Sunday, January 29, 2006

Other good news

I've seen two episodes of the otherwise entertaining Dancing with the Stars on ABC. I know the critics at Entertainment Weekly don't think too highly of that show, but they suck, so who cares? (Honestly. That's why they're in that gossip rag.) And both times (both the season debut Mater P managed to mangle the whole essence of dancing with his lazy, heavy-footed "movements." He then tried to blame his lazy-a** steps on representing the ghetto. Hailing from the ghetto, I can say that we're quite embarrassed to be represented by you. You need to spread your wings further, man. How about representing talentless poseurs the world all over, P?

So, the good news is, after his stalker steps last Thursday (that despite an intense need to grade, I couldn't rip my eyes away from. Felt like a funny and sad car wreck), he wasn't salvaged by the call-in votes.

A world will miss your hilarity, Pee-Head.

I played basketball last night

I haven't played a lot recently. And, like many people who spend all their free time either blogging or im'ing their girlfriends, I'm out of shape, severely. I was breathing heavy. Real heavy. But I had a good time. I miss the sport so much. I think I'll join a Y, if I can find one that I'd feel comfortable playing ball in.

But then again, for all the players (all in their twenties and thirties and all, save me, African-American), no one could rip the ball from me. So, you know that wasn't real competition.

In other non-news (in this day and age of Hamas and WMDs and Pat Robertson, honestly, I can't compete), I just downloaded my first batch of songs. And the stickler that I am for not stealing this stuff, I went through iTunes. And, the stickler that I am for trying, at least, to get good music, it was Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the long-running South African acappella Gospel singing group - with neither a lady nor a smith in the whole group.

But, dang, they sound good.

I'm a Jerk! Proof 1

This is not so much a display of humility (when is humility ever really announced? It may be displayed, but woe to the man who calls attention to his humility.), as it is more of a public confession and hope for repentence. Maybe I should do this every Sunday morning, or sometime within my sabbath-day-of-the-week.

I was just thinking yesterday, while walking from a seminar to a basketball game, how it would be to train up a young man in dealing with beggars. How to say 'no' (outside of the ocassionally discerned 'yes,' often in the form of food) while treating the requester with dignity, as a human being in need of being treated with dignity, with emotions and intellect and a physical body. In general, I could use stand to be more polite and generous in that area, but my volunteer work has taught me alot about the plight of the homeless, the drug-addled, the constantly inebriated, etc.

So, why, later, walking in the cold rain at 11 o'clock at night, when I pass by a man with a gas canister and two young girls in tow, knowing that the closest gas station is half a mile in any direction, and he asks for some change to help him get gas, do I flat-out refuse him? If ever there was a 'yes' moment, this was it.

I'm a jerk. Jesus, save me.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Widows and Judges, take note

This is really just a repeat of an email I sent out. But I thought it was important enough...

Hey everybody,

Most of you know of my friend Jennie, a missionary who works in a home and school in Colombia for under-served, under-privileged children in the capital, Bogota. Many of the children that she works with there come from really broken homes and stay on campus. None would be considered well-off, or middle-class, or anywhere near the poverty line by US standards of course.

Anyway, I ask and treasure your prayers on her behalf, and on behalf of the staff and kids of Children's Vision International, Inc.

Here i will quote from her weblog,

Jonatan (7) had a few seizures last week...[Medicines the doctors gave him for epilepsy] seem to be adversely affecting his eye drainage, though, which had progressed so well after his last operation... He has had multiple operations throughout the years, the last one being the only remotely effective one.

Juan Camilo (just turned 6 last Saturday) was rushed to the hospital last night. He had a derrame cerebral which I believe translates to "brain hemorrhage."... He lost ability to use his right arm and leg. He then lost consciousness and our nurse had to give him mouth to mouth and rushed him to the nearest hospital out there, which was about 20 minutes away. En route, he died. They brought him back at the hospital manually... The doctors are still not sure what's wrong, they say you need to wait 48 hours to determine the extent of brain damage. He is still not conscious. They are injecting the meds straight into his heart and he is on a respirator. He has stabilized, which we're grateful for.

