What I'm reading: March 1, 2015

I’ve not been blogging much lately, and I don’t have much zeal to do so. I’m a little sad that Leonard Nimoy died, but mixed with that hope that I too might live long and prosper. I could walk though the pros and cons of UUA.org, but I don’t know what that would prove, other than it’s not fully rolled out. I could be angry about the destruction of genuine and reproduction antiquities in Mosul, but that’s a feeling shared by most sensible people. I’m just not keen to state the generally obvious.

So, I’ll lean on some interesting things I’ve read lately. I use Newsblur to manage my feeds. I subcribe to dozens of feeds, and subscribe to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life “Religion in the News” for general religion news.

But I’m interested in other matters,and have been reading about other things. Such as applying the most appropriate level of technology to a given situation. Whether that’s delivering natural gas, improving prosthetic knees or re-capturing ancient lessons about heating homes (and churches).

I’ve also read this challenge to white homogeneity among Anabaptists and also¬† this informative graphic about what image file standard to use and when. (And you don’t need to use Photoshop.)

Saraswati statue dedicated in D.C.

Daisy the Dog took me out on my evening walk, and we happened upon the aftermath of the dedication, at the Indonesian embassy, of the statue of Saraswati, the Hindu deity of learning.

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I was glad to see the dedication plaque: the right-hand plinth had a rough top for ages, and I thought it might have been vandalized!

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If you are devoted to Saraswati, you can find her statue on Massachusetts Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets, near the north exit of the Dupont Circle subway station.

Lost pictures of Universalist, recovered

Yesterday, Cory Doctorow wrote that millions of public domain images, recovered from Internet Archive’s optical text recognition, have been uploaded to Flickr. The listing includes the text context, and a link back to the book. Like a image index as much as an image resource.

So I’m looking for Universalists, of course. Because the books include local histories and “who’s who”-type works, I’m getting hits for lay persons and lesser-known churches.

And I’ll be posting them.

I'll blame Putin

Horrible for Daisy the Dog! Some of her favorite sniffing places at the little, angular park in our neighborhood are trapped behind chain link fencing and barbed wire. The park has no formal name, but its impossible to not call it Schevchenko, for the large monument to Taras Shevchenko, “bard of Ukraine” in the middle of it. It has also been the site of rallies and demonstrations since the Russian-prompted annexations of Ukraine. Someone tucked a Ukrainian flag under Schevchenko’s right arm.

Not that you can get to the monument now. The fence went up yesterday, and when I walked Daisy last night, the plaza had been plowed up to the concrete slab.

Putin’s doing? More likely the National Park Service. Many of the plaza’s concrete tiles had come loose or eroded to reveal sharp reinforcing wire. The fountain hasn’t worked in our time in the neighborhood. Time for restoration. If Daisy can cope.

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Don't fill the meetinghouse with domestic bric-a-brac

I got so many nice comments from my post about not holding worship in the round, that I thought I’d press my luck by talking about how we decorate our worship space.

A few months ago I attended a worship service — not in a Unitarian Universalist church, if it matters — where the candles and flowers and paraphernalia of worship was made up of flower delivery cast-off vases, a hodgepodge of tea lights plus tatty papers and other assorted junk.

This wasn’t a poor congregation. They have full time staff, an old but large and attractive building and a prominent place in the community. And I remember thinking in the moment that this worship service was dragged down by the ticky-tacky.

Not that the congregation needed elaborate or expensive ornaments. But it should be fitting. And in a large building, large equipment is necessary. If the vases are donated, let them be large ones and few. A little taper on a candlestick is far more attractive than a mass of matches, barbecue lighters, or messy little tea lights. The readings that service leaders bring should be put into attractive if inexpensive folders, and not be seen as floppy bits of printed paper.

Less is more. And cleanliness is next to godliness.

And while you’re at it, revisit this video — a few years old and taggeted to an Evangelical audience, but still apt — about how your church may be perceived.

Public-domain off-center cross

With due respect to the designer of the off-center cross here, this one — with thinner lines and a smaller cross; I made it about as high as the circle radius — looks more like the ones I’ve seen used by mid-century post-Christian Universalists. Its later, and I think unintentionally ironic, adoption by Christians notwithstanding.

