"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

10.31.2006

idolatry

Amy Black reviews David Kuo's book. She respectfully disagrees with some of his interpretations of events, in the course managing to provide useful criticism without demonizing Kuo. Here's how she concludes:

"Despite and even through its shortcomings, perchance Kuo's book and the controversy it stirs will help turn Christians away from the temptation to place their primary confidence in politics as God's path to cultural restoration."

I have a lot of respect for Black, who is a political science professor at Wheaton. She's a smart, thoughtful, Christian woman who produces excellent scholarship in the boys' world that is political science. She is a role model for me in many ways. Knowing these things about her makes me take her criticisms of Kuo much more seriously than those of most right-wing Christians who, as she puts it, consider Kuo a traitor and probably won't even read the book.

Black's piece is a reminder of how badly our political discourse needs more people who can approach controversial issues with sanity, honesty, and respect. May we all strive to follow her example.

come on down!

Thank goodness we got there before Bob Barker quit.

boo!

Something to scare those of you who are hoping for a Democratic victory next week.

the scariest thing i could find

Happy Halloween, y'all!

happy halloween

Bollywood does "Thriller":

10.30.2006

Rambo Jesus

Good land.

the exact opposite of turning the other cheek

Very interesting. But it ain't the end of the Reagan revolution.

evil corporate overlords

Well, it appears that Viacom is taking all the fun off of YouTube. Enjoy it while you can:

your tax dollars at work

Yet another way the TSA only gives us cosmetic airport security. We'd be so much better off investing in human security, training analysts to find terrorists long before they make it to the airport.

'cause i love to feel my spirit so-o-o-oar

Saturday evening was the Best Campout Ever, which ended up not actually involving camping. It did, however, involve a wood-burning fire in a grill at one of those roadside picnic areas. And a rousing rendition of Amy Grant's "Mountaintop." Oh, it was THE Best Campout Ever.

last night in live music: the mountain goats

"Snakes in the grass beneath out feet, rain in the clouds above,
some moments last forever, but some flare out with love love love."
-John Darnielle, "Love Love Love"

Last night's Mountain Goats show at The Parish was hipster central. This turned out to be a good thing; the audience was mostly reverent and quiet, which is important given how many of John Darnielle's songs are melancholy, slow, and sometimes hard-to-hear.

If you're not familiar with the Mountain Goats, they are, basically, John Darnielle and the guys who back him up. Darnielle's songwriting is, increasingly, intensely personal. The writing has gotten more and more powerful with each new album, and I have become increasingly intrigued by the band over the last year or so. Last night was my first time to see them in person.

Musically, they did not disappoint. Darnielle and the other guys played a good variety of songs, reaching back as far as All Hail West Texas, with a good representation of their latest album, Get Lonely. The crowd was very into it and sang along with lots of numbers, which made for a fun show.

Also, it turns out that John Darnielle is a little bit crazy. The Attorney suggests that perhaps "delightfully eccentric" is a better description, and I agree. Darnielle seems to feel every note he plays deep in his bones, and he frequently laughs (or something laugh-esque) at the cleverness of a line or the near-perfection of the instrumentation, and he introduces most of the songs with a long story about how a song like that might come to be written (eg, "If you were staying in a Holiday Inn Express in King-of-Prussia, Pennsylvania, this is the song you'd write, too."). Uh-huh. He also gave out his home address in Durham, in case anyone in the audience wants to stop by.
The eccentricity made a good set even better, though. They played several songs off last year's excellent The Sunset Tree, including "This Year," which is just a great song (especially on New Year's Day), and "Love Love Love," which I listened to almost every day in the Congo. Rare is the independent rock artist who can actually sing about love, who can make references to faith and doubt, in a way that captures the beauty of things that are fleeting, and that manages to do all of this without seeming contrived. It's a beautiful song that made a beautiful show almost perfect.

what Tom hath wrought

This may be the best political radio ad ever. Oh, my gosh. It's like polka-meets-East Texas good old boys. And, yet, President Bush is still coming to stump for her today.

10.29.2006

election day in congo

On the voting in Goma.

you say o-ba-mah, i say o-bah-ma

I ususally go to Washington on this weekend. The leaves are changing, the weather is cool, and my friends actually have free time. It's always a nice dose of real fall, and it's especially fun in an election year. But this year, I couldn't justify it, what with the fact that I spent the whole summer there, and that I'm traveling most of November.

This weekend, though, a little bit of Washington came to Austin. Senator Barak Obama spoke at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday morning. The speech was in the House Chamber at the capitol. In order to get a seat for the speech, you had to get in line for the wristband distribution, which was at 8am, then wait for the speech at 10. Inaccurate reports in the Statesman nonwithstanding, the first people in line arrived around 2am. I got there at about 6:30, and if I had been about ten minutes later, we wouldn't have gotten wristbands.

Anyway, after that, we had to go to the capitol to wait outside, then they let us inside to (guess what?) wait in yet another line. All to see a politician.

Was it worth it? Well. To say that the crowd was adoring would be an understatement:

This was the crowd before Obama was even introduced.

His speech was overall okay. I liked the substance, which was about hope, bridging divides, and a politics that might have to do with both.

But the delivery was flat and disappointing. He told us that he'd been on tour and hadn't seen his daughters in two weeks. I'm sure he'd taken the red-eye in from the previous day's engagement in L.A. You can see that Evan Smith, who introduced Obama, looked bored. But the crowd loved it, and interrupted Obama's speech with applause time after time. At any rate, I'm glad I got to see what all the fuss is about. And I do hope he'll run for president someday. This speech did not convince me that he's our generation's Bobby Kennedy, but we'll see.

this week in football

So it was an okay weekend for football. I got to gloat at my parents since Texas finally managed to beat Tech after scaring everyone in the first half. USC's loss to Oregon state (ooohh! Check out Wally's pictures of their defeat) means that Texas is #4 in both polls and the BCS still hates us. (The feeling is mutual.)

Meanwhile, Baylor didn't manage it against the Aggies. Sigh. Even Temple won this week. But Yale is atop the Ivy League standings, and might actually beat Harvard this year. Two out of three ain't bad.

snapshots from the congolese elections

Goma is hopeful:
"In the eastern town of Goma, capital of a largely lawless province still subject to sporadic fighting, residents say they're keen to vote and desperate for peace. 'We have had too much war here, too much death,' said Clarice Muhindo, 32, who operates a small store in Goma's market. "

It's raining in Kinshasa:
"In a city without public transport or official taxis, the torrential storm turned the seemingly simple act of voting into a watery test in Kinshasa, and pushed back the opening of many polling stations.

"Still others viewed the rains as auspicious. For Matonge voter Yvonne, 57, they represented a 'grace from God,' that would 'cool tensions' between the warring camps of the two candidates. "

Someone died in Bumba:
"At least one person was killed Sunday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), apparently over an alleged bid to stuff ballots, as people voted in the second round of a landmark presidential election, a UN spokeswoman said."

kwake yesu nasimama; ndiye, mwamba ni salama

Say a prayer for Congo today. The Congolese are holding a run-off presidential election today. This is huge for Congo. It will be the difference between war and peace.

Things are tense in parts of the country, despite promises from both candidates to abide by whatever decision the electorate makes (We'll see.) My friend Nancy is there as an observer and says that everyone is working hard. Many other westerners have apparently been evacuated from Kinshasa.

