12.07.2008

Sing Again

Earlier this month, I saw an old friend of mine who had suffered a
terrible loss several years back. She caught me up on her goings-on
over the past few years since I'd seen her. I asked her if she had
gotten back into singing - she was once an accomplished musician, and
to this day I can't hear some songs without hearing her powerful voice
echoing in the background - and she replied she wasn't quite ready.

There are seasons in the Christian life when even the greatest of
talents, even those used to bless God, are taken from us. Sometimes
they return on this side of glory, and sometimes they never do. God
is still good, even if we are muted for a moment. But one day,
whether here on earth or in heaven, she will sing again; and when she
does, it will be glorious.

Songs for Life

I've just started the book of Psalms in my morning Bible readings.
Even if you're not a Christian, you may know these are a collection of
150 songs that can be found smack dab in the middle of the Bible. But
even if you are a Christian, you may not fully appreciate how earthy
these songs are. But it doesn't take too long before you find lots of
things you might not expect to find in the Bible, like raw emotion and
desperate cries for protection and even vivid calls for God's
vengeance upon one's enemies.

When I study the Psalms, I can't help but think back to the summer of
1994, when I read one Psalm a day during my time in Eastern Europe.
Surrounded by unfamiliar words, faces, and places, the Psalms - and
the God of the Psalms - were my refuge. On many occasions, the
sentiments being poured forth were so poignant and so relevant, I
wasn't reading the words as much as praying along with them.

Less so but still to some degree, that's how it's been this time
around. This holiday season, here's hoping we don't get so lost in
end-of-year busyness, economy-related worries, and family stress, that
we lose sight of a God we can come to in whatever state we're in -
blissfully thankful or drearily despondent, desperately fearful or
angrily provoked. A helpless little baby in a manger should remind us
that, far from being distant and unfeeling, the God of the Bible is
the earthiest, most accessible deity around.

SANITIZING OUR HISTORY FROM RELIGION

Apparently, in addition to glossing over gross injustices and sanding over dubious low points, we as a nation have decided to sanitize religion out of our history. As seen at the Desiring God blog, the new Capitol Visitor Center is deliberate in its omission of the role of religion in the formation of our country and the values of our founding fathers.

As with the blog or with South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint's comments, I'm not hear to claim that we are a Christian nation or even advocate that we become one. In fact, my main sadness is not that in extracting religion from our presentation of the US Capitol, we've left out Biblical Christianity; although, to be sure, some of our founding fathers were devoted believers whose faith steeled them to do great and courageous things for which our nation is forever better.

Rather, my main sadness is that in extracting religion from our history, we miss out on one of the greater aspects of diversity that defines our country. To be sure, we have our religion-based conflicts, discriminations, and insensitivities. But by and large, our actions back up those famous words that we are guaranteed "freedom of religion."

What a loss in describing and experiencing the richness that is America that we have essentially turned that phrase into "freedom from religion." We are richer as people when we embrace our innate religiousness as humans and as Americans, more informed as citizens when we see how religion has woven into the whole of our past and present.

Or, as Senator DeMint puts it: "You cannot accurately tell the history of America or its Capitol by ignoring the religious heritage of our Founders and the generations since who relied on their faith for strength and guidance. The millions of visitors that will visit the CVC each year should get a true portrayal of the motivations and inspirations of those who have served in Congress since its establishment." To which, ecumenically, I say: Amen.

12.05.2008

Everyone in One Room

As a consultant, it's easy to get lazy and make blanket statements
like "the City should do X," leaving to someone else to figure out how
an entity within three dozen departments, hundreds of senior-level
managers, thousands of regulations, and billions of budget dollars is
supposed to somehow act in such a monolithic and unified way.
Slightly less lazy is the equally naive statement, "everyone from the
City that is involved in Issue X or Project X should just get into one
room and work it all out," like that would ever be logistically
possible.

But every once in awhile, you actually do get everyone in one room.
Alan Greenberger, the new head of the City's planning department, has
commendably instituted periodic presentations by local developers in
front of pretty much every department and entity that will need to
have interface to get a particular project off the ground. And this
morning, the project in question was one near and dear to my heart:
the Plaza at Enterprise Heights, which is near where I live, and being
advanced by the organization on whose board I currently serve.

And sure enough, in the room all at the same time were manifold City
and other agencies that will need to be coordinated with in order for
this project to become reality. In no particular order: Commerce,
Streets, Water, Fire, Licenses & Inspections, PIDC, PGW, Verizon,
PECO, and I'm probably missing a few. Needless to say, it was a
productive gathering; and, to the extent that it is going to be a
habit to meet like this, this bodes well for more good stuff getting
done in a more coordinated and expeditious manner in the City.

JAN GEHL IN PHILADELPHIA

Reclaiming public spaces once dedicated for cars back to pedestrians is par for the course in Copenhagen. In fact, the common practice there of having bike lanes between parked cars and the curb (vs. between the street and parked cars) is commonly referred to as "the Copenhagen solution."

