Friday, December 29, 2006

Maybe I've got too much free-time*

These are the movies I’ve seen for the first time over the last two months, as best as I can remember them:

The Last King of Scotland. Much like the amoral, fictional and young Scottish protagonist of this story, this film lusts ‘em and burns ‘em. Which is representative of the colonialists’ approach to Africa that the movie highlights. Forrest Whitaker deserves an Oscar, if the Oscars had any balls about them. Which they don’t. So, I don’t care, except to say that his portrayal of prototypical dictator Adi Amin is brilliant, as is the Fela Kuti-inspired soundtrack.

Ice Age II: The Meltdown. I missed the first installment. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had seen the first. The squirrel (what’s up with the squirrels in these anamorphic movies these days? Why are they all high-strung comic foils? And why do I fall for it every time?) and the primitive, volcano-worshiping slug tribe are easily the highlights of this meandering project.

Munich. I found this top-secret Spielberg-directed post-9/11 study on the wages of vengeance (appropriately based on a book titled Vengeance) to be more relevant to our world today than, say, United 93. No particularly riveting performance (With the sole exception of Eric “It’s the Hulk” Bana - No stars, thank goodness! I didn’t realize that Daniel Craig was the heavy until the movie ended.), only obvious and sad revelation after bloody and needless revelation.

The History Boys. It’s a good thing this gay love triangle talkie is tempered by a clash between old methods of teaching (as in, teaching for life and “burying our graves”) vs. the newer, administrative-directed and results-oriented methods (in this case, literally teaching to the test). Hence, the title’s two parts: the history of teaching history in the making and - as is the case with so much off-Broadway – boys who like boys.

It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. (Ok, technically not a movie. But as "Boondocks "creator Aaron McGruder notes, these seasonal specials aren’t made anymore.) Much like Napoleon Dynamite and the strips that this tv special was based on, most of the four-panel stories only serve as loosely-themed vignettes. Still, even though Shultz’s schtick was wearing thin by the early ‘90s (I vividly remember bemoaning the recycling a few years before his death), minor Charlie is still a giant among mortals.

Monster House. I read a review that quoted another reviewer that chastised the male executive producers (Spielberg and Zemeckis) for creating a monster that’s basically an angry woman with an angrier ummm… hole. But credit also goes to the filmmakers (of which a minority of director/producers, if memory serves, is female) to making the first animated horror film for kids that I can think of – complete with a kiddie ending that takes most of the horror out of the rest of the movie. Which, honestly, is fine by me.

Happy Feet. A cute ugly-duckling fable is ruined by a too-cute, reductionist third act. But it got the little ones in the theater on the night after Christmas: SRO some three weeks after it was released.

Hoodwink’d. Hands down, my favorite animated movie of the last year. Maybe one of the best movies I’ve seen within the last year, for sheer force of energy and comic sensibility. Maybe I was just taken in by its cleverness (and significant movie in-jokes), but much like Shaolin Soccer last year, the lack of pretentious depth and ridiculous gags just kept me in high spirits.

*Then again, maybe not...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's cold outside. Why am I going out there?

Just coming back from Christmas with family. I'll be leaving shortly for a little camping excursion with the guys into the frigid and unforgiving northern midwest winter. In case I don't make it back*, these are some of the posts that I'm planning on releasing over the next week and a half:

Top 6 albums of 2006 (very little may be surprising);
A roundup of movies I've seen over the last two months;
A reflection on the overriding cynicism of Christmas/Holiday movies;
An essay on forgiving those who aren't forgiving and don't ask for forgiveness;
A book roundup of late 2006 (which may or may not turn into a Top 6 list).

*My wife and unborn Baby J get everything. Not that that's anything to brag about to anybody...

Monday, December 25, 2006

I guess L. A. Style was right...

Some fifteen years after the prophecy, James Brown is dead.

The Godfather is dead; long live the Godfather.

Everybody dance now!

I said, Hey! Evrybdy dance NOOO-ooooooooWWWW!

YEAHH! That's more like it!

In all seriousness, condolences to all. May you be the Hardest Working Man in Heaven now,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas means giving and getting - again and again and again, again

From the second Charlie Brown Christmas tv special (the one nobody watches):

Charile Brown: Would you like to buy a nice Christmas wreath?
Potential Customer: Oh, I see that you're adding to the commercialization of Christmas, Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown: Not yet! I'm trying to.

I've always thought that the buying and giving and receiving and all that was merely a backdrop to the family gatherings, which I always found more fun and longer-lasting than the cheap RC race-tracks I used to get. I guess it's nice to think you're doing something for the ones you love, to show that maybe you know a little something about them, that maybe you're on to their tastes and sizes.

But that's hard, and we spend a lot of time in a post-Christmas blue period at the return register. So, yeah, gift cards are a necessary evil. Kind of like voting. But at least we know what stores to buy from.

The new Over the Rhine Christmas CD, Snow Angels, is in the running for top of my year-end lists. It emphasizes best what I like about Christmas better than I can. Although every song on there is, as far as I can tell, a new composition, the songs are heavily borrowed - as in the remake of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" that becomes simply "Little Town", the Guaraldi-themed shuffle "Goodbye Charles" and several themes from earlier OtR records (such as the downward bass slides found in abundance on their masterpieces Ohio and Drunkard's Prayer and here on "All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue" and the rollicking uptempo numbers from DP). This mix of familiar and novel leads to a fresh nostalgia, a living memory. And really, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Isn't there something wonderful about the words "incarnation", "hark" and "glad tidings of good news"? Isn't there something wonderful in retelling old stories and making them new a hundred times?

Or is it just me?
Merry Christmas from us.

It's Christmas, Babies

Love the ones you're with.

I'm going home to do that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Posting Ad Hoc Ad Nauseum, Etc

I don't know what that means.

I haven't had much of an opportunity to do blogging recently, although I've been (lazily) working on a post about grace and forgiveness for the last month plus. I keep thinking that it's going to be this masterpiece, that the world will see true genius when they read my blog. Everyone will stop their partial and close-minded bickering and, in keeping with the spirit of the wise men, offer me lavish gifts. I would, humbly, graciously and self-consciously, turn them down. Frankincense and myrrh I could do without.

Yeah, I've been reading too much David Sedaris recently. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


The experiment now, though (since Christmas time is upon us and students are generally more jovial and less destructive), is to read large chunks of Sedaris' Holidays on Ice. So far, so good
The truth is, though, I'm often tempted to drink from the glass on the cover while I'm reading it.

Christmas break is upon us, folks. I'll be back shortly.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Random 10 - It's Christmas. Baby, Please Come Home.

Christmas Music edition. BTW, my wife asked me to download a bunch of Christmas music. Although she really wanted the more lilly-white traditional stuff, I was able to sneak in some extras. (Without equivocation, however, the Vince Guaraldi Trio's Charlie Brown Christmas is THE epic, the paramount. All others need to bow down.)

  1. "Linus and Lucy" - Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (We love dancing to this ala Snoopy and the gang. Ready? Emphatically nod your head over your left shoulder while shrugging both your shoulders and knocking your knees together. After four beats, move your chin to your other shoulder.)
  2. "Glory to God / O Come All Ye Faithful" - Todd Agnew - Do You Hear What I Hear? (L-A-M-E. A soulless supposedly soul-ful rendition.)
  3. "My Little Drum" - Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas
  4. "Winter Wonderland" - Steve Taylor - Now the Truth Can Be Told, Vol. 2 (This hidden gem is mariache'd for your listening pleasure.)
  5. "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" - Sixpence None the Richer - Collage (Delicious!)
  6. " Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" - Bruce Cockburn - Christmas (Yes, the grumpy one did a Christmas album some 15 years ago. Unfortunately, no songs about rockets.)
  7. "Christmas for Cowboys" - Jars of Clay - Maybe This Christmas Tree (While listening to this song this morning, I just realized how similar they are - in terms of bittersweet-ness, I suppose - to Death Cab for Cutie, who is also featured in this record.)
  8. "This Is All I Have to Give" - Todd Agnew - Do You See What I See (A good song from Mr. Agnew about the birth of Christ is called "No Room / O Little Town of Bethlehem". This is a really bad, theologically-incorrect, cheesy song about the birth of Christ. I'm sure the Christian music stations are playing the death out of it.)
  9. "In Like a Lion (Always Winter)" - Relient K - Apathetic EP (Not their cheeriest [btw, their Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand is a Christmas CD and is more goofily upbeat]; it's a Ben Folds-ian ballad inspired by Narnia during the White Witch's rule. I like to think.)
  10. "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" - Sufjan Stevens - Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Random 20

Another Sunday, another questionable Bears game.

