frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Frogg Files, Defined (Sort of)

Many thanks to the Daily Pepper, who has recently mentioned my blog in her illustrious list celebrating female bloggers ("In Praise of Blogher!"). Pepper is a good friend that I have known since my creative-writing workshop days in Berkeley and San Francisco; a top-notch writer herself whose blog is sharp, witty, and very entertaining. Moreover, she has a truly formidable command of vast amounts of random knowledge, ranging along all sorts of topics from sports to rap to literature to music videos to politics to philosophy to 80s sitcoms (did I leave anything out?). So to have her describe me as "one of the smartest people I know"--I am speechless indeed. (Or I would be, if I weren't so irrepressible.) Thank you again, Pepper!

However, one teensy little caveat. In her post, Pepper also said that I am someone who "thinks often about the power of religion in her life and the impact it can have on others. " Now, this is true, BUT it is misleading in the sense that I rarely think about it "out loud" on this site! I mean, it does happen, but so occasionally. I can only imagine people's reactions who follow her link to my lily pad in quest of something halfway intelligent to read (maybe) about religion and culture, or something like that, only to find instead my mad ravings about Salieri, or my silly anecdotes about injuries past, or my ever-increasing desire to strangle the evil, shrieking Leo (and although I haven't written about that lately, don't think for a minute that I have gotten over it--au contraire to the extreme, I'm afraid).

I began to wonder, as I'm sure many of you sometimes do: just what the heck is the frogg files all about? Is there a point to the writings here? After much thought and soul-searching (almost five whole minutes' worth, in fact), I have arrived at an answer.

The frogg files is about: whatever I want it to be about, whenever I want it to be about it. (Usually, it's about me.)

If I feel like writing about politics on a given day (rare, but I suppose it could happen), I will. If I feel like writing about religion (a bit more likely), I will. And if I feel like writing about the time the cat chased a skunk into my bedroom, followed in turn by a swarm of Africanized killer bees, while I took refuge under my bed and prayed that neither skunk nor bees would find me, by golly, I most definitely will. (How could I not?)

That last story is completely untrue, by the way, but it would make for such entertaining reading, wouldn't it?

Well. So now you know, if you are visiting for the first time, that the frogg files is sort of the blog version of Seinfeld: it's about absolutely nothing at all.

Except, of couse, when it is about something.

Sunday

Disjointed thoughts on a day of rest:

I am reading A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower, listening to selections from Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (I love the 3rd best, I think), and occasionally sipping from a mug of Moroccan mint tea. I don't know why I chose to make hot tea, when outside it is nearly 90 degrees.

This morning I practiced Mozart's Sonata in C Major a little. Those first two pages are deceptively simple, although I confess that my fingers, unused to the exercise, can't trill like they used to, so the 30th measure frustrates me every time I play it. The second part of the first movement is daunting, with its left-handed swift-running scales; I only just started working on it last night. The fingers on my left hand are not nearly as strong, nor as agile, as the fingers on my right.

I couldn't sleep last night and started going through papers at about 3am, tossing some, piling others. I hate piles, but I can't seem to get away from them. I did this for about two hours, before I finally lay down in my bed again, and went to sleep.

Tonight I will (hopefully) write madly, trying to make my Tuesday deadline. But for now, while it is hot outside, I will dawdle between the book, the piano, and the kitchen, according to the whim of the moment.

I love Sundays.

PS No, I've changed my mind. I think the Brandenburg Concertos 5 and 6 (allegros) are my favorite.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ode to Salieri, in Prose

Amadeus is one of my favorite movies of all time, partly because it is full of Mozart's music, but also because I feel such compassion for Mozart's enemy, Salieri--that poor, bitter man who wanted nothing more than to burn with the divine fire in his own compositions. He longed, through his music, to fly, to soar to celestial heights. Instead he could only flutter about, grounded like a broken-winged bird that knows what it is made for, but because of its brokenness can only reach for the sky, without ever reaching it. He was jealous, yes; he was eaten up with darkness, yes; but I understand him and I feel so sad for him. I can see how dreadfully he both hated and loved Mozart--nothing but a yowling, vulgar brat in the movie, but oh! what beauty ran in his veins and out through his fingers, in the shape of hundreds of thousands of inky dots all over lines, which, when translated into sound, can move strong men to tears (if they would let it).

