"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

11.30.2005

minor falls, major lifts, & hallelujahs

Today is the closest I've ever been to dropping out of grad school. The Advisor is almost definitely not going to let me defend my proposal before Christmas. That's bad because I need to leave in January. It's not something I can push back indefinitely. She's also forcing me to turn it into a project that I don't want to pursue. Never mind the fact that the other 3/4 of my committee is ready to go with it as is. Never mind that I've been working on this thing for 18 months and she's never mentioned these things before.

It's been six years. Six years of classes and reading and writing and poverty-level wages, and I'm so sick of it all. I've always walked a line between polisci and historical approaches and between really wanting to be a teacher and liking, but not loving research. But now I'm not even sure I want to be a political scientist.

Deep down, I know that I am lucky to be able to get paid to sit around and read and think about places where people never have such an opportunity. Deep down, I know that I was born to be a teacher. But deep down I also know that I don't love the research enough to be able to do this much longer. And those intel jobs in nova look less awful every day.

Something I'm thankful for in the midst of all my self-pity: at church tonight, the GA's joined the RA's and the youth to sort the BCC food drive collection. That's right: we had 6-year-olds through high school seniors all in one room, sorting rice and pancake syrup and popcorn and peanut butter and HEB-brand Spam. It was total chaos. But we finally got it all done, and the kids were free to just hang out and be themselves. At one point, during a game of Joe (not Simon) Says, the instruction was, "Joe Says, 'Put your thumb in the air'" and Jacob yells, "Hey! I'm not an Aggie!" We laughed and laughed and laughed. There's grace, even on the worst day of a bad year.

11.29.2005

committeement problems

Baptist committee meetings have a way of making me want to become Catholic. They're boring, inefficient, and very little is accomplished that couldn't be covered in a well-written memo. Unfortunately, most of my Tuesday evenings this past year have been taken up with meetings of my church's building committee. These meetings tend to stress me out in and of themselves, and being as we meet downtown in the middle of rush hour, the drive there has a tendency to be annoying before the discussion even starts.

But today on the drive in there was 1) no traffic! and 2) this really great story on NPR about the influence of the blogosphere in making Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! popular, the challenges of truly independent indie rock production, and Pitchfork's undue influence on it all. Very interesting and it left me with much less tension going into the meeting. You can listen to the story here. Hooray for less stress at the building committee!

(P.S. On CYHSY - they've a little overrated. And not quite my thing. And Pitchfork does hvae too much power, but we all read it anyway. Here's betting CYHSY will be between 50-75 on their year-end best-ofs.)

i (heart) suzii p.

"Can you imagine the Old Testament prophets on a conference call with the king to get the message straight?" -Suzii Paynter of the Christian LIfe Commission of the BGCT, on the importance of Christian leaders being prophetic (ABP/Baptists Today)

okay, stalker

This is just creepy. Seems a certain New York Times reporter has gone beyond the usual googling of her blind dates. She checks out their Amazon.com wishlists. And the wishlists of other people she knows but has no intention of purchasing a gift for. Okay. It's one thing to make sure the guy's not an axe murder. Everyone I know checks up on that. But it's another entirely to be a stalker.

life's live liabilities

My general feeling is that live music should be live and recorded music should be just that: recorded, in a studio, with all the tricks and whistles that make an album sound good. Hence my typical avoidance of live albums. Recently, however, I've made some exceptions to that rule, with mixed results. Here are my thoughts on recent live album purchases:

1. Wilco, Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
I listened to this two-cd set for a good 2/3 of the ride to Kingston, across Connecticut, and back down to DC last weekend. What I learned from that is that 1) there are still albums that can hold my interest for more than two listens and 2) "Ashes of American Flags" is the perfect song to listen to when driving through New Haven, Connecticut. The album comes as close to capturing the experience of seeing Wilco live as is possible, I suppose. Worth the investment.

2. KGSR Broadcasts Volume 13
Every year, I don't plan to buy this because I remember that I hated last year's edition. But every year, I look at the track listing and break down and get it. And then the whole cycle of regret starts again. This year is no exception, although I don't regret having the live versions of Steve Earle's "Home to Houston" and Buddy Miller's "Worry Too Much" that were the reasons I bought the album in the first place. A pleasant surprise has been the Neville Brothers' beautiful "Rivers of Babylon." But all in all, it's not worth your $15, unless you're a completist sort. In which case you probably listen to KGSR too much to begin with.

3. The Old 97's, Alive and Wired
The Old 97's taped this album back in June over two sweltering nights at Gruene Hall. I was lucky enough to be there on the first night and the show rocked. Unfortunately, the album doesn't fully capture the evening's frenetic energy, or the effect of the heat on the band and the audience. Pass on this and get yourself something new and interesting for Christmas.

11.28.2005

maybe all i need is a shot in the arm

So I just went to get my last shot for the pre-Congo vaccination ordeal. Apparently in the midst of all the scribbling on my completely full yellow card, we missed the Hep A part two shot.

The thing is, I've had lots of shots. This one was pretty much like the rest of them: a little sting and that was that. Here's the problem, though. My arm is seriously hurting right now. Like, I'm supposed to move it around and I can't. Because it hurts.

