Saturday, April 30, 2011

Arcade Fire vs. Weezer

Weezer and Arcade Fire are in Dallas on the same night. Choices choices choices.

So an insightful student asked me how could I possibly choose Arcade Fire over Weezer? After all, I am a Weezermanic.

Nice question.

The Dallas Observer even made a handy venn diagram to help people choose which show they should go to.

First (or firstly?), I’ve seen Weezer in concert twice. I’ve never seen Arcade Fire live.

Second, the last two Weezer albums (Hurley and Death to False Metal) have not been among my favorites in their discography. They’re fine, better than most bands. They’re just not quite as good as past releases. So I wasn’t bent on seeing them perform songs from these last two records.

Third, Arcade Fire is phenomenal. Their music is magisterial. Their three albums are transcendent. I don’t say that about a lot of bands. When I saw they were coming to Dallas I snapped up tickets as fast as I could.

And finally, Weezer is performing at Edgefest. They were the only band performing at Edgefest that I cared about. I’m not a huge fan of music festivals unless there’s going to be a lot of acts worth seeing. A lot of the bands on the undercard are sure to draw some real freak shows to Pizza Hut Park.

So Arcade Fire it is and I’m stoked about it. I’ll let you know how it goes

Friday, April 22, 2011

recent events

Tonight Jackson and I just got back from his first major league baseball game. My beloved Royals were in town to face Jackson's beloved Texas Rangers. The stadium was sold out. 45,700 people. I've never been to a sold out Rangers game. But it's five dollar Friday parking and free fireworks after the game. $10 special for the cheap seats. Beautiful weather and the Rangers are the AL champs. Makes for a sell out. JDW had a great time. Pics are on the flickr site.

Recent Events (written last Thurs):

Last Friday the spring broke on my garage door trapping both our vehicles and only modes of transportation to work inside. Kim caught a ride while Jackson and I elected to stay home and wait for the garage door repairman to come and replace the spring. However, they weren't able to make it until 4:00 pm so JDW and I were trapped at home all day. But we made the video below and had sword fights in the living room. I ponied up $40 extra for an additional spring so now our garage door is equipped with the ultra delux dual spring system. Smooth, brother.

God has His own fan page on Facebook. A lot of my friends (including Kimberly) have clicked the "like" button on it. I haven't yet because I'm not sure that God is actually administrating the page.

Stupid Real Madrid! Fascists!

Stupid Portland Timbers!

Oh yeah, one more thing about the expansion Timbers. They have a guy named Joey the Lumberjack who after each Portland goal saws off a piece of an old growth tree with a chain saw. He then holds up the disc of wood like a trophy and then passes it into the stands. So yeah! What a way to celebrate! Destroy the Earth! I read an interesting suggestion on how they could spruce (no pun intended although it's quite awesome on second thought...spruce heh heh) up their goal celebration. Cut down an old growth tree with endangered owls living in it. Then burn the tree and use the fire to grill the owl meat to sell in the concession area of JB/WELD stadium or whatever they call that dump. And FC Dallas should be ashamed of themselves for allowing Joey to cut that tree three times last week! You not only lost the game you got a tree killed!

Two tornadoes in Forney in a week! What is this? Oklahoma? Kansas? I moved south to avoid these funnels of death after living all my life in Tornado Alley. They are following me. I blame climate change. And Sarah Palin. I like to blame Sarah Palin for everything. It's a fun game. Sirens didn't go off either time! Two dispatchers fired for negligence. At least on the second tornado they got the reverse 911 call out to our phones.

What is Rory Stewart doing today?

What is Dave Eggers doing today?

What am I doing today? Nothing. Writing a stupid blog. I've used the word stupid a lot in this blog. Jackson would not be happy with me. Plus it infers that I'm in a foul mood. But I'm not. I'm happy today. Early release day.

Found a new band: Tennis. Album: Cape Dory. Good stuff. Check out their stuff on youtube for free. Has nothing to do with tennis as a sport.

Tomorrow is Friday! Which means I will be playing the Rebecca Black video "Friday" on the big screen in my classroom during passing periods...just because it really annoys my students. Although the more they listen to the song the more they see the genius inherent in it's awful-ness. I see that this video has over 100 million hits. It is quite possibly the worst song and video ever produced. But strangely, like a trainwreck, it's hard to look away. BTW, someone produced a fake Bob Dylan cover of the song. Fake Bob Dylan can make anything sound deep. Plus the comments on the video are genius. Apparently people actually believed that the vid was legit and talked about how they first heard it back in 1984 and stuff.

