At Home He's a Tourist

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

Saturday, April 12, 2003

There is finally a complete online edition of Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity


On Bibliolatry I found this link to instructions on how to get free WorldCat access through Abebooks. I haven't tried it, since we have WorldCat at work, but thought some of y'all might like to know.

Movie Corner

Bridget Jones's Diary--Not a bad specimen of the romantic comedy. Although Renée Zellweger gained weight for the part, she's still too attractive to be playing a dateless loner--but I've complained about that sort of thing before. Lit geeks should keep an eye out for the Pride and Prejudice allusions, while Christians will appreciate the importance placed on humility and forgiveness.

Lucia y el Sexo--I knew, of course, that a film with such a title would show a lot of skin, but I didn't think it would turn out to be nothing more or less than porn, although porn with a budget. Flimsy plot, undeveloped characters, enormous phalluses...I quit watching halfway through. I also find it depressing to see too much unattainable physical beauty (in this case, both the beauty of the Mediterranean environs and that of the lead actress, one Paz Vega).

Sweet and Lowdown--Woody Allen's semi-historical biopic of Emmet Ray, a jazz guitarist of the 1930s, is a minor but capable entry in the Allen filmography. A pseudo-documentary style, with talking heads of Allen and various jazz historians interspersed between scenes, belies the fact that this is largely fictional--or, in a weird way, perhaps largely autobiographical, as the portrayal of Ray as a man too obsessed with his own artistic ambitious to relate successfully to women could be a reflection of Allen's own problems. One problem I had is that swing guitar seems too chirpy to carry any deep emotional resonance, so when the characters in the movie went on about how Ray's playing is so beautiful it makes them cry, I was at a loss. (I bought a Django Reinhardt CD once and could only listen to it as pleasant background music.) But there are some good jokes and the usual Allen nostalgia for the jazz age makes this an enjoyable period piece.

Tomorrow afternoon I might see a matinée showing of Chicago, mainly to kill time between morning services and the evening potluck at church.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

scan·sion n. Analysis of verse into metrical patterns. (

Alanis Morissette Under Rug Swept [Maverick, 2002]

Once dissed as the voice of pseudofeminist exploitation, Morissette was in fact a thinking original in a showbiz context she had the stuff to make something of. The pop-rock here lacks the faux-punk edge Glen Ballard got on the debut and the expansive grandeur he manufactured for the follow-up. But Morissette instantly demonstrates her gift for the catchy, crunching out a guitar riff and then revealing 21 "not necessarily needs but things that I prefer" in a lover. Stretching out il-lu-si-on and for-med to suit scansion or mood, opposing capital punishment and coming out for sex "more than three times a week," topping memorable verse with indelible chorus, she's a self-actualized nut who goes for what she wants, exactly as pretentious as the college girls she represents for. Whatever the biographical details, I hear love songs to a narcissist, an old flame, an "employee" (has anyone used that word in a song before?), plus a self-doubt anthem for perspective and gorgeous regrets for pathos. Even when the forced pronunciations turn gauche, she remains a good egg who's not afraid to put herself on the line. A- (

Thursday, April 10, 2003

After complaining that Library Journal singled out religious believers as particularly prone to bias on the reviewer application form, I find myself faced with the unpleasant task of practicing what I preach. LJ sent me my first reviewing assignment and I couldn't be less sympathetic to the book's thesis. It's a Marxist-feminist critique of the Old Testament's supposed misogny, racism, and classism, the deadly sins according to post-modern theology. Ideology aside, there's an additional problem in that I'm no expert on biblical criticism and I don't know Hebrew. Wish me luck.

I've also received a philosophy book from Choice for review, so my blogging might suffer. (Depending on where my priorities are.)

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

Trepan v.t. and i. (Surg.) To perforate (the skull) with a trepan, so as to remove a portion of the bone, and thus relieve the brain from pressure or irritation; to perform an operation with the trepan. (

Ice-T Greatest Hits: The Evidence [Atomic Pop, 2000]

I missed "Cop Killer" (at least "KKK Bitch," or--remember, Eminem?--"Momma's Gotta Die Tonight") until I accepted Ice-T for what he here chooses to be: not an outrageous ironist but a cold-eyed truth peddler, a man who knows from well-remembered, -observed, and -imagined experience that crime sometimes pays and usually doesn't. Not only does no G get trepanned here, no woman gets misused; the violence is almost all suffered or recalled. Thus contextualized, the clarity, economy, and devastating detail of the man's rapping and rhyming are a benison, turning the spare beats he favors into an ascetic aesthetic. A (

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Last week, as I was ordering replacements for books missing from our shelves, I started adding up all the reasons in favor of a completely digital academic library. It's a compelling argument. Besides making it nearly impossible to lose or steal volumes, an e-collection would be accessible from home; more than one person could use the same volume at the same time; the concept of "circulation" would be obsolete, eliminating late fees; misshelving would no longer impede access; one could search millions of volumes simultaneously, either full-text or with controlled vocabulary; material for which currency is important, such as encyclopedias, could be updated by the publisher much more easily and cheaply than by printing a new edition; space constraints would become irrelevant. I like the sensory aspects of printed matter, the Word Made Flesh, but I think the docetism of e-text is destined to become the new orthodoxy.