  • "Phone Conversation Interlude" - L.A. Symphony. It's an interlude. 'Nuff said.
  • "Worldwide" - Adam Again. One of my favorite songs from my favorite album of all time (scroll down), which I've bought several copies of. Starting with an acoustic intro and moving into full-on rock mode, and invoking the brutal killing of a Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder, Gene Eugene ponders a heartless world and, more importantly, a passive church: "Don't think I'll ever understand it / Don't think it matters if I do / 3 billion people in the world and I only know a few... But we all love that desert thunder / we put some stickers on our bumper / 3 billion nothings in the world and I only know a few... What about Headman Shabalala, does anybody care about justice / 3 billion people in the world and his Spirit weeps for all of us."
  • "Monkeys at the Zoo" - Charlie Peacock (and Mike Roe). I've also talked about this record before. I keep wanting to think that it's a counterpart to The Choir's "Yellow-Haired Monkeys", about playing around with your kids, but Peacock's kids were all grown up by the time he wrote this. "If you were to dig deep in my soul / would you find Jesus / or a gaping hole... Getting kinda stuffy in here ... like monkeys in a zoo."
  • "Symphony No. 29 in A Major, KV 201: Allegro moderato" - Alexander von Pitamic & Camerata Labacensis. Amadeus, Amadeus!
  • "Karma Police" - Radiohead. By my estimation, their best record to date. I love the cross between experimentation (which wasn't happening so much before this record) and accessibility. And, it rocks.
  • "I Don't Make It" - Deepspace 5. A story about a young, mature girl and her relationship with her parents after they find out she has cancer: "If I don't make it / I don't to cause you sorrow / please believe me, all we're promised's tomorrow / all we have to build on is yesterday / let's live for today... I don't want it all on me / trying my hardest not to cause you grief / trying to see the beauty in a fallen leaf."
  • "We Can Work It Out" - The Beatles. And they did it!
  • "How Long" - Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Because we can't talk about my music collection without referencing them twice!
  • "I Want Candy" - Bow Wow Wow. "Candy on the beach / there's nothing better." It melts, silly.
  • "City Scaping" - Deepspace 5. Hip-hop cocking about renewing your mind. A familiar theme for this collective.
  • "Mr. Brownstone" - Guns N' Roses. I love three songs on Appetite for Destruction. I hate the rest. "Brownstone" is representative of the rest.
  • "Hot Soft Light" - The Hold Steady. I don't get the hype around this band.
  • "A New Family" - Colour Revolt. The New Living Colour? Maybe. I wish. Mopey music needs The Cure.
  • "Terrible Mystery" - The Choir. From O How the Mighty Have Fallen. Which is funny, because this is actually a good album, though not nearly as good, methinks, as Circle Slide. The Choir excels in ethereal poetry-driven pop.
  • "The Boogie Monster" - Gnarls Barkley. I'm getting sick and tired of talking about this record and band. If you don't own it yet, too bad on you. This song is about, oh, check out the "I Want Candy" quote above. Only much more gross.
  • "Easy to Ignore" - Sixpence None the Richer. Their self-titled record was a work of melancholy and beautiful genius. Too bad all most people know of it is that poppy overplayed pre-teen fantasy movie soundtrack song, "Kiss Me". I guess they were right, they are easy to ignore. Too bad. Listen to the whole album as a cycle and light a candle.
  • "Insult Like the Truth" - Charlie Peacock (and Friends ). "I run my ship aground on the sea of self-control... There's no fever like desire... There's no killer like convenience... There's no gunshot like conviction... There's no insult like the truth /There's no cancer like ambition / There's no cure like crucifixion. "
  • "With the Tired Eyes of Faith" - Swirling Eddies. The Eddies were a sarcastic side-project of Christian "bad boy" Terry S. Taylor (also of Daniel Amos and the Lost Dogs) and assorted friends, some who played with other genius underground CCM bands that CCM didn't want to know existed (i.e., The Choir and Adam Again). Unlike most of their repetoire though, "Eyes" is a thoroughly sincere song that seems penned from Taylor's seeming mentor, Fredrick Buechner. "Glorious dregs" indeed.
  • "Lover, You Should've Come Over" - Jeff Buckley. Late to this one's bandwagon, I know. But a great singer-songwriter. Voice is something else - but not in the same way that Dylan's or Tom Waits' are.
  • "Doing Time" - MxPx. I remember being informed that it's not pronounced M-X-P-X, but M-P, the x's standing in for periods. I don't much care. But I'm starting to like these post-punk rawkers, as a type of early-era Beach Boys for the 90s teenager, singing about girls and angst, and ocassionally God. It's a minute and a half teenager in suburbia pop song.
  • "Beautiful Day" - U2. Let it be known that I don't care much for any U2 in the new millenium.
  • "Unsuccessful Dutch Missionary / Big Guns" - Swirling Eddies. So, a Dutch missionary goes into a remote village and tells the natives, in English, that he has "crossed the great waters and come in peace, Kimosabe". The next and final sound heard is a 'woosh' ending with a 'twanggg'. And then "Big Guns" begins. It was written in the height of televangelism and Cold War Reagonomics Against Heathenism. It could have been written now. "The dogs of war / drop a bomb on the White House lawn... We're gonna shed some blood / and spread the light / when we bring home the big guns tonight."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Good Grief

On Christ the solid Rock-O I stand!
The Italian Stallion as the Man of Sorrows? Really?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


  • Last week, the online arm of Book & Culture magazine released a critical eye toward Sufjan Stevens. I, maybe tired a bit, thought it a bit lame, saying that his musical vocabulary is too stilted and short. I rarely give voice to this, thinking it a bit shameful to suggest such things, but methinks I smell some haters in the midst. Although, in my book, they get big-ups for mentioning old favorites of mine, Freedom of Soul. I subtract some more points for the obvious mix-up of styles, comparing them to a CCM version of Run-DMC. De La Soul would be a bit more obvious, don't you think?
  • This week, B&C published an essay contrasting Lester Bangs to the pretenders to his throne - yes, a familiar theme - and then comparing him to the great Catholic intellect, John Paul II. I liked this article much better.
  • I think Bangs would make some good essay reading. More on my essay readings later.
  • Say what you have to about Kramerica, but that Neo-Nazi Pee Wee Hermania he dropped on that little audience in a comedy club in LA (and, via the wonders of modern Razrs, through the US) is good fodder for teaching my students the destructiveness of language unchecked (which is too often what it is within earshot). Now, if I could only learn how to teach instant karma... Or higher critical thinking.

Amazing Grace; Amazing Face

Youth Specialties pulled the article after the first week. It was too controversial, they said, and people (most likely Evangelical youth pastors) found it confounding and probably a bit heretical. Youth Specialties also insisted that they found the same article, by Tony Campolo progeny Bart, to be important and that they believed the article had many good points and would be a bit of a flamethrower for good conversation.

Campolo's article found him decrying a God of judgment, a God that would allow little girls to get raped in a heartless world and then walk away from him and his silence. Campolo was attacking (as he often is found in attacking mode - which is nice to hear every once in a while in a sometimes tepid environment of grassroots white American Evangelicalism - as opposed to, say, Pat Robertson's or James Dobson's attack-mode mass media frenzy) a God who would be silent in such excruciating circumstances, and a people and a theology that would defend such a God. God, in his estimation, cannot be simultaneously all-loving and all-powerful.

