Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prophet for Profit

Whatever you may think about Michael Crichton, he's a successful novelist.  The speech I've excerpted below is written in his 1999 novel Timeline.  This may be some of his best, most poignant and eloquent writing:

In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated.  But in our century, they want to be entertained.  The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom.  A sense of time on our hands, a sense of nothing to do.  A sense that we are not amused.

But where will this mania for entertainment end?  What will people do when they get tired of television?  When they get tired of movies?  We already know the answer--they go into participatory activities: sports, theme parks, amusement rides, roller coasters.  Structured fun, planned thrills.  And what will they do when they tire of theme parks and planned thrills?  Sooner or later, the artifice becomes too noticeable.  They begin to realize that an amusement park is really a kind of jail, in which you pay to be an inmate.

This artifice will drive them to seek authenticity.  Authenticity will be the buzzword of the twenty-first century.  And what is authentic?  Anything that is not devised and structured to make a profit.  Anything that is not controlled by corporations.  Anything that exists for its own sake, that assumes its own shape.  But of course, nothing in the modern world is allowed to assume its own shape.  The modern world is the corporate equivalent of a formal garden, where everything is planted and arranged for effect.  Where nothing is untouched, where nothing is authentic.

Where, then, will people turn for the rare and desirable experience of authenticity?  They will turn to the past.

The past is unarguably authentic.  The past is a world that already existed before Disney and Murdoch and Nissan and Sony and IBM and all the other shapers of the present day.  The past was here before they were.  The past arose and fell without their intrusion and molding and selling.  The past is real.  It's authentic.  And this will make the past unbelievably attractive.

Just something to think about.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Glow of Victory

Remember the preview after last Thursday's episode of Lost?

During [the preview], we were told that we’ve met all the members of the Oceanic 6, at which point the camera cut to six different characters, including Aaron.


We're not the Patriots

Head Coach Chris Kilsmeier (spelling unknown) told reporters before the game: "We're not just happy to be here.  We're here to win it.  We don't want to be the Patriots."

Well, nobody else has the news yet, so you'll hear it from me first.  We're not the Patriots.  We won 68-54.


And for those of you who think I'm yelling: The HPU Yellow Jackets are the national champions!!!

Sting'm Jackets!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How "The Grapes of Wrath (Centennial Edition)" changed my life

by John Steinbeck

I lost my innocence my junior year in high school, and it started with reading this book. The rose-colored glasses I had developed during the first 16 years of my life were shattered by this book. I think Steinbeck intended to shake the world of his readers, and he accomplishes it with his usual mastery.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How "Ordinary Heroes" changed my life

by Scott Turow

This, I think, is Scott Turow’s best book. I have a short list of books that have changed my life (actually just this and The Grapes of Wrath). Perhaps my favorite quote of all time is from this book:

Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?

Basically, the story is about a journalist who finds his father’s journal from World War II and discovers that everything he thought about his parents was wrong—but in a good way. Reading the book made me realize how little I know my own father and inspired me to consciously try to get to know him better.


I don't know much about managing a baseball team, but these two factoids struck me as crazy when I read them this afternoon. 

First, "Joaquin Benoit finished second on the club last season with seven wins despite making all of his 70 appearances out of the bullpen."  Hmm.  So the Rangers need pitching.  I guess that's why they got Jason Jennings (I actually like him a lot and have high hopes).

Second, I had heard rumors about Frank Catalanotto playing DH . . . but check it: not only is he playing DH but he's batting leadoff.  Does any other team have a DH in the No. 1 spot?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why I recommend "Crash (Widescreen Edition)"

by Paul Haggis

This film deserved the best film award. This is not a movie about racism—it’s a movie about how complex people are. It depicts racism, yes, but, more importantly, it shows that racism is not monolithic. We learn why the racist cop is racist, but then we see him rescuing the very black woman he molested the night before. We are forced to consider her quandary: to hate her molestor or to love her rescuer. We see the cop’s partner—who asked to be reassigned in protest—deal with the fact that he killed a black hitchhiker out of fear that the kid had a gun. We see the hardworking Hispanic locksmith who tries to help a Persian client nearly lose his daughter when the Persian man thinks the Hispanic locksmith took advantage of him. And, most poignantly, we see the black detective sell his integrity to save his brother’s life, without his mother ever acknowledging it. The movie is beautiful in its poignant portrayal of life, not as black and white but as shades of grey.