And so it did to you, Salieri, for you were not insensitive, nor unpassionate. And it was not your mediocrity that destroyed you; rather what killed your soul was the knowledge, the heart-wrenching understanding that your very best efforts could not make you better than what you were. Such self-realization, when untempered by a transcendent grace (which would have whispered in your heart that it didn't matter, that you were loved, that your gifts were not wasted where they were offered in true love and devotion) is a devastating, desolating thing.

Ah, Salieri, great heart. The burden was too much for you, and I am very sorry.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Deadline Blues

It's amazing what having deadlines does to people. I mean, what it does to me, because I can hardly pretend to speak for people in general. (Well, actually I can, because I am very good at having everyone else's opinion and expressing it for them, but let's just move on, shall we?)

I have recently signed on as a contributing writer to a local newspaper, and I have an article due tomorrow. Ask me what I've done on it so far. No, don't. It's better for both of us if we leave certain things to the imagination. For instance, you may imagine that I am a paragon of energy and responsibility, and that I am writing feverishly into the night, so that I will be able to send in the article not only on time, but in fact ahead of my deadline, while I may imagine that you are right, and that I am not, in fact, avoiding writing the article by, say, writing this blog.

Perhaps later I will imagine that I can cook! Why, anything is possible!

Well, most things.

In addition to my deadline on Friday, I have another one on Saturday, for a short-story writing contest. I have actually written the story, so that is something. And it is pretty good, which is something else. But it is not great, and that means I should be revising it, and that means it's time to play the imagination game again. (You are going to be very good at it by the end of this post, I promise.)

Finally, I have a deadline on Tuesday for another newspaper article, and I have several phone calls still to make to get various quotes. The hardest part of being a writer, for me, is talking to other people. I am shyer than most people think, and the thought of picking up the phone and calling a perfect stranger to get quotes gives me the shivers. I always agonize over it (will I ask the right questions? Will I sound professional? Will I be pestering them?), and then I agonize over the quotes I did, and didn't, get, and then when the story gets written it is all fine, of course, but it can be a traumatizing experience.

At any rate, it's obvious that I have my work cut out for me these next few days, so I'd better hurry up and get back to watching Pirates of the Caribbean...er, I mean writing my articles and stories. Yes, let's pretend that's what I meant.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Update on the Frogg's Health

Thanks to all of you who expressed their sympathy the other day; my neck still hurts a lot, but it is better than before. I slathered it in Icy-Hot yesterday, and took lots of drugs--four Ibuprofen pills at work, then two Naproxen when I got home. I went out for drinks with WoundedBug in the evening; a tall glass of beer followed by a shot of Bailey's on the rocks did wonders for the pain, but alas! How temporary the cure!

I can't be sure, but I think this injury may actually be related to damage I wreaked upon my body many years ago, during a rousing game of rollerblade hockey at my house (remember, Steve?). Actually, we weren't playing hockey at the moment of the accident. We were skating around, being silly, and without going into humiliating details, let's just say that I did something severely stupid, with the result that I landed FLAT on my back, on the highly unforgiving surface of a tennis court, while falling from a height of...well, I can't remember now, but probably a few feet.

The pain was horrific. I had tried to keep my head from cracking open on the concrete, and in so doing, had drastically pulled the muscle in my neck and upper back. Probably a good many muscles, actually. I could barely move, or even breathe. I could, however, cry and did, with every bit of self-pity that I could muster (I mustered quite a lot).

However, I still went to Disneyland the next day, because I had a crush on a guy who was going. Pain or no pain (but oh! there was plenty of pain!), I was going to the "happiest place on earth" even if it killed me. And you know all those rides that say, "DO NOT get on this ride if you are pregnant, have heart trouble, or diabetes; if you're too short, too tall, too heavy, too light; if you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or if you have BACK PROBLEMS"? Yep. I went on every single one, and I suffered on every single one, with gritted teeth and heart-felt groans. My reward? One fleeting hand-hold and a day of flirtatious banter. Worth it? Well, I thought so at the time, but now...no, not really. Oh, what horrors we visit upon ourselves in the name of love...