Maybe this is why you aren't supposed to get vaccinations when you're sick.

irony hits the fan

This just became my must-have clothing article. Wow. And may I add, WOW.

I can't believe people are making kitschy t-shirts for the Congo that don't involve the Rumble in the Jungle. Or a great film about boxing and James Brown.

Anyway, despite the fact that it's an unflattering baby blue, I really think I'm going to have to get one of these. Although this one would work, too.

11.27.2005

confusing enough as is

Well, on the off chance that this was an issue to begin with, the SBC has now officially banned its missionary candidates from speaking in tongues. It never ceases to amaze me how the obsession with legalism leads these men to define everyone as "in" or "out." It's like Seventeen magazine for fundies.

For those of you not familiar with the distinctions between Christians, fundamentalists, evangelicals, pentacostals, charismatics, conservatives, and the "Religious Right," give me a call. We'll have lunch; I've got a chart that sums it up quite nicely.

music & the movies

Thanksgiving weekend was its usual fun, freezing cold time in Franklin. Daddy came in second in his age division in the Habitrot for the third year in a row (hooray, daddy!), Mom made a wonderful meal as usual, and we went to our usual Thanksgiving-afternoon biopic. This year's was a no-brainer; we all wanted to see Walk the Line, so that's what we did. I thought it was good - Phoenix did the impossible in singing Johnny Cash's songs, and Nashville girl Reese Witherspoon was really strong as June Carter. Thoroughly enjoyable and also a hoot to see Shooter Jennings playing his daddy.

Back in Austin, I finally got my hands on a copy of Lubbock Lights, a fantastic documentary on the musical history of the city of my birth. The filmmaker asks why such a boring/desolate/isolated/homogeneous/pick-your-adjective-to-say-dull place has produced so many incredible singers and songwriters. It is really good and definitely worth watching, although at times it seems more like the story of The Flatlanders than of Lubbock music in general - there's almost no mention of Buddy Holley or Waylon Jennings. Still, if you have any connection at all to the wide open skies of West Texas and/or the Texas music those skies inspire, you'll enjoy the story. And the cinematography. There's just something about those flat cotton fields under those big, blue skies that makes me feel at home in a way nothing else can.

Now, if I could just find a copy of Lubbock or Leave It before leaving for the Congo, my year of documentaries about Lubbock will be complete (cf The Education of Shelby Knox).

airfare for Christmas

Now this is cool. Leave it to Southwest to come up with the giftcard we all really want.

11.26.2005

fall reading

My reading habits tend to run in phases. These phases have no rhyme or reason and vary from the post-Holocaust Jewish fiction period I went through at age 20 to the Southern history kick I was on for most of my time up north (okay, so there's probably an explanation for that one). This fall, I've been in a bit of a football-reading mood. It probably has something to do with the Longhorns' run for the Rose Bowl. Anyway, without further ado, here are the best books on the subject I've read of late:

The Only Game that Matters: The Harvard/Yale Rivalry by Bernard M. Corbett and Paul Simpson

Corbett and Simpson attempt to chronicle the history of The Game, one of college football's oldest rivalry matches played on the Saturday before Thanksgiving every fall in Cambridge or New Haven. Both authors have Boston ties and the text seems to favor Harvard ever so slightly, but let's all remember that Yale leads the series 64-49-8, last Saturday's unfortunate triple-overtime incident nonwithstanding. Anyway, unless you're a die-hard fan of meaningless Ivy League football and ridiculous details about Depression-era matches between Dartmouth and Cornell, the book is most interesting for it's recounting of the history of the development of modern American football. Yale and Harvard more or less created the game (I'm sorry, but that New Jersey nonsense about 1869 is just ridiculous. Princeton and Rutgers played soccer, not football.) and Yale's legendary coach Walter Camp developed most of the rules we play by today. It's an enjoyable, if somewhat ridiculous read. Statements like this are a little bit hard to handle once you've experieced big-time college football:

"...to Harvard and Yale, The Game represents much more than just a couple of mediocre teams battling for position in the bottom half of the nation's football landscape. It is living history -- two of the country's most storied schools defending their honor."

Where Dreams Die Hard: A Small American Town and Its Six-Man Football Team by Carlton Stowers

I picked this up because my mom is from a six-man town and I have always loved small-town football. Although Stowers doesn't write as well as H.G. Bissinger, this story of very small town Texas football is just about perfect. Stowers follows the Penelope High team through one of its many rough seasons and does a beautiful job of explaining why football is so important to Texans and how it can become one of the few things capable of holding a dying community together.

And of course, the obligatory nod to
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger

The classic Texas football story. Permian's MoJo versus the world. If you've never read this, you really, really should. We used to drive by Ratliff Stadium on the way to and from Andrews when I was little and I never could get over how a stadium for a high school team could be so big. Bissinger gets it with absolutely poetic prose. Including this excerpt from the afterword of the tenth anniversary edition, which says to those people who think that The Game is the be-all, end-all of the sport all that can be said: "Brian [Chavez] looked at the east coast with a combination of curiosity and anthropological interest, as if he were studying a different species, and he concluded that it was no place for a human being to actually live."

