Friday, April 28, 2006

Forca Barca!

F.C. Barcelona, the futbol club I have been following since my days in Catalunya, have made it to the final of the European Champions League! They will be playing Arsenal (from London) on May 17th in Paris. The winner will be crowned European Champions. Barca has the opportunity to win a prestigious double...being Euro champs and Spanish League Champs. The last time the boys in blue and garnet won the Champions trophy was 1992.

The Champions League is a year long tournament made up of the first and second place finishers in all the various European leagues. They begin the tourney with a group stage. The top finishers in each group advance to a bracketed tournament. In the tournament each team plays a home and away match. Whoever wins the aggregate advances through the bracket.

The Champions League is the most prestigious club soccer tournament in the world. It's considered a huge honor to win your nation's league title. But it's considered something entirely else to win the "League of Champions."

The only soccer tournament that is bigger is the World Cup itself...which is made of national teams. So now, I have to find where I'm going to watch this game. I don't have cable or satellite...but hopefully the game will be on Spanish language television. Even though I don't understand half of what the announcer are saying they're more interesting than the talking heads covering American sporting events.

So Forca Barca!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Little Marxists

This year's sophomore class has been my favorite group of students to teach in my career...and I've had great classes in the past. This year's group is respectful yet lively. They behave but also have personality.

One interesting and somewhat disturbing aspect this year is how many little communists I have. Actually they're more inclined to democratic socialism than any Leninist/Maoist doctrine. And they're really just a bunch of posers.

I've got several kids who are really fascinated by Che Guevara. One student noticed I am reading an 800 page biography on the strangely contradictory humanitarian killer. My student said, "hey, that's a great book." I was shocked that they actually read outside of my class. Another student in another class said "I've ordered that book from the bookstore."

Another student has painted three different portraits of Che in varying artistic styles.

Another student, a girl with the the temperment of Trotsky, loves to attack the school's class structure and says the administration needs to forcefully impose egalitarianism.

So yes, the future is full of little Marxists. I hope this helps you sleep at night. Although these Marxists like voting, free enterprise and shopping at the mall. Is that a contradiction? Most sophomores are walking contradictions. That's what makes them so fun to be around.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Climbing a Mountain Higher than Everest

A stark contrast presented itself last week in the remote mountainous nation of Nepal this week. One group, the Maoists, have been responsible for a violent insurgency for the past ten years...first against the democratically elected government and then against the king who had declared martial law in 2003. Over 13,000 Nepalese have died in the last ten years due to the Maoist attempt at revolution.

The other group, the vast majority of Nepalese, participated in non-violent protests against the dictatorial king the past three weeks. The king threatened to "shoot on sight" anyone who violated his curfew. Some were shot and killed, dying for their cause. But thousands more streamed into the streets peacefully protesting the king's illegal rule and petitioning for a return to democracy.

The peaceful demonstrators accomplished in three weeks what the violent Maoists have not been able to accomplish in ten years...a true transistion toward a government that fairly represents all the people of the nation that is home to Mount Chomolungma (aka Mount Everest).

They accomplished this goal of democracy with only 12 people losing their lives in the cause of freedom. Again, compare this figure to the 13,000 that have died due to the Maoist insurgency.

It remains to be seen if this will be a long term victory for democracy. But it is quite clear that this is another resounding victory for non-violent protest as a means to initiate positive change.

I hope one day to see Mount Everest in person. I'm not planning on making an attempt to summit. I just want to see it. But now, if I ever do get to Nepal, I will realize the Nepalese have demonstrated something much more impressive than climbing earth's tallest mountain. They peacefully and courageously stood up for the rights of humanity without resorting to animal violence.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

iPod Playlist - Ballads

This is the iPod playlist to play either to create a certain ambiance or to chill out to after a rough day.

