Location: Omaha, Nebraska, United States

Julie calls me "Sweetie". Finley calles me a variation of "Daddy". One of my friends calls me "Boo-Boo". Another friend used to call me "Mole".

Monday, June 09, 2008

Omaha Rulzzz

Omaha rulzzz to the triple power. Please check out Studio 360's program on Omaha. It focuses a lot on the creative community. It aired on NPR last week. Here is the link: http://www.studio360.org/episodes/2008/05/30

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mass Graves

Last week I went to hear Judge Raid speak on his experiences as the Chief Investigative Judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal that prosecuted Saddam Hussein for his crimes against Iraq's Kurdish minority. It was interesting to say the least. The highlight of the lecture was hearing about how the tribunal compiled all of the evidence against Hussein.

As with most things that I find interesting in my life, these interesting things ride on the coattails of irony.

So how did they "get" Saddam? When they started digging up all of the mass graves that Saddam buried the Kurds in, they found the murdered Kurds' national identification cards. Because of this, they were able to identify the bodies and prove that a targeted genocide had taken place.

Saddam and his army murdered thousands of Kurds by gassing them, shooting them, and burying the women and children alive. However Saddam's army didn't search the women thoroughly enough before they buried them because of their cultural beliefs. So the Kurdish mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and sisters-the women that Saddam buried alive were the very ones who would carry the evidence that would be used to convict Saddam.

*Stay tuned for a lesson on global hegemony from Bob the Builder.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I Learned It On NPR

(1) As the Democratic nomination process continues and Wyoming is next in line to function as "The Decider", a Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Wyoming was interviewed on NPR about what Clinton and Obama face as they try to appeal to a predominantly Republican state. She said the ONLY issue that voters want to talk about is the lack of JOBS!

According to her research, Wyoming-ites as she referred to them have the highest divorce rate in the country. She says one of the factors that contributes to this is that Wyoming-ites marry young. Also in Wyoming, the greatest disparity in the nation exists between men's and women's earnings. She attributes this to the type of jobs that are available that she says are sterotypically men's jobs like working in oil and other natural resources industries.

Job security and job loss really seem be on most voter's minds throughout the country. Clinton knew this in Ohio and won Ohio. Now Pennsylvania is an important battleground and "jobs" is the big issue.

(2) Continuting with the "jobs" theme, on NPR's "Marketplace", I learned that 63,000 jobs were lost last month. This is not good. However there is good news for "the man". Top executives are doing great. The C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs raked in 100 million dollars last year. Why should any one person be paid 100 million dollars? Because he is probably awesome, that's why.

(3) From "The Splendid Table": Pinot Noir grapes are not as hard to grow and harvest as they were once touted to be. Good news for wine snobs. Or is it bad news?

(4) Also from "The Splendid Table": Foraging is now in for Yuppies. One of the segments of this week's program followed a UCLA instructor around as she foraged for food on the streets of LA. She gathered plants and weeds from a down town street for a salad. Yuppies really do have a lot of time on their hands. In order to have enough time in your day to do this sort of thing you are either one of two things: (1) unemployed or (2) make a six-figure salary at one of those jobs where you really don't have to work all that hard.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why is it Good?

People are always saying that I should read something because it is "good" or see some movie because it is "good". I understand that "good" is subjective. Maybe a "good" book or a "good" movie is what we need the book or movie to be for us. Maybe what is "good" to us is situational.

For some, "good" has a static meaning. To my mother a good movie is a romantic comedy with Jennifer Garner in the lead role. This doesn't really change (except the woman playing the lead). To my friend, Mark, a good movie is either a western or war movie starring John Wayne or Clint Eastwood et al. He owns nine or ten movies on VHS cassette-all of them are John Wayne, Eastwood, and yes even Stallone. Over the years in the various places in which he has lived the cassettes have always occupied a very prominent place on or under the television. By the looks of the pile of tapes you would think an old war veteran has set out his old favorites not a thirty year old. So if I ask my Mom and Mark if they have any recommendations for a "good" movie I know what their answer will be.

For some, "good" is situational. It has a more functional meaning. To my wife a good movie is whatever she needs the movie to be for her at the time. If she is feeling introspective she likes to watch documentaries, preferably WWII documentaries or a WWII mini-series. If she is working, a good movie is one that provides background dialogue that she really does not have to pay to attention to and this could really be anything but 80's movies seem to predominate i.e. The other night in order to watch Michael Clayton, I had to take "Romancing the Stone" out of the DVD player. A good movie is also one that holds tremendous nostalgic weight for her like "Overboard". A good movie is also one that brings tears to her eyes and one that gets her heart interacting with her mind i.e. Rabbit-Proof Fence.

