Monday, February 17th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. Last week was a good week for us; on Thursday, Sam Baker, his band, and more than a hundred of our closest friends joined us for Actually Unplugged, and then Ray Benson preached at Parable on Sunday. But the action isn’t slowing down; the Southwest Showdown begins at 11:00 this Saturday. Come out to the Seminary of the Southwest’s annual family-friendly barbeque cook-off. Proceeds go Episcopal Relief and Development, and the inordinately talented Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars will accompany the Texas barbeque with Texas country music.

As the two or three of you who regularly read my posts know, I usually take this space to write about some notable figure or event linked to the day’s date. Today, as I scanned my top-secret historical calendar, I found some good stuff: in 1600, philosopher Giordano Bruno was executed; in 1819, the Missouri Compromise passed; in 1863, the Red Cross was founded; in 1929, Chaim Potok was born. But what about the billions of lives that don’t find their way into the annals of Wikipedia? We don’t read about, or even really think about, their experiences, their accomplishments, their fears and desires, but they existed, from the first sentient hominid to the aged farmer in third century BC Chile to the child just born into poverty in Mumbai. They are sparrows, just as we are, and their lives are as immediate to them as ours are to us, and every bit as important and dear. Once those lives are gone, those accomplishments and experiences stay with us, invisible and inaccessible but present nonetheless. That’s as good a reason as any to be kind, to pour out our souls, to give recklessly and fully, to love as hard and as much as we possibly can; we can leave something behind, an undetectable legacy of goodness that is better than an article in an online database.

Monday, February 10th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. Have we got a week of events lined up for you. On Thursday, Sam Baker and his band play in All Saints’ church at 7:30. We’re really excited for Sam to bring his beautifully spare songs about loss, faith, and the human condition to Actually Unplugged for a Valentine’s special. On Sunday, we’ll welcome another titan of the central Texas music scene to a very different event: Ray Benson will be our featured preacher at Parable, ably interviewed by John Burnett. Don’t miss these thirteen plus feet of humanity at the Front Porch’s reimagined evening Eucharist service at Opal Divine’s on South Congress at 5:30 on Sunday.

Today marks the eighteenth anniversary of Deep Blue’s first victory over Garry Kasparov. I remember reading about this as a kid, and feeling a vague but powerful disappointment; I had just learned how to play and lose badly at chess, and here was its best player ever being rendered obsolete by a computer. Obviously, the trend didn’t stop there. The point of a machine is to do things that people can’t. Robotic hearts, various DARPA monstrosities, and even iPhones are moving well beyond human ken. It’s enough to make humans feel obsolete. Garry Kasparov himself retired from chess not long after, instead becoming  an active political dissident in Russia. He has run (unsuccessfully) for public office and been imprisoned for legally hazy reasons and spoken against corruption both inside and outside of his country. Whether you agree or disagree with his beliefs, he has moved into a place where machines, for now, can’t compete with him. There are all kinds of morals here, I think, but the one that I like best is that no matter how powerful and smart we build a computer, we can still do what we’ve been doing for our entire history as a species: create a place for ourselves where we can manufacture our own meaning.

Monday, February 3rd

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We’ve got some big stuff coming up. Next week, the inimitable Sam Baker and his band play Actually Unplugged. As we’ve mentioned before, Sam’s unique minimalist folk stylings, paired with themes of faith, loss, and hard choices, make this a perfect date night for the evening before Valentine’s Day. Then, next Sunday, we’ll host Parable at Opal Divine’s. This time, Ray Benson will preach, with an assist from John Burnett. Don’t miss this alternative worship service, led by over thirteen feet of human being.

Today is also the one hundred and forty-third anniversary of the passing of the the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race. As one of the most important amendments to the Constitution (here on the Porch, we’re also big fans of the Twenty-first), it’s pretty clearly a big deal for ensuring that democracy can reign. However,  it took nearly a century for this nation, founded on ideas of freedom, to create such a law demonstrates how often the ethically crucial is overlooked, intentionally or otherwise, until it becomes a pressing need. In honor of this, we invite you this week to think about yourself, your country, or any organization to which you pertain through this lens: What necessary things are we ignoring simply because we haven’t thought about them? What can we change that we didn’t even realize needed changing?

Monday, January 27th

Happy Monday, everyone. It looks like a nice, quiet week here on the Front Porch, so pull up a chair and pour yourself some lemonade. Next week, though, we’ve got Sam Baker coming to play Actually Unplugged. Such an intimate performance, with songs about such light topics as pain, faith, and redemption, make for a perfect Valentine’s date night. The week after next, Ray Benson will join us at Parable.

 

It’s also the the anniversary of the death of Isaak Babel, the great Russian and Jewish writer  killed in Stalin’s Great Purge for criticizing of the Communist Party. Babel’s particular genius is the dignity he grants various characters: Cossacks, Jews, high-ranking political officials, peasants. It was this unflinching gaze into the Other that drew the ire of the Party elite. As a prose stylist, as a storyteller, and as a proponent of the fractured nature of life, Isaak Babel is an inspiration to the Front Porch’s mission of treating all perspectives with dignity.

