One Faith, Many Paths: Jane Lebak

This month’s interview is with Catholic writer Jane Lebak!

1) What was your childhood like?

I grew up in New York City, so it was a strange distortion of too many crowds and too much isolation, but I think it was just right for making me who I am.  I went to high school in a different borough (the local public high school wasn’t a great place; I remember three high school girls attacking a cop in the hallway) and getting there required an hour and fifteen minutes on the subway in each direction. Because of the distance, I got a subway pass.

That was freedom. It was amazing to have complete freedom to wander Manhattan with my allowance and my bookbag. After school, I’d walk from 83rd Street and head down to wherever I wanted. Forbidden Planet (both of them!) or Strand Bookstore or St. Francis Bookstore…I found so many amazing little shops and awesome little stores with ethnic food, and I could go all over the place to explore and learn and experience. I loved that so much!

Contrast that with early release days, where if I bolted out of school the moment the bell rang, and if all the trains and buses were right there to connect, I could get home in time to watch the last fifteen minutes of Transformers. 

2) What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

My personal reason is that I’ve had personal experiences that lead me to no other conclusion. When you reach out and something reaches back for you, you have no more doubt.  When you fall and something catches you, you feel secure in what you felt. That’s not data for anyone else of course, but it holds me fast.

Overall though, and even before I had that kind of one-on-one experience, I knew order doesn’t arise from chaos.  Things fall apart on their own.  They don’t become more ordered or more complex.  So the tremendous complexity we see inside a cell or the way galaxies are constructed, for example, tells me something must have created and sorted, and organized everything that went into that.

3. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?

That’s hard to pick. I like the Archangel Raphael in the book of Tobit. I used to have the worst crush on the Archangel Gabriel.  But on the human side of things, I really like the apostle Thomas because he seems to have this sarcastic and pragmatic edge that really speaks to me.

4. Favorite biblical passage and why?

“Kindness and truth shall meet. Justice and peace shall kiss.” I love the sense of completion.  In some ways, these things could be opposites (think of the answer to “does this make me look fat?”), but with grace, they become complementary.  In the end, all our differences are harmonized so they retain their character but all work together to show the many facets of God’s glory.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Jane Lebak”

Advertisements

Jason’s Jukebox: REM

The 1980’s were a great time for indie music (or alternative). You had great bands that gained mass popularity like Duran Duran, The Pretenders, Talking Heads, and The Clash. But one band that hovered under the radar for quite a while was REM. It’s also one of those rare 80’s acts that managed not only to survive the 90’s, but put out most of their best material in that decade. This time around, I’ll be looking at their albums.

The line-up:

  • Michael Stipe: vocals
  • Peter Buck: guitar
  • Mike Mills: Bass/backing vocals
  • Bill Berry: drums

murmur Murmur (1983) ****

Single: “Radio Free Europe”
Rolling Stone may have been occasionally out of touch over its lifespan, but it was on the right track when it gave the debut 4 out of 5 stars. Today, over thirty years after its release, it’s still one of the best debuts I’ve ever heard. I just wish Stipe was more coherent, but he fixed that later on, thank goodness.

Best tracks: “Radio Free Europe”, “Talk About the Passion”, “Perfect Circle”, “Sitting Still”

reckoningReckoning (1984) ***

Singles: “South Central Rain”, “Don’t Go Back to Rockville”

Producer Don Dixon wanted this album to rock harder than its predecessor, but it doesn’t really work for me. There’s some standouts, but I don’t like it as much as Murmur.

Best tracks: “Harborcoat”, “South Central Rain”, “Pretty Persuasion”

fablesFables of the Reconstruction ** (1985)

Singles: “Can’t Get There From Here”, “Driver 8”, “Wendell Gee”

This was the only REM album produced outside the US, working with Joe Boyd as their producer. The album is one of REM’s concepts (the other being Automatic For the People), exploring Southern Gothic themes. At the time, it was REM’s highest charter, reaching #28. However, Michael Stipe wasn’t fond of the result at first, but over the years he and Buck have changed their minds.  It’s not bad, but I’m not a fan.

