Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Why I'm fine with a secular Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas memories was the time my dad and I went and bought Christmas for a family in our ward during the early 90's recession, and we went on Christmas Eve, left it all on their doorstep, parked the car way up the street, and then used my dad's "carphone" to call them and tell them to go outside. That was a good feeling. If I get the Bah Humbugs, I just try and do something for someone else.

I think the celebration of the Savior's birth isn't that big a deal, because we celebrate his life every day, every Sunday, etc. I always view birthday celebrations as for the living, and while I believe that Christ lives again, I think that observance of his birthday doesn't really matter in these postmodern times. I wouldn't hold a birthday party for someone who couldn't be there. I know this sounds obtuse, but if I want to celebrate Christ, all I have to do is go to Church, or read the Scriptures, or pray. Christmas is more about family and friends and feasting during the lean Winter months of the Northern Hemisphere. I am indifferent to the "Jesus is the reason for the season" slogans because they ignore the 3500 years of history of Winter Solstice observance that was co-opted to bring the pagans into the Church. Again, I'm sure this will irk some people, but while we do read Luke, and tell the stories, I think that secular holiday traditions, in moderation, are fun and wholesome, and designed to make us happy, and are more important than religious foci.

Really, Christmas to a child, is magical, and when we get older, we can't feel that magic because we know who Santa Claus is, and we know what things cost, and try as we might, we can't feel that elation and joy of running downstairs on Christmas morn anymore. Also, people we shared those memories with have died, and their absence bites the heart when we're around those we love because the loss of association is so tied to those memories that it staggers the soul. Nostalgia is at the root of the bah humbugs, and there's no cure for it other than making the sacrifice for the young ones, and trying to be Christlike via service instead of worrying about honoring him through saying that Christmas is all about him, because it never has been.

Also, the 12 days of Christmas start 12-25 and go through 1-6. That's why January 6th is called "Twelfth Night."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anyone else feel

That the Mormon Church is starting to become like the Pharisees? Do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs?

I feel like there's too much worrying about rules, written and unwritten, and not enough thinking about how to follow Christ's example of love for everyone. It's a little depressing to hear people worry about what color shirt I wear to church, or if I wear shorts, or what hand I use to take the sacrament, or what are the exact rules for having the missionaries be able to come to my house for dinner.

What happened to the simplicity of the Church that Joseph Smith founded? Sometimes I feel like I wouldn't be shocked to see someone praise the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud)'s clarity from the stand on Sunday, and how we can learn a lot from the Law of Moses about how to know God's Will for us. Is it lawful to replace straw that fell from one's pillow on the Sabbath? Is it lawful to go trick or treating on Sunday?

I don't think God really cares too much about most things I do. As long as I'm trying to love my fellow man, I feel like I'm pretty good. I don't think he gives a damn whether or not I wear long pants to Church or if I say "thee" and "thou" in my prayers instead of "you."

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Youthful Culture of Hate & the Internet

Thinking about the Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) culture of hate, I am appalled at the racism, gay-bashing, and just outright bullying that you hear on there. I've been called
"motherfucker" or "fag" or "nigger"
or "40 year old virgin living in your mom's basement" by so many 11 year olds now that I'm convinced that the unfettered anonymity of the internet is doing precious little to quash this culture among our youth. Rather, I see it as exacerbating the problem that was already there.

When I went to school in rural-trending-towards-suburban Georgia in the late 80's, if you called someone who wasn't your friend a "faggot" you knew that there was going to be a fight. The ability to just spew whatever hatred out there that you want, without fear of reprisal, brings what was our immature culture of hatred shared among friends, out in the open, as it were.

I've been playing a bunch with these guys from Jamaica. The other night, some kids were complaining about losing to "a bunch of foreign niggers."

One of the guys on my team then said, "How about I follow your ip address with my tcp/ip sniffer, come over to your house, rape your mom while I make you watch, and then kill you? I don't work; I got time to find you."