Carlos Julio (11) was also rushed to the hospital today with stomach pains. He has appendicitis...

Update: The doctors tried to run some more tests on Juan Camilo. In order to do this, they needed to pull him off the machines for a bit. He couldn't hang on. They reconnected him right away and are saying that it will be at least 72 hours (until Tuesday night) until they can take him off the [eight] machines. Camilo's a fighter, though. He's been through so much already. The mighty right arm of the Lord has sustained him this far. I don't believe it was in vain. I believe Camilo will pull through. We're all still praying.

Update: Carlos had his surgery. The doctors said that it would be a routine half an hour operation. However, when they opened him up, they found an immense tumor in his stomach. It's all entwined in his intestines. It had actually eaten through his appendix, which is what caused the appendicitis. They could only get out a part of it. They did manage to tie the two ends of the tumor together, so that it should not eat through any more organs. They took the sample to the lab for testing to see if it's cancerous.

Also, my boss's dad just had a heart attack last week, (he's okay, thanks to a personal defibrillator) and her mother in-law is seriously ill as well.

These are not normal phenomena for us.
We greatly appreciate your prayers in regards to these matters.


Let us beseech the throne of God together. Pray and expect miracles.

Thank you for your time, energy and prayers in advance.

And now, back to grading


Friday, January 20, 2006

Beep-beep, beep-beep, Yeah! *

My roommate cursed at me the other day. He really liked Crash, apparently. I was busy watching the audio commentary, as I often do when I want to delve further into a particular movie. I probably shouldn't, seeing as it gives me the filmmaker's or some academic's ideas of the movie before I can develop my own, so their impressions influence mine (hence the word 'impression'). But the key is, I was still mulling over it. The film had a bit to offer, and of course I was busy comparing it to Altman's work (specifically Short Cuts) and Magnolia (one of my all time faves). The comparisons may be fair, to say the least, since they were obvious influences, as my man Adam had noted awhile ago in a since defunct web review.
But I was beginning to worry. Not that the movie would be heavy-handed (yeah, racism is bad, but it's hard to overplay that theme to me), but that it would be heavy at the end, with no hope in sight. Still thinking of the ending, I don't trust the near-happy ending we were given, when the slaves were set free by the black man (not-so-handily played by the usually telegenic Ludacris, of course. But more on that later).

Trying to tackle the issue of racism (or sexism, or classism) in America is not easy, and probably shouldn't be left to well-to-do white males. Many, in fact, would argue that it's an impossible piece to tackle in entertainment, others would argue that the arts have an obligation for social issues and that the arts are the perfect place to do so. Anyway, enough Social Sciences 101, Jr. High edition.

The problem is that I saw that Million Dollar Baby nihilism a year ago, by the same screenwriter that also directed this movie. And I was wondering if Crash would end in such a cynical way. One can argue that that is the only way to end such a movie, such crashes/conflicts happening, as Don Cheadle's character deadpans at the beginning, because people are in such need of contact in the impersonal city.