Reverend Carlton Pearson (the popular mentor of Bishop T. D. Jakes and "Black son" of Oral Roberts) was sitting in his dining room, watching the news on his large tv with his well-fed daughter on his lap, pondering much the same thing while they showed images of ravished and starving children in Africa. He was also angry at this God. This time, God directly spoke back, the This American Life episode featuring Pearson revealed. God spoke to Pearson and opened his eyes to the fact that Hell is man-made, that humanity was creating the hell of experience in such places as the geographical Rwanda and the just-as-real depths of universal and pervasive loneliness.

They have both come to a similar result, a similar end to a similar plight. The God of judgment is a fake God, a God they will not and cannot believe in any longer. And with that Eternal God of condemnation goes the God of eternal damnation. Hell, to both Carlton Pearson and Bart Campolo, does not exist, except in the hearts, minds and experiences of people while on earth. We have done injustice to God, they both insist, by scaring people to heaven. God must be real, but not the God who would condemn people to hell. Jesus came, they point out, to save the whole world. Add to this universalism Campolo's Open Theology, the idea that God exists fully on our plane of time and can not see (or chooses not to see) the future anymore than you or I.

I could see why Evangelical's feathers were rankled. I felt sorrow reading and listening to both men's reports (although I would fall short of condemning either men to hell). My wife dismissed both as pure rubbish. She's dismissed lesser claims as heresy, as blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

However, my wife and I read and listen a lot to Bishop N. T. Wright, the New Testament scholar. Much like the aforementioned, he de-emphasizes Heaven and Hell to speak about life in the present. Unlike the other two, however, he doesn’t seem to sidestep this image of God. Though neither does he fit the mold of the fire-and-brimstone Jonathan Edwards-type of theologian or church minister. Although Wright doesn't directly answer whether or not he believes in an eternal, all-consuming Hell (he seems to view it as a mystery, an important mystery surely, but not one for the present time), he does not negate it, nor the prospect of an all-powerful and all-loving God co-existing with a suffering world (mp3). Wright, much like his self-described disciple Rob Bell (the popular preacher and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church), believes that the Church of God - through the power of the resurrection of Jesus and the infused power of the living and active Holy Spirit - needs to deliver people from their personal and collective hells-on-earth. To speak and live the resurrection life.

To all this we must add the voice of one more prophet of our age, the great Pigeon John. In an update of "It's the End of the World (And I Feel Fine)" song popularized by REM (among many others), "As We Know It" finds John confronting a "black man on a white horse" who comes down to earth and "look(s) like Avril and Bill Cosby mixed together." Among terrifying pleas and cries, John faces down Jesus in a seemingly irreverential and accusatory, hurtful voice asks:

What up, Jesus, what up my nickel, my man, can I ask you a couple a questions about the whole danged plan? Why the Holocaust, why the slavery, why the Crusades in the name of bravery? Why you let little girls get molested?... If the fall of Adam and Eve is all it took to leave the whole human race lost and shook, that don't make sense, it don't feel right! But I can see your whole face in the moonlight. Dang you look crazy, you make a n**** wanna cry. Looks like you hold the whole ocean in your eye. Are you crying too?...

I'm freaking mad at you... Why ain't you talking? Why don't you answer me?...

Every step you take is a freaking tragedy!...

In his last verse, after the world is taken up and Pigeon John finds himself flying over the clouds, PJ continues to question, only in a softer, sing-songy style,

What up, Jesus? What up my nickel my man? Can I ask you a couple questions about the whole danged plan? Without an answer, you stretch out your hand with the look in your eyes that you understand all the pain, all the loss, all the confusion, all the ups and the downs are now amusing. And I spent all my life rushing and hustling when I could've just been your friend. We're drinking coffee in the sun, the old and young... and it's ok now.

God is often silent when we don't want him to be (witness Job) and much more in-tune with our frustrations and failures than we are (remember, if nothing else, the incarnation?). It seems that often when we do confront the harder questions, we have to re-configure all of truth, instead of letting truth re-configure us. Pigeon John says in one three-and-a-half minute rap-pop song what I wish preachers (of any stripe) would say.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Night Time Is the Right Time

She hasn't been getting much sleep recently. That's largely due to the fact tat she' pregnant, of course, and the physical and emotional anxieties that allay themselves to the early stages of pregnancy. (Pause. Why, thank you, thank you. Yes, I am very much happy.) But, of course, when the wife doesn't sleep well, neither does the husband.

I often wonder what it will be like in the future. If long-married husbands and wives are so used to the rhythms of each other sleeping that they are more in-tune and therefore able to sleep through the irregularities or sleep less because of them. I doubt I could sleep less.

So, during the week, neither of us slept much. The nights are longer here in Chicago, of course, than the days. And yet there doesn't seem to be much time in either. The constant tick-tick of the alarm clocks is perplexing to the sleep-deprived. Those of us who are familiar with this world live in constant fear that the world will, indeed, pass us by. We also wonder how the rest of the world lives on and enjoys their rest while we - alas - suffer the curse of the undead.

Thanksgiving Day was difficult for us. The whole tryptophan thing was beyond difficult for us, already struggling in the area of lack of sleep. If we knew - mentally - we had to sleep, our bodies took some convincing. The turkey juice not only convinced our entire bodies, it kept us paralyzed in a state of perpetual lack-of-stretchiness. This is a great thing if we were at home and could practice our own good manners however we so danged pleased.

If only 'if' were 'because'.

There's a few things I do know. When the Bears lose, I don't sleep well. When I'm suffered by my students, bosses or peers, I don't sleep well. When I worry about not sleeping well, I don't sleep well. When my wife's need to cuddle me exceeds my breathing capacity, I don't sleep well. When I worry that I've offended my wife and she may want to sleep somewhere else, I don't sleep well. On the occasional nights where she has slept elsewhere, or in the same bed, but separated by the width of a cold shoulder, I don’t sleep well.

But as someone who jealously guards his sleep (and dreads going back to school for that very reason), I wonder how I’ll feel when the newest member of our family invades that sacred ground. I have some friends who have two little girls that they are raising under the philosophy that the children should follow the parents’ schedule rather than the popularized other way around. My wife and I, of course, like this philosophy and – although I’ve not confirmed this with her – both agree that the alternative is a hollow philosophy, a type of sophism run amok among mothers, fathers and Dr. Spock alike.

With the exception of the weekends, night time is the only time to actually see the love of my life, much less speak to her. Often, in embracing and trying to forget our harshly-lighted days, we fall asleep on one of our couches. After a short reading from the Bible, we clock out at about nine o’clock. At six we slowly rise and head-on to our morning routines, neither wanting to free ourselves from the inertia of the warm bed into the cold, uninviting world of the bathroom and, ever more reluctantly, into the cold world of the Near North and Downtown areas of the Town of Chi. It’s in this world that I run successively slower and slower to meet my co-worker who has, out of the generosity of her heart and a faint promise of five dollars a week (both growing fainter by the moment) .

I also wonder how much of our talk, and how early in his or her developmental stages, affects the baby jasdye. We know that worry, bad health, positive energy, nutrition, etc., affect the pre-born. But to what degree does interacting with the child before birth impact the child? Or are the mental benefits largely given to the parents? Is it largely just me who would benefit from talking into an imaginary tube in my wife’s belly button to the same imagined baby bounding for joy?

