At Home He's a Tourist

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

Thursday, May 08, 2003

At our session tonight my literacy student started asking questions about my love life. I wish people here weren't so nosy. Maybe I need to get back up to the Midwest where people just don't care.

Crank up the Lynyrd Skynyrd 'cause I'm going back home to Alabama tomorrow. I'm attending my sister's graduation from a master's program in school counseling. I have to get to the Amarillo airport by 7:30 a.m. which means leaving here by 6:00. Ugh. It's 10:30 and I haven't started packing, so I best wrap up this entry. Talk to y'all Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The budget is still a couple of thousand dollars in the black; I need to eliminate this surplus in the next week or so. I decided to give our German literature collection the once over, with the aid of a Britannica article on the subject, but I don't think I'll be able to blow the wad just on Krauts because we already have most of the big works by the big names. Two notable omissions are Rainer Maria Rilke and Gunter Grass, so I might be able to get rid of a few hundred bucks buying their works in the German. An even more surprising gap for a Baptist library is the absence of a German Bible, so I'll order a copy of Luther's translation.

I've found that foreign language materials are not easily obtained through the usual vendors (Baker and Taylor,, Midwest Library Service). The foreign versions of amazon have a lot of stuff, of course, but I don't think they deliver to the U.S. (P.S. I found out that will ship for 13 Euros plus 2.50 per item.)

You've probably heard that many of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of "Gilligan's Island" (try especially "Because I could not stop for death"). While at church I discovered to my chagrin that Dylan's "Gates of Eden" (except for the refrain) fits nicely into the tune "St. Columban," the usual setting for the hymn "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." I say "to my chagrin" because now whenever the rest of the congregation is devoutly singing:

In death's dark vale I fear no ill

With Thee, dear Lord, beside me,

Thy rod and staff my comfort still,

Thy cross before to guide me.

I'll be hearing:

The motorcycle black madonna

Two-wheeled gypsy queen

And her silver-studded phantom cause

The gray flannel dwarf to scream.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

apercu n.

  1. A discerning perception; an insight.
  2. A short outline or summary; a synopsis. (

X Los Angeles [Slash, 1980]

From poet-turned-chanteuse Exene to junk-guitar journeyman Billy Zoom, these aren't mohawked NME-reading truants who think Darby Crash is God or the Antichrist. They're sexy thrift-shopping bohos who think Charles Bukowski is Norman Mailer or Henry Miller. This may not be exactly the aura they crave, but combined with some great tunes it enables them to make a smart argument for a desperately stupid scene. Of course, when they're looking for a cover (or a producer), they go to the Doors, prompting L.A. critic Jay Mitchell to observe: "Their death and gloom aura is closer to the Eagles, which is to say it is all Hollywood." But only in L.A. is that an insult, elsewhere the distinction between a city and its industrial hub is more like a clever apercu. A- (

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

abrade tr.v. a·brad·ed, a·brad·ing, a·brades

  1. To wear down or rub away by friction; erode.
  2. To make weary through constant irritation; wear down spiritually. (

Wire The Ideal Copy [Enigma, 1987]

The Wire of punk myth abraded like the smell of gunpowder, fucking in the sand, a scouring pad. This is more like digital sound turned up too loud, a cold shower, a dash of after-shave: chronic alienation converted into quality entertainment. Except on a terrible track that outdoes slow Roxy Music, it's pretty bracing in both rock and disco modes. It's also nothing more. B- (

And for those who remember one of the series' earliest entries, "Peristaltic," here's a bonus...

Bjork Vespertine [Elektra, 2001]

I liked this a lot better once I heard how it was entirely about sex, which since it often buries its pulse took a while. Sex, not fucking. I'm nervous so you'd better pet me awhile sex. Lick the backs of my knees sex. OK, where my buttcheeks join my thighs sex. I'm still a little jumpy so you'd better pet me some more sex. How many different ways can we open our mouths together sex. We came 20 minutes ago and have Sunday morning ahead of us sex. Or, if fucking, tantric--the one where you don't move and let vaginal peristalsis do the work (yeah sure). The atmospherics, glitch techno, harps, glockenspiels, and shades of Hilmar Om Hilmarsson float free sometimes, and when she gets all soprano on your ass you could accuse her of spirituality. But with somebody this freaky you could get used to that. English lyrics provided, most of them dirty if you want. A-

