At Home He's a Tourist

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

Saturday, March 15, 2003

I didn't go hiking because the forecast predicted scattered thunderstorms. Alas, the NWS was wrong, so I ended up spending a beautiful spring day indoors, cleaning.

It seems that most of my human contact these days is with restauranteurs. This evening I went to dinner at a small Mexican restaurant here in town and chatted briefly with the owner. Since Hispanics are almost the majority here, I expected to find a lot more authentically slummy Mexican restaurants, but the ones I had been to so far have served standard Tex-Mex fare. This one is more promising: the waitress didn't speak English, most of the other clientele were also Hispanic, and the menu had peasant fare like Menudo and Barbacoa. The owner is from Guadalajara but his English wasn't bad; he told me I could request other delicacies like tongue tacos or pig feet soup. ¡Ay caramba!

I saw a Frida Kahlo self-portrait on the wall, which made me want to see the biopic starring Selma Hayek. Is it out on DVD yet?

Friday, March 14, 2003

Teresa of Avila says that contemplative prayer is a gift which God does not give to everybody. I would like this gift, but I don't know how long to wait before deciding I'm not on the list. My prayer life has been pretty dry the past few years, but John of the Cross tells us that's a usual condition of spiritual growth, so I'll stick with it a while longer.

Tip for prog rock fans: Don't listen to Pink Floyd's "Time" if you have realized that your life, on all reasonable expectations, is half over and you have accomplished little of what you hoped to do.

The library was closed because of spring break so I frittered the hours in an off-hand way: bought a well-worn love seat for twenty bucks at a garage sale from a talkative old coot who's moving to Lousiana; went grocery shopping; played some Dylan tunes on the guitar; went around town taking photos with the digital camera; watched a couple of Monty Python episodes; killed Maleficient on "Kingdom Hearts"; and blogged. Tomorrow I might go hiking along an old section of railroad converted into a trail. There's supposed to be a train tunnel that now serves as a haven for bats, and a wooden trestle further down the line.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I was just thinking today that I should drop the editor at Library Journal a line to inquire about the status of my reviewing application, but they beat me to it. I got an email saying I'd been accepted as a religion reviewer! I'll get my first assignment in a few weeks.

On a highly tangential note, if the church is granted infallibility, what point is there in her spending time and effort debating theological issues before settling them? As far as I know, it is not a part of the Roman Catholic doctrine that the pope is infallible only when he has undertaken some minimum amount of study. He could define dogmas much more easily by some randomizing device, like the Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament, or perhaps by flipping a coin: heads, Mary is coredemptrix; tails, not. Sounds irresponsible? Exactly my point: perhaps the reason God did not grant the church infallibility was to give her the dignity of freedom. The moral significance of responsibility depends on the real possibility of being irresponsible.

I also don't understand the belief of some Catholics that it is often "inopportune" to define a true doctrine as dogma at a particular time. Supposedly Newman's resistance to the doctrine of papal infallibility was along these lines. Usually the concern is ecumenical: if such-and-such is made de fide, then such-and-such church (usually the Orthodox) will be less likely to submit to Rome. Such reasoning strikes me as sinister, as if to say "We'll put up a front of similarity until the heretics join us, and then spring the new doctrine on them." If a doctrine is part and parcel of the apostolic faith, then the members of the church deserve to be told so immediately.

Lubbock has a new Indian restaurant! Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Yoshimi finishes 3rd in Village Voice's Pazz and Jop poll, behind Wilco and Beck. In this connection Christgau says:

Wilco's and Beck's integrity comes down to a stubborn determination—distinctly American in its folksy affect and go-it-alone-ism—to tell the world how very ineffective they feel. There's honor in this. But right below Beck, a better way glints through yet another pokey piece of soundscape Americana, the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, where the psychedelic nutballs joke, cope, hope, and okey-doke with a lot more life than on 1999's The Soft Bulletin. I might have A-listed it if the pink robot was Dick Cheney instead of a stock sci-fi villain.

Lubbock natives The Flatlanders placed a respectable 155th (out of about 1700) with their new album.

Has some critic compared Yoshimi to Styx's 1983 Kilroy Was Here? Memory of the latter is hazy, but I think both are concept albums about futuristic conflicts involving robots and Japan. I doubt the Flaming Lips would relish the comparison.

Monday, March 10, 2003

I'm spending too much time writing and rewriting my first Choice review; perfectionism is such a drain. I'll force myself to wrap it up and send it off tomorrow.