Which reminds me of the biblical scene (shortly before the Magnificat) where the baby inside Elizabeth (John the Baptist) leapt for joy upon hearing Mary’s voice. I wonder how many sleepless nights Mary, heretofore known as The Virgin, must have had upon waiting for the arrival of that miraculous child. She had to worry about her reputation. Her fiancé, Joseph, in fact, worried about his and her reputation. He only kept the woman and baby under strict orders from a shiny man. Mary was known to “ponder… in her heart.” I wonder how often she tossed and turned – or lay silent and still – in bed, concerned about the activities of her saintly, prophetic, but rebellious son. I wonder if she slept the night after they laid him in the tomb; or the night before she rose early to give him his proper burial. I wonder how much sleep she got after realizing that her son was the “firstborn from among the dead,” as one of her son’s later followers would put it.

Something tells me she got quite a bit.

Life is over

I know it's only the Bears' second loss of the season, and it's against a proven champion, one from the other conference. But still...

This just doesn't bode well for our Super Bowl dreams.

Rex, we love; we hate you. We love you.

Sunday Random Ten

I’ve had trouble uploading my precious CD collection to my iPod. I don’t know if anyone else is having this problem, but sometimes the computer will shut down shortly after I’ve started to upload a CD. Anybody know what to do with that?

Anyway, the latest - culled from a mix that we'll just call "The Party Mix". 'Cuz I'm lame.

Death Cab for Cutie – “Soul Meets Body” - I actually have the whole album. It’s full of poppy-jangly tunes, thought none quite as poppy-jangly as this. It’s one of those records I alluded to earlier.

Gorillaz – “Feel Good Inc.” What can I say? It’s catchy. I wish you were as catchy. Samuel L. Jackson said he believes it’s got the greatest laugh he ever heard in the beginning of a song. Better than Nichols’s in Prince’s Batman Soundtrack?

David Crowder – “B Part: I Saw the Light” – A hyper-kinetic bluegrass reading of the classic followed by a bit of death-spying melancholy. Crowder’s a stand-out in the over-crowded world of Christian Worship.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Long Walk to Freedom (Halala South Africa)” – “Good boy, Good boy / Carry-on… Well-done, Well-done, you did a good job / Properly performed… Do you understand that?” What to do with this song? The title song of this fantastic “duets” album from this beloved South African gospel troupe says it all.

David Bowie – “Let’s Dance” - Not my favorite of the genius’s songbook. But cool for impromptu chants while waiting for the bus.

The Kinks – “All Day and All Night” – Rock & Roll will go on forever! One of the songs my wife and I dance to.

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me (Live)” – One of the other songs my wife and I dance to.

Sufjan Stevens - “Out of Egypt, Into the Great Laugh of Mankind, And I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run” – A bit pseudo-symphonic, breaking down into a near-cacophony.

Sufjan Stevens – “Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!” – Catchy song. Funny rhymes.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Under the Bridge” – Who hasn’t sung this with the guys and / or girls?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Now, if I were known as a *shaving* man...

I never cared for the practice of shaving. It's hard on my legs... I mean face, Face, of course!

But seriously, I dread it. And with all these new-fangled three/four/five blade razors, as soon as I buy a pair and the original blades go dull, the brand is out of style and neither it nor its pieces is sold any longer (much like with that new-fangled VHS everybody's hitchin' such a storm about).

My wife has been harping on me to get an electric razor. So, finally, last night, I went ahead and took the plunge and spent $30 (a new ink cartridge, by the way. Or, more appropriately, twenty new Gillettes) on a Norelco. Phillips makes good stereo equipment, I figure, so this follows logically in with the new man's sensitive machismo - I can look good and feel like I'm driving a sports car while gently massaging my face and front neck.

And now, after my first day shaving with the Phillips Norelco electric razor, I can safely say that it is neither comfortable nor close.

Not by a long-shot, baby!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday Musings

  • I like the month of November, generally, because it's fairly short. I don't care for the onslaught of the cold Chicago Winters, but it's not all bad and hell-frost (unlike January and February). And then there's Thanksgiving. It's the most wonderful of the trifecta of American Protestant Holidays. Christmas is, as we all know, too commercialized. Easter is pagan bunny worship. But Thanksgiving is a Fat-Feast. A no-guilt one-day all-encompassing glut-ride. It's eat with your family and sit on your rumpus until you literally pop. I've busted many a belt on this momentus day. Hooray for Indians and Pilgrims!

  • According to a Chicago Tribune article published yesterday, the amount of arrests at Chicago Public Schools has decreased about 17%. One part of the reason for this rather dramatic decrease, apparently, is because some schools have been tightening the reins on students getting arrested for non-violent disrespect toward teachers. I didn't know students could get arrested for that! That's horrible... But it does get me to thinking of a scenario that's been playing in my head since I heard that:
  • Tough girl inmate #1 (wearing tattoos that brag about her loving capabilities, smoking a cigarette out the side of her mouth): So, fresh meat, what you in here for?
  • Tough girl inmate #2 (with a bandana tied over left side of head and a crowbar in hand): Yeah, kiddo. What's your deal?
  • New inmate (Scowling, fierce look): I got upset with a teacher and gave her a click of the tongue.
  • (All other inmates slowly back away. Inmate #2 drops crowbar.)

  • A slight teacher-student confrontation at my school has to do with a student saying (on a MySpace page) that she finds this teacher "a bit annoying". I'm only reporting this because I'm wondering if any student could muster up the energy to say such things about me on a blog. I mean, saying such things to my face and under their breath is just plain easy - it's such a cop-out. Writing it on a computer and publishing it, that would take some work - of which I don't inspire much.
  • I wonder if, tomorrow, that student is going to exit the building in handcuffs.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday iPod Top 15

Jackson- Dave Barnes
No Midnight - Birdmonster
Imaginary Girl - The Bees (US)
Thunder on the Mountain - Bob Dylan
A Lot Like Me - Dave Barnes
Someday, Sarah - Dave Barnes
Worst Comes to Worst - Dilated Peoples
Angel with an Attitude - the Ditty Bops
True - Duvall
All in Your Hands - Duvall
What It Is - Gnarls Barkley
Go-Go Gadget Gospel - Gnarls Barkley
Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
I Still Miss Someone - Johnny Cash
Lola (Live) - The Kinks

Live updates, Bears v. Giants

I know that usually this only goes to sports-themed blogs. And people with, like, readers and a follwing, etc.

But I need to practice my typing.

What the hecka??

So, first, NYG's got a heck of a run. Finally they're stopped just short of the goal. And they miss the field goal. Hurray for our special teams.

Then, on Grossman's second (after an incomplete), we get an interception. Next play is a touchdown.

And then an interception from one of ours.

Now, Benson's out there, running his little heart off, 'cuz apparently this is a running game.

Davis drops the ball, but it was ruled incomplete. I think it should've been down-by-touch.
Grossman's got all the time in the world. Davis has lost two in a roll. But they should've been turnovers.

Robbie Gould in for Gold. "Perfect season continues."

7-3, Giants.

I'm sick of the Syrius Satellite commercials.

7:53 - Edit

They're talking about Tiki Barber as leaving at the top of his game. Like Jim Brown or Sandy Koulfax.

Giants are settling for another punt. Devin Hester was on the border at the 23, no movement..

Rex is getting his chops busted.

Mushin at 43, showing that great tangent. We miss Berrian, that's for sure. But MM is good.

Jason McKie, that's a name I haven't heard in a while. Not that I've been able to watch most of these games.

Cedric "goes nowhere."

3rd and 8, "Benson lost five." We're at the fifty and a flag is called. False start on the Bears.


Shotgun is bad. Rex overthrows Mushin.


It looks like New York's angry with an equally angry Urlacher. I'd pay to see that fight.

Urlacher is in the middle of two big plays, back-to-back. Yikes!

:31 left in the first quarter. Defense is back. Offense, well, let's keep our hopes up!


Spoken too soon!

Thomas Jones fumbles!

Up to this point, he hasn't lost the ball for the longest touching-streak in the league.

Giants called, 1st & 20, 41 yards into Bears territory.

7-3, Giants, end of first quarter.


His butt is sweaty. Does that man know his butt is sweaty? Because I would be embarrassed to be on tv...

