Saturday, June 27, 2009

Repentance

Oh, My, that last post was mean and awful. I don't repent of its essence but of its spirit. I have a cynical bent which really adds nothing to anyone's life. Sorry. Now it's time for people to stop being shocked over MJ's death and start making money, I suppose. If his life was symbolic of all that was wrong in our culture, his death will be even more so.

My son went to see Transformers last night. Said it was too long and that Megan Fox looks like she has an Adam's Apple. That's a little scarey.

It's miserably hot and dry here. I don't want to go out; it's hard to breathe the air.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Curmudgeon

Why do we act like we know people like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon?

Why do we act like their lives and deaths matter to us?

Or are we just gawkers and rubberneckers?

Why doesn't the media report something that matters? Michael Jackson's death now nullifies the importance of Iran and North Korea as far as the news media is concerned. Shame on Fox News especially.

Michael Jackson symbolized everything that was wrong with this country.

On the other hand, I suppose it makes us (some of us) aware of our aging and soon-to-come mortality. Our youth, when we paid atention to pop stars and movie stars, is gone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Things Fall Apart

I always use Yeats' Poem "The Second Coming" to introduce the 20th century in my humanities class. It is haunting, and the students get it. For quite a while I have wanted to read Chinua Achebe's which uses the key phrase from that poem, "Things fall apart, the centre does not hold" in its title. I finally checked it out and read it over the weekend.

It's an amazing book. My comments can't do it justice, and I appreciate that it was short enough to read in one sitting yet I will come back to it time and again. Somehow he has combined a Western art form, the novel, with African literary forms. Somehow he makes us understand the Africans in a new way, to see that they had a true culture and were not primitive, even if they did practice what we would consider some pretty "uncivilized" and disturbing customs, such as abandoning twins to the elements and drinking out of the skulls of enemies. (the sad irony of the infanticide is that the staple food of many African tribes is yams, which are very high in Vitamin A and make women more fertile; twins are more common. I had this discussion with a Nigerian student last year and had read it years ago in Time, and he affirmed it.) No, their culture was not what Westerners would consider the best, but it was not primitive, as the abrupt and last sentence implies. What a way to end a novel; a literal slap in the face.

I especially liked the inclusion of African tales, and my favorite line in the novel was "Every story is true." Only a fiction writer would understand that line. Every story is not fact, but every story is true; every good story at least. We create a true universe, an internally true and consistent one, when we write fiction.

I also like that it shows, and I think legitimately, how some nationals respond to missionaries. I'm a huge fan of missionaries but I also know there have been some ineffective ones and ones who hurt the cause of missions more than helping it. And I like that it allows multiple perspectives. I am not a huge fan of first person narration because of the limited perspective; I tend to think many writers who use it are being lazy. We get to see inside the heads of characters I liked a lot better than Okwondo, the main character, who is acted upon by uncontrollable external forces but acts or reacts in a way that is true to his nature.

I am sorry it took me so long to read Things Fall Apart, and I look forward to a second read.

Obama Watch

I think Pres. Obama is within the right not to respond too quickly to the Iranian situation. It's a gamble either way. Yes, the Iranian people want to know the rest of the world is behind them; who in their situation wouldn't? And there is the argument that doing the right thing is more important than not making the mullahs mad so that they reciprocate tenfold. On the other hand, there is a little irony to me that the country that held our citizens hostage thirty years ago wants our support now. Maybe it wasn't the same people in the protests who took over the embassy. Maybe it was. Now that they have lived under Islamic rule, maybe they have had a change of heart.

It's complex, so I don't think he's wrong to be circumspect. But I respect the arguments on the other side.

On another matter, he admitted today that he still occasionally smokes and that's why it was important to pass that sweeping nanny/mommy state legislation yesterday--he knows how addictive it is and he started as a teenager and still struggles, etc. Empathy rules again, I suppose. Yes, this was the choice we had--a man who survived five years in a Vietnamese prison without betraying his country, and a man who can't stop smoking. Humm. And who won?

Granted, smoking is gross and horrible and addictive, no argument there. But the allure of smoking isn't going to go away; we've been preached at for forty years, increasingly every year, on the evils of smoking and people still do it. Liberals are such hypocrites. The drinking age should be lowered to 18 so that it won't be such a forbidden fruit to 18-21 year olds; smoking should be made even more difficult to do. HuHH?? And these are the same people who don't mind if a 13-year-old who was seduced by a 25-year-old gets an abortion in the eighth month without her parents' knowledge.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Generation Me

Just finished Jean Twenge's Generation Me and hope by the end of the summer to read her new book on narcissism, if I can find a copy. I'm not buying books anymore--I pay taxes for libraries, and that's what they are for.

