Friday, December 29, 2006

La Cosa Ultima

I have two quick recommendations for those who appreciate good stories.

1--Stephen King's It. I finally finished it. Excellent book; long, but worth it (mostly). It's a book about defeating your fears by facing them. In fact, you kind of have to face your fears just to finish the book. (I had two: fear of crazy long books and fear of clowns.) Borrow it from the library.

2--The movie The Last Kiss. It stars Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson, and Jacinda Barrett.* It's a great story about growing up that realizes that 30 is the new 20. Perfect for the children of Baby Boomers who think that life has to be full of surprises to be worthwhile. Anyway--rent it from Blockbuster.

*I had no idea she was Australian. I love Brits and Aussies who can do an American accent. It blows my mind.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Gospel According to Stephen

Stephen King, that is. Not the fabled martyr mentioned in Acts 7. Some of you who have followed my "reviews" of books as I read them may think that either (a) law school has one and I've stopped reading or (b) I want law school to think it has one and am keeping my reading a secret. Well, the truth is, I've been reading Stephen King's It now for what seems like 18 years. It's only 1,135 pages long. The longest book I've ever read for fun. (It takes awhile when you can only read 5 or 10 pages a night, eh?)

Anyway--I was reading last night, and I had a thought. Could Stephen King be preaching something similar to the Gospel through this novel? Essentially, faith is power. Anyway, I'll think about it more and get back to you. But I thought my co-blogger CP would be interested in this developing theory of religion and Stephen King.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just for the Big CP

One of my fellow B(L)Sers has posited this question: What do you believe? What a loaded question. Here's my attempt to break down my beliefs into discussable nuggets:

Tenet 1 - Nobody is absolutely right. God is too great a mystery to be understood completely by anyone or by any conglomerate of people. Even if you put every single person who ever lived in the same room and held a stinkin huge debate, you would still never get to the absolute bottom of who/what God is and who/what we are.

Tenet 2 - God is. It is more illogical to claim that there is no god than to claim that there is. Consider Descartes's logic, or what is sometimes called the "prime mover" argument (or something like that). Essentially, it argues that everything comes from something else. But if that's true (and almost undeniably it is), then the world cannot exist. Somewhere back in the shrouds of the past (4.6 billion years ago?) the Universe began. If the Universe began, then it had to come from something else. But what? The easiest and best answer is God, or at least some greater power.

Tenet 3 - God is not subject to logic. We see in the Christian Bible and most religious traditions that God/gods are not subject to physical laws. By analogy then, God/gods is not subject to the laws of logic.* For example, it is claimed that in certain situations, A cannot be both A and B at the same time. A dog cannot be a cat, say. But the Gospels claim (and many, many Christians believe) that Jesus is God and that Jesus is the Word of God. How can Jesus (person A) be God (person B) and the "word" of person B all at the same time? It's illogical! Precisely. It is absolutely futile to defend religion on logical grounds. It would be just as futile to defend the law of conservation of energy by referring to your experience driving. It doesn't work because science is not** subject to the laws of faith, just as religion is not subject to the laws of logic. Different realms, different ways of thinking.

Tenet 4 - Religion is nothing more or less than a way of explaining things we collectively don't understand. Religion in this sense includes science. For example, I don't understand why my television lights up when I press the power button on my remote. The answer--well it has something to do with the emission of light waves, the transfer of electrons, and the transmission of messages by pulses. I don't get it (nor, incidentally, does any scientist I know of), but I could explain it by reference to physical laws we've developed as explanations of how things work. I could just as easily claim that by pressing the power button, I am praying to God to turn my TV on and that each time he answers me because of my faith. Both answers are logically irrefutable by a third party.

At this point, we start getting into my specific beliefs. I was raised the Baptist son of a confused feminist. So here goes: I believe that there is a god, that the Judeo-Christian God most closely approximates the true God. I believe that all of us have sinned (forgotten who God is and who we are in relation to that) and deserve the worst punishment possible. I believe that the only way out of that punishment is God's grace and forgiveness in accepting our faith.*** I also believe that the fundamental commands of Christianity are love of God and love of neighbor. Once you get past that, you start getting into controversy that I am unprepared to discuss. But I'll gladly do it anyway. (:

Any questions?

* NOTE--Tenet 2 follows a syllogism not because God is bound by it but because we as humans are, just like we are bound by physical laws.

**But it actually is. Descartes himself (yes, the progenitor of numerous math things that begin with "Cartesian" or "Descartes's") asked how we really know that 2+2=4. He referred to it as "prima facie knowledge." That is, we know it because we know it. Do you buy that? Do you trust anything else just on intuition? You should: there's not enough information in the world to be satisfied of any proposition on empirical evidence alone.