Anyway, I somehow survived, and eventually sort of healed, but my back has never been quite the same, and every now and then it relapses, like the other day. Today I can at least breathe without pain (if I don't breathe too deeply!), but I still have to turn my entire body to look over my shoulder as I change lanes on the freeway. I also can't tilt my head backward very far.

So, yes, it still hurts a lot, and I am still grumpy and sad about it, especially as it looks like I really will have to cancel the Yosemite trip. Besides me hurting my neck, the friend I was going with has sprained her ankle. Neither injury is very conducive to backpacking for several days in the mountains. I am quite devastated, as I have never been to Yosemite, and was really looking forward to this trip.

Ah, pity me, who is so piteous...or pitiful, as the case may be.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ouch

I have hurt my neck. I think I might have hurt it badly. I strained it today, but not during the brisk 3-mile walk I took early this morning. No. I hurt it as I lay down on my porch a few minutes ago to soak up some rays before it got too hot outside.

How many people actually injure themselves while they are doing nothing at all?! This is the sort of irony that pervades my life. Gah! I will laugh about it later, but right now I am in too much pain.

May have to call in sick for work, but I'll see how I feel in an hour. Maybe I just need to lie down and relax some more. Oh wait, that's what got me in this mess in the first place. Arrrgh. My biggest worry is that I will have to cancel plans to go on a backpacking trip to Yosemite next week. I can't believe this!

Ok, I'm off to find an ice pack or maybe some drugs. Ouch ouch ouch.

:(

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Places of Me

I went to the Vatican, once, because the Sistine Chapel was already closed that day. I don't remember what it was like to see the Pieta in person, I only know that I saw it.

In October, I went to an evensong service at Westminster Abbey, in London. I wrote down part of the prayer that ended the service in a little notebook, because I thought the words were beautiful, but I seem to have misplaced the notebook. I hope I find it again.

I saw Buckingham Palace in the rain.

In Egypt, I rode a horse in the desert, at full gallop and in view of the pyramids.

I stood, alone, on the cliff overlooking Cape Farewell, New Zealand, and found my way down to the beach where seals were sunning themselves outside the caves where they lived.

One dark night I walked along the white beach of Koh Sahmet, Thailand, and watched lightning flash behind the clouds, turning them purple.

I've seen the sun rise over Jerusalem, gleaming on the golden Dome of the Rock, and I had tea under a tent with a Bedouin family, on the mountain above the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

I swam and floated in the Dead Sea.

Here is a picture of my favorite place in the world. It is in Walnut Creek, California, not far from the busy streets of that city. But far enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Story

We met Samy and Ahmed at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. They were cousins, I think, and Arab. Samy ran a merchandise stall on the steps in front of the gate, as did many other people. His wares were mostly electronic gizmos, of one sort or another.

Samy bought us tea and told us to be careful of our bags. "Wear them in front," he said. "There are many thieves here." He said he didn't care if people were Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, as long as they were friendly. Ahmed said nothing, just smiled, but I couldn't tell what he might be thinking. Still he was kind and I think he liked us.

When we asked Samy to tell us how to get to the Wailing Wall, he insisted that Ahmed go with us. "It's not safe for you to go by yourselves," said Samy. "Ahmed will take care of you." Ahmed didn't seem to mind, and went ahead, leading us through a labyrinth of shops and alleys, eventually getting to a checkpoint in a tunnel. He spoke to the guard, who checked his ID card and our passports, and waved us through after looking into our bags.

"Don't leave me," Ahmed said when we all began to disperse in the courtyard of the wall, some of us to see the wall up close, some to wander about taking in the scenery. I stopped and looked at him. "Don't leave me," he said again. "They let me in because I said I was your guide. I will get in trouble if they find me here alone."

By "they" I assumed he meant the Israeli guards. We had had to pass through a checkpoint to get to the wall. It was the Sabbath, and the sun was going down. People were gathering at the wall, men on one side of a long partition, women on the other.