One of Denmark's great voices on this subject, Jan Gehl, was in Philadelphia this morning, and I caught the front end of his presentation at the Center for Architecture. Sadly, for as tight and walkable as downtown Philadelphia is, there is still lots of room for improvement in terms of being friendly to pedestrians and bikers.

But judging from the size and stature of the audience, there's momentum to make those improvements. For the sake of our physical safety, our aerobic health, our environmental sustainability, and our inherent need to have more eye-to-eye interactions with our fellow man, let's hope so.

12.04.2008

WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP

As a follow up to yesterday's post, oftentimes the "yeah but" in the room is the notion that any carbon tax in the US would simply export pollution elsewhere and/or make the US uncompetitive vis a vis the rest of the world; and by "elsewhere" and "rest of the world" in those two statements, usually people mean "China." Well guess what? "China May Impose retail Fuel Tax." [Link courtesy of Greg Mankiw's blog.]

Good news, future grandkids of mine: we're heading towards a world in which carbon is properly priced. Now let's hope I'll also be able to tell those future grandkids of mine: "And then President Obama bravely moved the US towards a carbon tax that set in motion all sorts of rational behavior concerning consumption of natural resources, land use patterns, and transportation mode choice."

12.03.2008

PROBABLY THE ONLY THING RALPH NADER AND I AGREE ON

So apparently, there's something on which I not only agree with the left-leaning Canadian candidate for prime minister, but also with Ralph Nader. And that's a tax on carbon. Because $4 a gallon gasoline finally woke us up to the slowly boiling pot we're in, and made rational the kinds of decisions we should've been making all along, whether personal (carpool, ride your bike to work, don't buy a gas guzzler) or corporate (invest in transit, cut down on bulky packaging, encourage density). President-elect Obama, you have your own popularity, the opportunity that economic crisis brings, and global awareness of the earth's fragility on your side; make this happen! (Thanks to Greg Mankiw's blog for the link.)

Fwd: "Dear Zachary" premieres Sunday on MSNBC/opens Fri in San Jose

Two updates on "Dear Zachary," which I saw in LA last month: 1) it
airs on MSNBC this Sunday, and 2) it opens in San Jose theaters this
Friday. For those of you in the Bay Area, you get a special treat:
not only will Kurt himself be there for a few of the screenings, but
so will Kate and David Bagby, the heroes of the movie. Please go see
this!

***

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Subject: "Dear Zachary" premieres Sunday on MSNBC/opens Fri in San Jose

Hi Everyone,

Our big North American Television Premiere is finally upon us. "Dear
Zachary" premieres on cable this weekend...
Sunday night, December 7th at 9 PM (all time zones) on MSNBC. (See
www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036750/ for details.)
It will be re-broadcast that same evening again at midnight. This TV
version is just slightly trimmed down from the theatrical version (I
did all the editing personally and am very happy with the TV version)
in order to fit a 2 hour time slot with 31 minutes of commercials (9
commercial breaks). The Today Show (on NBC) will be running a 2
minute segment from the film sometime on their Sunday morning show
that same day.

In the meantime, we're continuing to play theaters and open Friday for
a week-long engagement in my (and Andrew's) hometown of San Jose. If
you're in the Bay Area, please come out to see the film in the
theater! I'll be there this weekend and would love to see y'all:

Opens Friday, December 5th in San Jose at Camera 3 Cinemas
288 S. Second Street (corner of 2nd & San Carlos)
www.cameracinemas.com

Showtimes:
(I'll be speaking at the 6:50 PM and 9:20 PM shows on Friday, and ALL
shows on Saturday; Kate & David Bagby will join me Saturday at the
6:50 and 9:20 shows)
Fri: 4:20 PM, 6:50 PM, 9:20 PM
Sat: 1:45 PM, 4:20 PM, 6:50 PM, 9:20 PM
Sun: 4:20 PM, 6:50 PM
Mon-Thu: 6:50 PM

Tickets available at:
http://www.cameracinemas.com/cgi-bin/movies.cgi?cmd=dm&m=14-35-07-10-24-2008-4848

Meanwhile, we're continuing our 5th straight week of theatrical play
in New York City at:
Cinema Village
22 E. 12th Street
New York, NY 10003
www.cinemavillage.com

Showing twice daily through Thursday at 1:10 PM & 7:30 PM
(It closes after Thursday night...but it was a darn good run.)

Future theatrical openings presently known:
Santa Fe, NM - Center for Contemporary Art - opens January 2nd
Chicago - Gene Siskel Film Center - return engagement begins January
30th (brought back by popular demand!)