11.21.2005

last week in live music: jeff tweedy

It's an incredible hassle and expense to get oneself to Kingston, New York (not to mention having to put up with upstate New Yorkers - oh, my). Somewhere after paying over $20 in tolls, remembering what it feels like to scrape ice off a car in 29 degree weather, and sitting in traffic in New Jersey for two hours, I asked myself, "Is this worth it?" I left the most important professional conference for my field two days early, meaning I missed a lot of important research and networking as well. But by the end of the night on Friday, it was so clear: sacrificing my professional future was absolutely worth it. Jeff Tweedy's solo show at the Ulster PAC was amazing. The view from the middle of the fifth row in an intimate venue was even better.

Let's start with the set list. We really lucked out; this was one of the best on the tour. Tweedy opened with "Sunken Treasure" and went right into "Remember the Mountain Bed" after that. There was a good variety of non-Wilco stuff as well. Tweedy commented that he'd been to the venue fifteen years before with Uncle Tupelo, told a funny story about that, and played a couple of UT songs ("Black Eye" and "New Madrid"), "Please Tell My Brother" from the Golden Smog stuff, and "He's Back Jack-Whistling Jesus," which is awesome (it's about Jesus coming back -- as a crack addict) and should be on the upcoming Loose Fur album. The set ended with a sing-along of "California Stars," except when Tweedy announced that he was going to sing the harmony part, everyone stopped singing to listen to that. It was so cool! Glenn Kotche joined Tweedy for the first encore, during which they played a lot of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot stuff. The final encore, though, was the best. Tweedy played "Someday Some Morning Sometime," "Passenger Side," and was about to launch into "Acuff-Rose" when the girl directly behind me started whining and begging him to play "Misunderstood." He actually did. We couldn't believe it. (Only 8 never's, though. It was hard without drums.) I was about to get really annoyed that she'd stopped him from playing "Acuff-Rose," but he closed with it. "Acuff-Rose" was always my favorite Uncle Tupelo song and I'd never heard it live.

But the music itself was what really made the evening. Jeff Tweedy was just alone on stage, surrounded by six guitars and lit with a spotlight. He couldn't see us and referred to the crowd as "the abyss" that yells things at him. Hearing all these songs completely stripped down was such an amazing experience. The reason I like Wilco so much is that the lyrics and the experimentation with the process of making music collide in a way that makes you say, "Yes. That's it. That's exactly how that is." Which ends up making me focus more on the lyrics than anything else. But the reason I liked Uncle Tupelo to begin with was that some amazing musicians were taking something old and making it completely new. And they could play! Friday's show was a reminder for me that Jeff Tweedy is not only an amazing lyricist, he's also a great guitar player. I couldn't have asked for a better evening.

killin' time is killin' me

I'm killing time in Washington today and have been trying to decide what to do. Got up and went for a nice run on the Hill, but it's a little chilly to be out there for too long. But if the House is going to be this much fun today, maybe I should take some popcorn over to the gallery.

Seriously. This is embarrassing. Back in the day, Texas in Africa was quite active in the Youth in Legislature program, where high school students take over the Tennessee Capitol for four days. I served in the House and on the Governor's cabinet. Screaming matches, stupid points-of-order, and resolution trickery were the norm. And I've always maintained that the House is a lot like a high school, what with being so big and full of cliques and a nasty pecking order (this is the bias shared by everyone who has worked on the Senate side).

But my gosh. At Youth Leg, we were high school students. We weren't actually responsible for anything. Like a war in Iraq that's killing thousands of Americans and Iraqis. Maybe I'll go over to Arlington to put some flowers on Ken's grave and think about this democracy of ours for which so many have sacrificed their lives. And maybe I'll say a prayer that our government can get its act together, stop letting absolute power corrupt absolutely, and somehow reconcile this mess.

11.17.2005

six points for the Lord

This is awesome. Story in today's NYT. I am so visiting on the trip to Lindsey's wedding in Ohio next summer.

11.16.2005

last week in live music, 2: dwight yoakam

Thanks to being caller nine on KVET's free ticket giveaway, Ginger and I went to Dwight Yoakam's show at Stubb's on Saturday night. It was somethin'. And by somethin', I mean, the crowd was something else. I got to Stubb's a lot. A whole lot. And I didn't realize until Saturday that I always see the same people there. There are a couple thousand people in Austin who always manage to get tickets for the big alt.country and indie rock shows, and while no two audiences are always the same, you generally see the same people at, say, Son Volt's SXSW set as you do at Iron and Wine/Calexico six months later. So you get to where you recognize people and we're all secure in our general hipness, excellent taste in music, and skill at buying tickets within five minutes of their going on sale.

By and large, these people were not at Dwight Yoakam. No, this crowd was a lot more diverse. There were some of the hipsters, and some boys dressed all country but giving away the fact that they're city boys the minute they pulled out their tiny cell phones and I-talian leather keyrings. But that was definitely the minority. So who was there? Put one way, we amused ourselves before the show started by playing "Count the mullets." Put another way, it's been a very, very, very long time since I've been at a concert where women actually tossed their thongs onto the stage. Then again, there's no denying that Yoakam is hot. Beyond hot. (I won't put what Ginger said about him (in church, no less!) because it would probably cause my blog to be filtered out by your family-friendly servers. Suffice it to say it involves the words "on-a-stick.")

