Honoring RBG

The Washington Post

The grounds of the Supreme Court bloomed into a memorial to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drawing thousands who came to honor and remember the trailblazing icon. Mourners began arriving at the high court soon after news of her death came Friday evening, growing to a crowd of more than 1,000 who cried, sang and occasionally applauded. On Saturday, as the sun rose, dozens of people stood in silence as a flag flew at half-staff.

And they kept coming by the hundreds. Bouquets, signs and chalk messages honoring Ginsburg multiplied by the minute. Joggers stopped mid-run, bikers paused and rested on their handlebars, and mothers from across the D.C. region brought their daughters to pay tribute to the pioneering liberal lawyer and advocate for equality. …

“I wanted to be a lawyer but wasn’t sure I could do it,” said Blake Rogers, 13, who let a single tear fall down her face after positioning flowers Saturday morning. “And then I heard Justice Ginsburg speak, and she showed me that I could do it, that women and girls can do anything.” …

Shortly before 11 a.m., two dozen people gathered in front of the court to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of bereavement. After a 27-year tenure, Ginsburg died at the start of Rosh Hashanah as the longest-serving Jewish justice. Those in the group put brown and tan stones, traditionally placed on graves, alongside the flowers and candles. They sang and prayed.

A few minutes later, Micah Blay, 11, puckered his lips and blew the shofar, a musical horn used to ring in Jewish new year, before the pillars of the Supreme Court.

“The timing of it, it’s a loud wake-up call for so many people. There was a hope she would continue to lead the way in the new year,” said Jessica Brodey, 47. “She broke down barriers, as a woman, a mother and a Jew.”

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Coping with COVID-19

Michael pointed out the front windshield at the blue sky and said: “Pastor, there’s a lot of pain in this world, a lot of people suffering right now, but no one suffers from bearing the weight of it all like God.” Photo: Pexels.

By Steve Beard

There are good reasons to avoid watching the evening news these days. It is a rough slog, even for those with sunny dispositions.

The pandemic has severally thrown us off the normal rhythm of life. Piped-in crowd cheers at baseball games, shuttered businesses on Main Street, empty classrooms, drive-up eucharist at church, Zoom meetings for work.

Once only thought to be the essential accessory of surgeons, fumigators, and bank robbers, face masks are now used to stoke our political divide. No more hugs, nor kisses on the cheeks. Forget the handshake. The entire elbow bump looks ridiculous and feels even more absurd.

Sadly, we cannot even have proper funerals for our dearly departed — and there are so many of them. We have much to mourn and now we must do it in isolation. Continue reading

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Remembering Harry Snyder: Mr. In-N-Out

By Steve Beard

“No Microwaves, No Freezers, No Heat Lamps.” Happy Birthday to Harry Snyder, co-founder of my beloved In-N-Out. While I happily live in Whataburger territory, I’m an unrepentant hustler for the Animal Style Double-Double. So was the late Anthony Bourdain. He described the Double-Double as a “ballistic missile … a perfectly designed protein delivery system.”

Look, debate amongst yourselves all you want: McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Shake Shack vs. Five Guys, Wendy’s vs. Jack In the Box. Leave me out of it. In this debate, I’m a lover, not a fighter. Just get me to In-N-Out, my Southern California comfort food feeding trough. When I fly home to Orange County, my first stop from the airport is In-N-Out. Go ahead, ask my mom and dad.

In-N-Out is now owned by the granddaughter of its founders, Harry Snyder (1913-1976) and his wife Esther (1920-2006). It does not franchise – no matter what the offer. The company is worth about $3 billion and CEO ” is the 38-year-old granddaughter. She appeared on the cover of Forbes in 2018. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Queen Lili’uokalani

September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917

By Steve Beard

Queen Liliʻuokalani was the first queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawaii and its last sovereign monarch (1838-1917). She ruled from January 29, 1891, until her overthrow in January 17, 1893, by unscrupulous sugar barons. While Queen Lili’uokalani had her own armed soldiers at her command, she chose a peaceful resolution in hopes that the situation would be resolved without violence.

She appealed to the U.S. government about the toppling of her reign and found a sympathetic ear with President Grover Cleveland. Though he lobbied for her rightful return to power, annexation of Hawaii was enacted in 1898 by the U.S. Senate and Queen Lili’uokalani was placed under house arrest while non-Hawaiians ruled the islands. It is a painful story to read if you believe in self-rule, liberty, and justice (highly recommended is “Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure” by Julia Flynn Siler). Continue reading

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Billy Zoom of X on his band’s history and Alphabetland

PHOTO: Leslie Michele Derrough

By Leslie Michele Derrough, Glide Magazine

Billy Zoom is in his shed. Chances are, though, his shed is a lot cooler than my shed or your shed.I’m picturing a room with lots of cool guitar gadgets, perhaps a TV and a comfy chair, away from the bustle of a household that includes teenaged twins. With coronavirus out there in the world, Zoom is probably a lot more normal nowadays, more like you and I, than the punk rock legend from X that is usually out on the road playing in sweaty clubs to happy fans. “I’m trying to get caught up,” Zoom told me about his pandemic activities. “You can’t go anywhere. I have this to-do list that I was up to the end of 2014 when the pandemic started so I’ve just been going down that list. I think I’m up to about 2017 at this point. Our governor shut us down again this week but I’m pretty socially distant to begin with so it’s not that hard on me. I go back and forth between the house and my studio, that’s about it.”