It Never Entered My Mind - Miles Davis
Try a Little Tenderness - Frank Sinatra
These Foolish Things - Chet Baker
A Nightingale Sang (in Berkely Square) - Harry Connick, Jr and Branford Marsalis
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - Clifford Brown
Sophisticated Lady - Tony Bennett
Like Someone in Love - Coleman Hawkins
Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars) - Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
Say It (Over & Over Again) - John Coltrane
My One and Only Love - Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane
In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning - Ben Webster & Oscar Peterson
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered - Ella Fitzgerald
Polka Dots and Moonbeams - Roy Hargrove
Mademoiselle D' Gascony - The Wynton Marsalis Septet
Someone to Watch Over Me - Chris Botti
La Belle Dame Sans Merci - Sting with Chris Botti

note: I was in the middle of attaching links to all these artists when halfway through my internet crashed. So rather than start all over again I'll leave it as it is. Most of these artists have their own websites (even posthumously) that are easily located on google. If you want any additional info - leave a comment and I'll get back with you.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Royal Blues

As I write this my favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, have lost eleven games in a row. That's nothing. There was a point last year when they lost nineteen games in a row. NINETEEN! Do you know hard it is for guys being paid millions to lose nineteen games in a row? It rarely happens.

And as a Royals fan I'm fed up. I'm freaking tired of my team being the laughingstock of all professional sports. I'm tired of stupid managerial hires like the hire of freakin' retread Buddy Bell. I'm tired of always blaming small-market economics. Yes, small-market realities do stack the deck against teams like the Royals. But the Royals are well on their way to lose 100 games for the third straight year. This goes beyond small-market economics. This is pure incompetence. After all, the Royals made a $20 million dollar profit last year!

I was always proud to be a Royals fan. They were a model organization. People forget that before the resurgence of the Chiefs in the 90's, Kansas City was a baseball town. Despite being a smaller market the Royals were always among the top 5 teams in attendence. They competed for pennants and played in two World Series in the first sixteen years of the team's existence. The Royals won the World Championship in 1985. They were considered the most successful expansion team ever.

Now their organization is a disaster. Current GM Allard Baird is in the sixth year of a neverending rebuilding project. He has let the likes of Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran, and Paul Byrd go without getting anything in return...not even a return that was mediocre. He needs to go. Buddy Bell needs to go. The entire front office, save for George Brett needs to go.

Fortunately even former CEO of Wal*Mart and owner of the Royals David Glass is becoming publicy disgusted. Franchise patsy columnists like Joe Posnanski are finally stepping up the criticism. The extremely polite and reserved Kansas City fan base are finally showing outrage. The public just voted through a major renovation bond package for Kauffman Stadium and are demanding returns for their investment. Maybe hope is on the horizon.

But for this season...I'm popping my VHS tapes of the 1985 World Series into the VCR and ignoring the reality of the nuclear wasteland this franchise has become.

update: The Royals have broken their streak! They've won two in a row! Now all they have to do is win ten straight and they're back at .500!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Book Recommend - The Rebel

I just finished 'The Rebel' by Nobel Prize winning author Albert Camus. The title, from the French, could also be translated 'Man in Revolt.' L'Homme Re'volte' written in 1956 is an essay about man's tendency toward revolt...both physical and metaphysical. Camus stresses man's dignity and freedom against the 1950's threat of communistic domination. 'The Rebel' is a heavy read...but ultimately inspiring. Here are some selected quotes...

"Philosophy can be used for any purpose-even for transforming murderers into judges."

"If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance."

"We shall then decide not to act at all, which amounts to at least accepting the murder of others."

"To live is, in itself, a value judgement."

"To remain silent is to give the impression that one has no opinions, that one wants nothing, and in certain cases it really amounts to wanting nothing."

"Humanity is loved in general in order to avoid having to love anybody in particular."

"In a world entirely dominated by history, which ours threatens to become, there are no longer any mistakes, but only crimes, of which the greatest is moderation."

"From the moment you accept murder, even if only once, you must allow it universally."

"All the knowledge in the world is not worth a child's tears."

"Consequences always follow principles."

