Saturday, December 28, 2013

No luck

Haircuts received since I bought a clipper/trimmer set in August 2006 = 57
Haircuts in which I requested that the barber cut my hair while topless = 57
Haircuts received from a topless barber = 0

My powers of persuasion have never met such resistance.  I must change tactics.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

John 8 and the BYUreaucrat

"The Woman Taken in Adultery," interpreted by the Honor Code Office:

A rabbi was sitting teaching in a public square, when a loud mob came before him pushing and kicking a terrified woman, accusing her of having been taken in the throes of passion with a married man who was not her husband. The people hesitate to carry out the Mosaic sentence due to the rabbi's interposition of himself between her and them. He takes a moment to speak, but when he does, he says, "If any of you be sinless, be the first to throw a rock to stone her and we will all follow you." Convicted in their hearts that they too were guilty of many sins, they toss their rocks to the ground and begin to file out of the plaza. With the women kneeling beside him, begging for her life, and then kissing his feet as she realizes that his words have saved her life, the rabbi reaches down, grabs a rock, raises his hand high, and with all his might, smashes the rock against the dome of her head, staving it in like a rotten melon. She dies immediately. The rabbi then says, "I am not without sin. But, if we allow sin to exist because none of us are perfect, if we don't enforce the laws that we agreed to live by when we came here, then this university, the Gospel, and our way of life will all die."

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

What Jack Taught Me about Jack

My son Jack is 7 years old right now.  Since he turned four, he has been a rambunctious, single-minded, and high-energy child.  In Spanish, we might say that he is ensimismado, meaning that he's all caught up in himself and what he's doing and what he wants to do.  That can be incredibly frustrating to a parent, or to a sibling.

He wants to play all of the time, and he will scatter toys and things from hell to breakfast if we let him.  If the house is quiet, we get nervous because that usually means he's concentrating on something intently, which often means a mess, his playing with water inside, or some other potential mess.  Some days he's the sweetest most innocent and caring child there is.  And then some days he's oblivious to what's going on around him.  He'll probably grow out of it, but today, as I was listening to Spotify, the White Stripes song "We're Going to Be Friends" came on, and the lyrics made me realize that I've forgotten what the innocence of childhood feels like.  I got a little teary thinking that this is how Jack Williams's mind works.  Had Jack White not penned these lines, I wouldn't have had this moment of reflection and understanding of how little Jack must feel.

Thank you, Jack White.  Thank you, Jack Williams.

Fall is here, hear the yell
back to school, ring the bell
brand new shoes, walking blues
climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we're going to be friends

Walk with me, Suzy Lee
through the park and by the tree
we will rest upon the ground
and look at all the bugs we found
safely walk to school without a sound
safely walk to school without a sound

Here we are, no one else
we walked to school all by ourselves
there's dirt on our uniforms
from chasing all the ants and worms
we clean up and now its time to learn
we clean up and now its time to learn

Numbers, letters, learn to spell
nouns, and books, and show and tell
at playtime we will throw the ball
back to class, through the hall
teacher marks our height against the wall
teacher marks our height against the wall

We don't notice any time pass
we don't notice anything
we sit side by side in every class
teacher thinks that I sound funny
but she likes the way you sing

Tonight I'll dream while in my bed
when silly thoughts go through my head
about the bugs and alphabet
and when I wake tomorrow I'll bet
that you and I will walk together again
I can tell that we're going to be friends

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Morality of Striking Syria

Heteronomous morality comes from without, imposed on someone or something by the Other.  Autonomous morality comes from within.  We want to impose Western heteronomy on sovereign/autonomous Syria.  

We think chemical weapons are especially reprehensible, but, I hold that if you don't get involved when 100,000 people are slaughtered, why the sudden moral outrage when a few thousand are poisoned with gas?  I don't believe that anyone in our government, at the highest levels, cares about the chemical attack in a moral sense.  If we would just quit pretending that this is about propriety (given the immoral drone strikes we use every single day that target civilians), and start admitting that we fear chemical attacks on our shores, and we want a reason to destroy the ability to manufacture them, then the insincere hand-wringing about striking Syria would be unnecessary.  Or, call it "national interests."  But, spare us the performance of moral outrage.   I'd much rather someone say, "Using chemical weapons crosses a line into terrorism that we have decided not to let anyone do in this world.  If you don't like it, tough.  We will come for anyone who uses them, and we will destroy them and their ability to make and use them," rather than all this pussyfooting around about Congressional permission and the evilness of someone using chemical weapons.

