3.30.2001

My spirituality

From a fairly young age, I have always had at least part of my mind on spiritual things. I remember asking for my first Bible from my parents, going to church and eventually marrying in one, and then exploring many other avenues of spiritual fulfillment after my divorce. The most important thing I've learned is that faith is nothing until it truly becomes your own - my faith is based in my study of many other faiths, and incorporates a little of all these listed here.

Episcopal

Places of worship: St. David's Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas
Beliefs: Worshiping in my ancestral faith feels right.
Someone had once told me that Episcopalian services were just like a Catholic Mass, so I found the Episcopalian church with the best web site and decided to visit. St. David's is really nice, with a variety of priests with different styles and lots of services to choose from. I especially like the Compline service, which is held at night in a dark church with incense and chants. I've joined the bell choir here and have fun ringing during special morning services. I feel at home again in a traditional, symbolic faith, but I've been tempering that by continuing to read Taoist and Buddhist writings.

Unitarian Universalist

Places of worship: First Unitarian Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma & First Unitarian Universalist Church, Austin, Texas
Beliefs: No one knows everything about God.
After the lodge services ended, I went looking for something "intellectual" and found Unitarian Universalism. At these churches I heard some of the most thought-provoking talks I had experienced - I especially liked how they combined all the "good parts" of many different works (sometimes the Bible, sometimes the Koran or anything else) to form one philosophy (in fact, they revere Thomas Jefferson because he cut up his New Testament to include only the verses he believed). However, Unitarianism has no symbolism at all - you can't even have Christmas if you accept all religions equally. After reading that one should "worship in the way of his ancestors", I decided to go traditional again.

Cherokee Sweat Lodge

Places of worship: A dome of animal skins, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Beliefs: Your God is the same as my God.
Trey had been attending this service for several months before inviting me, and I couldn't wait to go. A full-blood Cherokee and his family held this service in their backyard - he constructed the lodge, gathered volcanic rock, heated the rocks red-hot in the ceremonial fire, and conducted the four-round, several hours long service. Each round involved intense sweating in the dark while prayers were said and sung, and was full of symbolism ranging from stories to herbs crackling on the hot rocks. These services were the most spiritual experiences I have had, and I miss them.

Unity

Places of worship: First Unity Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Beliefs: God is in everything and everyone.
Some of my New Age reading mentioned the Unity movement, which is basically an organized New Age church incorporating the beliefs of many different religions (including Christianity). Unity immediately felt like home - the service included meditation, the people were friendly, and the messages were about anything and everything. I went to church services and even many workshops. The only problem was it never seemed to go as deep as I wanted, so I kept my eyes open for something more intense.

New Age

Places of worship: My house, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Beliefs: There is a God, who can be found 1,001 ways.
It's a little embarrassing, but I read A Return to Love because Cheri was interested in it. The book describes a popular New Age book called A Course in Miracles, which I read and studied feverishly. It's basically psychology presented with spiritual language, but I loved it, and it was a gateway drug. Soon I was reading all kinds of spiritual self-help books. I know it's a little silly, but it was extremely valuable - I basically decided to question everything, which caused me to study everything, so I read many Taoist works and meditated regularly. It was enough to get me through the divorce and build a foundation of exploration that would make spirituality a true part of me, rather than just a layer.

Methodist

Places of worship: University United Methodist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Beliefs: God can be found in ritual and symbolism.
We chose UUMC because the congregation was full of students (including Liza!) and the church building was stone and cool. We really researched Methodism, and even talked with the minister personally before joining (we were concerned about infant baptism!). We were extremely active in church - we desktop published over 100 issues of the church newsletter, played in the bell choir, and even were communion stewards (which meant I got to squirt grape juice into little plastic cups). After the divorce, I stayed at UUMC for a few months, but I really needed to start exploring on my own.

Non-denominational

Places of worship: New Life Bible Church, Norman, Oklahoma
Beliefs: Christianity is more attractive when packaged in fun music and drama. God doesn't care if you wear jeans.
Cheri and I decided to try something radically different, but with the same basic beliefs. New Life Bible Church featured praise music with lyrics projected on the wall, dramas in every service, baptisms in a swimming pool, and was specifically designed to not "scare anyone". I ate it up - I became part of the band, playing drums in the Sheraton Hotel ballroom where we had services. I also wrote several dramas (including an Indiana Jones parody - I forget what spiritual meaning it had!). Unfortunately, Cheri felt it was a little too loose, so we decided to go back to tradition, but without so many weird dogmas.