Best tracks: “Driver 8”, “Green Grow the Rushes”

pageantLife’s Rich Pageant ***1/2 (1986)

Singles: “Fall On Me”, “Superman”

This was REM’s first gold album. It was REM’s first foray into political themes with songs like “Fall on Me” and “Cuyahoya” heralding a trend that would continue for quite a few albums.

Best tracks: “Fall On Me”, “Cuyahoga”, “Superman”, “Flowers of Guatemala”

deadletterDead Letter Office ***1/2 (1987)

This is REM’s B-sides and rarities collection, so it’s only here for completeness. It marks the transition to Warner Bros and bigger fame. What really sells it are the covers.

Best tracks: “Toys in the Attic”, “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Femme Fatale”, “King of the Road”

documentDocument *****(1987)

Singles: “The One I Love”, “End of the World”, “Finest Worksong”

This was one of REM’s most important albums, marking the end of their status as solely alternative rock and the beginning of their more mainstream success. It was their final album with IRS, and their first with producer Scott Litt, who did phenomenal work with them over the years. For me, this was my introduction to the band, thanks to the loads of airplay “The One I Love” got. It’s still one of their best albums, even if I can’t sing around with “End of the World”

Best tracks: “Exhuming McCarthy”, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, “The One I Love”, “Fireplace”,  “King of Birds”

Continue reading “Jason’s Jukebox: REM”

The Worst Christmas Specials

It’s that time of year! Time for the TV channels to put out their annual Holiday fare. And while there are some great classics out there, sadly they can’t all be It’s a Wonderful Life or Charlie Brown Christmas. So this week, here’s the worst Christmas movies and specials I’ve ever watched, in no particular order.

home alone 2Home Alone 2: Lost in New York–Hey, I got an idea! Let’s make a sequel to a great Christmas movie! And let’s only change the location and do many of the exact same gags again! And let’s have Kevin not learn a thing from the previous movie! Oh well, at least Tim Curry is in it.

flintstones Flintstones Christmas Carol–My biggest problem with this one was the Flintstones shouldn’t even be celebrating Christmas! They should be celebrating Saturnalia, or any of the other winter solstice festivals that came before Christ. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say, “Jason, you can accept talking dinosaurs, cavemen using animals for electrical appliances, and cars you have to push with your feet, but celebrating Christmas is going too far?” Oh and how about Fred turning up the jerk meter way more than usual? Yeah, I hate this one.

hemanxmasHe-man and She-ra Christmas–Look, I can take a planet that’s never heard of Christmas despite being settled by humans. That’s fine. But here’s what ruins it–Skeletor’s heart grows two sizes because of the Christmas spirit! Are you kidding me? One of the greatest villains of my childhood turns into the Grinch?

Continue reading “The Worst Christmas Specials”

One Faith, Many Paths: Steve Condrey

condreyThis time, I’m interviewing the Moderator for my Autistic Christians Facebook group, Steve Condrey.

1. What is your denomination? How long have you been a Christian?

I am officially a Baptist (my baptism was through a Southern Baptist-affiliated church), but I see myself as a nondenominational progressive.  I first professed Christ as my Savior in October 1982, and while I may not have been the most faithful of believers, I have never once stopped believing and acknowledging Christ’s lordship.

2. What was your childhood like? 

My parents were believers, but for the most part not actively churchgoing.  They stopped going to church regularly once the church started getting heavily involved in politics.  My parents were tough-minded, no-nonsense people.  Dad was a Marine and mom was a floor nurse–two professions notorious for not taking nonsense from anyone.  They were however, very fair-minded and even though they didn’t know any more about autism spectrum issues in the 1970’s and 1980’s they did their best. Frequently they did much better than the professionals recommended!

3. How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife offline in 2003 when Yahoo Personals was still in business. It is the first marriage for both of us after a lot of very dysfunctional relationships.