All hell will not break loose in Kinshasa today. It might on November 19, when the results will be announced. Let's pray that it won't.

10.28.2006

i love to stand on a mountaintop

“Well, God ain’t ever run no bulldozer.”

see, it's all about states' rights

So..... I wonder when this will be showing up on Family.org or Redstate?
(It's apparently from 2004.)

his hair don't move, either

Well. You'll probably enjoy Emperor Goodhair Perry's latest radio ad. I think it's awful. The attorney thinks it's funny.

10.27.2006

must-read

Seriously. You've gotta read that Gary Wills piece:

"There is a particular danger with a war that God commands. What if God should lose? That is unthinkable to the evangelicals. They cannot accept the idea of second-guessing God, and he was the one who led them into war. Thus, in 2006, when two thirds of the American people told pollsters that the war in Iraq was a mistake, the third of those still standing behind it were mainly evangelicals (who make up about one third of the population). It was a faith-based certitude."

religion in politics

Gary Wills in a must-read on Bush, evangelicals, and the actual administration of Bush supporters' goals.

You really need to read this.

election update

This is a much better analysis of the current trends for the November 7 Congressional elections than anything else I've seen. I still don't believe it's a good idea to predict anything when we're more than a week out, but this is reasonable and based on better data than the hysterical/giddy analyses elsewhere.

I would add, that, while probably not constituting a truly contested race, Shane Sklar is giving Ron Paul a run for his money in the Texas 14th.

don't fence me in

A good look at the historical futility of building a wall around your country.

things are gonna change, i can feel it

It's Baylor's year. They can beat A&M (whether they will is another matter entirely), Oklahoma, and most definitely Oklahoma State. All you need is 2! Sic 'em, bears!

10.26.2006

when you're sailing home

So last night was a low-attendance night at GA's, due primarily to the deluge of rain that got even stronger at rush hour. Anyway, when there are only a couple of girls there, we set aside a lot of our plans and let them play games and sing songs. Well. At some point, I decided it would be a good idea to sing "Jesus in Your Boat." Do you know this song? We never sang it at camp, and I'd never heard it before moving back to Texas for the second time. It's one of those camp songs that wake you up, and you sing it 6,000 times, leaving out a word with each verse (a la "Deep and Wide"). It is 100% annoying. And it has been stuck in my head for the last 21 hours.

I brought it on myself. But something had to be done to stop the endless repetitions of "The Fruit of the Spirit's Not A..."

talk is often cheap and filled with air

Very interesting note on a survey in today's Ethics Daily. The number of Americans who believe that the major American political parties share their religious values is declining. Speaking as someone who 1) fits that description and 2) feels very strongly that political parties should not be in the business of representing religious values in ways that only the church is qualified to do, I'll just say that this is very interesting. If I have a minute to breathe between now and tomorrow, I might get a real post on this and many other interesting issues in the whole church-state realm.

very, very wary

Check out the transcript of David Kuo's live Post chat on his new book. Has anyone read it yet?

grace and peace

The Lobbyist for the Dark Side sent me a note this morning that a Marine from Franklin was killed in action in Iraq on Monday. He gets the casualty lists every day. It's a sobering reminder of the true cost of war. Please take a moment to remember the family of Lance Cpl. Richard A. Buerstetta. He was 20 years old.

too much to figure out

So I am teaching Texas politics tonight. In one, three-hour lecture. How will I get it all in? What's important and what's not? Any ideas? Aaaaaghh!

10.25.2006

made it through the wilderness

This is an entertaining comparison.

the glorious South

The Tennessee Senate race just keeps getting better. Where do they find these people?

"'Oh, sure, there's some prejudice,' Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. 'I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one.' But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, 'you gotta look at the person, not the color.'"

qotd

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart, -- Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me, -- let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, "God's World"

The picture was taken in southern Vermont, October 2000.

10.24.2006

history in the making

This marks the one and only time Toby Keith will be appearing on this blog:

i am so tired of this fight

So here's something interesting I learned today: Texas Governor Rick Perry has taken $1.3 million from the gambling lobby for this election cycle. That's right: the family values, Christian conservative, America-is-a-Christian-nation, abstinence-only sex education governor is apparently not concerned with the moral quandries (not to mention social ills) of legalized gambling. (To be fair, Chris Bell has also taken money from the lobby, which is equally reprehensible even though it's only in the amount of $5,500.)

I was filling up my car this evening and looked up to notice the guy next to me who had no fewer than fourteen (14) Rick Perry 2006 stickers on his truck, including one on the grill. He's either a really big supporter or the victim of a really mean practical joke. I wonder what that guy's reason for liking Rick Perry so much is. I wonder if he understands that money is apparently more important to the governor than the interests of his Christian conservative supporters. I wonder if that guy knows how hard we'll fight, yet again, to keep the gambling lobbyists from getting their legislation through.

from a place called hope

Steve Not the Lawyer and I going to see Barak Obama speak on Saturday. To put it more precisely, we are going to try to hear Barak Obama speak at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday morning. I'm guessing that the line will wrap around the capitol, like it did last year when Bill Clinton spoke. But it's worth trying to hear someone who writes and speaks about politics in a way no one else I know of has in our generation.

you say potato...

So now that we're no longer staying the course, what exactly will we be doing in Iraq? The Democrats are talking about a new direction without specifics (east? west?), and the president is saying that the policy he's been touting for months is not, in fact, his administration's policy.

It sure sounds like Vietnam to me. And I'd sure like to know what the administration is telling my friends who are risking their lives in Iraq about not staying the course, and whether we'll ever be out of there.

10.23.2006

"world, i cannot hold thee close enough"

My parents are on the Blue Ridge this week. Oh, to be there to see this.

all the same

This is right up there with Clinton and "what your definiton of 'is' is."

red and white and nearly over

Well, this is fun.

Sorry to those of y'all who aren't interested in politics. The next couple of weeks of posts won't be about much else. Election season is kindof like Christmas to those of us in political science. Seriously. We talk about polling data for fun. The best part is that not only do we actually know how to read polls (do not take Zogby or Rasmussen polls seriously, no matter what your local paper says.), but my friend Brian will actually be calling the election for a major network. The party on election night will be the best of the year.

Yeah, we're a little geeky. But did Ryan Adams write a song about your profession? I didn't think so.

two weeks to the elections

Very interesting piece in Newsweek about Harold Ford Jr.'s chances of winning the race for Bill Frist's Senate seat in Tennessee.

It is still entirely too early to attempt to call what's going to happen in any one race (or who will take the House and Senate), but it's pretty clear to me that which party ends up controlling the Senate will largely depend on whether Tennesseans will vote for an African-American Democrat. Race will likely still be an issue, as will being a Democrat. We'll see.

serve without judgment

This is a beautiful essay on the difference between political power and Jesus' kind of power.

usage matters!

Finally some sanity in a world of sorrow and strife.

10.22.2006

we shall never know so much as long as we live

I'm starting to think I should just keep my suitcase packed. It's the middle of a nine-week period in which I'm out of town for seven of those weekends. This is not a bad thing - it is fun to go to football games and see old friends and go to academic conferences (yes, I'm a nerd), but things are a little crazy.

