Friday Link Love: Death with Dignity, a Real-Live Forrest Gump... and a Cross-Dressing Mayor

And they're off! Lots of video today:


Cross-Dressing for the Gospel -- David Lose

I'm on a big David Lose kick right now. I posted this one last week to Twitter but saw it too late for last week's Link Love. Stu Rasmussen is a man in Silverton, Oregon who is a cross-dresser. He was also elected mayor of the town:

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone was wild about this development. The election was very close and his doubters didn’t stop doubting. Some because of their religious convictions, some simply because cross-dressing just goes against their sensibilities.

But then something else amazing happened. After his election, and before his inauguration, a group from the Westbro Baptist Church came to town. (A quick side-note: this isn’t your typical Baptist church. In fact, this is an extremist group not affiliated with any major Christian tradition.) They came with signs – “God hates Silverton,” “God hates your mayor” (and these were the more polite signs!) – and with their slurs, determined to protest Stu as an abomination.

And although Stu encouraged people not to give them the time of day, folks in the town staged a counter-protest…where lots and lots of ordinary, everyday folks cross-dressed. Men dressed as women, grandmas dressed as men. Kids joined in. Liberals, conservatives, young, old, on this day in Silverton it just didn’t matter. They were determined to stand with Stu, to identify with him, to stand up for him.

That'll preach.

BTW, the story originally aired on Radiolab, which is my favorite podcast bar none.


I also got this video from David:

Bus Station Sonata -- Arts Council of England (video)


From the site: "The work was created with commuters and passers-by from the Haymarket Bus Station in Newcastle UK. Most of the participants are non players, many had never touched a piano before, we just convinced them to donate a note or two."

The delight on some of the faces is palpable... and I love the end.


How Not to Spend Your Whole Day on Facebook -- BigThink (video)

An important tip for procrastination:



12 Guidelines for Deciding When to Persist, When to Quit -- Harvard Business Review

When to hold 'em, when to fold 'em:

  1. Are the initial reasons for the effort still valid, with no consequential external changes?
  2. Do the needs for which this [is] a solution remain unmet, or are competing solutions still unproven or inadequate?
  3. Would the situation get worse if this effort stopped?



Massachusetts Vote May Change How the Nation Dies -- Slate

Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act has been in effect for the past 14 years, and the state of Washington followed suit with a similar law in 2008. Despite concerns of skeptics, the sky has not fallen; civilization in the Northwest remains intact; the poor, disenfranchised, elderly, and vulnerable have not been victimized; and Oregon has become a leader in the provision of excellent palliative medicine services.

But the Massachusetts ballot question has the potential to turn death with dignity from a legislative experiment into the new national norm.

I support so-called Death with Dignity statutes. When properly defined and carried out, they are sane and compassionate.

This article profiles some of the physicians involved in this movement:

Perhaps it takes the dramatic actions of a flawed advocate like Dr. Jack Kevorkian to catalyze change that leads to the appearance of more reasonable and likable physician reformers. Physicians of this new generation do not seek out or necessarily welcome the role, but, having accepted it, they are irreversibly changed. Most are modest, highly intellectual, and intensely private professionals who are drawn to medicine because it offers a challenge and an opportunity to help relieve distress.

...After her patient’s death, Dr. Kate concluded, “I think Cody taught me that ‘first, do no harm,’ is different for every patient. Harm for her would have meant taking away the control and saying, ‘No, no, no! You have got to do this the way your body decides, as opposed to the way you as the person decides.’”


Real-Life Forrest Gump Walks Across America in 178 Days -- Oddity Central

A friend sent this to me and wondered: "Sabbathy? He talks about taking the trip because he had stopped appreciating things and wanted to slow down his life." Could be...

He left only with the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, his backpack and a few thing in it, determined to survive only on the goodness of the people he met on the road. He depended on them for the most basic needs, like food, water and a place to sleep, and whenever he got money and gift cards he didn’t actually need to survive, he just gave them away to the homeless. He said the point was always to give away more than he took, and added that the biggest takeaway from this epic experience is to have realized that “mankind is better than I ever dreamed.”

