October 16, 2016

Wedding Ceremony of Matt and Mandi Davis: October 15, 2016

The Procession

This is the part where everyone walks down the aisle and takes their places for the ceremony. You each make your way to the altar separately, symbolizing the fact that you're coming from different backgrounds.

Giving away of Bride

(Chuck walks Mandi down the aisle. He stands at the front with Matt and Mandi)

Who gives this woman to be married?

“Her mother and I do” (Chuck puts Mandi’s hand in Matt’s and sits down)

The Officiant's Opening Remarks




What gathers us here today is not just Matt and Mandi.

What gathers us here is the promise they are making each other.

It is a promise that many make and in different languages and throughout time.

But each promise is special. It is the promise between two people to live together and grow together.

It is a promise not made lightly. We gather our friends and family together to witness this promise, to sanctify it and hold them accountable to each other, to love each other more every day.

Putting Down Roots

Plato, in the Symposium, talks about how love completes us. In times past, we were two souls in one body until we were torn asunder by the jealous gods.  Our modern curse is finding that one that fits all our tears and fills our empty spaces.

Matt and Mandi found their way back to each other. It’s been a long journey, and in many ways today is the culmination of that journey but it is also a new beginning. I find that it is incredibly difficult to talk about love without falling into cliches and citing the poets and songwriters. But we fall into these cliches because love is the one thing that all the songs are about, and why all the poems were written.

We fall into cliches because being in love and knowing you found the right person means that your brain has moved to the point where there are no words. We want to shout the love from the rooftops but you just end up shouting a joyful noise that scares the neighbors. But it is the language you share with the person you love, a language beyond words and sense and into emotion - the language of love transcends time and space and physics and math. It bypasses the mouth and ears and is like lightning to your heart.

What we are doing here today is trying to make those emotions concrete and real. Real like this cheery tree. The tree that they are planting today is their love. The tree is real now, but time will change the tree as it will change the love we celebrate here. Now both are young, but today we are putting down roots that will spread. Both will grow and be stronger every day. Birds will land in the branches of both and perhaps nest and raise little baby birds in both.
Maybe I’m stretching the symbolism too far.
But I can tell you this. The tree and the love will grow up and be strong but flexible. No matter what storms pass through, the roots we are laying down today will hold fast in the winds that shake the branches and the next day when the storm passes, the tree will still be there. Because here’s the secret. The storm always passes.

The Exchange of Vows

I, we, are all privileged to get to share the love here today between these two crazy kids. You look at them, you can see their smiles and you know for right now, here, everything is ok in the world.

They’re here to promise to each other that no matter what, Killer Bees, Sparkly Vampires, or that thing where you’re standing in the ocean and you feel something rub against your leg -- they may stand and fight or turn and run. But no matter what, they promise that they will do it together.

Mandi, do you promise no matter what, Killer Bees, Sparkly Vampires, or that thing where you’re standing in the ocean and you feel something rub against your leg -- that you will stand and fight or turn and run. But no matter what, you promise that you will do it with Matt?

Matt, do you promise no matter what, Killer Bees, Sparkly Vampires, or that thing where you’re standing in the ocean and you feel something rub against your leg -- that you will stand and fight or turn and run. But no matter what, you promise that you will do it with Mandi?

Your vows are your promises to each other. We all saw it. No backsies.

The Ring Exchange

And now we will exchange the rings that bind us as symbols of our love.

Repeat after me, Matt: Mandi, I give you this ring that you may wear it as a reminder of my love for you.

Repeat after me, Mandi: Matt, I give you this ring that you may wear it as a reminder of my love for you.

The Pronouncement of Marriage

I now pronounce you Mandi and Matt. You may update your facebook statuses.

The Kiss

And now the moment everyone's been waiting for: your first kiss as a married couple.

The Closing Remarks

Go forth in the world, whole once more

The Recessional

Basically the reverse of the processional, you exit the ceremony together as husband and wife, followed by the wedding party.