Hell, our cops used tear gas on Occupy Wall Street protesters; since I started writing this post, some cop somewhere has peppersprayed some citizen for not expressly following his instructions. Should we start bombing cops for using chemical weapons on the citizenry?  No, we shouldn't.  Just like we should stay the hell out of Syria.  I don't want my boy dying over there, and I don't want anyone else's boy dying over there.  Let the Syrians fight each other for control of their own country.  I reject anyone who claims that chemical weapons mean that we should respond now, when this has been going on all along:


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors

I used to view Andre 3000 as the stronger half of Outkast.  I no longer feel that way.  Big Boi's 2012 offering Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is a work of art.  There are several tracks that I can't stop listening to this week.   While his work with Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland on "Mama Told Me" is solid, and the video is absolutely mesmerizing, the track called "Descending" about losing loved ones has hit me pretty hard.  Towards the end of the song, voice breaking, the crushingly sad lines "From the bottom of my chest, to my stomach/goddammit, my daddy is gone/my daddy's gone" come through an ethereal soundscape, waking up my sentiments and last night, at about midnight, it made me sob.  Have a listen:

Another track I really enjoy is "Shoes for Running."  It has a very very catchy chorus, but the rapid-fire verses contain some stinging criticisms of politics in America right now, including what I might see as President Obama's use of drone attacks to kill innocent kids.  "Shoes for running/and I'll race ya/the sun is coming/it'll chase ya/through this deadbeat town (x2)/The End is coming/I would race ya/but, there's no running/it'll chase ya/Death will hunt you down (x2)."

He goes on to attack the 1%, big drug companies, and rich people, while the weak people go to prison.  Overall though, the song is about death, which awaits all of us.  I can't help but appreciate the juxtaposition of children singing the chorus at the end about how we're all going die.  While the second verse seems weaker than the 1st & 3rd due to bragging, the other verses are very strong.  

You can fight and try to get away
But there's no way to run and hide to
You better know that there will come a day
Eventually it's gonna find you

The control that Big Boi has over his articulation is absolutely amazing.  Have a listen:

The art direction of the "Mama Told Me" video is amazing.  Here's a link to the production company's explanation of the creative process:

And, here's the video:

While Ms. Rowland dances around in skimpy outfits, my eyes are instead drawn to the art deco color designs flashing around the screen.  

The final song I'll link is "Apple of My Eye."  To quote a friend of mine, it sounds like a "mix of the Cure, Depeche Mode, and Outkast."  He's dead on.  

If you're a fan of hiphop, or not, this album is worth a listen.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Best White Stripes Album

So, I was up late last night talking with Commando on facebook, trading songs back and forth from Spotify, and we both started talking about how much of a talent Jack White is. I'm partial to Elephant for its lyrics and the guitar work. First, we have the riff that launched a thousand ships in "Seven Nation Army." While that song is memorable, and fun as hell to play on the bass guitar, it's not the best. Which one is your favorite? I'll do a song-by-song evaluation, but any level of participation is welcome here. 

"Black Math" has amazingly blistering guitar, a solid drumbeat, and his voice is squeaky clean.

"There's No Home for You Here," the overdubbing gives his voice in this song a sonic quality. I love the spoken-sung sections. Lyrically, it's entertaining, "Completely baffled by the backward indication that an inspired word will come across your tongue/Hands moving upward to prepare the situation of simply, 'HALT' and now the conversation's done." The bridge at about 2 mins in is spectacular and his soloing. 

"I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself," a solid song, nice beat, it sounds like it was recorded live, and then we get to that ending....and...well, the wheels come off about 2:20 in. 

"In the Cold, Cold Night," You'll laugh, but I think her voice is super sexy on this track. The organ's subtlety in the background gives the song a sense of warmth, despite its title. 

"I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart," One of their strongest songs, lyrically. It tells a story, has some wit, and musically, the piano and guitar blend together beautifully, and the basic drumming compliments the melody. "I never said I was the heir to a fortune/I never claimed to have any looks/But these kind of things must be important cause somebody ripped out my page in your telephone book."

