Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Post of '07: Why I Hope African-American Culture Takes Back the Confederate Flag

So, since no one invited us to any kind of party, we've spent the evening watching SNL in the 90's. And so, with Mickelle snoozing on the sofa, here's one last thing. I just wanted to go on record in 2007 as saying that I hope that African-American culture takes back the Confederate Flag.

If you don't know what I mean by taking back or reclaiming, let me explain. In Nazi Germany, people who were at odds with the National Socialist agenda, were made to wear different insignia to represent their putative offense against decent society. We all know that Jews were made to wear yellow Stars of David. Homosexuals were made to wear pink triangles.

The homosexual communities in San Francisco, California and Edinburgh, Scotland have reclaimed the pink triangle from its formerly offensive and hateful connotation by wearing it with pride. I would like for some designer to do the same thing with the Confederate Flag.

I never used to consider the Confederate Flag to be a symbol of hatred. My ancestors fought and died for that flag against what they deemed an unlawful invasion--against the Constitution. 2nd Lt. Nineveh Taylor Buckner, Confederate States Army, my great-great-grandfather, was not a slave owner. He volunteered.

My parents are not racist. I certainly am not. When I see the flag it reminds me of my ancestors' sacrifices and my heritage (like it or not). At least it used to.

So, it pains me when I see how the racist asshat skinheads, rednecks, 1950's Southern state legislatures, and KKK members have appropriated it and made it into something that it never represented. Therefore, I hate what it has become, a symbol of hatred. I fully understand why African-Americans have moved to have it removed from state flags, etc. I think they are justified, and the Georgia flag now looks better without it.

Nothing infuriates the unrighteous like casting aside their best efforts to antagonize. That's why I want the Confederate Flag to be reclaimed. I would love it if hiphop artists (the clean ones at least) would start sporting the emblems of the CSA, at first ironically, and then in a positive statement of reconcilliation and national healing. Maybe then we could get people singing "Dixie" again without it seeming racist, maybe the AJC would put "Covers Dixie Like the Dew" back on its masthead, and maybe, just maybe, we could stop worrying about stuff that happened before any of our grandparents were born.


2007: The Williams' Year in Review

Pros:

1. Mac finally earned his PhD
2. Marley started kindergarten
3. Mickelle got pregnant
4. Mac got a good job his first year on the market (which is rare)
5. Jack learned to walk and a host of other things

Cons:

1. Mac's Dad died
2. Marley's Pappy Mac died
3. Jack's Pappy Mac died
4. Lala's husband died
5. Susanna's Dad died
6. Nanny & Papa's son died

All told, 2007 was a decent year with a pretty miserable October. I won't call this a good year, I can't call it a bad year. It was a middling year. I am so thankful that it's 2008 in a few hours and I can't say "my dad died this year anymore." I'm also thankful that my maternal grandfather didn't die during the holidays.




My Dad's big redfish

Time Flies

Mommy: Marley, go see what time it is on the cable box
Marley: I don't know how to tell time
Papi: Just read off the numbers
(Pause)
Marley: It's 10........and one eight, no wait, now it's one nine.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mac's Best of 2007

So, here's a detailed list of some of my favorite things in 2007. Keep in mind that things in this list might not have premiered in 2007.


Favorite Book read in 2007: Will Self’s The Book of Dave

During the Summer, Idelber Avelar had mentioned meeting Will Self at a conference, and how much he had been impressed by him. After reading nothing but Latin-American Literature for the last 12 years, I was itching for something new. I researched Self’s work and decided that The Book of Dave sounded like the best-reviewed and most-fascinating of his works.

The novel alternates back and forth between a post-Deluge Ing (England) that has embraced Dävananity, the religion of Dave, taken from metal plates found buried in the Forbidden Zone on the isle of Ham (modern-day Hampstead Heath), and the horribly tragic life of Dave Rudman, a mentally-ill (at times) Cockney taxi driver blessed with a perfect recall of the Knowledge. To be a taxi driver in London, one must memorize the entire city; this information is called The Knowledge, and in his mental illness and anger against his lying, adulterous, and frigid wife, who lied-to-him-that-she-was-pregnant-with-his-child-after-a-one-night-stand-so-he-would-marry-her, he melds the Knowledge with his misogynistic rants into a new Gospel for a New London. He has the harangue engraved on silver plates and then buries them in his ex-wife’s backyard. At some unknown point in the future after a catastrophic flood, they are discovered, and a new religion emerges based on the cabby’s diatribe. The masters of this religion create a feudal society that strictly enforces the Doctrines and Covenants of Dave.

But what we have is a society set up around how a blue-collar Cockney divorced taxi driver thinks the world should be run (in the midst of his mental illness). The novel entertains the consequences of anyone imagining how you wish the world could be, engraving it on plates, burying it on high ground, and then some day it comes to pass. As I interpret it, it seems that the world today is just fine being run by societal consensus rather than a jaded and scorned mentally-ill individual. It's an attempt to constuct how the minimally-educated blue-collar chauvinistic man would run the world. I heard hundreds of varying iterations of this same idea in my five years of employment at McDonald's, and six at Pizza Hut.

There’s a key moment in the book when religious satire becomes clear. We are told that shortly after his divorce Dave starts going to a diner for food every day. He strikes up a friendship with a very devout Muslim. In talking about the Koran, Dave asks the Muslim man if he really takes seriously what “some bloke wrote a thousand years ago.” The man’s response shows Self’s satire of modern religion, because the man answers, coolly, “Not some bloke Dave, it was God,” ending the paragraph, the chapter, and the debate.

Self does some of the usual tricks you’d expect for a book about the future. There are different dialects of English: Arpee and Mokni (get it, mock Cockney?). The terms for everything are bits and pieces of late 20th/early 21st Century vernacular. Breakfast is “starbucks,” the Creation is the “MadeinChina,” and pigeons are “flying rats.” But, it’s not hokey. The accents are fun to read, and a glossary is provided to aid the uninitiated. I only wish I understood a bit more of British slang, because I often found myself not knowing what a word meant, and not finding it in the dictionary. Self’s prose is engaging and original. I was saddened whenever I had to put the book down to go to work or to sleep; it was that good.

That’s the gist of it. But, to summarize, Self’s book is a masterpiece of religious commentary and satire (it reminded me, on the same level, of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses). He examines all the Religions of the Book, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, but especially skewers Mormonism. Being a Mormon, I see his point crystally-clear. However, my belief in the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with it being a really old book, rather, I believe it to be true because I have prayed about it. I could be totally wrong, but I don’t think that I am. Unlike many other Southern Christians, I enjoy it when I read something that questions what I believe about my religion.

This will not be the last time I read a book by Will Self. It was a pleasure.

Favorite Movie seen for the first time in 2007: Hot Fuzz

This is the funniest movie I've seen since Thank You for Smoking. I think it might even be funnier. It is a loving, sarcasm-free, spoof of every cop buddy movie ever made, especially Bad Boys and Point Break.

The direction was perfect, the writing--perfect. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It strikes the same tone of teasing jokes that the Quixote does with the novels of knight errantry.

I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend seeing Hot Fuzz.

Favorite Movie Seen in 2007: Stalag 17

A classic movie from 1953 about some American POWs in Austria trying to figure out who the Nazi spy is in their midst.

Favorite Album of 2007: The Annuals Be He Me

This Annuals album was released in 2006, but I didn't hear it until Tim Boisvert played it for me when I was up visiting in Raleigh. Now "Carrying Around" and "Complete or Completing" are two of my most-played tracks in iTunes. It's like nothing I've ever heard...almost. It sounds like a lot of people, but I still find it unique. I recommend those two tracks as an introduction; you can find your own way to the rest of the album.