October 2, 2016

Some Recent Readings

Some Recent Reading

Safiya Sinclair’s “Cannibal”

Reading this made me want to compare her to Walcott,
With the islands in her voice. But that’s not so. She has
Her own voice, her own experiences. Distilled here through the
History of expectations for her to sound like Walcott,
To sound like Caliban.

Jennifer McCartney’s “The Joy of Leaving your sh*t all over the place”

This book is a comic book in reply to that other book.
Not sure if you need to to have read the other book for this to make sense. I think the thesis of the other book is simple enough that it’s not necessary. But this one stands in its own, It was a quick read that made me laugh.

Sebastian Junger’s “Tribe”

I picked this one up because I have been thinking deeply about tribalism and nationalism recently, a renewed interest after burning through texts like Anderson’s Imagined Communities several years ago. The election and the controversies about standing for flags and which flags to stand for really makes me think about the need for community that we lack - lonely crowd and bowling alone books really key this. Junger’s book hits on  this in terms of the military, in a group that has gone through actions that have defined their in-group status. My only issue is that Junger doesn’t go deep enough for me here, and the book leaves the reader wanting in a way because it raises so many issues that aren’t resolved.

Bohemians edited by Buhle and Berger

Verso was running a sale on their site, so I went ahead and bought this due to my love both of Bohemians and Graphic novels. Overall, it was an interesting book, with biographical info about some people I was familiar with and people I learned about for the first time. The only issue is that there is an unevenness to each of the stories in terms of quality of the art and the research that went into the story. For example, there is an example where the cartoonist is showing the Panama Canal (P. 11) - in a story that takes place prior to the digging of the canal. Little things like that in a book about history make you wonder what is wrong about what you don’t know. That said, the extended piece on Woody Guthrie makes it worth it for me.

Real Artists Have Day Jobs - Sara Benincasa

This little collection of essays is a nice readable book to show that you don’t have to have it all together to have it all together. The biggest problem with the book is that the type was set in a sans-serif type. I don’t know why that’s being used more and more lately. Its more modern, it seems. I’d bet that that typographical choice wasn’t the author’s so I’ll just point fingers at the designer. What the strength of the book is the honest Benincasa has about facing the various mental illness challenges in her life but not being wholly defined by them (through she did write a previous book about her agoraphobia, so maybe just a bit of that my illness defines me thing but not too much. She shows the struggle is real but it can work out. It is kind of self-helpy but not so much that if you’re the type of person to get self-conscious about those sorts of thing that it will really eat at you because you worry that people will think you don’t have it together enough that you need to read self-help books like some pathetic loser. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

What Do We Do About Inequality? WPC

The authors in this book approach the problem(s) of inequality in many different ways. One of the strengths of the work is the plurality of voices. This allows you to see the issue from multiple angles and experiences. If you don’t already, the voices here are important to follow across social media, especially twitter.

One weakness is that some of the writing is already available in other places. Tressie Cottom’s essay about the lived experience of being poor and making the wrong choices as perceived by outsiders is the most powerful essay in the book, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read it twice before this book because of people posting it on Twitter.

That said, there are other voices that I had not read in depth yet. There is an essay by Scott Santens, the first part of which is the best, most clear explanation of how a UBI would work - and this is something I’m very interested in as a potential response to inequality and I’m glad that in the last year or so that it has become part of the conversation.

Ultimately though, the book’s strength is also part of its weakness. Since there are a lot of voices, there is no one thing that we can take away as the answer to the titular question. Having this be an issue aired recently and on the tips of the tongues from economists like Deaton and Piketty and Milanovic is good, but it is at the grassroots that hopefully will move the needle. I just worry the robots will rise before we work out an equitable distribution to the gains of the productivity and that in ten years we will be asking the same questions from a scarier baseline.

