Monday, April 30, 2007

2nd Anniversary

Two years ago today, smarting from having just failed my dissertation prospectus defense, I wrote the following to my blog, my eponymously-titled, first-ever post:

I didn't pass the defense of my dissertation prospectus yesterday. I'm not mad, just disappointed. If I weren't married I would've gone and gotten drunk---- well maybe not. I haven't had a drink in 14 years. No one will read this anyway.

On Thursday, I will defend my dissertation. Provided all goes well, I will be John McLarty Williams III, PhD. Hopefully we can avoid those same dark feelings that arose in the face of my adversity two years ago. Much has transpired in my life since then. Enjoy these links to my favorite posts during the last two years. Please take the time to review them, and give me your vote for your favorite one. Mine is a tie between 6, 10, & 20. No one will read these anyway.

1.http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/05/my-daughters-ability-to-humble-me-at.html
2. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/05/happy-mothers-day.html
3. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/08/sincere-prayer.html
4. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/10/red-hat-society-and-yet-another.html
5. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/11/los-paranoias-wont-you-come-join-us.html
6. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/11/50th-anniversary-of-red-letter-date-in.html
7. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/12/two-conversations-about-gift-wrapping.html
8. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/01/when-deluge-came.html
9. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/02/lower-ninth-ward-destruction-nearly.html
10. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/my-first-repost-why-i-still-think.html
11. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/my-momma-taught-me-better.html
12. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/hermeneutic-inquiry-into-johnny-cashs.html
13. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/postmodern-hymns-and-why-most-music.html
14. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/memory-brains-eyes-henri-bergson-and.html
15. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/03/my-southern-heritage.html
16. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/04/native-americans-and-native-americans.html

18. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/05/dissention-is-not-sedition.html
19. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/06/sex-at-duke-or-why-people-are.html
20. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/06/deconstructing-beyonc-what-looks-good.html
21. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/07/my-funniest-teaching-moment-ever-was.html
22. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/08/politics-of-selling-dealing-drugs-or.html
23. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/10/speaking-of-bad-parenting-cindy.html
24. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/10/words-of-prophets-are-written-on.html
25. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/11/infant-baptism-tess-of-dubervilles-and.html
26. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2007/01/tyra-banks-is-phat.html
27. http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2007/04/whole-don-imus-mess.html

Sunday, April 29, 2007

True Religion vs. Religious Hegemony via haircuts


According to this article, Iran has ordered its barbers union (as if there would even be a hairdresser there) to no longer cut mens hair in Western styles, to not pluck men's eyebrows, and to not apply makeup to men. Note the poster in the image to the right by the Iranian police. Western styles such as this sheikly modern do via Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV are hereby banned from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Far too often, religious people seek to impose their beliefs on the populace at large. If that's what society wants, so be it. However, I can think of precious few instances in world history when an entire society saw eye-to-eye on religious matters. Whether's it's Hindus in India being scandalized by Richard Gere's cheek kiss of a woman, Baptists freaking out about DisneyWorld having a gay day, or Muslims saying you can't wear your hair in a spike style, religious hegemony by way of force, is contradictory to the tenets of their own religious teachings; yes, even the Koran says it's better to persuade people to do good than to obligate them. Jesus never said, "Obey my commandments or burn in hell." He did say, on the beach, to Peter, while enjoying some fish and honeycomb, "if you love me, keep my commandments."
If you love Him, keep His commandments. That's a good rule. One that most people can parrot back to you, but very few can live. A true person of faith, doesn't seek to impose their own faith on someone else. I can not like the fact that pornography and vice pervade our culture. It makes me wish that people would choose better things for themselves and for their families. There are only two paths to achieving 100% obedience to the commandments. 1) you can obligate people to obey, taking away their rights and free will, and 2) you can show them by example, by love unfeigned, how much better life can be. The first plan belongs to Beelzebub; the second to God. He is the Father of everyone, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, even Baptists. We are all brothers and sisters. Loving God, and choosing to do his will, is the only thing we can do to show our obedience. It has to come from within. Making someone get a certain haircut, trying to burn Harry Potter books, hell, especially telling someone that they're going to hell for believing a certain way, places one squarely in the gall of bitterness and pride.
Who told you what God wanted someone else to do? The Holy Ghost could certainly tell you something that YOU should do; Jesus specifically warns us to avoid the mote in our brothers eye whilst ignoring the beam in our own. I hold very strict and specific beliefs about what constitute right living. I hate that most people ignore the commandments. I wish they would obey them. But, I know they won't, and me complaining about it and trying to take away their free will by criminalizing certain actions, is wrong.
Islam could learn a thing or two from Jesus. They already call him a prophet; perhaps they should read up a little. Christians would do well to read the teachings of Jesus Christ for what they say, and not what others have told them they say. Jesus' message was one of love and patience and understanding. I hope to understand his message better before I meet him.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kelly Clarkson on American Idol Last Night = WOW