"An end that requires unjust means is not a just end."

"The land of humanism has become the Europe of today, the land of inhumanity."

"History without a value to transfigure it, is controlled by the law of expediency."

"If the rebel makes no choice, he chooses silence and the slavery of others."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

iPod Playlist - All Things Latin

This is my playlist when I'm in the mood for music with what Jelly Roll Morton called "the Spanish Tinge." I found it fitting to begin and end with different versions of Maleguena. Granted my music collection is limited...but this is what I'll play the next time I march on Dallas City Hall.

Malaguena - Brian Setzer
Real Emotions - Los Lonely Boys
La Bamba - Los Lonely Boys
Cancion Del Mariachi - Los Lonely Boys
Casa Batllo - Brazzaville
Bolero Sonamulo - Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban
Punto De Referencia - Gloria Estefan
No Me Dejes De Quererm - Gloria Estefan
Candela - Buena Vista Social Club
Chan Chan - Buena Vista Social Club
Pueblo Nueva - Buena Vista Social Club
Flor De Mal - Tito Larriva
Smooth - Santana
Corazon Espinado - Santana
Hotel California (Spanish Mix)- The Gypsy Kings
(Who Discovered)America? - Ozomatli
Love For Sale - The Stan Kenton Orchestra
El Matador - Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
Malaguena - The Stan Kenton Orchestra

Monday, April 17, 2006

CD Pick of the Week - How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

My CD pick of the week is U2's most recent release...How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

U2 has always been hit or miss with me. Sometimes I really like their stuff. Other times...not so much. But I like every single song on this album. Message music you can rock to. Plus, I'm rooting for Bono to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He's the exception to the rule regarding celebs espousing particular issues. He's researched his cause. He's non-partisan. He passionate about a cause everyone can get behind...Africa. But regardless of what you think of his ONE Campaign...this is good music.

Here is the track list.

1. Vertigo
2. Miracle Drug
3. Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own
4. Love and Peace or Else
5. City of Blinding Lights
6. All Because of You
7. Man and a Woman
8. Crumbs from Your Table
9. One Step Closer
10. Original of the Species
11. Yahweh

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mystical Places

Here is an incomplete list of Mystical Places...

Room 408 Science Building - Southern Nazarene University - Bethany, OK
El Barinas Hotel Cafe - Barinas, Venezuela
The fountains at Placa Catulunya - Barcelona, Spain
Botanical Jardin - Madrid, Spain
The Country Club Plaza at night during Christmas - Kansas City, MO
Northwest Expressway at dusk - Oklahoma City, OK
My backyard on the first evening of summer vacation - Forney, Texas
Route 66 at Tucumcari, New Mexico
The Wild Irishman ski run - Keystone, CO
El Conquistador Apartments - Merriam, Kansas

Friday, April 14, 2006

Why does anyone watch Dateline?

First: Anyone can now post comments onto my blog. You longer have to register. I do reserve the right to read all comments before posting them. This perusal is only to keep things "appropriate." Yes, dissenting opinion is fine by me. Teachers are Jedi Masters...not fascists.

Second: Why does anyone still watch Dateline NBC. This newsmagazine has been a joke since its inception. Anyone remember the scandal involving Dateline producers rigging trucks to explode on impact so they could film a good story? Well Dateline is at it again...rigging a pedophile sting in order to garner ratings. Now, I'm glad that pedophiles went to jail...but journalists are not supposed to manufacture the story...they are simply to report the story. If these "journalists" fuzz the ethical line in this case what keeps them from doing the same thing in another situation? Dateline is also taking Muslims to NASCAR races to film the good-ole boy's reactions. This is journalism? More like urinalism. The Peacock Network should know better.