I received an advance review copy, so I don’t want to talk too much about formatting, but a couple things stuck out. For one, there is no identification of the writers and their educational or professional background. This may have been a deliberate choice, but it diminished it a bit as a reader, since I wasn’t able to place the writer into my hermeneutic circle or whatever. Also, the notes are numbered sequentially and not broken up by the essay, making them a bit harder to get into if I wanted to chase a source.

Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen

The writer of the fine Trekonomics, Manu Saadia, pointed me to Olen’s work in a conversation (you can pick up that name, since I dropped it and am done using it). What this book is is a complete and thorough debunking of your favorite personal finance guru. Most are charlatans, it seems that the real question is to what degree are they charlatans.

What I take away is that like some presidential candidates, what is being sold is not success per se, but the idea of success. Wrap yourself in the rich dad poor dad millionaire next door Jim Cramer etc mindset and you too can be rich. Having long been skeptical of people searching for gurus, Olen’s book is a breath of fresh air.  What is missing is a bunking where the debunking went.

Aside from don’t follow these fools, I was at least looking for something that might guide what I should look for - the best advice Olen claims to have found is to short the stocks that Cramer pumps, as well as buying TIPS. Even my well-worn advice of buying index funds comes under some scrutiny here, and I want a guru. Wait, I think I get it now.

Karl Marx - A Life

A three or four years ago, I went to go on a walk in the woods with my wife. It was early spring and the sun was shining, so we hoped to take the day and make the most of it. Or she did, and I have problems saying no to her when she asks because she’s just so darn persuasive. The walk didn’t last long. No one told the snowpack on the trail that it needed to have melted so that we could walk on the trail.

I’m not sure how I managed it, but there was a mall with an actual physical book store close by the trail we were trying to walk. At one point I had at least a couple hundred dollars worth of books in my hand (hardbacks at bookstore prices). One of them was the new biography of Marx that had recently come out. I almost bought it but put it down because I realized that a life of Marx is one of those things that is hard to be objective about. I didn’t want to spend seven hundred pages with an author who was a staunch Hegelian mad about Marx’s subversion of their hero or some marginalist economist mad that the subject didn’t fully wrestle with the mathematics of their revolution. Or, you know, whatever else you could possibly see the life of Marx and his ideas being politicized somehow.

So instead of buying that unknown book, I went looking for people who had read various lives and what they would recommend to read. The Wheen biography came up a lot. So I bought that book, and then I put it on my shelf as a decoration and then forgot about it for the next several years. And recently, once I finished my MBA program, I found myself with time and inclination to go about reading some of the scores of books I own but haven’t read yet, and a familiar name looked out at me from the shelf.

For any student of the left, the life and career of Marx is knowable in broad strokes - youth in Germany, exile in England, friendship with Engles. Wheen fills all of those blank spots in. What Wheen does more than anything else is to humanize Marx from someone that is a boogeyman of the cold war to a guy with a family trying to make due in Victorian England.

I think Wheen, like myself, had already made his mind up about Marx before he approached this book. If there is any criticism to be had, I offer two. For one, it is only 400 pages. What lacks for me is a deeper engagement with the philosophy and economics of Marx. I’m not sure if that was a choice made to keep the book more accessible or why it was made. But I think it plays into my other criticism. I felt that the author may have been too sympathetic to Marx. He was a human who did make some bad choices (like maybe cheating on Jenny Marx) and I think glossing over that nuance in fear of attacking the subject makes the book less than what it could be. This sympathy is also evident where he addresses some of the more well-known intellectual rivals to Marxism, namely Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and  Mikhail Bakunin, so that these men and their followers are diminished in the book, the casual reader isn’t really let into why Marxian ideas are superior.

Overall, though, if you only know those broad strokes then the Wheen biography is a good entry point for learning about the life of Marx. If you want to get deeper into his ideas, there are other avenues, like the work of David Harvey or Paul D’Amato. Or you can just climb the mountain of Capital itself, something I need to do.