A Thanksgiving Debriefing

A harvest festival-ish holiday celebrating thankfulness and gratitude? What could go wrong?

This year we’re very thankful to celebrate the second anniversary of Kelly’s miraculous recovery from an aortic dissection. But, for the first time in memory, both Kelly and I did nothing on Thanksgiving. We had colds and spent the day at home watching movies. We ate pasta for dinner.

Between coughs and sniffles, I had a few idle thoughts on ways the holiday could be improved:

  • Ditch the turkey. Ask around and you’ll find out it’s probably not most people’s favorite food. Why not serve something else?
  • If you are going to serve turkey butcher it first and then roast it. Roasting it whole leads to dry meat.
  • While we’re at it how about ditching the traditional side dishes? They have the taste and texture of baby food.
  • What would happen if we gave the women in our lives a day off and had the men folk do all the work? Women seem to get the brunt of the holiday domestic duties.
  • I suspect I’m preaching to the choir to suggest skipping the consumption nightmare that is “black Friday.”

Consider this an open thread on the holiday. What did you do? Did a political debate break out at the table? Who did all the work? Have our international readers even heard of Thanksgiving? Note that our Canadian readers have had an extra month to debrief on the holiday. Comment!

Having no pictures of Pilgrims, please excuse my use of this terrible magazine cover depicting Puritans. I can’t tell the difference. Plus the central figure has the haggard look of someone who just spent the whole day making way too much mediocre food while the rest of her family kicked back and watched a bowl game.

127 Apocalypse Now with Father Mark Kowalewski

This podcast conversation with Fr. Mark Kowalewski, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles, needs a longer introduction than usual because it might, at first, seem off-topic. But I think it’s safe to say that within the DNA of the urban homesteading, permaculture and ecological movements is a concern with how the world might end and the possibility of either hastening, postponing or avoiding the collapse of human civilization. Then there’s the fact that a significant portion of U.S. government officials believe in some form of a “rapture.”

Of course there are many divergent opinions on the nature of this end, everything from climate change, to energy depletion, to nuclear war to more fringy ideas such as near term extinction. I’ve always been interested in the stories that our cultures tell about the end of the world and what those stories say about present realities. Behind, on one end, the grim future of Mad Max, to another extreme, the techno optimist Mars colony fantasies of Silicon Valley executives is a ghost that haunts our imaginations about the end of things. That ghost, at least in the West, is John of Patmos and his hallucinatory book of Revelation.

Fr. Mark Kowalewski

I think it’s unfortunately too rare in our culture these days to consider the theological underpinning of the stories we tell. In this conversation Fr. Mark discusses everything from mainstream, orthodox views of apocalyptic literature to fundamentalist and evangelical notions of a “rapture.” We conclude with what these stories tell about our relationship to creation and to human culture. During the podcast Fr. Mark references:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Choral Evensong as Meditation

St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Los Angeles.

Fellow thoughtstylist Rupert Sheldrake has helped create a website to promote the nearly 500 year old Anglican service of Choral Evensong. Sheldrake sees Evensong as a user-friendly form of meditation for those who might not normally cross the threshold of a church door.

Choral Evensong is a 45-min long peace-inducing church service in which the ‘song’ of voices sounding together in harmony is heard at the ‘even’ point between the active day and restful night, allowing listeners time for restful contemplation – Church members, agnostics and atheists alike. It is both free of charge and free of religious commitment, and its 470-year-old choral music tradition – established around 1549 – is performed live and often to a very high standard.

The Choral Evensong website lists places around the world where you can attend a service. If you’re in Los Angeles there is a Choral Evensong performance this Saturday November 17th at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral at 5 p.m. I will, likely, make an appearance as the Verger. The choir is magnificent and St. John’s is one of Los Angeles’ hidden architectural masterpieces.

You can also listen to Choral Evensong on the BBC via the website and app. It’s the longest running show on the BBC.

Saturday Tweets: One Crazy Week

Midnight in the Desert

A completely off topic and off the wall question for Root Simple readers this morning: how many of you spent the 90s drifting off to sleep with Art Bell’s radio show playing in the background? The sad news of Art Bell’s passing back in April escaped my notice until this week and I’ve been reflecting on all those evenings Kelly and I spent listening to tales of inter-dimensional time-traveling Sasquatches, Y2K panic chatter and “shadow people.”

For those of you not familiar with Bell, he hosted the third most popular radio show in the U.S., Coast to Coast, which focused mostly on paranormal topics. Bell’s show resembled 19th century newspapers where “fake news” tales of moon men, lizard people and mysterious airships mixed with the more mundane events of the day. Nineteenth century readers knew that the moon men tales were fake just as Bell would frequently describe his show as “just entertainment.”


Bell was not one to let epistemological correctness get in the way of a good yarn. He was a skilled listener who would patiently, over the course of hours, draw tall tales out of his guests. In an approach reminiscent of William James’ stance on religion, Bell would suspend judgement on his topics knowing that obsessing on the “truth” of a subject would get in the way of excavating its meaning.

If you don’t know Bell’s work I would commend that you listen to what I think might be one of the true masterpieces in the history of radio, his long interviews with a mysterious guest known as Mel Waters. Waters claimed to own property containing a hole, more than 80,000 feet deep, west of Ellensberg, Washington. Among the features of the hole: the power to restore life to deceased animals, birth mysterious seal creatures from within the carcass of lambs and produce impossible objects such as 1943 Roosevelt dimes. During a commercial break on Water’s first appearance on Coast to Coast, listeners started searching the area around Ellensberg on an early internet satellite service called Terraserver. Mysteriously, Water’s property seemed to have been blacked out. Bell later claimed to have heard of military activity around Ellensberg. After his last appearance in December of 2002, claiming to have found another hole in Nevada, Waters disappeared never to be heard from again.

If you haven’t heard the Mel’s Hole story here you go:

And Part II:

Bell’s show had an eeriness to it aided by the fact that he was broadcasting live from a remote compound in the Nevada desert in the middle of the night surrounded by his cats and ham radio gear. Bell’s show was the soundtrack of the American West’s vast deserts and forests, a landscape of secret government programs where the only sound is the mating call of lonely, inter-dimensional Sasquatches.

If you’d like to catch up on your Art Bell listening you can download 1,200 episodes (!) here.