I guess my opinion about journalism is naive, idealistic and old fashioned. But Dateline NBC is a ludicrous example of news reporting and I can't believe anyone still buys what they're selling. Fool me once...but twice, how about three times? Ridiculous.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Some Things Never Change

Next week is the week for statewide testing in the Texas public school system. Although I teach World History I always spend a few moments in each class the week before the tests to review a bit of U.S. History. One day this week we were discussing the strange duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton which would end up costing Hamilton his life. In the past my students have always found it hard to believe that a sitting Vice President would shoot a sitting Secretary of the Treasury. This year, however, this story didn't phase them. And then I realized why. With Dick Cheney in office they're used to seeing Vice Presidents shooting people.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

College Basketball Jobs

Here in my opinion are the College Basketball
programs with the most prestige and tradition that would be the most desirable jobs for most coaches...

First Tier
1.) Kansas (I hate to admit it...but their first coach...the only one with a losing record...was the inventor of basketball!)
2.) Kentucky
3.) Duke
4.) North Carolina
5.) Indiana

Second Tier
6.) UCLA
7.) Michigan State
8.) Louisville
9.) Georgetown
10.) Syracuse

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Megachurch Threat to Christianity

Nietzsche believed that Christ's teachings had been perverted by the Apostle Paul and the early church founders to create the idea of the congregation of believers. He believed that these early church leaders, in an attempt to bring down the Roman empire, purposely created a system of martyrdom, redemption and community in order to bring people under a theological framework that would manipulate them in to eventually causing the fall of the hated Roman Empire. He postulated that they deliberately created a system of thought that subjugated the individual to the will (and in his words, tyranny) of the community. Although he denied the divinity of Christ he admired Christ's teachings and considered him one of the first ubermench or overmen (commonly translated as supermen). Nietzsche believed that the church had deviated from Christ's original teachings in order to subjugate the individual. Of course, Nietzsche also went insane.

Kierkegaard, although a Christian who believed in the divinity of Christ, also had harsh words for the institutionalization of the Church. He believed that redemption was the story of God's connection with the individual. He believed the congregation of believers subjugated the dignity of the individual (who was made in God's image) to the herd mentality of the church. He believed that church tradition and politics perverted the gospel message of individual freedom and free will. Kierkegaard believed that man-made organizations tended toward despotism and corruption.

Interesting views that both at once contradict and complement each other in different ways. The reason I bring them up is to show that men have been debating the nature of the church for a long time.

I have been growing increasingly frustrated with the role of the church in modern society. The megachurch is the focal point for all that is wrong with modern Christianity. Warm and fuzzy messages of universal acceptance and self-help techniques are destroying the true purpose of the preach and spread the news of Christ's salvation.

In the megachurches of today there is no individual accountability. People can walk in from the street, merge into the faceless crowd, hear an uplifting message with good music and walk straight back into their previous state of sin. Christianity seems to be experiencing a self-esteem problem. We don't want to offend anyone or be labeled judgemental so let's not preach the truth. We wouldn't want to scare people away.

In the megachurches of today there is no individual responsibility. Individuals hidden in the fray of the multitude can easily refrain from taking any part in the building of the Kingdom of God. There are no actions to back up their supposed faith and as James said "Faith without works is dead."

In the megachurches of today politics has insidiously rooted itself to the fabric of the congregation. The congregation is directed to whom and what they should vote for. Any dissent is treated as "unchristian-like." Seperation of Church and State was meant to protect the Church. Now the church openly invites the government into their sanctuaries. "Group Think" runs rampant in today's megachurch environment.

In the megachurches of today administration become the means to control a large grouping of people. Administration leads to the desire to consolidate control. Control is power which leads to corruption and egotism. Today megachurches do not plant churches. They plant new campuses for their home church. Many of these new campuses simply show closed-circuit feeds from the "mother campus." This is not the creation of new communities of believers...this is the extension of control by a ministerial staff swelling with their own self-importance.

Granted many of these problems exist on a smaller scale in smaller churches. However, in the hiarchical framework of the church, it is often the larger churches that guide the agenda. It is the larger churches who have the power and the influence that often sweep the smaller churches in their wake.

