Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Speaking of Bad Parenting: Cindy Margolis, Playboy, and "It's for Charity"

Oh my goodness! Isaiah 5:20.

Cindy Margolis has been helping millions of men kill kittens since 1996 when she first began posting images of her almost nude body on the Internet. I first remember seeing her in those Don Lapre ads on late night TV where you too could make thousands of dollars by placing ads in newspapers out of your tiny one bedroom apartment. Now, 40, Mrs. Margolis has decided to finally take off all her clothes and reveal her goods to the world. Not that the tiny bikinis and lingerie she wore before left anything to the imagination, but now she’s going to bare all. I will respond to her comments in this interview line by line.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/31/celeb.qa.cindymargolis.ap/index.html

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- She's been heralded for years as the most downloaded person on the Internet, which means... aw, heck, you know what it means. People love looking at Cindy Margolis.

People don’t just look at images of Cindy Margolis because they “love looking at” her. She eroticizes herself, and let’s face it, she has the Barbie ideal body that magazines like Playboy trumpet as desirable. She is tall, thin, blonde (with long hair), big boobs, long legs, hourglass waist, in short she embodies many men’s idea of sexual partner perfection. She has to know that making herself the object of spectacle in an erotic way means that those millions that download her photo are using it for their own sexual gratification. In essence she is making herself the imaginary sexual partner of every man that masturbates while looking at her photo and fantasizing about her.

What it hasn't meant, all these years, though, as all those millions of lookers know, is seeing even one picture of this 21st-century pinup queen without at least a little something covering her.

She has already been undressed, metaphysically penetrated, and debased countless times by her “fans.” The fact that she has now chosen to go nude in an answer to some sort of fine-lines middle aged mid-life crisis speaks volumes. I’ll elaborate later on….

At 40, Margolis, who has been titillating fans since she was an undergrad at Cal State Northridge with her own line of greeting cards, has posed very au natural for Playboy. The December issue, with her on the cover, hits newsstands Friday. The pages of pictures on the inside leave nothing to the imagination.
It was for a good cause, Margolis explained when The Associated Press caught up with her, fully clothed, at her home in Tarzana.


Q: Why now?

CINDY MARGOLIS: My decision to do Playboy is literally 20 years in the making. I've always prided myself in keeping my clothes on, being the girl next door. I've had the number-one downloaded (celebrity) Web site, and for years I've been known as the "Queen of the Internet" in the "Guinness Book of World Records," America Online, Yahoo!, (all while) keeping my clothes on, and I've been very proud of that. Every couple years when Mr. Hefner would call, I would very graciously decline, because my mom would kill me, and I thought it was more mysterious keeping my clothes on.

But, this year, when I got the call from Mr. Hefner, it was my 40th birthday. So I thought, "Wow -- at 40, they still want me?" And I thought it's almost an inspiration -- like a "you go, girl" moment. I feel empowered that you can be married and have three children and still be sexy and confident and look great.

My mom would have killed me before, but I'm an adult woman now, and I'm ready to show the world that you can have it all at 40 -- be fabulous, 40, and pose for Playboy.

So, by virtue of getting older and starting to worry about the ravages of time on her body, and before plastic surgery ruins it all, she has decided to strip for money….sort of....the fact that she feels “proud of” the fact that she has kept her clothes on before matters little really. What is the difference, really, between knowingly allowing yourself (and charging for it) to be the object of someone else’s lust clothed or unclothed? I see none. Both know that the end result of their posing is a prurient enslaving moment of false passion. The almost nude model and the nude model are no different in my mind. Perhaps there is a psychological parsing by the model herself, but it is an artificial construct…..her sense of shame long ago left her.

Q: So, what was it like?

MARGOLIS: I made my career off posing in swimsuits and doing all the swimsuit issues and posters, but I will tell you that that little bit of material on an itsy bitsy bikini -- taking that off was very nerve-racking the first time. ... But I felt proud of myself. I worked out really hard, and the reason I wanted to do it the most is because I am posing for a purpose: a portion of the proceeds from each issue sold is going to go to my charity.

Taking off the little triangle was difficult for a reason. We are born with a sense of modesty that is only dulled as we trample all over it, as she did so often that taking the next step was nothing to her. She had allowed herself to slowly and carefully be led along a path that leads to Playboy. People don’t just decide to pose nude. Something happens to them or they make choices that lead them to that path. C. S. Lewis gave us his keen insight into devilish tactics; in the Screwtape Letters, the master devil, Screwtape, instructs his apprentice devil Wormwood:

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. … It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. … Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."

Cindy Margolis has long trodden this path, that she even felt nervous is practically a miracle considering the power over herself she has ceded to her “career.”

Q: That would be...?

MARGOLIS: I am the celebrity spokesperson for Resolve, the national infertility association, and my three precious children were born through infertility procedures. I struggled for many years trying to have children. My beautiful son was born through in vitro fertilization. I had my beautiful twins via a surrogate. So I wanted to give back.

Wait wasn’t she just talking about how proud she was of being 40, having had three children, and still looking as sexy as she does? I do not think that you get to brag about “having three children” and still looking good if they were born to a surrogate mother. That’s like naming someone else your proxy/champion and taking the glory when they win the Boston Marathon in your name.

That is very important to me, to make fertility mainstream so everyone understands it. If you want to have your miracle child, there are options: adoption, surrogacy, fertility procedures. It is also sadly very expensive, and not all insurance companies cover it.

So the ends justify the means? You’re going to help people have children by making yourself into pornography which enslaves people to addiction and surely breaks up countless marriages every year.

Q: How does your posing add to the cause?

MARGOLIS: First we're going to sell a certain amount, and then all the rest after that will go to Resolve. That was important to my husband, as well.
As a man, the thought of millions of people lusting after my wife would make me jealous. I could never countenance my wife, my sexual partner, allowing herself to be ogled by other men.

Q: Do you have an idea how much might be raised?

MARGOLIS: Our point is that America is so family oriented and President Bush is very pro-family, but so many people have to leave America to have their families, and that's not really fair. Our hope is to help at least 20 to 30 families out there to have their precious babies.

There are few times when the term “filthy lucre” is more apropos.

Q: What would those costs amount to?

MARGOLIS: Infertility costs an average of about $16-20,000 per procedure, and you don't always get pregnant the first time. I had to go through it seven times. And adoption and surrogacy are not covered through insurance companies. I call my children "My Hundred Thousand Dollar Babies Before They Were Even Born"! Nine million Americans a year, that we know of, struggle with infertility.

And every one of those hundred thousand dollars is tainted. Pornographers’ children are the New Bastards. Their existence is tainted, through no fault of their own. Can you imagine if Madonna were your mom?

Q: How did you become the Web world wonder woman?

MARGOLIS: It was just perfect timing. Back in '96, I was on "The Price is Right" pointing at refrigerators, and "Extra," the TV show, came down. They were the first entertainment entity that put people up on the Internet, so they put my picture up, and America Online called the next day and said I got a zillion or whatever downloads. I didn't know what a download was!
I have my loyal cyber-buddies out there, and I really do answer my e-mail. I'm in my pajamas at 3 in the morning with my zit medicine on. I owe everything to them.


Surely! They're in their pajamas at 3 in the morning, and if they're typing while talking to you, it's one handed.

And I'm hoping that everyone who's come to my site over the years will be behind me in my decision to do Playboy. And when I'm asked what my girls will think when they grow up, I'll tell them that they have to keep their clothes on till they're 40. But when they're 40, they can make their own decisions.

You have zero moral ground to stand on with them Cindy. If I were her child I could always use this excuse to get out of trouble:

Mom—Why did you hit your sister?

Me—Well Mom, I don’t know, but I never took my clothes off for money. Everyone who has, please raise their hands.

Chapter Two Approved (pending revisions)!

I received this email from my dissertation director this morning. I am so excited right now that I can barely stand it. I honestly feel that Chapter Two of my dissertation is my most original idea and one that I can find no instance of anyone ever writing about before. I am very blessed to have Avelar as my director; I can't say it enough.

The email
...


Dear Mac:

I'm leaving a copy of the annotated chapter 2 in your box. This is a solid, fascinating chapter. I will go ahead and refer to it in my letter as finished, but I think there are somewhat substantial revisions you need to do that I believe would be helpful.

