Sunday, August 20, 2006

On Why I Write Such Angry Lyrics

Congratulations to Joshua and Kristen on Killian's arrival. Almost 10 pounds?! Go, mom!
(Remember that line: it's the only important one in this post, I expect.)

Currently reading: Diarmid MacCullogh's The Reformation, which is amazingly readable while being huge and inexhaustibly exhaustive--i.e., it covers everything, and Plato's Protagoras, which is so engagingly written character-wise. May this blog aspire to well-writtenness some more!

Mostly though, having survived ProfessorKamp (no t-shirts given!--sob), I'm flailing around wildly trying to get 5 classes ready to teach come August 28. Three preps (three different subjects to prepare for, since three of the classes are in one subject), which isn't bad at all, and Fridays clear for research (or repairing sinks, whichever comes first). Much indoctrination into the local college culture, which--the indoctrination effort--is something I respect even not all of the many aspects of it--the local college culture--don't (yet) grab me. So that's cool. The chance to do philosophy clubs there and at Beth's school, and keep med school groups going, and maybe add a Great Booksish sort of thing, all while having more time to write, makes the fall look very fun to me.

Now that you're screaming in pain thinking of all the reading, sitting, lecturing, and discussing that the above sketch implies, remember, the reason that there are a lot of people in the world is so that none of us has to do everything, and in particular so that not very many people have to do what I do. Be happy I'm happy doing it, and go on your merry way doing normal-people stuff.

On to the main topic of the day, my inadequate efforts at righteous indignation. When not busily popping out monster babies (I mean, large ones), K. says my rants are insufficiently ranty. I keep trying to do better, I really do. It's not that there aren't enough things out there that hack me off. This current decade of damage to US prestige, our moral leadership in the world, the credibility of the rule of law and international cooperation, the budget, the devastation wrought on duh-obvious prevent-the-growth-of-a-violent-underclass programs like HeadStart and college grants and loans is tragic and consequential. The totally unnecessary and utterly wasteful repealing of that part of the regulatory environment that is actually helpful, namely, the part that keeps corporations and government from riding roughshod over the people, is bring-out-the-bracelets time, cuz we're either going to have handcuffs or fisticuffs over this one. And all this cmon-let's-give-the-wealthy-a-chance and let's-show-the-world-who's-boss macho-ness has been elected and reelected by the cynical manipulation of all-too-willing social conservatives, including many conservative evangelicals of whom I am one, done by dragging Jesus's name and a handful of sensible stands (like religious people shouldn't be excluded from public programs, kids should be able to have prayer and Bible groups on campus (or prayer and Quran groups, whatever)) down with acts and values Jesus would have had, at the nicest, caustic things to say about...well, all that and more of the same is enough for me to rear back and flame somebody.

But even so, when I get to my cozy little blogger posting frame, with its soothing and oh-so-aesthetic blue-and-orange-and-putty (at least on my screen) colorscheme, I just can't rant, at least not effectively. Years of seeing Zambian Christians say in print (letters, in their case) what they would never, ever say in public or in the presence of the one addressed or spoke of (nor should they), really made me want to not use (semi-) permanent media for my wailing on something or other. What I really need, apparently, would be, for instance, a blatant despoiler of our precious natural heritage, or a gratuitously condescending elminative materialist to cut me off on Central Expressway--then I could really vent. I know you know the feeling.

It all goes back to a misspent youth...

After years in the late 1970s and very early 80s resisting the arrogant incoherence of the leftists' cavalier and pompous dismissal of intellectual tradition, spirituality in any form, and substantive cultural values, I got used to decrying the religious totalitarianism of neoDarwinism, the explanatory thinness of scientism, and the moral sterility of secularism. I liked that role. Now in the 90s and the "aughts," the stupidity and arrogance of the neocons trying to go back to 19th century nationalism and imperialism as models of international intervention, and of the Repubs' strategy of domestic factionalism and divisiveness and opposition-breeding in order to recover their personal political fortunes, makes me find myself in an odd position for me: as peacemaking wimpy guy, suggesting that getting along and cooperating and saying how you feel before bouncing the big medicine ball to the next person in the group would be good to try. Ick and alas.

Anyway, don't get me wrong. Just because I can't manage ferocious on here doesn't mean I'm A. a nice guy or B. without my rages. Pretty soon I'll come out with fangs blazing and guns bared. Or something like that. You've been warned.

And oh, yeah: welcome to our world, Killian. We're really glad you're here. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006


We're having some Houston weather, a jillion degrees and ninety per cent humidity. Mmm, deelishus.