This is one of those "it takes all kinds" stories. And I don't mean that disparagingly---it really does take all kinds.


Does Brainstorming Work? -- RSA (video)

No, but you should watch this anyway because it's entertaining:



Peace be with you...

Friday Link Love

Tonight we celebrate Robert's birthday with a trip to the Arlington Drafthouse to see this guy:

We're pretty psyched.

In the meantime, here are some links to keep you busy:

Don't Give Up: The Inspirational Letters Project

The eternal truth of a lot of creative work: 3% of the time you are on fire, and 97% of the time is a messy slog. The key: persist, despite all the difficulties…

These are letters from animators at Pixar and elsewhere to an aspiring animator... the response prompted him to start a spinoff called the Inspirational Letters Project. As you would expect, they are visually interesting.


King's God: The Unknown Faith of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King denied the ontological divinity of Jesus, didn't think heaven/hell were literal places, saw the Bible as myth, rejected the bodily resurrection of Jesus (beginning at the age of 13), rejected original sin, and more. In other words, a liberal theologian.

On that topic, I'm sympathetic with James McGrath, who laments that many of the "new atheists" are putting forth criticisms of Christianity and the Bible as if they are new and original, when in fact many theologians have been saying similar stuff for centuries, including MLK, it would seem. (I also note that the comments on McGrath's post are largely substantive and respectful. Kudos to him.)


Don't Just Do Something: Stand There


Numerous writers, artists, poets and musicians have testified to the virtues of such idleness in their own creative lives. It was when he was completely alone, Mozart wrote in a letter, "say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when [he] could not sleep," that his ideas flowed best and most abundantly...

Such testimony is not just plain good sense; it is good science too. In a recent article in Discover magazine, the journalist Stephen Johnson reported on a conversation with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. The cognitive part of our brain works very fast, Damasio explained. "So you can do a lot of reasoning, a lot of recognition of objects, remembering names in just a few hundredths of a second." But the emotional part of our brains works very differently, and there is precious little evidence that this is going to change. Tasks that have to do with empathy and imagination, with slow-growing qualities like love and fidelity and ethics, will continue to develop in their own sweet time.


Kurt Andersen: Our Politics Are Sick

I love Kurt Andersen's Studio 360; it's one of my favorite podcasts. "Creativity, pop culture and the arts": what's not to love?

He nails this metaphor in my opinion:

The American body politic suffers from autoimmune disorders.

It’s a metaphor, but it’s not a joke. I’ve read a lot about autoimmune diseases — the literal, medical kinds, also disconcertingly on the rise — because several members of my family have them. At some point, our bodies’ own immune systems went nuts, mistaking healthy pieces of our anatomies — a pancreas, a thyroid, a joint — for foreign tissue, dangerous enemies within, and proceeded to attack and try to destroy them. It’s as close to tragedy as biology gets.

Which is pretty much exactly what’s been happening the last decade in our politics. The Truthers decided the U.S. government was behind 9/11. Others decided our black president is definitely foreign-born and Muslim. Tea Party Republicans are convinced his administration is crypto-socialist and/or proto-fascist. The anti-Shariah people are terrified of the nonexistent threat of Islamic law infecting American jurisprudence. It’s now considered reasonable to regard organs and limbs of the federal government — the E.P.A., the education department, the Federal Reserve — as tumors that must be removed. Taxation itself is now considered a parasitic pathogen rather than a crucial part of our social organism.



The Procrastination Flowchart

I resemble that.


And finally, Steve Job's 2005 Commencement Speech to Stanford. Wise and touching. I wish him well.





Friday Link Love

Some things I enjoyed or found thought-provoking this week: Stephen Colbert Gives Up Catholicism for Lent (video)

"Is this how Unitarians feel all the time?"


What's Your Personality Type... For Play?

For many adults, however, it's surprisingly hard to know how to have more fun. If you don't know what to do for fun, a good question to consider is: What did you do for fun when you were ten years old? Because that's probably something you'd enjoy now, whether walking in the woods, playing with your dog, making things with your hands, taking pictures, playing basketball, or dancing around the living room.