A summary of exactly Zoroastrianism consists of (the ABC, really, where and when it arose, etc. etc. ) would be necessary in the beginning. I don't know if you are doing that in the introduction, but even if you are, it would be nice to recap it as you open your chapter. I know you go into it later, and quote an authority on it, but the basic summary is missing.

I thought the argument was very solid but at times it looks a little "loose". There are moments when the screws need to be tightened a little bit. I indicated those moments in the text: basically, I noted "you need to anticipate your argument here", or "you need to wrap it up here". Please take these cryptic notes as challenges for you to go over the essence of what you are arguing about the story and state it in a few lines at strategic points in the text. This would round it up a lot better.

As you look at the chapter again we can discuss this. So let us say that you can send your letters saying that you have two chapters approved, although we're a few steps away with this one.

Best regards, Idelber

Monday, October 30, 2006

Poor Orthography, Corporate Pandering, Parental Blindness, Mainstreaming of Raunch Culture, and Why MGA's Bratz dolls are just plain stupid

Please do not take this post to be an argument in favor of Mattel’s Barbie doll. Barbie also features a grotesquely overwrought feminine form that no one could ever achieve. However, as Barbie is not as repugnant to me as are the Bratz dolls, bear with me, go get something good to drink, and enjoy this lengthy jeremiad over the loss of innocence in toys.

I write from my unique point-of-view and I think that morality, even in an extra-religious sense, is of high worth to our society.


As a child I played with dolls. My dolls had heavy weaponry, light sabers, villains, and many other layers of manly contention. My dolls had hands created specifically to hold weapons. I never had to change their clothes; they were hard molded onto them, save the occasional cape (Vader, Kenobi). The only thing I ever put on them were backpacks (full of other useful weapons I suppose), helmets (to protect them from the blows and bullets of their enemies), and the odd set of skis or snowshoes. My dolls were all stoically drawn warriors with nary a smile on their faces. They had the blank look of pastiche drawings. The emotions I gave them as I played with them were the ones of honor, and righteous anger; or conversely, diabolical evil bent on world domination. There was never anything subtle about my moral games. Either I played the hero or the villain, but the hero always won in the long run. The moral questions I devised and acted out were always clear cut cases of right and wrong. There was no nuance to my situations. No détente, no protocol, no diplomacy, just pure brinkmanship and aggression.

My daughter has recently outgrown the pre-school shows of Noggin that only a year ago she and I delighted in watching together and acting out. Oobi and Dora have now given way to Spongebob and the Fairly OddParents. These shows come on Nickelodeon, which unlike the Noggin network, shows commercials for toys between cartoons. Commercials for toys are the same as they were when we were kids, only instead of staging the toys in a setting and showing the kids playing with them, the commercials now show the child BEING the toy. It’s damned disturbing sometimes, when these toys that say “Ages 4+” show little girls dressed up like grown women, complete with overblown makeup, “hoochie” clothing, and the attitude of superiority and diva-ness that apparently is only attractive to media types and gay men on television. The most egregious of all these toys is the “Bratz” line of dolls for girls.


http://www.bratz.com/ Are they paying Paris Hilton royalties for using her nasty likeness?

I get that these dolls are attempting to subvert the paradigm that Barbie and Skipper have created of the standard ideas of Anglo-Saxon concept of beauty (blonde, blue-eyed, busty, rail thin). However, instead of portraying the inherent beauty of minorities, instead this company has decided to put forward a grotesque representation of feminine beauty as seen through the “ghetto fabulous” scene. The women all look the same, insanely exaggerated lips, cheekbones, eye makeup, with the same proportions as Barbie, save the preposterously long lips. They look like blow-up dolls and porn "actresses." The clothes these dolls come with are never modest, ever. There is no sense of refinement other than the trappings of nouveau-riche wasting of money on trendy things that scream “I wear costly apparel.” Some accessories, for children to play with, include "Bratoo Parlor" and "Sparkling Cider" champagne glasses. The values that these dolls teach are that it is fabulous to be fabulous and to exaggerate the feminine form to conform with the standards of hip-hop culture—a culture that is among the most misogynistic I have ever known (if you need an explanation as to why, please email me). You need only watch the video for “99 Problems” by Jay-Z to see why women are nothing in hip-hop culture and why these dolls are tacitly teaching young girls to aspire to be the “bitches” of men. About halfway through, for no apparent reason, several young women in bikinis, are shown dancing. Jay-Z elaborates on all his problems, but keeps informing us that a “bitch ain’t one.” I would love to make a mockery of his video using Bratz dolls. There was a posthumous Biggie Smalls video awhile back wherein Puffy used little kids dressed like gangsters (even with five year old gyrating in bikinis by a pool) instead of the artists in the video. This is exactly why I despise Bratz dolls and hip-hop culture. It would sell out anything in the interests of a buck.
http://hiphopvideomodels.net/

One intriguing thing about hip-hop culture is there is no notion of a sellout. The more success one has commercially, the more one seems to reference the fact that they have success and how they are a Horatio Alger sort of American hero. Yet, unlike other historical groups that risen above the station of their birth, hip-hop culture seems to enjoy wallowing in the mire of its birth. The great jazz men of the day sang songs of tribute to their seedy surroundings, yet they never experienced the commercial success of hip-hop artists. Other working-class artists like John Mellencamp and even Springsteen have spent many lyrics on singing that which is virtuous in their blue-collar upbringing. If they sing about something that isn’t good, it is never in a praising way. “Jack and Diane” isn’t a song of praise about what happens to the two young lovers; it’s a lament. “Born in the U.S.A.” is a biting piece of anti-war rhetoric blended into the rhythm of a catchy song, that sounds absolutely nationalistic on its surface (I would argue that its critique of American involvement in Vietnam makes it decidedly patriotic). Hip-hop seems to revel in the illegality and bucking-the-system attitude of their previous criminal lives. Instead of praising the fact that “I was able to get out of the system and beat it through legal means,” they seem to be glorifying the criminal behavior that almost prevented them from accomplishing what they have. Some, such as Suge Knight, have been forever unable to separate their former lives from their new success. It is unfortunate that the heroes of hip-hop are young men that sing about thug culture and glorify the mafia, gang life, and misogyny. 50 Cent’s “Go Shorty” song is a perfect example of the callous attitude towards sex in hip-hop culture. And sadly, because of its popularity among all classes of American society, it is a reflection of how many people view physical intimacy. That it was popular with young men makes total sense, the current mantra being, have sex as often and with as many people as possible, but use a condom. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. That it was popular among young women worries me. The objectification of woman has rarely slowed in popular culture. Some brakes were applied in the middle of the 20th Century, but that was a mere speed bump compared to the wholesale and full scale objectification of women today. I do not subscribe to the notion that women can “take back” the word “c-*-n-t.” I do not believe that a woman can gain control over herself and possible objectification of herself through “taking back” stripper moves and poles in exercise programs. I see this behavior as playing into the hands of men. Men want women to debase themselves and be at their sexual beck and call. It’s the prurient side of our nature. When women allow themselves to be placed into this system, there is no break on the sexual expectations and satisfying of lusts on the part of the man. Sex is revealed for what it is. All feeling is removed on a societal plane.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05285/586648.stm
Indeed, raunchy and liberated are not synonyms, according to author Ariel Levy. Raunch culture and the ever-increasing mainstreaming of porn culture will have a negative effect, horribly so, on the future generations of our society.

I see the trace, the stain, the objet petit a, of porn culture when I look into the faces of these dolls. They are just plain evil. That parents would buy these things for their children shows an indifference, an abdication of parental responsibility on a grand scale. Shame on any parent that buys something for their children that teaches them that to be glamorous is to objectify and make a spectacle of oneself.

Notice the list of products on the Bratz webpage. The Itsy City line of actual babies that look like these dolls is just ridiculous. It reminds me of the Special-K ad a few years back of a toddler in diapers asking if she looked fat or not.