So I stood with him in the courtyard as the afternoon waned, and listened to him talk. He took my hand and said, "Don't be afraid." Then he put my finger in what I can only describe as a hole, or a deep dent, on his head. He told me it was from a bullet that hit him in the 1967 war, when he was about 8 months old.

I can remember little about that conversation now, except that one moment, and the golden color of the sun on the Wailing Wall while we stood in a lengthening shade.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hot Hot Hot

It's far too hot to think clearly, or at all. All I can think about is how hot it is.

I love California, but I have to admit that the months of July and August put a great strain on an otherwise beautiful relationship.

According to my weather widget (thank you, Tiger!), it is 89 degrees Fahrenheit right now. I won't be at all surprised if we hit triple digits soon.

I don't think I would mind the heat nearly so much if it weren't for the fact that I nearly get third-degree burns every time I get in my car now. I often work the afternoon-evening shift, which means my car sits in the sun all morning, so when I get in, it is literally like climbing into a heated oven, or, alternatively, hell. Actually grasping the steering wheel or the gearshift is more than out of the question, which makes driving a little complicated, as you can imagine.

And I am sure that my convoluted, gymnastic-inspired contortions as I attempt to put on my seat belt without actually touching the metal bit or any piece of plastic would be wildly entertaining to anyone lucky enough to see the performance.

At least I have air conditioning in my car. My last car had none, and, even worse, had vinyl seats. The less said about that, the better.

So how's the weather in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Another Confession

This one is going to be difficult. Shocking even, perhaps. But I feel that it's time to tell the truth, and admit what must only be perceived as a great failing. Please don't hate me, but...

I have not read a single one of the Harry Potter books.

I know, it's terrible! I can hardly lift my head for the shame. And the worst of it is still to come, because you see, it's not that I have anything against Harry Potter. It's just that...well, I don't care that much.

I tried, I really did. One day I saw the first book of the series lying around in our house, and I thought, "I should see what this is all about." I picked it up, read a few pages, and put it down. And--this is the important point--I never picked it up again.

Oh, what is wrong with me? Surely it must be some fatal flaw in my character, in my very soul, that I didn't find Harry Potter interesting!

But if I watched two of the movies (well, parts of each of them at least), does that count toward my absolution from such an awful sin? I can only hope.

Monday, July 18, 2005

(sigh)

I'm very tired and a little sad today, that's all.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Quotation

"Faith is fed not by a rational search for truth but by a passionate belief in its divine revelation." --Marcelo Gleiser, The Prophet and the Astronomer

I can only say one thing right now about this sentence: it troubles me.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Few Pics, For Once

I like taking pictures of buildings, sometimes.





And here (below) is Ladysmith Black Mombazo, at night in downtown Los Angeles. The concert was free, and the view was beautiful.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Discuss Amongst Yourselves

Ack, things have been a bit crazy, and it looks like I might have to shirk my blog for a bit so I can turn my attention to the things I usually shirk by blogging. Does that make sense at all? If not, forgive me, my brain is feeling a bit fried these days. (Do brains have feelings? I don't know.)

But first. My recent post, Profession/Confession, sparked a surprising amount of commentary. Well, surprising to me anyway, because I rarely get more than a handful of comments on any given post. And granted, in this case at least four of the comments were by yours truly, but hey, that still left 11 that were not, so there you go. A frogg files record!

I'm pulling two of the comments out into a new post, because:

1) I think they bring up good questions that are worth discussing further, and to which I'd really be interested to hear people's responses; and,

2) I don't have anything else to write about at the moment.

Now, it's probably a good idea to read the original post first (see link above, or scroll down on this page), but gistfully speaking, the topic we are dealing with is megachurches and their marketing tactics. So, the lovely Pepper wrote:

Sometimes I wonder if using "amusement-park tactics" to get people into the church is a good thing in the long run. What do you guys think? I mean, if a person is attracted to a particular church for a reason other than spiritual fulfillment, is that okay if they eventually come to believe? That might give me more insight into what the "megachurches" are trying to do and if there's something more behind their aggressive marketing strategies. (Plus, it will keep me from judging megachurches so harshly.)