Favorite Own Blog Post of 2007: Katrina Two Years Later & Tyra Banks is Phat

Favorite Other Blog Post of 2007: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed: A Cautionary Tale

Favorite New Food: Coke Zero Cherry
Favorite New Website: www.icanhascheezburger.com
Favorite TV Show: Battlestar Galactica/Project Runway/Rome
Favorite Newly Watched TV Show: Heroes
Favorite Memory: My dad surprising me to go fishing in Apalachicola

Some pledges for 2008

Things I plan to try and stop letting annoy me in 2008, in no particular order:


People who claim their clean houses are dirty when you go visit them
People who talk about diets while you’re eating a meal
People who give parenting advice who have no children, especially unsolicited advice
People who address letters to me as Mr. John M. Williams III
People who jailhouse lawyer everything
People who ask you to take off your shoes when you go into their house
People who have uncouth cellphone ringtones
People who assume Southerners are uneducated
People who sit in unrighteous judgment, blinded by the beams in their own eyes
People who makes disparaging jokes about the South
TV shows, books, movies, and magazine and newspaper articles that pander to Northern
stereotypes about the Southeastern United States.
The cultural imperialism of New York City on the rest of the country and/or world
Robotic postal workers who don’t listen to what you say because they love repetition
People who say “Thanks so much” when a simple “Thank you” would be more than
adequate
People over age 12 who say things are “Yummy.”
People who roll their eyes at Science and/or Fantasy fiction
People who view PhDs as easy-to-earn
People send emails without proper greetings (e.g. Dear Mac,)
People who think that if you disagree with them politically, you’re an idiot
Mormons who think you can’t be a good Mormon and not be a Republican
Mormons who vote for Mitt Romney just because he’s Mormon
People who write online petitions about Sister Beck’s Conference Talk
People who talk about how much they love family and then act like total harridans when
they’re around family
People who call me “Big Mac” after having been told that it’s a family name
People who call anyone who speaks Spanish, “Spanish”
People who call use the term “Dirty Mexican”
People who make fun of McDonald’s employees
People who never worked for tips that bitch about service when its not the server’s fault
Mormons who homeschool their kids
Media who never ask a Mormon what Mormons believe
Barry Bonds
Scott Boras
The Major League Baseball Players Association
The Los Angeles Dodgers (a pipedream)
Don Imus
Howard Stern
Hugo Chavez
Vladimir Putin
Hillary Clinton
Barak Obama
Mitt Romney
John Edwards
Al Gore (not gonna happen, but I’ve got to try)
What CNN has become
Poorly written and/or edited news articles
Articles about some amazing thing that don’t include a photograph
Ray Nagin
Mary Landrieu
Hugh Jackman
Jimmy Kimmel’s comment about Ashley Tisdale and his son at some awards show
That Scrubs is going off the air
When my DVR fails to record The Soup
That the networks won’t give the writers a taste of online revenues
That my reflection is much larger than I feel
People who remind me that I need to lose weight (A lot of good it did my Dad)
People who say “do it for your kids”
People who don’t heed my sage advice
People who claim that violent acts are the will of God
People who get upset that I believe in God
People who can't tolerate others criticizing their religion
People who react with violence when someone criticizes their religion
People who claim that calling a teddy bear Mohammed is blasphemy (as if you could blaspheme a man!)
People who hide behind religion and culture to defend barbaric acts
People who claim they couldn't have done something terrible because they are a Christian
People who call Christians who sin hypocrits
The Governor of Alaska
The Alaskan Congress
President George W. Bush's vetoes (plural) of Bills that would've given my children lowcost healthcare options
The business planners at eBay
eBay's CEO
What eBay has become
What Time Magazine has become
What the American Scholar journal has become
That Chrysler is discontinuing the Dodge Magnum
That my father paid the Social Security and Medicare maximums his whole life (self-employed) and that neither institution will cover a penny of his $200k medical bills
List of other people's complaints

Baseball Porn: Major League Baseball from 1988-2007, Steroids, and the Mitchell Report

Steroid Use and the Mitchell Report

So, think back with me. It’s 1996 and a guy named Brady Anderson hits 50 homers for the Orioles. I was astounded. Even though George Foster had hit 50 homeruns when I was an toddler, no one had done it in my childhood or adolescence, save the naturally-thick Cecil Fielder. One look at his son Prince, and you’ll notice that the family has no need for injections of drugs to make them strong. Natural selection has provided the muscle to them through their ancestors’ DNA and their own work to develop the latent physique encoded in their bodies.

But then this Brady Anderson fellow hits 50 homeruns after hitting 16 the year before. And so does Albert Belle, and Greg Vaughn, and then the skinny Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds of their Topps rookie cards gave way to the ham hock behemoths of the mid-1990’s. We all knew something was up:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A06E6DE1038F930A3575AC0A960958260

Anderson said he took creatine and had a lean physique. McGwire claimed he got his bulk from Andro. But was else was coursing through the veins of MLB in those days?

With the expansion to the five-man rotation and added teams in Florida, Tampa, Colorado, and Arizona, 46 guys who would’ve never been pitching suddenly were. There has never been an over abundance of excellent pitching in the free-agent era (save the 1990’s Braves), and it should be assumed that the dilution of the pitching talent pool would lead to an increase in offensive production. However, the numbers don’t really add up. Even with the weakened pitching efficacy, the homerun numbers have skyrocketed too quickly. Only Dale Murphy and Cal Ripken hit 20 or more homers per year every year from 1982-1990. Since 1990, I couldn’t even begin to compile a list of guys with TEN year 20-or-more streaks.

Hobbled by a string of injuries, Roger Clemens suddenly found new life and dominance as his body began to coordinate again with his immense talent. He won Cy Young after Cy Young. He claimed it was all the result of distance throwing and strength training and throwing on his off days. Amazing! He could recuperate faster from pitching by pushing himself even harder! It is perfectly rational to assume that a man in his mid-30’s can suddenly add 40 lbs of muscle through an intensive conditioning program. Things that sound too good to be true usually are.

I remember going to Braves games in the 1980’s. I was always thrilled when Dale Murphy drilled one into the seats. He struck out a lot, but he was a clutch player, the anti-Jeff Blauser (I like you as a person, Mr. Blauser). It was amazing to watch him. The best ball players I ever saw hit in the 1980’s were Will Clark, Bob Horner, Keith Hernandez, John Kruk, Tommy Gregg, and this tall lanky kid named Daryl Strawberry. It seemed like Strawberry didn’t really need to try. He was a natural batter. Though he ruined his career with a different class of drugs, had he stayed clean he might’ve made the Hall of Fame.

I remember one game in 1988, this scrawny little kid who played for the Pirates hit a homerun to the right power alley at Fulton County Stadium. It seemed like it was still rising when it hit the bleachers, like a Ruben Sierra homerun. His name was Barry Bonds, and he had the look of a great one. Another guy that my dad and I loved the moment we saw him was this short little catcher for the Houston Astros named Craig Biggio. I liked him so much that I bought hundreds of his Upper Deck rookie cards for pennies a piece. Biggio played his career, obviously, without using Performance Enhanching Substances (PES). He amassed 3,000 hits the old-fashioned way, by hustling on every play, by keeping himself fit and healthy, and by using his God-given talent to the utmost. He is a true Hall of Famer. He wasn’t the best at his position; he occasionally led the league, but his HOF-worthy feat was to be above-average for a very long time. You could count on Biggio in the clutch; fans loved him; he was a nice guy; he was respected by his teammates; he was not using.

But, part of me remembers the thrill of all that power, that awe-inspiring sheer power. Hitting a baseball is the hardest feat in the sports world; nothing is harder. If you fail two out of three times, you’ll be a multi-millionaire. And the 1998 season was amazing! Sosa hit 20 homeruns in June! Fantasy baseball was never better! Records fell. New heroes were made. The game seemed infused with new vigor, sparking talk of a new Golden Age, making us forget the vile greed of the '94 strike.

And then I think about how much of a lie it was. The guys weren’t doing it and earning our respect and admiration because of what they could do with what they were given; they did it because some chemist figured out a way to cook the books. Baseball on steroids is Baseball Porn.....a total lie, an overabundance and accumulation of signs.

So, I believe the Mitchell Report. The highly-overrated Andy Pettite admitted to using HGH for “two days” to recover from an injury, because he was outed. I believe that Clemens used something to fix his body, and then amp it up to superhuman proportions; he’s no David Dunn (think Unbreakable).

I suspect McGwire, Vaughn, Sheffield, Anderson, Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Belle, Luis Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Thome, Bagwell, Hidalgo, Castilla, Glaus, Walker, Shawn Freaking Green, Sexson, Matt Stairs, Nevin, Sheffield, Jay Buhner, the ’96 Orioles, the ’96 A’s, and the Texas Rangers since 1993.

I believe Chipper, Andruw, Pujols, Junior, Howard, Vladimir Guerrero, Helton, Galarraga, McGriff, Manny Ramirez, Piazza, and Carlos Delgado all did it without steroids’ help.

We all know that Canseco, Palmeiro, Giambi, and Bonds are tainted. I would recommend blotting out their records. Without steroids, Canseco was marginal; Palmeiro would’ve never gotten to his Aaron, Ruth, Musial level stats; Giambi would have his brother’s career; and Bonds, well Bonds is just vain and plain stupid. He would’ve made the Hall no matter what. He was a game-breaker. He didn’t need the steroids, but his quest to break Aaron’s record took over, and he let it. Take these four people, along with Sosa and McGwire, and make examples of them. I’m not sure, but I’d think that all baseball records should go back to their 1987 levels, and we should allow new records to be made. Forget asterisks, just don’t even mention any record (including Fernando Tatis’s astounding two grand-slams in one inning that will never happen again) that happened between 1988-2007. It would make baseball fun again, and allow for lots more excitement like 1998 all over again.