This weekend was Baylor Homecoming. Homecoming at Baylor is a Big Deal. I hadn't been in a few years and had kindof forgotten what an anachronism the weekend can be. I don't mean that in a mean-spirited way, but the thing is, most universities do not have big parades and bonfires that everyone attends before the football game. But at Baylor, not only do they have these things, everyone goes. I mean, everyone. I overslept through the parade and ended up missing seeing several friends.

The weekend was made oh-so-fun by the fact that my college roommate, The Great and Powerful Ploz, decided to come down for the weekend. She arrived in Austin on Thursday night and we had a great time Friday just hanging out around town and enjoying the beautiful weather at Shady Grove.

We got to Waco in time for me to have tea with my mentor and friend, Betsy, which was wonderful as it is each time we get to meet. Then it was off to dinner and on to the bonfire.


Where else in the world does a pep rally begin with an invocation? Seriously. Baylor was not like this when I attended, and I'm not sure how I feel about a kid in military uniform saying a prayer for the pep rally. I mean, of course we ask God to keep us safe, but is it really appropriate to try to make sacred an event that is at its essence frivolous? Whatever. It's Baylor. We just about lost it when he said something about 2012, and started laughing even harder when we learned that the university chaplain would be emceeing the evening. We did our part to make the evening more spiritual:

We also mingled and ran into several friends. Not a single member of my pledge class was at the alumnae tent. Oh, well. My baby sister and Ploz and I managed to push our way up to the front to get a picture after the fire got going. Fun, fun.
As I mentioned earlier, my sister and I overslept and missed getting to the parade, but we watched it on TV. (That's right; they televise the Homecoming parade. It's a Big Deal.) I called Daddy to tell him that he would be proud that his brothers made the classiest float in the parade: (This is even funnier if you were part of our group of DC interns in summer 1999. But you'd've had to've known the real Miss Kansas.)After that, my sister and I went to the Classics reception at the new Lounge of Destiny, a Homecoming tradition. This year's reception was scandal-rific with the news that one of our old professors is marrying his student. That led to a very entertaining brunch of trying to figure out their age difference (17 years! Only at Baylor!) before heading over to the football game.

Now. Being a Baylor football fan means you have to live with a certain level of resignation. They're going to let you down, and they're going to let you down often. I hadn't attended the Homecoming game in several years, but it's a good chance to see friends. Ran into my friend AP, who's up and stopped practicing law and saw lots of other people and figured that would be the highlight of the game. It was no surprise when Kansas went into the half with a 35-17 lead.

The boys came back after the half and didn't score a single point in the third quarter. And people started to leave. But. BUT! Something happened in the fourth quarter. I don't know what it was, but the defense finally started stopping Kansas, and the offense managed to score 19 points for the win. It was unbelievable - one of the best comebacks I've ever seen. Everyone on the alumni side was standing in their seats for the last ten minutes of the game. I've never seen that, either:


When the clock expired and we could all believe that Baylor actually won, you should've seen the celebration. They pre-emptively laid down the goalposts - Baylor's never won 3 Big 12 games in a season. It was so much fun, and so nice to leave a Homecoming game that Baylor won - the first time that's happened since 1997. Baylor only needs two more wins to qualify for a bowl, and with Oklahoma State, OU, Tech, and A&M remaining on the schedule, I think they can do it.
After that, I headed over to campus to walk around my old buildings for a few minutes. Baylor is such a special place, and despite all the anachronisms (prayers at pep rallies, the unbelievable conformity), I had a really good experience there. My professors genuinely cared - and continue to care - about me, and the place where "the bells rang every hour from the tower in the trees" is full of love. Those bells rang to remind me that it was time to go back to my real life in Austin. I hopped in the car and drove down to 18th Street, and somehow ended up behind a friend from Austin. He got out at the light to stay hello, the light changed, and we both got on 35, south toward home.

10.20.2006

in [october] when the leaves come falling down

And what could that be, sitting on the windshield of my car yesterday afternoon?


That, dear friends, is a leaf. An autumn, changed-color leaf. On my car. Yesterday. Because yesterday, summer finally ended in Austin. It was 90-something and humid on Wednesday, but yesterday it was cool, and last night it was downright cold. And while I've lived here long enough to know that it will probably get hot again for a day or two, autumn is here. Happy day!

I am off to scenic Waco, Texas for a weekend of Baylor Homecoming festivities. It should be a great weekend! Y'all have a good one.

not funny

Whoever signed me up for the Liberty University Distance Learning program email list, here's a message for you: Not. Funny. And I'll get you back.

10.19.2006

i need a chronicle

So... you could dress your kid for Halloween as 1) a singer who got caught with a pound and a half of weed (for personal use); 2) a murdered Tejano singer; 3) a cigar-smoking humorist who wants to fund public education off of casino revenue; 4) St. Vince of the Forty Acres; 5) a rock singer who died of a drug od; or 6) the First Lady.

Only one of those costumes is even remotely appropriate for a child. Not to mention that no children I know would ever consider more than one of those costumes as a realistic possibility. And the Statesman wonders why people don't take the paper seriously.

kuo on colbert

tweedy update

There's video.

"no, that's in a gospel I didn't read"

You've got to watch David Kuo's spot from last night on The Colbert Report. There are some profound observations on the relationship between church and state in this one. I'll embed it when it finally shows up on YouTube.

Dimetapp, spinal tap, city maps, handclaps

Just a reminder that Wilco's show at the 9:30 Club will stream live here, on NPR at 9 central/10 eastern. If for nothing else, you should tune in to see if anything interesting happens. Last Friday at the show I saw in San Antonio, Jeff Tweedy spent a good five minutes harassing a guy who kept his back turned to the stage for the whole show. Then on Monday, there was some serious excitement at their Missouri show (the guy was wearing a Son Volt shirt when he crashed the stage. Like you wouldn't've decked him, too.). Anything could happen tonight.

what you need to do now is employ the radical dynamic shift

I totally failed to blog about the awesome band The Librarian discovered last Friday on the way home from our Lemony Snicket outing. Was it the cover of "Stairway" or "All Star" that was most, um, surprising? At any rate, I think you'll agree when you hear it: this band is somethin'.

qotd

Stephen Colbert: "Jesus may forgive you, but I don't."
David Kuo: "I'll choose Jesus."
Colbert: "...why'd you write this book?"
Kuo: "Because I think that somebody had to point out that Jesus and George W. Bush are different people."

10.18.2006

darfur

It's not often (okay, ever) that I'll sign something that Richard Land endorses, but this is it. The death toll in Darfur has risen every day for three years while our government hasn't stopped it. If you're an evangelical Christian, take two seconds out of your day to sign this petition to encourage the president to do something about the unfolding genocide in Darfur.

that's it

So Jeffrey won Project Runway. I thought his collection was the best, but, eh. The whole thing was a little anti-climatic. Or maybe it's because I watched after collapsing on the sofa upon getting home from GA's.

I have nothing else to say.

hollywood for ugly people

I can't get over all this fuss about Scott. Come on. I had classes with Scott and all I'm sayin' is, 1) he's not really from Nebraska, and 2) you can pick up the overtones about his, um, reputation as a TA from this old Rumpus article.

this is what you can say when you're running unopposed, er, nearly unopposed

WHO is doing foreign policy for KBH? Does anybody know? Fascinating.

ennui is so last year

You know it's getting past hip when the Post is talking about tonight's Project Runway finale. Thank goodness we were ahead of the curve, right Emily?

here's to the superficial players

Politics in Texas is like politics nowhere else.