But I digress. The show was fantastic. Yoakam really knows how to entertain and the two hour, fifteen minute set was a perfect balance of almost all of his hits with a little bluegrass, great acoustic stuff, and fun covers thrown in for good measure. He is not a Nashville studio act; that voice is for real and so are his songwriting and guitar-playing skills. He played great stuff off the new album, Blame the Vain, and covers of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" and John Prine's "Spanish Pipedream. " The Prine was part of the late-middle portion of the concert during which Yoakam played several bluegrass and acoustic numbers. The crowd wasn't particularly thrilled with this, but I really thought it was the best part. My favorite part then (and of the evening overall) was his cover of Prine's "Paradise" which led into "Bury Me," the lead-off track on one of my favorite albums, dwightyoakamacoustic.net. That voice and that guitar and those lyrics and that music under the open sky in Austin...well, it was just great. And you can't beat the price.

Next up on the live music calendar: Jeff Tweedy's solo show in Kingston, NY on Friday night. The setlists from these shows have been amazing so far. I can't wait!!!

11.14.2005

tvland

Totally disgusting and totally unsurprising: former Westlake/northwest Austin State Rep. Todd Baxter's now the top lobbyist for the state cable television industry. This from the family man who took TRMPAC money. Wonder if he'll follow a page from the Abramoff playbook and start "coordinating" meetings between Emperor Goodhair, Time-Warner execs, and Paul Pressler?

what I want for christmas

...is a movie about those lonely Lubbock Lights.

last week in live music: laura cantrell and walt wilkins

It was a busy week for me, what with trying to finish the long-overdue African military research project for Committee Member 5, deal with 4/5 of my committee and their comments on my proposal, and getting ready to leave town for two weeks. So, naturally, I saw three live shows and went to a football game. Without further ado....

Laura Cantrell, Waterloo in-store, 11/9
Cantrell hosts a popular radio show in New York that consists of a lot of "found" folk music, much of it from Appalachia. She released an album over the summer that got really good reviews. I'd read about her EVERYWHERE and wanted to see what all the fuss is about. And after two songs at an in-store that started 20 minutes late, I have to say that I'm not sure. The songs were fine, but her delivery was mediocre, her voice was unexceptional, and on the whole it was pretty boring. So boring, in fact, that I left ten minutes into the set to go to Emeralds, where I bought some fabulous shoes before heading off to the GA's.

About the only good thing about wasting half an hour at Waterloo was running into a friend who's in the film industry and is fixin' to pick up to go to Waco for four months to work on the "Texas Cheerleader" pilot that TLC is filming. They're following around four Midway High senior cheerleaders and hoping for a reality show a la Laguna Beach. That will be somethin'. My friend is somewhat less than enthused.

Walt Wilkins, Cheatham Street Warehouse, 11/11
I adore Walt Wilkins. Not just because he was raised a liberal Baptist (although he was). Certainly not because Pat Green keeps recording his songs. No, I love Walt Wilkins because he survived Nashville and came out a better songwriter than ever. Friday night's show was awesome. We had the table up front and were treated to more than two hours of his best songs from Rivertown and Mustang Island, along with lots of new stuff and some covers. He took requests for the last twenty minutes or so, including one from the mysterious "Terry" who wanted to hear "So Linda, Surrender." It was an amazing set, backed by Marcus Eldridge and another singer-songwriter named John Greenburg who played a great song about an old blue suit towards the end of the night.

Really, though, Walt could've sung the phone book and I would've been happy. Getting to hear him sing "Poetry," which is one of my favorite songs ever, was an added treat. You should definitely catch Walt at one of his Austin-area shows now that he's back in town.

More to come on Dwight Yoakam and my wacky Washington Sunday dinner soon.

11.12.2005

scandalrific

This could be huge if it goes anywhere. Current Senator/former Texas AG John Cornyn, Second Baptist Houston Pastor Ed Young, former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, and seriously under-fire lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- all involved (knowingly or not) another one of Abramoff's odiferous schemes. Wow.

11.10.2005

anything but libre

I generally avoid posting on Jack Abramoff, the man-about-town/friend of Tom Delay/bff of Karl Rove/extra-close friend of Grover Norquist/fall guy for a number of scandals. But since Africa's involved this time, I'm making an exception. Seems Abramoff may have tried to get Gabonese president Omar Bongo (not exactly a savory character himself) to pay one his lobbying outfit $9 million (that's US$) for a meeting with the president. The Post has the letter.

Access to G.W. is obviously a tricky thing, but generally foreign heads of states who are not outright terrorists can get at least a tiny bit of access without having to pay a lobbyist. Which, of course, Bongo knew and later managed to get via the State Department for free.

I could make so many jokes about Libreville (which means "Free City") and the fact that the Gabonese capital is one of the most expensive cities in the world. And I could comment on Bongo's somewhat, um, what's the word, oh, yeah, abysmal human rights record. But I'd like to visit the place someday and I have to get up early to represent the family at the Veterans' Day Parade in the morning, so I'll refrain.

