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VICELAND of the Free

Happy Interdependence Day! This week's post comes a day early because AMERICA!

"Interdependence Day" is the UU church's "holy" version of the 4th of July, which we celebrate every year by exploring all the ways in which we as Americans are interdependent upon each other, the natural world, and people of other nations.

I stopped into the office briefly on Sunday morning to finish up my revolutionary beige office decor. But could I myself show up wearing neutral colors? No, no, I could not. The crazy church lady / mommy in me cannot resist cheesily dressing up in the festive colors of a holiday. I just can't. I'm like a Serbian soccer fan on game day. (But way, way less violent.) I even dressed my whole family in red, white, and blue. YEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAWWWWW!!!!


The dragon collage on the lowest shelf is sort of an homage to my fantasy artist aunt, who used to paint all kinds of familiar, decorative still life and scenery pictures and stick a sneaky unicorn or dragon somewhere in there. Hee hee, surprise! It is also a reminder of where I came from on the journey to becoming a beige-decorating church lady.

After having some fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee at church, we zipped in our electric car over to my parents' house for a big gathering with all of my maternal aunts, uncles, and grandparents. (By the way, my fears of receiving public scorn for our pretentious vehicle have been unfounded; on the contrary, we have inspired one aging Republican couple in town to buy one for themselves! Being a church lady is so subversively influential...) Our darling child got the party started by dumping hand soap into Oma's fountain to make a "bubble volcano." Well played, Nux Gallica.

We brought a homeland-lovin' pie made with three pounds of Michigan blueberries and a sour cream crust made by five-year-old hands. Sing with me: "Ame-er-i-i-caaaaa!"

We gorged on traditional 4th of July cookout food, and then, like true Americans, my husband and I let our child go outside with her uncle and play with explosives while we draped ourselves across the sofa and watched our parents' giant flat screen TV. We flipped through the channels for a while, scoffing at the poor quality of broadcast television and the outrage of there being "nothing on" amidst hundreds of channels, when we stumbled upon the new VICELAND channel.

*Angels singing!*

We were enthralled by all the little mini-documentaries, infused with the unmasked emotional responses of the investigators (a different kind of honesty than supposedly "objective" journalism), on complex, confusing, ridiculous, and awe-inspiring situations such as Serbian soccer games, Palestine's fashion week, and the inside of a Ugandan prison.

We turned to each other and said the same thing that we had said after we had first seen the film Samsara and after we had just stayed with friends living in central Mexico: "I feel like I've just visited Planet Earth."

Experiencing a little glimpse into the "normal lives" of people who live in extremely different circumstances than we do is a powerful reset for the brain and heart. VICELAND is often sarcastic, hilarious, and irreverent. But in some ways, it is more respectful and honest than mainstream journalism because of its self-deprecating humor and its exposure of the investigators' own thoughts and feelings as they get to know the people they are profiling. In short, watching VICELAND makes my husband and me feel as though we've learned something, as opposed to taken a brain vacation like when we watch pretty much anything else on TV. And it makes us feel an intense awareness, love, urgency for growth, and gratitude all at the same time, regarding the particularities of being American.

And the best part about it is that you don't even have to get TV service to watch it! VICELAND has the resources to produce high quality, giant TV-appropriate content, but they still let us watch whole pieces on YouTube. Behold...

Writers, if we're gonna watch TV--ever--we may as well watch TV that opens our minds and hearts and inspires better storytelling.

Between holiday celebrations and VICELAND episodes, I have journeyed 120 pages into my novel rewrite as of today. Yeehaw! Happy Interdependence Day!


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