The digital camera is great! To upload pictures, though, I not only need to buy space from blogspot, but also a spiffier version of blogger. Total cost would be about $80 a year.

I've lost a lot of my interest in Big Ideas lately. I don't have much desire to read philosophy or theology. Is this a reaction against my failure to get an academic job? Did I get burned out from spending my long stretch of unemployment reading patristics 8 hours a day? Or is it part of the natural progression of life to spend a few years (or more in some cases!) deciding what one believes, then to put the books aside and live out the newly adopted worldview? In any case, I won't force anything but will let Aquinas, Calvin, and Kierkegaard gather dust while I play with my digital camera, watch the Simpsons on DVD, drink microbrews, and pray the Daily Office.

Time to beat the cyberbushes with a new, deliberately provocative opinion, to see if I can't flush out some comments. Thesis: Women should continue to wear veils in church even in our age, because the considerations St. Paul appeals to in mandating the practice are blatantly not bound to a particular time and culture, but have universal theological validity (1 Cor. 11:2-16). Plus, veils would restore some of the feminine mystique which has been continually dismantled over the past century or so.

Did I say I was bored of theology?

Sunday, March 09, 2003

The weekend wasn't so bad after all. Although I didn't do anything on Friday evening, and Saturday afternoon was spent on domestic/menial chores like cleaning the house and getting the car washed, things picked up (relative to my ordinarily static existence) on Saturday evening. K. and I went to the Pentecostal Church for the heavily advertised "Christian anime." Either the Pentecostals are ignorant or they are guilty of false advertisement, because the show wasn't a movie at all but a skit put on by a traveling evangelist. The Devil, dressed as a street thug, harangued the audience about the various temptations he uses to draw people to hell, while a gang of Goth gals as demons dragged people from their seats (plants, no doubt) and tormented them to the sound of heavy metal music. Sort of a combination of Screwtape Letters and World Wrestling Federation. Magic tricks and pyrotechnics added to the pizazz. Jesus, a clean cut young Hispanic in khakis and polo shirt, came to save the day. There were also hokey interludes when the large, painfully loud multimedia system played Christian music videos while the actors on stage lip synched and mimed along. The place was packed with people of all ages and races. At the end the charismatic producer/evangelist made a very slick altar call which got hundreds of people in the audience to go down to the stage to get saved--"right there, right then." Somebody tell me if this sort of thing is at all common in American Christianity--it seemed really weird to me. (But I'm a liturgical snob, after all.) Afterwards K. and I went back to my place for a less spiritual pastime--violent shoot 'em up games on the PS2 and (for me) an extremely dry martini.

Today was nice. I went to another Episcopal church in Lubbock. I was hoping that, being close to the Texas Tech campus, it would have a lot of students, but such was not the case. And surprisingly there was no coffee time after the service, so there wouldn't have been much of an opportunity to meet them anyway. But the service was "Rite I," which has the old-fashioned language and theology I like, and the interior was attractive in that elegant but muted way characteristic of the time when the Episcopal Church was solidly Protestant--columned, spotlessly white walls, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, pews perfectly perpendicular, stained glass windows stressing the verbal over the pictoral. A string ensemble added to the general snootiness. But the priest was an unpretentious Southerner whose homily offered practical spiritual advice dressed up in homespun metaphors.

Then per usual I went to the Indian restaurant for their lunch buffet. Being the only customer, I was able to have a nice chat with the Sikh man who owns the place. We talked religion and politics without any of the proverbial unpleasantness as a result. When I asked him whether he found it difficult being Sikh without much of a like-minded community in west Texas, he said "The true temple is within," pointing to his heart. He had lived in Iran but got out when he saw people getting killed on the streets of Teheran during the Revolution. I hope he stays in business, but everytime I've been in there I've been the only customer so it doesn't look good to me.

I spent the afternoon shopping: I got a new pair of shoes and a nifty digital camera (3.2 MP, 6X optical zoom, movie and sound capability, 64 MB picture card) that I'm really looking forward to using. I'll have to buy some web space from blogspot and upload pictures.

In the evening I went to St. Christopher's for their lenten potluck supper and church history class. In discussing the process whereby the canon of Scripture was settled, the priest exhibited that nuance and moderation which I appreciate in Anglicanism. He pointed out that there were minor disagreements over the canon in the early church, and some books are clearly more important than others, but all of them (and even the Apocrypha) can be used for edification.