Friday, November 28, 2008

Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death

That's right, trampled to death.

In stories such as this one, there is often a rush for corporate blame. Yes, places such as stores and stadiums should have processes in place that anticipate mad rushes, but...well, I just don't know what to say. We are not capable of controlling ourselves enough to avoid killing someone? For a sale at Wal-Mart?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hope in Time of Abandonment

In that tritest of trite movie cliches, Anthony Hopkins tells Zorro that when the pupil is ready, the master will appear. Part of what this means (but only part) is that you may only be able to understand some teaching when you've arrived at a point where that teaching is meaningful to you or has some point of application or interest.

Earlier today I happened to pick up Jacques Ellul's Hope in Time of Abandonment. Ellul's works have been meaningful to me at various times, but I had poked around in this one (or tried to) several times without really getting anywhere. Yet this time the introduction seemed to jump off the page at me.

Here are a couple of quotes:

I have arrived at hope by an altogether different route. My purely sociological and historical intellectual approach had led me into a blind alley. There was nothing to say to a person of my society beyond a stoic exhortation to keep going in God's abandonment. I was up against a wall, against a finality, against the insoluble, against the inescapable. After that--nothing.

And after that--everything was given me, but by a different route. No intellectual step prompted this conviction, apart from that by which I took note of the concrete situation. (vii)

Another quote:

I knew all too well, in true orthodoxy, that it is very wrong to look to the biblical revelation for an answer to the question one is asking or with which one is faced. I knew, in true orthodoxy, that it is God who questions us and who awaits a response from us, not the other way around. No consoling formula or solution was to be sought in the Bible. That was simply the way things were. When the response is called for, one has to make up one's mind. (viii)


We must learn to hear what the question is which is really being asked by the person of this age. It is not being asked in the public square, nor in speeches and parades. It is not being asked by the actor facing his audience. It is being asked offstage, in the secret places of the heart. It shapes the architecture of the other questions. Unseen, it is gnawing and killing. (ix-x).

Ellul says that he was given a gift, that we all have been. That we do have the answer to the question.

If I know one thing about Ellul from previous readings, it is that he doesn't trade in platitudinous hot air, so I look forward to reading more.

Oddly, I haven't been reading too much Bible recently. But I do find myself drawn to those who can and have drawn from the Bible and can help me to do so as well rather than those who simply point me to it as a spiritual chore to engage in that will help me but they know not how.

I've also been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Who is more obnoxious?

Awhile ago I ran a series of "What's Better?" challenges in honor of the now defunct website.

Today, I wanted to momentarily cross that game with the (as far as I know) still running "Am I Annoying? Dot Com" web site to form the "Who is More Obnoxious?" game.

Today's question pits fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer against fans of The Wire.

I should admit I have friends and colleagues among both groups.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans tend to have to reduce everything to the fact that Buffy was and is the greatest show of all time. Therefore the principle fault and meaning of every other show (except, perhaps, Firefly) is that it isn't Buffy. Recently at, Laura Miller trashed the Twilight books. She did a good job, too, describing what sounds like an insipid series. But, of course, it wasn't enough to simply state why the books are (in her opinion) no good. The whole story has to be framed around the contention that Buffy is a real story for feminists, the real complement to Harry Potter, the real thing we ought to be addicted to. Ask a typical Buffy fan to name the five greatest television shows of all time and you'll probably get a reply along the lines of..."Well, there's Buffy, and then maybe Firefly and Angel, but beyond that, I don't really watch television because it is an inferior medium that has never produced anything culturally relevant...."

In the other corner we have fans of The Wire. Now, I happen to like The Wire. I watched all five seasons on DVD. It was great. But I totally, totally snarfed in laughter when Slate's culture gabfest compared the relative indifference of fans of Mad Men (who shrugged and said "yeah, you're right" when one host complained that the show was a little slow) to fans of The Wire (who get that crazed look and said "It is a cultural imperative that you must watch this show! Baltimore is suffering!")

Whenever I hear fans of The Wire speak, I always have visions of the Dauphin in Henry V. Yes, it is truly a most

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the only show, play, novel, or art work that is truly feminist.
The Wire is the only show, play, novel, or art work that is real about the modern city.

If you don't like Buffy you are a misogynist snob.
If you don't like The Wire you are a racist homophobe.

Oh, to be able to lock all the Buffy fans and The Wire fans into some room at MLA until only one came out.

So, my question for today is...who is more obnoxious? Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans or fans of The Wire?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's Here!

Well today I received my contributor copy of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema.

This is a book I edited (and contributed a chapter for) about representations of faith and spirituality in films from directors such as Bergman, Bresson, Tarkovsky, Dreyer, and many others.