I probably fall more in line with my wife of what I think a "good" movie (or book) is. I want my mind and my heart to be challenged. I want to be exposed to how other people live. I want to observe the struggles and joys that they have experienced. I want a film to transport me. I want to escape but I want to escape in order to come back to my life. Through the film I hope that I have learned to live my life with more grace and perspective.

So then is a book or a movie "good" because it changes us? Maybe.

However there is also a different question that does not really have to do with how the work at issue emotionally or psychologically affects us. It has to do with "good" as in quality. Over the years, our society has labeled certain films and books as "good". Were they good because of their time period? Were they good because they were revolutionary? Were they good because they were saying something that no one had said before?

If these questions are answered in the affirmative I don't think that confers the title on them of being "good". Because a film or a work of literature was good for the time it was written, or because it was revolutionary, or because it was saying something new does not mean that it was "good". Quality should not be derived from these characteristics.

A painting is good if people identify it as good. Why is Jackson Pollock's work holding up? It is interesting looking and people pay a lot of money for it. Is that why it is good? So he was revolutionary. Is that why it is good? During his life art critics put him on the map and today art collectors with deep pockets keep him there. But is his work good? Is the quality of it good?

To me, in some respects but not all, a film or book or piece of art is good in the quality sense of the word if the director, screenwriter, author, or artist is doing something that most people can't do. Maybe this is simplistic. Maybe this definition is not philosophical enough. But I think it is fairly accurate. When I read a book and close the cover I want to think, "I can not do what that author just did". When I hear Sufjan Stevens play his music I think the same thing. When I watch a Wes Anderson film again I think: "How did he do that?".

They are on a different level. This does not make me think what they have done is unattainable (however maybe it is). However it does make me try harder at what I am doing because I know that there are people out there pouring everything they have into their craft.

Because they want it to be good.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Songs That Won't Go Away For Now

These are the songs that I just can not stop listening to right now (I think all of the following are YouTube-able):

(1) Madvillain-"ALL CAPS"

This is what in my humble opinion, hip hop should move towards. It has a very stripped down basic sort of feel-almost earthy. The video for the song is a cartoon strip which is very creatively done. The sound effects are super cool too.

(2) Burial-"Archangel"

I don't usually get into music like this but it creates a real sense of post-Industrial Euro-loneliness. Oh, you don't know what that is-I didn't either until I heard the song. Just listen to the song and think of Bucharest in January. Julie and I were in Vienna a few years ago and we were checking our e-mail in this smokey 24-hour internet cafe in a bus station and there were all of these guys with long ashes on the cigarettes playing computer games. This song reminds of those fellows.

(3) Robert Cray-"Poor Johnny" (Robert Cray at Crossroads 2007)

This song really amazes me for some reason that I can't exactly put my finger on. Sometimes we appreciate things more because of the nostalgia that we bring to the table. I remember when I was nine or ten my Dad telling me about how amazing Robert Cray was. Then years later Julie and I saw him open for B.B. King at the Kentucky Horse Park. Until a few weeks ago I had not heard from Mr. Cray for a while. Juls and I were watching PBS and Eric Clapton's Crossroads festival was on. Mr. Cray came out on to the stage and just played and sang like a man who has been doing it for a very long time but one who still deeply cares about what he is doing. We have a lot to learn from Robert Cray. If you take the time to listen to this, listen to at least five times in a row. It is a song that gets better with every listen. It has an understated power to it.

(4) Feist-"I've Seen It All"
(5) Feist-"Intuition"
(6) Feist-"The Water"
(7) Feist-"Limit To Your Love"

These days music just keeps getting better and better. I hear Over the Rhine in Feist. I also hear Joni Mitchell. Sometimes I hear something that sounds like 70's British Punk. Whatever she is doing, it is fantastic and full of emotion.

(8) Nick Drake-"Northern Sky"

Nearly a perfect song, if only it were longer. It is a very triumphant song. This is a perfect song for a scene in a movie where someone comes out of a coma.

(9) John Mayer-"Belief"

This might be a perfect song. Everything John Mayer is making right now is pretty outstanding.

(10) Rufus Wainwright-"Beautiful Child"

A song that would go well with the end of time.

It's About Time

I am going to write on this blog at least once a week until I don't.

I need a writing outlet that does not relate at all to school or anything having to do with the library. So topically the blog will be about anything but law school.

However I will mostly be reviewing 80's movies. Stay tuned for my scathing critique of the break down of the American family as seen through the lens of John Candy's "Uncle Buck".