And then Porter answered:

So many questions go begging in that post: What is "a church"? What makes it "a good thing" to "get people into the church"? What is "spiritual fulfillment"? What does it have to do with "a church"? What is "to believe"? and in what? and how? and to what end?

I am sure I will have some thoughts on these comments myself, just as soon as my frazzled brain returns from the holiday it has apparently taken from the rest of me. Unthoughtful of it, really, considering that the rest of me also needs a holiday rather badly. But we must soldier on, mustn't we.

Until my return to coherence, I leave it to you, gentle readers (or not so gentle, as the case may be) to consider and comment on the questions put forth in this post. If you don't, I will be sadly disappointed, but don't worry, I'll get over it.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Conversational

ah, there you are. i've missed you.

yes, i've been away. i'm sorry. are you very angry?

angry! no. but i'm glad that you are back.

(silence)

something is troubling you, my friend. what is it?

too many things.

do you want to talk about it?

yes. no.

i see.

(short pause)

i was angry at you.

i know.

but i missed you while i was gone. i couldn't stay away. that's why i came back. i still feel angry sometimes, though. i don't want to, but i can't help it. i'm not very nice, you know.

(laughing) nice!

i know it sounds silly, but--

i hurt my hands. see?

oh! these wounds are deep! (pause) i wish you hadn't.

i don't. come, you are tired. rest awhile, with me.

if only i could!

why can't you?

i don't know how.

the night is falling, my love, but you will be safe with me.

promise?

i promise. when the sun rises, you'll find me wide awake, at your side... and waiting for you to awaken too.

Deep

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
but I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from his reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom.

--by Stuart Townsend

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Home Again

Woundedbug came home on Thursday, after a year in Morocco. It's good to have him back.

The other night we sat on the porch late at night, smoking cigars, drinking tea (well, what can you do when you don't have any cognac) and talking about love, life, and whatever else came to mind.

It really doesn't seem like a year that he's been away. Then again, it doesn't seem like a year that I've been back.

Someone asked me today, out of the blue, "So when are you going back to New Zealand?" I don't know. But sometimes I think a part of me never left. (I know, Andi, I know! Don't say it!)

Travel does funny things to a person. It's hard to know where home really is, after awhile. If it's where the heart is, I'm in trouble, because my heart is in about three different places, at the very least! Hmmmm.

But I can't think about it anymore tonight. I'm late already. Have a great weekend...I'll tell you about mine if you tell me about yours! Until next time, ciao.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mystery Blogger

ha ha ha ha. i have broken into the frog files. i am the mystery blogger. i am the best...well, it's Just that think i am...anyway, this is my first pOSt as the mystery blogger. cHeck back frequently to see my posts.

-mystery blogger

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Profession/Confession

God save us from a church that has become indistinguishable from corporations.

Megachurches, Megabusinesses

I've said it before, and I will say it again, and again, and again. If Jesus isn't at the center of a church's teaching; if the cross has faded into the background or does nothing more than prettily decorate the front of a sanctuary; if pastors and church leaders are more interested in getting people into a building than they are in getting people in touch with the living God, then we deserve the scorn of a world that knows deep down that we are supposed to be other than what we show ourselves to be.

We aren't here to tickle people's ears and tell them what they want to hear. Our job isn't to make the Gospel of Christ palatable. If it is the true Gospel, it won't be. It can't be. The Gospel is offensive, frustrating. It gets under your skin and keeps you awake at night. You may try to leave it, but it won't leave you. It is uncompromising and gives no quarter to compromisers. It is beautiful, terrible, rich and devastating all at the same time.

If it is not, it is no Gospel.

Was it palatable in Jesus' time? Did it go down easy like smooth red wine? Did it give people the warm fuzzies? Why certainly. So much so that it led to the crucifixion of Jesus himself. Isn't that cozy, now.

How is it that we keep forgetting?

Maybe because no one tells us anymore. Our leaders are too busy crafting success seminars, writing self-help books, recording blockbuster worship albums, and marketing keychains with the prayer of Jabez inscribed on them.

God forgive and help us.