Corporate America has its finger on the pulse of mainstream culture. It produces what sells, and these dolls sell, by the millions. What gets me the most is that the majority consumer of these toys will be middle class, predominantly white and WASPy mainstream America. The dolls try and emulate something that is inherently foreign to these children. They do not live in ghettos. No one they know dresses this way (save their older sisters when they go off to college). The dolls try and represent an image, an urban reality/stereotype that is only accessible to the majority of children through the media. People that names of the doll(z) are "BRATz." Think about what that word means and what it communicates to our children. If you buy this product you are in essence giving license to this behavior.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/71836/holding_off_an_army_of_bratz_are_dolls.html

The most egregious example of what I speak is the emulation of the urban trend of misspelling words to make them more closely match their pronunciation in urban slang, hence the spellings of “boyz,” “da,” “cuz”, etc in movies, song titles and lyrics and such. That Bratz tries to evoke this image by changing the s in “brats” to “z” is laughable to me because the consonant cluster “ts” cannot be vocalized without serious effort. You cannot say Brat – z without straining. The “t” precludes any vocalization (moving the vocal cords) of the “z.” Their “Petz” line runs into the same problem.

In trying to copy and emulate a culture and represent it all packaged and glorious to suburban children, the company has shown how out-of-touch they are with the culture they are trying to pawn off on the mainstream. In doing so, they showhow morally bankrupt they are, and how very close we all are to becoming a culture of irredeemable monstrosity.

Is this really what you want your daughter to dress like? Do you want your son to find this kind of dress acceptable and desirable? Erotica is never high art, why should erotic dress be fashionable?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

This just in! Researchers have determined that more weight in a vehicle decreases fuel efficiency. Still no cure for cancer....

http://money.cnn.com/2006/10/26/news/economy/weighty_drivers/index.htm?postversion=2006102613


Can you believe it? A car uses more fuel if it carries more weight inside it. Whoa, imagine that!

We use 938 million extra gallons of fuel vs. 1960 because of obese drivers according to this layup research project. Now, we don't have access to the report, but if someone is feeling sleuthy, please find it and check to see if the person has taken into account the extra 100 million people living in our nation since 1960. This report strikes me as worthless because there are too many intangibles to give clear data. Like if I'm fat and lose weight, how much less gas do I use than when I was heavier and driving pizza every day versus walking to work, etc. I can't imagine it has a rigourous methodology. Someone please find it. Paul, you've got time on your hands.

Prayer, PhDs, and Padre Nuestro

My good amiga desconocida, Darlamay over at messycucina.blogspot.com has just been accepted into a PhD program in Intercultural Communication at the University of New Mexico. Congratulations! She can now dedicate herself to helping other people relate to different cultures. That woman is one hell of a writer, so lets hope she keeps her blog going while she's there. Also, her husband is finishing his Chiropracty degree in Iowa, so they plan to live apart for a while. Not advisable, but understandable given the opportunities presented to them. Pray for them, even if you don't know them. God knows them and if you beseech him on someone else's behalf, I'm fairly certain he'll direct the blessings to the right place. If you don't pray all that often, try it tonight. I'm not saying it's the answer to everything, but it can help sometimes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lessened gates and international English

I got the following email to my spanishlanguagehelp.com email address this morning. I think it's supposed to be some sort of erotica, but I can't tell. Is this supposed to be hot? Yall decide:


From: Nicole Wyatt To: "jhi" Subject: My kind mom getting wahsed by son's transparent nectar Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 1:08 PM MIME-Version: 1.0 Received: from fep24.mail.dk ([207.210.231.58]) by fep35.mail.dk (InterMail vM.7.05.02.00 201-2174-114-20060621) with ESMTP id <20061025035431.xpht4717.fep35.mail.dk@fep24.mail.dk> for ; Wed, 25 Oct 2006 05:54:31 +0200 Received: from seriya.realwebhost.org ([207.210.231.58]) by fep24.mail.dk (InterMail vG.2.02.00.00 201-2161-120-101-20051020) with SMTP id <20061025035430.epci26953.fep24.mail.dk@seriya.realwebhost.org> for ; Wed, 25 Oct 2006 05:54:30 +0200 Received: (qmail 41788 invoked by uid 56671); Wed, 25 Oct 2006 20:08:37 +0200 (CEST)

Our trained wmoan confides almost forgotten because lukewarm viscid perceptions of her son's nectar in her lesseend gates


I'm not sure if the misspelling of "wmoan" is purposeful or not, implying "moan." "Son's nectar" doesn't make sense unless we're talking incest, gross! Why would someone send this to a spanish grammar site? I don't know. Either way, I don't think I'll click any links therein.

If you type "lessened gates" in parenthesis into google, it comes up with a definite porn site. You know how google has the first few lines of a webpage next to the link? Well this one leaves no doubt that it is a porn site and the few lines of text prove that it isn't from a native English speaker. .dk is the domain of Denmark. Maybe lessened gates is a Danish euphemism for something sexy on a woman. My wife's maiden name is Fonnesbeck, Danish for "deer stream." Maybe I'll get to see her lessened gates tonight.

I love international English. Check out this awesome site that doesn't laugh at, just with.

www.engrish.com

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stem Cells and Soldiers

I do not know when life begins, whether at conception or at the "quickening" or some other time. I would be very interested to know what God thought about stem cell research. I wish the man I consider to be his prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, would clarify how Heavenly Father feels about stem cell research. But, the Lord leaves some things to us to figure out for ourselves, "Study it out in your mind" etc.

Until such time, I think that we should allow it, and the federal government should fund it, with STRICT oversight. It seems odd to fret over how we will dispose of cells that are to be destroyed anyway. We are sending countless soldiers into harms way, why not a few microscopic cell clusters as well? Adam was created and then had the breath of life put into him. I'm not sure when life begins, but I can't say of a surety that it's at conception. Potential and actual are too different adjectives.

An impartial and well-written article about the LDS position (or lack thereof).

http://www.slate.com/?id=112974

Fall Comes to New Orleans (At Least for a Few Days)

Fall showed its face in New Orleans today. There's a chill in the air, just cold enough where I might consider putting on a pair of socks, if I were going to be outside all day. As I've mentioned in numerous previous posts, and for those of yall that know me in person, I am rarely ever cold. I wear shorts, sandals, and short-sleeved shirts every day of the year. I'll wear pants for marriages, funerals, and God, but that's about it. Oh yeah, I will wear a suit to my job interviews, however I don't think that suits are flattering on large men. I will conform in order to obtain employment. However, given the choice, my body likes loose fitting, comfortable, but still modest clothing.

I've ranted about modesty before. I'm not much to look at, and tight fitting clothes WOULD NOT increase my sexiness, but nevertheless I try and be modest. My clothing always comes to my knees. I always have sleeves on my shirts, though they be short. My body maintains its own insulation. I don't really need more clothes to feel warm. Mother Nature has taken care of that for me. Skinny folks on the other hand, get cold much quicker than I do. Girls, especially those with very low body fat, seem to get cold very frequently. So, when I went outside today and felt the nip in the air, I realized that today would be a good day. Cold weather=modesty.

New Orleans lends itself very well to immodest clothing. I find it interesting that while youth culture has men dressing in baggy and loose fitting clothing, the hip clothes for women seem to be form fitting, short, and revealing clothing. I do think that we've come down from the apex of 2003 and the "whale tale" phenomenon that seemed omnipresent in my classes, but people are still very immodest. Today in my classes, all of my students were dressed modestly. It was very nice. As a man, the natural side of me notices and appreciates the bodies of other people. When people dress immodestly it is difficult not to notice fit people's bodies. As I have entered the covenant of marriage with my wife, and have promised to cleave unto her and no one else, and since Jesus told us very clearly that to lust after someone else in our mind is to commit adultery in our heart, the spiritual man in me does not relish facing immodesty on a daily basis. If I am walking between buildings, I can turn away if I see someone dressed immodestly heading my way. But, professionally, I cannot ignore a student in class just because I feel that they are immodest. I am professional enough to look beyond the person's dress and approach them as a student and as a person, though admittedly, sometimes I have felt uncomfortable; but I was still able to move past it and give them every bit as much attention as I would any other student.

For this reason only, it can be said that I like cold weather. I would just prefer that people were a tad more modest in the classroom. It's not that I want to force my morals on other people. I just appreciate a little decorum. Class isn't the place for showing off your body. I have one person in my class this semester so possessed of good looks and fitness that when this person wears immodest clothing (from time to time, though not always), this person constitutes a noticeable distraction for other students in class--some just sit and stare. But, I cannot say anything to this student for awkwardness sake and because Tulane has no dress code, and because I would probably feel ridiculous and perhaps a little creepy even bringing it up. Mickelle and I talk about this frequently, and she has expressed a desire for me to seek employment at religiously sponsored schools so I can avoid these type of issues. It's not THAT big of an issue for me, I can teach anywhere and never have it be a true problem. I would just view it as a perk if a school had a modest (not prudish, just modest) dress code. I am very aware that what is modest now was immodest 100 years ago, so I am hesitant to condemn others' dress. These are just my observations about modesty in the Fall of 2006.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When writing your Congressman will do you no good

Earlier, in my rant against Entergy, I called on everyone to write to their Congressmen and complain about Entergy's greed. I had long thought that Bobby Jindal was my Congressman. After some research, it turns out that William Jefferson is my Representative in the House. His voice isn't worth a bucket of warm spit in Congress right now. Talk about feeling disenfranchised!

