At Home He's a Tourist

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

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Yep, small town Texas bleeds red white and blue. At the faculty/staff awards luncheon today the ceremonies kicked off with someone singing "I'm Proud to Be an American" to a karaoke track; at the third stanza everyone stood up, as if saying the Pledge of Allegiance to an invisible flag. Later in the afternoon, the Faculty Senate meeting opened with a Powerpoint slide presentation of scenes from Operation Iraqi Freedom accompanied by a Christian rock song. The woman who gave the presentation said she had shown it to her church during Easter service. I gag on force-fed patriotism and hate the mingling of politics and religion. Maybe I've forgotten, but I don't remember the Creed saying "I believe in One Conservative Republican and Evangelical Church."

This evening I went with a gang of library student workers to see Bulletproof Monk, a mediocre imitation of Jackie Chan's recent buddy flicks with elements of The Matrix and Indiana Jones thrown in. Later we headed to a dorm room where we played "Halo" on the X-Box; those young guys with their nimble thumbs wiped me out. One of them pointed out that I don't talk much, to which I, of course, said nothing. This has happened numerous times before. For instance, at a dinner party in Taiwan one of the natives, pleased to learn that the common English word for extroverted was "outgoing," turned to me and said "So you must be ingoing." When I worked one summer on the assembly line at a CD factory the old-fashioned Southern chatterbox sitting next to me said, "I hate how quiet you are; it makes me nervous." I'm constantly surprised how rude people can be but I have made my peace, to some extent, with being unusual. And if silence is good enough for the Trappists, it's good enough for me.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

lachrymal adj

  1. Of or relating to tears.
  2. Of, relating to, or constituting the glands that produce tears. (

The Eleventh House Featuring Larry Coryell [Vanguard, 1974]

In person, Coryell's restless imagination has held its own against Alphonse Mouzon's cute Latin funkisms and Randy Brecker's plasma, perspiration, and lachrymal secretions. In fact, I've found the synthesis hard and multilayered--but maybe it was just loud. Here the guitarist's straining electronicism is subsumed in neat melodic contrivances. Depressing--when somebody deserves better for as long as Coryell, you begin to wonder. B- (

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Gen X and Y irony can be cute, but pretending to like Pabst Blue Ribbon is ridiculous. No trend so silly that people won't march in lockstep to it.

Site of the day: TokyoDV, a look at the neverending weirdness of Japanese culture.

(Thanks to my brother for both of these.)

Not much to blog about; life is routine. I finished reading the Marxist-feminist biblical studies book Library Journal gave me to review. It reads like a dissertation, the drab prose clogged with endnotes to and lengthy quotes from the scholarly literature. The interpretations are sometimes clever but always speculative; for instance, according to the author the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the literacy to which the peasantry (symbolized by Adam and Eve) are forbidden access by the monarchy (God), a class distinction which is enforced by the military (the cherubim with the flaming sword). Almost as goofy as that academic joke which analyzes Gilligan's Island as an allegory of the Seven Deadly Sins (Skipper=Gluttony, Ginger=Lust, Maryann=Envy, etc.)

Tomorrow I'll go with K. and some of his undergraduate friends to see Bulletproof Monk. Since I like Kung Fu movies I'm hoping this spoof will be entertaining.

I found out that there is a Southern Baptist Library Association, and I found out I'm going to this year's meeting, in Austin. A couple of weeks ago my director handed me a brochure advertising the conference "in case I was interested." Since there were very few lectures scheduled, I figured I wouldn't learn much and so decided to forego. Today the director came in and said "The head of the SBLA called and asked if I was going and I said I wasn't but I thought you were." Turns out that the "in case I was interested" was an oblique way of saying I will be interested. I'll be traveling a lot next month; a week before the conference, I'll be flying out to Alabama for my sister's graduation.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

dough•ty adj. dough•ti•er, dough•ti•est

Marked by stouthearted courage; brave.(

The Band Stage Fright [Capitol, 1970]

I've gone both ways with this group--if Music from Big Pink didn't tempt me away from my urban fastness, The Band did manage to make me jump around in my apartment. What gets in the way of this follow-up, however, is neither natural alienation nor critical overanticipation--it's the music itself, which simply overmatches the words. The tunes are so bright and doughty, and the musicians pitch in with so much will, that the domestic banalities of side one seem out of place in a way those of Delaney & Bonnie, say, never do. And if the settings are too complex for what Robbie Robertson knows, they're too unfocused for what he doesn't know, as the confused politico-philosophical grapplings on side two make agonizingly clear. Memorable as most of these songs are, they never hook in--never give up the musical-verbal phrase that might encapsulate their every-which-way power. Which perhaps means that they don't have much to say. B+ (

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

ob•strep•er•ous adj.

  1. Noisily and stubbornly defiant.
  2. Aggressively boisterous. (

Bachman Turner Overdrive Head On [Mercury, 1975]

The bad-mouthing finally reached even a bemused admirer like myself, so that I was all ready with an alternate title--Flat Tired; pretty funny, eh?--until I listened one last time. Which is when I noticed that "Average Man" is a well-above-average cut, a typical paradox for this obstreperously ordinary group and album. Clomp on. B- (

I decided to order a copy of the Book of Concord, not knowing if any Baptists here would be interested in the foundational confessional statement of Lutheranism but figuring that it was a classic that should be in any theology collection. A few days later a student came in and checked out armloads of books on the Augsburg Confession, one component of the BOC. Hurray for me!

Shortly after I ordered Bloom's Hamlet: Poem Unlimited a student came in asking for books on the play; likewise, I ordered Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin and was later able to hand it to a student looking for criticism of Paradise Lost. I don't give myself as much credit for these matches because assignments on Shakespeare and Milton are as predictable a part of the academic routine as registration and the freshman fifteen.

I'm rushing to blow our budget before the fiscal year ends. Spanish has requested only a handful of items, so I'm using reference materials to simulate a crash course in Hispanic literature. I've already found significant gaps in our collection.

I need to read this Jorge Luis Borges chap. A librarian, a mystic, and an H.P. Lovecraft fan: what a combination!