Thursday, February 28, 2008
The funny part to me is that it bombed so badly. If I heard something like that, and didn't know the person was kidding, I'd still laugh out loud AT them.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
When he was done singing, I told Mickelle, "If they criticize that kid's performance, this show is ridiculous and I'm not watching it anymore."
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
UPDATE 3:28 PM EST:
It appears that I'm not the only one having problems, with outages reported in the Eastern USA, and by some accounts, the entire world.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
(be sure to watch the video)
Thursday, February 21, 2008
#2 Jason Yeager: I just don't think he's good enough to make it into the top 12. His song choice was terribly suited for his voice. I am not as sure about this pick as my first one, I think Chiekezie might be gone too and that little Garrett guy will go next week.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Hi I'm Buddy, what can I get'cha?
I'll have the Douglas Sirk steak.
How d'ya want it, burnt to a crisp,
or bloody as hell?
Bloody as hell. And to drink, a
How 'bout you, Peggy Sue?
I'll have the Durwood Kirby burger
-- bloody -- and a five-dollar
How d'ya want that shake, Martin
and Lewis, or Amos and Andy?
Martin and Lewis.
Did you just order a five-dollar
A shake? Milk and ice cream?
It costs five dollars?
You don't put bourbon in it or
Buddy comes back with the drinks. Mia wraps her lips around
the straw of her shake.
Can I have a sip of that? I'd like
to know what a five-dollar shake
Be my guest.
She slides the shake over to him.
You can use my straw, I don't have
Yeah, but maybe I do.
Kooties I can handle.
He takes a sip.
Goddamn! That's a pretty fuckin'
good milk shake.
I don't know if it's worth five
dollars, but it's pretty fuckin'
He slides the shake back.
Start at 7:48 in
Start at 00:38
Sunday, February 17, 2008
hundreds of thousands of Muslims are calling for wikipedia to remove images of Muhammad from their servers. The putative offense is that making images of living things constitutes idolatry, for this reasons, the fine arts of the Muslim world have typically been works of elaborate geometric design and exquisite calligraphy. These prohibitions haven't always been in force; for example, during the centuries of Ottoman rule, the wealthy commissioned illustrative art of the "restoration" of Islam, including images of Muhammad. In its effort to become a truly universal encyclopedia, Wikipedia has images of some of these depictions of Muhammad on their article about him.
There are billions of Muslims in the world, just as there are other billions of adherents to Christianity, and other religions. I fear that things can get blown out of proportion sometimes. The Muslim world must understand that Western culture is one of personal freedoms. We cherish intellectual freedom, especially freedom of and from religion along with freedom of expression, above all others. Therefore, the prohibition against an image of an otherwise revered figure is completely foreign to us, and anathema to our standards of personal liberty. Intellectual curiosity demands that historical images of Muhammad be available for study.
I think Wikipedia is totally justified in standing firm against the challenge to intellectual freedom from our Muslim brothers, for they truly are our brothers--not our enemies. There should be no invective, no intent to anger them in publishing the images. Rather, by standing firm here, we can begin setting the precedent that our liberties are as sacred to us as any religious image, and that we will not cave to bullying. This is the right thing to do.
This whole situation leaves me wondering about a few things.....if the prohibition against the reproduction of living things is so important to Muslims, wouldn't this preclude the use of photographic reproductions of living things as well? In all seriousness, what is the difference between a drawing and a photograph of a person? I do know this, having read it myself, the answer to those question is not to be found in the jumbled mess that is the Koran. Hopefully, within my lifetime the Muslim world's loudest proponents will mature enough to respect the practices and liberties of other cultures. Here's hoping.
Muslims are not our enemies; they are our brothers. We can get past this rough spot if we let our humanity unite us.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Chelsea Clinton, an important campaigner and political operative for her mother's campaign, is still "off limits" as if she were a child still. At 28, Miss Clinton should be capable of speaking to the press, but apparently she won't even answer questions for a Weekly Reader kid correspondent. She's not a child anymore; the Reagans used Ron Reagan in the 80's for political purposes, and he wasn't off limits--Chelsea should answer the media's questions. That she won't speak smacks of her status as a liability.
I want to know how capable she is, because if her mom is elected president, you KNOW she will be on the White House payroll. You can't declare your family off limits when they're making campaign calls to superdelegates for you. Buck up Chelsea; it's time to grow up.