Roger Clemens might be innocent. If so, he’s now been libeled. But, just like in school when someone else did something, the entire class was made to suffer. Clemens is guilty by association. It’s un-American to convict him without due process, I know, but I can’t change my belief that he’s guilty-as-hell without some evidence to the contrary. I’d make a terrible juror.

All of this steroid-infused Baseball Porn leads me back to the greatest player the Braves had in the 1980’s, Dale Murphy. I am completely biased because I consider Dale Murphy to be my all-time hero. His arm was one of the best in either league. Were it not for Mike Schmidt he could have been THE star of the National League at the time. As I said before, only he and Cal Ripken hit 20 or more homers every year from 1982-1990. He hit 40 homers once and 30 several times. He did make the 30-30 club back when it had few members (1983). He wound up with 398 homers. I'm not sure, but I think he is the all-time leader in home runs lost to rain-outs. That might be wrong, but I think I remember him passing Bobby Bonds for first place. He won back to back MVP's. He played in 740 consecutive games, the 12th longest streak ever. He was an All-Star in 1980, 82-87 and the top vote getter in 1985; he started five times. Murph hit .302 in 1983 when that was good enough for 6th place in the league. We cannot judge him by today's offense benchmarks. Imagine if someone hit .302 now and was 6th in the league! He led the National League in HR 1984-85, in RBI 82-83, runs in 1985, and OPS in 1983. He won five straight gold gloves from 1982-86 and four straight silver slugger awards from 1982-86. His number (#3) has been retired by the Atlanta Braves.

But he shouldn't be measured solely for his on-field accomplishments. Let's not forget the class and honor that he brought to the game. He was a tireless supporter of the Huntington Disease Foundation, the 65 Roses Club, MDA, Make-A-Wish, The March of Dimes and many many others. He won the Lou Gehrig Award in 1985 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 1988. He was never ejected from a baseball game (I think). He thanked reporters for interviewing him. In Philadelphia once, a stadium security guard didn't recognize him and wouldn't let him into the stadium. He just laughed it off. I can only imagine what Barry Bonds might have done in that situation.

Murphy didn't have an "All suites" clause in his contract, nor did he have his team guarantee him charter jet flights home to his ranch during the season like Kevin Brown. I mean, he even had kind words to say about people like John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and even Ozzie Virgil.I think we should point out that when Murphy finished 4th in homers in 1986 that he only had 29 homers. In 1987 he hit 44, but Andre Dawson had 49, so Murphy's awesome power that year was overshadowed in the NL, and by McGwire’s 49 and Jorge Bell’s 47. Homers were much harder to come by in that day and age. No one hit 50 from 1977 (George Foster) until 1990 (Cecil Fielder). If Murphy had connected twice more in his career, I think that he might've gotten into the Hall.

Murphy was universally respected by all players (to be redundant). Imagine this scene: It's 1991, Braves vs. Phillies. Otis Nixon gets beaned by the Phillies pitcher next time up after hitting a homer. The bottom half of the inning, Tom Glavine has to respond and hit the first Phillies batter. Only it's Dale Murphy. He can't do it; no way. So he does the meanest thing he can bring himself to do; he throws Murph four high and inside fastballs to brush him back and put him on. Murphy got the base, and Glavine got the boot by the ump. Glavine said the ump later told him, "I only let you throw four, because that was Murphy and because I knew you wouldn't." It was not merely because they had been teammates, but because Murphy was so respected that he was off limits (by the umpires) for stunts like that. Glavine is a class act too, he's in the Hall for sure, and Murphy will make it somehow, someday, someway.

If anyone deserves to get in, without the numbers we're used to seeing, he does, for being the nicest, most polite gentleman to ever grace the field.

Murph's stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/m/murphda05.shtml

Weird site: www.fmtc.com/~trinity/

An article by a higher news source than me: http://espn.go.com/talent/danpatrick/s/2002/0724/1409552.html


What a physically fit athlete should look like!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cool, Nice!

That's what Jack says whenever he sees something he likes...."Cool, nice."

He also treats us to "Oh Wow!," "Mine," "Cracker," "Nana," "Dee (that means drink)," and my favorite, "Papi."

He also has to put his hands down his diaper once every five mins to make sure his cha-cha-willy is still there. So far it has been.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Gift to My Blog Readers

The more observant readers of my blog may have noticed a theme to the recent titles of my posts (kudos to Brady Fonnesbeck for guessing correctly). Mickelle is pregnant with our third child and is expecting at the beginning of August. The pregnancy was not planned.

Marley, conceived after 9-11-01
Jack, conceived after Hurricane Katrina
#3, conceived after my father died

Disasters have to happen for my wife to conceive. I'm hoping for a boy.

Names we like:

Girl: Calliope Rae Williams (kuh-LIE-oh-pee)
Boy: Jonas Timothy Williams

I tried to get Mickelle to go with Terpischore Rae Williams, but she won't go for it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Letter to Borges or Why Muslims Hate Salman Rushdie

I wrote this back in 2001 when I was a Masters student at BYU. I've decided to post it unedited. It was supposed to be a journal entry about the reading; I wrote it as if I were writing Borges a letter (you can roll your eyes at me now). My ideas in the conclusion have since changed a little, but it's still a good read.


Master Borges, June 4, 2001

Upon reading your short story “The Circular Ruins,” I cannot help but see parallels between it and “The Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain and “The Satanic Verses” by Salmon Rushdie. The question that arises in my mind is one of religious ontology and skepticism in these stories. In your story and Rushdie’s there is a definite question of ontology that defies Western Christian beliefs on the nature of the soul. The Persian magician in your story worships a fire god in order to create a son, yet in the end, at the moment of his death, he realizes that he too is the creation or dream of someone else. Is this ontological awakening merely the demonstration of religious skepticism of the magician?

Christian and Muslim ontology declares monotheism and the eternal nature of the soul. Although there might be a fragmented Self, either by choice or mental defect, all Selves can be contained within the soul. In Rushdie’s novel, we find that the Koran is not the angel Gabriel speaking to Mahound the prophet, but an Indian voice over actor named Saladin Chamchawalla, who is dreaming strange dreams about some guy in a cave asking him questions about the true nature of God (Al-lah). When Chamchawalla tells him that Al-lat (mother goddess) is al

so as powerful as Al-lah (father god) he believes him and writes these prophecies down too. Upon review with the other members of Islam, Mahound comes back to the cave and questions the supposed Gabriel about these discrepancies, and the quick thinking (dreaming) Chamchawalla tells him that he wasn’t the one there when those verses were given, that it was Satan, and that Mahound should have known that they weren’t from Al-lah, because “he is the one true god, and Mahound is his prophet.” From thereon those verses are known as “the Satanic verses.” Much like the outlawed cults in “The library of Babylon” they are still mentioned by the older folk as proof of the existence of Al-lat, or to refute the veracity of Islam. For although submission was required of all, the conversion procured by the sword is never one of faith.

The Persian magician had faith in the fire god, yet we must examine the source of his faith. Did he, as a creation, have any freewill, or were his ideas merely the extension of the dreams of his creator? If he did have freewill, then he is very nearly our equal, from a Christian ontological point of view. If he did not, then he is more like the persons in Twain’s short story. In this work, everyone is the invention of the main character. Even Satan, who comes to town, being the nephew of the Great Deceiver, is another child of his imagination. He being an entity in the void, alone throughout the eternities, inventing worlds and systems for all time to amuse himself. The whole system collapses when one of his creations addresses him and tells him of his true nature, thus making everything into nothing, perceiving Ortega y Gasset’s glass, the painterly brushstrokes of the Impressionists instead of the greater image impression. Christian ontology is uniquely generous in that it tells us that we are given freewill, our souls are eternal, there is no end of existence, and that we can even become equal to our Creator through obedience.

In Antonio Muñoz Molina's “El invierno en Lisboa,” the character named Billy Swann says:

“Qué sabes tú de los viejos tiempos muchacho. Ocurrieron mucho antes de que nacieras tú. Otros murieron en el momento justo y lleven trienta años tocando en el Infierno o dondequiera que mande Dios a la gente como nosotros. Mírame. Yo soy una sombra, yo soy un desterrado. No de mi país, sino de aquel tiempo. Los que quedamos fingimos que no hemos muerto, pero es mentira, somos impostores.”

In the above quote we can see how death is not an end for the Christian believer. For the Christian this life is the dream, because of the veil laid over our eyes to block our understanding of the divinity of God. If we had knowledge of God, then faith would be an impossibility. Since His plan for us required faith in order to succeed, he placed this cloud over us to promote faith. In Rushdie’s story, the myopic (can’t see past this life) poet named Baal, refuses to submit to Islam, and instead takes refuge in a whorehouse, where he convinces the 12 whores that it would be more profitable to act as the twelve wives of Mahound. They begin to do so, to such a point that they actually begin to believe that they are his very wives, and when they are discovered and executed for blasphemy against Mahound and not Al-lah (there is humor is this fact, for how can a man be blasphemed?) they do not understand because their madness or convincing of their roles has lead them to ontological crisis. Are they not his wives in every act but a ceremony?