Adam and Sarah get married this weekend, one way or another (yay!). So Beth and I fly down tomorrow. Weddings and births share the "well, maybe there's some hope after all" kind of feel to them. And plus, usually not that many things go wrong with them. So it'll be fun. Plus, those guys are great and it'll be happy just to see them happy.

As soon as I get back, though, it's off to Professor Kamp. I'm packing my water balloons and short-sheet set. The "visioneering" in such thing is usually something to sit politely through, the learning styles and "pedagogical technologies" stuff sometimes annoying and sometimes very interesting. The team-building stuff is, to an INTJ like me, usually anathema. But we'll see how they do; their rep for this sort of thing is high and minimally obnoxious. So who knows? It could be okay, plus I'll definitely meet new colleagues, which will be good.

Not as good in the fun way is that my mom is having a pacemaker installed on Monday. A routine procedure these days, and Mom's so healthy she's like not had a hospital stay or surgical procedure to speak of in...ever: like, 75 years. So the progs are all good--I told Dad he should have been honest with the doc when he said the battery would last at least 5 years and told him that Mom would need like 4 new batteries minimum, given the life expectancy of, oh, 95 or so, of the women in her family. Still, it's a medical procedure, and everyone gets a case of the nerbs sooner or later about stuff like that.

Lastly, after talking to Friend Kristen the other day, who got wailed on for what she was wearing while like 9 1/2 months pregnant, let me not in turn slap such wailers upside the head, as they deserve, but rather, on behalf of people who will never be pregnant; will never have people gawk, objectify, critique, or indeed notice our figure or clothes; do not have bodies that would help sell any useful products; and are outside the target zone of fashion makers, I'd just like to say that, while I do think that women should be genuine and thoughtful about how they dress (men, too, in a different mode, for that matter), it's not very many other people's business (a few close girlfriends, your mom, maybe a husband). It's not that anything goes; for all I know whatever someone wears they may well have to answer for, but if so or if not, in any case it won't be to me. If you and God are good about something as unbelievably cultural-relative as dress, then fine. Dawn came from a buttoned-up holiness tradition (for which there were reasons); on the other hand, we visited areas in Zambia where public toplessness by married women was no big deal (hey, it's hot, and they're working hard all the time, and usually nursing something or other at the same time.) I mean look, I've got my own stuff to worry about without having, let alone expressing, opinions about other people's adiaphora ("stuff that doesn't matter"--great word). And that's the truth, as Edith Ann used to say.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Blogoprayers duely answered. It's raining. Peace on those who are far, and peace and moisture on those who are near.

When You're Happy and You Know It

Just got back from Victoria, British Columbia, where I ostensibly was attending the North American Society for Social (and Political) Philosophy conference, but mostly was being amazed by 74 degrees, sunny, light breezes, and open water in August. Victoria is gorgeous, fun, and odd: drive on the right, but with generally British signage, road markers, and styles of road layout; stoplights, but also roundabouts; functional stucco-and-concrete everywhere, but even houses made of that stuff are set in little English cottage garden-type yards...which in turn are incongruously but beautifully lined by 100 + foot tall spruces and firs: a shire in the redwoods, on an island.

The conference was fine. The old guys (a Brit and an American) who heard my paper pretty much said to start over, which is pretty much what they say to younger guys (I count as such, for a few more months anyway). But it was nice to be at a laid-back gathering of a hundred or so (the APA meetings are a thousand and up, and lots of competitiveness and tension), where most of the interaction was questions ("so where'd you find that?" "which thinker/argument helps you with that issue?" "could I have a copy of your paper?"), and even the criticisms were constructive ("if you're going to try to do that, then you're going to need to protect yourself from this sort of attack" "nice idea, but you can't just assert that, you'll have to argue for it" and that sort of thing). Ya just hafta keep pickin yerself up and doin it again.

This is Civil Peace week: I'm going north, and I'm going south. North, to Oklahoma, where the various and sundry Loyds took leave of their senses and invited me up to yak at their resident group. Then South, to the Valley, for Adam and Sarah's wedding (yay!). After that, professor camp, and then report for duty.

Praying types might pray for rain--here, very soon--for all the plants and animals that are suffering, not to mention the crabby mood the humans all get in when it goes on day after day with no relief in sight. (A break in the temps would also do, but is even more asking for a miracle, and doesn't actually help as much as water would.) Also for Steven's impending move to England to prep for college, that all the logistical hooha will get sorted, as the British say. And for roommates for Jonathan that are not from hell, or heck, or even purgatory.