I wrote this letter to him today anyway, thinking that I have to do it if I'm going to participate in the system. Here goes:

To the Honorable William J. Jefferson:

(The U.S. Congress webpage automatically inserts that title in there for you. You can't edit it. Few times has "Honorable" been so wrongly applied as this one.) If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/21/AR2006052100167.html

--letter continued--

It angers me to hear that Entergy New Orleans is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to recover from Katrina while simultaneously asking for increased in utilities of 161%. While Entergy New Orleans may be part of a wholly owned subsidiary of Entergy holding corporation, the facts that they have $29 billion in assets, clearly stated profits for last year, INCREASED profits for this year over last year, had only $250 million in insurance against storm damage, and are a publicly traded company should preclude them from any government aid or even a rate increase beyond the 10% the law allows after a disaster. Please do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening. Taxpayers should not have to pay money to ensure that shareholders turn a profit. I would rather the government purchased Entergy's assets and managed them themselves than to give money to shareholders. Rate increases such as Entergy proposes will only stall or reverse any recover that New Orleans might make.

You could perhaps redeem yourself by taking on an issue that your constituents actually care about.


Sincerely,


John Williams

Poor little ole Entergy

http://www.nola.com/search/index.ssf?/base/library-114/116106472619130.xml?ZZLIBB&coll=1

Entergy New Orleans is asking for a 161% increase in the price of natural gas delivered to houses via its underground gaslines because of fewer customers (meaning fewer profits). When demand goes down, shouldn't prices go down as well? What kind of system do we maintain that allows a company to make the same profit, guaranteed, regardless of circumstances, disasters, etc.? Entergy now claims that saltwater intrusion and corrosion are eating its pipes and that it needs $355 million, that's right--million, to replace those pipes. It also wants a 311% rate increase to pay for the costs that the $355 million grant won't cover.

FARK ENTERGY!

Entergy sees 3rd Quarter rise in profits

I'm about ready to go to war with Entergy over this...start writing your representatives right now. I'll be damned if they're going to take federal tax dollars AND raise their rates to untenable levels just to keep making a "healthy" profit. Does no one realize that these kinds of energy prices will CRIPPLE the recovery and local economy? They're not happy with just making a profit....the men in suits with sinecures want increased profits to boot.

There should be national outrage over this. Where is the media?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

No time for much of anything

This last week has been a blur of deadlines, work, and such. I am working 12 hour days, every day save Sunday, and it's nice to be getting things done, but it seems like it will never end. I'm glad I have Mickelle to help me with all the minutiae. Who would have thought it would be such a chore to put together a dossier of my experience? Here's my CV, for any interested parties: (formatting is different on the actual document)


Education
Ph.D. Latin-American Literature, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Tulane University.
Expected graduation: May 2007.
Dissertation: “Free Agent or Automaton? Gnostic, Christian,
Jewish, and Zoroastrian Free Will Doctrines in the Works of Jorge Luis Borges."
Director: Dr. Idelber Avelar, two chapters currently
submitted.

M.A. Spanish, concentration in Latin-American Literature, ancillaries in Peninsular Literature and Spanish Pedagogy. Brigham Young University, 2003.
Thesis Title: “Pastiche Morality in Antonio Muñoz Molina's
Plenilunio.”

B.A. Spanish, concentration in Literature, minor in Communications. Brigham Young University, 1999.

B.A. courses in Spanish, Georgia Institute of Technology, 1995-1997.

Publications
Scholarly:
1. “Smoke and Mirrors: A Zoroastrian Subtext in Borges’s
‘Las ruinas circulares.’” La Marca Hispánica, 13(2002).

Creative:
1. Co-writer, The Sleepless Night. Dir. Tim Boisvert.
Bosque Verde Films: DVD, 2005. Featured in « Talent Showcase 1 » at The LDS Film Festival: Provo, UT, January 20, 2005. www.imdb.com/title/tt0449648/maindetails

Conference Papers
2. “Nunca estás solo: La mirada del otro y la vergüenza en
‘Después del almuerzo’ de Julio Cortázar.” Voces Convergentes, Arizona State University, April 2006.
1. "The Rift of the Magi: Zoroastrian symbolism in Borges's
'Las ruinas circulares.'” Cultural Encounters, Tulane University, April 2004.

Teaching Experience
4. Adjunct Assistant Professor: Spanish, Tulane University
2006-
3. Student Instructor: Spanish, Tulane University: 2002-
2006.
2. Part-time Faculty: Spanish, Kennesaw State University:
2003.
1. Student Instructor: Spanish, Brigham Young University:
2000-2002.

Courses Taught at Tulane
Span 102 Elements of Spanish II
Span 112 Intermediate Spanish
Span 203 Elements of Spanish III
Span 336 Oral Proficiency
Latin-American Studies 396, Title: “Literatura, teología y
religión” (Pending, Spring 2007)

Courses Taught at Kennesaw State
Span 2001 Intermediate Spanish Language and Culture I
Span 2002 Intermediate Spanish Language and Culture II

Courses Taught at Brigham Young
Span 101 First Semester Spanish
Span 102 Second Semester Spanish
Span 101-102 Accelerated for Portuguese Speakers
Span 201 Third Semester Spanish
Span 202 Fourth Semester Spanish
Span 201-202 Accelerated for Portuguese Speakers

Professional Memberships
2. Sigma Delta Pi, National Collegiate Hispanic Honor
Society.
1. Modern Language Association.


Honors and Scholarships
3. Graduate Teaching Fellowship: Tulane University, 2002-
2006.
2. Editor: La Marca Hispánica, 12, Brigham Young
University, 2001.
1. Graduate Teaching Fellowship: Brigham Young University,
2000-2002.

Languages
3. English: Native speaker.
2. Spanish: Near-native/ACTFL Superior.
1. Portuguese: Intermediate reading, speaking, and
translation.

Other Professional Experience
1. Author and co-owner of <www.spanishlanguagehelp.com>
2003-present.

Volunteer Work
2. Scoutmaster, Boy Scouts of America, Troop #724,
Ponchartrain District, SELA Council, 2002-
1. Ordained Missionary, The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints, Costa Rica, 1993-1995.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dissertation Chapter One (2nd Draft) Feedback

Dear Mac:

I'm almost through with your chapter - I am hoping to have my comments for you by tomorrow.

It's an excellent chapter!! Very good indeed! Beautifully written!

I can say that I am enjoying it very much and that the chapter will be approved pending very minor revisions and a relatively major one, which is the following: there's very little about the secondary bibliography on Borges. We usually start a chapter situating our own approach in relation to existing scholarship. Now, scholarship on Borges is a universe, of course, so I wouldn't expect you to master all of it. But at least some of the major studies should be referenced and paraphrased at the beginning.

I'll write in more detail tomorrow, but you can go ahead and send the chapter to the committee, with the explanation given above.

Best, and congrats, Idelber



I am blessed to work with my dissertation director. He is sharp, professional, courteous, and gives good feedback, even when something needs improvement. I am constantly amazed at how much the man knows and how well he can articulate his thoughts. And no, he doesn't read this blog. You can read his if you speak Portuguese:

www.idelberavelar.com

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Entergy New Orleans Is WORSE THAN ENRON

As a taxpayer, how does this scenario sound to you?

1) A utility company knowingly does business in a hurricane area, but only carries a fraction of the insurance needed to guard against a major Katrina-type disaster.

2) The local utility is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a same-named holding corporation.

3) Said holding company is a publicly traded, for profit corporation that pays dividends to its shareholders and makes billions in profits every year.

4) A mega-disaster strikes, crippling the local company's power and gas grid, permanently destroying over half of their customer base. And yet....