I would recommend the book to anyone who deals with people under the age of 35, which of course is most of us, and all teachers of any education level. She does an excellent job of describing the problem and a pretty good job of diagnosing the cause; I'm less enthusiastic about some of her solutions, although a few were pretty sound from my point of view. Her advice to employers about dealing with Generation Me is the normal idealistic counsel of an academic who has never run a business or had to deal with a payroll. But she doesn't idealize the people caught up in this generation (not everyone of that age group fits the bill, but I have seen it plenty). She is honest that the self-esteem movement, especially, has pushed many of them to borderline narcissism, which I see every time I log onto Facebook. Do these people really think we care if they are brushing their teeth? Yet here I am blogging to nobody.

So chalk this one up as a must read. It's not ponderous and can be devoured in a couple of days (and I don't consider myself a fast reader).

Next up, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Sarah Palin is Hated

I's not what you believe that counts. It's what you believe enough to do.

Provocative quote (not attributed).

As for the title above, here they are:
1. She's prolife.
2. She's prolife and believes it enough to do something about it.
3. She's prolife and still got to be the governor of a state; she didn't have to abort her child to do so.
4. She's prolife even when it means giving birth to a disabled child.
5. She's not ashamed of her children even when they don't measure up.
6. She is not from the elitest places and schools on the coasts.
7. She is a good speaker and people in the heartland like her.
8. She got to be governor of a state without any family connections; let's be real, most liberal women had dads or husbands in politics (or very wealthy,like Pelosi) and didn't do it on their own.
9. As one blog states, she is a man's woman--pretty but not sexy and silly, willing to get out there and hunt and fish, willing to play by men's rules and not whine about the need to feminize politics.
10. She and her husband ran a business and she has run a state. Liberals don't do that.
And I'll go Letterman one better. 11. She doesn't back down. She doesn't cry when contradicted or insulted. She doesn't put up with crap, and I think she's finally had enough.

The Servant

I just finished the short book, The Servant. It was recommended by my students because another teacher requires it. I suppose for a younger person dedicated to making money and who has not spiritual background, it is earth-shattering. To me it was cliched, and a little dishonest. I read it thinking this was a real experience, but the planned-ness of the dialogue was manipulative.

Woody Allen

Odd, perhaps, that I would write about a man I viscerally respond to as a little pervert, but there's more there. TCM played a documentary/interview with him the other night and it was haunting. Most of his movies are just silly, but a few were brilliant: Interiors, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. Others were grotesque; Manhattan particularly hits me that way in light of his future indiscretions, as does Deconstructing Harry (shows what he thinks of women, which isn't much.)

However, my point is what he said in the interview. While professing atheism, he kept saying "salvation." Salvation from what, one must ask? If there is no God, there is no eternal moral standard, therefore no sin, therefore no need for salvation. I think he meant salvation from .... meaninglessness? being forgotten? especially as an artist? He said many things in the interview that showed that even though he rejected God, he couldn't reject the repercussions of God.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is his most thoughtful movie, and he explained it as the comparison of one fellow who works hard but never achieves any success and one very successful person who can commit a murder and not get caught and not feel any real guilt ultimately; obviously it's a take on Dostoevsky. But he doesn't finish the story. We see the killer six months out, but what about six years? So one would have to ask is he an honest filmmaker? No; provocative, but not honest.

Hannah and Her Sisters is another. We are supposed to feel resolution that he and Diane Wiest will have a child at the end, but why is the child important? Because it proves his manliness? Because he loves her? Because a child is how one achieves immortality? I am struck again that there is a concern for meaning even if only temporarily found.

Someone more ensconced in film than I would have to really write on them; I just observe a postmodern dilemma; reject the metanarrative but still live with it in the shadows.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In Memoriam

This marks the passing of a supremely gracious man, James Rufus Faulkner. J.R. Faulkner married my husband and me on August 8, 1981, so that is sufficient enough for him to hold a special place in my heart. It was a crazy day with embarassing family members, but he was very kind about the whole thing.