"You've Got Her in Your Pocket," Hauntingly gentle. "I want to keep you in my pocket/where there's no way out/put it in the safe and lock out/cause it's home sweet home" with that falsetto ending. Lovely. 

"Ball and Biscuit" I can't hear this and not think of Led Zeppelin. The guitar is perhaps his best on any album. I rank this up there with the Black Keys' "Little Black Submarines" among the songs that make me think of Zeppelin. A short description of a long fabulous song. Click to 1:47 in for a taste of the guitar. 

"The Hardest Button to Button" UH OH! Blitzing both musically and lyrically. I appreciate the wry observation of a verse that says "We're a family/and we're alright now/we got money and a little place to fight now..." A brilliant song. I can listen to it endlessly.

"Little Acorns," It took me a long time to enjoy the spoken-word intro. But, I see the beauty of it now. The song itself is excellent with its changing tempos, hard-rock guitars, and ample use of a back-beat bass drum. It just works. The last 5 measures are louder than the rest of it, on purpose. It ends like a fading electrical charge. 

"Hypnotize," The best song on the album, hands down. I think it's flawless, musically, lyrically, and vocally. The change at 0:47 in sets up for the best jam on the record, dropping at 1:13. 

"The Air Near My Fingers," Great lyrics, the rhyme and thought shifts remind me of Andre3000's work on Stankonia. Seriously good beat. The deliver of the lyrics, his cadence, perfect ripostes the melody and the beat, especially in the verses more than the chorus. The beat change at 3:03 is among my favorites. I think Meg's drumming, while not amazing, is top-notch. 

"Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine," A solid song. I like the guitar work more than anything. It's my least favorite from the album. 

"Well It's True That We Love One Another," We end on a three-way (as many good things do) vocal with Jack and Meg singing with Holly Golightly. When Jack implores Holly to give him some of that "English lovin'" she rebuffs him, telling Jack to go jackoff; he rejoins that if he did that "Holly, there won't be anything left for anybody else." He gave us what he had left, and it was amazing.

Here's a video showcasing his particular talents. I love at the end how they start chanting "John the Revelator" from the old Gospel song as sung by Son House.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Having a colleague on sabbatical

When you work in a department of two, you notice very quickly when one of the two of you is not at their post.  In academia, every seven years, you're allowed to solicit the right of sabbatical.  My colleague received sabbatical this semester.

I am all alone, and it's not very much fun to pick up the slack.  Today has been an especially taxing day.  I feel something about like this:

or maybe something along these lines:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Mormon Missionary Talmud

Is it lawful for a missionary to eat dinner at your home after 6PM without an investigator?  NO!
Is it lawful for a missionary to eat dinner at your home on the weekend without an investigator?  NO!
Is it lawful for you to give a ride in a 5-seat car to a set of elders and a set of sister missionaries?  NO!
They cannot be "broken up" and must sit as companionships.  The opposite gender must not come in contact with the other.  So, if you're given an "assignment" you have to make two trips.  Keep in mind, these missionaries have a car.  That's right, they have a car.

Seriously, these are some rules that are handed down by the independent prelate of a mission president, and we're given putative 'assignments' to drive these missionaries to meetings, but we're not allowed to have them ride in cars together.  It's ridiculous and I refuse to do it anymore.

I don't trust the missionaries.  We don't know them.  They are often weird and self-centered.  There's no way I'm passing along the names of my friends to people who I don't know and don't trust.

The missionary program is broken.  You cannot serve if you've committed certain sins, denying the Atonement to many.  You cannot serve if you're overweight, because we have an image to uphold.  You cannot serve if you play video games, because who in the hell knows why.

I'm getting fed up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zero Tolerance with Children = Cowardice

When I was about 20 years old, serving a Mormon mission in Costa Rica, it dawned on me one day that my view of the world was too narrow.  I recognized that there were indeed mitigating factors in personal decisions, even moral ones, that had to be accounted for when determining the value or lack thereof of a decision.  I stopped seeing the world in black and white, or even shades of gray.  It became a technicolor dreamcoat, an endless variety of plausible possibilities in need of time and intelligence and contrition to become wisdom.

Juxtapose that with the story out of Colorado of a 7-year-old boy suspended from school for throwing a pretend grenade against some "evil forces" so that he could "save the world."