5) "Entergy racked up $10 billion in revenues last year and has $29 billion in collective assets. On paper, there is no question Entergy could comfortably cover its losses and rebuild the infrastructure of its utility business in New Orleans. On May 2, Entergy announced that its first-quarter profit rose nearly 13 percent, as higher energy prices offset disrupted sales following last year's hurricanes. Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard received a $1.1 million bonus at the end of 2005, according to SEC records, which coincidentally works out to one dollar per Entergy customer in the Gulf Coast left without power in the weeks following the hurricane."

So when I heard the news today, that the LRA may give Entergy New Orleans a $200 million bailout from taxpayers, it angers me. Deep down. Private shareholders run an inherent risk in investing in any industry. The power industry is especially vulnerbale to disasters. Why should the taxpayers and the ratepayers have to pay for the damages when the shareholders run the risk? Worse still are the threats by Entergy to simply stop doing business if they don't get their way.

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-6/1160641504246500.xml&coll=1

To truly understand the situation, and why it is so bad, so evil, and so corrupt, read this article:
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=13569


The men in charge at Entergy making these decisions are shameless. They are so blinded by greed that they cannot see the fundamental human flaw in what they are doing. They would be quick to criticize any one individual receiving welfare, but think nothing of doing it on a $200 million scale. We need to reform our holding company laws. Why is their primary loyalty to their shareholders and not their customers? It's not that they are breaking the law, it's just that decent human beings don't do these types of things. Decent humans think, well, we'll have to lessen our profits this year because we took a hit. There is a fundamental risk in investing. Profits are not guaranteed. Why can't Entergy see this, and not think that they should just have the moral fortitude to tell their shareholders and Wall Street that "due to the Gulf hurricanes this year, our profits will be down." It's not like people won't understand. It doesn't reflect poorly on the company's leadership. The stock would recover, and people might just buy more of it and boost the price because the company would be seen as compassionate, caring, and still highly profitable. There is a humanist disconnect between these people and their decisions. Fark 'em.

I am angry almost to the point of actual physical protesting in the streets. This is preposterous. This is wrong. I can't believe our government is letting itself be held hostage in this way. I would rather the federal government BOUGHT the New Orleans assets itself than pay tax money straight into shareholders' hands.
DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMNNNNNNNNNNNNIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTT!

Thomas Jefferson wouldn't use federal funds to help farmers by seed after a severe drought, even though they didn't have the money to do so. Now we give taxpayer funds to publicly traded companies that make billions of dollars of profits every year.

What has become of us?

When the trumpet sounded everything was prepared on earth, and Jehovah gave the world to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda, Ford Motors, and other corporations. The United Fruit Company reserved for itself the most juicy piece, the central coast of my world, the delicate waist of America. It rebaptized these countries Banana Republics, and over the sleeping dead, over the unquiet heroes who won greatness, liberty, and banners, it established an opera buffa: it abolished free will, gave out imperial crowns, encouraged envy, attracted the dictatorship of flies: Trujillo flies, Tachos flies Carias flies, Martinez flies, Ubico flies, flies sticky with submissive blood and marmalade, drunken flies that buzz over the tombs of the people, circus flies, wise flies expert at tyranny. With the bloodthirsty flies came the Fruit Company, amassed coffee and fruit in ships which put to sea like overloaded trays with the treasures from our sunken lands. Meanwhile the Indians fall into the sugared depths of the harbors and are buried in the morning mists; a corpse rolls, a thing without name, a discarded number, a bunch of rotten fruit thrown on the garbage heap.

--Pablo Neruda

Thieves in the Temple Last Night

So, our landlord arbitrarily decided to have our pink bathroom gutted and redone two weeks ago. Workers knocked off all the pink tiles and black trim (Marley is devastated that her "girl" bathroom is no longer) and put the tub, the toilet, and all the broken tile and what not out on the curb for FEMA to pick up. Mickelle was there most of the time, but she has been gone to Utah since Monday.

Tuesday morning I woke up with gout in my right foot. I treat gout with Colchecine, NSAIs (Naproxen), and if needed, Hydrocodone for the pain. Gout hurts very badly, and no repositioning of the foot, ice, or any other treatment will slacken the pain. Vicodin takes the edge off enough to be able to function. I treat them like they are gold, rationing them like a pain miser. Since I was having gout, and since Marley isn't around to get into them, I left them out on the counter so I wouldn't have to get them out of the closet each time I needed to take them, and also to remind myself to take them with me in case I needed them.

Yesterday, I wanted to know how many I had left, so I spilled the bottle into my hand and counted off 22 of those blessed saviors. I have had that bottle for 4 months and only had to use 6 of them. It was with a total feeling of unheimlich this morning that I went to get one out to take with me today in case I needed it, when only two pills spilled out into my hand. At first I was confused, and then I thought, WAIT A ******* MINUTE! And then I realized that the construction workers, in my home and unsupervised, had stolen my pills.

I am so pissed off right now. I should forgive them. Being like Jesus is really hard sometimes. I loathe thieves. I despise them. I have to forgive them.

My landlord called them and they said that the plumber had a "new guy" with him yesterday, and that he had to have stolen them, that they were only there for "a few minutes." Blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to worry about the loss of the pills, that's an inconvenience. I'm upset over a few things:

1) I feel violated. Someone came into my home and took from me. This one I have to forgive.

2) I work for everything I have, so when someone steals from me, I feel robbed of my possessions and my contribution to society. Why should this person get to steal from me when I work very hard to do my part? I also have to forgive this point.

3) I cannot trust these workers anymore. I have to forgive, but I also have to be prudent. Forgiveness does not equal making oneself a repeated target.

4) I want to call the police and la migra. I don't mind that the workers are indocumentados. I do mind that people come to this country ostensibly for a better life and then commence committing crimes anyway. I would gleefully help put this man on a plane home. Forgiveness does not equal denying consequences of the law.

It is very very tough to not be mad. I want to forgive them. I know I'm supposed to, according to my faith.....but.



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mashed Genitals, Cats o'nine Tails, and Cruel and Unusual Punishment in the Bahamas

What's worse than trying to rape an 82 year old lady, having her "mash" your genitals so hard you can't do it, getting caught, arrested, convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison?

How about the Bahamas still having whippings with the cat o'nine tails on the books, and the judge sentencing you to 8 lashes for your crime in addition to your prison term?

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=2006-10-11T115602Z_01_NAA374498_RTRUKOC_0_US-CRIME-NINETAILS.xml&WTmodLoc=OddNewsHome_C2_oddlyEnoughNews-3&rpc=92

So here's the question......since our Constitution specifically outlaws cruel and unusual punishment, how should we interpret that particular word pair? Cruel and unusual? How constitutional would the adoption of this law be in our country?

1) Cruel AND Unusual, meaning that any punishment can be cruel or unusual, but not both cruel and unusual?

2) How do we define what is unusual? Does that mean that no other countries do it? Does it mean that few states do it? Does it mean that new punishments cannot be invented?

3) How do we define cruel? Isn't any punishment cruel, by definition?

4) Do we base our interpretation off what the Founding Fathers considered cruel and unusual against the standard practices of the time?

I for one think that canings and whippings would certainly curtail crime. Knowing that a cat o'nine tails awaits you for armed robbery, in addition to your jail time would be very effective. But then again, I'm a fan of corporal punishment in schools. Shame, embarassment, and temporary pain are highly effective behavior modification tools.

Of course, if we just legalized the sale of drugs and refused all welfare for able-bodied men or women that allowed able-bodied men to leech off them, crime would take a nose dive.

Genesis 3:19


Beware: Looking for images of the cat-o'-nine tails leads you to mostly S&M websites.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Really Good Reason Not to Drink, Cause It'll Get You Killed

http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=478918

These people have zero chance of survival. Of all the dumb things you can do, getting drunk and having sex in a mosque is near the top of the list. Paul, how much do you think this fatwa will cost?