This is a question that requires further debate. Monotheistic ontology is one of the eternal soul. Pagan ontology is one of crisis and questioning one’s own existence.

Yours,



Mac Williams

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nascent Ideas

So, one of my old professors asked me to write something for his blog about how life was in the USA if you're a little above the poverty line. His blog is in Portuguese; I wrote it in Spanish. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, pues, estúdienlo.

...

Un ex profesor mío me pidió que escribiera algo para su blog para su público brasileño. Les comparto lo que escribí.

¿Cómo es vivir en los Estados Unidos si uno gana un poquito más de lo que el gobierno llama el “nivel de pobreza?”Soy un profesor de español al nivel universitario. Estoy casado, tengo dos hijos (de 5 años y 18 meses). Gano $40,000 por año. De los impuestos del sueldo y de seguridad social (lo que dicen que recibiremos cuando somos mayores de 67 años) me quedan $34,000. Si divido lo que gano por los 12 meses, me quedan $2833 dólares por mes.

La hipoteca de la casa que compramos (4 habitaciones, 2,100 pies cuadrados) con los impuestos de terreno y el seguro de casa, inundación, y de terremoto nos cuesta $930 cada mes. Ya me quedan $1900 mensuales. No hay un sistema de transporte público en el pueblo donde vivimos. Porque somos cuatro tenemos que tener un carro más o menos grande.

Compramos un Dodge Mágnum, que nos cuesta $400 por mes por seis años. Estamos ya entrando en el tercer año de pagar. Con el seguro, requerido por ley y por la compañía financiera, pago otros $50 por mes. No manejamos mucho, pero la gasolina nos cuesta $90 cada mes. Ya nos quedan $1360.

Con cuatro personas, buscando gangas en todas partes, pagamos $400 cada mes en comestibles, pañales, y otras cosas de la canasta básica. Ya me quedan $960. La luz, el gas, el agua, la basura, el alcantarillado y el teléfono nos cuestan $200. Estamos ya en $760. Tengo deudas de préstamos estudiantiles después de estudiar por 12 años. Pagaré $400 por mes, cada mes, por los próximos 30 años. Ya me quedan $360. Si queremos servicio de internet y de televisión cable (vivimos en el campo y no hay buena recepción), ya pagamos otros $100, dejándonos $260.

Con $260 tenemos que comprar ropa, entretenimiento, si queremos cenar en un restaurante, mantener la casa, etc. Mi esposa trabaja un poquito desde la casa vendiendo cosas que encuentro en eBay. Con esto ganamos unos $500 mensuales, que nos permite pagar el diezmo en la iglesia y ahorrar un poquito.

Es por eso que este verano yo y mi colega vamos a escribir un libro de texto para usar en nuestras clases. Es por eso que yo busco cualquier trabajo extra que pueda encontrar para ganar un poquito más. Oh, mi esposa y mis hijos no tienen seguro médico, porque esto me costaría $822.01 cada mes, o sea casi 25% de mi sueldo ANTES de los impuestos federales y estatales. Gano $1800 dólares demasiados cada año para calificar para el seguro gratis Medicaid del gobierno.

Mi esposa podría trabajar fuera de la casa, pero pagaríamos un rescate de rey a un cuidaniños por los dos que no están en la escuela todavía. También, pensamos que es mejor para nuestros hijos si tienen la mamá en casa con ellos—especialmente durante sus años más formativos.

Lo peor es que aquí, en una universidad en el campo, lo pasamos muy bien. Si tuviera un trabajo así en una ciudad grande nunca podríamos comprar una casa. Por lo menos aquí en el campo el precio de todo es mucho menos. Los precios suben todos los días. Hace cinco años compramos bolsas de 50 libras de arroz por $7.88. Ayer pagamos $13.67.

Hay mucha gente rica en los Estados Unidos. Los que ganan menos de $70,000, no lo somos. Entiendo que ser pobre en otros países significa algo completamente diferente en los EE.UU; viví dos años en Costa Rica. Pero, tampoco digo que paso los días viviendo de lujo.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Infantile

Ugh! Stuff like this is the reason why the Democrats will not win the next election. Election campaigns are too lengthy now. How about we say no one can campaign until the 1st of June before an election, that you must resign from elected office in order to declare your candidacy, and you can only spend ten cents per citizen on your campaign?



http://attacktimeline.com/
http://hillaryattacks.barackobama.com/
http://img248.imageshack.us/img248/6797/votingpresentgp3.jpg
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=4032659&page=1



And for anyone out there cheering for Ron Paul, aside from his being a reactionary fearmonger, I can't vote for him because of this insanity:

http://www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/home-schooling/

Linking

So, Mac's Daily Miscellany has been getting an increase in visitors recently. Though most of them haven't made any comments--which I always welcome, from anyone--the traffic to my blog, including repeat visitors, has doubled since August. To all the visitors who lurk without commenting, we are glad to have you with us. To all the people who comment, I love the comments, keep them coming.

Recent places that I've been quoted:

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education,

http://chronicle.com/blogs/footnoted/1233/conference-interviews-20-survival-tips

2. CNN.com

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/19/eob.fire/index.html
(you have to click the "From the Blogs" link after the body text of the article)

3. www.danielslopes.com

The article is in Portuguese; it's a translation of my favorite book read in 2007, Will Self's The Book of Dave.

According to google, there are over 1,100 different webpages that link to at least one page of my blog. That's pretty darned good for a personal blog. I'm sure it will go to my head.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Playing with Fire

I mean, I can't be the only one who snickered at the thought of this fire

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/19/eob.fire/index.html

being caused by someone in the VP's entourage burning "evidence," that this just might be near where they store all the visitor logs, that some recently requested sensitive documents were near the flames.

I'm confident it's innocent, but if it weren't for the Writer's Strike, the late-night talking heads could mine this for comedic gold.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Children Are a Humbling Blessing

So, since Marley has started going to kindergarten, she's had problems modulating the volume of her voice. She talks loudly, much like her paternal grandfather was known to do. Imagine the scene: we're in a crowded restaurant, lots of people eating, but the volume in the place isn't all that loud. You can hear Marley's voice above all others. Mickelle, my Mom, and I are having a conversation about how each child is different (comparing Marley to Jack and vice versa).

Someone says something about how little boys are different from little girls at Jack's age, and Marley bellows out, with all her might, "YEAH, LIKE BOYS TOOT INTO THEIR HANDS AND THEN OPEN IT IN FRONT OF GIRLS' NOSES, LIKE DADDY DOES TO ME."

When the paramedics revived the three of us after having passed out from laughing too hard, people were staring at us and snickering.

Yes, I admit it, I buttercup Marley.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

We All Become Forefathers by and by: RIP Dan Fogelberg (1951-2007)

http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/Music/12/16/obit.fogelberg.ap/index.html


This is my all time favorite Dan Fogelberg song:

"Forefathers"

They came from Scandinavia, the land of midnight sun
And crossed the North Atlantic when this century was young
They'd heard that in America every man was free
To live the way he chose to live and be who he could be

Some of them were farmers there and tilled the frozen soil
But all they got was poverty for all their earnest toil
They say one was a sailor who sailed the wide world round
Made home port, got drunk one night, walked off the pier and drowned

My mother was of Scottish blood, it's there that she was born
They brought her to America in 1924
They left behind the highlands and the heather-covered hills
And came to find America with broad expectant dreams and iron wills

My granddad worked the steel mills of central Illinois
His daughter was his jewel, his son was just his boy
For thirty years he worked the mills and stoked the coke-fed fires
And looked toward the day when he'd at last turn 65 and could retire

And the sons become the fathers and their daughters will be wives
As the torch is passed from hand to hand
And we struggle through our lives
Though the generations wander, the lineage survives
And all of us, from dust to dust
We all become forefathers by and by

The woman and the man were wed just after the war
And they settled in this river town and three fine sons she bore
One became a lawyer and one fine pictures drew
And one became this lonely soul
Who sits here now and sings this song to you

And the sons become the fathers and their daughters will be wives
As the torch is passed from hand to hand
And we struggle through our lives
Though the generations wander, the lineage survives
And all of us, from dust to dust
We all become forefathers by and by

Saturday, December 15, 2007

For Unto Us a Child Is Born






So, the local T.J. Applebee's Restaurant opened at 8AM this morning to allow a local charity to hold a benefit pancake breakfast. The cost was $5 per plate (two pancakes, butter, syrup, two strips of bacon, free refills on drinks), but the real benefit to us was that Santa Claus came. I'm convinced that it wasn't one of Santa's helpers; it appears the Jolly Old Elf made a personal appearance today in the Pee Dee. Luckily we had our cameras. Jack didn't really care for Santa this year. He seemed to be repulsed by his presence. But, then again, he only likes Mommy these days.




