2015 – The Year In Music So Far

I am a music geek. I used to write a music review column for my college newspaper, and I have always listened to popular music with a discerning ear. I don’t claim to be a purist or an expert. I like what I like, and some times LOVE, and I’m driven to obsession at times to listen unceasingly to a new favorite album, or an old one, and to find out every little thing about its production and composition. But I haven’t acted like it in the last decade or so. I’ve been more of a dabbler, just turning on the radio and occasionally tuning in to my favorite music critics.

Spotify has inspired me to listen critically and intentionally again. My New Year’s resolution last year was to listen to music more intentionally again, and I have done that. It has been very enjoyable. As a result, I have created numerous playlists, and I have become more aware of new music.

So, I am making annual lists on Spotify, composed of the albums I am checking out, and the songs that I like best. I’m rather proud of my lists for 2014 and 2015. I’m particularly proud of my list for the current decade. There is a lot of good music out there!

In particular, the following are so far my favorites for 2015. I’m pretty sure these will stay in my top ten, as I cannot stop listening to them:

There are more albums I’m considering for my top ten or top twenty. There are still three months left of the year, so I look forward to having more to say in January!

Readings and Insights on Charleston

This Fathers Day, while I am musing how grateful I am for the long and loving relationship I have had with my Dad, my heart aches for the lives lost in a hailstorm of hatred and bullets in Charleston last week. The world has lost nine beautiful souls because a young, misguided man decided that it would be a good idea to use the firearm that he received for his birthday from his father. I can’t help but wonder at the kind of father who raised this child to be a man who would do such a thing, and I despair that we can change the world when gun violence persists.

I have been obsessing about the massacre and the world’s reaction to it, struggling to find my way through the chaos of fact and opinion to understand what happened and why. Here is a collection of some of the better responses I have encountered since the terrible incident:

A Hate Crime in Charleston – From On the Media. A brilliant piece that names each victim and delves into the media’s coverage of the story and the constant denial of what is undeniable, that racism and the easy access to guns is what enabled that awful moment. I loved this reference to the Ralph Waldo Ellison novel Juneteenth:

“Nothing ever stops, it divides and multiplies, and I guess sometimes it gets ground down superfine, but it doesn’t just blow away.”

The piece concludes that we must continue to grind it down and maybe someday it will blow away.

Only white people can save themselves from racism and white supremacism – Written by a native of South Carolina, calling for individual people, specifically white people, to take responsibility to confront their own prejudices. In the wake of this shocking horror, too many white people in positions of leadership and influence are denying that the problem is racism. This is the superfine dust that won’t blow away. The racism is there, but it’s ground down so fine that it’s invisible to those who are not victims of its ugliness and destructiveness.

It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males – I suppose one could make the argument that racism is a form of mental illness. But making the claim of mental illness relieves people of any responsibility for their actions. It is beyond frustrating to hear the continued denials of racism in the face of difference between how black and white suspects of violent crimes are treated, even in the face of a crime that was committed by a self-declared racist. In the dominant paradigm, black criminals are thugs who deserve to be physically abused, and white criminals are mentally ill who get bullet-proof vests and taken to Burger King. This issue runs deep, and it is WAY beyond my expertise. But there is a lot to say here about the prison industrial complex and how black men are over-represented in the prison population. Angela Davis has been teaching the world about it for decades.

Further, my friend Carrie shared some righteous anger and brilliant insight on Facebook about the excuse of mental illness in this and like contexts,

“We’re assuming that mental illness equals violence–and this is simply not true. Guess who’s mentally ill? Like, everybody. People in your family, people in your classrooms, your workplaces, everywhere you hang out. If they haven’t told you yet, it’s because you’re a dick about mental illness and they’re embarrassed to talk to you. Seriously. And how many of these people, say, open fire on schools and churches? About .0000000000000000000001% of them. The rates of violence are NO HIGHER among the mentally ill than they are in the general populous–unless you count certain antisocial personality disorders, which the f^#%!&*@ judicial system does not. You know why? Because people with antisocial personality disorders know what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care. Despite what Law and Order may tell you, the insanity plea is rarely used and even more rarely won– because you need to prove that you are so mentally ill you are living in another reality and have no idea that what you were doing was wrong– not a faulty moral compass, not “I’m so racist it’s crazy” but literally hearing voices and hallucinating and stuff. Mental illness is an extremely rare cause of violence, while racism, which is what this is, is a painfully common one.”

An NRA board member blamed the pastor killed in Charleston for the deaths of his members – Really? REALLY!?! By this logic, it will be my fault if I get shot because I choose not to pack heat. That is not acceptable, and I don’t want to live in a world where people only feel safe if they carry a gun.

Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now – It has no place on government property. The Confederate flag is universally read as an endorsement for white supremacy, and flying it on government property sends the message of state-sanctioned racism. Period. Say what you will about Southern heritage, the cultural and historical meaning is undeniable. And yet people do.

White Supremacist Linked to Charleston Suspect Donated to 2016 G.O.P. Campaigns – Isn’t it interesting that a white supremacist thinks that these politicians represent his views? They are the same ones denying racism and supporting gun rights over civil rights.

Terrorist targeted historic SC church on 193rd anniversary of thwarted slave revolt planned by its founder – The date and location of the attack was no coincidence. It was a premeditated murder spree on a significant anniversary for this storied institution that has represented the struggle for freedom and civil rights for black Americans for generations. We all need to be responsible to know our history.

Jon Stewart expounding on the “Gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.” What will we do without him when he goes? Who is going to hold up the mirror and help us to laugh at ourselves…or cry, as in this case?