These guys are multimillionaires, honey. They don't care at this point.

33-yd. It's good. Crap!


Davis held on this time!

At our 30. Wher's our running game? Crap, Benson!

Loses the ball, but he may be - no, he is ruled down-by-contact.

At the 30 again, Rexy overthrows again.

Brad Maynard's kicking. I've got nothing against Gould, mind you, but Brad's the kick-off man.


Barber fumbles about a third of what he used to.

Hopefully, we'll make fewer mistakes the older we get too, eh, Rex?

Peanut Tillman's trying, but Burress is having his way.

Barber's playing better than our corps of RB's at this moment. Manning's playing better than our quarterback. Tillman got Plexico this time, as our d was clamping down on Manning. Third down and 5. Dropped pass. PUNT PUNT PUNT!

Another injury for the Giants.

If we win because of injuries, I'll be upset. Nice punt by the Giants. Lots of hang-time. No movement possible for Hestert.



Hasn't thrown a pass to Desmond Clark yet. Why not?

I know it's a bit slippery out there, but McKie dropped again.

At the Bears' 30, pass to Plexico Burress, now the 20.

Crap! Again!

If he can hold on, why can't we?

Getting a little physical out there.

I'm reminded of Harry Carey at the height of his influence in Chicago, when the Cubs had no hope. For lack of anything exciting on the field (and because he was really old and lost his brain cells to Bud) Carey would make fun of the players' names.

Plexico loses the ball about four yards from the goal line, Peanut Tillman returns it, gets hit and loses the ball himself. And now everybody's confused.


What happened to the rest of my blog?


Anyway, we got a touchdown before the half.

And now we're making some momentum after the half.

Well, then Mushin loses it. Giants are getting good at stripping even our best holders. We were sooooooooo close.


The Chargers had an explosive game today. I didn't get to stay to watch who won that one. Guess I could easily find out, but I don't really care.

False start on Eli's side of the ball, which is at the end zone, btw.

They are risking a safety.


We might have it.

Guess not.

3rd & 11.

This could be good for us. No flag, Burress got clothes-lined! Nice.

We receive at our forty, but number 23 keeps running back, looking for an open place. Look: There is none!

Jones for one.

Jones for five. But a flag. On the defense. Jones didn't realize that he was given the ball at first, so he almost lost it, but that flag gave us a first down at the 22.

Another flag, illegal contact, defense. Giants fans are upset again. MMuhammed got the better end of that.

Jones making ways again. To the 12.

Jones for the touchdown. McKie blocked. Snap. Another flag, this time holding on offense. Shoot.

Try again.

14 yeards. Jones to the 10 yard line. No flag called this time. I was wondering if this was the UN for a second there.

Rex throws to Mushin for touchdown. "First lead of the game." "Way too much room here."

With Gould's extra point, 17-13 Bears.


Finally, we get a turnover.

2nd & 8, on the 20. Bradley, who scored a touchdown for us before the half, brings it to the twelve.

3rd & 2, Jones to the 2. Doing Niiiiiiiiiiiiiice!

Grossman to the long-lost Desmond Clark!

woo-hoo! Another touchdown.

Robbie Goulllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllddd!!! Still perfect.


Gotta stop doubting us.


My Name Is Earl looks good this week. I guess it always does, but I especially like claymation. So, it looks like I know what I'll be doing Wednesday night.

Hanging curtains.

They talk about Shockney. Emphasis on Shock. Dude's deep.

Tiki takes it a good 50 yards. To the 4.


Touchdown Giants. Crap.

24-19. We're still on top. Miss. No. Good. 24-20. We're still on top.


2:44 left in the third. We gotta start throwing again.

We did. Thank you, Moosh! Great catch. Just into first, but these NY fans are getting rabid.

Davis gets us another first down, at our 41.

Wonder if they'll bring Benson back out. I kinda hope only to rest T Jones.

2nd & 5. Jones for one. Not quite Tiki, but we'll keep him.


Start of the 4th quarter.

3rd down at nine, thanks to one of our own committing the cardinal no-no false start.

Oops. Worse sin, sack for loss.

Lovie's eyes are red.


So are mine.

Ok, I'm gonna get some reading done here. I'll update on major news, if I feel like it.


Ok, who told us to make stupid challenges?

2nd & 24 on Eli on our 43. Tiki makes some gains. Dang him! He was on my fantasy last year.

52-yd attempt for field goal. Comes way short, into Hester's hands. Hesitates. Hester is going for the touchdown. Makes it!

Flag at the fifty yard. Unnecessary roughness on the Giants. Touchdown stands. Man, can Hester run!


Nathan Vasher last year broke the record for longest play in NFL history in a returned missed field goal for the Bears. Hester joined him today.


Harris intercepts Manning.

Everything's turning Bear-y!

Fifteen yard penalty for un-sportmanlike conduct. Come on, guys!

It helps that things have dried down now. Bradley made an awesome catch at the seven.

Fans are boo-ing. Big time.

Muhammed is walking out for a spell. T. Jones makes it to the one. Carried 24 times. Dude's a workhorse.


Another touchdown for Jones.

38-20. Da Bears!

With 8:20 left.


It's Al Michael's birthday!

With 5:05 left, I think it's safe to say that we won this one. I only say this because the Giants are defeated and injured, their remaining fans are booing and we're grinding it out with Jones.

Player of the Game:
Thomas Jones, of course. Mushin is right behind him. And then there's Hester, who nailed in the coffin.

A female Bears fan in the stand is holding out a tattered Giants Killer sign. The Bears fans are staying, I'm noticing.

It looks like we're on the way to make another score with the two minute warning. I wouldn't hold my breath, but I think it's time to go to bed.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Read or Die!

Some co-workers were commenting on my lamentable state of not having a tv.* One added, "That's how he can get so much reading done." I didn't want to burst her bubble, but that's just not the case. Being a new teacher and a newly-wed takes up all of my time. Seriously. I'm forcing myself to get any writing done here, because it's the only real writing I do. Outside of that, I only read in short sprints. Which I guess is okay, since I have ADD anyway.

But these are the books I'm currently reading or looking forward to soon reading:

What's So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey. Just started it yesterday. Billy Graham has called Yancey his favorite Evangelical writer. After having read The Jesus I Never Knew and The Bible Jesus Read, I'd probably concur. The book tackles grace through stories, recollections and observations and largely deals with the fact that we Christians so often talk about it, but rarely practice it. Already on my viewing list from Yancey's recommendation is Babette's Feast.

Monster, Walter Dean Myers. I read it back in college. Now, my students get the privilege of reading this portrait of a young Black man who is on trial for murder and journals his story in the form of a screenplay for a documentary. He calls it Monster because that is the name the prosecutor gives him and although no one really believes he murdered anyone, his association with the petty thugs who commited the crime leaves him feeling tainted. One of the best Young Adult Lit pieces from one of the best Young Adult writers.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris. Not as funny as Naked. But funny as all get out. On his father calling the father of one of the popular kids to try to make them pay for some dental work necessitated by the popular kid's throwing of a rock at young David,

There were two Thad Popes in the Raleigh phone book, a Junior and a Senior. The one in my class was what came after a Junior. He was a Third. My father called both the Junior and the Senior, beginning each conversation with the line "Lou Sedaris here. Listen, pal, we've got a problem with your son."

He said our last name as if it meant something, as if we were known and respected. This made it all the more painful when he was asked to repeat it. Then to spell it.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006, Ed. Dave Eggars, Intro by Matt Groening. I have the whole series, dating back to 2002. The first year was the best, imho. But it seems that the series is back on track in comedic and poignant aspects in this largely Iraq-focused book. This edition also includes some collections, including "Best American Fake News Headlines" (all culled from the Onion, including the gems "Activist Judge Cancels Christmas", "Blacks, Whites Put Differences Aside, Work to Make Better Burger", "Philandering String Theorist Can Explain Everything", and "Rest of U2 Perfectly Fine with African's Starving") and "Best American Excerpt from a Military Blog" (from Check out this excerpt from June 17, 2005 "I can't stop thinking about what a major said to me the other day. 'The whole country of Iraq, every man, woman, and child... Kill every one of them and it still won't be worth one American's life.'") and "Best American Things to Know about Chuck Norris" (culled from Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits; Chuck Norris created the hole in the ozone layer "to get a better view of the sun"; Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants).