Weirdo!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pullalating

So, our esteemed president again vetoes the expanded children's healthcare bill. The medical care would've been paid for by an increase on the price of cigarettes. Please note, I am willing to pay substantially more from each paycheck so that I don't have to worry about healthcare for my kids. As it stands, I make $1,800 too much per year to qualify for Medicaid for my wee bairn. So, I'm left with the option of paying 25% of my income for not-so-grand insurance from my employer, or running the risk of paying out of pocket and facing some catastrophe, as my mom is now facing. I'd much rather pay 10% of my income to a fee-for-service government insurance program and not have to worry about medical care for my kids ever again. Also, please note, I do have intensive care supplemental coverage (for the whole family) through AFLAC. But, it isn't all that helpful without some other kind of insurance.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.schip/?iref=mpstoryview

Health insurance is the #1 issue for me this coming election.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

At This Point, What's One More Gonna Hurt?

Well, this Christmas, due to monetary constraints, we've decided to have a practical Christmas. There will be a (precious) few special presents under the tree, but for the most part, we are all getting things we need, instead of stuff that we want. The kids have a couple of toys, but most of their gifts are clothing (they are growing faster than necrotizing fasciitis), body-care products like shampoo, bubble bath, lotion, etc. We've been forced to limit our spending this year, and I've got to tell you, in some ways it's really nice.

I'm not getting Marley stuff just because I feel this need to give her a "perfect" Christmas that I can't really afford to give. I think I'm going to enjoy watching her face as she opens the special few things that we got her. And at her age, opening a box filled with hair care products probably is pretty cool (we even got her a little bottle of $1.25 blue finger nail polish to match her cheerleading pompoms). To me, it relieves me of that anxiety I have felt at Christmas. I remember my Christmases and the magic they held, and I've tried to recreate those for my kids, but it never feels the same. Last year, Marley complained about some of the gifts that she got. That's when I knew that I had to do something for sure. Luckily, this year, dollars have been in short supply, so I've been forced to do what I could never bring myself to do before-hold back. I like giving gifts, but not a spending-orgy-type trap that I'd fallen into in years past.

I'd really prefer to give gifts on the twelve days of Christmas between December 25th and January 6th (Twelfth Night, el día de los Reyes Magos) the Epiphany, and the official beginning of Mardi Gras. If you got twelve gifts over 12 days, I think that'd be better than even Hannukah. The Three Wise Men show up on the night of the 5th/6th and leave three gifts. It extends the excitement of the holidays for the kids, and keeps Christmas from becoming a consumernalia event.

Am I crazy? This old friend doesn't think so. I don't agree with him about the God/Santa problem, but the Calvinist argument is intriguing. ¡Feliz Navidad amigos!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Apparently, God is Brazilian.....Who Knew?

Brazil recently booked an oil field of some 8 billion barrels of light sweet crude. For those not familair with petroleum stuff, that's a helluva a lot of oil--enough to make Brazil a major oil exporter for a long long time. The president of Brazil, apparently, is convinced that God is Brazilian. I was not aware that Deus é brasileiro.


http://g1.globo.com/Noticias/Politica/0,,MUL186013-5601,00.html

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071120/od_afp/braziloiloffbeat_071120194907

Monday, December 10, 2007

MLA Convention 2007 in Chicago: If You're Going for a Job Interview

Recently I was asked to give some job interview advice to some of my old fellow graduate students at Tulane. Since I had eight job interviews last year and now am on a tenure-track Assistant Professor job, I feel a little confident that I'm not giving terribly bad advice. Here are some edited sections of the email that I sent in response to some questions I was asked.

Since I teach Spanish, the questions were about my teaching methods in language classes. Most people wanted to know how I would teach Spanish 101.

I told them that I used a communicative approach (and I explained how I knew what that meant; I wasn't just spouting jargon) making use of several different kinds of activities to improve their skills.

As a sample class, I would do "los tabúes" for vocabulary; take a list with the word the students have to get their team to say, and then a list of 3-4 words that are taboo. Then divide the class in two teams, have two people come forward, and let them have at it. For example, if the word were "manzana" then the taboo words would be "fruta, roja, redonda." They can use any words, but those three. It really challenges them to use their language skills, to use circumlocution to describe something. The students ALWAYS love this kind of activity.

Then for a grammar component, I chose the present perfect: I would do a basic explanation on the chalkboard 2-3 mins, and then have an overhead transparency with an exercise and model. I then would put them in small groups and have them practice the model. Then I would make sure to use some of the exercises from the textbook.

It's important to incorporate the textbook a school uses into your sample class. Show them that you can effectively use the tools that they have selected to use on their students. Do not ever criticize the book or talk about the one you use where you've taught (unless they ask). To reiterate, I'd make sure to avoid buzzwords about teaching style other than telling them that you use a communicative approach that uses different kinds of activities (each class) to improve and test students knowledge of the language.

Most importantly though, be yourself (I'm going to say that a lot in this post; I'm not being redudant). If you're at the MLA Convention, as I was in Philadelphia, just relax. They cannot cook you and eat you. They do have some control over your destiny, but they're wanting to know what kind of person they might be hiring as their future colleague and friend (hopefully). Be yourself, your mature self. If you think of something funny to say in response to a question or comment, have at it. They'll know how you really are, and you'll know if they're sticks in the mud or not. You are shopping too, though it might not feel like it when you're unemployed and rushing to finish the dissertation. I found this article to be very useful in helping me understand MLA interviewing:

http://www.mla.org/resources/jil/job_counseling/bulletin_ade/bulletin_111004

As much as you'd like to know, don't ask about salary at the MLA or on the phone (unless they bring it up). You can ask about professional development funds, faculty resources (library, travel funds, campus services), but don't ask about anything that would involve salary or benefits (anything that involves taxes and IRS forms). If you get the on-campus invite, that's when you'll get the benefits information.

If you get the on-campus interview, especially if you're going to a small liberal arts school, they're going to want you to teach a class. The bigger research schools are going to want a job talk, in which case, I would ask for the specific advice of your dissertation director about your talk.

If you're going to teach a sample class, relax. At the places I interviewed at first, I was all stiff and tried to be perfect. The students won't know you and might not react well to you. Don't get discouraged, just be yourself; a good teacher knows how to adapt a lesson when the plans don't work out. Don't be afraid to scrap an activity if it's not working. It shows just how adroit you are as a professor if you can change things on the fly. Also, don't overly prepare more than you would normally do. Everyone knows when someone is going over the top. It's like when people put trouffles on the food on Iron Chef; everyone knows this isn't normal.

I'd also contact them and ask them for a sample lesson plan or suggestions about quantity, "so you can get a feel for how much material the students normally review in each class." I had three on campus interviews, and taught 3 classes. The first one was a disaster because I expected the students to be of the same caliber as Tulane; this was not the case and I didn't adjust well because I got frustrated--you should expect it. The second one went well, but they chose one of my good friends over me (I can live with that); the third place was here at Coker, and I was just myself. When they asked me to name "your biggest weakness" (I hate that kind of question), I was just myself and said, "Pride." When they asked for clarification, I said, "it's pride because my biggest weakness is that I don't think I have any weaknesses, after nine years of university level teaching and over 30 classes, that merit mentioning in a job interview. I am an excellent teacher." Later, a colleague told me that that comment let them know that I was being myself, that I wasn't fake, and that what-they-saw-was-what-they-were-getting.

You hear people say it when you're looking for a job, but it never really registered with me until I quit caring IF I got the job. I wasn't apathetic--No. I just quit worrying about finding employment, because I knew that I was good, and that a job was an eventuality. If not this job, then some other one would have come my way. Research all the places you apply to, so that when they call, you're ready. For example, I was surprised to learn in my job interview that the Citadel requires all faculty to wear a uniform and go by the title "Captain." Had I known this beforehand, I wouldn't have applied--wearing a uniform is anathema to my personal style and comfort. I had no qualms about working for a military school, but the uniform requirement would've changed my application plans. I looked surprised in the interview, and they could immediately tell that I didn't know. In essence we wasted each others time, so it's best to avoid the awkwardness created by being surprised in an interview. Of course, of all the interviews I had, I enjoyed the Citadel's the most; the three professors were exactly the kind of colleagues I had always hoped for, and ultimately found at Coker.

Personally, I think the MLA is a waste of money for graduate students. If you have your dissertation defended, it's a different story. But, for ABDs, I prefer phone interviews. The costs of attending the Convention are very high, and it's in the absolutely worst week of the year (between Christmas and New Year) if you have children. I only had three interviews at MLA, and it cost me well over $1k. I seriously wonder how many convention attendees ultimately wind up with jobs they got from interviews at the convention. I would like to see the data. I did attend several panels, but it wasn't worth the money. Go to MLA when you're hired and have travel and personal development funds.