***Faith in what? I think it's faith that God exists, that I can't do anything worthwhile on my own, and that I can't set things right with him on my own. It's faith that I'm not enough even though it seems like I might be.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Giant spiders

We got grades back in Property yesterday. Go here for the spread.

Sometimes, you feel like the Cleveland Spiders. In the single worst season ever played (modern era or pre), the 1899 Cleveland Spiders played a 20-134 season. Cleveland didn't even want to see them (they only played 42 of their 154 games at home). They set a record that will probably never be touched: 101 losses on the road in one season.

But sometimes you feel like the 1916 New York Giants*, who pulled off a nigh-unimaginable 26-game winning streak in September to pull themselves from fourth place to first, taking the pennant. I wish I felt like the Giants.

What am I saying? I'm saying that law school, if nothing else, teaches you how to lose.

* This is a reference to the classic baseball team better known now as the San Francisco Giants, not the football team.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Law school changes you . . .

Nobody ever asks me what I did before law school, but I thought I'd let you know anyway. I used my inhumanly long arms to unclog choking dolphins' airways. That's me in the middle during my last visit to Sea World Beijing.

The Female of the Species Is Deadlier Than the Male

So I'm reading for criminal law when I come across these startling statistics. In 1984, 90% of female homicide victims were killed by men, and 1/3 were known to have been killed by their husbands or boyfriends (not counting the unknowns!). I don't want to take away from that statistic's power, but I want to point out that in most movies (that I've seen) involving murder and adultery, it is the wife murdering the hussy or vice-versa. As an example, right now, on ABC's Ugly Betty, one of the background plots involves the hussy planning to kill the husband. (It's actually not revealed yet, but that's this seasoned TV viewer's theory.) Why is Hollywood so backward on this?

Does anybody have any thoughts?

By the way, put this in your box of horrible, misguided, and confused quotes that make you so glad to be living in the 21st century (especially if you're like me and love strong women):

Jealousy is the rage of a man, and adultery is the highest invasion of property.*

What? I would hate a wife who viewed herself as my property. (And I'm not talking in the touchy-feely, end-of-Breakfast at Tiffany's kinda way.) I just like women who respect themselves and men who respect women. No baby factories for me.

* Regina v. Mawgridge [1707] Kel. 1, 117, reprinted in 84 Eng. Rep. 1107

Monday, December 11, 2006

Freaky Big Town/Small City Hypothesis

DISCLAIMER - I have lived all but 5 of my 23 years deep in the heart of Texas, and I have not died a gruesome death yet. Waco is a wonderful place to live (maybe).

I'm reading Stephen King's It*, and I'm developing a theory. I call this the Freaky Big Town/Small City Hypothesis. It has only one theorem: Waco = Derry. Why am I developing this theory? Allow me to enumerate:

- Waco We Do
- David Koresh
- the 1953 tornado
- fiery plane crashes with surprisingly scary pictures
- Republican President represented by a Democratic Congressman
- The First Waco Horror (TSHA, Waco History Project, NAACP, NPR)
- the Lake Waco murders
- Queso the Cat
- the NoZe Brotherhood
- Toad-biting dog dies
- the flypaper effect (e.g., my parents and my wife's parents have absolutely no connections to Waco prior to being transferred here by their employers; now they've stuck around for over 20 years each)
- Waco's Enron
- Finally--a Waco lawyer named Scott Peterson

Now--remember my disclaimer. I grew up in Waco and I haven't noticed anything like Derry's vigintiseptennial horror (that's what King should have called It)--but then again, I'm only 23.

I'm thinking about writing Waco's third true crime novel (after The First Waco Horror and Careless Whispers, both linked to above at their sales pages). I plan to call it: "Waco: We Ain't Comin' Out . . . Alive." If you have any stories about voices coming out of drains or photographs winking or clowns with balloons that float against the wind or even a plain old ghost story, I'd love to hear it. Post it in my comments. I may give you co-author status if it's a good enough story.

* Still.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Below Reality

Last night, my wife and I went to see Brian Littrell. Yes, that Brian Littrell, the former Backstreet Boy. He's on a short Christmas concert tour with Rebecca St. James and her brothers right now. It started Thursday night in Abilene, came to Waco for Friday night, then up to somewhere in Illinois tonight and then off to Virginia to wrap it up. All small towns.

Anyway, my wife was a big fan of the Backstreet Boys when she was younger (to her credit, she was no poseur: she was into Dashboard Confessional and Good Charlotte even before she went on Warped Tour). The concert was at Victorious Life Church, off I-35. I was impressed with Mr. Littrell's entertaining ability and even more impressed when he quasi-parodied his old songs--and none of the girls in the audience caught on. That's quality parody skills.