What's the solution? I'll post some of my ideas on a later post. I believe in the power of the church. I believe God has called us to worship as a community of believers. But I also believe in the dignity of the individual. To walk the line between community and individualism should not be so difficult. And not all large churches are corrupting the message of the Gospel. However, many are, and that should be disturbing to any follower of Christ.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Would Jesus Kick the Mexicans Out?

As I've stated in an earlier post...I believe people living in this nation should pay taxes, have proper documentation, learn English, and follow the legal processes of our country. But listening to the non-Hispanic people around me, I don't believe that would be good enough to satisfy what they really want. Maybe it's because I live in a so-called Red state...but I really get the sense that what most non-Hispanics in Texas want is for all the Mexicans to go back to Mexico and get "the heck outta here."

They all act as if all they want is for "illegals" to pay taxes and attain documentation. But if you listen carefully you hear an awful lot of resentment and bitterness about people who are supposedly stealing jobs (although both Arizona and Texas are currently in the midst of a huge un-skilled labor shortage as noted in the 4-9-06 Dallas Morning News) and bringing in a "foreign" way of life. They have to pretend to be in favor of "legalization" because otherwise their racism would be exposed. And all stems from a racist nativism. The same ugly nativism that the English-Americans displayed against Irish immigrants. The same ugly nativism that the Irish showed to the Italians and the Italians to the Blacks and Chinese. And so on and so on and so on.

What saddens me the most is many of these people complaining about "those darn Mexicans" call themselves Christians. And I think to would Jesus handle this situation? Jesus reached out to the hated Samaritans and other social outcasts. Jesus spoke Aramaic when he had to and Hebrew in other situations. He was universal in his love. He didn't play upon nationalistic pride. He even commanded respect to be given to the pagan Roman Caesar.

Do you actually think the Mexican's want to live in fear in this country? Do you think they want to be seperated from their families for years at a time? Do you think they want to work for endless hours on mindless jobs for little pay with no benefits? Don't you think they want to spend a little bit of their money on luxuries rather than having to send 90% of their paycheck back home? Do you think they enjoy the life they have here?

Absolutely not! They are here out of desperation. They are doing whatever they can to help keep their families alive. If they were Americans we'd call them noble. Why is Mexico in such bad shape? Do you think maybe it has something to do with the constant meddling and political intrigue the American Government used to destabilize Mexico for a century? Now many Mexican citizens feel no other recourse but to come here to survive. Ironic isn't it? We are finally seeing the effects of our unilateral arrogance in Latin American affairs... Supporting dictators and pursuing policies to destroy the Mexican economy for our benefit.

I can no longer sit back and allow my fellow Christian Americans rail about this issue without exposing their hypocracy. If I remain silent I am as guilty as those Germans who sat by and allowed the Jews to be persecuted on Kristallnacht in 1936. And we all know where that eventually led. Go ahead, call me an alarmist. But I doubt most Germans would have ever thought genocide could be possible in their nation either.

We need to enforce the law compassionately. We need to help encourage the peace loving, law abiding "illegals" become legal citizens or attain proper documentation. We need to help them learn English...not because English is God's favorite language...but because that will help them have a greater chance to be a positive contributor to American society and help achieve a greater level of financial success.

And most of all...we need to love them as Christ loves us. That should be the basis of all our actions...whether or not they reciprocate that love. Yes, some of these protests may be misguided. But that doesn't mean we respond with hate. We should respond as Christ would.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

CD of the Week - Mood Swing

One of the great tenor saxophonists of our time is Joshua Redman. He first hit it big in the early nineties. I saw him in concert at the North Texas Jazz Festival and was blown away by his quartet. After the outdoor concert was over I was standing beside the stage waiting for Kimberly to throw something away in a nearby trash can when all the sudden here comes Joshua Redman walking straight toward me with a state trooper in tow. I froze. I didn't have a pen or paper for an autograph and had no idea what to say. As he came up to me all I could think to say was "you the man Joshua." He said "thanks man," and walked straight into his waiting limo. "You the man Joshua?" That's all I could think to say? Idiot. I had frozen up. Anyway, just another brush with greatness that went awry.