4. When were you diagnosed? Have your children been diagnosed as well?

I was diagnosed in April 2008, shortly after being placed with our son. The challenges of marriage were more than enough to stress my usual coping mechanisms beyond the limit; parenthood only made the situation more stressful. After a series of referrals, I ended up with an excellent neuropsychologist who pinned the problem down in a single office visit! My son (adopted and no genetic relation to me at all) was formally diagnosed this year; we had suspected he was on the spectrum, and some of the people who worked with him back in California thought so as well but the diagnosis was always considered of secondary or lower importance compared to his severe ADHD. My daughter is so far as we know neurotypical but still very bright.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Steve Condrey”

Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

boycotttosiriMy mom gets Reader’s Digest each month. In the October 2017 issue, they published an excerpt from Judith Newman’s book To Siri With Love. The excerpt piqued my interest, so I borrowed it from the library. On the exact day I started reading it, I saw a campaign on Facebook using the hashtag “#BoycotttoSiri” I read the articles about the book and was heartbroken.  This mother can’t be this bad, can she? Spoiler alert–she is.

There is a type of mother in the autism community called the “autism mom.” This is a mother who sees herself as a martyr because of the “suffering” she goes through for her child. She will complain endlessly about how terrible it is to raise a child. They rarely, if ever, celebrate the joys of motherhood because they don’t see it as joyful. They see it as a burden.  That is my first problem with this book. She even has the audacity to ask if her child is thinking and say she is unsure if autism should be cured. (The correct answer to that question that should never even be asked is NO! Not yes, or maybe, or unsure–NO!) The reason this is a problem is that these parents don’t seem to realize that EVERY parent has difficulty raising children, even the ones who aren’t autistic can be difficult! This does NOT make you a martyr.

My second problem is how she treats autism advocates. She is very condescending about them, almost as if she doesn’t value their opinion. In fact, when autistic YouTube personality Amythest Schaber called her out for calling her a “manic pixie dream girl” (a derogatory term for overtly cheerful women. Because autistic women can’t possibly be cheerful), Newman didn’t apologize–she gaslighted her! She made it seem as if, by not asking for her permission to be quoted, she was doing her a favor. A “nice surprise”, she called it. She then called her a brat because Schaber still persisted to criticize her dehumanizing book. In short, if you don’t share her POV, you’re not worth her time.

Continue reading “Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman”

Jason’s Jukebox: 10 Favorite Albums V.1

For quite some year now, I’ve been posting articles ranking discographies from many of my favorite musicians and bands. But what do I think are the best albums of all time? Well, that’s far from easy! My list changes often, especially as I’ve been going through the book 1001 Albums You Must Before You Die. (I’ve only listened to over 260 of those so far.) So, here’s a new annual feature: My 10 Favorite Albums series!

Continue reading “Jason’s Jukebox: 10 Favorite Albums V.1”

The Fictional Spectrum: Dr. Shaun Murphy

shaun murphyABC has a TV series that I think will be a force for good in autism advocacy: The Good Doctor. Based on the Korean TV series of the same name, its main character is Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore. Dr. Shaun Murphy is an autistic doctor who is working at St. Bonaventure Hospital.

Now I want to stress a few things. First, I have no knowledge of the Korean version of this show.  Second, medial dramas are not something I normally watch. I tend to watch science fiction, superhero, action, and fantasy programs.

I’ve heard this show has been accused of being “inspiration porn”, or at least a borderline example of it. I’m not sure if I agree. When I think of “inspiration porn”, I think of something that presents a disability as an obstacle, as if to say “If only the main character was normal, his/her life would be better.” Or “Look how cool this person is because of his special disability!” I don’t see either of these.

Dr. Murphy got his position because of Dr. Glassman, the president of St. Bonaventure Hospital. Dr. Glassman has been a mentor for Shaun since his teen years.  Shaun did not have an easy childhood. He was often bullied or ridiculed by both his peers and adults.  Glassman, however, saw potential and nurtured that potential into the man Dr. Murphy is today. In the pilot, the other staff members are unsure if they should let him work there, but Glassman reminds them that there was a time when black people and women also had difficulty getting medical careers. To him, Shaun is no different.

Continue reading “The Fictional Spectrum: Dr. Shaun Murphy”