So that was a wonderful Easter weekend. Spring time, reminders of the present reality of the reserection, baseball, lots of work done, good food. All blessings and ten thousand beside.

I attended a Minor League baseball game on Friday evening. And I couldn’t be happier. It was a cold Carolina evening, with a 3,000 or so crowd. The usual kabuki dance of the minor leagues began anew again, and I never grow tired of it: kooky radio station promotions outside the gate, the friendly staff that seems thrilled that you showed up, the hot dog 100% cheaper than the Major League variety, but just as good, crazy mascot antics and silly contests between innings; it was all there, and a game included for the price of admission. Hard to beat it. Were I showing a visitor to America the essential sights, so he could get an honest report, I would be sure that he visited a minor league baseball game. For all the great things about the New York’s and Chicago’s of the nation, a night with the farm team gives a fairly honest portrayl of a large section of America. Actually, I did that once for an Indian co-worker who loved cricket, yet was completely fascinated by the minor league event, in that case watching the AA team of the Atlanta Braves.

Saturday morning I picked my wife up from the airport, returning from Portland, OR, where the above image was taken, with beautiful and terrible Mount Hood in the distance. I learned that the “cell phone” waiting lot is a wonderful concept, a great attempt at modern adaption due to time constraints, transportation and technology advantages.

Sunday was reserection day worship. While I attend a Reformed church that does not formally acknowledge the church calendar year, it is nice to be reminded, even if its externally that the church has 52 stated holidays a year, revolving around the reserection, and that everything the church universal stands for, rises and fall on that day.

Every year, the United States spends $300 on pre-packaged stuffing ingredients. I had no idea of that until I read it in a cooking journal this weekend. In recent weeks, with announcements regarding just how much money the various Presidential candidates have raised, I have seen the occasional cackle about should we be spending that much for our favored candidates, even now in early 2007? The 2008 Presidential race is said to be the first billion dollar campaign. I don’t know if it will get that high, but in the meantime, Americans will be spending $600 million on stuffing, a substance that is maimed for its malice, for being evil.

Johnny Hart, the cartoonist of B.C. (thankfully never of B.C.E.) and voice of the Wizard of Id, died this past Saturday at his home, of a stroke, by simply slumping over his drawing board and passing on at the age of 78. Seems like a wonderful way to go: doing your life’s calling and then slipping off. For that I envy him. His was one of the few newspaper comics I found funny anymore. I grew up with the maxim of reading the sports page and the comics, everything else was just details, and B.C. was always on the must read list, with its usual cast of very non-PC characters: Wily – the one legged poet, the Fat Broad, the alluring Blond, Peter, the midnight skulker, the turtle and apeyx pair, even the new additions: Anno Domini and Cono Hani, which never did much for me. It was one of the few strips where there a plot was subversive to the whims of random encounters and odd characters. Even when it had its famed Easter strips, (here is his last Easter strip that ran Sunday) often controversial, it was never preachy, it was extremely well-informed, but it just told a simple narrative.

Take this strip that was printed the day Hart died:

It’s self-effacing, tight writing, an interesting perspective and a zinger one-liner. Something that were always hallmarks of the Hart strips. There simply was not any waining of talent with his work, something that afflicted the greatest creators of that original American art form. He just seemed like an optimistic man, but without the fake jokery that destroys one-liners. His art work, while never crude, was nicely simple, very well done. Most of the self-ironic, intentionally poorly drawn (with a wink, wink to the audience) and postmodern strips of today are just light years from this sort of thing.

I found this interview of Hart from 1999, and was struck if the word picture is true of an extremely simple, optimistic, complex and happy man. Not sure if we will see his sort again:

But today, he’s mostly focused on his Sunday school class and making the Bible come alive through a mural that will include, of course, cartoon characters wearing robes and sandals. More important than graphics, however, is that Hart is obsessed with compressing big thoughts into a few powerful words. Hence, his struggle to whittle the size of his Sunday school mural about the Bible.

 

“I just want to show them how incredibly simple the Bible is,” Hart said. He worries that young people will do as he did for years: “Start in the beginning and say to yourself you’re never going to read all this; it’s too thick.” Change doesn’t seem to faze Hart. He is incorrigibly optimistic. “I think God arranges these things. It’s something the church needed.”

Hart loves the Nineveh congregation, and especially his Sunday school class. Two of his former students are in seminary. But he doesn’t take any credit – not even for their attendance. “Do they come because of my infamy? No, they come because their parents tell them to come.”

But his class also attracts a few adults who attend without marching orders from parents.

“I try to widen their eyes, anything I can think of to do that,” Hart says. His favorite lesson series is to do an overview of the Bible, which itself is “like a banner, a long drawing that starts with Adam and runs through the New Jerusalem.”

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