Plus, you get to hear Ludacris talk about how stupid hip hop is. If that doesn’t deserve an Oscar for Best Film, I don’t know what does.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hate to Say I Told You So

This news is so fresh, I don't even have a link yet.  The #2 Howard Payne Lady Jackets have defeated #1 Hope Flying Dutch by a score of 53-49.  This, of course, only means that HPU gets into the Final Four (I don't get it either--how could they possibly let the two best teams (and the only remaining undefeated basketball teams in the world) play each other in the quarterfinals?), but we're now the top-ranked team in the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship Tournament.  The polls should have kept as at #1 all season long instead of just that one week.

Sting'm Lady Jackets!

Why I recommend "The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son"

by David Gerrold

I got this book because I loved the movie. Be aware that the storylines are very different, except that they share the same basic premise. While the movie focuses on the relationship between David and Dennis, especially on the changes wrought in Dennis, the book looks introspectively at Dennis’s effect on David. As an aspiring writer and one who hopes one day to be a parent, I especially enjoyed the insights into both writing and parenting. It’s a fascinating book, and I highly recommend it. Maybe this quote sums it all up:

Explanations are useless. Explanations do not change facts. They do not make facts better. Explanations are the booby prize. You can have all the explanations you want in the world. They do not change what’s so.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Aaron the Side of Caution

The Oceanic Six are: Jack, Kate, Aaron, Sayid, Hurley, and Aaron.  At least that's my theory.  Unlike this guy, I don't think the press would focus too heavily on the passenger manifest:

Didn't earlier Lost promos state that by the end of episode 7, we'd know every member of the Oceanic 6?  If so, does that mean that Aaron is one of the Oceanic 6? . . . This, then, brings up the question of the passenger manifest.  Aaron's name wouldn't have been on it.  But, and I'm going to need some help on this, parents don't have to buy a ticket or reserve a seat for infant children, right?  Couldn't this be the reasoning for Aaron not showing up on the manifest?  Wouldn't this be enough to appease the press when the Oceanic 6 returned to the mainland?

Here's my theory:the press wouldn't care about the manifest.  At least not as much as they'd care about telling everybody about Little Survivor Baby Aaron.  Jack told us that eight people survived the crash, but only six could be rescued.  Maybe Claire is one of those two, and Kate adopted Aaron.  Or maybe something else.  I can at least say this: I don't think the passenger manifest is the issue some people thinks it is.

There.  I said it.  Next mystery.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Humpty Dumpty Indeed

Over and over again, Prof. Con Law explained that the Supreme Court changes its course by subtly changing the meaning of words.  With that idea fresh in my mind, I ran across this excellent answer by a linguistics professor to a question posed in class:

Well, the short answer would be 'Yes,' and by 'yes' I mean 'no.'

Does it get any better than that?

Consulting, huh?

Check this out: it's a PDF of an affidavit offered in support of an arrest warrant in L'Affaire Spitzer.  There have been several articles published on the Internet discussing whether Mrs. Spitzer should divorce Mr. Spitzer, but, in paragraph 6 of the affidavit, we learn that Emperor's Club V.I.P. is also known as "QAT Consulting Group, Inc."  Mr. Spitzer may not have been seeking out prostitutes for the typical reason--he could have just been trying to get some advice in that area.  And that's no reason to divorce somebody!

You really should read the affidavit.  It's got some fascinating stuff.  Paragraph 8 explains the alleged roles of the defendants in Emperor's Club V.I.P. (including pimp and madam).  Paragraphs 24 and 25 talk a little about recruitment.  I'm sure there's more, but I'm not going to do your dirty work for you.  So if you have any interest in starting an international prostitution ring, here's your chance to see how it's done.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

National Hypocrisy Week

OK, first we have L'Affaire Eliot Spitzer, now this?

The spills, at the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation plant outside [Riverbend Farms, Alabama,] about 17 miles from Tuscaloosa, are similar to others that have come from biofuel plants in the Midwest. The discharges, which can be hazardous to birds and fish, have many people scratching their heads over the seeming incongruity of pollution from an industry that sells products with the promise of blue skies and clear streams.

Even the environmentalists are polluting!  What is the world coming to?  Have we no one we can trust?  What's next?  PETA members running a steakhouse?  Al Qaeda promoting women's rights and religious freedom?

Moral of the story: Maybe if we all quit taking offense and tried to empathize, this world would be a better place.