Don't believe me? Check out the controversy surrounding the race for state comptroller.

10.17.2006

the pendulum swings

You can almost hear the Democrats salivating at the thought of taking over the House of Representatives three weeks from tonight. Certainly the c.w. is pointing that way. And as much as the thought of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker frightens me ("Terrifies" might be a better word. She doesn't understand middle America and runs the risk of squandering an opportunity to clean up some of this mess we're in.), the thought of a divided government, with different parts controlled by different parties, would be a huge relief.

See, I'm a big fan of checks and balances. And power sharing. And compromise. Checks and balances are one of the geniuses of our constitution precisely because they prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. It's the same with electoral politics. I never vote a straight ticket for one side or the other, because I'm convinced that having one party totally in control of both houses of Congress and the executive branch (or the state legislature, or the city council) is almost always a recipe for disaster. In such a situation, politicians of one party can do whatever they want, which doesn't make for good public policy. It's infinitely better to debate, compromise, and hammer out a solution that represents the interests of more Americans.

We're still three weeks out. The Democrats still have plenty of chances to mess this up, and I don't doubt their capacity to do so. The Republicans have a lot more money to pour into campaigns in these last, crucial, few weeks. But the momentum has shifted away from single-party rule in our country, and for that I'm grateful.

Meanwhile, I'm pondering whether a write-in vote for Mack Brown would be better than the alternatives in the Texas gubernatorial race. At least he's accomplished something in the last seven years.

internet freedom

Moyers on America, Wednesday night. For those of you who won't be watching the Project Runway finale.

election countdown

This is good for Chet, no question.

out of africa

It's midterm season, which means that I have been grading papers for almost two weeks and hardly have time to breathe, much less blog. Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I wanted to encourage y'all to stop by my friend Julia's blog today. She's just moved to Kampala, Uganda, to work for the International Justice Mission (a great Christian organization that litigates on behalf of victims of some of the world's greatest injustices). It's her first time in Africa and I think you'll enjoy reading some of her impressions.

10.16.2006

the sbc, fbi's, jesus, and george w. bush

E.J. Dionne weighs in.

qotd

"Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be."
-Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

10.15.2006

hot is not the word i would have chosen

Good land! Andrew Sullivan is featuring my former colleague Scott this evening. Scott's running for Congress as a Democrat in an ultra-conservative Nebraska district. He doesn't have a chance.

to light the ways of time

Let's see. Sister in town, a new Lemony Snicket book, lunch at Maudie's, Wilco, cooler weather, brunch at Hyde Park Grill, Posse East, football game at which Baylor made a respectable showing (it was practically a tie), Sunday nap.

Yep. My weekend was near-perfect.
Plus the Baylor band played a gospel music tribute at the half. Including a Sandi Patty medley, and classical Christian music. As if my friends weren't mocking me enough about Baylor. Quote from P: "Should the dancers be dancing like that to 'Ode to Joy'?" "That's Baylor," I replied.

travesty!

Ninth?!? 9th????

The BCS is a travesty. We should be 5th. Our team is better than Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Louisville, no question. We may not be better than Auburn, but Auburn didn't lose to Ohio State, they lost to Arkansas.

This system is inexcusably bad.

10.14.2006

last night in live music: wilco

Wilco rocks my world. Last night's show at Sunset Pavillion in San Antonio was great.
Setlist here.
We had a great view of Nels Cline. The new stuff is great. I like "Impossible Germany" more every time I hear it. I also realized that I have somehow ended up among the truly obsessed since I was the only one around us singing, "Walken/Talking to Myself About You." They also played "Let's Not Get Carried Away" as the next-to-last song of the evening - the song is rockin', totally fun, and completely un-Wilco. Put it this way: they played it right after "Heavy Metal Drummer" and it sounded like a Kiss cover.

At the beginning of the second encore, Tweedy called out a guy who'd apparently had his back to the stage for the entire show and told him to quit acting like a child. It was pretty entertaining, especially as an intro for an amazing version of "Misunderstood" (which included 40 "nothin's").

During "Kingpen," Tweedy asked the crowd where everyone was from. It was very obvious that most of the crowd came down from Austin, but when he said Waco, my little sister was the one and only person to cheer! Which means she's the hippest kid in Waco. Or that they all went to the Fort Worth show. Whatever. Woo-hoo!!!!

We got home at 2am, completely exhausted, but it was totally worth the trip. For those of you not lucky enough to get to see the show, the setlists on this tour have been pretty consistent. Wilco's show at the 9:30 Club on Thursday will stream online on NPR.

10.13.2006

if you see count olaf, scream and run away

It's Friday the 13th and the Librarian and I are meeting at our local bookstore in a few minutes to pick up our copies of The End (with 20% off coupons - rock!). For those of you who choose to mock our love of children's literature, The New York Times has validated us today. Well, at least in the sense of acknowledging that 10-12-year-olds love these books. Because they're well-written. The Series of Unfortunate Events is fantastic literature, and lots of fun on top of that.

And we were so ahead of the curve by seeing Lemony Snicket on tour last October at the Texas Book Festival. So there.

10.12.2006

through the mirror of my mind

I teach a class of my own about American government, but I also serve as a teaching assistant for another class on foreign policy. What that means is that I grade papers, run class when the professor is absent, answer questions, and listen to a lot of complaints about exams. I also attend all the lectures and take detailed notes.

In the foreign policy class this week, the professor has been lecturing on Nixon's foreign policy. Today we talked about Vietnamization and the Nixon administration's realization that they had to find a way to get out of Vietnam without it looking like a defeat for the United States. I've heard and read about all of this many times before - you can't get through a graduate-level Cold War course without discussing Vietnam. But it's been a few years, and the parallels between what happened then and what's happening in Iraq now are disturbing. Here are some of the lecture points:
  • LBJ's administration kept increasing troop levels.
  • Americans were told over and over to say the course and that eventually the course of the war would start to favor the U.S.
  • After the Tet Offensive, the American public stopped believing that rhetoric.
  • In a few short months in 1968, support for the war plummeted below 50%, creating a gap between American commitments and American public opinion.
  • Thus the Nixon administration pursued Vietnamization, a strategy to train and equip the South Vietnamese army, bomb North Vietnam, and provide an interval between a U.S. withdrawl and the inevitable fall of South Vietnam.
  • The time bought came at the expense of four more years of fighting, destruction, and death.
  • A similar strategy has been proposed for Iraq.

Jess and Ayesha and I helped take a group of visiting scholars to the LBJ ranch a few years ago. I remember watching the film there and thinking how much LBJ and George W. Bush had in common. With LBJ, of course, the "I'm-a-rural-rancher" thing was authentic, not contrived for the purposes of getting elected (W., who was born in scenic New Haven, Connecticut, bought that ranch in 1999, when his run for the presidency was already well underway). But the two of them have a lot in common: both were very sure of themselves, very good at the game of politics, and both have pursued an untenable strategy in foreign wars. That strategy, and the policies of a defense secretary who insisted on "staying the course" led to disaster and thousands of unnecessary deaths in Vietnam. And America's defeat there led to twenty years of self-doubt for our armed forces. If the parallels to Vietnam continue to develop in Iraq, what will happen?