I really do appreciate the fact you're sittin' here
Your voice sounds so wonderful
But your face don't look too clear
So, Barmaid, bring a pitcher, another round of brew

Honey, why don't we get drunk and screw.
--Jimmy Buffett

Yet another reason why I don't drink.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Matthew 22:36-40 and Living the Law

For those unfamiliar with the above scripture, Jesus is in Jerusalem and the Pharisees are trying to insnare him with words so they can accuse him of any number of offenses against the "law and the prophets." So, one of them asks him, in verse 36 "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" The risk in answering this question is that almost any answer would have favored one commandment over another, and allowed the Pharisees to accuse him of blasphemy or some other offense. Jesus had considerable spiritual gifts which he had honed through a lifetime of perfection and was able to perceive their snare. However, his answers are true and perfect. Instead of saying that you should or should not do some thing, he takes the broad spectrum approach, which is the best when it comes to obedience and salvation. You cannot focus on one commandment or law at the expense of the others. Never committing adultery but lying on your tax returns doesn't mean that you're righteous because you keep one rule. Jesus' answer is perfect, he says, starting in verse 37:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus merely reiterated what the Pharisees should have already known, it being a commandment of the Law of Moses in Leviticus 18. Eso de loving thy neighbor as thyself is tough. Obedience to the first great commandment requires obedience to the second one. Jesus answer was a perfect riposte to the Pharisees' trap. We love ourselves a lot. Immensely. Whole-heartedly. Loving our neighbor is a commandment. Neighbor in this case should read our fellow men, not just the people that live on either side of us.

But, lately that's where I seem to be having problems. You may remember that back in early August I was having problems with one of my upstairs neighbors parking his car right where we need to back out of our carport. I put Marley's swimming pool where he was parking, and he came home drunk with some random girl at 6AM and proceeded to essentially "call me out" to impress her by screaming "Where the F**K is Mac at?" and random things like that. I wanted to go outside and destroy him. He was drunk and he is a pathetic weasely little man. Anger and rage fill my heart even still, but I am no longer the man I was at 22. Instead of going outside and confronting him about swearing repeatedly outside of my daughter's window, I felt constrained by the Spirit to stay inside. Not all situations require confrontation. In that moment as I felt anger moving me, and I began looking for my shoes to go outside, the distinct thought of "what would Jesus do?" came into my mind. I then knew that what I was envisioning (A BIG CAN OF WHOOP ASS), wasn't the right thing to do. You never know what the result of indulging your anger can be (young Skyyyyyyywalker). So, he probably went upstairs and then tried (and I hope failed) to consummate his drunken lusts, while I went a did a service project for a family whose house flooded.

Lately he has been parking his car even closer to ours. Every part of me wants to put nails under his tires, key a nasty note into his hood. He comes home at 3AM and stomps around the floor, slams their front door, waking me up. I cannot stand the man. But, instead of confrontation, I am elected to bear this burden. In fact, I put their trash out to the street for them, I sweep off their front porch. I don't know if my little acts of service are even noticed, but I'm trying to be like Jesus instead of the angry man that my natural side wants me to be.

Being like Jesus is really FREAKING hard.

While hymns invite the Spirit, I find them to be more like lullabys. If I need calming, I listen to Bob Marley. Music soothes even the savage beast. Although, this morning, the Bob Marley song I listened to didn't prompt me to calm down and be at peace with my decision:

"Bad Card"

I want to disturb my neighbour,
'Cause I'm feelin' so right;
I want to turn up my disco,
Blow them to full watts tonight, eh!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rats and Katrina

So, this morning Marley practically had a conniption fit about decorating for Halloween. Our Halloween decorations are in a closet in my office that is behind a table, so we don't get into it that often. Evidently, I never looked in there since we came home from Katrina.

OH MY GOODNESS!

Evidently a whole extended family of rats, not mice--rats, had made their home in that closet. They had moved an entire case of Quaker Granola Bars back there and eaten them all, and they shat everywhere. Not little mouse turds, but big black rat turds. If I had been in the desert Southwest I would've been very worried about hantavirus--seriously. The closet smelled like piss. Two years ago we bought a witch piñata at Target the day after Halloween, and evidently papier mache has flour in it, because they ate the skin off the outside. They found this headache thing that Mickelle had that was a sewn bag full of popcorn that you put in the freezer and then put on your head. It had most likely fallen beneath our bed. They found that and drug it back to the closet and ate it. It was a perfect storm of rat poop. Luckily all of our decorations, save our Christmas tree skirt that they made one of their nests in, were sealed in really well made plastic tubs.

I hate rats. I hate them oh so very much!

Friday, October 06, 2006

No Negotiations Until Fatwa Rescinded

I do not believe that my country can or should grant diplomatic relations or negotiations to Iran until they categorically and unequivocally renounce and terminate the fatwa and bounty against Salman Rushdie. I cannot countenance "making peace" with a nation or belief system that will condemn a man for something he wrote in a NOVEL.

http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=5768

Until these hate-filled man-toddlers can learn to play nice, at least on a human rights level, to hell with them. It's things like this fatwa still being insisted upon after so many years that make me believe that the Iranians ARE seeking enriched uranium for weapons and not national production of electricity. I wonder how many moderates there are in Iran, or have the radicals forced out or exterminated them all, so that the entire place is full of people that want the explicit and unadulterated unification of church and state. Surely it can't be that way....

Evidently, for $110.08 you can buy yourself a fatwa these days.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2000279.cms

I want a fatwa that says that people who want to kill Salman Rushdie are breaking this commandment from the Koran:


[Al-Furqan 25:63] The worshipers of the Most Gracious are those who tread the earth gently, and when the ignorant speak to them, they only utter peace.



An EXCELLENT interview with Rushdie about Islam:
http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/2006_winter/rushdie.html

Nobel Literature Prize Predictions -- No soy ningún profeta


The Nobel Prize is awesome. It's the pinnacle of world praise. I secretly hope that my favorite authors will win. However, the Nobel has its problems. I quit paying attention to the Peace Prize when Arafat won--the man was a terrorist, and time has proven that award to have been a joke. Has anyone really worked towards world peace this year? Any major players? No! They should do as they have done recently and give it to someone that dedicates their life to peace--not just their political capital.

The Nobel Literature Prize has passed over some very deserving people in the past. Tolstoy, Nabakov, and Jorge Luis Borges. That Borges or Julio Cortazar never won the prize when Miguel Angel Asturias won does not make sense. Arthur Miller surely was deserving of the award. But Borges, how could they not give it to Borges? His work is world-reknowned, translated into dozens of languages. It is the epitome of what Nobel's will says, yet no award. He opposed Peron, but accepted a medal from Pinochet. Oh well.

This year, I would like to make some general predictions. There are several people that I think are highly worthy of the prize.

1. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses is my favorite book in English. It is a masterpiece of postmodern historiographic metafiction. I love that book so so much. I also understand why fundamentalist would want to kill him for writing it. The book has an Indian voiceover dubber actor turned half goat have a delusional dream in a fever wherein this kid in a cave keeps calling him Gabriel and asking him questions about god. He flippantly answers him, and thereby causes the generation of the Koran to Mohammed. You can understand why this would piss Muslims off. People rip on Joseph Smith all the time. One South Park episode in particular tries to skewer the church (I found the episode hilarious, and doctrinally and historically inaccurate by the way) and keeps calling Joseph Smith "dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb." Making fun of my religion in a farcical way, hidden in the work of fiction, does not bother me. My faith is my own, and no amount of attacks against it by others will influence my beliefs. I do not want to kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I respect their right to make fun of anything they want. Rushdie should have that same right, without irhabists issuing fatwas against him. I don't think the Nobel Academy will have the political courage to ever give Rushdie the award he so very much deserves. Given the reaction to the Denmark cartoons last year, if anyone else in Scandinavia were to praise anything even remotely objectionable to Islam, the whole damned Middle East would erupt into rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Rushdie's Midnight's Children is one of my top ten books of all time, in any language. My wife thoroughly enjoyed Shalimar the Clown. Rushdie deserves the award more than anyone else I can think of.

2. Carlos Fuentes, he has labored for years trying to help Mexicans understand their roots. He is a tad prideful and perhaps offensive to certain types, but his work stands for itself. He is a contemporary of Octavio Paz, Garcia Marquez, and Borges, and deserves the prize before it's too late. Second only to Rushdie in my opinion.

3. Antonio Muñoz Molina, he'll never win, but this Spanish author of detective fiction has created some of the few detective stories that you'll want to re-read. The solution to the crime isn't why you read them. They are noirish novels that deal with reconciling peoples' actions under Franco with their own moralities, ethics, etc. His novels such as Plenilunio, Sefarad, El invierno en Lisboa, and Beltenebros, are all classics and worth multiple readings. They have been made into movies, all badly, save Plenilunio. If they are ever translated into English, you should check them out. He is a modern master and a jazzman.