Dr. Faulkner was the pastor or president, on and off, of Highland Park Baptist Church and Tennessee Temple. He was many more things, of course, just like everyone he was not definable by a job, but in J.R. Faulkner's case, it was more true. He was a golfer, poet, artist, mentor, songleader, husband and father of five sons who were all a credit to him. He was a humane person, which means much more to me than that he was a preacher. I don't hold preachers in high esteem if that's all they have going for them.

There is a wonderful youtube video of him and his wife in the nursing home; it's accessible by typing his name in the search engine there. I think he would have been perfectly happy that someone put the video on youtube; if he hadn't been blind he would have learned to use the computer himself.

The words a Rich Mullen song I've always liked seem appropriate here.

If I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through;
and if I fall let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you.
If I sing let it be for the joy that has born in me these songs.
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home.

Just wondering

I have heard people say they feel sorry for President Obama because of the situation he inherited. How silly. Inherited means it comes to you whether you want it or not. He wanted to be president and campaigned very hard and well, of course, for it. He is to be congratulated, not pitied, right? He kept his eyes on the prize and won it.

But he keeps saying he inherited the economy, the mess, etc. This serves several purposes: it creates a crisis mode so he can do more than a president should be allowed to do, it keeps pointing at the Bush administration instead of his own responsibilities, and it makes us think things are worse than they could ever be. If I hear this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression again, I'll puke. The Carter administration was much worse. I would argue that the president should be slow to tinker with the economy anyway.

But it occured to me this morning that maybe Obama simply didn't expect this. Prior to the tanking of Wall Street in October, McCain was ahead. People (most of whom have no principles to guide them) looked at their mutual funds losing 40% of their value and voted for the party not-in-office. Obama won, and yes, he got stuck with something he didn't expect to get stuck with back in 2007 when he started running and the economy was rosey and the only real issue was pre-surge Iraq and people had time to listen to theoretical ideas about fixing health care. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. The economy cannot sustain what he thinks he wants to do.

It's this simple: considering the ingenuity of the American people, if we had wanted a Canadian style health care system, we'd have already gotten one. We don't want it. Only that portion of the population that is moribundly dependent on the government does.

Hopefully, the strength of the AMA, trial lawyers, drug companies, and insurance industries will deter the debacle of state run health care.

Personally, I'm sick of his whining about the "mess" he's gotten. No other president has done this, especially when Bush has been so gracious to him. I'm sick of his self-righteousness and of his equating historical atrocities in other countries to the struggles for equality we have had. The difference is in kind as well as quantity; we have come out with more liberty and equality for everyone; in those other countries the genocides have only continued or extended inequality and oppression. I'm sick of my blood pressure going up everytime I see him on TV.

There will come a time when Americans will be pining for the Bush years. At least then we had a president comedians were free to mock; heaven knows they can't mock Obama, who defies it anyway because his policies are so scary. He's just not funny.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bumper Sticker Thoughts

There was a bumper sticker I saw occasionally during the Bush administration: "Are you appalled yet?" or something to that effect. I would usually just roll my eyes, although the person had a point. There is, and has been, much to be appalled by in this world, and if we aren't appalled by it, something is wrong.

In terms of bumper stickers, I've noticed they have come back into vogue. It seemed that they went away for a while; my husband says it was because of the popularity of leased cars, which more or less prohibited bumper stickers. And maybe the new generation styles itself as a new type of hippie, and bumper stickers were really the thing in the 70s. So they are back to entertain, challenge, anger, and make those eyes roll.

I also notice that I see many more Obama/Biden stickers than I did before the election; I think many people got them after he won, not willing to commit before then. I even have to wonder how many who didn't vote for him, and wouldn't have under other circumstances, are sporting the stickers. Everybody loves a winner, eh? One blogger has pointed out that normally the running mate's name is the same size as the presidential candidate; this is never the case with Obama. His ego has to take up 60% or more of the sticker space, I suppose.

While I agree there were some things to be legitimately appalled by from 2001-2008, my capacity to be appalled has been pushed to the limit since November; I wonder how much of the American population is suffering from the deer in headlights phenomena, unable to fathom how this administration is trying to reconfigure what we always knew. Whether this is good or bad I will leave others to judge. I know only how I feel about it, which is angry for the most part, and a little hopeless at times. The hopelessness is salved by my faith in the American people but primarily Christ. But I must recognize that if my anger comes from feeling like my own position will be hurt, then that is wrong. If it comes from true concern about huge government and deficits, that's another.

I am more appalled by Hollywood and the media than Obama, really. Why can't Letterman keep his trap shut about Palin and her family? The man is psychotic. Why are comedians, etc. so obsessed with her? She scares the hell out of them, and I love it. As Dennis Miller says, I have to like her if for no other reason than that she is hated by people I disdain so much.