Also, remember that money isn't the most important thing. I had a major research university stringing me along about a Visiting Professor job offer that would've paid a king's ransom for a 2 class per semester/no committee work position. I chose the lower-paying job because I was treated me with respect (they actually cheered on the phone when I told them I was coming to Coker!).

My wife summed it up best when we were debating our decision: "Mac, go where they want you. Not where you hope they want you." We didn't go into teaching for the money; go where you'll be happy.

Shameless plug: If you found this post helpful/useful, please consider doing a search (for anything) in the google box to the right (be sure to click on a couple of links from the search) so I can earn some ad money to pay off my student loans. Good luck.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Seriously, Do We Really Need Articles about This Stuff?

Seriously, this should be no-schnit-Sherlock no-need-to-run-an-article type stuff; instead, it's fear-mongering at its worst:

http://krex.tv/modules/news/article.php?storyid=802

http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/2007/12/05/MallShootingsATL_1205.html

http://www.wdsu.com/news/14787870/detail.html

If you are in this situation, the best thing to do is to follow your instincts. You won't have time to run down the list of stupid crap you read online. Your gut will tell you what to do. Fight or flight is a powerful force. Like Jenny told Forrest, run Forrest, run. A prone moving target is the hardest thing to hit, especially with a rifle. I guess I've just sort of done the same thing these articles did, but seriously, that first one is just plain ole sensationalism. (This is not my best writing, "seriously")

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Mother's Work Is Never Done

In honor of all the hard work and the frustrating conversations that my wife has with our kids.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cumpleaños #34

So, with our limited budget this year, I was thinking that Mickelle and I wouldn't be doing much for my birthday, but then a card arrived from a family member with a $50 bill in it, so now we can go out somewhere nice (thanks to that couple for their gift).

I told Mickelle that the best things in life are free, and all I wanted was a topless haircut (my hair is really shaggy), but she wouldn't go for it. Go figure.

Given my chesty wife's ample bosom, it would've been so awesome; just thinking about it makes me happy. I'm going to get in trouble for this post, but it's so worth it. ;)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Iran Not Working on Nukes Anymore

So, we get the news, from our own intelligence services, that Iran is actually NOT working to develop a nuclear weapon. This is most welcome news.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/03/iran.nuclear/index.html

With the world no longer willing to support us in our efforts to police the world, news that our sabre-rattling (with, I believe, real intent to act had the need arisen) has had the desired effect allows us all to breathe a sigh of relief. An invasion, or even a targeted strike against Iran, would have rippled through the world economy, political scene, and surely launched new waves of terrorist strikes in our own country. That's not to say that should Iran ever resume its program that we should not unilaterally destroy it--we are not cowards in the face of an enemy that despises us. What I mean is, if we can give peace a chance, without shedding blood, then let's try it, by all means. War should always only be our last resort. I'm no warmonger, and I'm no "pacifist" but I am a lover of peace, decorum, diplomacy, and avoiding brinkmanship. With this news, and news of Chavez's defeat yesterday, I'm reminded that of that old infommercial from the 80's.

Is that Freedom Rock?

Well turn it up, man!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Digging in the Dirt

My Dad is really dead. It's hitting me pretty hard today. He's not coming back. This isn't a dream. La vida es sueño y los sueños, sueños son.

I miss him so badly. I had forgotten that I took a photo of him on my cell phone minutes after he died. I found it today. It brought back terrible memories, but I cannot delete it. He left my mother in a terrible position. Nothing is easy right now. There are so many unknowns. The medical bills are staggering. The future is an undiscovered country ruled by a dictator named debt.

I am struggling. I want to ask my dad for advice. He's dead. No one to turn to that I can ask the same kinds of questions. I have two grandpas I could ask, but it's not the same. My dad and I were alike. We were entrepreneurs. The gears were always turning. I don't know anyone like my dad. He was unique in my realm. I miss him so so badly.

This is for real and I fucking hate it.

Woke up/ fell out of bed

Only problem, I was dead

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/11/30/venezuela.protest/index.html

This is how one gets assassinated. The Venezuelan economy is too dependent on oil exports. It would wreck him to actually follow through. Not only that, but CITGO would go out of business.

We wouldn't kill him, but the Venezuelan oligarchy, as he puts it, has to be plotting something. That much money makes people do evil deeds.

Friday, November 30, 2007

An Observation on Family Life Involving Gorilla Glue

Sometime in our first couple of years of marriage, we bought a bottle of Gorilla Glue. It remained unopened until about 2004. I used it once, because Marley had broken something. Now that we have two ambulant kids and our own house, I use Gorilla Glue about once or twice a week, and I've asked Santa Claus for some Gorilla Tape.

Kids break stuff all the time.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

LDS Post: Sister Beck's Talk

Okay, so there's been much ado about Sister Julie Beck, Relief Society General President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints recent RS General Conference talk. I'll offer my opinion.

This is a complex issue. There is no small amount of online protest, petitions, rebuttals, blog posts, and trashing of Sister Beck's talk, and sister Beck herself.

First here is the "offending" talk.

The basic parts of the talk are (with supporting citations):

#1 There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.

When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children."

#2 Mothers Who Know Bear Children

Faithful daughters of God desire children"

#3 Mothers Who Know Honor Sacred Ordinances and Covenants

I have visited sacrament meetings in some of the poorest places on the earth where mothers have dressed with great care in their Sunday best despite walking for miles on dusty streets and using worn-out public transportation. They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts. These mothers know they are going to sacrament meeting, where covenants are renewed. These mothers have made and honor temple covenants. They know that if they are not pointing their children to the temple, they are not pointing them toward desired eternal goals.

#4 Mothers Who Know Are Nurturers

Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world. Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate. Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a "house of order," and women should pattern their homes after the Lord's house (see D&C 109). Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work. Helping growth occur through nurturing is truly a powerful and influential role bestowed on women.

#5 Mothers Who Know Are Leaders

Mothers who know build children into future leaders and are the primary examples of what leaders look like. They do not abandon their plan by succumbing to social pressure and worldly models of parenting. These wise mothers who know are selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most.

#6 Mothers Who Know Are Teachers

Mothers who know are always teachers. Since they are not babysitters, they are never off duty.

#7 Mothers Who Know Do Less

Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world's goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.

#8 Mothers Who Know Stand Strong and Immovable

Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families. I have every confidence that our women will do this and will come to be known as mothers who "knew" (Alma 56:48).

Sections 3 & 4 are the ones that seem to be causing the worst rub. Indeed, it is a tad culturally insensitive, but are we going to be politically correct in a universal church? Certainly there are people who are forced to work by their circumstances, but one trip through Utah and it's obvious that many people, in their massive keeping-up-with-the-Jensens attitudes live beyond their means, and need to two incomes to live a upper-middle-class lifestyle that one income will not provide. Utah is one of the most prideful and materialistic places I have ever seen. The bulk of Sister Beck's talk, just like most General Conference talks, is geared towards the Utah-Idaho-Arizona corridor of Mormondom. That's where the bulk of the members live, and the mass culture there is one of accumulation of wealth. The housing prices there, the two car garages filled with luxury SUVs, and the designer clothing take their toll. Both people working means more income, which means people can afford bigger and more luxurious things. This drives up real estate prices, causing more pressure on the lower end, until suddenly, some families feel that the wife "has" to work to make ends meet in a lifestyle that they could avoid if they lived more humbly. These were the evils that Sister Beck was addressing--the rampant materialism that ultimately doesn't matter.

Reasons why I don't see a problem with Sister Beck's talk.

1. While she certainly could've couched her argument with a little more tact, there is nothing that goes against the Gospel. She was speaking to Moms, and to women who put off motherhood. She's not saying get married and have babies at 18, but if you wait until your 30's to have your first kid, 1) you are an idiot, and 2) it's not part of our Heavenly Father's Plan. She wasn't talking to people who haven't found the right person to marry. She was speaking to people who put career ambitions before family. There is a fine line between gaining and education and work experience, so that you're not dependent on someone else for your livelihood, and delaying children so that you don't ever have to "worry about money." That's between you and the Lord, but the Lord's servants are right to call those to repentance who haven't been heeding the commandments.

2. The Proclamation on the Family (1995) that most of these people undoubtedly have hanging in their homes, essentially says the same things that Sister Beck did. So, do you not agree with it? Does she really say much different than the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve declared to the world? No.

3. It's okay to disagree with Church Leaders. I do all the time; there a minor policy that we were told about on Sunday in Bishopric that absolutely breaks my heart (Because all things in bishopric meetings are said in confidence, I cannot reveal what it is). However, I remember things like this.

