe we’re just kind of numb to things . . . that and we have pandemic supplies sitting around thus removing the need to panic shop.

We’re looking at early afternoon tomorrow for things to really pick up (there’s hardly even a breeze right now).  Many churches have cancelled their services.  Many of those, of course, can go online easily in light of the last few months.  And the hope is that it won’t linger long, that it will head north and leave us out of its path.

(image from hawaiinewsnow.com)

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Before Trapping a Space Robot . . .

There were two really good moments in this week’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.   One of them I’m going to hold off on just a little bit longer.  The first, though, is the clip below.  Just before the moment goes romantic for Daisy and Sousa, Sousa makes a claim about certain kinds of people.  We all hopefully have them in our lives.  Perhaps one day we’ll all get to be the kind of people he talks about.  After that initial conversation, we get some team-centric humor and an example of this week’s “groundhog’s day” storyline.

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Toast!

Sometimes one-off strips just go somewhere unexpectedly sweet.  Like this classic Calvin and Hobbes.

Calvin Toast(image from gocomics.com)

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Frazz with a Flourish

Tonight’s Agents of SHIELD had at least two brilliant moments, and I’ll get to them sometime later this week.  The day has been packed with school stuffy, audited-class stuff, and Wednesday errands.  And in the middle of it all, we now have the strong possibility of a hurricane/tropical storm hitting the state over the weekend.  The best-laid plans, I suppose . . .

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Here’s the third and final “best of” this week’s Sunday strips from the comics.  It’s a Frazz piece by Jef Mallett.  As is often the case with Mallett’s Sunday strips, this one does a great job with language and visualization.  Check it out:

Frazz FlourishingIt’s impressive that Frazz is using that particular kind of trimmer on what looks to be quite the large area.  I’ve had the chance to use one of those on the tiny yard here: lots of fun unless twigs get in the way.  The strip is also a nice picture of flourishing, I think.

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I’ve got one more chapter of John Buchan’s Witch Wood to read before hitting the sack.  Then it’s the final super-early morning class for my summer audit class.  I’ve got some morning errands to run before heading to school for the first official department chairs meeting of the year.  We start our first cross-campus gathering on Monday, which is now up-in-the-air because of Hurricane Douglas.  I’ve still got some early-pandemic foodstuff that can be used in case things get crazy weather-wise.

(image from gocomics.com)

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Walk Out the Summer

Yesterday I mentioned that summer had all but come to an end for me.  I have to say that this morning was a nice coda to that.  I’ve got my twice-yearly dental visits sets for January and July to line up with the school calendar.  One of my favorite things to do is to leave the dentist and walk through some of the county and state office building locations . . . lots of grassy areas and tall trees and interesting architecture . . . until I get back into downtown.  This morning’s dentist visit went smoothly, temperature check and all.  And then the walk into downtown was gorgeous . . . still early enough in the day to enjoy some cool breeze.  Walked a couple of errands (including a visit to the post office).  From there I made my way to a friend’s office.  We walked down to Aloha Tower to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory, only my second time their since they moved from their Ward location.  It was nice seeing a little more bustle in downtown.  Most people are still grabbing take-out for lunch.  My friend and I had a full table for eight to ourselves at the Factory.  Then it was back up into the valley for an afternoon of work.\

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Yesterday I briefly revisited an Andy Crouch piece from March concerning the winter, blizzard, ice age nature of our current moment.  Today I found myself thinking about one other slightly older piece, the one from Faith and Leadership about what our institutions teach us to love.  It’s the part about institutions taking an audit of their key events and practices.  The pertinent quote:

Ideally, what has to happen is you have to find a way to hit the pause button, try to gain some distance on an institution and its rhythms and practices, and then look at the things you do and ask, “What are they doing to us?”

That mostly looks like trying to take the things that are familiar and taken for granted in your institution and then asking, “What are these practices teaching us to love on an affective level, even if our message might be saying something else on an intellectual level?”

And I remember someone on Twitter suggesting that maybe this time of Covidtide was an example of that “pause button.”  Smith responded that it’s hard to have a pause button when you are trying to take care of so many things in such a trying time.  Now whatever pause button might have been there is effectively gone.  The tape continues rolling, the story trundles on, the seeds we’ve sown over the last four months are about to bear an interesting kind of fruit.

Which isn’t to say that things won’t be different.  It is to acknowledge that we are all still in the “patching up the unsound vessel” activity more than we are about founding a better boat with a truer, deeper design.  But maybe some hints of the better can show up.

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I mentioned on Sunday that there were three really good Sunday strips to share this week.  Sunday saw a classic Calvin and Hobbes strip.  Here’s the classic Peanuts strip from Sunday.  It’s a fun play on Sally’s panic . . . particularly as she misreads what’s going on at a golf match on television.  Sometimes existentialism creeps in, while other times it announces itself like a screaming child.

Peanuts No TomorrowSnoopy, of course, knows his Scripture.

(image from gocomics.com)

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Surviving the Reboot

Flash WieringoOne of the interesting (to me, at least) aspects of long-term storytelling is how you go about “refreshing” a property in ways that keep long-time followers invested while also reaching out to others.  It forces you, in the long run, to figure out what makes the character or concept “tick,” what makes it unique amongst all of the other stories out there.  Consider a property like The Flash.  The character has been since 1940 in some form or another.  I grew up a reader of the third Flash, Wally West.  All around that time, other characters have come and gone who have either shared the name or the powers or both.  When you work in multiple genres, things get even more complex.  Movies, live-action television shows, Saturday morning cartoons: these things can either water down the product or build it up in amazing ways.  But in the end, you have to figure out what about the character or concept ultimately survives the next reboot.  And that’s assuming that the timeline itself isn’t changed drastically.