The Advisor informs me that I need to provide maps for the masses when talking about obscure places in Africa, so here you go, courtesy of the PCL map collection. You'll note that Gabon is right next door to my favorite African state, Equatorial Guinea, as well as the other Congo.

home sweet prejudiced home

Well, Floyd County, of which my original hometown of Floydada is the county seat, was one of the ten most supportive counties in Texas when it came to Prop 2 voting. Why anyone would be shocked by this news is unclear. I imagine everyone's proud of the fact that they outdid those liberals over in Crosbyton. That might almost make up for the Whirlwind's 3-7 record this football season. You've got to have something to cling to in late November if you didn't make the playoffs.

Support for Prop 2 by percentages of voters, via In The Pink:
HARTLEY: 94% (810 voting yes, 49 voting no)
DALLAM: 94% (615 voting yes, 37 voting no)
MOTLEY: 95% (327 voting yes, 19 voting no)
CHILDRESS: 95% (902 voting yes, 51 voting no)
GARZA: 95% (644 voting yes, 35 voting no)
HANSFORD: 95% (902 voting yes, 47 voting no)
OCHILTREE: 95% (1,373 voting yes, 71 voting no)
PARMER: 95% (911 voting yes, 47 voting no)
FLOYD: 95% (1,134 voting yes, 55 voting no)
MARTIN: 95% (644 voting yes, 31 voting no)

Things I Don't Understand

1) Gauchos as a fashion statement for those who are not ranchers in South America.

2) Multivariate Analysis.

3) How gay marriage will lead to the collapse of Western Civilization

4) Why anyone would want a hoodie for their iPod.

5) How my dissertation proposal can simultaneously be "almost ready to defend" (what Committee Member A said) and "a completely unorganized disaster" (nicer than what Committee Member C actually said).

100th Post!

This is my 100th post, which means that I've averaged about one per day in the three months of this blogging thing. Hooray!

Anyway, the news for this is a real honor. My wonderful former teacher, John Lewis Gaddis, was honored with a National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office today. That's a huge honor and he is certainly deserving, both as a scholar and as a person. JLG is one of the rare brilliant scholars who are also wonderful teachers. My first class with him was on September 11, 2001. He just looked around the room, said, "This is no time to have a class" and sent us away, only to have Gary Hart join us for the discussion a week later. He is an incredible teacher, a kind person, and a very worthy recipient. Hooray, JLG!

11.09.2005

Sharpton salsas!

This is the funniest political ad I've ever seen. Albeit for a failed New York mayoral candidate.

great wall

Here's why I love the kids at my church. Tonight at dinner (that would be Wednesday night dinner before Prayer Meeting. I'm that kind of Baptist.), we were talking about Prop 2 (which makes gay marriage double super-secret illegal in Texas now) one of the teenagers says to me, "Did you see that party at the church? I was going to call you because isn't that illegal?"

That made me happy in some small way. At least there are some Christian teenagers in this city who know that there's supposed to be a line between the church and the state.

However, the celebration/vote-watch at Great Hills "Six Flags Over Jesus" Baptist Church was not illegal, because under the 501(c)3 portion of the tax code, churches may maintain their tax-exempt status when campaigning on "pending legislation," so long as "no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation." The language is so vague (what is a "substantial part of its activity"?) that no church has been found in violation of the statue since its inception in 1934. What does get churches into trouble is endorsement of particular candidates.

Don't say you never learned anything from my blog. Tax codes, football scores, African volcanoes -- it's all here.

vote for something that matters

Go here to nominate "Volma Overton Elementary" as the name for the new elementary school to be built in northeast Austin on the Mueller airport site. What better tribute could there be?

lock and load

Reason to love Waco #4,237: You can vote at the trap shooting range.




Image from today's Waco Trib.

11.08.2005

for shame


You know. My family has been in Texas since the days of the Republic. I love Texas. I tried to leave, but I was miserable the whole time I was up at that fancy Ivy League university because I missed Texas so much. I love two-stepping at Gruene Hall, tubing on the Comal in the hottest part of the summer, and listening to live music under the stars in Austin. I love the unbelievably clear water on the Guadalupe between Ingram and Hunt. I love the view from the old, abandoned farmhouse on our family's land in the Panhandle, just where the flat farmland ends and the canyoned ranchland opens up at your feet. I love the site of miles and miles and miles and miles of cotton fields on the South Plains where I was born. I love Friday night football and Saturday games at Darell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. I love the rolling fields of bluebonnets out near Independence in April. I love the old campus at Baylor and the Ransom Center at UT. I love that we have our own music and our own Dr. Pepper and our own national cuisine. I love the starry night sky over Big Bend, and paddling up the Santa Elena Canyon and the way the light hits the Chisos Mountains in the late afternoon. Heck, I even love Lubbock and its crazy mix of religion and boredom that spawns so much great music.

I want to spend my life here, and I want my children to have the very strong sense that they are from Texas. But sometimes there are things that make me ashamed of my fellow Texans. Like the fact that 76% of the vote went for Prop 2. Or that the citizens of White Settlement don't seem to have a problem with their town's name.