If you didn't catch this, wait until dark, turn down the lights, make sure you have a good speaker set to listen to, and turn this up, then listen to it with your eyes closed.

Dude! She gave me chills


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When Jon Stewart's on, He's On!

Dissertation turned in

So, the final defense copy of my dissertation was printed and placed in my committee's boxes last night. I defend May 3, 2007.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

70% of Americans Don't Know that Plastic Is Made from Petroleum

http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/070420/20070420005536.html?.v=1

Petroleum based products include:

Asphalt
Tar
Kerosene
Paraffin wax
Diesel
Lubricating Oils
Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)
Nitrogen fertilizer

http://www.courier-journal.com/foryourinfo/032204/032204.html
http://www.ranken-energy.com/Products%20from%20Petroleum.htm

We're far more dependent on oil than merely fueling our cars.

Oh yeah, plastic takes thousands of years to biodegrade. Be sure and recycle what you can. Archer Daniels Midland is building a factory in Iowa that will produce 110,000,000 cubic feet of biodegradable plastic per year from corn sugar. Now that's cool.

Monday, April 23, 2007

World's honeybees disappearing

As the son of an apiculturist, I greet, with dismay, the news that the world's honeyees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Some eekeepers are reporting up to a 50% loss of some of their est hives in California.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/04/22/vanishing.bees.reut/index.html

Apparently, some scientists are laming cell phone towers for this alarming ehavior.

http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/wildlife/article2449968.ece

If this is the case, people should start selling off their cellular phone company stocks efore word of this prolem ecomes widespread. I'm wondering how difficult it will e to convince people to not use their cellphones, should this indeed e the case.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The joys of parenting

Mickelle says:
are you coming home after the crawfishboil?
Mac says:
not sure
Mac says:
tim wants to eat at Taquería Corona
Mickelle says:
well the kids might be asleep
Mickelle says:
but I suppose we could try and take them
Mickelle says:
I need someone else here to entertain these two so that I can straighten up
Mickelle says:
while I cleaned the bathroom, Jack ate a watercolor pencil and drooled it all over his clothes
Mickelle says:
I am going to try and get Marley's room cleaned up again so he can sleep in there
Mac says:
rotfl
Mac says:
lol
Mac says:
lol
Mac says:
lol
Mac says:
lol
Mickelle says:
seriously he was dressed really cute too. Dark levi shorts and his yellow polo shirt
Mac says: :)
Mickelle says:
now I have to change him
Mac says:
too funny
Mac says:
take a picture
Mickelle says:
marley likes to lay down in the sand at school, so her dress seems okay but her feet look like a 40 year old man
Mickelle says:
I already wiped him off because I didn't want him to swallow pieces...etc
Mickelle says:
anyway, I have to go clean up her room before I get ready

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lest we forget

Much ado has been made recently about the "innocence" of the Duke Lacrosse team. Certainly, it would appear that their accuser is a disturbed person who reacted to their insults with false allegations. The men did not rape her, apparently. But, let us not forget the types of 'men' these boys are.

1) They paid $800 for two "white" strippers to come to their home and titillate them.
2) They became bored with the strippers moves and asked them if they had any sex toys. When one of them refused, they asked them to insert a broom handle into their vaginas.
3) And then there's the infamous email. I'll let it speak for itself. Ironic or not, in homage to American Psycho, it summarizes the overt misogyny of these kids and their attitudes towards women. I need only refer you back to my post about an article in Rolling Stone about 'Sex at Duke' to remind you of the hedonism that abounds there. The email:


These boys thought they had created a little kingdom of ass for themselves at Duke. It bit them on it. No one deserves to be accused falsely of rape (of anything for that matter), but this whole incident serves to illustrate how the depravity of pornography and misogyny inherent in 'lad culture' is one of irredeemable monstrosity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chez Williams

