Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Last Show with Conan O'Brien

I never did care for Jay Leno. I didn't watch the Tonight Show when he was host no matter who the guests where. To me he's just not funny. Instead, I've always been a Letterman fan. If I was up, I'd watch Letterman, then switch over to Conan, who I grew to love as well. I think NBC was horrible to Conan, and I don't respect Leno any more than I did before after taking the Tonight Show back, caring only about his own ass. Much had been made originally about whether Conan's brand of comedy was going to work at 11:30AM where many critics assumed his sophormoric humor was not going to fly at the earlier hour or would eventually be toned down altogether for more middle-of- the-road. But the way I saw, what didn't seem to work was not so much his move to a new time-slot, but to LA. Conan never seemed like an LA guy to me. He seemed to lose much of the edge that made his comedy dangerous (Triumph the Dog, the Masturbating Bear, the Year 2000, the Moving Lips interviews), maybe because he was on earlier, but I also wonder if was because he wasn't in NY anymore. The Tonight Show being in LA always seemed to have a more laid back feel. After all, Letterman at the same time-slot still seemed able to maintain his acerbic personality and spontaneity that felt more Big Apple. Either way, Conan's exit last night was one of class, appreciation, and surprising generosity to his former employer. His parting shot addressed to the younger generation about his disdain for cynicism and his belief in the possibilities of hard work was as moving and sage bit of television as I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Watch Food, Inc.

If you haven't already seen the informative and moving Food, Inc., I highly recommend it! (it's now out on DVD). Better yet, join us at Epic in the Underground Lounge on Friday, Feb 23 at 7:30PM for a viewing and discussion.

Several of us at Epic would like our church to be better informed about where their food comes from and that there are other (and more important) factors to consider than simply price and quantity. We would like our church to eat better and smarter and more justly by eating local (even growing your own produce), supporting farmers markets, and if you eat meat, to consider free-range and grass-fed. The film will tell you why.

More than a documentary about where our food comes from, it's really about doing what is right - for the small farmer, for the migrant worker, for our health, for the stewardship of the planet. The tale the film tells will leave you equally fascinated, bewildered, infuriated, and finally empowered by this simple truth: Every time we shop, we are voting with our grocery cart. Be forewarned, you will never view what you eat quite the same way again - which is the hope.

Jesus For The Right Brain - Intro

As we begin a new year, we also desire a renewed soul. For 2010 we feel God calling us as a church community to focus on our interior life with Jesus. As the body of Christ, we do many good things. But my fear is that we might substitute our various activities, though admirable, for genuine engagement with Jesus. Are we able to answer the questions, "Where is Jesus in your life? And what is he saying to you?"

A few months back I had the privilege of speaking at Verge LA in Hollywood. That's where I met and was blessed by fellow speaker Jan Johnson. Jan is a prolific writer and spiritual director. During her presentation, she spoke about and led us in an abbreviated version of the Ignatian
style of mediation. Though I was familiar with this type of spiritual exercise in small groups, I was struck by the
power of the time in our larger setting. After being able to sit down for lunch with Jan, I felt led to try something like it at Epic on Sunday mornings. It just so happened to be a great way to kick off the new year.

I want to thank Jan for her book, "Savoring God's Word" which is certainly the best book I've read on the mediation of Scripture and one of the finest books on spiritual formation that I can recommend. She was gracious to let me steal her title for the series and pointed me to other resources.

At Epic, our conviction is that transformation happens through encounter with Jesus. That's why it's hard to change with just more or better information. We need a genuine experience with God that captures our whole selves. The practice of St. Ignatious addresses that need in all of us. It entails placing ourselves in scenes from the gospels, the "movie method" as Jan likes to call it, and encourages us to listen to the voice of Jesus, helping us to connect with him so that the Holy Spirit can work within us to transform our souls.

Here's to a year spent in our Father's House, listening together, to what he has to say to us and to our church community!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Farewell to Manzanar

I recently got reacquainted with "Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston - possibly the quintessential memoir of life during the Japanese Internment camps through the eyes of the author as a young seven year-old girl. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor during WWII, over 110,000 Americans of Japanese decent on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes and bused to camps like Manzanar in California. Two of those people were my parents.

This book has helped me understand what they, my grandparents, and uncles and aunties went through. My father and his family were shuttled to Heart Mountain, WY. My mother and her family were sent to Poston, AZ. As they have recounted for me over the years, the only things they could take with them were whatever could fit in a suitcase. That meant both sides of my family leaving behind homes, land, businesses, and possessions - all of which were gone when they returned.

Although neither the Doi nor Hirata families have talked about their camp experience all that much over the years, I've tried to piece together what I've could growing up - whether through family history, by reconstructing stories of Nisei's whose funerals I've officiated, and by visiting the JANM in Downtown LA and the Manzanar memorial near the Sierra Nevadas most recently. My parents and uncles and aunties would talk about the bitter cold of winter and the scorching sun of summer. Of the sports leagues and sock hop dances.

But still some of the most vivid images of the camp experience emanate from Wakatsuki's story. She has managed to paint the most complete picture of what camp experience was like - both inside and outside those terrible barracks.

Two of my most treasured possessions of my Japanese heritage are a weathered wooden baseball trophy my dad won as a little league third baseman at Heart Mountain; the other is a 1973 first printing hardcopy of "Farewell to Manzanar."