The other team then quickly exited the chat room, while everyone else laughed. I was appalled again. I said, "That was a bit offsides." He said back, "Now that little bastard will think twice about dropping racist shit on me."
All of this anonymity permmited by the internet, brings us into a new space. It's comparable to what Zygmunt Bauman calls the postmodern space of the city:

City life is a life morally impoverished and thus free to be subjected to unchallenged rule of other than moral criteria. It is a joyously embraced choice - urban relations are anonymous and non-committal.
Also, when we look at a popular culture that embraces a minority non-sub-altern style as the apogee of cool, and that style chooses to denigrate, not the majority, but sub-altern segments of society, I see little wonder in reflecting on these issues as a reflection of cultural attitudes which manifest themselves in the hate-filled speech of MW2.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa

I'm still shocked that Vargas Llosa won. He's very polarizing; love him or hate him. I have always enjoyed teaching his essay "My Son, the Rastafarian" ("Mi hijo, el etíope") in my classes. I was hoping for Nicanor Parra or Carlos Fuentes. At any rate, it'd been since 1994 that an American won. It's about time that the New World got some attention again.

I think that Parra, Fuentes, Piglia, Rushdie, Zizek, and McCarthy all deserve to win. But, that's probably never going to happen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Letter to Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse

Dear Messrs Lindelof and Cuse,

Kiss my ass, you hacks.



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Baseball and my Dad

I miss going to baseball games with my dad. The air conditioning is really cold in the room I'm in right now, and I swear I can almost feel my dad here, asking me if I want to get cleaned up and drive down to Turner Field to watch the Braves play this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


For the record, I put everyone up to it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

RIP Tommy Henrich (1913-2009)

I just happened upon this NY Times obituary that tells me that Tommy Henrich has passed away.

This saddens me. I can still see his Bowman baseball cards and hear my dad's voice telling me about Old Reliable. I can even imagine Mel Allen's voice (How about that?) calling him "Old reliable Henrich" for his clutch hitting.

Henrich didn't have the most-amazing stats, but he was Mr. Clutch; a team player all the way. He didn't go for glory; he went for the win, and that led him to seven World Series championships. Not bad for a guy who was never really a "star."

My condolences to the Henrich family. I never saw him play, but the legend is still there.

Henrich’s dedication on the field was matched by a reputation for strength of character. As Stengel put it in a 1949 profile of Henrich in The New Yorker: “He’s a fine judge of a fly ball. He fields grounders like an infielder. He never makes a wrong throw, and if he comes back to the hotel at 3 in the morning when we’re on the road and says he’s been sitting up with a sick friend, he’s been sitting up with a sick friend.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Surgery Tomorrow

So, tomorrow I'm having my gallbladder removed, ending a 16-month span of pain and misery that has become my life. The pain is incessant now, and I know that I cannot continue you on much longer living with this pain without resorting to taking narcotics, in heavy doses, every day. It has to come out.

My gallbladder quit working normally when I began the South Beach Diet and lost about 25 pounds in a month. Since the pain started, I've been unable to diet normally, since many healthy foods' roughage have the effect of making it hurt. I've also been very unwise, turning to food as a means of dealing with the stress of pain.

My weight also puts me at a statistically significant;y higher morbidity risk for surgery with general anesthesia. So, I'm sitting here looking out my window in my home office at an azure sky thinking that I could die tomorrow.

While that event is unlikely, there are a host of potential complications that come from peritoneal surgery. The surgery is supposed to happen laparoscopically, which is complicated by the sub-cutaneous fat layer I've added, one mouthful at a time, to my rotund frame. The risk of pulmonary embolism is there. The surgeon will have to make larger incisions on me, putting me at a higher risk of developing hernias in the abdominal wall.

So, even though I've received a Church blessing, and will get another one tonight, confirming that after my doctors have helped me that the Lord will heal me, I still have to plan for the worst. So, just in case, por si acaso, I'm posting this for everyone.

I want to be cremated, with my ashes scattered in places that mean something to anyone who wants to scatter some. I'd like for everyone to have a big bonfire the night of the funeral and sit around and tell stories and whoppers about me. If I had the money, I'd start a study abroad scholarship at Coker College for study Spanish majors/minors to study in Spanish-speaking countries.

Mickelle, you are the love of my life and my best friend. I have no secrets from you; you know everything. I am worthy of a temple recommend, and even though my testimony isn't rocksteady, I do have faith in what I believe. I have doubted, every day, since I joined the Church, but I do have faith. It's been a constant struggle between belief and doubt, but at the end of the day, I do believe. I want you to remarry and be happy. Move back to Utah and be close to your family. Make sure the kids go to college and grad school. Be sure to scatter my ashes somewhere that means something to you. I want you to inherit all my belongings, but be sure that Marley gets the 1953 color Bowman Pee Wee Reese card.