One day, this is going to be looked back upon as a shameful day in Texas' history. Why we have to discriminate against people just becuase they are different from us is beyond me. Why my friends can't get the Texas marriage certificate that I can one day get just because they're "not right" according to someone's narrow interpretation of Scripture is beyond me.

all the cool kids are doing it

You know, for political scientists, big elections are like Christmas. But these off-year, obscure elections that mostly put selfish, mean-spirited, nonsense amendments up to a vote are more like New Year's Day. You know there'll be a nice dinner and some good football later on, but really, all the good stuff is over and tomorrow you have to go back to work.

Go vote anyway. Prop 2 is nasty, poorly written, and completely unnecessary. If Kelly Willis recorded calls saying you should vote for them, then the bond issues must be a good thing, right? We live in the strangest city in America, I swear.

11.07.2005

Well, great

My fieldwork may be fixin' to get a lot more interesting. Apparently that lava moves 60 mph. And the idea that anyone could move the city is just ridiculous. How? To where?

The thing I find funniest about this, though, is the idea CNN International apparently has that the fact that someone has the title "Deputy Mayor" actually means something in North Kivu.

help a cute kid

I've gotten notes on this from about six different directions, so here's my post on Nashville kiddos Kate and Caroline Kirk. From my old pastor:

"My good friend and former staff colleague, Mary Gurski, has two beautiful nieces, both of whom have Niemann-Pick Type A/B Disease, a very rare--literally 1 in a million--and, usually, fatal genetic disorder.

"While Caroline's, age 6, symptoms have progressed too far for treatment, Kate, age 3, has had a potentially life-saving transplant of cord-blood stem cells. I recommend the girls and their family to you for your prayers and, also, offer their web site, http://www.forkatessake.org/, to you as a place to learn more.

"If you'd like to help in another way, too, you can find a link on the site to a Christmas album, To Kate: An Americana Christmas Album, recorded to benefit the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA), and in honor of Kate. The project was produced by Garry Tallent (bass player in Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band), and includes songs from a collection of top roots/alt. country talents including John Prine, Steve Earle & Allison Moorer, and actor John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Northern Exposure). Oh, yes. Caroline and Kate live in Nashville. :)"

Now, if the story and the children aren't enough get you thinking about what you can do, maybe this track listing will help:

To Kate: A Benefit for Kate's Sake
1. BR549 - The Christmas Song
2. Jim Lauderdale - Holly & Her Mistletoe
3. Buddy & Julie Miller - Away In A Manger
4. The Big Happy - Gift Wrapped Boy
5. Bob Delevante - Half Bad In The Snow
6. John Corbett - Ain't No Trouble To Me
7. Joe Ely - Winterlude
8. Jason & The Scorchers - Oh! Holy Night
9. Raul Malo - Pretty Paper
10. Steve Earle & Allison Moorer - Nothing But a Child
11. Henry Gross - What A Christmas
12. Rosie Flores - Christmas Everyday
13. John Prine - I'll Be Home for Christmas
14. Jeff Black - Winter Wonderland

It's worth the $15 alone to hear Buddy and Julie Miller sing "Away in a Manger" for sure, and you get John Prine doing "I'll Be Home for Christmas." This is the first Americana Christmas compilation album, so if that's important to you, well, here you go. You can buy the album for $15 at Paste Music here. Or you could zip on down to Waterloo and pick up a copy.

the moose loves vince, too

One of my favorite blogs, Bullmoose, pauses to discuss Texas politics. He's probably wrong about Texans having a "Come to Jesus" moment to elect the Kinkster, but hey, stranger things have happened.

11.06.2005

lists, lists, lists

Found this funny, funny, entirely appropriate dissertation break-up letter yesterday (it IS like a bad relationship!), wasted way too much time on one of my attorney's favorite websites, and am inspired to make a list of my own. So, without further ado, I give you:

Songs I am Embarrassed to Admit are on the "Recently Played" Playlist on My iPod and My Lame Excuses for Each One:
1. The Black Crowes, "She Talks to Angels" They played at ACL. Not that I went to their set or anything. But we heard it while walking back to the car.
2. Wham!, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" It was on the Emirates' 1985 top hits channel. I listened to it about 46 times between Dubai and New York.
3. Everclear, "A.M. Radio" There's no excuse.
4. The Bangles, "Manic Monday" It's part of my attempt to collect all the bad music from my childhood.
5. Debbie Gibson, "Lost in Your Eyes" See #4.
6. Hilary Duff, "Come Clean" It's the theme song to Laguna Beach, the stupid MTV show I'm hooked on. I didn't know it was a Hilary Duff song. Honest.
7. LFO, "Every Other Time" It was on Laguna Beach the night I decided to track down the theme song. Jason is so clearly going to lose LC this week. And I'm willing to bet that Jessica takes him back.
8. Coolio, "1-2-3-4 (Sumpin' New) Part of my attempt to collect all the bad music from high school. And there was so much.
9. Destiny's Child, "No, No, No, Pt. 2" It's on the mix of songs that were hits in Kenya in 1998. If you have to ask, you're not going to understand.
10. Young MC, "Bust a Move" It was part of the dance, dance revolution at Camp CLC last summer.