Boy, that was a rant, wasn't it, especially after my "spiritual" talk. But I'm too old to be polite and sweet where politeness and sweetness don't work or matter.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Chattanooga

Fifteen years ago I gladly moved away from downtown Chattanooga, but not so far that I can't go there within fifteen or twenty minutes. And the powers that be have revitalized the city into a place residents can be proud of. I spent most of my day there.

After church (I imagine I'll always go to church in Chattanooga, because of the clientele!) I went to the Chattanooga market. It was a different bunch of vendors today, somewhat. More produce, organic and local farmers. I bought some strawberries, met two colleagues and their partners, ate a sandwich and read to kill time before meeting students at the Hunter. I am happy to say that within a week I will be eating tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and peppers from my own garden and won't need the local produce so much.

I require my Humanities students to visit the Hunter because it is too wonderful a museum not to go to, and I always plan to meet them there at least once. The first Sunday of the month is free, so this was a good day. 70% of my class showed up! (7 out of 10; it's a small class). I was pleased. This being Riverbend week, a lot of other people seemed to have the same idea, since the place was more packed than I'd ever seen it.

I have the opportunity to see Three Dog Night tonight. Will I take it?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Beth Moore

In January I was introduced to Beth Moore Bible studies. I had heard of her for quite a while, but as I am not a trend follower (you can tell from my hairdo), I had not paid much attention. But I decided to try her out for the study of Esther. At the end, I doubted I would take one again. Although I admired the depth of her studies, I didn't care for the large amount of time talking about herself, her family, her marriage, her hair, and generally just being funny. The programs were an hour long and could have been much shorter to allow for more discussion.

However, I needed a break this summer so my class agreed to listen to another one. We are doing the one about the life of Paul. I watch the tapes ahead of time for preparation, and I'm amazed. Whoever that person was (maybe ten years ago?) I like her much better. She is reverent, serious, and on point. I am seriously considering writing her and suggesting she go back to her old personality. She is too great a student of the Word to be so fluffy.

Friday, June 05, 2009

New Experience

Last night I got home from my night class, dead tired (not sure why) and feeling like a cold was coming on, so I plopped in front of the TV and watched most of Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" and all of "Wild Strawberries." Reading subtitles for three hours didn't make my head feel any better when it was over with, but I'm glad for the experience, having never watched any Bergman films before but often thinking I should.

"The Seventh Seal" is still a mystery to me (I assume it's about trying to escape death and its inevitability, but obviously there is more to it), so I'll comment on the second. It's a very moving film not because of any sentimentality but because of its humanity; unlike many movies, I didn't have any trouble believing in the existence of this old man, even in what he dreamed. It is full of visual metaphors that would take several viewings to get; my favorite was the clocks with no hands. What does it mean? Not sure, but it will remain with me forever. It had a surreal quality but an also very real one. The young people he meets were so charming; the dream of his parents at the end so calming and resolving; his daughter-in-law's struggle so fitting; her and her husband's resolution so satisfying without hysteria.

As is often said, no one would make a movie like this today. And I am reminded that all art is an act of faith. We commit ourselves to objectivity our vision, not knowing how long it will take, how much it will take us away from "life" and others, how it will be perceived, if there will be any quality to it, if any one will over take the time to experience it. This is to say nothing of the money aspect; films are expensive to make and somebody's got to pay; other art forms may not take an up-front cash influx but money's lost somewhere in the process.

It takes faith to start and maintain and finish anything, but I think art takes a special measure. It took me eight years to finish and publish "Traveling Through," and I don't know when the others will see publication. I want to start "Borders" (working title of the next one) but it needs some research and I know now how much time writing a novel takes, and this one will not be appropriate for OakTara.

A friend who reads fiction on the radio is going to read my novel starting Thursday. Perhaps that will give a bigger audience. She wants to interview me on Monday night to play the interview before the reading. HUMMMMM. I will have to make it a special effort to hear her read it since she is so kind to do it. She, like many others, likes the book a great deal. I know it is good; doing my own publicity is still hard.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fellowship

What must it be like to attend church with someone who has killed 60,000 unborn children?

And we Baptists worry over church discipline on someone who cheated on his/her spouse.

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 28:1-8, second pass

The passage is unclear as to whether the two women saw the resurrection here, but I don’t think so.   They would probab...