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros. I haven't read it yet, but I plan on reading it to my students. It takes place in a barrio here in Chicago and is a classic in young adult literature.

Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson. I'm slowly making my way through this revelation on revelatory Biblical reading and living.

Job, The Writers of Job. We just finished it last night. This time reading it orally, I was struck by how similar Job and his friends' arguments are. They always go back to God, they always talk about how majestic and powerful and all-wise God is. But it isn't until God truly shows his majesty, power and wisdom that they dare not speak on God's behalf. Every time I'm confronted with Job's story of suffering I'm awe-struck with the fact that I should be silent.

*We just got a tv this Sunday. Not sure how long it'll last. Hopefully long enough to watch some exciting Bears wins.

Overflowing with Caananites

I pick her up at the train station and we walk a mile in slightly blighted urbana to Division Street. Once we hit turn that corner, we hurry so I feel less of a tinge of guilt about missing work (wherein I had to report in a few hours anyway). We go to Milk & Honey, a somewhat trendy (and posh) cafe where I treat my day-date to some homemade granola.

She still insists it's the best granola she's ever tasted.

I'm so nervous, I don't know what to say. She doesn't speak much, either. And I constantly scare her by looking at my watch. Just so self-conscious.

But what made me realize that our time together (our first time in proximity in years) would last for a long period of time was when we were walking in the surrounding neighborhood, to take in that brisk autumn day and it's colors.

As I'm noting the architecture and history of my neighborhood, she grabs my arm and pulls it. She is utterly delighted by a tree. I forget the specific tree, but I remember how she expressed her delight. She called me by my full name. My. Full. Name.

No one knows my full name but my inner family, maybe some friends who tease me about my name (for privacy issues, I'll only note now that it has some roots in horror movies and the like). But we haven't seen each other in years. We've only recently been emailing each other.

But I knew, I just knew, she felt for me. Big time. And that's good. Because I certainly felt for her. Big time.

This morning, as a sort of anniversary, we went back to Milk & Honey. I love my wife.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Who do you like in this weekend's Indy 500 race?
It depends. Who's in it?
Let's say that one Chicago Bears team is in the race.
What are they driving?
The whole team is in a bus.
Hmm... Is Ditka driving the bus?
Then I like the Bears

Now, if the Bears could just get into a time machine and reverse the fortunes of one particularly bad Sunday afternoon...

It's been known to happen.

*From recollection. Don't sue me, please.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Teaching environment and stuff

So, one of the Vice Principals sees my first period class today. I ask her specifically to catch that class (which is actually half a class) because it is the most well-behaved of all of them.

She notes some problems later, dealing with classroom management issues, largely. The problem is, that was my best-acting class all week long. The problem is also, our floor (especially our side of the floor) is dealing with some damned-tough students, period. And there is no fix-all for all the problems that we're seeing. I don't think that many people - including the administrators - are aware of that.

I'm going to speak to probably fifteen to twenty parents tomorrow, and I will not be happy. And neither will the parents.

I'm tired already. Again.

I just took two days off two weeks ago and another day off a couple weeks before that.

Luckily, this is a short month.

I will say one thing, though. I'm much better off now than I was a year ago, in terms of classroom management and organization.

I was a HOT mess last year.

(BTW, a great help for me over the last nine months has been reading and trying to implement Robert MacKenzie's Setting Limits in the Classroom.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

  • Since we're focusing on diaries and journals for the Reading classes I'm teaching, I'm going to read a selection from Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl tomorrow. I'm pretty excited, I've never read it before. But also, since tomorrow is the first time my class will be observed by a Vice Principal and my classes have been acting super-crazy all week, I'm very nervous. I hope I don't get too nervous and find myself hiding in a little corner.
  • My wife says that running out of food dring a party is considered a cardinal sin. So we stocked up. We invited a lot of people to our house on Saturday. Apparently, we're not that popular. If you want some beef and/or beans, all you have to do is promise to be our friends and come on over.
  • We're going to hear a fat lady sing tonight. Which means I have to shave.
  • I'm a complete and utter mess. Yuck! And I have to meet my students' teachers later this week? Double-yuck.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Feeling for the Fallen

A couple of months ago, my wife got upset with me for taking my sweet-arse time on being on the computer when I promised her I wouldn't. But I had caught sight of an email regarding a collegue (a fellow Chicago-based youth minister) and therefore, possibly, a friend who succumbed to temptation and - as we Bible-philes put it - fell. I find out that this brother left his wife and child in need and stranded. This need was, apparently, more than just moral and spiritual. The senders of the email (a support group for local youth ministers that myself and this brother were both involved in, to some degree or another) were also seeking for financial support for the family as well as prayers.

I didn't know who this brother was. I knew I felt for him. I knew (and know) I felt for our fellow youth ministers (especially as I feel a tinge of guilt being out of the game for a much-needed, though regrettable, half year honeymoon). And I was very conscious of the fact that I've also fallen and let down my church and family, including extended family, and that falling is not beyond any of our reaches.

About a week ago, sending out email invites to our mixer party, I got a reply from one of the invitees. Or rather, his wife.

This is _______'s wife.

As you know, _______ is in jail. I'm sure he would've come if he wasn't though.

I found out who fell. And I hurt. And I felt for his wife and baby.

I don't need to further editorialize. You know where this is going.

But if you must, possible solutions - and apparently a large discussion - posted at Scott McKnight's Jesus Creed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Random Ten

But before we dig into the iPod files:

Stupid hype! Why'd we have to lose to a 1-6 team?!? Sorry, 2-6 team?!?

And now, back to our scheduled program:

The Human Thing - The Tanyas: This is one of those Paste Magazine songs. She's got a sloppy-drunk chanteuss sound, like Victoria Williams trying to sing Nora Jones. I like.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 4 in D Major, KV 218 - Alberto Lizzio & Mozart Festival Orkestra: I paid like $10 for something approximating three hours of Mozart music through iTunes. Symphony Hall, eat your heart out!

Act V, Scene I (Romeo & Juliet) - William Shakespeare: A rare find indeed. The bard himself acted out this piece according to my player and we have it on recorded devices. Must've been a 45. "If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep..."

I Have and Always Will - Dave Barnes: Underproduced mom-safe-rock. You know what, though, I'm liking it. Barnes is an unsigned singer-songwriter in Nash' who likes those lovely ballads and soft-rockers in the vein of "You Are Beautiful" and John Mayer, etc. Call me a softy (esp. if the performer attests to a love of 70's-era Stevie Wonder and tries to mold his record after Songs in the Key of Life) but I'm liking this album.

Go-Go Gadget Gospel - Gnarls Barkley: What can I say about these songs that I haven't already? Definitely one of my favorite records in the last few years (along with Sufjan Stevens), even though they have been overplayed (fortunately, I don't listen to the radio or watch tv, so I get to control what I listen to a bit more) and over-hyped. Fortunately, though, I don't think they'll get pistol-whupped by any Dolphins any time soon. If the agents of MAD have learned anything, it's not to mess with the Inspector.

What I Say and What I Mean - The Like: Another Paste Magazine sampler. This one's also female-centric. But it rocks a bit harder, like a lo-fi Veruca Salt back in the day.