We've made an offer on a place in Hartsville, SC. If the closing goes well, we'll be the proud owners of this house:

http://www.prudentialsegarsrealty.com/listingdetails.asp?listid=2303000&aid=

As you can tell, it on a large lot, has 2100 sq. ft./4 bedrooms/ 3 baths, formal living and dining rooms, a den, etc. We like it. I hope all goes well. We'll have to replace the kitchen counters, and Mickelle wants me to finish the laundry room that's off the carport. We didn't pay sticker price, and they are getting the first $2000 of closing costs. There aren't really any more photos available, unless my mom has some. Mom?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Whole Don Imus Mess



Don Imus deserved to get fired, but not for what he said just this one time. He's been an asshole for years and finally got his comeuppance. The latent misogyny and racial insensitivity of his comments are not the worst he has ever uttered. What's gotten me about the situation is the apparent unwillingness or inability of black America to examine the nature of the situation. That the comments are only offensive if uttered by a white man reveals some of the more obtuse tendencies in African-American culture. The black vernacular is copied by mainstream America eventually. Just look at the slang words for things and you'll see they many of them originate from the mouths of black youth culture.

I often think of the Michael Bolton character in Office Space. He is singing hardcore rap in his car: "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster" by Ghetto Boyz, and "No Tears" by Scarface, and yet he rolls his car window up when a black man approaches him. He wants to belong to a culture of hyper-machismo, of over-inflated egos, of braggadocio, but when he is confronted with someone of this world that he longs to belong to, he cowers in fear; he is like Caray Grant in Rear Window; he is the voyeur titillated by the danger and potential reward (money, sex, power, sans responsibilities or consequences--other than a possibly violent unexpected death); he is the guy that wants to sound tough by imitating those people that our culture and media portray as inherently tough. Gangsters are tough because they carry weapons and hang in groups. Think of Danny Glover's dialogue with the street tough harassing Kevin Kline in Grand Canyon. The kid asks Glover if he wouldn't respect him if he didn't have the weapon; Glover's response is telling "You don't have that pistol, we ain't havin' this conversation."

Usage of the gangster terminology for things has become part of the youth vernacular. For a particularly humorous intrusion of this world into WASPy Mormon culture, check out this video:

Trebek was right to josh Jennings a little about that. It is through his exposure to gangster lexicon that he answered "ho" or "hoe" when asked about an immoral pleasure seaker. He equated the standard word "ho" (for 'whore' in case you live on Mars) with a woman that wants sex. The old double standard about sexual desire rears its ugly head here. I remember N.W.A.'s existential paean to gansta culture in "Life Ain't Nothin' But Bitches and Money." I can always count on Jay-Z's "99 Problems But a Bitch Ain't One" to put me in the right frame of mind about my relationship with my wife. And then who can forget FilthyCent's declaration of love to his sexual partner with such lines as "I'm into havin' sex, I ain't into makin' love, so come give me a hug if you're into gettin' rubbed." I could go on and on and on. Naughty by Nature "You try to act like something really big is missin', even though my love's graffitti's written on your kitten"; Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre's warning against unprotected sex:

But, uh, back to the lecture at hand
Perfection is perfected, so I'm 'a let 'em understand
From a young G's perspective
And before me dig out a bitch I have ta' find a contraceptive
You never know she could be earnin' her man,
And learnin' her man, and at the same time burnin' her man
Now you know I ain't wit that shit, Lieutenant
Ain't no pussy good enough to get burnt while I'm up in it

And the list goes on and on. Rusell Simmons tried to defend these actions but placing the hip-hop artists under the fig leaf of artistic expression and agents for social change:

"HSAN believes in freedom of artistic expression. We also believe, with that freedom, comes responsibility. Don Imus is not a hip-hop artist or a poet.Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them, their experience of the world. Like the artists throughout history, their messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society. Sometimes their observations or the way in which they choose to express their art may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression. Our job is to be an inclusive voice for the hip-hop community and to help create an environment that encourages the positive growth of hip-hop. Language can be a powerful tool. That is why one's intention, when using the power of language, should be made clear. Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship."