Friday, February 15, 2008
If you'd like to read it, just let me know.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Je suis desja d'amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée
In my wife's case, I can substitute flowers, chocolate, and fancy words, for melted cheese, orange juice, and a card. Sometimes I feel that Valentine's Day is nothing but a commercial gimmick, and I'm right, mostly. There are many parts to love. I can't imagine not loving Mickelle. She cherishes me in spite of my many faults; she raises my children; she takes care of me; she is quick to forgive; she doesn't care that I'm an extrovert. In short, I hit the jackpot. I tell her how much I love her everyday, so I feel sometimes that Valentine's Day is superfluous in our relationship. When you have kids and can't afford to go out or even hire a babysitter so you can shag and not risk waking the children, Valentine's Day loses a bit of the magic it used to have.
When we were engaged, ten years ago today, I drove 3 hours from Provo, Utah to Logan, Utah. I went to Shopko and bought the only card they had left, a bunny rabbit card meant for a 4 year old with a little bit of fake fur on it. I also bought her a buckwheat pillow and a heart-shaped-box of the nastiest "chocolates" you have ever eaten. I waited for her in the parking lot of her apartment complex because I knew that she would be walking home from class at a certain time. I completely surprised her, and I was rewarded with a great memory, and some pretty serious makeout if I remember correctly. We were very much in love back then, and we still are today. Now, my love for my wife is more than it ever was back then. I love her for the lines in her face, for the way her voice sounds when she talks to little children, for the way her face looks as she sleeps on the sofa while I watch TV, for the way she says my name "MAC" when she pissed at me, for the way that she eats Cheerios straight from the box, for how nervous she gets talking on the phone to someone she doesn't know, for her chestiness, for her ability to see right through all my bullshit, for her reservedness, for how she braids Marley's hair, for aquéllo, for following me around the world, for not letting me quit my PhD program when I got dispirited, for all the many other things that she does, and for loving me in spite of the fact that I always follow something wonderfully touching with a crude sexual comment (I can't help myself). My love for her is just as strong as it was when we were in the hot and heavy mode. Intimacy now is better than it was when I was a young buck. Now, it means so much more than I ever thought a physical act could. In the immortal words of e.e. cummings:
The best gesture of my brain
Is less than her eyelid's flutter, which says
We are for each other
Valentine's Day means nothing to me in and of itself. For many other married people, it has evolved into a man's day to supplicate himself to his wife in the hope that the scoreless inning streak will come to an end. I don't want all the pretense. Even worse, for single people, Valentine's Day is an all-too-obvious reminder of the condition of being alone; some refer to it as Singles Awareness Day.
When I think of all my blessings, I think of the fact, that just like little Ralphie Wiggam, Mickelle choo choo chooses me, each and every day. She's mine for eternity, and I hers. My infinite soul, my etinifnialma.
With that said, I always look forward to March 14th.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Contemplating Mortality via Alejo Carpentier, Horacio Quiroga, Federico Garcia Lorca, Herodotus, and Xerxes
The subject was the untimeliness of death, a topic of much relevance to me lately. As I sat preparing for class, I remembered the final passages of Carpentier’s novel that had so moved me the other day. They make feel that It is our ability to be altruistic as we struggle and toil through life that brings us closer to the divine. One of the most beautiful images is that of the person who does for others with no hope of recompense for themselves (I know it’s incorrect grammar, but I like it). We’ve all seen the family with nothing give what little they have to others. The Old Testament story of the widow giving her last bread to Elijah, and the New Testament story of Jesus pointing out the worth of the widow’s mite are two touchstone examples of this wondrous aspect of human nature in Judeo-Christian belief. That is why this life, the kingdom of this world, is a probationary period when we must prove ourselves. Greater love hath no man than this…. Better to live the good life....
But part of the end of the novel is that the protagonist, Ti Noel, realizes that his life has been acted on, that he has not acted on the world. The triumph of the human spirit over the horrors and drudgery of day-to-day existence is the point of the novel. However, we also discussed how brief life is. I told them “if I were to die right here right now, this piece of chalk I’m holding would still be here. If it were used up, its atoms would still exist in the universe. The compounds that comprise my body would still exist; what ceases to be in the Kingdom of This World is the presence, or at least the mortal perception, of my soul, my intelligence."
I asked them if they had ever contemplated their own death. Many lied and said no; some were very frank. One student had woken up on the operating table and related the horrors of searing pain and thinking she was going to die. Most of the ones who admitted having imagined their own death always said that they imagined croaking in old age, in some remote future. I asked if they thought immortality might be boring, a kind of burden. No one thought so, until I related Odysseus and Calypto (thanks Norman!) to them. I also brought up examples in popular culture: the elves in Lord of the Rings, Alf knowing the exact date of his death, and the carousel in Logan’s Run.