Saturday, May 27, 2006

We Call Him Edward

We call him Edward. He comes into the restaurant where I work almost everyday with a bag in his hand. In his bag is usually a steak that he gives to our chef to cook. He will walk right into the kitchen and hand our chef the steak. Everyone in our restaurant adores Mr. Edward. He is the most unassuming, gently heroic man that most of we young people have ever known or likely ever will know. Over the last few months I have begun to know who this man is. Years ago when I worked here he would come in with his wife who at the time was barely holding on to her life. I didn't really know him then. I was more of an observer. He would wheel her to their table in her wheel chair and they would share a meal together. They were one of those couples that soaked each other up. They were it for one another. So when I returned to Joseph-Beth three years later I was sad to see that Mr. Edward was coming alone to lunch. While I was away his beloved wife had passed away. When I asked my friends at work about Ed's wife's passing they said that they felt like one of their family members had died. Upon my reintroduction to Ed I sensed a depth and purity of spirit that I have only witnessed in a few other people. So now when he comes in I make a point to sit with him and glean whatever I can from this eighty-one year old man. I have learned that he is a retired Professor of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky so he is really Dr. Ed. He is the father of four children. He lost his oldest child who now rests in the same cemetery as his wife does. I have witnessed parents mourn the death of their child. It is an unbearable grief. I have known men who have lost their one true love after sixty years of marriage. These men have died of a broken heart. Ed is definitely carrying around a broken heart but it has not killed him yet. He has transformed a large portion of his grief into compassion. Five days a week he either visits hospice and tries to comfort people who are dying or he visits Alzheimer patients and as he says "just holds their hands". Among all this he finds time to volunteer in the bookstore where I work reading books to little children. Recently he was named a Living Legend among ten other people in Lexington who live extraordinary lives. The man is an elderly saint full of miracles. He is a tall, pale, thin angel. He is an eighty-year old picture of Jesus. I am privileged to learn from him about what it means to be human and alive.

You Will Never Be the Same

Buy don't copy Sufjan Stevens' albums Michigan and Illinois. This is the best music I have heard in years. Julie and I can't get enough of it. Finley even loves it. Alanson, Crooked River on Michigan soothes him. If he is crying and we play it for him he stops crying. If you are happy this music will make you sad (the good kind of sad). If you are sad this music will make you happy. If you are despondent this music will make you hopeful. It is beautiful, haunting and downright amazing. It makes you want to live.

Why Now is a Terrible Time to Be Young

Generation Debt-Why Now is a Terrible Time to Be Young by Anya Kamenetz debuted in February. I pray that this book and its author get the publicity and attention they deserve. This is a timely treatise on the economic issues affecting my generation. If you are young you should definitely read this. If you do not consider yourself young anymore you should still read this. Kamenetz illustrates why now is a terrible time to be young: the soaring federal deficit; credit card debt; the lack of entry level jobs and the shrinking job market; rising health care costs; the financial burden placed on society by the baby-boomers' retirement; the shift from federal grants to private loans and federal loans for higher education funding which has increased debt loads for students; and among other issues corporations redefining what it means to be a full-time employee so they can cut pensions, health care coverage, and retirement plans. These issues are more than concerning and should be at the forefront of public policy. Please read this book.

An Empty Nest

My family has been in Texas for a week. It has been nothing short of awful. My wife is my best person and my son is my best human under two feet so my loneliness has been palpable. The duplex is too quiet. I think someone is living in the crawl space above our hallway. There might be a troll in the shower. Tumbleweeds keep rolling through the living room. Seventeen and a half hours until I get my family back. This was written on May 4th.

Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with their Moms?

I finished the book Freakonmics by Levitt and Dubner. It is fascinating. Freakonomics deals with the "hidden side of everything". If morality represents how people would like the world to work, then economics shows how it actually does work. This central idea is explained through chapters like: What do School Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?; How is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents; Where Have All the Criminals Gone?; and What Makes a Perfect Parent?

One of the most important lessons I learned concerns the idea of "conventional wisdom". Conventional wisdom follows the path of least resistance. However the most obvious answer to a question is not always the right one. The easiest way to explain something usually serves convenience and not truth. Generally people accept conventional wisdom because it helps explain an uncomfortable reality in an easy-to-swallow manner. Our current administration has done this at almost every turn. Our domestic and foreign policy are driven by conventional wisdom: the war on terror; immigration; the war in Iraq; and the suspension of civil rights in the name of national security. What has become the easiest and most acceptable way to explain our actions and policy in this land and other lands no matter how atrocious or ethically diabolical is to say that we do it in the name of national security.

Like Any Good Scientist

Like any good scientist I must attempt my experiment again. I am going to write on my Xanga and try and post most of all that I write on my blogspot because so many of my dern friends use Blogspot. I will transfer all of my old Xanga entries to my Blogspot.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My Experiment Failed

I was going to attempt to post on Blogspot and Xanga but for now I am only going to post on Xanga. So come on over.