Well, the highlight of the night happened while I and about 50 girls under 25 (my wife included) waited expectantly in the 12° weather outside the bus hoping to catch a glimpse as he boarded. Instead, as they all looked toward the door from the church (I, for some reason, was looking at the bus itself), a white car pulled up around the bus, stopped, Mr. Littrell got out and ran up to about 3 feet from me. I glanced over at him and thought "How many roadies do these people have?" Then he called out "Hey y'all! God bless you and merry Christmas!" before running back to his getaway car and driving off into the Arctic Central Texan night. They were all disappointed, but I, yes I the kid who learned the guitar to all the Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, and Weezer songs he could, stood next to Brian Littrell for a few seconds, the object of much jealousy from former teeny boppers.

It was all very surreal.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Day of Bad Fruit

Remember e. coli and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Nature's next act of vengeance against Americans is the Day of Bad Fruit. Yesterday, my friend had a mealy apple and a bland orange; my wife had a bitter grapefruit; I had a pithy, tasteless apple. What's the deal? Did anybody else have bad fruit yesterday?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Speaking of blind men...

For those of you who are fans of both philosophy in general and Wittgenstein, check this out:

Philosophy is a blind man in a completely dark room chasing a black cat who doesn't exist.

My old pastor shared that quote with me. Some professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. OK, I broke my promise. But you have no claim for promissory estoppel against me.

Making Amends

Sunday evening, I got a call from my mom that my grandfather (my dad's dad) passed away. We've been somewhat expecting this for over a year now, but it was surprising all the same. I didn't know him very well, since he lived in Missouri and I have always lived in Texas, but I knew him better maybe than my other two grandfathers.

Death, in a way, fascinates me. It begs the question--what is life? When the stuff with Terri Schiavo was going on, people discussed a lot about what life is and when death comes. Is it when the heart stops beating? the brain stops waving? the personality withers? the soul departs?

My grandfather had been cold for a day or so. My grandmother was warming his blankets in the microwave Sunday afternoon. When she came back, he was gone. The night before, they might have talked about my cousins or the weather or some friends. Now, there is nothing to talk about. My father has been trying desperately for several years to hang on to whatever relationship he and his father had. Now, there is nothing to hold onto. My brother has been bitter toward my dad's parents since I was in junior high. Now, forgiveness in the interpersonal sense is too late; he can only let his own hurt and bitterness go without ever knowing what kind of relationship he could have had. There are so many things my grandfather will never know or experience. He'll never see my nephew grow up. When I graduated college, he was so proud; but he'll never get to see my graduate law school. He'll never see my brother licensed as a master plumber. He'll never see the Royals make it to another World Series or the Chiefs make it to the Super Bowl. He'll never know if Bill Ford's successor will do any good or get the retirees their good health benefits back. He and my grandmother supported the ACLJ and probably against gay marriage. Now he'll never see what'll happen with that.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: although it's cliché, life is short and death is unexpected. One day you're playing bridge and complaining about the company taking away your prescription drug coverage; the next day you don't even need prescription drugs. Life's too short to hurry. Suck the marrow out of life.

I promise: next post, less philosophizing.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

You heard it hear first

Yesterday, Plano and I took it to the mat in ping pong. We only had time to play twice before Contracts started, but the scores were 26-24 and 25-23. We each won one game. And that's the Plano Truth.

Did her hair grow 18 inches overnight?

Plano keeps telling me to post. Here you go, sir. If this post sucks, it's not my fault.

Startling news: Milwaukee has pants. Yee has started a blog. She's got a cool Chinese husband (his parents were born there I think), though I've never spoken to him. Oh--and although I'm at the bottom of her list of links, I was one of the first three. Man I love this whole name-starting-with-an-A deal: you're first in line for everything! Finally, What Not to Wear has been on for 25 minutes and they've just now gotten rid of all her old clothes. Is that normal?

Has anybody seen the classic Dead Poets' Society? If you haven't, stop immediately and go watch it. Anyway, Robin Williams plays a once-rebellious boarding school student who returns to his alma mater to teach English. The key thing he tries to teach his students is how to suck the marrow out of life. I've been trying to figure out exactly what that means.

Here's my theory today: whatever you're doing, do it with everything you've got. There are religious reasons for doing so, but I think the most fundamental reason to do so is because that's how you know you're alive. Don't just be, do. Take control of your life. Read Contracts because you want to; volunteer in Criminal Law even though you know you're probably wrong; stand on your desk and tell the world "O Captain my Captain!"

Last bit of interesting news. 25 points to anybody who can guess the only baseball team to ever play a game in shorts ('80s style hot pants, no less). Give up? Milwaukee's Chisox*. How ironic.

*Note--Milwaukee tells me he's from the northside and hence a Cubs fan. It's fitting, but not nearly as ironic. The Cubs never played in shorts.