Promise Keepers

It was, perhaps, only by divine providence that I made it to the Promise Keepers extravaganza. Since I wouldn't be able to get to Lubbock until after the opening events, the plan was that I would call Young Veteran's cell phone number to let him know I arrived, and he would step outside to give me my ticket. The first snag was that the venue, Tech's new corporate-sponsored basketball arena, didn't have any phones. I walked to the gym nearby to use their pay phone but the charge was $5.50 a minute, and I only had a dollar's worth of quarters on me. So I drove to a gas station and bought a calling card. Using the phone there, I got Young Veteran's voice mail. Hmm. I went to get some dinner and called later from the restaurant. Still no luck. I drove out of town to the Strip to pick up some beer (Paulaner and Sierra Nevada, for you beer snobs out there) and tried one more time with the last remaining credits on my card. Again the voice mail. By this time it was 8:00 so I figured it was a lost cause. I drove back into town and, deciding to swing past the arena one more time, I saw Young Veteran standing on the corner waiting to cross the street. He was just about to get in his truck and look for me at the gas station I first called from. It turns out that the praise band was playing their chipper tunes too loudly for him to hear the cell phone ringing. During the break he happened to look at his phone and see the messages. If I had left a minute earlier or later from the liquor store I would have missed him.

Still, if God did ensure that I attended the conference, I think it was more for my social than spiritual benefit. The guests were all accomplished speakers who skillfully injected humorous and poignant anecdotes into their talks, but beneath the emotional froth the theological substance was pretty thin. Surprisingly, there was very little which addressed specifically male concerns. I thought the original purpose of PK was to inspire men in their callings as husbands, fathers, and church leaders, but it seems the organization is losing focus. To be sure, there were some cheap ploys to pique the interest of a stereotypical male, i.e. analogies from sports, the military, and home improvement. (A talk on Acts 1:8 which compared the Holy Spirit to power tools, and which climaxed with an assistant actually cranking up a gas-powered saw onstage, made me think I was at a taping of "Tool Time.") But the content was of much more general import--how to read the Bible fruitfully, how to evangelize, the importance of faith in difficult times, etc. Being neither a husband, father, or church leader, I was glad for my sake, but I also took it to be a sign of decline in the organization.

I noticed a few other things. First, the main evangelical conversion gambit seems to be a personal testimony of how Jesus got one out of some personal difficulty (substance abuse, marital difficulties, depression, etc.). This strikes me as a form of prosperity theology only slightly more subtle than that of the televangelists who claim that Christianity has monetary benefits. I thought the purpose of Christianity was other-worldly, eschatological--the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting. Placing the emphasis elsewhere is not only bad theology but bad policy, since it opens Christianity up to competition from other religions which can also boast of changed lives (e.g. Islam's transformative effect on Malcolm X), not to mention secular disciplines like psychology.

Second, the conference reinforced the belief I had formed a few years back that Evangelicals enjoy religious trinkets and gimmicks as much as any Roman Catholic. For every Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and scapular badge, there is a Prayer of Jabez and WWJD bracelet. At PK they were handing out plastic nails and fake million-dollar bills, the former to remind one of
the Crucifixion, the latter as a reminder that one is redeemed. The talk on evangelism introduced a conversion gimmick, "2-6-2."

Third, an idée fixe throughout the proceedings was that Christianity is about "a relationship, not a religion." I'm getting too tired to discuss this in detail now, but I do think the statement is guilty of false dilemma.

The talks were broken up by various entertainments. The praise band was tight. A Christian stand-up comic flew in from L.A. and scampered about the stage barking out jokes about the decadence of contemporary America, although the examples he gave thereof (air bags, bicycle helmets, and anti-bacterial soap) strike me as sensible precautions. I have to admire him though for proceeding to make fun of one evangelical foible, "seeing Satan in everything," even though the applause at this point was distinctly muted. (Speaking of churches that hosted "Harry Potter" book burnings, he said, "I could be wrong, but I think it's preferable that churches not take their cue from Hitler.")

I wouldn't have paid the $80 to get in, but since it was free and since I didn't have anything else to do, the event was worth my time.