The young lad was merely playing at projecting his authority and control over the world.  He was acting out something that most kids do.  We play at war, at cops-and-robbers, probably nowadays at irhabists-and-soldiers.  The school has a zero-tolerance policy (the first sign that wisdom is lacking in school governance) toward acts of violence, even pretend or make-believe ones.  Zero tolerance is a foolish way of administering discipline.  You tie your own hands so that you don't have to use discernment, and worse, to insulate yourself from litigation.

A principal could have easily reminded the lad that such play wasn't appropriate at school.  But, even then, is pretend fighting against 'evil forces' really that big a deal?  Are we stifling imagination in the name of zero tolerance?  I believe we are.  Play is a fundamental aspect of mental growth.  Any time we thwart that, we're taking away learning and developmental opportunities from a child.

Here's a link to but one of the 41 million results of a Google search for "importance of play for children."

Administrators should be allowed to use wisdom in the administration of the discipline of their charges.  Perhaps we need to insulate them a little from litigation, but zero tolerance is cowardice.  This situation reminds me of the wisest book I know, Ecclesiastes, over 2300 years old.  Chapter 4, verse 13 seems apropos here:  "Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pining for Mardi Gras

I haven't been to a Mardi Gras in NOLA since 2007, and it's killing me.  I'm having a Mardi Gras party here at Coker College today at 8PM in the SUB.  I'm making a boil of potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic, lemon, onion, and sausages.  We've also got someone making some gumbo, and I'm doing an improvised King Cake.  But, it ain't the same.

Yelling "Throw me somethin', mister" until I'm hoarse, hoping to get a coveted medallion strand of beads, high-fiving Mike Lindsey, Matt Brady, Clay Larsen, or Brent Bastian has no peers.  I miss trying to convince the Van Dams to come down to the neutral ground with us.  I miss camping out the night before the big parades, sharing those quiet hours with my buddies as we ate crawfish, pistachios, and talked about life, church, sports, or whatever was on our minds.

There were no smart phones.  We sat and talked and enjoyed each other's company.

There's nothing like that here.  Parades that aren't for Mardi Gras are boring.  No one throws you anything, the floats are just people waving.  There's no artistry or imagination in them beyond mere aesthetics.  I want comedy, humor, satire.  Krewe D'Etat has always been my favorite krewe for the level of wit in their themes.

I want to be there right now.  Next year, when I'm on sabbatical, if Costa Rica doesn't work out--we're going.  No doubt about it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A transcript of my stream of consciousness about bullying

I hate bullies.  I hate bullying.  I have little respect for anyone who defends bullying or bullies.  We live in the 21st Century and it's high time that this practice ended.  Sadly, it has not, nor does it appear to be ending anytime soon.

I work with teenagers, and I see bullying happen every week.  Of the three main types of bullying, emotional, verbal, and physical, thankfully, I don't see physical bullying happen.  If I did, I would react swiftly to end it immediately.  But, I do overhear students speaking ill of others, mocking them for their choices of fashion, words, or gait.  Our culture seems to relish mocking others, jonesing after the latest fix of schadenfreude at the expense of someone who probably can't afford the abuse.

We have rules.  We have laws even.  We have parents telling us not to do it all our lives, yet the abuse continues, the excuses continue.  If you don't like the cut of someone else's jib, why not examine the text of John 8:1-8 closely?  Even if you don't believe in Christ, a Savior, the Atonement, or an Eternal Reward, it's still a great way to live one's life.  Humanism abhors violence, placing the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as among our unalienable rights as humans.  Why then do we shit all over the attempts at happiness of others?  What causes us to mock failure, to mock ugliness, to mock slovenliness, to ridicule stupidity, obesity, poverty, or anything else determined opposite or deviant from the putative norm?

And, then there are people who defend their own bullies.  Years later they look back and say that they 'deserved' it because they were X thing that merited mockery.

Life is hard enough without someone else beating you down for their own amusement.  If you see someone bullying, stop them.  If they don't listen to a simple, "leave them alone," tell an adult, call the police, call security, but call them out, at the very least.  Don't let someone else suffer because you didn't want to get involved.  Stand up to bullies.  Never ever laugh at what they say.  Never agree with them.

Bullies ruin beautiful things.  Innocence lost cannot be recovered.