In other news, "Dear Zachary" recently won Best Documentary at the
Orlando Film Festival and the Audience Award at the St. Louis
International Film Festival. Also, the dozens of glowing reviews,
interviews and news items from the past 5 weeks of theatrical play
have at last been added to the website -- check them out at
www.dearzachary.com/press.

Thank you again for all your support. If you're in San Jose, I look
forward to seeing you this weekend, and if you're not, please tune in
to MSNBC at 9 PM Sunday -- and tell your friends!

Happy post-Thanksgiving and all the best,

Kurt

***

Cinequest Jury & Audience Award Winner Dear Zachary Opens Theatrically

"One of the best documentaries I have ever seen in my entire life...a
film that will rock you to your core" (Cinematical)

"The most shattering documentary since Capturing the Friedmans" (Marshall Fine)

"By far one of the greatest films I've seen in the last few years. The
movie is phenomenal" (Ain't It Cool News)

"A must-see" (Premiere Magazine)

After an incredible film festival run, Kurt Kuenne's DEAR ZACHARY hits
the Camera 3 Cinemas this weekend with a powerful, emotional event and
special guests.

On November 5, 2001, Dr. Andrew Bagby was murdered in a parking lot;
the prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Dr. Shirley Turner, promptly fled
the United States for Canada, where she announced that she was
pregnant with Andrew's child. She named the little boy Zachary.

Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne, Andrew's oldest friend, began making a film for
little Zachary as a way for him to get to know the father he'd never
meet. But when Shirley Turner was released on bail inCanada and was
given custody of Zachary while awaiting extradition to the U.S., the
film's focus shifted to Zachary's grandparents, David & Kathleen
Bagby, and their desperate efforts to win custody of the boy from the
woman they knew had murdered their son.

What happened next, no one ever could have foreseen…

Showtimes:
Friday: 4:20, 6:50, 9:20
Saturday: 1:45, 4:20, 6:50, 9:20
Sunday: 1:45, 4:20, 6:50
Mon-Thu: 6:50 only

Camera 3 Cinemas
288 S. Second Street, San Jose, CA 95113
Showtime line: 408-998-3300

Director Kurt Kuenne will do Q&A's after the 6:50 and 9:20 Friday
shows and after every show Saturday.

David and Kate Bagby will do Q&A's after the 6:50 and 9:20 shows
Saturday (with Kurt).

12.01.2008

Broken Windows

Well, it was bound to happen at some point, but it still stinks:
sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, our
car got broken into. Apparently at least two windows on our street
were bashed in, one of them ours. The thief or thieves got away with
about $2 in change, a phone recharger, and a black pouch with our
vehicle registration, insurance card, photocopies of our passports,
and a five-dollar bill. So, in other words, they got about twenty
bucks' worth of stuff, if that.

What we got was a glass repair bill of $200+ (which I'm thankful for,
by the way; I was guessing it would be higher), a Sunday morning
headache, and a reminder that nothing is safe in this world. I am
grateful we lost so little in terms of material possessions, that the
financial cost is minimal, and that no one was harmed. I'm also
thankful that we're well off enough to have a car in the first place,
that an unexpected $200 expense won't wreck us, and that if we needed
a car in a pinch (which we don't), there's easily a good half-dozen
people we could have called in an instant and gotten help. There are
people in our own very neighborhood, let along all over the world, who
are much poorer than we are, in these regards.

Still, I'm upset at this personal encounter with the destructiveness
of crime. The fact that our change was taken but other items of value
- like our EZ Pass transponder - weren't tells me this was motivated
by the need for cash. And it was likely for drugs; I mean, when
seconds can mean the difference between getting caught and getting
away, to take the time to grab pennies and nickels out of our ashtray,
you really have to be desperate.

A lot of people often ask me if our neighborhood is safe, whether
Philadelphians inquiring about the relative status of University City
or suburban folks wondering what life in the city is like. I am quick
to tell them we feel fairly safe, that violent crime can strike
anywhere, and that policing has improved considerably in the last 15
years. But two sets of broken windows on our block this past weekend
give stark visual evidence that in our neighborhood, crime is still
alive and well.

THE O TEAM

In case you were wondering (I'm almost certain you weren't), I'm pleased as punch with Obama's picks so far: solid right-leaning economists, Clintonistas who remember what happens when you overreach, and a national security team that understands just how dangerous the world is.

A note about the last point. Obviously, it's hard to disentangle the circus that is the Clintons from their actual qualifications. But consider two things: 1) Chelsea Clinton was in Manhattan when the planes hit, so Hillary gets that terrorism is a terrible, fearsome thing that demands our vigilance and our attention. 2) Bill has dealt with world leaders as a president and through his Clinton Global Initiative, so how's that for the spouse of a Secretary of State?

Obama has demonstrated three really important leadership characteristics. First, he understands what's important. Second, he picks good people. And third, he is charismatic enough to get them to say yes to his call to service. In short, from where I'm standing, the Obama administration is off to a very good start.