Monday, April 14th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthday to David G. Burnet, the first (albeit interim) president of the Republic of Texas. Speaking of Burnet(t)s, we’d like to thank John for once again MCing Parable with Austin jazz heavyweights Rabbi Neil Blumofe and Michael Mordecai. We’d like to thank all of you who came out, too. Also a big shout-out to Angie Cross for wrapping up our Lenten series Autobiographies of Redemption on Friday; if you didn’t hear her, you should check out her book The Butterfly Knight, which is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting. Looking ahead, Unplugged on the Front Porch is next Thursday, starring Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore. It’s not like they need an introduction, but holy cow are they talented.

On a more sober note, our Executive Director/fearless leader Rev. Dr. Steve Kinney’s father is in ill health, so Steve will be in Houston for the next couple of days. If you could keep the Kinneys in your thoughts and/or prayers, we’d sure appreciate it.

Monday, February 10th

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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

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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

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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

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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.