At Home He's a Tourist

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

Friday, May 02, 2003

I'm going to the Promise Keepers conference in Lubbock this weekend. I have a low tolerance for the evangelical pep-rally approach to religion, but Young Veteran somehow got a bunch of free tickets and so I decided it would be an excuse to get out of the house. Besides, PK is a significant enough movement that experiencing it first-hand should have sociological value, right? I hope I don't have to cry and hug strangers, though.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I've almost finished "Final Fantasy X." The game has its share of D&D silliness, like the monsters who inexplicably wander around the woods loaded with treasure, or the women who rush into combat wearing the skimpiest outfits. But it's addictive nonetheless. I hope to get back to my DVDs once I finish.

I can appreciate regional pride, but I question whether our bookstore should be selling "cowboy scented candles." I've never smelled a cowboy, I admit, but I can't imagine it's very pleasant.

Speaking of unpleasant, a stomach virus has attacked a number of students and staff. I had a bad bout of Rotavirus in October so I hope the universe will recognize that I've paid my dues already and will let me off the hook this time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Encounters With the "Less Fortunate"

In the morning a small, malodorous Hispanic man wearing oversized glasses and an odd assortment of out-of-style dress clothes came in with a citation for drunk driving and asked politely if he could get the text of those sections of the Texas Code cited therein. We had a print copy of the Code from 1999, but I found the 2001 version on the Texas Legislature's web site. It was a shock to realize just how ignorant the patron was about computers, not knowing how to work the mouse, what IE was, etc., let alone how to distinguish reliable from unreliable pages. He then asked for the year when the legal blood alcohol percentage was lowered in Texas from .10 to .08, which I was able to answer by searching Infotrac for old articles in the Austin Statesman. I had the sinking feeling that the patron was attempting to argue his own case in court by claiming that the legal threshold had been changed too recently for ordinary citizens to find out about it.

This afternoon I finally had my first tutoring session at the literacy center. For the past couple of months I've been unable to get in touch with the students I was assigned, but I had no problem scheduling a session with this one. D.W. is a very pleasant, soft-spoken man around my age who's currently on probation for cocaine possession. Sounds like he's been through some hard times: parents murdered in Dallas, raised by grandparents here, started using marijuana and alcohol in high school, first wife killed, addicted to cocaine, busted by cops, jobs lost, driver's license rescinded, probation. The fact that he was allowed to graduate high school without being able to read says it all about public education in our country. Anyway, I was dreading the tedium of teaching the letters of the alphabet for an hour, but the workbooks are well-designed and I enjoyed the session.

After tutoring I practiced playing Steely Dan's "Black Cow" on the guitar for an hour. The album Aja has to have some of the richest chord charts outside of bebop. I think one reason I was disappointed in their comeback Two Against Nature is that it is comparatively impoverished harmonically.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

sen·ten·tious adj.

  1. Terse and energetic in expression; pithy.
    1. Abounding in aphorisms.
    2. Given to aphoristic utterances.

    1. Abounding in pompous moralizing.
    2. Given to pompous moralizing. (

Robbie Robertson [Geffen, 1987]

Once established as an icon of quality, he always took himself too seriously, and age has neither mellowed him nor wised him up. So now, casting about for a contemporary context, he hooks up with the two most sententious young artists of quality on the charts. Took some guts for such an unrepentant Americana-monger to risk Anglophobe wrath, but unfortunately, the mesh didn't take. Because whatever you think of Peter Gabriel and Bono Vox, you have to admit that unlike the old man they're a) idealistic, b) singers, and c) at no loss for context. C+ (

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Now that my favorite part of the church year, Holy Week, is over, I figured I could stand to miss "Low Sunday" at St. Christopher's in the hopes of meeting some interesting people elsewhere. I had originally intended to attend the Greek Orthodox church in Lubbock, but I discovered at the last minute that this weekend is the Orthodox Easter so their ordinary Sunday service had been canceled in favor of a Saturday night Pascha vigil. (That's the way it should be done, I might add.) So I went to ultra-modern Second Baptist instead, which our political science professor, a member, had recommended. In fact I didn't see him there, nor was I greeted by anyone else, so after sipping coffee for a few minutes I took off for Barnes and Noble, where I spent all afternoon writing and rewriting the LJ review due tomorrow. Yes, I'm a perfectionist, but at the same time I think it's genuinely difficult to fairly summarize and evaluate a book in under 175 words.

In the evening I went to Tech's Canterbury House to take the Eucharist. The typical liberalism of Episcopalianism is generally magnified in university settings, and with my sensors on heightened alert I detected a few warning signs. One woman wore a T-shirt proclaiming that "VAGINA is not a dirty word" and displaying an anatomical diagram of said orifice. On her car a bumper sticker read "Safe Sex is in the palm of your hand." Another gal had hairy legs, in my experience a symptom of either feminism or lesbianism. The priest had more Beatles posters than icons on his office walls. He also mangled the liturgy, omitting the Creed and the General Confession and substituting a reading about the Holocaust for the appointed Old Testament passage. On the other hand, when he mentioned that the Prayer Book was being revised (again!) one of the students complained that each subsequent revision waters down the theology still more. To which I said Amen--let's get back to the 1549 edition! There were about a dozen students in attendance, most of them undergraduate women, although the Young Veteran from St. Christopher's was also there. I'm not sure if I'll go back.

I've come across the motto "Vagina is not a dirty word" before, in an advertisement for "The Vagina Monologues." But I would think liberals would be opposed to the nomenclature; since "vagina" is the Latin for "sheath," it vividly and succinctly encapsulates a belief in the normativity of heterosexuality.

Robert Christgau Words of the Day

in·e·luc·ta·ble adj. Not to be avoided or escaped; inevitable.

dudg·eon n. A sullen, angry, or indignant humor.

shib·bo·leth n. 1. A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another. a. A word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword. b. A commonplace saying or idea. 2. A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider. (

Bruce Cockburn Big Circumstance [Gold Castle, 1989]

Where other singers have soul, Cockburn has dudgeon, fiercer and bitterer with every record. Delivering lines like "don't breathe when the cars go by" and "may their gene pool increase" as if his life depended on them, which before he's dead it could, he reveals rules about the ineluctable bad faith of the political for the know-nothing shibboleths they are. Too bad he still cultivates his "personal" side. I await a best-of filled with protest and nothing but. B (