The main problem is getting the money to scan in the current print holdings of the world's libraries, a huge undertaking.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

an·o·mie (or an·o·my) n. 1. Social instability caused by erosion of standards and values. 2. Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals: “We must now brace ourselves for disquisitions on peer pressure, adolescent anomie and rage” (

Camper Van Beethoven Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart [Virgin, 1988]

Suddenly these postmodern postfolkie weirdos are transformed into, of all things, a rock band--sans chops. And unfortunately, chops are an issue: both the one-dimensional matter-of-factness of the vocal concept and the time-keeping world-beat-by-numbers of the rhythmic philosophy stick out of Dennis Herring's honest AOR production, which messes up the band's balance even though it leaves everything but the mix untouched. Beneath this disorienting surface the message continues its evolution toward postanomie, and it would be a kick to hear "Life Is Grand," say, on the radio. But mainly on college radio, where the nay-sayers it's aimed at call the shots. And that's not the idea. B+ (

Monday, April 07, 2003

I just finished reading Graham Greene's A Burnt-Out Case. It runs along the same grooves as the typical Greene novel--a cynical ex-Catholic at the end of his emotional rope flees Europe to live out his days disengaged in some remote tropical locale, but cannot escape involvement with other people or obsession with his lost faith. Still, I never seem to get tired of the formula, perhaps because I was never able to have the relentlessly optimistic religiosity that is expected in American evangelicalism. And since I'm always finding hardback copies of his books at thrift stores and library sales for a quarter or two, the entertainment value is hard to beat.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

his·tri·on·ics n. pl. Exaggerated emotional behavior calculated for effect. (

ABC The Lexicon of Love [Mercury, 1982]

Since Bowie and Ferry sold surface in disguise back when they were supposedly saving rock and roll, I don't worry about this tribute band's lack of depth. Martin Fry's candid camp and ad-man phrasing don't fully justify his histrionic flights, but they do give him room to be clever, which is clearly his calling--some of these synthetic funk rhythms make me laugh out loud, and he's an ace jingle writer. "If that's the trash aesthetic I suggest that we forget it"? Not when your throwaways include bon mots like "looking for the girl who meets supply with demand." A- (

Sunday, April 06, 2003

I can't believe people are taking this boycott of all things French seriously. In line at the box office last night one woman told another she shouldn't be watching The Pianist because it's a Canal+ production! Fortunately the thought police didnt' bother me because I was there (at the megaplex in Amarillo) to see a Japanese import, Spirited Away by Hiyao Miyazaki of Princess Mononoke fame. I was shocked to find it playing in the area, and since there was a big severe weather conference being held yesterday in Amarillo anyway, I decided to make an extended outing of it. I loved the movie. It's a Japanese Alice in Wonderland in which a girl is trapped alone in a weird, magical world full of Shintoist spirits, sorcerers, and mythical creatures. It's as imaginative and exciting as the first Star Wars, and the theme is refresingly personal (you know, love and all that sort of stuff) compared to the cosmic doomsday plots I'm used to seeing in other anime films. Go see it, on the big screen if you can.

While in Amarillo I stocked up on alcohol, and it was in this way I violated the embargo, finding some Merlot from Bordeaux and, amazingly, a bottle of Calvados from Normandy. I don't know if the latter is a well-known brand but it better be good given how much I paid for it! The beer I bought, though, was Czech (Pilsner Urquell) and American (New Belgium), so I hope that cancels out the treasonous French purchases.

I also ate dinner at the little Latin American restaurant I had first tried back in December and, of course, had a chat with the owner/waitress. (As Pablo pointed out to me, it's easy to engage people in conversation when you're giving them money.) To blow time before the movie I stopped by the Hastings (an all-purpose entertainment store for smaller markets in the South and West) and, I am proud to say, bought only one used CD, the Velvet Underground's Loaded, with the gems "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane" worth every penny.

The storm conference was an all day affair held in the civic center. A few hundred people were in attendance. It was a pretty big deal, I reckon, since there were a number of speakers from the meteorological equivalent of the Pentagon, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and a lightning expert flew down from Chicago. Meteorologists from the NWS bureaux in Amarillo and Lubbock spoke, and there was a panel discussion with the local TV weathermen, one of whom was very funny for someone in a profession almost as nerdy as librarianship. I learned a few things I hadn't learned from the brief spotter training in Plainview, and I was excited to hear that everyone expects a strong storm season this year. I'm already on the lookout for anvil clouds.

I didn't get out of the movie until midnight. Add an hour for daylight savings and another 75 minutes for the drive back and, not surprisingly, I ended up sleeping in this morning. I might go down to Lubbock this evening for our supper and church history class, but my house really needs a good spring cleaning so perhaps I should devote the day to that.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

me•lis•ma n. pl. me•lis•ma•ta or me•lis•mas A passage of several notes sung to one syllable of text, as in Gregorian chant. (

Colors of the Day: The Best of Judy Collins [Elektra, 1972]

"Both Sides Now" could have been designed for her rich, relaxed, rather melodramatic contralto, but elsewhere you wonder why she devoted herself to popular music rather than some genuinely meaningful lifework--decorative gardening, perhaps, or distributing alms to the needy. To hear her strew subtle melismatic decorations over "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" is to wish you could get drunk with Sandy Denny. And to hear her perambulate through "Sunny Goodge Street" is to wanna walk the dog with Donovan Leitch. C+ (