Anyway, he's gone a bit funk/hip hop lately but he's still a great jazz player. My favorite album of his is 1994's Mood Swing. It's a jazz concept album that goes through the different emotions one feels in certain situations. It's straight ahead jazz that really swings.

By the way, I just read that Redman will be at this year's Denton Jazz and Art Festival (free admission) April 28th. If you're interested...e-mail me. My address is on the contact page. I'll see what Kim and I are doing.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Great Sports Rivalries - College Football

Rivalries full of hate and loathing really add a great kick to sports. Here is my list of some great rivalries in College Football. Some are simply my opinion from the standpoint of the teams I personally root for...and root against.

THE Oklahoma Sooners vs. texas longhorns
Ohio State vs. Michigan
Notre Dame vs. USC
THE Oklahoma Sooners vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Florida State vs. Miami
Alabama vs. Auburn
California vs. Stanford
Florida State vs. Florida
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
texas vs. Texas A&M
Florida vs. Tennessee

Friday, April 07, 2006

Last Day iPod Playlist

This is the playlist I created last year in anticipation of the last day of the school year. This is the playlist you play in the car stereo with the windows down on the bright sunny last day of school. The wind is blowing, the volume is up...and you have 10 weeks of summer vacation before you. What a feeling!

Holiday - Weezer
Don't Let Go - Weezer
Why Bother - Weezer
Real Emotions - Los Lonely Boys
D'yer Maker - Led Zeppelin
Nobody Else - Los Lonely Boys
All Over You - Live
Fun, Fun, Fun - The Beach Boys
Hook - Blues Traveler
Song 2 - Blur
Ocean - Brazzaville
American Boy - Chris Isaak
Lovefool - The Cardigans
Invisible Touch - Genesis
Volare! - The Gypsy Kings
Live and Let Die - Guns n' Roses
Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet
All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down - The Mavericks
Smooth - Santana
Big Time - Peter Gabriel
Strange Face of Love - Tito and Tarantula

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Boycott This!

I am weary of the ridiculous e-mail forwards clogging my in-box begging Americans to boycott such and such gas company because they are based in a country that hates us or boycott Exxon because that might show them we're ticked off about gas prices. Simple minded solutions are for simple minded fools.

The latest forward I received of this ilk begged all patriotic Americans to boycott Citgo. Boycott Citgo, the e-mail begs, because it is soley owned by the Venezuelan government. And the Venezuelan government is firmly in the hands of a leftist anti-American President named Hugo Chavez. Yet...despite his anti-American rhetoric...America remains Venezuela's number one oil consumer. So, the e-mail says, boycott Citgo and buy American gas.

Ironically Chavez and Fidel Castro are good buddies. We can see how well embargos and boycotts worked in bringing down Castro.

I'm always suspicious of where these mass e-mail forwards originate from. Optimistically I assume they are from well-meaning Americans who are frustrated about the rising price of gas and our dependence on oil from nations not so sympathetic to the United States. Pessimistically I could guess they are sent from a source that has an agenda to pursue and knows it can influence the ignorant American masses who are too lazy to research the complexities of these issues. Who knows?

I do know that these types of problems are too complex for simple answers. Yet that is what most American's crave...simple answers. We're too busy watching NASCAR or American Idol to give any issue more than a moment's thought. We want our ideas and ideologies spoon fed to us. It's much easier that way. Thinking is hard.

I was in Venezuela in 1993 when Chavez's coup failed. I met a lot of good, honest, hardworking people. Many good people...including Nazarenes live in Venezuela and work for Citgo. I would hate to see them suffer because of an unresearched and ill-advised boycott. Not to mention the hardworking Americans who work for Citgo in this country.

