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.