People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness, and the very day they conclude that there should be a democratic vote, or in other words, that we should have two candidates for the presiding Priesthood in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, they conclude to be apostates. There is no such thing as confusion, division, strife, animosity, hatred, malice, or two sides to the question in the house of God; there is but one side to the question there (Discourses of Brigham Young, 85).

and President Benson said,

"Time has a way of taking care of all things, of elevating the good and bringing down the bad. If we see things going on within the kingdom that disturb us, we should first find out if the matter falls within our stewardship. We then might go to the person or people involved. If it is of such a nature that we think it should be called to the attention of higher authority, then we can, in a kindly and quiet manner, take the necessary steps at the proper level.

"to publish differences we may think we have with the leaders of the Church, to create strife and division, is a sure road to apostasy. Our task is to stick with the kingdom." (Ensign, July 1975: 62)

and President Faust wrote:

"Free discussion and expression are encouraged in the Church. Certainly the open expressions in most fast and testimony meetings, or Sunday School, Relief Society, and priesthood meetings attest to that principle. However, the privilege of free expression should operate within limits. In 1869, George Q. Cannon explained the limits of individual expression:" ' A friend ... wished to know whether we ... considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the Authorities of the Church was apostasy.... We replied that ... we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term.' " (Ensign, Nov 1993: 36)

4. Remember that her remarks were offered during General Conference. President Hinckley was presiding during that meeting. It is his responsibility, if incorrect doctrine is taught to the church, to correct it, during that meeting. As he didn't rebut anything she said, I'll assume that it has his, and since he is the prophet, the Lord's approval.

5. So to all the people who were offended by Sister Beck's talk enough to grouse about it in print, I throw down the challenge to you. Don't go around publishing your angst on the internet; don't write open letters. When we have our next General Conference, and you are asked to sustain the General Authorities, when they ask if anyone is opposed to Sister Beck's calling, stand your ground, raise your hand, and do it through official channels.

6. I must clarify, that I do not believe that dissention equals sedition or insubordination or apostasy, as long as it's done through proper channels. A conversation among friends about how Sister Beck's remarks could be a touch insensitive or Anglo-Utah-centric is innocuous; posting a public petition is inappropriate, in my opinion.

7. LDS members, have always used the word "apostasy" incorrectly. Heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy, though similar in meaning, represent different ways of opposing the orthodox view.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines heresy as:
Theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.

Apostasy implies that someone formerly held the orthodox belief(s) but has since abandoned it/them. Blasphemy implies a disrespect and inflammatory attitude towards religion. Heretics differ with orthodoxy over a few points of doctrine; apostates abandon all doctrine. Sister Beck's critics are more heretics than apostates...unless this makes them leave the church.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Infernal Synchronicity

My mother's father is in the hospital right now. He's 95, and will probably die within the year, if not sooner. She needs every little pick me up she can get. I mean, can you imagine, your husband dies after being in the hospital for six weeks, and then four days later your father goes into the hospital for a month, and is in really bad shape? The Lord is really trying my Mom right now.

My Mom is Superwoman.

Perspective

A report out of Dillard, Georgia up in the mountains of Rabun County has parents and politicians in a frenzy. It seems that a first grade teacher organized a craft project for her class wherein they made clay ashtrays as Christmas gifts for their parents. The children loved molding and sculpting the clay, but a horde of children's advocacy groups is calling for the removal of both the teacher and the school principal.

What do yall think? Should the teacher lose her job because she had the children sculpt ashtrays?


By the way, I'm just kidding. I did this myself in Dillard in 1981. I made my parents an ashtray as a Christmas gift. If this happened nowadays people would have a shitfit beyond description. Times change. I wouldn't think it appropriate if it happened today, but no one should lose their job over it. But, I bet that's exactly what would happen in our weak-minded zero tolerance society. I bemoan the loss of discretion at all levels in our culture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sweet Home New Orleans

The photos in this video make me "homesick." Tenho saudades da Nova Orleans.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ho Ho Ho Banned for Sidney Santas Because It's Offensive to Women

No, I'm not cozening you. According to this article, Santa Claus are no longer allowed to say their constant "Ho Ho Ho" interjection to greet children, but alas, must offer the inane, "Ha Ha Ha" to spread Christmas cheer.

I am almost speechless. At first I thought this was a hoax, but googling, I found several articles in Australian newspapers that confirm the story. We all hear about political correctness run amok, but this is just too much. This reminds me of many other political correct things that have been happening recently.

#1 Sesame Street claims that the first season (1969) isn't appropriate for pre-schoolers anymore, that it would be difficult to create a character like Oscar the Grouch nowadays. “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

#2 Cookie Monster gets put on a diet.

#3 The disturbing trend I've heard about, even my own nieces and nephews, of "offering" their Halloween Candy to the Great Pumpkin in exchange of a toy. Come on, let the kids have their candy. It's not going to kill them to gorge on candy for a couple of days.

I guess the Sydeny PC Police are worried that the children might grow up and be like this young man:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One of my favorite memories

Sorry for no new posts since Wednesday. I've been fighting off an incredibly bad cold.

Last Friday we had a meeting at Coker about our Liberal Arts Studies Program (LASP). It was catered, and after it was over, there was a more than generous amount of food leftover. As we're feeling the pinch of mortgage, student loan repayments, two kids, car, insurance, $3 gas, etc. I picked up all the spare food that no one else took and brought it home. Among the leftovers were about 20 cans of various Pepsi products (my wife will drink them). As I've been sick, I'm not really concerned about the diet (which has really been blown since my dad died--though, I've not gained a pound back as of yesterday---396.4 and holding [down from 417 on Labor Day]), last night I opened a Mountain Dew and from the first sip, it took me back to one of my favorite memories from high school.

I'm fairly certain it was February 1991. I went over to Norman Sandridge's house for his 16th birthday. We were down in his basement; the gas heater was on. Norman was having a sleepover, and I think it was Norman, me, Paul Dunn, and some blond kid with a pronounced adam's apple. I think there was another kid there named Bobby, though the memory isn't what it used to be. I do remember going over to his house with Norman to watch a Super Bowl (I also remember, somewhat jealously, that he had a gigantic poster of Cristina Applegate in his room--my parents would've never gone for that). Anyway, back to the main story. That night at Norman's we had on the stereo, tuned to Fox 97. We called in to request songs all night long. We got them to dedicate an Eagles song to Norman on his birthday, and they did it on air. That was a major accomplishment for us youngsters--remember when stuff like that was important and cool? At Norman's prompting I called and requested Edwin Starr's "War" and they told me that they weren't playing it during the Gulf War. We were playing some boardgame, seems like it was either Risk or Trivial Pursuit. Norman's mom came downstairs with Pizza Hut deep dish pizza, I'm almost positive it was the "Regular price, four bucks, four bucks, four bucks, four bucks" deal. There was so much pizza. We ate until we were sick, save Norman, who has always been able to eat more food, at one sitting, than anyone else I've ever known (I once saw him eat 134 chicken wings). That night was just a really good time. Nothing fancy or special happened, but it's always stuck with me.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there was Mountain Dew to drink, in cans, from Pizza Hut. The Mountain Dew I tasted yesterday brought back memories of that night so long ago. Whenever I drink Mountain Dew, it always makes me think of Norman.

While I'd like to be able to go back to that day from time to time, there's no way I'd give up what I have now to relive my youth.


Life is what you make of it. There are mistakes along the way, but, I regret nothing. Even my mistakes led me to Mickelle.

Life is for living, oh, and I don't want to live it alone.


Genesis 2:18 (paraphrased a little)

And the LORD God said, It is not good that Mac should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why I Am in Favor of a Universal Healthcare System

This post might offend some of the more sensitive Mormon set. I don't really care though.

As a Southern, Mormon, United States citizen, let me say that, against stereotype, I am completely in favor of a universal healthcare system.

I am 33, a college professor, and I have a wife and two kids. In order for me to have "private" insurance for my family, via an HMO, I would have to pay $822.06 a month (almost $10k a year, or 1/4th of my income); that's with a $20 co-pay, and a $1,000 hospital deductible.

My father died 2 weeks ago on October 30th of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. He was in the hospital in a coma for six weeks. His medical bills están por allí de $250,000. Since he was self-employed, he had no medical insurance. My father paid the maximum in Social Security and Medicare taxes every year of his life. But, because he made too much last year to qualify for Medicaid, my mom now has to wipe out their savings to pay a medical bill that defines ridiculousness: A bag of iv saline solution costs $75, FOR SALT WATER!

If I am to give 1/4th of my income to something already, then why not have it go to taxes? That medical insurance companies are publicly-traded enterprises means that someone is profiting from my sacrifices. The Medicare system for the elderly is one of the most cost-effective and efficient systems around for adminstering healthcare. I would expect the same from a universal Medicaid system.