You want someone to blame? Blame me. I drive a Chevy Avalanche that gulps oil in mass quantities. My Chevy Avalanche runs on an internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine was invented over 100 years ago and yet remains our major source of locomotion in our society. Yet, I haven't effectively expressed my outrage to the automakers that they purposely sabotage any new environmentally friendly alternative to that type of engine. I haven't even tried.

I also buy my gas from Wal*Mart with a gas card that saves me 3 cents a gallon. Wal*Mart pays its workers less and provides far less benefits than Venezuelan Citgo.

Some of the gas I pay for comes from the Saudi Arabian government who in order to maintain their rule made a deal in the 1930's with the ultra-conservative Wahabbi sect of Islam. The Sauds give millions to the Wahabbi imams who in turn get their followers to support the legitimacy of the Saud ruling family. The Wahabbi's as a result use the millions from oil revenue to build the biggest madrasas that reach the most people who in turn stomp out the more moderate voices of Islam. It is from these madrasas the Taliban and Al Queda were born. It is my money that helps pay for these schools which promote the killing of people like me.

So blame me. However, I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not the only one to blame. Americans want to blame somebody about our dependence on oil from Venezuela and the Middle East? Maybe we should all look in the mirror.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Lips are back and Delay is outta here!

Check out this article on CNN about one of the best bands in the world...The Flaming Lips. The Flaming Lips, who are from Oklahoma City and released one of this decade's greatest albums (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) in 2002 are releasing a new album. I'm sure they'll be a CD pick of the week sometime soon and I'll write more about them later.

SECONDLY: Tom Delay has just announced his resignation from Congress! All of America should rejoice. Democrats should rejoice that the "hammer" is gone. Republicans should rejoice that "Hot Tub Tom" can no longer embarass them with ethics charges and manipulate their party through intimidation and dirty tricks. In a world full of slime, rarely has there been seen such a slimy cretin in the halls of the capitol. Democracy is a bit safer this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Books I've Read So Far in 2006

It is my goal every year to read at least 12 books during the year. Sometimes I exceed that goal but last year I only read through ten books. Of course, many of those books were 900 page behemoths so that's got to count for something. So I started 2006 on fire. It's April and I've completed eight books so far this year.

Here are the books I've read so far this year...

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
The Sickness Unto Death by Soren Kierkegaard
Live Like a Jesus Freak by Angie Kiesling
Bode; Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun by Bode Miller
He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis A. Schaeffer
The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire
Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac

I started 'The Rebel' by Albert Camus this week. I am also still wading through 'One-Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel Marquez.

As I've said in the past, I like to vary my reading. Biography of intriguing figures, philosophy, history, fiction, theology, politics, society, crime novels...most everything is fair game.

The picture on this post shows me in front of the New York City Public Library. It is an amazing place. Even if you don't like's architecture is breathtaking both inside and out. If the Library of Congress in D.C. is the Mecca of bibliophiles than the NYC Public Library is Medina. A fantastic temple of reading.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Book Recommend - Lonesome Traveler

I just finished reading Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac yesterday. Kerouac has been one of my favorite writers for a long time and I've read most of his work. But I had never read Lonesome Traveler until I received it last month as a birthday gift from my in-laws. It is a great read.

Lonesome Traveler is a series of autobiographical short stories about some of Kerouac's travels around the United States and the world. Readers of Kerouac will recognize some of the stories as inspirations for some of his pseudo-fictional work. For example, his sojourn as a fire lookout on Mount Desolation in Washington, was detailed in the Dharma Bums and was the major subject of Desolation Angels.

It's not his greatest work...but since it is a collection of short stories it does provide a glimpse into the style of one of America's greatest authors. His final chapter about the end of hoboing in America is a poignant description about the loss of innocence and trust in America. You can no longer hitchhike or ride the rails anymore, Kerouac laments, due to all the criminals out there. And because of that reality, no one trusts a backpacker in America anymore. And Kerouac was writing this in the late fifties.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Memphis, Tennessee

We really enjoyed our trip to Memphis over Spring Break. I was surprised how downtown Memphis had been revitalized since I last visited fifteen years ago. They built a beautiful minor league baseball park right downtown along with the new FedEx Forum which is home to the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. Everything is connected by open plazas and ampitheaters. There are live jazz and blues performers everywhere which really provide a real cool atmosphere.