4. Ricardo Piglia, another master, but one without the prestige and reknown to attract the Nobel committee's attention. The Absent City is amazing.

5. Nicanor Parra, the anti-poet. Deserving, and at 92, probably will never get it.

6. Slavoj Zizek, the best modern philosopher I can think of. He has his fingers on the pulse of current Western culture. He is a prolific writer and has a knack for explaining abstruse concepts in terms that everyone can understand. The estate of Jacques Lacan owes Zizek a huge hug for his tireless work in making Lacan relatively approachable to the masses. Zizek's best works are The Sublime Object of Ideology, Tarrying with the Negative, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Enjoy Your Sympton, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Hitchcock But Were Afraid to Ask Lacan.

7. Umberto Eco, a master in the classic form. Read the Name of the Rose, or City of Robots and try and argue with me. If they can give the prize to Italian playwright Dario Fo (who?) they can surely give a nod to the best author in Italia.

8. Margaret Atwood, read the Blind Assassin, and if you understand it, you'll understand why I put her on my list.

I'm sure there are numerous others that need mentioning. Phillip Roth, Bob Dyan, etc. Can you imagine the difficulty in finding someone to translate works from say Somalian in to Swedish? Malawi or Togolese? So the committee can read them.... It's no wonder that English speakers have won more than any other language.

Please feel free to comment on my selections or add your own. You'll hopefully understand why they are Hispanic top heavy, though please remember that no Spanish speaking author has won since Octavio Paz way back in 1990.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Words of the Prophets Are Written on the Bathroom Walls, Individual Stalls

I am at school every day for about 9 hours. I drink stuff all day long, so I make frequent visits to the baño. While in the bathroom, I cannot help but see all of the graffiti written all over the walls. I don't know if women's washrooms are like this, but the mensrooms always seem to have certain types of messages on them:

In no particular order of prevalence:

1. Homosexual advertising......looking for X to happen? Meet here at 7PM on Mondays, cough twice.
2. Homophobia....."I'm sorry I pledged ZBT, they're making a queer out of me," etc.
3. Sexual poetry.......usually limericks, total kitsch.
4. Sexual jokes......usually misogynistic.
5. Boasts......sexual prowess, length (interestingly, rarely boasts of girth), etc.
6. Potty humor.........need I say more?
7. Political humor........."Why do all my turds look like the President?" Stupid stuff like that. When I went to Georgia Tech in the mid-1990s, they were all anti-Clinton jokes, now at Tulane they are all anti-Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld.
8. Gang tags........9th Ward Baghdads, kind of like a boast, but more infantile (if that's possible).
9. Goth slogans: "Anarchy," etc.
10. Ripostes of comments, defending someone's impugned honor. Or follow-ups in agreement with previous insults.
11. Insults of sororities or other people's girlfriends.
12. Placing someone's phone # along with "for a good time call."
13. Art, usually drawings of genitalia or copulation.

I'm sure there are more that I've forgotten, feel free to let us know in the comments section.

As I vacate my bladder in the WCs here, I often think back to my trips home to Georgia. The drive between New Orleans and my parents' house in Atlanta is roughly 540 miles, a distance that requires at least two pitstops along the way. Since the bulk of driving time is in rural Mississippi or Alabama, we inevitably stop at exits where there is only one gas station. It is in these lavatories that I have become aware of a 14th type of graffiti, wholly absent from the walls and stalls of Tulane's restrooms.

After Nebuchadnezzar died, the Babylonian kingdom faced a period of inner conflict as successors angled to take the throne for themselves. Nebuchadnezzar had eventually converted to Judaism, based in no small part on Daniel's service and testimony to him. The man who eventually came to the throne after him, Belshazzar, did not remember the Lord, and worshipped idols of metal and wood. One night, as he sat in his palace at a banquet with his sycophants, a disembodied hand appeared and scrawled the words "MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN" on the wall. It is written in Daniel chapter 5, that the king's knees knocked together and his "legs gave way." In Aramaic legs is a synonym of loins, so we can interpret this to mean that the king peed and pooped his pants at seeing a hand scratch words into the wall in front of him. He sent round his palace for someone who could interpret the words, but none could. Finally an old dowager queen, surely a wife of the noble Nebuchadnezzar, came in and told the king of Daniel. The king sent for Daniel and promised him a gold chain and the 3rd highest position in the kingdom if he could translate the words. The prophet told him to keep his gifts and powers, and he interpreted, "read the writing on the wall." It means, "Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided." The kings sins and deeds had been numbered, they were weighed against justice and found wanting, and his kingdom would shortly be divided between the armies of the Medes and the Persians. That very night, the armies of Darius diverted the Tigris river, which allowed his armies to walk into Babylon under the impenetrable walls via the now dry river bed. They found the Babylonians drunk and feeling invincible, and took the city, and slew Belshazzar. The king could not read the writing on the wall, and it was too late anyway.

So, in Alabama, the walls of the privies are not festooned with vile filth, but strangely with testimonies and interjections of the Good News. Slogans such as "Jesus Saves," "John 3:16," and "Jesus Loves You" abound. What a striking dichotomy between the lives of city and country dwellers! Though it does strike me as odd that you could be "saved" while defecating, their heart is in the right place.

The bathroom stalls at BYU have no grafitti. Writing on the walls is only allowed by disembodied hands.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Marleyisms

Lately, as Marley gets more involved in life, more aware of idioms, metaphors, etc. she has been making the mistakes that kids make, to sometimes humorous consequences. Her imagination knows few bounds. Enjoy!

1. "WHOA! WHOA GUYS! SLOW DOWN YOUR HORSES!"

2. Last night she came into the bedroom and said, "Mom, I have some mail for you." She then proceeded to pull a bunch of toilet paper out of her pants. When we explained that that was gross, she didn't seem to understand why. She thought it was so cool.

3. Leaving Sam's Club the other day, someone had a sego palm tree in their cart. Marley exclaimed, "That's the biggest pineapple I've ever seen in my life."

4. My parents called her the other day. I heard her on the phone in the front of the house exclaim, "WHAT? NO WAY!" as about as excited sounding as she could be. I hear her then tear off towards me, running down the hallway, screaming, jumping for joy, "DAD, THERE'S A NEW BABY PANDA BEAR AT THE ZOO IN ATLANTA." The joy of innocence and youth.

5. "Hey Daddy, is that your sock under there?"
Me: "Under where?"
Marley: HA HA YOU SAID UNDERWEAR!

Being a parent has its rewards.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pelagius vs. Augustine: an LDS perspective

Every now and then I get to read something fun for my dissertation. I have recently become fascinated with the doctrines of a 5th Century A.D. Celtic monk named Pelagius.

Pelagius is considered a heretic by the Catholic Church. Their online encyclopedia contains a thorough and yet wholly one-sided view of his “heresies.”

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11604a.htm


His heresies included:

1. Affirming man’s freewill in the face of predestination
2. An absolute rejection of the notion of original sin
3. The rejection of infant baptism and a belief that those born before the coming of Christ could be saved.
4. The belief that man is capable of sinless life through judicious exercise of his free will.



As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I find that many of Pelagius’ ideas correspond exactly to my own. Some of his doctrines were a little off, but that’s to be expected. When Paul prophesied of an “apostasy” in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, he was predicting the end of priesthood authority on earth. I believe that the Christians were then left to their own devices to try to interpret the doctrines of the Scriptures without priesthood authority and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The African Christians began to argue against some plain and precious truths, and when Augustine began writing, the church found a voice and an intellect that could argue against any other person on Earth at the time. Augustine was indeed gifted, but I would consider him the heretic, or at least the syncretic.

See, Augustine had been a Manichean in his youth. Manichaeism is similar to Gnosticism, and it embraces a notion of dualistic evil and good, and the doctrine of Original Sin corresponds perfectly with their doctrines. Its beliefs forever tainted his writings.

So, in agreement with Pelagius I will say that I believe in free will. I do not know the process by which God can grant us complete autonomy of decision and yet still retain his foreknowledge. I do not know if his foreknowledge is perfect or contingent (meaning that He only knows “what can be known”). I would say that my views are most closely aligned with Maimonides’, B.H. Roberts’s, and even Blake Ostler’s. The notion of a God that has decided all future actions, no matter the system under which he designed them (Calvin, Spinoza, Augustine, Aquinas, Occam, Luis de Molina, or Gersonides), is abhorrent to the notion of personal sin, salvation, mercy, etc. I want no part of a God that decides my actions for me. If I am indeed predestined, then I hope part of my fate includes a face to face with God so He can explain to me why I am essentially a character in a novel He wrote.