Which reminds me of Dred Zeppelin, a band back from my high school days that covered all Zeppelin songs using Elvis impersonators. Genius! You should hear "Rock and Roll" and "Heartbreaker" covered by Elvis in a reggae tinge. Love it!


Saturday, April 09, 2011

Talking without yelling

Interesting day today. Went to SMU for a free public lecture by Brian McLaren. TIME magazine ranks McClaren as one of the fifty most influential evangelicals in America. He's often considered one of the founding voices of the emergent movement. Many, especially fundamentalists, find his orthodoxy a bit too generous (playing off the title of one his books "A Generous Orthodoxy"). They describe him as an open theist, heretic and denier of Biblical literalism.

I found him very generous with his time. I couldn't have him sign his book because I have it on Kindle. He spoke for an hour and a half and took 30 minutes of questions. I found him compassionate and concerned about our society. Whatever one might say about his theology I do not find him disingenuous. And I believe his message is important for the church.

Later this evening I was washing dishes when I got a call from my state representative Lance Gooden. I was shocked. He wanted to talk about an email I had sent him. I had (respectfully) disagreed with his voting for HB 1 which calls for massive cuts in education. He explained his position in great length and indicated that the cuts in a final bill would not be as drastic since new sources of revenue are expected. I'm amazed a state rep took the time to call and elucidate on his position. Our conversation was a nice example of democratic civil discourse. I'm afraid others who have emailed him have not been so polite and respectful.

Personally I do believe there is waste in our educational system. Quite a bit of it in fact. Standardized testing costs billions. We have too many administrators and curriculum specialists. We do need to trim the fat. Unfortunately what gets trimmed are essential things like arts and the humanities. These should be as valued as athletics or core studies.

Also, I pointed out that I wouldn't mind a tax increase if I really felt we were truly broke. But America and Texas is not broke. Corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy are reaping record profits, yes even in the economic downturn. I told Gooden that we need to shut down tax loopholes and eliminate many corporate tax breaks and make the wealthy actually pay their fair share of taxes. It was a good conversation.

Last night, Kimberly and I went to the FC Dallas soccer match against the hated Colorado Rapids. Those thugs stole the MLS championship from us last year. Last night FCD beat them down 3-0. Perfect weather in a beautful stadium. Pizza Hut Park is great. We ate across the street at Lochrane's Irish Pub. Sorry Dallasers, but Frisco is a much better site than the old Cotton Bowl.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Peasant Revolt Theory Analysis for SMU

Okay...something more to bore you all. At least this one is a summary and analysis of a controversial theory. Made an A on it. Included a pic of Jackson and Adia to amuse you a bit if you don't like the paper. This is a rough draft...

David C. White

Dr. Anthony Mansueto - SMU

Silk Roads and Silicon Superhighways

March 28, 2011

Analysis Paper Two The Origins of Israel: Judges Chapter Five

For centuries the origins of the nation of Israel were rarely in dispute. The Old Testament was read and studied from a literal viewpoint. According to the accounts of the Pentateuch the Israelites were descended from Abraham who migrated to Palestine from his homeland of Ur in Mesopotamia. A few generations later the descendants of Abraham, called Israelites after the Hebrew patriarch Israel, were forced, due to famine, to relocate to Egypt. The Israelites, or Hebrews, were given sanctuary in Egypt due to the fortuitous relationship one of their Hebrew brethren had with the Egyptian Pharaoh. According to the Book of Genesis the Hebrews prospered in the Egyptian delta region of Goshen for centuries.

Eventually the dynasty that sheltered the Hebrews was replaced by a new dynasty that was hostile to the Hebrews living in Goshen. Just exactly which dynasty this was in Egyptian history has long been the subject of debate. Everyone from the invading Hyksos, the Middle Kingdom Dynasties, the New Kingdom Dynasties and every pharaoh in between have been identified as possible suspects as the dynasty that turned against the Hebrews and forced them into slavery. According to the ancient Hebrew book of Exodus the people of Israel would remain in bondage for four-hundred years until led to freedom by a Hebrew leader named Moses.

The Hebrew people exit Egypt in miraculous fashion and then wander the Sinai Peninsula for forty years before moving into the Trans-Jordan region of Palestine. Led by Moses’ successor, a military commander named Joshua and related in the ancient Hebrew text of the same name, the Hebrews invade Palestine then referred to as Canaan. Canaan is successfully conquered and divided up between the twelve tribes of Israel. This was the standard understanding of the origins of Israel which was virtually unquestioned for centuries.