I worry about how long this war will stretch on. I worry about the fact that, unlike in Vietnam, we started it. I worry about what will happen to our Iraqi war veterans down the line. We support them now, but as public support for the war continues to fall (and it will), I hope our country won't treat them the way they treated Vietnam vets. Our servicemen and women signed up to serve our country, and it isn't their fault if an administration lied or trumped up charges to justify military action. It's also not their fault if bad policy eventually forces us to withdraw.

For their sake, and for our country's sake, I hope I'm wrong about these parallels between the two wars. But I'm not hopeful about it.

Is that a prize pig from the state fair flying by my window?

John Ashcroft will be on The Daily Show next week?

tempted and tried

Has the Bush administration been using and manipulating right-wing Christians to get elected while doing little to address their actual political concerns? That's the charge in a new book by a former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives. You can watch a film about these charges here.

Now. I'm no fan of using federal money to support religious activity, so if someone who does support that idea is angry, there really might be something here. I have never believed that the Bush administration was more interested in promoting socially conservative policies than in promoting an extreme form of free market ideology. And there's no question in my mind that many conservative Christians have confused their politics with their faith and melded the two into a disastrous idol. As Bill Moyers said on last night's Moyers in America, in the early 1980s, “Millions of evangelicals underwent a political conversion and gave their hearts to Ronald Reagan.”

This is precisely why separation of church and state is important. If the church is simply another agent of the state, subject to the machinations and manipulations of politics, it loses its God-given prophetic voice. When the church is intertwined with the source of power, it loses its ability to speak the truth to power. It will be interesting to read Tempting Faith when it comes out next week. It will be more interesting to see whether conservative Christians start to realize that they may have been manipulated., and to see how they decide to respond.

Thanks to the D.A. for the tip.

more state fair pictures

A few more pictures from the fair. The blurry ones are from P's camera, which got damaged somehow on some trip, sometime.
It was a gorgeous day for a state fair. And stomach-turning rides.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a prize pig. It isn't a state fair without a corn dog.
on the midway

great view of the Cotton Bowl at the end of the game Hook 'em horns!

qotd

“I happen to think ... that to be Biblically consistent means you at times have to be politically inconsistent.”
- Richard Cizik on Moyers in America Wednesday night

10.11.2006

for the wonder of each hour

So, as you can probably tell from the total lack of substance on my blog this week, I don't really have time for blogging right now. To say that life is hectic is an understatement. After getting home from Dallas, I had to finish grading 100 exams for one class, then finish writing the exam for the other. That plus the usual constant stream of emails that arrive around exam time ("Can I take it late/early?" "What's my grade?" "When will you post the grades?" "I've skipped ten classes in a row; how will I do well on the exam?"), chasing the GA's around, babysitting the kiddos all day Monday, and trying to get ready for lots of upcoming trips has made my life seem like one long day that won't end. I need more sleep than this.

But. Tonight at church we sang "For the Beauty of the Earth." It's finally cooling off outside. I got a cute haircut today. In two days I'll see Wilco in San Antonio. The sunsets in Texas this week have been amazing. I get to teach amazing students who teach me, too. There's a home game this weekend. "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" is the catchiest song ever. My sister is coming to visit, and so is my college roommate. There is "love which from our birth over and around us lies." Things aren't so bad after all.

qotd

"America, the culture war is like a bar fight. And I’m your broken pool cue."
-Stephen Colbert

look away beyond the blue ridge mountains

I wish I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway today...

rofl

I feel like there should be a voiceover of "Footprints in the Sand" with this. My gosh.

and another one gone

This stinks. Part of what makes going to an Austin City Limits taping so cool is that it's not easy to get in - you have to wait in line for hours and go through a bunch of hassles. But the hassles are rewarded when you get to be one of 300 people seeing an amazing live show. This new facility will change everything. It'll be easier to get in, but they won't be able to replicate that kind of intimacy in a venue that seats 1,000. Another one bites the dust.

it's a tacky world

Having spent most of the last three days grading handwritten exams, this hits home. The quality of handwriting among students these days is atrocious. Sometimes they are literally unreadable. And don't get me started on the kids who write in 6-point font letters, the use of text message abbreviations in formal essays, and the ones who refuse to use articles and possessive pronouns, apparently assuming that I'll know what they meant.

Maybe you don't need good handwriting. Maybe the era of handwritten thank-you notes, love letters, and A-quality essays is over. Maybe people are just going to be unbelievably tacky and there's nothing we can do about it. Yuck.

10.10.2006

waaahhhh

Poor kid. Via Ben.

Let's take a moment...

if you see count olaf scream and run away

The sign for the new Lemony Snicket book, The End, which comes out this Friday, the 13th, at my local bookstore:

sit and listen to the rain

A nice poem for a rainy afternoon.

10.09.2006

qotd

"Vacant parking lots across the street / remind me I'm going nowhere." - Ryan Adams

young & baptist

Aaron has a post about Dr. Dilday's new position as interim pastor of FBC Richmond. The comments on the post are interesting, and got me thinking about something I think about every now and then. See, there's a whole generation of Baptists, some moderate, some conservative, all about 25-40 years of age, who were children and teenagers during the war for control of the SBC. (By the way, I do not use the term "war" flippantly.) Some of our parents were pastors, others worked for the denomination, others were missionaries, WMU presidents, or deacon chairs. I just wonder: did anyone, on either side, ever think about what it would do to our generation's faith? Watching people slander one another in Jesus' name is no small thing.

My friend Melissa and I were talking some about this in Chicago this summer. (Somebody needs to write a book about the theology of the children of the Baptist wars. She might be the person to do it, or someone else might be.) Melissa was telling me about the church she'd just moved away from, how it was filled with people who grew up in the church, and who are, as she put it, "Baptist without the baggage."

I have several friends in Austin who are Baptist without the baggage. They grew up in moderate churches that didn't go through nasty splits, and they've always believed in the autonomy of the local church, that it's okay to ordain women, that social justice is part of the Christian mission. They have a freedom that many other young, moderate Baptists lack.

What happened to Dr. Dilday was inexcusable. He wasn't the only one - and I'm thinking about Dr. Elder here. The vicious, personal attacks in the name of an extra-Biblical doctrinal purity weren't okay.

But the long-term damage done to a whole generation of young Baptists is something I don't think we fully understand yet. I'm forever being asked why there aren't more young people in moderate churches. Here's my answer: it's pretty hard to trust church - any church - when you saw church used as a weapon at a formative age. But even Baptists aren't beyond redemption.

10.08.2006

have you ever seen dallas, texas from a dc-9?

Dallas was ridiculously fun this year. As it is every year. I drove up on Friday morning, had lunch in Waco with one of the former youths from my youth ministry intern days, said hi to my sister as she loaded up a van to go camping with 200 international students at a BSM-sponsored campout in Bastrop, and managed not not get pulled over by the highway patrol on the way into Dallas.