Some lines though - and though this is a narrative, it is an interpersonal narrative, thereby putting the focus on interactions, not structure - grab attention, such as the aforementioned. The latino locksmith's integrity (and affiliations) being questioned by the DA's wife after they got carjacked by a couple of black men in a rant at the husband within ear-range - heck, eye-range - of the locksmith. The gun-seller refusing to give a gun to a Persian store owner - and then calling him Osama and blaming him for 9/11 - because he doesn't know much English, yet begrudgedly selling it to his angry, English-speaking and beautiful daughter. And of the observations that the car-jackers make, my favorite - and the most humorously ironic line in a movie I've heard in a bit was something like (forgive my liberal paraphrasing), "Rap? Don't listen to that stuff, man. It's a tool from the white man. See, in the sixties, we had all these literate, powerful, articulate men. Men like Malcolm, Huey Newton, King... But what happened to them? The CIA and FBI hunted them down. And now, in their place we've got these illiterate mumblers all over the radio rapping about nothing." That line was from Ludicris. I'm glad he has a good sense of humor in his role of contemporary black life. Maybe now 50 could be a little more aware of his impact... no, wait, it's too late for that, isn't it?
So, is it a good movie? I'm still mulling over that. Probably more positive than negative. One thing that I took from the film is that everyone understood fully their little world, their own frustrations and pains, their rage, their bitterness, how they've been attacked by others and probably how they plan on fighting back. I guess empathy is being preached, as well as education, and tolerance, and freedom. All good things, but how you gonna feed some newly freed slaves on twenty bucks?

I guess the US government should have answered that question a hundred and forty years ago.

*Apologies to the Beatles. More or less.

If you know, like we know, breathe slow

Mars Ill's ProPain ain't here yet. All right, no crying.

To tide the fans over, there is the remixed Backbreakanomics, aptly titled Backwaterprophets - which might be owing to the fact that Windows Media categorizes them as Old School.

I recognize but a couple of the samples used in this piece, if that. One of them happens to be a reconfigured electric piano line from a Stevie Wonder song. (Hopefully, the lawyers at Gotee Records aren't reading this.) The main difference (since the rap-lines remain intact from manCHILD and a few guest turns, including Pigeon John and Blueprint) is that the songs are funky. Just funk-kay! Is that bad? No, I think it's a great dance record to get for the more hip to purchase in time to practice for your Valentine's Day dancing fever (wish I could join y'all this year). In fact, where Backbreakanomics' rock energy belies the album's urgency (in a different sense than say, punk's breaking of the conventions did, but nonetheless, urgent), to paraphrase De La Soul, Backwater will make you think and shake your booty at the same time. Although the kids lingering in the halls after school, when I was blasting this in my room, where asking if I was listening to Eminem. Is that what rock-influenced underground hip hop sounds like?

Some lyrics:
Impossible for me to see the divine schematics
who divide the Triune through mathematics
Stand with a mic in my right hand
with my left clutching a crucifix
I haven't felt this worn-down since I last listened to Ludacris
but I'm born new every mornin'
Lookin' in the mirror, asking, 'Who is this?'

Order it. Order some material too. No shipping charges, and best of all, they mail it directly to your house that moment. It's like they work for the PO. My two experiences ordering from the Deepspace fam have been truly wonderful and speedy. What more can you expect?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Go, Bears, Go!

No real sports info here. Sorry. No help of any sort. Nothing to add or take away from any debate. Just a stupid fan putting up his stupid tribute stupidly thinking that any member of the Bears team would actually look for a blog that mentions them and take their stupid tribute to heart, and then be so inspired that they win the semis, the conference final and the Super Bowl.

Having sold that,

This has been a message proudly sponsoring the Chicago Bears as victors forever.
And now, boys and gurls, put on you hulas, for it is high-time for our fight song:
Da Bears, da Bears, da Bears, da Bears!
Da Bears, da Bears, da Bears, da Bears!
Da Bears, da Bears, da Bears, da Bears!
(choking, stop breathing, resucitation)

Da Bears, da Bears, da Bears, da Bears!
Da Bears, da Bears, da Bears, da Bears!

Dang it, man! Like everyone else, all I can do is hang my head in shame and play late-night Sunday night quarterback, no wait, coach. We had a decent running game. We had a few plays where we just needed a couple yards and went for the rushed pass mis-play. But, honestly, all I can say is,
Good grief.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Here's a couple news-worthy articles:

This one's about me. I swear. They just screwed up my name, but it's been my life story for the last year +.

And I may have found a new favorite NFL team. Sorry, Bears, but NO (and Rick Warren) needs my support.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Top 6 other things

We can always try, eh?