To all my children, the suggestions about life that I make to each of you should be applied to all of you.

Marley, you are my first-born and the child that I will always know best because we've had longer to get to know each other. You are a very caring person and very tender with little kids. I hope that you'll go to college to become a professional of some kind. I could see you be an event coordinator or a small business owner. Your creativity and love of friends is an asset. Your hair is your crown of glory, always take care of it and use it to make yourself attractive and lovely. I love you very much, and I hope you'll get married some day to a man loves you and sees you as his equal. Never be afraid to speak up for people who are being bullied, and always rely on your intellect and wits and intuition. You are able to read people and if someone gives you a bad feeling, trust that. I've seen you identify bad people (ask mommy about the bad man who caused problems at Gove Allen's house) merely by your sense of judgment about people. Trust it. You might make an excellent police detective. I'd love for you to go to medical or dental school, but I understand if you choose a different route. Do what makes you happy as long as you don't get rich by hurting other people. Chose that profession that makes you happy, and always remember that you don't need a man to be successful. Don't not get an education if you get married young. Finish school before you have kids. If mommy hadn't finished school, finding a job after I died would be very difficult. Because of her education, she can find a good-paying job to take care of you kids. Do not rely on men for your well-being and sense of self either. If you think you look beautiful, you are. Health is beauty, no superficial looks. Youth will leave you one day, but health and self-esteem are there forever if you cultivate them. Also, don't be afraid to take risks on love. Even though a broken heart hurts worse than any other emotion (save losing a loved one), it's better to love and lose love than to have never tried it. I love you, Marley X.

Jack, my little man. You are the heir to a great name and tradition of honest men. See that you always tell the truth and never cheat, lie, or steal. I made some minor, but serious, mistakes when I was a young man that I shouldn't have if I'd listened to my father's wisdom about honesty. Always do what is right, even if it costs you. Your integrity has no price. Also, be nice to women. They are your equal; no should never try and lord over someone in a relationship just because you're physically stronger. When it comes to love, never use someone else for your own pleasure. Intimacy has a place in life, and I caution you to reserve intimacy for the one you love. I only ever kissed your mom--no other woman, and while I don't think that's the only way to go about dating, I always knew that your mom's kisses were the sweetest ones I ever had. Go to school. Don't be afraid of schoolwork. We Williamses are a smart bunch, but we're not the smartest people around--there's always someone smarter than you; I realized this when I met my friend Mike Wilson Reginato--he's the smartest man I've ever met. You don't have to be the smartest person in the room. Beware of pride about your intelligence. People who are not intelligent are not to blame for their stupidity, so you should never mock someone for being stupid. Rather, reserve harsh criticism for people who remain ignorant willfully or do stupid things when they know better. Seek to educate everyone around you. I'm a natural teacher, and I think you might be one too. If so, don't seek the riches of the world for riches' sake. Being a teacher, if you have the gift, is a noble thing to do. But, always remember that your primary purpose in your career is to make yourself happy. Don't take jobs that make you miserable unless they are a stepping stone in your education. Our family has issues with self-control. Please try and avoid alcohol and harmful drugs. If you start in with them, you'll find that your nature will make it difficult to give them up. Watch out for bad food too. I've eaten myself into a prison of a body because I lack will power, and my metabolism couldn't burn off my excessive excesses. If someone helps you, always thank them, and be sure to help others when you're older and have the resources to help out. Always remember that I love you, and that when you marry and have children some day, the love you feel for them will be the kind of love I have for you. You're my only son, and I love you dearly.

