At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Another Lubbock excursion today. First stop: the American Wind Power Center and Windmill Museum, a long corrugated tin building with a couple of dozen antique windmills on display inside and another dozen or so scattered on the grounds outside. To be exact, these aren't wind mills but wind-powered pumps that draw water from underground for cattle to drink. They are so common around here as to be emblematic--our phone book, for instance, has a photo of one on the front cover, there is a bronze sculpture of one on our courthouse lawn, replicas of them decorate yards, etc. I like 'em. They are the only flowers that spring up on these plains. The museum admission was free but they got my money for a poster reproduction of an old Aermotor advertisement showing a happy farm family driving their new windmill home in a Model T (?) pick up.

Then I took a look at the National Ranching Heritage Center on the Tech Campus. It's a collection of old buildings and artifacts from the heyday of west Texas cattle ranching. Here I was able to ruin a pair of dress shoes by stepping in an unmarked section of wet concrete.

To take a break from the sightseeing, I zipped south on I-27 to make a booze run. At the Llano Estacado winery I got a free taste test of six different varietals, including my first ever sample of port (delicious). I mentioned to the tour guide that I don't like white wines, and he explained that, except for Chardonnay, white wines are not barrel-aged, and hence don't pick up the oak flavors--and yet Texans prefer the sweetness of white wine to the dryness of the reds and so 80% of the winery's output is white wine. I picked up a bottle of Chardonnay (to give the white wines one more chance for my affections) as well as a bottle of their top-drawer Merlot on sale. On the way back to town I stopped by the Strip to get some more New Belgium ale, a half pint of Amaretto, and a fifth of Bushmills. I'm not going to say how much all of this cost me, but I'm hoping I'm well supplied at least for the next month and a half.

Back into town I took a quick look around the Texas Tech Museum. Unfortunately I moved into the area too late to see the Vatican exhibition which a Lubbock priest had somehow managed to bring to the museum, and there wasn't too much I saw in their permanent collection. So after a half-hour or so I was back on the highway heading home. I'll be making the same drive tomorrow morning for church.

Friday, February 21, 2003

A little rain today, the first this calender year. It's an unusually dry winter, I'm told, even by west Texas standards.

Latest French movie watched: 8 Women. This is a strange one: a combination of classic, suspects-sequestered-in-a-country-manor murder mystery, melodramatic chick-flick, star vehicle, and musical! The mystery isn't taken seriously; it's only an excuse to show varieties of female personalities and relationships. The musical numbers, renditions of 1960s French pop songs, are jarringly out of place and uninteresting to most Americans, although those with a taste for camp might find it fun to see the all-star team of actrices like Deneuve, Huppert, Beart, Ledoyen, and Sagnier hamming it up. If you fast forward through the songs, give it a B.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Read Cordwainer Smith's "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" last night. Smith imagines mankind getting bored of the bland utopia created for them by an inner circle of overlords called the Instrumentality. That seems to have been a concern of twentieth century science fiction (cf. Huxley's Brave New World, Lem's Return from the Stars). The excitement in Smith is seeing prophetic figures rise up to restore mankind to "normal."

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Coming back to Texas after a 12-year hiatus up north has meant getting reintroduced to some regional conversational idiosyncracies. To name a few:

(1)The pro forma invitation--"We'll have to have you over sometime" you are told, and never hear from the person again.

(2)The honey-coated dagger--"She's an odd bird, but she sure loves the Lord."

(3)The "Lord just" prayer--"Lord we just lift up Harold, and we just pray that he recover from his bursitis and Lord we just ask that you be with his family, Lord..."

(4)Baptist lingo--"We preach the Bible, not theology," "a relationship, not a religion," "centered in the will of God," "personal relationship with Jesus."

The Sunday after the shuttle accident I went to both a Baptist and a Catholic service. The Baptist preacher was careful to pray only for the crew's family, whereas the Catholic priest prayed for the souls of the departed. It seems to me even the Protestant can pray for the deceased, since God foresees the future and on Saturday morning could give grace to the dying crew in response to the prayers on Sunday morning. (This is why I don't think 2 Macc 12: 40-45 proves the doctrine of purgatory, contrary to the assertions of some RC apologists.)

The local news reported that those copters were military and stopped at our municipal airport for refueling on the way from Fort Carson, Colorado to Fort Hood, Texas. They're eventually to be sent to the Middle East.

Google bought Blogger; I don't know if that means more, or different, pop-up ads.

Monday, February 17, 2003

I got my first Choice reviewing assignment, a reference site on the Internet for philosophy. I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn't a real book; I hope that Choice hasn't relegated me to reviewing reference works, which is usually what librarians as opposed to teaching faculty do for the magazine. However, the exercise will reinforce my professional training because in my review I have to use those favorite criteria of librarians: scope, authority, audience, usability, currency.

I got in touch with my literacy student. We're tentatively planned to meet Wednesday after next. His overt gratitude made me actually look forward to it.

Driving to the bank, I saw a line of 11 black unmarked helicopters circle around town and then set down at the airport. Is the U.N. finally imposing the New World Order?

Sunday, February 16, 2003

I could hit myself! Back in January, you may remember, I stayed in town over an entire weekend and experienced a horrifying nothingness. Even though the alternatives, Amarillo and Lubbock, ain't that great, I vowed never to stay put again. Well, I did, and this time over a three* day weekend! I didn't even make it to church. Damn laziness. I feel bored and dissipated. My brother bet me that I couldn't last here a year and advised me to start sending out resumes. Could he be right?

Oops, I forgot that I wanted to stop complaining. Gotta think of something positive...Well, at least I made progress on Kingdom Hearts (a PlayStation2 game), saw a pretty good movie (Taste of Others), and figured out a few chords of another Sundays song ("Skin & Bone").

On Friday a CD I ordered from came in the mail. The CD is Bossa Per Due by one Nicola Conte, an Italian acid jazz artist. I'll fess up that I got interested in it from hearing a clip on Acura's "Palm Springs" advertisement: an otherworldy female voice sings haunting nonsense over a techno Bossa Nova beat. It sounded good, and since I liked the only acid jazz album I had ever heard before, St. Germain's Tourist, I decided to give Conte a chance. But, as it turns out, music that sounds good as a backdrop to scenes of driving through southern California doesn't necessarily stand on its own. It's not terrible but it's a little shallow, and the kitschy retro-lounge stylings can get cloying (and I say this as a Stereolab fan). It's possible I'll change my mind after listening to it a few more times, but luckily Conte's career doesn't hinge on one blogster's opinion so I feel free to spout off.

I was reading Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection, but her maxims are so narrowly tailored to the cloistered life that I'm not finding the book very useful. Not that I'm complaining or anything.

*One of my favorite writers, C. S. Lewis, says that using italics for emphasis is the mark of a lazy writer. I'm not sure I agree; would he get rid of exclamation points too? What think ye?