“In South Carolina, the roads that black people drive on are named after Confederate generals who fought to keep black people from being able to drive on that road. That’s insanity. That’s racial wallpaper. You can’t allow that.  The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guys are the ones who feel the country is being taken away from them.”

I forgive you. Hate won’t win: This video brought me to my knees. The family members of many of the victims offering, through their tears, their blessings forgiveness to the killer. This. THIS is how the world will change.

Those of us who are moved by this tragedy should be inspired to make something good will come from this senseless, hateful act, something that will honor the lives of these nine precious souls that we lost, and honor those of us who continue to walk this earth and are responsible to make it a better place.

Someday We’ll All Be Free: 100 Hours Of Soulful Protest Music – The massacre illustrates why this music continues to be relevant.

Thanksgiving Observations, November 11-17

This week I am observing gratitude about the following:

  • Every grief, every frustration, every disappointment, every pain, every heartbreak that I have experienced has led me to who I am right now. They have made me stronger, given me perspective and wisdom, and make me appreciate even more the blessings and joy in my life.
  • The opportunity to learn from my mistakes and past (and perhaps present) arrogance.
  • For laughter that is always essential for getting through challenging moments.
  • The litany of values and abundance of privileges that my parents bestowed upon me, and the sense of responsibility to enjoy and share those gifts.
  • After decades of loving city life and declaring that I’ll always live in an urban area, I have discovered the virtues and loveliness of life in a Philly suburb that resembles Mayberry. 
  • Always learning and experiencing new things. Life is never dull. 
  • Mentoring others, which has afforded me the chance to share my experience and continue to gain wisdom.
  • The presence of my faith. though I may wrestle with it and not always be mindful about it.
  • Everyday reminders to live presently. 

The New Evangelism

I have taken on the role of Social Media Evangelist at my church recently. I started the official Twitter feed for the church, became an administrator for our Facebook page, I’m the Mayor of the church on FourSquare, and I’ve been getting up the past few Sundays to ask the congregation to participate in spreading the word about Broadway over their social media networks.

Social media is powerful, and I enjoy seeing people strengthen community connections with these tools. I love my church, and I want to spread the word in my wider community about the good works that are happening there. “Evangelism” is a good metaphor for talking about social media, especially in the context of the church. But it is a word that I struggle with because it is loaded with very complicated meaning.

There are connotations to Evangelism with Christian conversion that I find troubling. According to one dictionary, the definition of “evangelism” is “the practice of spreading the Christian gospel”. Sharing the message is certainly a good thing, but in some churches, “evangelism” smacks of moral superiority and a need to “save souls” that is disrespectful of those not on that path. On the other hand, “evangelism” expresses a passion about faith, and there is a joy and affirmation of life that inspires sharing the message. I want to let my Light shine, but my path is my own. I want to share my experience of faith, but not force it upon anyone.

So, just as I have worked to reclaim my faith as a progressive Christian, I am reclaiming the word “Evangelism.”

In the tradition that I was raised, and in the tradition of the churches where I feel at home in my theology, “evangelism” means welcome. It is an open door, an invitation to be in communion with us wherever you are on your faith journey. It is unconditional love with no required set of beliefs. My church honors all religious traditions and respects those who are not believers, while celebrating our faith and community. All are welcome.

Food Porn: Bacon, Goat Cheese, and Carmelized Onion Tart

Tart Cooling

Originally uploaded by silly.goose

Oh. My. God. This is one of my most favorite things in the whole world. Gillian recently made this tart for a potluck that I went to. She was coming down with a nasty virus that day, poor thing, so she had enough energy to make the tart, but not the potluck. She didn’t get any, so today we’re having a do-over (and the people at the potluck were very impressed — luckily there were no vegans or vegetarians there).

Here is the recipe:


* 1/2 c. unsalted butter, cold
* 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
* 1/4 c. stone ground cornmeal
* 1/2 t. kosher salt
* 3 oz. cream cheese, cut into 4 chunks
* 2-3 T. ice water

1. Cut the butter into small cubes and freeze for 15 minutes
2. In a food processor with the metal blade, blend flour, cornmeal and salt. Add cream cheese and process for about 20 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add butter and pulse until it is pea size. Add ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time and process for about 30 seconds, until a pinch of dough holds together.
3. Dump the dough directly onto a sheet of plastic wrap and knead until it holds together. Shape into a disk and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (but no longer than three hours, otherwise you’ll need to let it sit out for a while at room temp until you can work with it).


Prepare while dough is chilling

* 8 slices of thick cut bacon (we sometimes use a little less)
* 1 T olive oil
* 2 lbs. (4 lg) onions, thinly sliced
* 1/2 t. kosher salt
* 1/2 t. fresh thyme (we use at least twice as much; do it to your taste)
* 3/4 c. crumbled goat cheese
* 3-4 T. milk (to brush on the crust after it’s assembled)

1. Dice the bacon into lardons (narrow strips, cutting cross-wise)
2. Saute until half-way cooked. Discard all but 2 T. of bacon fat. Set bacon aside.
3. Add olive oil to bacon fat, and saute onions, adding the salt. Cook onions until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.*


1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. On parchment, roll the dough out into a rough circle about 1/8 inch thick, and 14-16 inches in diameter.
3. Lift the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet.
4. Spread the onions over the crust, leaving a 1/2 inch boarder. Sprinkle the bacon, thyme and cheese (we recommend in that order) over the onions.
5. Fold the edges of the crust and brush with milk.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

And voila! You have a gorgeous, rustic, and savory tart. Please enjoy!

* We sometimes like to use the slow process for caramelizing the onions. Cook over very low heat for several hours (anywhere from 2-12). They literally melt, turning to a butter-like consistence. It is well worth the wait!