As we talked about death being instantaneous, and very rarely planned, we talked about Quiroga’s brilliant “The Dead Man.” A farmer accidentally slips one day and mortally wounds himself, impaled by his own machete. As he lies dying he keeps ranting about how everything else is normal…nothing else has changed except the position of his machete coming out of his abdomen. After he “rests” as the story puts it, the world continues on. His life is but a footnote in the cosmic cycle with the long-vision of eternity.
I reminded them that few get to choose their death, and that in the case of most of us, in 200 years no one will remember who we are. Our milestone data might exist, but no one will know us, study us. I asked them if they could contemplate willingly giving their lives for something or someone. Most said family and friends. A few astute ones said they didn’t know unless they were in the situation; one said she would give her life for any other human being; one, perhaps only half-jokingly said he would die for his dog because his dog would die for him without hesitation.
So, our final work, Garcia Lorca’s poem, tells the story of a horse rider who knows that death awaits him in Cordoba, yet he keeps on riding towards the city. Lorca knew that coming home to Spain would cost him his life. He came home and proved to be a true prophet (he was fusilladed in Granada, summarily). I asked the class if they could do something if they knew that it would lead to their own deaths. By this time they were as morose as you can get a class, but I ended with a perfect post-script, sent to me not 20 minutes before class that day. My dear old friend Norman Sandridge ran in a half-marathon this past weekend and he dedicated his run to my recently-deceased father. He told me that as he ran he began to contemplate just how fleeting our mortal existence truly is, and he thought of this passage from Herodotus, the perfect post-script to my class, which I shared with them:
And now, as he [Xerxes, king of the Persians] looked and saw the whole Hellespont covered with the vessels of his fleet, and all the shore and every plain about Abydos as full as possible of men, Xerxes congratulated himself on his good fortune; but after a little while he wept.
Then Artabanus, the king's uncle (the same who at the first so freely spake his mind to the king, and advised him not to lead his army against Greece), when he heard that Xerxes was in tears, went to him, and said:- "How different, sire, is what thou art now doing, from what thou didst a little while ago! Then thou didst congratulate thyself; and now, behold! thou weepest." "There came upon me," replied he, "a sudden pity, when I thought of the shortness of man's life, and considered that of all this host, so numerous as it is, not one will be alive when a hundred years are gone by." "And yet there are sadder things in life than that," returned the other. "Short as our time is, there is no man, whether it be here among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so happy, as not to have felt the wish- I will not say once, but full many a time- that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon us; sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race: and God, who gives us the tastes that we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in his very gift, to be envious."
Norman is a damned good friend.
Monday, February 11, 2008
The media machine thrills in reporting her missteps and addictions. Today is the first day in a long while where the headlines about Mrs. Winehouse actually involve her music. But again, sadly, watching her last night has convinced me that without some entity taking away her freedom and getting her detoxed and truly rehabilitated, like Scott Weiland rehabilitated, she will die within the year.
Last night she looked emaciated and disheveled as she half-heartedly danced and sang. Her glassy-eyed stare when she won for Record of the Year looked more like someone high on Vicodin's reaction than the joy of a sober person. That little catty sneer in the corner of her mouth as she sang "I won't go go go" to rehab in the second half of her act speaks volumes about her current state of mind. She appears incapable of making correct decisions in her drug and alcohol addled state. Without intervention, Amy Winehouse will soon be dead.
I truly hope I am wrong.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I am also realizing that teaching this novel to undergraduates presents something of a challenge. It is so richly complex that I wonder how much of it they will understand, especially since many of them have precious little exposure to Latin-American history. One of the major flaws of getting a PhD in Latin-American Literature is that you never get the chance to teach a literature class (one that's purely about literature) before you graduate. In return for free tuition and a pittance of a stipend (at least when I started), they make you teach section after section of Spanish grammar. I really wish that I had had the chance, because now that I get to, I am on my own--essentially.
As I've been trying to come up with teaching strategies, I found a book published by my former professor, Mario J. Valdés, called Approaches to Teaching One Hundred Years of Solitude. While I was initially hopeful that the book would give me several ideas, I found that each approach started something like this: "I teach OHYOS to my SPAN 499 Senior Honors class," or something like that. These approaches are all written by professors dealing with the best students in their major. I'm trying to teach this class at the 200 level for our general credit program; therefore, the approaches in that book haven't been too helpful.
So, I'm left to pick a strategy. I plan to give them a brief history of Colombia, of the "banana republics," and Garcia Marquez's biography. We will discuss the religious symbolism (always a favorite of mine), and the historical aspects of the narrative; for example, how the different arrivals of peoples to Macondo reflect different periods of world history/movements. But, more than anything, I really hope that the book touches them in that way that doesn't need a previous knowledge of all the things I've explained. I felt the same way reading OHYOS as I did when I read The Satanic Verses, The Grapes of Wrath, Ficciones, Sarum, The Book of Dave, and A Confederacy of Dunces; I didn't need it explained to me, I just connected with the book. That's my goal and that's what I'm hoping for.