As if any of the artists I quoted were really thinking of social problems when they wrote those songs. If Musiq Soulchild, A Tribe Called Quest, or De La Soul had written them, I might go for it, but Snoop Dogg is not an agent for social change. He makes porn films, advocates drug use, etc. If hip-hop artists were so concerned about social ills, would they try and change their own culture for the better, instead of glorifying its weaknesses and downfalls? Am I wrong here? It's one thing to document social problems, sing songs about them, but I feel that hip-hop specifically markets to increase the hyper-machismo that its songs portray. For instance, rap artists all create clothing lines to sell overpriced clothing to their audience who often can nay afford to purchase them. These funds are not reinvested in the communities. They buy to toys of the nouveau-riche people that market them.

I just can't defend the freedom of speech under the guise that Simmons wants us to buy. I agree that they should be free to say what they do, but I don't think that Imus should be more severely punished because he isn't an artist. Who says?

Previous to Imus's asinine remarks, South Park in an episode where Stan's dad, Randy, says something really really really stupid on national television. If you haven't seen the episode, you should. It is a perfect encapsulation of the entire Imus situation.

The thing we should all learn from this is that you never know what discrimination feels like until you have been the victim. When Stan tries to tell the only black kid at school, Token, that "it's cool now because my dad apologized to Jesse Jackson," Token screams back "Jesse Jackson is not the emperor of black people!" And even though Stan mutters "but he told my dad he was", the audience knows that a feigned, or even sincere, apology on television can never make up for the word loosed upon someone. The cartoon has Randy Marsh literally kiss Jackson on the bare-buttocks, in homage to the oft-repeated comeback to racial comments "Kiss my black ass." Apologies are nice, but it's better to have never said it. That doesn't mean that people can't or shouldn't be forgiven, it just means that your intentions will always be suspect. How Strom Thurmond ever turned around his political image is beyond me. Please let me also say that this criticism isn't solely leveled at black artists, Eminem is just as bad as the lot of them.

Snoop Dogg defends his word choice thusly:

Rappers are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls, we are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha----as say we in the same league as him.

Ahh, the coincidence of things sometimes astounds me:

The rap star's response to the Imus controversy came a day before he pleaded no contest to felony weapons and drug charges in a Los Angeles court.

Mote and beam Snoop, mote and beam.

Virginia Tech & YouTube

The Postmodern is here. We can now experience a piece of the horror via the ubiquitous cell phone movie camera. YouTube is abuzz with videos. Here's a sampling. I feel someone numb to the whole incident, kind of how I felt that first morning after Katrina. Watching the news and seeing what was happening seemed surreal.


Cell phone video, you can hear the shots being fired:



This is an interview with a victim detailing his interaction with the gunman.


Of course there's some asshat saying that the violence is a symptom of "america spreading wars around the world":



and this might be simply the sickest, vilest, most desperate thing I've seen in ages. Self-proclaimed Asian Supremacist and God of the Universe, Kenneth Eng, gives his response to the massacre:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDsFAqAcH7o


Monday, April 16, 2007

Borges, The Place in Letters


So, I'm back safe and sound from the University of Iowa and all its cold, snow, windchill, and cool architecture. The bifurcated campus seems to be chopped up into even more pieces by churches, streets, parks, and whole sections that town that seem to be interstitial placements into the folds of a very odd campus. I like the river going through the campus, but the train tracks are probably an eyesore they could do without.





I was a little starstruck. I got to meet Slyvia Molloy, one of the foremost Borges scholars around. The image of her I had in my mind was nothing like I had constructed. She looks like my maternal grandmother. I was amazed at her ability to riposte those attendees that acted like they wanted to ask her a question but really had nothing important to say. I also got to meet Evelyn Fishburn, and was shocked to learn that she wasn't Argentine, but Brittish. I gave her my most sincere thanks for her work, etc. I also met Sergio Waisman, whose book on Borges and Translation I've found very useful during the writing of my dissertation. It was nice to meet him.


I got to see my old friends David Laraway, from BYU, and Miguel Rivera (formerly at Tulane, now at U of Virginia). I also met two other Mormon guys in our field. One was from the U of Nebraska-Kearney, and the other was the remarkable Andrew Brown from the Washington University in St. Louis. I had never heard of him (he didn't attend BYU) and it was great to get to know him, get some excellent feedback on my paper, and have him moderate the panel on which I presented. I look forward to meeting him again.


