Saturday Random Song: Brenton Brown, “Lord, Reign in Me’

Tomorrow our church begins a two-week class on contemporary Christian music. This praise song was on the CD included with the class materials, and I’ve been listening to it every day. After a long spell of numbness, I don’t yet feel the creative energy of God moving in me again, but I’m almost ready to ask Him for it. That’s always a good sign.

Over all the earth, You reign on high
Every mountain stream, every sunset sky
But my one request, Lord, my only aim
Is that You’d reign in me again

Lord, reign in me, reign in Your power
Over all my dreams in my darkest hour
You are the Lord of all I am
So won’t You reign in me again

Over every thought, over every word
May my life reflect the beauty of my Lord
‘Cause you mean more to me than any earthly thing
So won’t You reign in me again

Signs of the Apocalypse: French Execs Pay to Be Kidnapped

The latest Springwise weekly business trends e-newsletter profiled this new form of entertainment for thrill-seeking Frenchmen:

“Kidnapping”, “Manhunt” and “Go-Fast Adventure” are all among the standard services Ultime Réalité offers, but it’s open to special requests. Through the company’s simulated kidnapping packages, for instance, the participant is abducted without warning—after leaving a restaurant, say, or in the supermarket parking lot. Paying “victims” are then bound, gagged and imprisoned for four or 10 hours (depending on the scenario they choose), allowing them to experience the terror of the real thing. Additional elements such as ransom, escapes and helicopter chases can also be involved. Manhunt packages, meanwhile, can last either one or two days, with the option to play the role of either hunter or prey. Then there’s the Go-Fast Adventure, where participants take the role of a drug dealer smuggling cargo on the high seas. Finally, a recently added “extreme” package allows clients to wake up on an autopsy table in a morgue, surrounded by corpses and body bags. Pricing on a basic kidnap package is EUR 900.

What if a staged kidnapping turns into a real one? How would you know? I see potential for
a great action movie here. (If you use this idea and make a million dollars, please spend it on copies of Swallow.)

Poetry Videos from Thirsty Word Reading Series: Karen Johnston, Ellen LaFleche, Jendi Reiter

The Thirsty Mind Coffee & Wine Bar in South Hadley, MA, was kind enough to host our first-ever Thirsty Word poetry reading series last month. We’re hoping to organize another event in early May. Featured readers were Karen Johnston, Ellen LaFleche, and myself. Enjoy these videos recorded by Adam Cohen. Each is about 25 minutes long. Thanks also to Mary Serreze for setting up the audio equipment. Mary is the publisher of, a local news site where I cover the public housing beat.

Karen G. Johnston is a social worker by vocation, a poet by avocation, a socialist by inclination, a UU-Buddhist by faith, and mother by choice. Her writing has been published in Silkworm, Equinox, Concise Delight, WordCatalyst, and Women. Period. An Anthology of Writings on Menstruation.

Ellen LaFleche has a special interest in poems about working class people, and issues of health and healing. She has published in numerous journals, including Many Mountains Moving, Alehouse, Alligator Juniper, the Ledge, New Millennium Writings, and Naugatuck River Review.

Jendi Reiter is the author of the poetry collections Swallow (Amsterdam Press, 2009) and A Talent for Sadness (Turning Point Books, 2003), and editor of the writers’ resource website Award-winning poet Ellaraine Lockie has said of her work, “Jendi Reiter’s poems are arrows that plunge dead center into the hearts of feminism, religion, death, the interior of mental health and psychotherapy.”

Thursday Random Song: Scissor Sisters, “Intermission”

I discovered the Scissor Sisters in a (possibly apocryphal) forwarded email in which a conservative pastor was warning parents about cultural influences that would turn their children gay. It’s working.

(The song is only 2:36 minutes but all the videos I could find on YouTube were 3:51 minutes, with an extra minute of dead air at the end. Is it meant to symbolize The Void? Listen and decide.)


When you’re standing on the side of a hill
Feeling like your day may be done
Here it comes, strawberry smog
Chasing away the sun
Don’t let those precious moments fool you
Happiness is getting you down
A rainbow never smiles or blinks
It’s just a candy colored frown

You were going on at half-past seven
Now it’s going on a quarter to nine
All the angels want to know
Are you lost or treading water?
And you’re going on your fifteenth bender
But you’ve only got a matter of time
Yes we’ve all got seeds to sow
Not everyone’s got lambs to slaughter

When the night wind starts to turn
Into the ocean breeze
And the dew drops sting and burn
Like angry honey bees
That is when you hear the song falling from the sky
Happy yesterday to all
We were born to die
Sometimes you’re filled with the notion
The afterlife’s a moment away
You want to tell someone the way that you feel
But then you ain’t got nothing to say
You fight for freedom from devotion
A battle that will always begin
With somebody giving you a piece of advice;
By the way you’re living in sin

Now there’s never gonna be an intermission
But there’ll always be a closing night
Never entertain those visions
Lest you may have packed your baggage
First impressions are cheap auditions
Situations are long goodbyes
Truth so often to living dormant
Good luck walks and bullshit flies

When the headlights guide your way
You know the place is right
When the treetops sing and sway
Don’t go to sleep tonight
That is when you see the sign
Luminous and high:
Tomorrow’s not what it used to be
We were born to die
Happy yesterday to all
We were born to die