I'm an 8 with a smattering of 5 and 7.


Giving Up a Breast for Lent

Jan Edmiston is always outstanding, but this blog in particular spoke to me.

We randomly give up chocolate and coffee for Lent, but taking up the cross and following Jesus seems to be more about finding the cancers in our lives and giving those up - which is a much bigger deal. Imagine really giving up gossip. Giving up racism. Giving up living for the sake of appearances. So hard.

Jan is moving away soon... I'll miss her so much when she leaves!


The Strangest -- and Maybe Best -- Grilled Cheese You'll Ever Make

Mayo instead of butter? Nuts grated with a microplane? I can't wait to try this one.


What We Can Learn from Procrastination

Great stuff on how our brain works. Special bonus: what's wrong with the Netflix queue and how instant streaming can help.


Songs for Lent

I like this little collection of music, based on the stations of the cross. I wrote off any music labeled as "Christian" a long time ago because I decided I didn't like it musically. Mike Birbiglia understands what I mean... (video). I much preferred to be a sleuth for the Spirit, looking for messages of redemption in so-called "secular" music.

That's still my default position, but I should not be so categorically minded.

Anyway, this stuff is haunting and lovely. Thanks to my friend Troy Bronsink for the recommendation.

- - - - - - -

And finally, a request---keep me in your thoughts, prayers, heart, or whatever you've got. My book contract with Chalice Press stipulated that the manuscript would be due next March, but for a variety of reasons I won't get into here, I've moved that up to October. It's very doable, but still: o_O

I've never used that emoticon before. It's a good inaugural use of it.

Get-It-Done Book Review... and Giveaway!

See below for a chance to get free stuff in the mail! Yay! Free stuff!

Being busy is a form of laziness--lazy thinking and indiscriminate action... Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant.

--Timothy Ferris, The Four Hour Workweek

I'm a bit addicted to time-management books, but their quality, usefulness and readability are all over the map. I read Ferris's book and got a couple of things out of it, including the above quote which is brilliant IMO, but overall the book just didn't hit home with me.

I recently found a new book that embodies the quote above and is actually fun to read. Stever Robbins has a personal productivity podcast (say that five times fast) and has put his best stuff into a book, The Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.

Robbins's book blends a lot of high level thinking (what are your goals?) with nitty-gritty techniques for being more productive (here's one: to keep from getting distracted when working a project, make an "interruption list" of things to tend to when you're done with what you're working on). His chapter on procrastination has a lot of practical suggestions and is a great complement to Anne Lamott's angst-ridden meditation on the subject in Bird by Bird. And chapter 1, "Live on Purpose," deals with goal setting in a very intuitive way. I've never really gotten the "vision/ mission/ goal/ objective" distinction, and his stuff on "goal ladders" is simple and makes sense to me.

Robbins also has a great sense of humor. This may be the only time-management book in which zombies play a prominent role. In a section on e-mail, he talks about templates and macros as a way to streamline your communication:

Let's say your boss has you saying no to a dozen different requests each day: a dog show invitation, a request for money, and someone claiming to be a long-lost child, asking to be added to the will.

Those are pretty different. You want to respond to each individually, but your responses can have paragraphs in common. All might start like this: "Mr. Boss appreciates your letter. Your tragic plight is touching." Then you add a paragraph or two crushing that person's hopes and dreams, and you finish up with, "Mr. Boss regrets that he can't do more for your deeply troubling situation."

Some of the latter chapters get more theoretical, and the one on building relationships seemed a little utilitarian. Yes, building a network does help you be more productive, but part of my job is to love people whether they can be useful to me or not. Still, it's worth a read if for no other reason than that he takes that treacly starfish story (you know the one) and gives it a much-needed twist.

This would be a great book for a young person starting out in a career who really wants to get their life together, although others would find it valuable too. (No book of this genre is going to work on people who don't want to change or who can't see the need.) It's a quick read, with several novel suggestions for working smarter.

And! Because I love hearing tips on how other people make their life work, leave your favorite lifehack/best idea in the comments. On Monday I'll choose someone at random and send them a copy of the Get-It-Done Guy book.