In other disturbing news, the GA's have informed me that Hilary Duff has a version of "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room" on the first Disneymania album. Does anyone own this? Fess up, Matt!

Big Cheesy Syrup

Why were people so shocked by Virginia Tech's loss to Miami last night? Two words, kids: sophomore quarterback. It doesn't matter if he's a Vick. There are very, very few young and inexperienced qb's who can stand up to the Hurricanes. Whether Miami should actually be #3 over the Crimson Tide in the AP poll now is an open question, but whatever. Everyone expects Alabama to lose next week and if they pull it out against the tigers of LSU and Auburn, they'll really have the right to complain. At least the Tide is third in the coaches' poll.

The BCS picture is a lot clearer now, at least for the Rose Bowl. I'd hate to be a one-loss team who gets locked out of the party, though. For the love, when are they going to fix this darn thing?

It's The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror night at last!

last thoughts

There's a really nice piece on Volma's funeral in today's Statesman, along with some heartbreaking photos. And if you haven't seen the really nice article on his life from earlier this week, it's here, with the editorial here. The Statesman did a wonderful job of covering Volma's legacy and amazing life this week.

Today at All Saints' Day at church we read the names of those who've died this year, and, like we always do, said, "Thanks be to God" after each one. It was harder today than it usually is, because we've had a lot of loss this week. But how blessed we are.

Email the Austin ISD trustees and ask them to name the new elementary school that's set to be built on the Mueller airport site in Volma's honor. It's an honor long overdue and a very fitting tribute.

11.05.2005

and then there were three...

We started the day with five undefeated teams, but it turned out that the Hokies were just as overrated as we thought all along. They lost. Badly. To Miami. In Blacksburg. UCLA lost to Arizona. Badly. In Tucson. Alabama's still undefeated, but they'll lose to LSU next week. And I just purchased my plane tickets for the Rose Bowl! WOO-HOO!!!

week-late concert review: iron & wine and calexico


Last Sunday, new Austinite Sam Beam (who performs as Iron & Wine) and Tucson's super-cool Calexico played to a sold-out crowd at Stubb's. After a painful opening set from Edith Frost (that's "froost" rhyming with pretentious Frenchie Proust, not "frost" as in jack), Calexico took the stage. Dreamy lead singer Joey Burns was wearing the exact same pearl snaps shirt he had on at their amazing SXSW show at Antone's (for which I was on the front row, thanks very much!) It took awhile for them to get into the Southwestern border groove that makes them one of my favorite bands to see live, but once they played "Alone or," they were on for the rest of hte evening. Iron & Wine then performed a ton of songs off several albums, including The Creek Drank the Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days, and this year's Woman King EP. He played a very sweet version of "Naked as We Came," which is one of my favorite love songs.

Unfortunately, Beam went on a little too long, meaning that the highlight of the evening had to be cut short due to the noise ordinance that cuts off live music outdoors in Austin at 10:30 on weeknights. Despite that, the two bands were able to play five of the seven cuts off of In the Reins EP (they did not play my two favorites, "History of Lovers" and "Sixteen, Maybe Less") as well as covers of "Willie's "Always on my Mind" and "Wild Horses." This EP is one of my favorite current listens - the combination of Beam's skill as a songwriter and Calexico's amazing ability to set a mood makes for some incredible American music.

It rocked. You really should see it. And if anyone has a tape of their live performance on Eklektikos on KUT Monday at noon, I'd love to have a recording of their cover of Lou Reed's All Tomorrow's Parties.

Next on the live music radar: Dwight Yoakam's show at Stubb's on Saturday night, to which I just won tickets. Thank-you, KVET!

gameday jive

Texas routed Baylor, 62-0. I have very mixed feelings about this, as per usual, but am glad that the numbers for the day will help Vince's Heisman chances and our computer rankings.

Yale lost to Brown. In the Yale Bowl. This is bad. This is really bad. I'm going to The Game in two weeks. This is really bad.

I never thought I'd say this, but Go, Miami.

Finally, no word on whether the arrested protestors at the Klan rally in support of Proposition 2 were part of the Full Moon crowd. Representative Chisum, does it not bother you that THESE are the people who support Prop 2? Ugh.

11.04.2005

reformation day Lilley

At first glance, it sounds the Lilley presidency might be really good for Baylor. He's even a Baptist minister. According to the Trib, there are some concerns about faculty morale at UNR. Faculty will be grumpy anywhere. The question is not about that; the question is what a president does to alleviate and address their concerns. Who knows if this will go well or if Lilley will be the sacrificial goat after a decade of trouble. The fact that the regents were finally able to agree on something is a good sign. Here's hoping Lilley can be the agent of reconciliation that Baylor so desparately needs.

Lilleys in the snow

Update on John Lilley, rumored to be the leading candidate for Baylor's presidency, from a friend who has access to this kind of information:

"Dr. John Mark Lilley received a DMA (which, according to the web site, I think stands for "Early Music Performance") from the Thornton School of Music at USC in 1971. He majored in Church Music."