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A year ago was something of a reboot for me.  After two years without a campus minister at our school (and two years chipping in to keep things going), we hired a replacement.  At the same time, after over a year without a pastor (and serving on the pastor search committee) we called a new pastor and family to join us.  Changes of roles, shifts in relationships, all such things contribute to some kind of sense of a reboot.  Some threads get lost in translation, others get knotted up, others continue on to be part of the picture of whatever is next.  We respond to the changes around us, whether we ask for them or not.  It all forces you to consider what is essential and what is up for grabs.  Maybe you’re lucky if you get to step back and reason your way through it.

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It’s interesting being on this side, one year away, from that “reboot.”  Of the two ministers that came over, only one has stayed (the church pastor).  And so some of the work at school has had to continue.  And now it will continue on as we move into a completely different, uncertain time.  A time where everything has changed and nothing has changed.  I’ve been trying to think through some of what is “essential” this summer.  Particularly, I’ve been trying to make sense of any “lessons learned” over the last year.  I exist in a realm where the vocational is tied to the personal in deeper ways than others, being single and living far from home.  It’s very clear to me that there is no going back, no turning back (as they hymn reminds us).  And there is always some question of how much agency one has going forward.  Definitely none of us has control over a virus or over major social upheavals or even how we might feel on a given day at any given time.  You just kind of hope that the essential things shine through, like the unshakable kingdom of God in Hebrews, standing firm after all that could be shaken loose has been left.

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Summer has pretty much come to an end for me.  Tomorrow is a dental visit and lunch with a friend and then it’s work.  And it’s good work.  But the passing of a summer vacation is always a little sad, if only for the sense of lost time.  And there’s only so much prep you can do personally and professionally before beginning something like a Covidtide school year.  I feel like I haven’t read enough, haven’t planned enough, haven’t prayed enough, haven’t loved enough.  I recently told a friend that I felt like this summer would have been a time for a quantum change.  I’m not sure that’s happened.  Maybe the proof will be in the pudding of the school year actually starting.

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I find myself thinking of the three pieces that Andy Crouch and the folks at Praxis put together at the beginning of Covidtide to try and encourage organizations to think well about what was “coming next,” whether it is a blizzard, winter, or an ice age.  That was, I think, part of the intent of “flattening the curve”: taking necessary steps to buy ourselves some time to figure out how to rethink things for the long haul, discern things that could survive reboots great or small.  And I’m reminded of how Crouch and crew talked about the role of promise-making and promise-keeping in Our Current Moment.  It’s all so true and right.  I hope we have made the most of it, as much as possible, as we enter into whatever is next.

(art from DC Comics and the late Mike Wieringo)

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Sunday’s Best: When the Rules Keep Changing

At least three great Sunday strips today over at gocomics.com.  This classic Calvin and Hobbes strip by Bill Watterson takes the win, though, based on two words: booger balls.

Calvin Changing the RulesBeyond those two words, the strip is a nice picture of the effort that goes into things when you want to when even when the rules keep changing.  Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s “the sissy way,” Hobbes.

We’ll get to the other two Sunday strips later in the week, hopefully interspersed between five days of good reflections and commentary on things.

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The Week Looking Back

The big news of the week was this:

Tales from the Folly

I’ve known for a while that Aaronovitch had written a number of shorter pieces for the continuing saga of Peter Grant and friends.  I’d even tracked a few of them down online.  But now it looks like we’ll be getting a collection of eleven short stories along with connective tissue by Aaronovitch himself.  If the summer has to come to an end, this is a nice way to say goodbye.  Sure, it’s digital-only at this point.  But it’s something.  And short pieces are always welcome (I particularly liked the most recent Rivers novella).  The collection drops at the end of the month.

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It was a good week in television.  (See, I can go a whole work week without showing clips of a television show!)  Stargirl gets closer and closer to the season one finale.  It looks like (almost) every card is on the table now that Courtney’s mom is “in the know.”  Here’s the super-short clip for the next episode.

Agents of SHIELD continues it messy trip down the timestream . . . messy as in “messing things up at every turn.  This week’s episode was interesting as it gave most of the episode to Yo-Yo and May.  Plus we got to see some of the earlier days of the Inhumans, which is cool if you’d just finished rewatching season two.  Here’s the trailer for next week’s episode, which goes all Groundhog Day for Daisy.

Again, another risk, as it could easily look like “spinning wheels” before the big, final action of the series.  But we’ll see what gets messed up next.

The other fun thing from television this week was the one-off reunion of the cast of 30 Rock.  Kind of a surprising choice for a reunion, I think, but I think it worked well.  It’s a very different show from Parks and Recreation, which did a reunion episode earlier in Our Current Moment.  That one felt a little rougher than necessary (but they were the first, so props for that).  It got good when it got sentimental.  30 Rock is anything but sentimental.  There were some great one lines and non sequiturs, which is really what the show was all about in the first place.  The show didn’t air here in Hawaii, so I had to watch it on the Peacock app (which is what they probably really wanted you to do in the first place).  It was, in essence, a 60-minute ad, but I feel the like it was worth it.  30 Rock is definitely an acquired taste, but it’s something that soars when it’s at its best.  Here’s a clip between Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy that is an almost-perfect continuation of seven seasons of witty banter.

I kind of like saving television stuff for Saturday.  It’s a good goal and reward.  Granted, it will dry up once the two regular shows still running wrap up.  But you do what you can while you can, I suppose.

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