Job Security

Occasionally, I think about what I want to do with my life in terms of job security, and I think there are probably two practice areas that aren't going away and aren't particularly subject to the business cycle: family law and criminal law.  The sad tale of Eliot Spitzer reassures me that the vice that underlies the conflicts in both family law and criminal law isn't going anywhere.  One Texas criminal defense attorney writes:

Here is a[n] ex prosecutor who talked of "putting a stake" through the heart of a defendant when he was Attorney General for New York. Now it is his heart at stake.

This kinda reminds me of Jim Bakker.  Wait--is Eliot Spitzer the new Jim Bakker?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cultural Economics

There is a very interesting post out there that uses King Lear to show why people still read and watch Shakespeare:

[R]ules designed to enforce virtue tend to do the enforcing only against the poor and lowly. The wealthy and powerful . . . escape condemnation. The result is that those doing the punishing have hands as dirty as those who suffer the punishment.


This is a sadly familiar problem in the history of America’s culture wars. Vice crimes and morals offenses of all sorts—prostitution and gambling, liquor and drugs, abortion and sex crimes—have been enforced against blue-collar markets, not against upscale markets. That proposition helps explain the racial disparity in today’s drug prisoner population . . . .  A good deal of social science research suggests that people obey the law, when they do so, because the legal system seems fair and legitimate. Legal systems that hammer the sins of the poor while winking at the wrongs of the rich fall short of that standard.


Interestingly enough, [King Lear] not only diagnoses the relevant disease; it offers a hint at a cure—another, very different approach to cultural reform. Lear’s kingdom descends into chaos and civil war as those who rule it descend into deceit and barbarism. The remedy, the story implies, is not more virtuous laws, but more virtuous rulers.

He goes on to talk about how mass culture follows the example of elite culture ("It simply wasn’t possible to convince most Americans that buying a drink was a terrible wrong when the President of the United States served liquor to his poker buddies, as Warren Harding did in the early 1920s.")  It's an interesting post about whether or not you can legislate morality.

On a related note, what does this say about moral legislation and same-sex marriage?  How do politicians like Jim McGreevey play into all this?

John Boy Just Isn't Scary

So yesterday, the Missus and I watched two movies: Stephen King's It and No Country for Old Men.  I can only really say this: Pennywise just isn't as scary as Anton Chigurh (or as Joshua Brolin says, "Sugar").  Pennywise gets hit in the head with an earring and goes running scared down the drain, while Anton Chigurh breaks his arm so that his ulna is poking out, buys a shirt/sling for $100, and then walks away.

Bottom line: It may have been scary when you were six or maybe even twelve, but No Country for Old Men will always be scary because it reflects a scary piece of truth about the world in which we live.  Or maybe it's just that there's nothing scary about the Waltons.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jeremy > Chicago

I just wanna say . . .


Thank you.

Not 4th place--3rd runner-up

I don't want to talk about this:

The Mariners’ rotation put up a combined ERA of 5.16 last season, better only than Florida, Tampa Bay and Texas. Management addressed that concern by acquir[ing] Erik Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles . . . .

I can't remember a time when Rangers' fans haven't lamented to each other: "What we really need is pitching."  But did we fight for Bedard or Johan Santana even invite some old has-been like Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens?  No.  We fought for Torii Hunter.  A center fielder.  And lost.

At least we stole Nolan Ryan from the Astros again.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Let's be frank

I know I've been posting a lot the past few days, but I'm trying a new blogging strategy.  Maybe it'll become clear in the next few weeks if the strategy holds.  Maybe not.

I always knew that King Frank (or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as he is sometimes known) was a tough guy, but I never knew quite how tough until I ran across the following passage in my current reading:

Roosevelt kibitzed with the press as he sat in bed receiving his haircut.

Any guy knows that there is nothing quite so itchy as the back of your neck the day you get a haircut.  I can't imagine sleeping in it.  Wow.  But hey--it ain't easy being king.

So sad, but so true

Joe Posnanski, a journalist who covers the K.C. Royals (the team we fought with for most of last season for the worst record in the AL), wrote this limerick about America's Texas's Waco's my team.  So sad, but so true . . .

The search goes on for a pitch panacea
Chan Ho, Loaiza, now Vincent Padilla
The lineups, quite sadly
even with Milton Bradley
Lose 10-8 and get the idea

Anybody remember that weekend or so last year when Johan Santana struck out 18 Rangers, then we smashed the Orioles 30-3?