Dallas. Yuck. This is the only time of year I go to Dallas, and there's a reason. The city is just too ... Dallas. Too crowded, too uptight, too big-hair, too everything. It makes me nervous. But, being as I went to Baylor, lots of my friends live there. First, though, I stopped by to see my Connecticut friends Jason and Pamela, and to admire their adorable seven-week old son Liam. He's a cutie, and it was soooo much fun to catch up with Jason and Pam. They just moved to Dallas this summer, and since leaving Connecticut, I'd only seen Pam once (in CT) and Jason twice (both times in Kenya, go fig.). Jason is one of the smartest people I know, and Pamela is one of the funniest (on top of being a former Mississippi state Bible drill champion). We talked for ages about everything from learning how the BGCT works (can you imagine being an outsider and suddenly having to figure it out) to Liam's habits to emergent churches (Jason: "No one in emergent actually understands postmodernism." (Take it up with him, not me.)) to Africa, African churches in Texas (there are many), to the gossip out of Connecticut. It was a great conversation, and a perfect way to get the weekend started.

After that, I went out with a friend from Baylor, and tried to get some sleep before having to get up e-a-r-l-y to go pick up tickets from my dear aunt Becki.

Have I mentioned that Becki is the best? She gave my friends and I seats on the fifty-yard line. To the biggest game on UT's schedule. FOR FREE.

So it was worth it to get up early, go have a nice long chat with her and my uncle Steve, and then head over to Fair Park to meet the guys. For those of you Not From Texas, the Cotton Bowl is on the grounds of the State Fair of Texas. Your ticket gets you admission to the fair. We hung out at the fair for several hours; I'll post more pictures sometime later this week. Austin Austin and I were more interested in watching the Arkansas-Auburn game at the AT&T tent, but Patrick insisted on seeing a prize pig, so we went to the Hog Heaven "stage" as well. It was something. Let me tell you.

The State Fair of Texas is, apparently, the fried food capital of Texas. And, wow, do they have some crazy concoctions, mostly on sticks. We had the obligatory corny dog (originally created at the State Fair of Texas, thank-you very much), and we could not leave without trying out the newest fried creation: fried coke.

See, there's a contest. And whoever's creation is the craziest and best-tasting wins the contest, which means that your fried creation is sold at the state fair. Because of this, there's fried cheesecake and fried pickles and fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches, and all kinds of heart-attacks-on-a-stick-type creations. But fried coke? How?

Ben called before we made it over to the fried coke tent. He said, "For what you're expecting fried coke to be, it's disappointing. But it's pretty tasty." Ben was right. The best way to describe fried coke is that it's a doughy thing with coke flavoring and some coke syrup on top. It tastes (and looks) like donut holes. Yeah.

The highlight of the day, though, was of course the game. If you've never been to Texas/OU, it's hard to describe the atmosphere. Dallas is halfway between Austin and Norman, and the stadium is literally split down the middle between Texas and OU fans. The atmosphere is electric. Everyone's excited, everyone's hyped up, and people who I'm sure are normally upstanding, church-going, good citizens somehow turn into trash-talking fanatics. Seriously. The profanity and general obnoxiousness is like nothing else.

We, of course, were lucky enough to have nearly perfect seats. (See that pole? That's the fifty.) I say "nearly," because the only way they could have been more perfect is if they had been in the Texas section. Becki and Steve are OU fans (box-holders, actually), and so the seats are in the OU section. Fortunately, the stadium splits between the sides right on the fifty yard line, so we were only a few seats away from the Texas section. Even more fortunately, the two guys on the other side of us were also Texas fans, so I was safe. But you can see how solidly red everyone around us was:

Anyway, the seats were awesome and so was the game. It was competitive in the first half, just enough to keep it interesting, and then turned into a rout by the end of the 3rd quarter. Exactly what you want to happen for a big rivalry game. Our boy Colt is the real deal, and he's only going to get better as time goes by.

Colt and our defense had subdued our section pretty well by the beginning of the 4th:

They cleared out not long after that. But not the Texas section. When you win this game, you stay to celebrate:

We made another round of the midway and then decided to head out. All in all, it was a great weekend in Dallas and a great day at Fair Park. Hook 'em horns!!!

trifecta

This was a three-win weekend! Texas, Baylor, and Yale all won their games this weekend.

Texas, of course, beat OU. Another year of gloating is secured! And Colt McCoy is one good QB.

In other news, this guy had better get his phone number and address unlisted right now.

Baylor extended its Big 12 winning streak to three, the longest in its history, putting the Bears in second place in the Big 12 South, and tied on conference records with Texas, Missouri, and Nebraska. And it only took three OT's to take out the worst team in the conference. Sic 'em, Bears! And enjoy it while it lasts - next week won't be pretty.

And Yale beat Dartmouth, meaning they are tied for first place in the Ivy League with that school in Massachusetts. Yale converted on third down every time except once in the fourth quarter. That bodes well for The Game.

what next?

I think that George Allen is going to go down as a textbook example of how to lose a campaign you should've won. Or at least how to only win by half a percentage point when you should've won by 10.

10.06.2006

qotd

"There are moments in the Congo when you find it hard to believe that a place like this really exists. In the Congo, you can feel the earth. You can smell it, the rawness, the thin line between life and death.

"There's some things you see, some things you hear that simply are unbelievable. Women gang raped, who now have to hide because of the stigma they face. You look in their eyes, there's nothing you can say. "I'm sorry" sounds so small.

"Everywhere you go you're surrounded. Curious kids, smiling stares. They run alongside your car yelling "Muzungu, Muzungu (ph)", "white guy," "white guy." You can't help but laugh.

"There is corruption. There's fighting, rebel armies that rape and loot. Decades of rulers here have failed the people. But the people are the strength of this land: the burdens they bear every day, uphill and down. I know I'm not as strong as them. Men, women, children, here, no one gets a break. It is unconscionable when you think about it that this land which is so rich, remains so poor.

"In the ground, there's gold, there's diamonds, tin and coal. You can chisel it out with simple tools, sometimes even with your bear hands. But the riches, they're squandered; they're siphoned off, lost for good. They have been for generations.

"The mountains, the forests, lush, green but threatened. The mountain gorillas, their best hope for a future. You can sit within feet of them. They're as curious about us as we are of them.

"There is something about the Congo that gets under your skin. This pulse of life, the throb of pain. Millions have died here, though few seem to have noticed. How many more millions will it take before something is done?"

I feel ridiculous quoting Anderson Cooper, but there's something about the Congo that gets under your skin.

all across the wire

Ethics Daily picked up my post on Luis Alberto Urrea's book, The Devil's Highway. Check out the new & improved version here. Thanks to Bob Allen for the much-needed, good editing!

I can't reiterate enough how powerful this book is - definitely check it out if you get the chance.

10.05.2006

sadness

Anderson Cooper went to Goma. Anderson Cooper went to Heal Africa. That picture, the one on the left, is of the road I walked out of many days when leaving Heal Africa. It is desolate and bleak. It matches your mood when you that place. Hard rock, as far as the eye can see. No water, except the lake, which seems so far away. Desolation and despair, with a volcano in the distance. That's what it's like outside Heal Africa's gates.

Anderson Cooper interviewed my friend Jason on his show tonight. Jason is the smartest expat I know when it comes to knowing what's going on in the eastern Congo. It is strange to see your friends, your place on television. My heart hurts again for all those little girls who've been raped by soldiers, for all those women who don't have any place to go. My heart breaks for knowing that even though a fancy reporter shows up for a few days, it's very unlikely that much will change in that corner of the world. My heart hurts.

grading, lecturing, hectoring

Things that have landed in my lap in the last eighteen hours:
  • 1 extra Wilco ticket for their show in San Antonio next weekend, available at face value (sans service charges - let me know if you want to buy this from the friend who's stuck with it - we'll get you connected)
  • 2 extra free seats on the 50 for Texas/OU (sorry, those got snatched up in about thirty minutes)

This never happens. You'd think I'd be in a better mood.