So another Baylor president who doesn't have a PhD. I don't have time to fully explain snobbery in the academic world right now, but basically, many PhD's think that they shouldn't have to put up with administrators who haven't jumped through the same hoops as they have. And there's a general feeling that a PhD is harder to get than other doctoral degrees. So who knows how this will fly with the Baylor faculty. I do think he's got more credibility than Sloan ever did, based on his extensive experience in higher ed admin.

trademark shenanigans

Just a week after Homecoming (and a week after all the alumni have left town), the search committee and/or regents are set to announce a new nominee for the Baylor's (c) presidency this afternoon at 3. Looks like they may also go ahead and make it official. My sources indicate that it's probably John Lilley '62, who has been president of the University of Nevada at Reno since 2001. Other names still floating are Randall O'Brien and Reagan Ramsower.

Lilley has a long history of higher education administration experience and before that was on the faculty at the Claremont Colleges. This means he 1) understands the value of a teaching institution and 2) knows how to manage a budget and fundraise. Both factors are absolutely critical for Baylor these days. What's not clear is whether his doctorate from USC was a PhD or an EdD. The former is really important to many faculty members at Baylor (c). From Lilley's bios, it sounds like music education might have been his field. We'll see if this mystery gets solved in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Baylor (c) grads everywhere will be glad to learn that he was named a distinguished alumnus of Baylor (c) earlier this year.

I'm going to reserve judgment until we learn more.

11.03.2005

sleeping in Karl Rove's bed

So Karl Rove won't face prosecution in his little Kerrville voting scandal. This probably isn't something you've heard about, but the basic issue is that he's registered to vote in Kerr County at the cottages that are part of the B&B between Ingram and Hunt that he and Darby own. And that he apparently claimed multiple homestead exemptions and had to pay some money back. Really, I wouldn't care too much about this except for the fact that I have in fact stayed in that cozy little cottage on the banks of the Guadalupe, entirely by accident.

It's kindof a long story, but basically, western Kerr County is one of my favorite places in the world. My best friends from college and I get together for a girls' weekend once a year, so last winter we found a nice B&B out that way and learned on our tour of the property just who owned the place. I nearly swallowed my tongue, especially when the manager told us that Rove loves to cannonball off the dock in the summer and that since she couldn't remember his new title, "deputy-something," she just calls him "Dippity-Doo."

Despite the fact that I was less than thrilled with putting money into the Rove family legal defense fund by staying there, it's a lovely place and I recommend it without reservation (although you'll need a reservation, especially in the summer when the place fills up with parents dropping off/picking up their children at the camps in the area). And if you really want to have some fun while in a famous-for-DC type's home, we can recommend jumping on the bed:


lying liars and the lies people believe they tell

THIS is really bad for the president. He's always claimed the moral high ground, but if 58% of the public has doubts about your honesty, you're really in trouble.

What I've never understood is why people didn't think they were being talked into a questionable war in the first place. It was so obvious at the time that the administration was trying to build a case on lots of dubious evidence. And that mission accomplished nonsense (on my birthday!) was so clearly premature.

But enough politics. I've gotta go quilt.

11.02.2005

tears in heaven

So, the new Left Behind has gone straight to DVD rather than getting a theatrical release like the first one. Kirk Cameron, what happened? You used to be so dreamy and so too-cool-for-school. Whatever happened to the Mikey we knew and loved?

What happened is that Kirk fell in with the scary Christians, who were only too happy to have his dreamy good looks and wholesome family life in their really bad films. My favorite Kirk Cameron project of the moment is The Way of the Master, a witnessing program that airs late at night in Austin and in prime time on the family channel in Nairobi, Kenya. When I saw it there in August, the episode was all about how people just don't believe they're going to be cast into the lake of fire. Aren't you glad to know that what Kenyans learn about America comes at least in part from this?

But that's not all! Kirk has products for sale, Kirk has clips to view, and Kirk has an advice column! You can read the latest of Kirk's words of wisdom at "Friends don't let friends go to hell."

Now, I am a Baptist, but I'm not that kind of Baptist. (I'm this kind of Baptist.) The Left Behind empire is based on sketchy theology that only dates back about a century and that seeks to employ scare tactics above all else. And trying to scare people into belief in Christ seems to me to be really wrong. It doesn't emphasize that God is a God of love and that it's about grace, not punishment. But of course these types usually prefer their women to keep silent.

preps update

We here at Texas in Africa take our college football pretty seriously. And while November is full of excitement about who'll remain undefeated, the annual BCS gripe-fest, and the inevitable fear in the hearts of Longhorn football fans that our boys will mess this wonder up, it's also the time I start to get a little sad. The home football games are almost over and there's no kidding anyone that the season will be over in two short months. So, naturally, all there is to do is think about the future. And after watching Westlake's rout of Crockett Friday night, my mind is on our recruits for next year. It turns out that last year's Rose Bowl win and this year's season are having their desired effect and keeping those Texas boys south of the Red River like the good Lord intended. SEVEN of the Rivals 100 top recruits in the country are committed to Texas, and Dave Campbell's got 24 kids who've given oral commitments to the Longhorns. Some of this will change, of course, but overall, the future's looking bright. And maybe Mack Brown will have the chance to take a nap in January instead of having to stand guard against Bob Stoops.

As for the present, Vince's stock is going up. Remember to vote for him weekly here.