Southern Baptist

Places of worship: Southern Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma & other Baptist churches, Moore, Oklahoma
Beliefs: Very fundamentalist (sorry!).
Through the influence of my family and cousins, I started to explore Christianity on my own by reading my own little New Testament and going to Vacation Bible School. As I started dating Cheri, we began going to church together in Moore, and were married (no dancing at the wedding!). Ironically, we didn't go to that church very long after we were wed, since we were both feeling a little stifled by some silly views (my friend Marco was admonished for wearing shorts, and anyone who was known to be promiscuous was shunned completely).

Generic Protestant

Places of worship: Various Air Force base chapels
Beliefs: God listens to bedtime prayers.
When I was very young, my parents would take me to church at the base chapel. Obviously, the Air Force couldn't provide a service for all denominations, so they simply had Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish services. What I remember most was being baffled by the kneelers under the pews, since I had no idea what a Catholic Mass was. I remember cutting out and gluing apostles to construction paper, too, but that's about all.

3.28.2001

O Brother, Where Art Thou? : 4 of 5

This is a really enjoyable film with a fun story (based loosely on The Odyssey) that is touching and goofy at the same time. George Clooney does an excellent job in the lead role (George is just so cool - if I could snap my fingers and be someone, it would probably be George Clooney), and I could even stand Holly Hunter's voice for a few lines. It was fun trying to find the Homer references - the cyclops and the siren were obvious, but there really isn't much more beyond that (besides coming home to his wife beset by suitors). The music is very cool - not my usual taste, but it works perfectly in the film. I guess the main thing I enjoyed was that George actually becomes a hero - everyone in the audience finds themselves rooting for him and his dreams.

3.26.2001

Academy Awards Party 2001

Mikey's 4th annual bash of glitz and glamour.

View photos: Academy Awards 2001

Truth

I danced tonight
Jumped around to the same song
That played in my empty post-divorce house
While you shimmied and shook my soul to tears
Your eyes catching the candlelight
And reflecting it back like pulsars
Tonight I lit a candle
But I could only close my eyes
And dance with arms outstretched
Listening to you sing the lyrics off-key
And feel your ghostly waist in my fingers

My prying eyes finally found your face
Snooping around like a bumbling spy
Until I discovered your image
And at last I had proof you were real
Nothing in your expression
Contradicted my exaggerated memories
I thought I had rewritten you
But now I remember
It was all true

3.25.2001

Tom's Fish Fry

A typical out of control party at Tom's pad - tons of food and tons of people.

View photos: Tom's Fish Fry

3.21.2001

Haiku

Watching the sunset
Resting after a long walk
Drinking Asahi

Model Behavior / Jay McInerney : 5 of 5

I started to add Jay McInerney to my "read everything" list after I read Bright Lights, Big City by hopping to that book from a mention on a Bret Easton Ellis work, but for some reason I never got around to buying more. I noticed an excellent review of Model Behavior, so that finally got me going. What a fantastic book! The characters are lovable and depraved, and the way the book is structured as "micro-chapters" makes it read so quickly. There are laugh-out-loud segments as well as truly sad moments, all surrounded by fantastic 90s pop culture. Looks like I'll have to read more by good ol' Jay.

3.20.2001

Minidisc

When I took my trip to Japan, I wanted to buy some kind of fun electronic gadget in one of the cool electronics districts. It seems a minidisc player/recorder was the best choice, and Matt was sure to point out the latest Sony model, which not only is the smallest recorder now available, but also used a great compression technique to allow four times the normal about of recording time per disc! I was really worried that I would never really use my MD - I was addicted to my Rio and loading it up with MP3s everyday. I'm happy to say that I listen to my MD more than I ever listened to my Rio! It was a great purchase, and I have to thank Barron and Matt for talking me into it! I love to record in the super-compressed mode - the quality is barely affected at all by the compression, and I can get 5 CDs on one little disc (I put 5 Beach Boys double-CDs on one disc - the equivalent of 10 vinyl albums!). Now I need to get an MD player for my home stereo!

3.18.2001

Philosophy class

During my college years, I spent a lot of time in the library digging through old books. I ended up reading a lot of philosophy, but I never took a course, since I was spending all my electives on Shakespeare classes. Now I'm taking Intro to Western Philosophy at Austin Community College, just for fun (thankfully, I'm not the oldest guy in this Freshman class!). I'm really enjoying it - we're studying Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Hume, and Sartre. The instructor, David Nakamaye, is hilarious and offbeat, but he gives challenging exams and grades tough (he used to teach at UT). It's kinda fun being a college student again, and reading these philosophical works and being able to discuss them is really cool. I'm sure I'll take another class next semester!