Calliope, my baby with the awesome name. Your middle name is Hispanic and represents a proud heritage of a people that I love like my own (Marisol is an abbreviation of María de la Soledad--ever Marisol I've ever met has been a total babe). Please, all of my children, cultivate your connection with Hispanic culture. There is much there that is wonderful and good. I have tried to raise you as Southerners and as Hispanics. Please keep this tradition alive in your hearts. Our Hispanic friends are genuine and sincere and as selfless as anyone you'll ever meet. Embrace this. Never be ashamed of the South. While there is much here that needs fixing, the South is your home and we have always tried to focus on the positives of family and friends being foremost in our sense of culture and society. Never ever assume things about someone because of their race or upbringing though. Give everyone a chance and be an optimist about people unless your gut tells you otherwise. You may have racist thoughts from time to time....listen to your mind in these moments and recognize that an individual's actions are what bother you, not something intrinsic about a person because of their skin pigmentation. Do not laugh along with other people if they make crude jokes. As far as religion goes, do not make the mistake of believing that only people who are Mormon are moral and righteous. Do not judge the world in black and white. The world is a big beautiful place with billions of different ways of seeing things; see it in color. Do not dismiss the wisdom found in the teachings of other religions. The majority of Muslims are decent, hard-working, moral people. If I die, you most likely won't remember me. Know that I love you very much, my little baby girl, and that you always made me smile and laugh, and that I had a blast playing with you. You have this way of lowering your eyebrows, I call it "fruncing" them, that makes my heart melt. I love you very much, and I hope that you grow up into a happy person who calls her mom her best friend the way your older sister does.

Mom, I love you, you know it. I'm really glad that you're my mom, and I can't bring myself to write something long to you right now. You know I love you, and if there is an afterlife (I believe there is), then I'll see you sooner than the rest :P.

Susanna, my kid sister. I thought about writing my testimony of the Gospel out to you, and then I thought about making a "pearls before the swine" joke, but really, I just want to say that I love you, and that I want you to be happy. It seems like that Eric guy is a good dude, and if he makes you happy, make him happy. Go get your PhD. Do it. It's worth it. I love you, and I hope we'll meet again.

Papa, I love you, and I'll see you in about 30 years? If you go back to practicing law when you get your second wind, try family law this time. I bet your wisdom could come in handy. I'm proud to carry your name.

Louis, my brother, thank you for being there when my dad died. You really could've been my uncle if things had gone differently, though I'm sure that you're happy with your life right now. You've got an awesome wife, and really cool kids who should be your pride and joy (they are, I know). While we don't see alike on almost anything politcally, I know you and know that you are a good man, and it's okay to differ on opinion. I hope that you'll encourage your kids to get a rigorous liberal arts degree in college, so that their beliefs are challenged. That way, when they come back to them, they'll know better why they believe what they believe and how to understand what the other side feels/sees. I hope you'll watch out for my mom and sister and my wife and kids. Be there for them.

Tim, my best friend (besides my wife), I leave you my 1988 Atlanta Braves team ball (give it back to my son in your will). It's because of you that I met my wife and have all my kids. Thanks for telling me to talk to her that one day in August 1997. I'm glad we were roommates, and I totally forgive you for wanting to hit me with that frying pan you picked up to "move." I love you man, I hope she makes your life complete. I know that my absence won't bother you, but try and keep it together when you think about me. Also, be there for my kids as a counselor/mentor/advisor. If they do something stupid, please chew them out/bail them out. If they do something grand, please tell them what you think I would've said. You can have the rights to all our creative ideas as long as you give Mickelle my share of whatever we make on them (I trust you), and our ideas probably have zero monetary value, but, you never know. Be happy.

Paul, my best friend, we've been friends for so long. Be happy in life. I still maintain that you would've been one hell of a good father. Aside from being an amazingly good writer, I also believe that you are a natural teacher, and that you should get into a classroom, even as a volunteer, to teach youth. Maybe baseball coaching. I get the distinct feeling that you could be key person in the lives of many people, the kind of person that gets things named after him. I'm not preaching at you, I just think that we've still got lots more to see from W. Paul Dunn.

Norman, please give my eulogy. Make it funny. Roast me. I don't want crying people at my funeral. Make it a brilliant piece of postmodern historiographic pastiche about my life, our youth, Cherokee County, I see your five, and the joy and brevity of mankind's time on Earth. No pressure.

Juan Carlos, my old 'roommate.' You're a good friend, y espero que Uds estén felices siempre. No nos hemos visto en años, pero te considero uno de mis mejores amigos en el mundo.

Cathy Cuppett, you're a good colleague and I thank you for picking me for Coker. I've enjoyed my time here and I hope your next colleague last longer than I did.

To everyone else, I'm tired now and in pain. If I didn't mention you, it's not a slight. I just can't bring myself to write anymore right now. Besides, I'll most likely pull through tomorrow without any problems, so this will seem morbid. But, with my dad dying so suddenly of CJD, I felt like I had to do this, because I would've loved to have something like this from him before the disease addled his brain.

I love you all.