Monday, January 20th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy MLK Day. Thanks to everyone who came out for Actually Unplugged and Parable last week. We sure enjoyed them, and hope you did too. Now we’re gearing up for the next month’s Actually Unplugged and Parable. The former is set for Thursday, February 13, and will feature Sam Baker, whose hard-hitting songs about life, death, and faith should set the mood perfectly for the evening before Valentine’s Day. Parable will keep on rolling as well.

The impact and power of Dr. King will be explained and discussed elsewhere, by those far more qualified than I. However, today is also the eighty-ninth birthday Ernesto Cardenal, who deserves recognition as well. Throughout a varied life, Father Cardenal has fought in a violent revolution, studied under Thomas Merton, joined the Sandinistas, founded an aesthetic community, held a cabinet position, been publicly rebuked by a Pope, and nominated for a Nobel Prize in poetry. For more than half a century, he has called for a reassessment of the violence and corruption so entrenched in Nicaraguan politics. It seems fitting that his birthday fall on MLK Day, as it allows us to honor all of those who have fought against the evils of discrimination in all its ugly forms.

Monday, January 13th

Happy Monday, everybody, and happy 46th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison performance. To honor such a landmark musical event, we’re hosting a slightly less intense concert on Thursday with Austin’s own Nelo. Come by All Saints’ at 7:30 to see a dynamic acoustic performance from these ACL and SXSW veterans before their brand new album comes out next month. The revamped Parable also takes flight again at 5:30 on Sunday at Opal Divine’s. See yall there.

Monday, January 6th

Good morning, campers. Hope everyone is staying warm on this frigid first Monday of 2014. Fortunately, the Front Porch has some upcoming events to warm you right up. To start off, Austin’s own Nelo performs at Actually Unplugged on Thursday, January 16th. This will be one of their last shows before they release their new, self-titled album. Then, we’ll be rebooting Parable on Sunday, January 19th. Swing by Opal Divine’s on South Congress for some bluegrass, an hour-long worship service, and maybe a couple of beers. If you’re looking for someone to talk to on any other Sunday evening, though, swing by anyways. Steve will be holding court and talking Front Porch stuff every Sunday at Opal Divine’s at 5:30, and he’d love to see you.

It’s also the birthday of Khalil Gibran, who would be one hundred and thirty one years old today. The man from Bsharri, Lebanon, would go on to become the third-bestselling poet of all time, after Shakespeare and Laozi. A true citizen of the world, he said, “The whole earth is my homeland and all men are my fellow countrymen.”

Monday, December 16

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthdays to Ludwig van Beethoven, Jane Austen, George Santayana, Wassily Kandinsky, Noël Coward, Margaret Mead, Philip K. Dick, Billy Gibbons, and Bill Hicks (whew). If you can imagine a more diverse group of artists and thinkers, let us know who’s in it. In celebration of these titans of their respective fields, the Front Porch is going to empty out during the holiday season. We’ll be back on January 5th at All Saints’ with our annual Epiphany program, which will start with a eucharist service and finish with a celebration of community and light. We’ll also be bringing back Parable and Actually Unplugged, so keep an eye on this space for more updates.

Monday, December 9th

Hello, everybody. We hope that you, like us, have finally finished digesting Thanksgiving dinner. If you have, we’ve got some events coming up for you to celebrate your newfound liveliness. This Thursday, it’s a special holiday edition of Actually Unplugged, featuring Will Taylor and Karen Mal. And just three days later (that’s Sunday), acoustic hip hop artist, activist, and speaker SaulPaul will lead us at Parable.

In what seems a fittingly seasonable anniversary, it was on this day in 1531 that the Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared to Juan Diego at Tepeyac. I’ve always loved this story: the nervous everyman hero, the dismissive power structure, the synthesis of pagan and Christian mythology. Despite her enshrinement as the New World’s most beloved icon, it’s fitting to remember that the Lady of Guadalupe arose from the ruined temple of the Mesoamerican goddess Tonantzin. Even in the horrific conditions of conquest and colonialism of seventeenth-century Mexico, the confluence of two cultures, two faiths, resulted in the creation of this most holy figure. It’s this confluence of drastically different viewpoints that we try to facilitate here on the Porch, because it’s in this confluence that a multitude of beliefs can be woven together into a single, radiant beauty.

Monday, December 2

Welcome back from Thanksgiving, everybody. Hope that everyone had a good beginning to the holiday season. We’re kicking December off with a Wednesday night gathering at All Saints’ to keep on talking about the Rt. Rev. John Spong’s recent lectures. Come by at 6:30; we have pizza and beer. We’re also moving Actually Unplugged (featuring Will Taylor and some of his talented friends doing some holiday standards) and Parable (featuring the prodigiously gifted and versatile SeanPaul) up a week, to Thursday, December 12, and Sunday, December 15, respectively.