For Universalist Christianity, I’d suggest an anchor or heralding angel as more appropriate, but that’s for later.

In the spirit of the original, I also dedicate these graphic files to the public domain.

The public domain declaration applies to the ready-to-use PNG and the better-for-making-derivative works SVG, downloadable below.

Off-center cross emblem


CC0

To the extent possible under law, Scott Wells has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to off-center-cross_thinner-10px_cross-radius_300px.png. This work is published from: United States.


CC0

To the extent possible under law, Scott Wells has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to off-center-cross_thinner-10px_cross-radius.svg. This work is published from: United States.

A visit — heck, let's call it a pilgrimage — to Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Mt. Auburn Cemetery is well known as the nation’s first “garden cemetery” which, though now the norm, contrasted with the gloomy church yard or burial ground. But Mt. Auburn does it better than any I’ve seen and there lies the mortal remains of many a famous Universalist and Unitarian.

I joined dear friends, also Unitarian Universalist ministers, Hank Peirce and Adam Tierney-Eliot, there on March 17 to visit a just a couple of luminaries and brave the late-winter ice.

Hosea Ballou’s grave

Hosea Ballou's grave, side view

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Fanny Farmer is buried here with family.
John Murray’s grave, protected by ice.
Adam Tierney-Eliot (left) and Hank Peirce with token Unitarian, William Ellery Channing
Adam Tierney-Eliot (left) and Hank Peirce with token Unitarian, William Ellery Channing

What else here has a Creative Commons license?

So, again on Facebook, a discussion about Creative Commons licensing and the problem (both real and imagined) of using another person’s copyrighted work without permission. As I’ve written before, this unauthorized, unlicensed use has a special place in our history (The 1811 “pirate edition” of the Treatise on Atonement), and that our forebears made a similar, liberal license provision almost 80 years ago.

I’ve moved to licensing particular posts and resources to highlight that they are available under that license. Let’s be clear: a lack of a Creative Commons license doesn’t affect your fair use. (Indeed, my “flaming nectarine” is, I contend, fair use parody. I do have a plan when I write.) Or I could make a particular (just to you!) license for the work. Or I could take a request to license something.

But it does mean everything else isn’t objectively and permissively licensed. This is the kind of ambiguity kills innovation and the measure of use the creator often intends. But one licence doesn’t fit all situations.

One example. The CC-BY-ND-NC is the most restrictive “liberal” license; that is attribution, no derivitive works and no commercial use. It is, in essence, “pass around and post” permission. Not ideal, but the de facto standard for most preachers, with the understanding that a CC-BY-ND-NC sermon could be repreached as-is and without pay. (It’s the lack of attribution that I hear caeses grief.) But it couldn’t be translated, the preaching couldn’t be made into a recording or (to stretch the point) not be made into a screenplay under that license.

A make-it-your-own guide, say for an RE program or HR manual, is a derivative work, so the no-derivitives plank wouldn’t make sense. A non-commercial provision would make publishers shy away. And so forth.

It’s interesting. Reviewing by use statistics, the two posts that get regular, evergreen attention are for an image of a seven-pointed star to be use as a non-cross emblem for Christians, and a Sunday-only calendar for worship planning. (I’ll go back and add a public domain declaration, not available then.)

And, oh, I drew up a public-domain flaming chalice image for anyone to use a few years ago. High time to get those licenses set.

I also licensed my deck from my presentation at the UU Christian Fellowship Revival a couple of years ago.

But every once in a while, in UU circles, I run into an ad-hoc semi-permissive license. The intent is good, but confusing and ambiguous.

The rights around the new UUA logo is a case in point, and its ambiguity and tentativeness wouldn’t fill me with confidence if I was in a congregation and was about to commit to a design re-do. Can you remix the logo for congregational (not the UUA proper) use? Or the background wallpaper-like image? What about applying the color scheme or wordmark into an existing congregational design?

The advice — “Congregations are welcome to download and use the new symbol for their own outreach purposes” — doesn’t really help in these cases.