Top week:
Monday 22nd-29th. It was the end of summer. I was burned-out. Not fully, but I was in need of a sabbath. My season of being my church's youth director was coming to an end, schools weren't biting and I was pretty much resolving that I would be a substitute teacher throughout the 2005-06 school year.

So, what's a man to do? That's right, road trip. I saw some beautiful, beautiful land (hooray for the fact that I don't have to live in West Virginia and Michigan in order to appreciate them) and was quite appalled by Toronto's lack of a beach or lakefront. I got to read. Dosteovsky at that. I kept a journal, which I then transposed to my xanga site and abbreviated for this one. I never finished it, but I could. Maybe. Later. When I'm bored. I met Christine.

And, to top it off, two big things in two days: 1) My brother David got married to Theresa on Sunday the 28th. We (this time with two other brothers and another sister-in-law to help drive) drove back from Virginia Beach (also my first time at the Atlantic coast. Did not get to spend time there. But the weather was so bizzarre, even by Chicago standards) overnight, while I'm listening to voice mail from the assistant principal from the school across the street, asking if I'd be interested in a job.

Kind of last minute, and I haven't been home in a week, but I call her and set up an appointment for an hour after we get into the city. She basically tells me that they're still looking for an English/Reading teacher for this program and that it's mine for the asking. I think long and hard, pray, consult and ten minutes later I take it.

Top Date of 2005:
Honestly, I don't date. Not the dating type. Unless there's a good reason, unless I'm serious about the woman (serial dates lead to serial marriages, but that's a discussion bummer for another day). So, November 26 probably also belongs in the top date of the decade and top day of 2006 categories too. As far as details, sorry, I'm not one to hold hands and tell...

Top Periodical of 2005:
Sports Illustrated. The boys (my male students, that is) eat it right up. It's got great writing and it's about things they want to read about, while not being too difficult for their abilities. I need to find a woman's mag like that (for my female students, that is, not I).

Top Shoe of 2005:
I normally don't care for my shoes, or anything else I wear. Alas, I knew the students would. So, I went with the intent to actually spend a bit of money (read: more than the $35 I'd normally spend for b-ball shoes, but less than $60), I got me some black, green and yellow Umbro Brasillias. I love 'em. That doesn't make me a sissy, does it?

They're like this, only black instead of white. They look sexier in person. Can I say that? Adopts fake latin accent. How you say... Ah, yes, Sexier.

Top Miss of 2005:
Basketball. I miss playing it.

Top Sports of 2005:
Don't normally care too much for baseball. It's a slow, methodological game. But I always liked the defensive stances and hustle that can arise from its late innings. And the chances of hitting such a small and fast-moving object into space at just the right point and with just the right swing with a bat is so peculiar, but it can be dramatic. And drama in sports is better than watching whiny wealthy white folks on film. The White Sox gave me plenty of that. Especially in the post-season. Too bad nobody else was watching it. Football comes in as a distant second on my sports pyramid to basketball, but I'll be watching (or keeping abreast of) most of the post-season due to the Bear's resurgence (yes, Timi, there is a Santa Claus), the mystery of the Pats and the Indianapolis Dungites. Oh, and not to forget the Longhorns being able to open up a way big enough for Vince Young to win the Rose Bowl (I'm not mad at him, btw. He was remarkable).

It's also remarkable to note that the top NFL coaches of the year are African American (with Chicago's own Lovie getting the tops this year). Which is why I'm certain that Kansas City fired their coach to replace him with an assistant coach from the bottom-dwelling Jets. I'm all for affirmative action (and I don't know the whole story, or even part of it), but that just strikes me as patronizing, Buddha-belly-rubbing. And while we're at it, what's up with all the coach-firing? It didn't work for the NBA East (Riley's not doing so hot himself, y'know.). What worked for the NBA East was Detroit and rising competition, their time was bound to come. But this is insane. Not everyone can win all the time.

Enough ranting!