Saturday, November 28, 2009

Banking and non-profits

Me (car) visiting Kale (canon) in jail.

I played Monopoly on Thanksgiving Day with my nephew Kale Lund, we had a ball for at least two hours until he got bored. I had to read the rules again because it had been decades since I've played (but I did stick with my strategy of buying up utilities and most of the properties I landed on--some things you never forget).

There was a whole "other" section in the rules I didn't remember at all. They dealt with selling properties back to the bank if you get into a financial crunch, but only after you've sold off your houses and hotels. If your competitor buys your property, you get the best price you can get. If the bank takes it, you only get half of the property's original value. (I guess I wasn't the only kid not reading those rules, hmmm?)

I was reading "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" yesterday as part of my holiday reading package. There were articles about non-profits dealing with how to keep staff (and CEO!) morale up, how a non-profit theatre is adopting the practices of a co-op farm in up-state New York to stay solvent, and about a new group of foundations dedicated to lending money to non-profits to help them cover short-term and re-negotiate long-term debt. This is a new hybrid form of non-profit foundation that wants to stabilize our important non-profit sector, in all of its dimensions. (It looks like these were the kids who did read through the Monopoly rules!)

Lessons for me? Games that teach math skills do work; that you can inculcate a sense of mutual responsibility from a kid's youngest years; that greed ultimately tears a hole in our social fabric; and that moral responsibility takes many forms.

Kale and I were playing the Hawaii version of Monopoly. He owned Waikiki Beach, I owned the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory for a few non-binding hours. See? With fiscal discipline and hard work, dreams can come true (for individuals and non-profits).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Four-letter "f" word...


Despite my best editing efforts, I couldn't make the lovely trees outside my window look better than this. I had been told October in St. Louis is normally sunny and mild--lucky me, the rain came instead. (Perhaps I shouldn't have used the "rain" setting on my white noise machine in Phoenix all those years?)

But on the up side, I found these cookies at Trader Joe's the other day. Maple Cream cookies were my favorites growing up in Calgary. Now that's a celebration of fall!

Monday, November 9, 2009

If bodies were buildings

If my spine were a building, I would collapse.

I learned this after looking at my x-rays from my visit Saturday to my new chiropractor Dr. Stephen Costantino (I would recommend him to any St. Louisian reading this).

My sudden, recent pain is certainly linked to my new work station in a tilted attic room; I'll take steps to remedy my desk and computer disposition immediately. What caused my long-term internal listing could be many things, but I blame it mostly on a life spent bowing my head, reading books. Yet another hazard of my profession.

My rather distressing x-rays made me think of Wim Delvoye, a Belgian artist with whom I did a studio visit several years ago while on a trip sponsored by the Flemish government.

Delvoye digs into old technologies and infuses them with new light, as in the way he uses sometimes sexy, sometimes distressing images in his stained glass windows.

In the chapel image above Delvoye has matched his imagery with the delicate tracery carved into medieval chapels of Europe. It is often hard to believe that those slender, brittle bones of stone allow for an intimate feeling within the soaring heights of Gothic Cathedrals, but they do. This is why those churches are such enduring icons of spiritual faith.

Lest you think Delvoye only celebrates the microcosm inside the macrocosm of the Church, look at this other image, a dolled up killing field.

Given the great irony of his other works it is clear Delvoye does not hold harmless the pieties of faith of any sort--each has created its own killing fields.

Gothic Cathedrals stand today as monuments to the past. I am not an obsessive materialist--millions of things have been made over time, millions have been lost but many remain--but I hope art work like Delvoye's endures past our time as testament to the on-going testament to great human creation and great human destruction.

bottom two images from Wim Delvoye's website.