3.15.2001

Saint Etienne / Interlude : 4 of 5

I love it when I suddenly discover a favorite band has released a new CD. I had no idea Interlude would be released so soon after Sound of Water. Interlude is very similar to that prior effort, but thankfully adds a little more punch. There are some really cool tunes here that show off Sarah, a so-so instrumental, and some very nice remixes at the end, including Lose That Girl from Good Humor. The remix is so creative that the song has an entirely different style and feeling!

3.10.2001

Haiku

Best way to feel young
Watching a girl's behind walk
Up apartment stairs

Baby Gotz Back: Chris La Cava

Chris expresses his fantasies in this cross between Nintendo's Diddy Kong and Milton Bradley's Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Watch movie

3.05.2001

The Dark Crystal : 3 of 5

When I was much younger, this movie was spectacular. As an adult, it's not as amazing as a whole, but thankfully the DVD has an extensive behind-the-scenes feature that increased my appreciation ten fold. Lots of talented people created the world of The Dark Crystal, mainly Kermit and Miss Piggy (Jim Henson and Frank Oz - also Yoda!). I do need to mention that hearing the voice of Augra spoken makes you realize that Frank Oz can only do one voice - Grover, Yoda, and Augra are all the same. That aside, the puppetry in the film is pretty incredible, except for the main Gelfling characters, which come across as Kermits with moveable eyes. This was still an enjoyable bit of nostalgia, though, so I'm glad I rented it.

3.04.2001

Charade : 4 of 5

I rented this one because it was one of those movies I've always heard about but never watched, and because Audrey Hepburn was so blasted beautiful. This is actually a fairly interesting mystery, though I was more interested in watching everyone smoke like crazy and look great in their clothes. This DVD is part of the Criterion Collection, which I have to recommend for being extremely high quality with excellent menus and additional features. The commentary track includes the director and writer arguing about the name of the French puppet theater where Punch and Judy was performed, while both of them ogle Audrey along with the rest of us.

3.03.2001

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang : 3 of 5

Everyone I know (including me) always thought this was a Disney movie, but it's not - my guess is that MGM wanted to cash in on the singing/dancing goofball Dick Van Dyke fresh on the heels of Mary Poppins, so they came up with this wacky fairy tale. There are some great scenes and wonderful numbers, but this story eventually drags like Boy George - there's no need for this movie to be 15 minutes over two hours! This epic even included intermission music and "exit music" after the credits - sheesh! Not as magical as I remember when I was a kid, but I still had a good time watching it again.

3.02.2001

Chinese Ghost Story: Tsui Hark Animation : 3 of 5

I saw this a long time ago at the UT student union with Matt, but I was very sleepy and couldn't follow it. This time I was wide awake, and still barely made it, but it was better this time. The story is a wild one, full of characters with names like Ten Miles and Solid Gold, and all kinds of bizarre ghosts. On top of that, the animation style is full of CG integration with a psychedelic feel, so most of your brain cycles are spent just trying to keep track of what's happening, let alone why. Eventually the characters do grow into people you care about and there is a fantastic scene where they are whirling along towards reincarnation and actually growing younger before your eyes.

3.01.2001

The Castle of Cagliosto : 3 of 5

I rented this anime without really knowing anything about the story, just because it's the first film directed by Miyazaki (of Princess Mononoke fame). The Castle of Cagliostro turns out to be a Lupin III adventure, a really popular character in Japan, who is a charming thief - kind of like a scoundrel James Bond. The animation is very old and looks really dated, but you can still see some Miyazaki touches, especially in the car chase scene (which reminds me of a Mononoke horseback chase). The story is really good, though - very fun (Speed Racer-ish) with just a hint of love story to keep things emotional. So while the animation isn't spectacular, I'd like to see more Lupin stories. By the way, the DVD has no extra features - I hate that!

EX

If you haven't figured it out by keeping up with my Last 5 DVDs, Mikey is a certified otaku (Japanese for "nerd", usually involving anime). I wish I had known about this site a long time ago - it is a fantastic web-zine that is kept up-to-date and edited like a real magazine, with lots of articles, DVD reviews, and news about what's coming up next. Thanks once again to Barron for sending me the link - he found it while searching for pictures of Faye Valentine, the babe from Cowboy Bebop.

Visit site: EX

Asti Trattoria : 4 of 5

One of my favorite restaurants used to be Manga, a place with fantastic Asian food (I'll never forget General Tso's Chicken) and anime playing on a video wall. I have no idea why it folded, but now the video wall has become a wine rack for the newest hip nouvelle Italian eatery, Asti Trattoria. I think hip is the word, because they sport modern design from the steel counter with red stools right down to the cool menus. The food was excellent - I had the fantastic Spinach Lasagna, along with a great salad composed of two giant Romaine leaves. The location is great for pre-opera eating, too. The only negative was a particularly gnarly Chianti - I'll buy a more expensive bottle next time.