I find it beyond hypocritical that Congress didn't overturn Bush's veto of an extension to the CHIP (children's health) bill to extend medical care to around 8 million un-insured lower middle-class children (mine included), when members of Congress have a free and universal health insurance for life that they gave themselves. If politicians don't have the courage to grant healthcare to all, in the world's wealthiest country, at least children should have it.

No one should ever have to make health decisions for their children based on whether or not they can afford to go to the doctor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Gall

So, when we were in Georgia, Mickelle had to call Marley's school to tell them why she was going to be absent. When she told them it was for a funeral, the lady on the phone, bluntly said, "you'll need to bring in an obituary or a note from the funeral director for it to be a 'legal' absence."

It's a good thing I wasn't the one on the phone because I would've ripped that lady apart. It reminds me of that scene in Ferris Buellar's Day Off when Ed Rooney tells Simone's "dad" on the phone, "You roll her old bones on over here, and I'll dig up your daughter."

The gall of some people to have the nerve to ask for an obituary to excuse a farking kindergarten absence when someone is grieving.

Tough talk from little people.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Melancholy Songs That Seem to Help

So, I've been glum lately. In our grieving in the events after my father's death, my sister and I hugged and cried together. This close contact allowed the virus causing her cold to enter my body, incubate, and now leave me sick as a damned dog. And it's cold outside. And I don't have as much money as I'd hoped because of student loan debt. And nothing seems to leave me feeling any better. I find myself thinking, it'd be really nice to just get fall-down drunk and forget about life for awhile. I know it's not the right thing to do, and I know it's not going to happen, but finding myself thinking about it all the time is a bummer. One thing that has brought me some peace is music. As the late great Bob Marley sang, "One good thing about music, when it hits you you feel no pain."

Here are some songs, that are melancholy, but seem to make me feel better. While I don't share the experience that caused their creation, I look at them like postmodern dirges for my father. I am overlaying my grief onto their rythyms and creating my own meaning. Iser and Jauss and Barthes would be pleased.

In no particular order:

#1 The Annuals, "Complete or Competing" I don't know what this song's about, but I know that when that Irish Celtic solo happens at 1:47 into the song, that I want to cry. It reminds me of when my dad would let me hop in and help him drive the bobcat during the bee business. I was but a wee lad at the time. Man, this song is beautiful! Thanks to Tim Boisvert for introducing me to the music.

#2 Neutral Milk Hotel, "Avery Island, April 1st" It's got a heavy bass line, and then someone playing a woeful tune on a trumpet. It makes me feel better. Thanks to Susanna for convincing me that this is one of the great bands of the 1990's.

#3 Wyclef Jean, "Yelé" I don't speak Haitian Creole, nor do I even understand most of what he's saying, but when he moans, "Yele, yele, yele, crie, crie, crie" I don't need the gift of tongues to understand the lamentation for something lost. Thanks to some kid whose name I can't remember at Pizza Hut in Woodstock, Georgia for convincing me that Wyclef was better than hiphop.

#4 Tool, "Eulogy" When I was an angry-young-man in my early 20's, this song meant so many things to me. I was mad at all kinds of things that I felt worked together, ignorant of each other, to keep me from finding happiness. Now, that my dad is gone, this song serves as an adrenaline pumping send-off that has no meaning other than to make me feel better. It is an angry attack on someone who really pissed of its author. To me, it just hypnotizes me for 8:27 and takes away the pain like no Vicodin ever could.

#5 "Curly Locks", Junior Byles This song is a reggae track that speaks of forbidden because the boy has become a Rasta. I don't care about the lyrics, it just reminds me of Marley with her curly locks, and that makes me feel better.

#6 The White Stripes, "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" Not really sure what to do in a world without my dad.

#7 Squirrel Nut Zippers, "Twilight" I remember my grandma and my dad dancing to this song together when I put it on their radio in December 1997. I bet neither of them danced since.

#8 Radiohead, "Everything in Its Right Place" In a word, dissonance. Sounds come at you from every corner of this song, and that's how my emotions feel right now. Everything will eventually be in its right place, but right now it feels so discombobulated that I don't know how to tread without opening up some wound. Everything I do reminds me of my dad.

#9 REM, "Imitation of Life" This is one of those songs that is really peppy, happy, and joyful, but that always leaves me feeling nostalgic and sad, but in a good way. I get the same feeling from "Nightswimming" by REM, but I don't like it as much as this one.

#10 Leon Russell, "Back to the Island" My mom and I used to listen to this song as night. It is nothing special, but it really is to me. I don't think anyone really knows this song. It's one that makes me think of all the fun my dad had sailing out there with Burt, of all the longing that he felt for living on the Florida Coast, of how he spent most of his life in Atlanta and how much he hated Winter there.

#11 Fleetwood Mac, "Never Goin' Back Again" This song reminds me of my dad's love of women, especially sexy women. He loved Stevie Nix, Bernadetter Peters, and any woman with big boobs. He loved my mom most of all, and they both loved Fleetwood Mac. This song will leave you happy, even though its about breaking up, I guarantee a good feeling when you're done.

Now I'm done.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Vox Patris

So, I get home last night after teaching my night class. Mickelle tells me I'm supposed to call my mom on her home phone. I ring her up on speaker phone while I fix my plate dinner. My mom doesn't answer cause she's out to dinner with friends. The voicemail picks up, and as I'm spooning hummus onto my plate, I break down into sobbing terrible tears; it's my dad's voice on the recording telling people not to leave him messages on the home phone.

Some days are better than others. Yesterday was a hard one.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Proustian Phenomenon

So, last night I competed in the Coker College Iron Chef Challenge. The secret ingredient was beef. We had five different cuts to choose from, so I went with tenderloin, which I prepared in a Greek style, Lomo a lo griego over Jasmine Rice. Basically, we cut the tenderloin into fajita size strips and stir-fried it with onions, garlic, and salt in olive oil. When the onions were wilted, we put in about 15 diced tomatoes, a box of raisins, a cup of diced red bell peppers, cinnamon, oregano, and pepper. It was a hit, but we didn't place--two of the top three people served curry dishes, so their use of premixed spice won for them. I had to cook for 50 people, so it wasn't exactly like the tv show. I had a really fun time, and all of the dishes were good. The winner's was a Thai style curry, and it was delicious.

When I finally got ready to start cooking, I had to wash my hands. I walked back to the sink, pushed the soap dispenser twice, started lathering up my hands, and began crying. The soap was the exact same kind they had in my dad's hospital room. It's such a vile odor, of strong sanitizer......I'll never forget it. It immediately brought back the presence of his death, and all the emotions I had to face, again.

My poor mom has it worse right now. After spending six weeks with my dad in the hospital before he died, now her father is in the hospital. Hopefully they have a different soap there than they did at Emory.

Next year I'll bring my own bar of Ivory to the chef competition.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cheapening Oneself

About once a week I see a young female student on campus. I notice her because she wants to be noticed. She wears a three-sizes-too-small bright blue t-shirt that has the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" logo, but instead reads "Dick's Last Resort."

She cuts a striking figure in that outfit, but I wonder if she's ever deconstructed what those words mean when they are emblazoned across her chest.

Shall I spell it out? Dick is a euphemism for "penis." Last resort, is the last place you want to be; in warfare it is your last defensive position before your ultimate demise. Since it's possessive, and since she wears the slogan across her body, the effect is to say that she is the last person someone would want to have sex with, that she is the person someone will try to bed when they are so desperate they'll take whatever they can get.

There is some fifteen-year-old sex joke humor here, but she's older than that now. Her shirt cheapens her. It probably makes people laugh, but when you stop and think, man what a horrible self-esteem destroyer that shirt is. It reminds me of a quote I like to use often:

George Patton, Sr., father to the famous general, in 1918, when his son was 34, wrote him this advice:

Another gift you have developed I really regret and that is the ability to write verse upon vulgar & smutty subjects--That is very dangerous. The very men to whom you read & recite such stuff as your last one will laugh--and apparently enjoy it--but you have really lowered yourself in their eyes--above all it lacks dignity--and you need to cultivate that especially in view of your rank. All my life I have known such instances--and never had it failed in my experience--that the Club wit--who indulges in smuty stuff hurts himself. You may some day want to enter public life--but you must couple with your talent in these two respects great self restraint & sense of dignity--most men have no real sense of humor--& fail to distinguish other matters of this sort from realities & judge on accordingly. All the really big men I have known--abstained from repeating vulgar stories--and all who were facile in speech--cultivate great reserve--or if they sometimes forgot themselves--always suffered for the lapse. I don't want to preach and will say no more but I am sure your own judgement--upon reflection will agree with mine.


I wish someone would pull this girl aside and have the right words to make her see how truly unfunny her shirt really is without offending her. She is young; she doesn't have the longview. I'm not judging her for wearing it; I'm just mentioning that stuff like her shirt makes me really sad.