But archeologists, anthropologists and historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries began to have doubts about the credibility of this origin narrative. First, there is little or no physical evidence that supports most facets of the Biblical account of the Israelite exodus. There is also no evidence of a large scale Israelite habitation within Egypt. There is scant evidence of a mass migration of 600,000 people out of Egypt by the Israelites and subsequent wanderings in the Sinai wilderness. The evidence of a mass Hebrew conquest of Canaan is often contradictory even within the written Hebrew accounts themselves.

One of the prominent theories, postulated by social historian G.E. Mendenhall, about the origins of the nation of Israel is known as the Peasant Revolt Thesis. Through his comparative studies of Canaanite society and pre-monarchial Israel, Mendenhall began to reject the literal narrative of the conquest theory of Canaan by the Hebrews. Mendenhall became convinced that Israel was not created by a mass invasion and conquest. He did not completely rule out elements of the Exodus story as being accurate. He theorized that a small remnant of Israelite slaves did indeed escape Israel and played a central role in the formalizing and adoption of the worship of YHWH, the monotheistic God of Judaism. The worship of an egalitarian God would serve as an attractive and unifying force for Israelite and Canaanite peasants. However, Mendenhall believed the numbers of the Hebrews escaping Egypt to be greatly exaggerated by the Exodus accounts and that they did not invade Canaan but participated in a political struggle already in process.

Much of Mendenhall’s Peasant Revolt Theory comes from his analysis of the first several chapters of the Hebrew Book of Judges. The “Song of Deborah,” found in Judges Chapter five, particularly provides insight to understanding pre-monarchial Israelite/Canaanite society. The Song of Deborah is an account of a successful Israelite military victory over the oppressive Canaanites elites. Many scholars believe The Song of Deborah to be one of the oldest texts and one of the earliest examples of Hebrew poetry in the Bible, dating back to the 12 century BCE. There are several themes that emerge in The Song of Deborah that lead toward a theory supporting a peasant revolt rather than an outside conquest.

Verse Six of the Song of Deborah indicates the land of Israel was an unsafe place to travel most likely due to banditry. Centralized authority seems to have been on the wane as the regular trade routes and highways could not be effectively policed. We are entering the story as the elites are losing their grip on power. The heavily populated valley regions are besieged by Israelite bandits coming down from the hills and attacking points of economic interest. Verse Thirteen describes the Israelite people descending from the hills into the valleys of Canaan. Mendenhall speculates that the Israelites were peasants who originally escaped into the hills to avoid the heavy tributary burdens placed on them by the valley elites. Now these Israelite peasants are coming back down in to the valley in full-scale revolt.

Verse Fourteen describes the role each of the tribes played in the battle against Sisera. However, not all the tribes seemed willing to take part in the conflict. The tribe of Reuben seemed to waffle regarding their involvement. Gilead, Dan and Asher decide against active participation and stayed in their home territories. It’s clear in the Judges account that the Israelite tribes had a great deal of political autonomy and independence. This contradicts the idea that the Israelite people were a cohesive and unified invading force.

The type of warfare described in Judges seems based on independent militia groups using guerrilla style tactics. Several leaders are named including women. Most cotemporary ancient accounts of war focus on one leader. Secondary leaders are not typically credited for their role in military victory. Disparate areas are targeted which do not seem to point to a coordinated strategy of conquest. This runs counter to the idea of a unified military command led by a unified hierarchy of generals. Plundering and banditry of camel caravans and villages are mentioned which also seems to preclude an organized conquest of cities by a heavily armed and trained military force.

There are some problems with the Peasant Revolt Theory. First, historians and scholars must resist the urge to view ancient societies through the prism of modern social theory. We cannot reliably place our conception of revolution and social stratification onto the societies of pre-modern peoples. Modern value systems, ideas of morality and ethics do not translate elegantly to the systemic structures of the Bronze Age.

Finally, although the Song of Deborah does provide valuable insight into pre-monarchial Israel it must be viewed within the context of the Hebrew poetical tradition. One cannot argue that the Exodus account is an exaggeration without Judges receiving the same critique of possible exaggeration. Hebrew poetry often was used to describe the relationship of people with their creator. It is very unlikely the Hebrew poets meant to discuss political, economic or social theory in their works of poetry. Deborah’s Song is a work of art and worship first and foremost and not necessarily an historical account.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Foreground Music

Transcendent albums that must be listened to in whole and not as mere background music. (in no particular order)

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane

Kid A - Radiohead

Kind of Blue - Miles Davis

Neon Bible - Arcade Fire

Amnesiac - Radiohead

Teatro - Willie Nelson

The Suburbs - Arcade Fire

Majesty of the Blues - Wynton Marsalis

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips

Mystery White Boy - Jeff Buckley

Funeral - Arcade Fire