I completely agree with Pelagius. I did not sin at birth because of Adam’s transgression. The fact that Adam and Eve had sex casts no pall over my life, I have not sinned "in Adam" as Paul is often misquoted (Augustine). The Fall had to be, otherwise none of us would be here yet, and Adam and Eve would still be in the garden in a state of complete ignorance. Rather that vilifying the Fall and blaming someone, we should rejoice in the idea that having knowledge of good and evil allows us to have joy and want to be like Christ, with the eventual goal of being even as He is.

People who were born before Christ came are not condemned to hell. If God does not allow little children into the kingdom of Heaven based off of the fact that they were not baptized, then I want no part of heaven. Readers of Tess of the D’ubervilles know of what I speak.

Even Peter, in the apocryphal Clementine Recognitions writings, says that doctrine is evil because:

He saves adulterers and murderers if they know him; but good and sober and merciful people who don't happen to know him, simply because they have received no information concerning him, he does not save! A great and good god, forsooth, whom you proclaim, not only saving the wicked but showing no mercy to the good!

Irenæus of Lyon, a noted defender of the faith, said:

Christ did not come for the sole benefit of those who believed in him at the time of Tiberius Caesar, nor has the Father a plan for those only who happen to be living today; but it is for all the human family (propter omnes omnino homines) who from the beginning by righteousness pleased God and feared him in their generations, and dealt justly and religiously with their neighbors, and yearned to see Christ and hear his voice

Clement of Alexandria said:
It is not right to condemn some without trial, and only give credit for righteousness to others who lived after the coming of the Lord. Certainly one righteous man is not different from another as far as righteousness goes? For God is not the God of the Jew alone but of all men? Those who live righteously before the law are to be counted as faithful and reckoned among the just? God is good and Christ is mighty to save, according to principles of justice and equality, those who turn to him, whether here or in the next world.

Bruce R. McConkie said:
Since there is no such thing as original sin, as that expression is used in modern Christendom, it follows that children are not conceived in sin. They do not come into the world with any taint of impurity whatever. When our scriptures say that “children are conceived in sin,” they are using words in an entirely different way than when the same language is recited in the creeds of the world. The scriptural meaning is that they are born into a world of sin so that “when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints affirms that little children have no need of baptism--this is the doctrine. Jesus taught it to his disciples. Mormon said it over and over again. Many of the prophets have spoken about it, and it is implicit in the whole plan of salvation. If it were not so the redemption would not be infinite in its application. And so, as we would expect, Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Celestial Kingdom contains this statement: “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the year of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 137:10.)

It is sometimes asked if this applies to children of all races, and of course the answer is that when the revelation says all children it means all children. There is no restriction as to race, kindred, or tongue. Little children are little children and they are all alive in Christ, and all are saved by him, through and because of the atonement. They are saved through the Atonement and because they are free from sin. They come from God in purity; no sin or taint attaches to them in this life; and they return in purity to their Maker. Accountable persons must become pure through repentance and baptism and obedience. Those who are not accountable for sins never fall spiritually and need not be redeemed from a spiritual fall. Hence the expression that little children are alive in Christ. “Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten,” the Lord says. (D&C 29:46.)

Jesus commanded us all to be perfect even as he was. We are mortal and therefore incapable of being perfect, but Pelagius saw in Jesus’ commandment the possibility of human capability of resisting sin through use of our free will. We need grace after we do all we can, but we must first try to be even as Christ is.

I find much that is worthy of praise in Pelagius.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Desire Named Streetcars

A while ago I wrote a post:

http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/memory-brains-eyes-henri-bergson-and.html

about the Bergsonian cone, triggered by a smell of chemicals in a bathroom that led me on a whirlwind trip through my mind of Honduras, eye injuries, and my time in Costa Rica.

Well yesterday, I had another adventure along the Bergsonian cone. I hope it is a good read for you.

Last Spring Mickelle and I bought two tickets to go see “Ignatius on Stage” during the Tennessee Williams Festival. The play consisted of readings, acted out, from the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by William Kennedy Toole. Mickelle and I love this novel, as it perfectly encapsulates how quixotic life was in New Orleans, Pre-Katrina. The show was great. Since I bought the tickets online through the festival’s webpage, they added us to their mailing list. They host events throughout the year, and Mickelle and I have gone to one other event, a public discussion with author Jed Levine about his book, Breach of Faith about the levee breaks. Well last Friday, I got an email from the Tennessee Williams Festival which I didn’t open. Last week was hellaciously busy for me, as is this week. I’m only writing this lengthy post today because today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement, and we have the day off (of) school (Tulane has a very high Jewish population; I like that we respect their holy days as well as the Christian ones).

Anyway, when I saw the email, it made me sad. I don’t know why, but it made me really really sad. I didn’t even open it, because I felt sad when I saw it. I went on doing other things, not really considering the reason why it made me so sad, and largely forgot about it.

This weekend was the semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On Saturday and Sunday, we are supposed to watch the sessions (there are five) of General Conference. Since it is not broadcast on local TV here as it is in Utah, we go to the church and watch it on the satellite dish (which is why all Mormon churches in the US have satellite dishes). I went to the Saturday morning session, the Saturday night priesthood session, and the Sunday morning session. I felt spiritually lifted by hearing the Apostles and the Prophet speak. The talks ranged from doing one’s duty, to showing integrity in all things, to avoiding the evils of pornography and idle words (Jesus’s term for vulgar language—from Matthew), to forgiving oneself of past sins after you have repented, to realizing that after you do all you can, it is by grace that you are saved. It was great.

I was thinking that watching conference in my chapel just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was. Something was troubling me. That feeling of das unheimlich that Freud explains is like coming home and feeling like something is different, but not really knowing what (like if someone had lowered a painting on the wall by two inches—you perceive the change, but can’t consciously recognize it). Then suddenly it hit me, why I felt so uncomfortable both in church, and why the Tennessee Williams Festival email had made me feel so sad. But before I say why, let me explain how I got there.

This is the path I took to realize the source of my uncanny feelings. While I was watching conference, I began thinking back to when I had first joined the church. I was in high school at Etowah (Eddy-wah) High School, a decidedly different place today than it was 15 years ago. I was 17 years old. The middle of my junior year. Not the easiest time to renounce alcohol, embrace abstinence (not that I had had any luck in that department), and set yourself aside as different from everyone else. Though my school did have its fair share of so-called Jesus Freaks: Cade Harvill, for example. For some reason during conference I thought of Tyson Farmer. Tyson was/is a very talented guy that I haven’t seen since graduation. Tyson never really cared for me. I was amazed by Tyson and wanted to be his friend, but never really knew how to relate to him or his good friend Warren Grubb. They were probably the two most creatively-talented people in my class. Anyway, I thought of how much time had gone by since I had seen them. That made me think of the time that Tyson had brought his guitar to Mrs. May’s AP English class and played Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” for the class.

And then I remembered that class, and how I (unjustly) loathed Mrs. May. It made me think of how she made me read long passages out loud from works like The Misanthrope, Wuthering Heights, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Thinking of The Glass Menagerie, made me remember that I had read an article early Friday morning by Mario Vargas Llosa called “My Son the Rastafarian” wherein he laments having sent his son off to boarding school in England, instead of Peru, and how his son had suddenly become a Rasta under the influence of the large West Indian population of London in the early 1980s. The entire narrative plays out when the two get together for a film festival in Berlin where Vargas Llosa was on the jury, along with------Tennessee Williams. So many mentions of Tennessee Williams in a short space, jogged my memory. I immediately thought of his seminal work, A Streetcar Named Desire, and how it is set in New Orleans.

And then it hit me. My church sits on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. The storm destroyed the catenary system overhead that powers the streetcar system. The streetcars make a grinding noise as they move up and down the line. It is very loud. You hear it every few minutes in my church building. I had grown so used to it, that I didn’t even notice it anymore. Only yesterday, I realized that the streetcars have been silenced by the floods. THAT was the feeling of unheimlich that I felt in the church; that is why the email made me sad. A desire named streetcars. I want them to come back, just so they can be noisy in my church.

Our subconscious is a wonderland.

They can’t get that system going again soon enough.