Nevertheless, once you've connected with the book, the text becomes even more amazing when you begin to recognize the different levels of symbolism it contains. I plan to use small group discussion, targeted homework questions, and making the students write their own exam questions as a means to instruct them about the text. It is so rich that we'll never be able to discuss it all; my desire is to amaze them with the wonder that is Latin-American Literature and maybe draw one or two of them into the major or minor.
Here's hoping. As parting advice, you need to read OHYOS in your life. William Kennedy remarked: "It is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race."
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Ti Noël had squandered his birthright, and, despite the abject poverty to which he had sunk, he was leving the same inheritance he had received: a body of flesh to which things had happened. Now he understood that a man never knows for whom he suffers and hopes. He suffers and hopes and toils for people he will never know, and who, in turn, will suffer and hope and toil for others who will not be happy either, for man always seeks a happiness far beyond that which is meted out to him. But man's greatness consists in the very fact of wanting to be better than he is. In laying duties upon himself.
In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no grandeur to be won, inasmuch as there, all is an established hierarchy, the unknown is revealed, existence is infinite, there is no possibility of sacrifice, all is rest and joy. For this reason, bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in the Kingdom of This World.
(Trans. Harriet de Onís)
It is our ability to be altruistic as we struggle and toil through life that brings us closer to the divine. That is why this life, the kingdom of this world, is when we must prove ourselves.
Man, Carpentier was talented.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
I recognize that the people who make more than $250k a year pay 40% of personal income taxes in this country, and I recognize that if you are married and have a child, you don't pay any federal income taxes unless you make above $30k. However, the tax situation in our nation is still not appropriate. I'm not talking about fair; I mean appropriate for the amount of government that we receive. Certainly lowering taxes makes people happy and gives them more money to spend, but the government is spending money that we don't have. We're getting a dollar's worth of services for 90 cents. We're borrowing 10% or more of our budget from the Chinese and other holders of 30-year T-bills.
|The Gross National Debt|
Something has got to give. We're at war, but we're lowering taxes? It doesn't make sense. No one is being asked to sacrifice anything, save the people who decided to join the military, which is made of the lower class and lower-middle class segments of our society (for the most part).
Now, who doesn't hate taxes? I don't particularly care for them, but when I see what kinds of services that money brings in relation to the rest of the world, which I have toured and seen by the way, then I am thankful that I live in a place where the taxes are used to benefit others. A recent study has shown that, for example, a dollar's worth of food stamps, actually brings $1.67 back into the economy via paying the grocery store employees' salaries, the transportation workers' salaries, the farmers', etc. Those people all earn money, and pay taxes on that money, which stimulates the economy. Giving large tax breaks to corporations on ad valorem taxes does precious little to stimulate the economy.
I also am fully aware that allowing the richest members of society to have more free capital allows them to reinvest that money in job-creating enterprises, yet this is no guarantee that they will. Taxes exist for the benefit of all; there is never a promise that you will receive back in proportion to the amout of taxes you pay. I don't want to live in an economy like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, or Baldomero Lillo's "La compuerta numero doce," where the workers' needs take second fiddle to the riches of the owner.
So when I hear Mitt Romney say that he wants to make it so that "seniors" (I hate that term) don't have to pay Social Security taxes on income they earn past retirement age it makes me angry. Everyone pays into the system for the benefit of all! Just because you've reached your retirement age doesn't mean that if you have earned income you're suddenly exempt. He's trying to buy votes. I see flawed reasoning here; by his reckoning then, anyone without children shouldn't have to pay property taxes because their kids aren't in school!
When someone mentions a flat tax, I immediately stop listening to anything they say; ever notice that only rich people like Steve Forbes and Jack Kemp advocate for the flat tax? When politicians mention repealing the "death tax" I realize that they are pandering to the rich. I don't know anyone rich enough to have to pay the so-called death tax, save maybe my dad's best friend. Most of us don't need to worry about this. The indisputable fact is that the estate tax is paid only by multimillionaires and billionaires, the top one-half of 1 percent of the wealthiest households in the U.S. Yet, some of our wealthiest people are honest enough to see the benefits and reasons behind this tax: George Soros, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet all disagree with repealing it.