10.04.2006

grace and peace

Members of the community of the victims of the horrific school shooting in Pennsylvania this week have set up two funds, one to help the victims' families, and another for the children of the perpetrator, because the community is concerned for them as well.

What response to horror could be more Christ-like? What would our world look like if we responded to terror and war by helping those whose family members ruined our lives?

You can donate to those funds here, or you can contribute to the Mennonite Central Committee, which will help with medical and other expenses.

suitable for viewing

Anderson Cooper went to Goma! In high school, when he reported for Channel One, it seemed like they had a death wish for him - they sent him to Somalia and Rwanda and Bosnia and all the other miserable, forgotten places at the edges of the earth. So why not Goma?

Actually an Actuary let me know that there are a couple of his pieces from there up on cnn.com this week - check them out:

  • Here's a good, oversimplified video introduction to Congo's history.
  • Here's a piece about the gorillas and the conservationists efforts to help them. I don't know Patrick the conservationist, but those park rangers are part of my friend Rob's well-trained rapid response force in Virunga National Park. Yay, Rob!
Tonight Cooper will be talking about the relationship between our cell phones and Congo's misery.

Thanks to Actually an Actuary for the tip.

qotd

"Success and failure are greatly overrated. But failure gives you a whole lot more to talk about."
- Hildegard Knef

Thanks to Frauline Professor Deutch for today's quote.

10.03.2006

not-so-light reading

I read a disturbing, powerful book this weekend. Maybe you need to read it, too.

My mom and I talked a little about immigration while I was home this weekend. It's a huge issue in Tennessee politics right now, and all the politicians are running ads showing themselves defending Tennessee's borders from undocumented workers' perceived threat to Tennessee's economy.

Illegal immigration in Tennessee? This seems bizarre, but it isn't. Since I left Tennessee ten years ago, the state has experienced major demographic changes. Immigrants, illegal and otherwise, have flocked to the state, especially to the booming cities, to work construction and on the tobacco and soybean farms, and who knows what else. Schools that had maybe ten non-English speakers altogether now find themselves with overflowing ESL classes. And clearly the presence of so many more immigrants in a relatively short period of time has touched a nerve that politicians are eager to exploit to their advantage.

You don't see these kinds of ads in Texas as much. Sure, there's anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the overly concerned are out patrolling the border on their own. But our state, even the wealthy, conservative parts of our state, seems to understand that without the labor provided by undocumented workers, our economy would suffer a serious decline in productivity and profits. Our politicians also understand that to come out against immigration too strongly would cost them votes. In a state that no longer has a racial majority, politicians have to be careful not to upset any single community.

It might not be the same everywhere. Betsey, who lives 60 miles from the border in Tucson, said that illegal immigration is in all the political ads in Arizona this year. But it's striking to me the difference in attitude between Texas, a state whose history and future has been intertwined with Mexico's since its inception, and Tennessee, a state that is just beginning to experience the economic forces that drive illegal immigration.

All this was on my mind when I picked up The Devil's Highway, by Luis Alberto Urrea. Urrea, a creative writing instructor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, tells the story of 26 men who tried to cross the border and who suffered disastrous consequences when the coyotes leading them got lost. It is a sickening story of normal men who left their lives behind in hopes finding of short-term economic gain, who put their lives in the hands of an international crime syndicate, and fourteen of whom died as a result of those choices.

Urrea is an outstanding writer, and he tells these men's story from several points of view. When those of us in the United States think about illegal immigration, I think we tend to think of small groups of individuals deciding to cross the border alone. Maybe they get a guide, maybe not.

Urrea blows that image out of the water, pointing out that most border-crossings are now in the hands of gangs that function like mafias. He sets the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border firmly in the context of international human trafficking, and shows how undocumented entrants are recruited, made to pay more money than they expected, and sent into the desert with guides who have no vested interest in their survival.

He also tells the story from the viewpoint of the Border Patrol, painting the agents as people who have jobs to do, but who also want to save lives, to the point that they will dip into their own pockets to provide lifesaving signal systems for immigrants who need rescue.

And Urrea does all this in narrative form, giving you an idea of the long bus ride from Veracruz to the border, and the even longer walk in circles through the Arizona desert. He describes how the Border Patrol searches for and finds undocumented entrants in a desolate landscape. He describes - in sharp detail - what it is like to die from dehydration and hyperthermia, what happens to a body when it is left to rot in the desert.

It is sickening. It is sickening in the abstract, and it is sickening to know that real mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and sisters and brothers die this way all the time, and that we never hear about it.

What is so striking about Urrea's narrative are the small details. The very ordinariness of these people's lives. The things they carried. The cost of flying the bodies back to Veracruz, which, as the consul points out, could have been invested in the town to begin with, preventing the need to immigrate in the first place.

We have different views about immigration in different parts of our country, and different views in the same cities and households as well. Knowing the role of organized crime has made me rethink my own views this week. But the basic inhumanity of the whole system - the crime syndicates, the inhuman policies, the brutal landscape - is more disturbing than anything the politicians have to say about threats to our jobs and security.

Gordon Atkinson noted in his beautiful Christian Century essay last spring:

"I've lived in Texas my whole life, and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't have the greatest respect for the men and women who make this treacherous journey north, looking for work and a better life. The politicians are always upset about illegal immigration, but regular people shake their heads in admiration, understanding that gumption like that is a rare thing and deserving of our compassion and respect."

Does someone who has broken the law deserve our compassion and respect? I think this is the question at the center of our national debates right now - about immigration, about torture, about the war on terror. Do we treat people we hate, or whose actions we hate, as we want to be treated? Do we view them as images of the immortal, invisible God only wise, or as demons who deserve to be devoured by thirst in a desert hell?

Urrea's work is an angry, heartbreaking, tragic book. It is, paradoxically, easy to read and difficult to finish. If you are at all interested in the issue, in a well-written discussion of the surrounding history and politics and culture, I highly recommend The Devil's Highway. It will disturb you deeply. It might keep you awake at night. It is, in short, well worth your time.

yesssss!!!

all through the changes, the soul never dies

More reunion recaps:
  • Emily, including the story about the time Goofy set the football field on fire.
  • Angelle on the weekend in general (thanks for the link, Emily), in which her husband compares crazy David to Chanandler Bong
  • I should mention that the numerous stories about fireworks/explosives are a somewhat frightening indication of the high school obsessions of our guy friends. It may be because we had a really cool chemistry teacher, but she never would've approved of this stuff, or told them how to build bombs. Crazy David was forever coming up with ingenious ways to use fireworks for dishonorable purposes. He and Goofy really did set the football field on fire - at halftime. With the band on the field. The boys from church did a series of experiments which involved strapping their old GI Joes to bottle rockets "just to see what will happen." They later graduated to building a CO2 bomb and detonating it in a tree stump somewhere out in the woods. Oh, the memories. It's a wonder they're all still alive.

qotd

"It's quiet as a church, on this road tonight
And I've got one life on this blessed ground
And miles to go, before they lay me down."