And yet...I have written all this, knowing it is true. But I would be unfair and a liar if I didn't say that I myself deserve scorn for misrepresenting Christ in my own life, especially when it is wilful (and oh, it so often is). Every time I pass a homeless person without a glance, every time I keep silent when I should speak out, every time I refuse to get close to another person who is hurting because I'm afraid of getting hurt myself, every time I withhold forgiveness from someone who is no more perfect than I am, I make a mockery and worse of my own convictions.

I'm not really any better than those Christian pastor-preneurs I despise so thoroughly. And oh! that is a blow to my arrogance and pride!

But not enough of one, or it wouldn't have cost me so little to write all this.

So at the last, may God forgive and help me too.

"When I fall, I will arise..." Micah 7:7

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

No Pain, No Gain

Last week, on a whim, a friend of mine and I signed up to participate in a half-marathon at the end of October, in San Francisco.

Since then, I have successfully avoided beginning any sort of fitness regime, and have also successfully eaten too much several days running.

This is going to be interesting.

I can dimly remember my early twenties, when I went through a period of being almost addicted to exercise. Perhaps it had something to do with the free membership at the YMCA, which is where I worked at the time, as a day camp counselor. Anyway, I worked out five days a week, like clockwork: an hour of cardio every day and an hour of weights added on to that every other day. I didn't have a six-pack or anything, but I believe I could boast a very respectable four-pack, and that wasn't too bad.

(I think I still have the four-pack, actually, it's just a little harder to find these days.)

One time I overdid it: in fitness terms, I "maxed out." (Is that still a fitness term? I don't know.) Anyway, I was focusing on the arm muscles that day, and I worked out so hard, that when I went home I could barely eat my dinner, because I was having trouble lifting the spoon to my mouth. My arms were literally shaking, and they hurt. It was not "the good kind of burn," either. It was awful.

And of course the next day we were taking the YMCA kids to an overnight camping experience (right behind a cemetery no less, but that's another story), which meant that we had to load up all their luggage on the bus. I think I almost cried. I mean, the night before I could barely eat soup because the spoon felt too heavy, and now they were asking me to THROW heavy SUITCASES into a bus?? The assistant director for the camp (who was also my occasional workout partner) thought my plight was hilarious, and kept poking me in the triceps, which of course is where most of my pain was concentrated. I would have hit him, but my arms wouldn't move.

The final, crowning insult of that entire experience happened when we got to the campground, and the first activity slated for my group was a hike in the hills. I was still feeling utterly miserable, and was not thrilled that I had to do yet more physical activity. So in my despairing mood, I didn't see the rope stretched across the beginning of the trailhead. I tripped over it and fell, cutting my chin open on a rock. Of course, the only bandages anyone had available were kid-friendly bandages, meaning they had funny little cartoon characters all over them. In other words, they were not remotely inconspicuous. So for the rest of the day I got to hear jokes like, "What happened? Did you cut yourself shaving?" Ha ha.

So anyway, it's been a long time since I've been truly excited about getting in shape, but maybe this half-marathon will kick things back into gear. I can hope, I guess. Of course, the fact that I woke up late and then spent the morning writing this post rather than going for the walk around the Rose Bowl that I had originally planned does not bode well for my athletic future. (Neither does my propensity for chocolate.)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy July 4th!

I'm working today, which doesn't really bother me because I get time and a half, but for some reason it bugs me that our store is actually kind of busy. It is such a beautiful day out, and it almost offends me that people are spending their time in a shopping mall instead of out bbq'ing with friends, having picnics, volleyball games at the beach, and so on. that's what the fourth of july is FOR, for goodness' sake. Celebrate your freedom!!

If you are reading this and there is still daylight left outside, I say STOP reading and go do something fun! Please! And then tell me about what you did, I'd love to hear about your day.

I'll be going over to a friend's house after work. We'll bbq for dinner, then watch the fireworks while lying on blankets on her front lawn and enjoying some homemade ice cream. Mmmmmm.

I really love the fourth of July, and I especially love fireworks. I don't think they will ever bore me, no matter how old I get. At least, I hope not.

Happy July 4th!!