In the Light - Charlie Peacock (and friends): A few years ago, Peacock was involved in a bit of a self-tribute. No, that sounds self-indulgent. It was like a Best of, except with new arrangements and different performers working with him on his old songs. In any case, it's called Full Circle and I like listening to it, especially if my wife isn't around. She doesn't understand Peacock's brilliance. I can't think of who the co-singer is on this song, but she has a warm timbre about her, like Christine Dente of the husband-and-wife duo Out of the Grey.

Monkeys at the Zoo - Charlie Peacock (and friends): Hmmm... Peacocks, monkeys and zoos.... Mike Roe, from the 77's (one of the well-underappreciated underground CCM bands that never got attention from anyone because they weren't "Cheese-us Jesus-y" enough. Also, Peacock, Vector [from whence Jimmy Abegg came] and the 77's came from the same mini-label and church in the early eighties) sings lead here. This is miles away from the dredge that occupies the top of the Contemporary Christian Music spotlight: "Spirit, come flush the lies out / Will it be different now, or the same / will I have learned anything." Roe, btw, also plays with the active underground CCM Lost Dogs with members of the Choir and Daniel Amos.

The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) - Missy Elliot: Her first hit. "It's my window. I can't stand the rain." Missy and Timbaland. Gaw, what a combo!

Mack the Knife - Bobby Darin: At yesterday's party, I found out that Lady Ella sang this song live in a recording, forgot the words and scatted the rest of the song. For me, I always think of the Mac Tonight ad campaign in the early eighties.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Freaky Fridays

  • The In-Laws are coming into town tomorrow. Wife put me on entertainment post. Three generations (including a sister coming in from the NYC and a grandmama) and I gotta pick something to entertain 'em all in a city where all the establishments have been hijacked for Halloween for Hipsters.

Hope nobody's seen Marie Antoinette. Or, as it's called in Canada, New Order for an Old Age.
  • Why am I always hating on Cannucks? I don't know. Most Chicagoans are supposed to hate Cheese-heads and Motor-City Nuts. Maybe it's just an exaggerated, but friendlier, place that I reserve my pretend disdain for.
  • I'll be missing the Bears on Sunday. Again. Screw.
  • Having a cold sucks. Mostly because I'm a dairy hype.
  • "Lola" is playing from my computer while my wife is conversing with friends in South America in spanish and I'm sitting cross-legged on our clean, multi-colored wool carpet. Life is good, but I can't help the feeling that they're laughing about me.
  • I moved my content files to the D: drive. And I don't really know how to do that. So my iTunes and iPod got all mixed signals and stuff; it's kind of like I had to reboot. All that to say, I no longer know what my top 25 songs are on my iPod. It's like I'm a music zombie, with a lack of direction. WHO AM I??!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Dungeon

My wife calls it the Dungeon. It's the dank place we take our clothes to wash, one load at a time. We need to leave our cozy apartment through the back, down the steps overlooking our unprotected car port (it's not a garage, it's a little concrete lot) and down a couple steep steps into a subtarranean lair with low ceilings. I've hit my head on that ceiling a few times. I'm sure I would've stubbed my forehead a few times with the drop-down boards holding up our floor, but I have my ego to thank for keeping me out of danger. (Don't go down there. You don't want to go down there. It's rather foul and dark. You don't know what rodent or plank could be awaiting you.)

On one of my few and oh-so precious days off, the wife has me running errands (which is why I did not disclose this fact to the rest of my family. "Oh, you've got all the time in the world now! Why don't you..."). Well, one specific errand. Laundry to the Lavanderia. All one hundred and three pounds of it down a eighth-of-a-mile trek. Can't complain really, but that's never stopped me before.

As I'm putting the clothes in a large, strapless, torn gym bag and two large garbage bags that should not survive the journey, I listen on my $300 iPod to a sermon by Mars Hill Bible Church's Rob Bell. He's doing a series called, appropriately enough, "Jesus Wants to Save Christians." And the sixth in this series is on the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus' point, Bell argues, isn't to be a "Good Samaritan", but to be a good neighbor, recognizing the dignity and worth of - and actively loving - every person, including those we can't name by name because doing so would give them a pause in our lips (for example, "Oh, you mean, my ex? You mean, those people?") and possibly a space in our hearts and gasp, homes!

At a time when some very specific people are getting on my last nerves and I'm trying to decide how I need to open up my eyes to see the world around me and love "the least of these," I'm making headway into the Dungeon to retrieve our cute little detergent bottle (The real reason the Mrs. needs to buy the concentrated ALL). I open the back door (with no environmental sound, mind you, coming in my direction) to see a suddenly startled lady in dirty baggy clothes pull up herself and her pants from the ground. Just beneath her is a large puddle (hint: it's not rain) and this is all happening in front of the one car that's parked in the back.

I automatically, and just as reflexively as the lady, shut the door and try to hide the shame. I'm in agreeance with myself that maybe I should or could offer some assistance. After all, although there are many diners in the immediate area, the only truly public restrooms are in the parks, and the small one nearby may not be open or hospitable to her or "her kind". I try to calm myself. It's not like I've never seen that before nor that it's wholly unnatural or unexpected. There are a lot of homeless in our immediate area and we live at a pretty busy intersection. But I don't know what to do. Honestly, I knew that she'd have left in a major hurry after hearing the door open, but what if she didn't? What is the proper response? Is there a proper response?

"Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your liver"?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Get me back

I love my life. But I'm in a funk. And it's a difficult little jump to get over it, as the Staples would say.

I hate comparing the life of a middle-class White dude with the Civil Rights Struggle. It's not fair, but sometimes those songs and icons are so easy to appropriate...

My wife doesn't understand. But even she had to make movements that others didn't understand. I took today off work, partially to catch up on sleep. Partially to get the cobwebs out of my head. Partially to get grading done. Of course, other things are expected of me. Laundry. Shopping. Awaiting a never-ordered set of bookshelves for our many books and CD's. Well, mostly my many books and CDs.

The sun's finally shining on me. It's a bit nippy in the Starbucks. I'm wearing one of my funny-looking hats (the kind with the elongated top and two twisted sides that makes me look like a slightly tanned, overweight, and bespectacled version of a brunette Pippy Longstocking) and too-hip funny t-shirts.

I wear ties and slacks (usually dark kahkis) to work nearly every day. Every day. Wow. I never wore ties before unless it's required of me, and then I would always feel suffocated.

One of my students (that I also taught last year) can not get his hands around the fact that I dress up this year. He proposed that he would continue to act up until I started dressing down again. How's that for a threat. Two stubborn men, locked into patterns of behavior that neither would cede. He never proffered why he misbehaved (on a level that borders illegality) last year, or the years prior to that. I just thought it funny. Especially that a young man incapable of growing a beard and who constantly harasses women (his latest victim within the school being a teacher - which earned him a ten-day + suspension) would claim that my shaving de-genders me.

But I'm not sure what I'm writing for. I always assumed that I'm a writer because I have no choice. I like the click of my own words. I like a tensely-structured sentence. I like to come up with them on the fly, the idea that I'm letting go of my ego by dreaming words, that I'm demonstrating some otherwise hidden talent by writing some long latent string of words, by rearranging popular phrases into something personal and yet not private.

And maybe I'm writing now out of a fear. That underneath it all, I'm only a sham. I don't know how to teach reading skills. I don't know how to make the horse drink. I don't know how to bring the horse to the water. I don't know, in other words, how to teach. Hell, it seems to me that I'm driving the equestrians away by my dextrious vocabulary and monotonous whispering.

Maybe I just need to exorcise the demons by exercising my key-tappers. David Sedaris talks of his need to percussively beat and pound out his ideas on his old electric keyboard. And here I am, on a cheap Acer, using free space on the nowhere internet to pound out some meaningless ideas that nobody in their right mind will find exciting (I mean, there's something universalist about poetry, and a focused essay is - at the very least - focused, but where am I on this sphere? If you read this all the way through, you do deserve some kind of heroic/yeoman's medal. Maybe on my next little mid-week break, I'll fly down to you to personally deliver your yogurt caps on string - which may double as beads for Mardi Gras. Maybe...).