-Walt Wilkins, "Velvet Sky"

10.02.2006

i guess it's kindof like fraternity life

I wonder whose idea this was...

religious liberty

Holly Hollman has a good editorial on the Public Expression of Religion Act. Chemerinsky had a great piece on it over the weekend as well.

darfur update

The situation in Darfur continues to worsen, and our diplomats have already wasted enough time that it's very unlikely most Darfurians will be saved at this point. That said, there's an interesting proposal in today's Post, written by one Africanist for whom I don't have much respect and another who is my former employer. Go fig.

Going into Sudan without Khartoum's permission is the only viable option for stopping the genocide at this point. What I don't understand is the why that the authors, who recognize that China's interests interests in Sudan tie the UN's hands in many ways, don't acknowledge that China is likely to have very strong objections to UN-backed NATO airstrikes in Sudan. Maybe I'm wrong. But these concerns were not an issue in Kosovo with respect to Russia in the same way that they are for China in Sudan. If Beijing perceives that NATO-backed airstrikes are a threat to their interests in Khartoum, that could be enough of a geopolitical concern to prevent the UN, NATO, and the United States from taking action.

Maybe they can find a way to give China assurances that its access to the Sudanese oil supply won't be blocked. (How they would do that if the Port of Sudan is blockaded is completely unclear.) But I seriously doubt there's a way to do this without setting off major international tensions. Is the United States willing to have an argument with China over 300,000 Africans? I don't want to know the answer to that question.

I don't imagine the Diplomat is getting much sleep these days. Hang in there, darlin'.

there's no controllin' that tide that keeps rollin'

Wanna hear something truly appalling? This should do the trick.

qotd

"My friends from high school / married their high school boyfriends / moved into houses in the same zip codes where their parents lived / but I, I could never follow."
- Emily Robison, Marty Maguire, Natalie Maines, & Dan Wilson, "The Long Way Around"

10.01.2006

red ribbons hang in a tennessee square

This weekend was my ten-year high school class reunion. It was, in a word, surreal. Seeing friends you haven’t kept in contact with. Seeing people you’ve known since both of you were five years old, and now they have a five-year-old of their own. Seeing people whose faces seem vaguely familiar, but you can’t for the life of you remember their names, or why you knew them once. Having the same conversation a hundred times - where you live, what you do, what happened in between then and now.

The official reunion activities were fun. Friday night was the Homecoming game against our arch-rival, Brentwood. The Rebels won, but most of us were too busy chatting at the Class of ‘96 tent to notice. We took a tour of the new building (the building in which we attended high school has been torn down and replaced with a lovely, new facility.) I had brunch with Jeff on Saturday morning, then went to Lynn and Kris’s pre-party that afternoon. Saturday night’s official reunion soiree was at an emergentish Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church that allows groups who rent out its space to have a cash bar. (Yes, you read that right.) There was dancing and food and plenty of time to talk. Someone decided we should listen only to music from high school, which was predictably awful, but what do you do?

Have the same conversation you’ve already had with ninety-nine other people, that’s what. What are you up to? Where do you live? Who did you marry? How old are your kids.

It's a pretty impressive list of answers. Here are what members of my high school class (416 strong, about 150 of whom showed up for the reunion) are/do:

Other people are pediatricians and teachers and professors and small business owners and all kinds of stuff. I don’t know if it’s that our class was really that smart, or that just the successful people wanted to come to the reunion. Blair told me on Friday night about a couple of guys who are living at home with their parents, working dead-end jobs (Blair, for the record, looks just like his father, who was my pediatrician. Scared me half to death.). I’m sure they’re not the only ones. Other people have kids and couldn’t travel, some couldn’t get off work; still others have traveled the world, or fell in love with a Spanish beauty and moved to Madrid. It happens.

Several of us won prizes just for being who we are. Betsey got the award for best contribution to society for her work to cure prostate cancer. Emily won for being married the longest. I won for most interesting place/most countries visited. Jared won for longest distance traveled to the reunion, for coming from Salt Lake City. Matt was upset that “probation officer” was deemed a more interesting job than “clown/theologian.” I said he peaked at valedictorian and it's all downhill from there.

Then the music started and it was funny and awful - all stuff from high school, most of it not good a'tall. We decided to leave when the DJ put on “Baby Got Back,“ and the radio personality from our class started rapping it himself. Our group decided to hightail it to a restaurant, then a few of us went to the Waffle House in honor of our high school days, when the Waf was the only place in Franklin open after 10pm. It hasn’t changed a bit.

Franklin has. And people have changed. The guys are taller and heavier and several are going bald. The women don’t look different, but we’re older and wiser and much more secure in ourselves for the most part.

We were lucky. In my crowd, and, for the most part, in my class, high school was not a drama-laden nightmare. We were all friends. We had lots of fun. The same could be said of our reunion. I had the same superficial conversation over and over again, but there wasn‘t any lingering animosity like you sometimes hear about. It was fun.

We hung out late Friday and Saturday night at McCreary’s and Beethoveen’s and the Waf, telling old stories and laughing about things I’d completely forgotten. Like Katie’s birthday "celebration" at the Rose Bowl - Emily said the word, “sundial,” on Friday, and we all died laughing. The food fight on the last day of senior year (for the record, Matt does not have a scar from when Betsey stabbed him with the whipped cream can).

David told the story about the time he and some other guys went over to Michelle’s to spy on her slumber party. They were disappointed to learn (from peeking in the windows, mind you) that high school girls’ slumber parties don’t generally involve tickle fights or bon-bons. But they’d brought bottle rockets to set off to scare everyone, and, of course, David accidentally fired one into the American flag hanging outside of Michelle’s house. The flag promptly burst into flames, and Michelle’s father (a veteran) came out on the porch, and, well, you can probably guess the rest.

I’d completely forgotten that story, and how Matthew (not to be confused with Matt) and Goofy and Ford used to speed down Old Natchez late at night with no lights on, just to see how much they could spook themselves, and so many other stories. I’d completely forgotten that David is nuts - he’s currently working on a perpetual motion machine and some other crazy attempts to, as Matt put it, punch a hole in the time-space continuum. Some things never change. “His only problem,” Matt said, “is friction.” “As I learned in physics class,” said Betsey, as we all tried really hard not to laugh. (Yeah. Okay, so we were the smart kids. Matthew said "geek squad," but that wasn't fair. We were cool enough to see hip movies and listen to good music.)

The trip was so worth it, if for nothing else than getting to see really old friends I never see anymore. Benny and Jared, the guys I grew up with (and, as a result of that, actually have a scar from an incident involving a bb gun when we were fifteen), are grown men, deacons and in ministry. My best friends are all over the country, living life and having good times and bad. People I forgot existed are back in Franklin, running businesses and doing well.

We were so lucky in high school. So lucky to have parents who loved us and friends who laughed and cried with us. We are so lucky now to have friends who knew us when we were children, when we were awkward sixth-graders, when we grew up and moved away, and who, after all of that, can still be called friends. Love surrounded us on every side back then. We were young and stupid and we didn’t know what to call it and certainly never said it to each other, but it was love. And it surrounds us still today.

they've got good songs, they just don't draw

reunion pictures:
This more or less sums it up.
At the football game. It was 40-something degrees. Only one of us lives in Boston and is used to it.with Jeff

two Lauras and two West Texas natives. which is which?

At the Waf, for old times sake. Oh, the memories.