X, the perennial punk band that exploded out of Los Angeles in the late seventies, is not usually one to sit at home. They love and feed off of the excitement of the live music. They always have. With the exception of drummer DJ Bonebrake, the other members of X – John Doe, Exene Cervenka and Zoom – are all Midwesterners who made their way to the sun and scene of California, where they launched into their brand of punk after Zoom put out an ad looking for other musicians to play music with a different twist. “I give Billy Zoom most of the credit for including rockabilly in punk rock music,”Doe explained during a 2017 interview with Glide. “The Cramps did it to a degree but with the kind of guitar playing that Billy had or does, nobody else did that at that time. And I think he did it because that’s what he knew. Like for the intro to ‘Johnny Hit & Run Pauline,’ which is a takeoff on Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’ intro, I think he just did it on a whim.” Continue reading

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John Lewis, RIP

Mr. Lewis, left, marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., right, from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., on March 21, 1965.Credit…William Lovelace/Daily Express, via Getty Images

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

–John Lewis

By Katharine Q. Seeyle, New York Times

Representative John Lewis, a son of sharecroppers and an apostle of nonviolence who was bloodied at Selma and across the Jim Crow South in the historic struggle for racial equality, and who then carried a mantle of moral authority into Congress, died on Friday, July 17. He was 80. …

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against police killings of Black people and, more broadly, against systemic racism in many corners of society. He saw those protests as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sidelines. Continue reading

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Barren Table Faith: Charles Tindley

Charles Tindley.
Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pa.

By Steve Beard

Charles Albert Tindley arrived for his first pastoral appointment in Cape May, New Jersey, in the middle of a snow storm. With small children to feed, Charles and his wife had only a stale piece of bread. As parents, they dipped the bread in water to soften it for the kids.

Charles asked his wife to set the table as if there was food for breakfast. Swallowing her reluctance, she agreed to do as he asked. As the story has been relayed by his youngest son, the parents got on their knees to thank God for their lives, their health, for the snow storm, and the rising sun in the morning.

“Not once did he complain about the shortage of provisions, but thanked God for what they had,” E.T. Tindley writes. They got up from their knees and sat at the barren table. When they did, there was a loud commotion outside. They heard a man commanding a team of horses.

“Whoa! Whoa!” They then heard loud stomps on the front porch. “Hey! Is anybody alive here?”

Tindley opened the front door and was face to face with a man with a large sack on his shoulder. Dropping it to the floor with a thud, the stranger said: “Knowing you were the new parson here, and not knowing how you were making out in this storm, my wife and I thought you might need some food. I’ve a cartload of wood out here, too. I’ll dump it and be on my way.” Continue reading

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Bubbling up with Red, White and Blue

Lava from Kīlauea on the island of Hawai‘i, from photographer Bruce Omori.

Happy Fourth of July! One of my favorite Red, White, and Blue images from Kīlauea on the island of Hawai‘i, from photographer Bruce Omori.

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Long trek home

Mr. Ballestero, left, with his brother and his father, who turned 90 while his son was on his voyage. Credit…Juan Manuel Ballestero

Like few others, Juan Manuel Ballestero understands the long trek home. With all flights cancelled to return home in mid-March to Argentina for his father’s 90th birthday, he sailed 85 days across the Atlantic. He loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit, and rice and set sail. “I didn’t want to stay like a coward on an island where there were no cases,” Mr. Ballestero told the New York Times. “I wanted to do everything possible to return home. The most important thing for me was to be with my family.”

Seafaring is in his blood. He has been on fishing vessels captained by his father since he was three years old. 

In his solitary voyage, Ballestero experienced many difficulties. “On a particularly trying day, he turned to a bottle of whiskey for solace,” reported the Times. “But drinking only increased his anxiety. With his nerves frayed, Mr. Ballestero said he found himself praying and resetting his relationship with God.

“Faith keeps you standing in these situations,” Ballestero said. “I learned about myself; this voyage gave me lots of humility.” Continue reading

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The mystical art of Rosa Lee Tompkins

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Eli Leon Bequest; Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

“I think it’s because I love them so much that God let me see all these different colors,” Rosa Lee Tompkins once said of her quilting patchworks. “I hope they spread a lot of love.”

Tompkins’s quilts, observes New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, were “one of the century’s major artistic accomplishments, giving quilt-making a radical new articulation and emotional urgency. I felt I had been given a new standard against which to measure contemporary art.”

“Rosie Lee Tompkins” was actually born Effie Mae Martin in rural Arkansas in 1936. According to the Times profile, she was “fiercely private, deeply religious woman, who … was almost never photographed or interviewed.”

“A typical Tompkins quilt had an original, irresistible aliveness,” writes Smith. “One of her narrative works was 14 feet across, the size of small billboard. It appropriated whole dish towels printed with folkloric scenes, parts of a feed sack, and, most prominently, bright bold chunks of the American flag. What else? Bits of embroidery, Mexican textiles, fabrics printed with flamenco dancers and racing cars, hot pink batik and, front and center, a slightly cheesy manufactured tapestry of Jesus Christ. It seemed like a map of the melting pot of American culture and politics.”

Tompkins believed she was on a divine mission. “If people like my work,” she once said, “that means the love of Jesus Christ is still shining through what I’m doing.”

Tompkins had stellar imagination and creativity. “A remarkable early quilt from the 1970s is pieced almost entirely of blocks of found fabric embroidered with flowers — old and new, machine- and handmade,” writes Smith. “They bow to an ancient craft and, at the quilt’s center, a spare image of the risen Christ blessing. Above and to the right a circle of twisted bands and leaves suggests both a crown of thorns and a laurel wreath. Was Tompkins aware of this possible reading? Perhaps, but the main point is that her work is open to the viewer’s response and interpretation.”

To read the entire story, click HERE.

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