Lyrics courtesy of

Stephanie Soileau on Fiction and Moral Ambiguity

The prestigious literary journal Glimmer Train regularly publishes short essays about the writing process by their fiction contest winners. I appreciated these thoughts from Stephanie Soileau, winner of the December 2009 Fiction Open. Referring to Bruno Bettelheim’s theory that fairy tales give children a safe space to process the darkness and complexity of life, she suggests that all fiction writing can serve a similar function:

I believe in storytelling as a way to map and explore the ambiguities of human experience, and it is this belief that motivates me as a fiction writer. Stories have given me a language to express the contradictions in my own experience, and because writing them has been an often challenging exercise in sympathy and compassion, I have come to see the practice of storytelling as a moral imperative. But the morality is in the practice, not in the story itself. Fiction is no place for sermons, for conclusive answers. Whether we’re reading or writing them, the best fiction gives us a woods to get lost in, and if at the end, we have come to no conclusions, if we are only left with more questions, the questions themselves are something like a map, and we emerge from this woods a little better able to find our way.

The March Fiction Open is accepting entries now through the end of the month, with a top prize of $2,000.
Read more thoughts by winning authors in the Glimmer Train Bulletin.

Bill Moyers Interviews Boies and Olson on Prop 8 Challenge

Two leading US constitutional lawyers, the liberal David Boies and the conservative Ted Olson, have been advocating for the overturn of Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban, in federal court in San Francisco. Testimony has concluded, closing arguments are still to come, and a decision is expected this spring.

Venerable PBS talk show host Bill Moyers interviewed Boies and Olson on his Feb. 26 show. Watch the video (49 minutes) here. The transcript and related links are also available on the site. One of the most interesting links is According to Moyers, the district court would not let the proceedings be filmed, so two Los Angeles filmmakers decided to reenact the trial on their website, with professional actors, using the trial transcripts as their script. So far they’ve covered four of the 12 days of testimony.

The Moyers interview contains many quote-worthy passages. I chose this one because it’s a clever argument that I haven’t heard before. Boldface emphasis mine.

TED OLSON: …You asked me the most effective thing that happened on the other side? I will, I didn’t find any of their arguments effective. I have said from the beginning of this case, I’ve yet to hear an argument that persuades me or even comes close to persuading me that we should treat our gay and lesbian colleagues differently and deny them equality.

But what really happened, which was a very eye-opening event, during the course of the trial, during one of the earlier proceedings. The judge in our case asked my opponent, “What harm to the institution of heterosexual marriage would occur if gays and lesbians were allowed to marry?”

This went back and forth and back and forth. The judge kept wanting an answer. “What damage would be done to the institution of marriage if we allowed this to happen?” And my opponent said, finally, he had to answer it truthfully. He paused and he said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” That to me sums up the other side. They say the traditional definition of marriage, but nothing by allowing the two couples that were before the court or others like them to engage in a relationship with their partner where they can be treated as an equal member of society hurts your marriage or my marriage or David’s marriage or any other heterosexual marriage. People are not going to say, “I don’t want to get married anymore if those same sex people can get married. That’s not going to happen.” There is no evidence to support a basis for this prohibition.

BILL MOYERS: And yet your opponents kept coming back to the argument that the central reason for Proposition 8, and I’m quoting here, is it’s role, quote “in regulating naturally procreative relationships between men and women to provide for the nurture and upbringing of the next generation.”

TED OLSON: We have never in this country required an ability or a desire to procreate as a condition to getting married. People who are at 70, 80, 90 years old may get married. People who have no interest in having children can get married.

And what that argument does is tip it on its head. The Supreme Court has said that the right to get married is a fundamental individual right. And our opponents say, “Well, the state has an interest in procreation and that’s why we allow people to get married.” That marriage is for the benefit of the state. Freedom of relationship is for the benefit of the state.” We don’t believe that in this country. We believe that we created a government which we gave certain authority to the government. The government doesn’t give us liberty, we give the government power to a certain degree to restrict our liberty, but subject to the Bill of Rights.

So, our fundamental differences there, no one’s stopping the procreational function of people that wish — heterosexual people to get married and have all the children that they want. No one’s stopping that. It is simply allowing people that have abiding affection for one another to live a civil life as your next-door neighbor. The same way you are.

DAVID BOIES: The most important thing is that there’s no connection between gay and lesbian marriage and procreation. It doesn’t limit procreation. It doesn’t discourage heterosexual marriage. In fact, it allows gays and lesbians to raise their children. They’re talking about the children of heterosexuals, okay? Those people aren’t being harmed. They’re ignoring the children of the gay and lesbian couples, who even the defendants in this case admitted were being harmed by Proposition 8.

Poetry Videos from Naugatuck River Review

Naugatuck River Review is a handsomely produced and high-quality new journal of narrative poetry, based in nearby Westfield, MA. To celebrate the launch of their Winter 2010 issue, editor Lori Desrosiers organized a reading in Northampton last weekend with some three dozen poets, including the winners of their 2009 contest. The contest will reopen this summer, with nationally known poet and performer Patricia Smith as the final judge. Last year the top prize was $1,000. One of the nice things about this contest is that many finalists and semifinalists are also published.

Here are two short videos from the event, featuring Ellen LaFleche and myself. I’ll post more videos if I can get permission from the authors.