So, taxes are a serious issue. Even though I don't make a lot of money, and a tax increase would have a serious impact on how much money I would have to live off each month, I am in favor of increasing federal income taxes back to where they were in 2000. The monetization of our national debt has allowed us false prosperity in the last decade. The housing boom and now its bust is part of a cycle created by the defacto printing of money by the Federal Reserve system. All this wealth created during the housing boom is ephemeral. Your house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and given the market costs right now, the vast majority of home purchases in the last 5 years are upside down on their mortgages. Things got out of hand. The economy cannot live by housing booms alone. I want a president AND Congress who will address these issues. I want massive public investments via university research, government labs, and NASA into technologies that will lesson our dependence on foreign energy sources, and thus leave far more capital in our economy and not in the hands of rogue nations who are essentially our enemies that we allow to suck at our financial teets. Every dollar you spend at Citgo trickles down into the economy of Venezuela via the megalomaniacal policies of Hugo Chavez (of course other companies also purchase oil from Venezuela, so boycotting Citgo isn't as effective as you might think, not to mention that it employs 4,000 Americans). My point is that we should do eveything possible to lesson our need for petroleum. If we could cut our demand for gas by 15%, the price would drop, the air quality would improve, and well, the new technology created could do wonders for our economy as we manufactured and licensed to the rest of the world. Using corn to power our cars is stupid, corrupt, shortsighted, and will cause famine in our places around the world. Corn ethanol produces negligibly more energy than it takes to produce it.
So I want a president who will address these issues, a president willing to invest tens of billions of dollars in promising domestic energy sources and technologies. A president who is willing to invest in HIGHER EDUCATION and stop overly-taxing the middle class through student loans to pay for previously affordable education from state universities. A president willing to see that access to the "world's best healthcare system" doesn't mean shit to the people who can't afford access to the "world's best healthcare system." A president who sees that finding, capturing, and bringing to trial Osama Bin Laden should be our number one national security issue. A president who isn't afraid to publicly ask the world for help in maintaining Iraqi security while they transition through a rough spot. A president who doesn't call it "illegal immigration" and "amnesty" but who sees the benefit that immigrants bring to our country, recognizes the security risk by having an uncontrolled border, makes a legal way for people to come here to work (thus ending the need to cross in the middle of the wilderness in the night), and grants a humane way for those already here (who are good members of society--not gangbangers and lazy deadbeats) to stay here legally. And, finally, a president who isn't afraid to raise taxes to pay for these programs.
I don't know if any of the current candidates match what I want, but I know that Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Huckabee ARE NOT the kind of president I want. So, I'm left with Barack Obama and John McCain. I like McCain, I think he's a decent man. I like Obama, maybe, sort of. I hate legislators as presidents. We need a third candidate, and true moderate, one with vision. I don't see it happening ever though.
I think Obama is the nominee. He won Utah, Alabama, and Idaho. It is noteworthy that a black man could win lilly-white Utah and Idaho. Times are a changin'.
Hispanics gave California to Hillary. After Mitt Romney anti-immigrant rhetoric of the last few weeks, is it any wonder that he didn't take California? Seriously? Mike Huckabee is screwing up Romney's campaign. If Huckabee were gone, we might have an actual race, but now it looks like McCain's got it all wrapped up. To all my Mormon friends who have been goo-goo eyed of Romney nomination, I told you so. He will not win it. People will not elect a Mormon president. It won't happen. Maybe in 30 years, but Mitt Romney's not the guy to do it.
I think politicians who want to run for president should have to resign their current political office after the officially declare their candidacy.
Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. John McCain will be the Republican nominee.
Obama's running mate is unclear. McCain would be a fool not to run with Colin Powell.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Fifteen years ago today, I never imagined I'd be where I am today. And even this morning, I never imagined when I woke up at 5:40 AM to get ready to go to Bishopric meeting for 6:30AM, since I'm the bishop's executive secretary, that I would see myself accept a calling to be the Ward Mission Leader, in addition to my callings as Executive Secretary and Elders Quorum Instructor (I teach three Sundays a month).
I live in a ward. I hold three callings that require a serious commitment of my time. I'm not all that qualified, but just like in New Orleans, apparently, I'm all the Lord's got.
Friday, February 01, 2008
For example, in 2000, many Republicans I knew practically screamed "Anyone but Gore," and then again in "Anyone but Kerry!" Look at what results that gave us, perhaps the second-worst president in our history (after the diabolical LBJ). Now, I see that same attitude reflected in today's announcement, surely a sign of the Apocalypse, that Ann Coulter will campaign for Hillary Clinton if John McCain gets the Republican nomination.
If people start screaming "Anyone but McCain," be careful what you wish for; you really truly just might get it: the biggest liar in American politics.