Speaking of jazz and blues...the heart of this area is legendary Beale Street. Blues and jazz clubs abound. We went to the world famous B.B. King's Blues Club where we heard some great Memphis blues. Parking is easy to locate and everything felt safe and relaxed. Everywhere you went you heard jazz and blues both inside the clubs and on the sidewalks. I remember playing "Beale Street Blues" for a high school jazz audition. Beale Street is a must for music aficianados.

Beale Street runs into Peabody Place which is a giant indoor and outdoor shopping center. The mall lies adjacent to the Peobody Hotel which is home to the world famous Peabody Ducks. For eighty years, ducks (who live on the roof) ride the elevator down to the main lobby. A red carpet is rolled out and they walk down it to a large fountain in the center of the lobby. They swim in the fountain from 10 am to 5 pm. At 5 pm they roll out the red carpet, play a Sousa march, and the ducks waddle back to the elevator.

We happened to visit the Peabody lobby at the same time as the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. It was interesting to see sheep and ducks in the same lobby. I did see an old friend from college there. He was wearing a button that said "Frist is my leader." Another one bites the dust. I can say that at least the Republicans shower and dress nice. Democrats tend to be a bit more native in their hygiene habits.

The next day we went to Graceland of course. I even put Paul Simon's Graceland in the CD player in the truck as we drove over there. "I'm going to Graceland. Graceland. Memphis, Tennessee." Kimberly had never been. Now it's national landmark. They have changed a few things (the jungle room shag carpet ceiling had been vacuumed). They now have a nice headphone walking tour instead of the tour guides who always seemed to have partaken of too much Elvis Kool-aid.

Graceland is an interesting place. Everyone should go at least once in their Elvis hajj. I did find it interesting that Mr. Presley had a copy of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha on his desk the day he died. Maybe he really is still with us. His body is in the back yard...but his soul...who knows?

Because of the Conference USA Basketball Tournament (which Memphis won) and the NASCAR GOP'ers we couldn't stay downtown. We stayed near the airport at the Marriot...where I had stayed 15 years before. The hotel was nice except a fire alarm woke us at 1:30 am and we had to evacuate. Seven flights of stairs with drunken prom kids, partying basketball collegians, and representatives from all levels of society was a fun experience.

Anyway. Memphis is a happening town. Try the pulled pork sandwhich at B.B. Kings. Eat at the Rockabilly Cafe at Graceland and sing the blues. We missed Sun Records and only saw the Gibson Guitar Headquarters from outside...but we got the gist. I would recommend Memphis anytime.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Dictators? Or Jedi Masters?

I'm a teacher and I believe in order and discipline so individual expression can have a safe place to blossom without spiraling into anarchy. But sometimes...especially when my classes are studying Hitler and Mussolini...I wonder if I belong to a system with fascist tendencies.

Here are some of the major characteristics of fascism...

1.) Glorification of the State (school spirit anyone?)
2.) Emphasis on conformity (school uniforms/dress code come to mind?)
3.) Power in the hands of a central authority (Who's in charge in my classroom? My students certainly know.)

But...we are in school and these are kids. They are not adults...yet. Kids should be able to express themselves...within certain guidelines. They have to be shown the way to express themselves without trampling on the rights of others to do the same. If there were no order there would be chaos. And true education and enlightenment could not take place in anarchy.

So I guess educators need to be benevolent dictators like Cincinattus who guided his people in the right direction...then released the reins when they were ready. There are too many of my colleagues who forget that student enlightenment is the ultimate goal. They discipline for discipline's sake. They forget the fact that discipline should guide the student along a certain path. Consequences should be used to create good choices. Discipline should not just be about punishment.

Dictators? Or Jedi Masters? Jedi Masters definately.