One of the keynote speakers, Dan Balderston, author of the impeccably researched Out of Context, singled out and mentioned my research on Zoroastrianism during his address. It was an honor to be mentioned in front of many of the major Borges scholars in the world. He has given me a hand up in the profession, and I am truly grateful for the reference.




It was good to be there. It was good to come home. My presentation went well. I got some good feedback and some good suggestions on how to better it. I don't know if I would go every year if they held the conference, but I would consider a 2, 3, or 4 year rotation.


Iowa in April=cold

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Newsweek is a rag

So, I bought a Newsweek so I'd have something to read in the bathroom on this trip to the University of Iowa. It's the issue dated April 16, 2007 and has Arnold Schwarzeneggar (sp?) on the cover talking about "Save the Planet or Else."

It's not that I'm calling the magazine a liberal rag or a conservative rag, it's just a hack writing/science/etc rag. Allow me to illustrate my point.

1) In an article by Barbara Kantrowitz and Karen Springen called "Will Polar Bears Be OK?", the authors quote Joanne Cantor who says, "What scares kids are these horrible images of bad weather like Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami and all the tornadoes and that sort of thing, which seem to be part of global warming" (80). Now, I can understand, in the context of trying to calm children's fears that you could mistakenly call the tsunami, caused by an earthquake, "weather" but.....

2) Allow me to quote from Anna Kutchment's article called "It's Hip to Be Green." She writes,

"Those too young to remember the legislative victories of the 1970s, like the creation of the EPA and the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, have come of age in a world where recycling, organic food and annual Earth Days are a given. But they may also be the first generation to feel the effects of climate change so dramatically, from 70-degree winter days in the Northeast to the Christmas 2004 tsunami to Hurricane Katrina" (76-77).

So, Ms. Kutchment, and all the editors at Newsweek, WHAT THE FARK DOES CLIMATE CHANGE HAVE TO DO WITH THE 2004 TSUNAMI? Pray tell! I'd like to know how global warming caused this seismic catastrophe. I could see making this mistake one time in the magazine, especially given the nature of the article. But twice, oh please. This is hack journalism and deserves to be disparaged, upbraided, and severely ridiculed.

3) Page 10, unknown author, "Conventional Wisdom Watch" and I quote, "Mitt Romney, nowhere in polls, but enough Mormons tithed to their man to make him GOP money king." Romney is not the "Mormons" man, and tithing is a sacred sacrifice that equals 10% of one's income. No one gave him 10%, and it's certainly not a holy offering to his campaign. This one's nitpicky but it just shows how they play loose and fast with symbolism that they don't fully understand.

I can't imagine that I'll ever buy a Newsweek again. If you want a great magazine, read The Week. Some of you may have gotten a mystery subscription to it. If so, that was my Christmas present to you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/books/11cnd-vonnegut.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Is This Hell?

No, it's Iowa: http://www.wunderground.com/US/IA/Iowa_City.html

So, I'm in Iowa City, IA for The Place of Letters: The World in Borges Conference, where I will be presenting my paper "Zoroastrian Symbolism and Existential Dilemmas in Jorge Luis Borges's 'Las ruinas circulares.'" It is mid-April and it's cold and snowy. Surely this is some kind of mistake. Anthropogenic climate change, El Niño (that's Spanish for the niño), and all that aside, t'aint supposed to snow in April.

I met Daniel Balderston tonight, one of my favorite Borges critics. I was a little in awe, and probably came across as such.

The airline lost my baggage so I had to walk outside in the snow in my shorts, sandals, and guayabera. Luckily I brought a jacket with me or would've been imprisoned in my room until they finally brought me my suitcase.

In 1992 I and seven of my buddies drove from Atlanta to Dyersville, Iowa to play baseball at the Field of Dreams movie site. It was a great trip. It was April. It wasn't snowing, and that was 3 hours north of here. This is hellish weather, and if Shoeless Joe were to ask me, "Is this hell" you can all guess what my answer would be.

With that said, Iowa City has some gorgeous architecture, and the campus is amazing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saddened


I just discovered that one of my favorite artists (second only to Maurice de Vlaminck), Clifton Karhu, passed away on March 27, 2007. Though native to Minnesota, he had lived in Japan for over 50 years and had become a reknowned wood block print maker. I have bid on his prints on ebay for over two years, and I've yet to win one. He was truly a master of the form, and I am saddened by his loss. I shudder when I think of the wisdom that death destroys. Every individual has their talents and gained knowledge. Death renders all that experience moot. There is no way to pass on wisdom to others, at least efficiently. I almost want to cry over the loss this week. Enjoy his works!

http://www.startribune.com/466/story/1083623.html





Friday, April 06, 2007

LACES OUT, DAN!