Maybe I can continue a thread of essays. Maybe I'll refocus some meaningful energy on the next few forays.

In the meantime, we're going to teach Monster over the next few weeks. Any fresh, inspired teaching ideas? I'm having the students write a teleplay. Now, they're studying racial disparities in the judicial system. That's about it for my ideas.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

(Seemingly random) Thought for today

Dick Gregory, according to my source(s), is a real primaddona jerk.

Bill Cosby is a womanizing elitist.

See, liberals and conservatives, really, are more alike than different.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Life ain't a game, we suffer through pain, anger, no one to blame... but we got to maintain*

You would think with nearly two months off blogging, I'd have something significant to say. Good huntin'.

Hope to watch the Bears game - or at least most of it (Church. Dang.) on Sunday this time.

We don't have a tv, and I got really sick Sunday, so I only got to hear most of the game before I went into a coma.

Which lasted straight through the next day.

Which meant that I couldn't go into work the next day.

Which meant I got a substitute teacher.

No, three substitute teachers.

And a hell of a mess to clean up.

But if I speak more on work right now (or at least directly, I could find myself in compromising situations).

Although, I could speak on two things:

One, today is/was Homecoming. Homecoming days are nice in Chicago because students in predominately gang-infiltrated schools (where the uniforms are usually dull-inducing black and white and/or blue and white) get to wear color. It's nice for the eyes to see a wave of blue and gold. Tomorrow is the game. I have no idea how our football team is performing this year (I haven't had time to check with our coaches or go to as many games, so this year I'm another fair-weather Clemente Wildcat fan. Yikes!), but, it's always a good time.

On another note: our baseball team (for a school named after one of the greatest of all time, surely one of the greatest shortstops) is consistently good.

Two, I read a news article on Chicago State University and how predominately White schools in the nearby suburbs never consider sending their students down predominately Black CSU's way. Some students did question why White-population schools tend to fair better than African-American- or Latino-population schools. That's a great question. On our last visit to Borders, I picked up a copy of Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. I'd tell you all about it, but Mrs. jasdye devoured it. Basically, it's about how Brown V. Board has reversed within the last twenty plus years. Or, as one student put it, "How come schools like us are worse off than white schools?"

The answer? I didn't answer her directly, but honestly, if I was in a power position and saw what position my children were in, I would do what I could to improve their position. That's what all parents want. I just think America's going about it the wrong way, ignoring the rights of the less-fortunate and then ignoring the problem all-together.

*Props to LA Symphony

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Top 25 Played iTunes/iPod Songs

(Yes, I wasn’t able to blog this whole month, but I’ve sure done my share of insular The Office viewing and smirking on the El)

Suffragette City - David Bowie. I must love visiting this town. And leaving in a hurry. Wham-bam-Thank-you-ma'm.

Train in Vain - The Clash. Funny, I don't remember listening to this song that much. But I do love it, still.

Gone, Daddy, Gone - I confess that it's not the original version running so high on my shiny new headset... I'm not sure what Gnarls Barkley were planning on doing, besides a very faithful cover.

Under the Bridge - Red Hot Chili Peppers. What can I say?

I Want you to Want Me (Live) - Cheap Trick. With a bullet. I keep singing this to my wife whenever she asks what I want.

Surrender - also Chi-Town's finest, CT. Just a weird little power pop song that jumps the day.

Ziggy Stardust - Bowie.

Crazy - I know everyone else is sick of this song. In fact, I was at a coffee shop earlier today where the opening bass line was playing. I instinctively starting jumping my foot. I think the someone else was too. But the baristas changed it. I thought better of jumping over the registers... After the fact of course. I owe so much money.

Sadie Hawkins Dance - Relient K. My wife - and the song - informed me that it's a traditional Girl's Choice dance. It's goofy and it was played at a camp we took our youth to this summer.

Diamonds on the Sole of Her Shoes - Ladysmith Black Mazambo. Yes, I just screwed up their names. Yes, it was originally done by Paul Simon with LBM two decades ago. Listen to it and try not to smile.

Love Vigilantes - New Order. I am in love with the Vigilantes of Love. I keep forgetting this isn't them.

Where Did Our Love Go? - Soft Cell. Beep-beep. Remember that commercial?

Chan Chan - Buena Vista Social Club. One movie that made great music.

She Belongs to Me - Dylan. ShEE beLOngs to mEE. How could you not love that.

Under Pressure - The only reason that this is the only Queen song on this list is because it's the only Queen song on my iPod. The rest are on the WMP. And I'm sick of transferring all my files.

B Part: (A Quiet Interlude) - David Crowder Band. Along with Israel Houghton, one of the only worship acts that I like.

All in Your Hands - Duvall. I've got a bit of power pop representation here, as the "Christian Smoking Popes" would prove. I love this stuff, despite and besides the tag.

Eric B. Is President - Eric B. and Rakim. Funny that the only rap represented on this list at this moment is two decades old. O' well... Thinking of a master plan.

Homeless - LBM. What? You don't have this record yet? What is your problem?

I’m Lion-O - Relient K. They're singing about the Thundercats. Fortunately, their music has only gotten more nuanced over time. 'Cuz it's a shade annoying.

Subterranean Homesick Blues - Dylan.

Love Minus Zero / No Limit - Dylan.

Changes - Bowie.

Young Americans - Bowie. All night.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

End of the World, pts. 1 & 2

1) I guess they won't be rolling any Bronto Doobies in future Hanna Barbera movies.
Offered in the tradition of the "Cop in E.T. wasn't holding a pad" and "Hans Shot First" complaints.


I'm taking a blogger's sabbatical through the end of September. I have a feeling I'll still write essays and get pissed at media (big and so-called democratic), or rather, the wheels that turn the various media. I just won't have a media of my own to outlet for a while.

I think Solomon says it best, better to keep your trap shut and appear wise than open your mouth and show the world you're a doofus [I Hesitations vii, IJasdyeV].

I'm gonna try to look wise beyond my years for a moment.

I'll still try to answer my one or two replies. And, if you need me and can figure it out, I'll still be available via gmail.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Look up in the sky if you wanna, I'm going to bed

Last week, Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum quoted a possibly apocryphal Stanley Kubric line in his own assessment of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. He supposedly said about his sometimes foil's popular movie, “The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed, Schindler’s List was about 600 people who don’t.”

I should admit, I have an issue with that statement. As if somehow the survivors amongst the brutal wreckage don't carry with them the weight of the dead. I can't say the same for Stone's movie.

But I love this quote the proven film scholar and social critic Rosenbaum attributes to Orson Welles in the same year of his infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, 1938, "before," Rosenbaum notes, "he started making movies."

I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.

Although Rosenbaum brings this up in his review of The Illusionist (he reviews it as one of those ever-rare four-star masterpieces he dishes out considerably less than his t.v.'d brethren), it recalls to me the newest Superman movie. Apparently, in the original version, the movie posters promised that, "You will believe a man can fly."

I did. My family did. We wanted to see him go up in the air and hold Lois Lane from falling great depths to the ground with her simple, naive statement of disbelief, "You've got me. But, who's got you?" And we believed that he was holding her through the nightsky high above the busy, dirty streets of Manhattan - I'm sorry, Metropolis - and at the tip of Lady Liberty's lamp.

The new movie had none of that magic. Everything it had going for it, if anybody heard anything from anybody about the movie, was in the special effects. In this post-cynical times, though, with every piece of media meta-ing all over themselves (not the least of these being Superman Returns), special effects and over-the-top self-referencing aren't enough (not to ruin any surprises here, but the biggest piece of self-referencing of Kal-El & Lois Lane's love is evident and all over the place from the first act).

There was no wooing in this movie, as there is in little that comes out of big-bdget movies. There were no hints, there were no suggestions. The magic was gone.
The mystery was gone. I no longer cared if a man could fly, no matter how much the filmmakers showed me he could.