Yeah . . . too true . . .


Last night, we had some family over for my birthday, and, naturally, politics came up.  When my mother found out how I voted, she got pretty upset.  I stand by my vote.  Until last night, I've been pretty reticent about whom I support (or at least, I haven't come right out and said it), and I'll continue to do that.  But I will take a stand on one thing: Barack Obama is (probably*) not the antichrist.  And I think it's a despicable, fear-mongering attack unworthy of even debunking.  But for those of you who question his commitment to "traditional" (whatever that means) American values, you should read this article from Christianity Today, in which Obama is quoted as encouraging people to read their Bibles.  This quote I particularly like:

If people find [my support for civil unions] controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.

And later, on the Bible and public policy:

Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our Bibles. Folks haven't been reading their Bibles

I'm not saying how I voted out of the real fear of retaliation (I have a summer job in the Department of Justice that I wouldn't mind turning into a post-graduation job).  If people had made the same attacks on Hillary Clinton or Bill Richardson or John Edwards or John McCain or Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or anybody else, I would respond the same way.  Fear-mongering should have no place in today's America; there's enough real fear to go around without adding illegitimate fears to it.  Besides, what else did Jesus say?

Don't worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.

Anybody who tries to keep somebody out of office by referring to him or her as the antichrist ought to be stoned, Deuteronomy-style.  Then again, I'm against content-based speech restrictions, so they can say whatever they want.  Make that stoning Dixie Chick-style.



*I say "probably" because my understanding is that nobody knows who the Antichrist is or if it's even one particular person.  And that's one bet I don't want to lose.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Viva la DemocracĂ­a

I love voting.  I love all the signs set up along the streets leading up to your polling place.  I love the electricity in the air as you wait in line to vote.  I love sitting down in front of the machine and thinking "OK--this is it."  The moment of picking your future and permanently choosing whose side of the fence you're on.  The moment you've been talking about for months has arrived.  It's time to put your ballot where your mouth is.  I love it.

If you haven't voted by the time you're reading this, it's probably too late.  But it's not too late to register for November.  If you care anything about your future, get out there and vote.

¡Viva la democracía!*



*I saw this scrawled in spray paint on the side of a McDonald's outside Caracas, Venezuela, in the summer of 2002, shortly after Hugo Chavez had been deposed and reinstated.  Imagine if our gangsta thug vandalizers were politically active.

Thomas Paine, or a Royal Pain for Smart Kids

IRAC.  I do it every day.  You figure out what the issue is, determine the most appropriate rule, apply the rule to the circumstances, and get your answer.

Common sense.  I use it every day, too.  You look at a situation, stick it into your intuition, and wait for the answer to pop out.

We call the steps in the process by different names, but you usually get the same results.  IRAC just tells you why and how you got there.  Common sense is like flying up to Minneapolis; IRAC is like taking I-35.  You don't even have to know what you're doing when you use common sense, but if you don't know how to use IRAC or you don't use it right, you could end up in San Francisco after accidentally turning left in Des Moines.

I like to think about this kind of stuff.  How the brain and/or mind works.  Maybe that's why this article, comparing psychology and common sense, was so interesting to me.  Here's my favorite quote:

Ultimately what really sets psychology apart from common sense is the scientific method.


once psychological findings become well-known, people [might] incorporate them into their intuitive thoughts and behaviour.

And then it becomes "common sense."


Sunday, March 02, 2008

I love me some trufe

Fareed Zakaria is one of my favorite columnists.  If you don't read him, you should.  (I'm talking to you, Justin Scott.)  Here's a great quote from this week's column:

The facts about [free] trade have been too well rehearsed to go into them in any great detail, but let me point out that NAFTA has been pivotal in transforming Mexico into a stable democracy with a growing economy.

Here's the gist, something that countless history, economics, and political science professors have argued: People don't care about civil rights or even respect unless their stomachs are full.

I think Maslow said something similar . . .

Can she explain irony?

Three of my favorite things--irony, grammar, and Lost--come together in this from one of the many interpretive sites:

Explain the Lorentz Invariant for we English majors

Now, I don't want to get too technical, but I can tell you this: English majors modifies we, which is the object of the preposition for.  So the correct pronoun is the objective pronoun us.  I'd be willing to bet that she said "we English majors" because she thought it sounded right.

But between you and I, it's not.  I'm so bad.