So, we got a flat tire yesterday on our trip up to Georgia. We had just gotten on to I-59 where it splits from I-12 and I-10. A self tapping screw blew out the back driver's tire. Our car was overloaded with stuff that we were putting in storage at my parents'. We had to pull all that out, and then get out the spare and the jack. Semis are whizzing by my head as I try to get the jack level. You know those grooves they cut into the shoulder to let you know when you're out of the lane? Well, they make it really hard to get the jack level. We jack it up, get the tire off, and the car falls off the jack. I'm not swearing yet. I get it jacked back up and it seems as though the spare should go concave side out. The lugnuts would nest better in the holes that way. The owner's manual doesn't say; the spare doesn't say. I put it on, get all buttoned-up, and try to move. The tire just drags itself along. Damnit, it's on backwards. Thoughts of Ace Venture flash through my mind. Swearing a lot now as I smash my hand getting the jack back out. Get the spare turned around, get back on the road, headed back towards Slidell, LA. Find a Goodyear, they get us right in; while inspecting the other tires, the front drivers side also has a self-tapping screw in it. They can patch that one. The other tire is shot. We get it all taken care of, $225 (tires for Magnums are expensive), and get back on the road, arriving at 2AM having left NOLA at 12PM.

Grrrrrr!

Semper Fi. While changing the tire by the side of the road, a Marine veteran, driving a red corvette, pulls over to make sure we were okay and offer his assistance. There are good people in the world, in answer to Jack Johnson's interrogative.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor Wednesday

I have quit complaining when we don't get mail service in New Orleans. It does no good. I guess they couldn't deliver or pick up our mail yesterday due to the chaos and problematic logistics of it being Wednesday.

The USPS is incompetent at the New Orleans Carrollton Station. This isn't news; I just needed to rant a little.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

House Hunting

So, with the signed contract and job, Mickelle and I are going to Hartsville, SC this weekend to look for a house. We have been pre-approved up to $150k, though we will look at around $125k. There are lots of 3 bedroom houses there in that range, so we'll have plenty to look at. The housing boom apparently missed Hartsville, thank goodness.

If anyone has any advice, please post some comments about tricks to avoid, companies to use, services that save money, etc. I wish I could fly my father-in-law out here to go look with us. He has been in real estate as a builder, developer, agent, broker, etc. for the past 35 years. I'd consider it a money-saving expense to bring him out, but his recent back surgery would prevent him from being comfortable on so long of a flight(s). I can't imagine having a more valuable opinion around than his. I'm sure we'll pester him with a million phone calls anyway (steel yourself Dusty for the onslaught).

My biggest hope for a house is to live somewhere without owners' covenants (review previous posts for why I loathe those bourgeois trappings). I want a garden. I could care less about a garage, other than as storage space. A basement would be nice, even if unfinished. I don't mind doing some fix-er-up work. Mickelle wants a kitchen that's open to the rest of the house. I prefer hardwood floors. A little shed could come in handy. Gravel driveways are fine with me. I don't want well water. It'll be funny to see if we get something even remotely like I've just described.

I lived in a tin shack with dirt floors in Costa Rica. I'm not too picky.

Welcome to the Universe of Sanjaya!

Sanjaya was at it again on American Idol last night. As it was an episode devoted to "Tony Bennett-era" songs last night, I half-expected him to recap his previous version of "Steppin' Out with My Baby" that he butchered a few weeks ago. Gone last night were some of the theatrics that at least made his train-wreck interesting: no pony mohawk; no effeminate curls; no ear to ear smile. No, last night Sanjaya tried to pull off suave coolness. He sang Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" and cheekily tried to make America believe that he has any talent/deserves to be in the competition. The little dance he did with Paula had none of the debonnaire charm one would hope for from a man dressed in a white suit and a black shirt. His mustache, which he probably thought looked like Clark Gable, was far more evocative of Michael Jackson's mustachioed phase than he might have realized. Indeed, Sanjaya reminds me of Michael Jackson, not vocally mind you.

The judges, evidently thuderstruck by the American indifference to rote vocal mediocrity, tried a counter-offensive. Randy said something like (well, let me skip all the Yo, yo, yos, and what up dogs), "I don't know that I should even comment on the vocals anymore." Paula told him he was charming, and thanked him for the dance. Simon, frustrated, said "You know what, um, incredible." And it was then that Sanjaya uttered the words that first had me laughing for a solid minute, and later made me start to think about the constant "you're special" or "you're a princess" reinforcement that we force feed our kids. Sanjaya had the audacity to say, and to him it wouldn't have seemed so, "Welcome to the Universe of Sanjaya."

The kid didn't say "world". He didn't say "movement", or even "train." He said "Universe". And by putting "of Sanjaya" he made the possessive feeling of the words even stronger than if he had said "Sanjaya's Universe." The latter means that he is a part of it, the former means that he is the owner, the center, the raison d'etre of all of us. Like some entity ripped from the pages of Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger"; like the narrator in Jorge Luis Borges's "The Circular Ruins"; hell, even, like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sanjaya thinks that the world exists for his pleasure. Well, he may not realize that he thinks this; let me explain.

Sanjaya is talented. He is likeable. He is handsome. I'm sure that he is intelligent. He is also probably deluded. I see three possible scenarios:
1) He knows that he is terrible and doesn't care.
2) He knows that he is terrible, wants to go home, but America keeps voting for him.
3) He actually thinks that he is a great singer, better than the others, and that he deserves to win.

Until last night I would've bet that he felt one of the first two ways. However, after his comment to Simon, I feel inclined to believe that he is firmly in the grip of the third option. All those years of mommy and daddy telling him that he is special and unique (as parents feel they must--myself included) evidently sank in. Sanjaya has his own universe. We are all constructs of this intelligence, this being, this entity that controls our every action, thought, deed, or whim. He controls my will as I type these words. I have no choice but to do so, for I exist only as a vehicle for Sanjaya to glory in himself. Yet, I wonder, have I gone too far? Will there be consequences for revealing his secret? Is Abraxas, I mean Sanjaya, going to remove his divine spark from me, and reconfigure my atoms into other constructs? I certainly hope not, that would be a total bumme.... (post abruptly terminated)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I like this joke about New Orleans' politicians

Mayor Nagin and Police Chief Riley visited a class in a local elementary school yesterday and the teacher suggested that they participate in the day's vocabulary lesson.

"Today's word is tragedy," said the mayor. "Can anyone give an example of a tragedy?" asked the police chief. One child raised her hand. "If a drug dealer was trying to shoot another drug dealer and hit my sister instead," the child offered.

"No," said the police chief, "that would be an accident. Anyone else?"

"How about if everyone quit visiting the city, my daddy lost his job and couldn't provide for me?" another child ventured.

"No," said the mayor, "that would be a great loss.
"OK--One more answer from Johnny in the back."

"Well," said Johnny, "if the mayor and police chief were shoved off the viewing platform during a Mardi Gras parade and killed when a float ran them over, THAT would be a tragedy!"

"Now that's correct," agreed the mayor and Police chief. "And can you tell us why?" "Of course," confirmed Johnny, "because it sure as hell wouldn't be a great loss, and I doubt very seriously if it would be an accident."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bless Jack, The Earned Income Credit, and Cadmus, or whoever it was that invented books

Well I must say that Jack's birth has had a financial windfall for my little family. My income in 2006 was pitiful. After expensing out every thing we could legally and ethically do, the eBay business was a loss. We had $800 witheld from my checks, and our refund is $5,500. The EIC and the child tax credit is marvelous when you have two kids. The extra $3000 Jack got for us should just about pay for his diapers.

The last little bit is a line by Thomas Carlyle that I've always enjoyed, "May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whomever it was that invented books."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Something I noticed

Mickelle and I went and saw 300 when we were up in Georgia. I know that it deviated from the original story (Norman could tell us all about that), but I still enjoyed the movie. It was visually appealing. I am a Frank Miller fan.

I did some research online and I can't find any proof to support something I noticed in the film. Evidently, Sparta was a very scientifically advanced society. It appears that they had advanced knowledge of immunology because almost every one of the 300 Spartans was vaccinated against smallpox.

His-Story (I'm the first person to use that, ever)