I am very grateful to the contributors who helped make this process more than I dared to hope for. I am especially thankful to Doug Cummings and Mike Hertenstein who went above and beyond the call of duty (and, perhaps, what they signed up for) by not only helping me select essays but providing the cover design (Doug) and writing the introduction (Mike). The latter really put the book over the top, in my opinion, helping to solidify a unified vision and make it a whole, not merely a collection of parts.

To order a copy of the book, try:


Cambridge Scholars Press

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"E" is for Eclectic

Okay, so I haven't been working through the Ipod recently. I think my trek through the alphabet got stuck on "D." Hard to find new ways of sorting the list, and I figured anyone who sees an ample amount of The Police, The Pretenders, or Billy Joel in letters "A" through "D" will no not be surprised to find "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," "Every Mother's Son," or "The Entertainer" on my Ipod's list of "E" songs.

I have 46 songs beginning with the letter "E" in my Itunes library. For this letter, I decided to focus on the eclectic--songs from artists of whom I have less than one entire album. This generally means that there was something about that particular song that caught my attention even if I didn't normally listen to the artist. Here are the "E" songs that qualify:

"Ebudae" by Enya. This is from the Toys Soundtrack. I sort of liked a few other songs on that album, but once I had it, the Enya song grew on me. I think we got one of her albums once, but it all sounded the same to me (sort of like Liz Phair, right Sherry?) so I didn't upload it to the Ipod.

"Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks. Well, I do have a Fleetwood Mac album, so I wonder if this one qualifies. Strictly a nostalgia piece. There's no music quite like the music that was popular when you were in high school.

"Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night. Blame it on Sports Night, if you must.

"Even if My Heart Would Break" by Aaron Neville and Kenny G. I cannot tell you what this song sounds like. It was apparently on the soundtrack for The Bodyguard that I uploaded to get some Whitney Houston songs. Since I just made a folder for "E" songs to put in shuffle play, perhaps I will actually listen to it this month.

"Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears. They aren't quite one hit wonders (I do still have "Shout" on Itunes as well). Great theme song for Dennis Miller's show and used quite effectively in Real Genius.

"Eyes on the Prize" by the Emmaus Group Singers. From the Green Card soundtrack. See, now this is what I love about my Ipod. I never much listened to that song because there were like two or three good cuts on that CD. Now I can take those two or three and put them in rotation.

Other "E" notes:

--I have four different artists (Dixie Chicks, Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, Dar Williams) that have songs beginning with the words "Everybody Knows" (yeah, the one is a cover, but, still, that's weird).

--Since I have an entire album of The Nylon's their version of "Eli's Coming" doesn't count.

--My (current) five favorite "E" songs (in no particular order):
"Easy Silence" -- The Dixie Chicks. Just a beautiful song with beautiful sentiments.
"Eat for Two" -- 10,000 Maniacs. Not sure what to make of the lyrics, but I love the haunting tone of Natalie Merchant's voice. (It is Natalie Merchant, right?)
"Everybody Knows" -- Leonard Cohen. Call me perverse, but I like Cohen's voice. What a consummate lyricist.
"Everybody Want to Rule the World" -- Tears for Fears. I make no claims for it musically, but it I can listen to it a lot and not get tired of it, which is something.
"Every Day" -- Don MacLean. Very easy to listen to.

Juror's special prize: "Embassy Lament" from the Soundtrack to Chess: "Oh my dear, how boring/He's defecting/Just like all the others/He's expecting..."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Of Motes and Beams

It used to be that John 3:16 was the most ubiquitous Bible verse, but these days I think I've been hearing Matthew 7:3 a lot. I think it may have become our favorite verse. It goes something like this:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in Ted Stevens's eye?

Oh, is that not the way you learned the verse? Me either. I mention this because Republican Mark Sanford invoked this verse in response to the recent presidential election.

Sanford said:

I believe in the Biblical notion of taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else's. Accordingly, let me focus on my own party and the way Ted Stevens personifies what went wrong in the election.

It's hard for me to disagree with his personification of Stevens, but I do find myself quibbling a bit over his application of the Biblical verse. Particularly when the verse says to not focus on your "brother's" fault. Clearly Sanford is trying to identify with corporate errors, but he does so by focusing on some other member of his party and saying the fault is theirs. In the same piece he insists that the lost election is not a repudiation of his party's principles--and certainly not of him.

Sanford begins the piece by saying that as an American he wishes the new president "every success." By the end of the piece he is speaking not of the faults of the GOP but of what he "fears" the Obama administration will become.

Is it possible the American electorate rejected the GOP not because of (alleged) corruption of one Alaska Senator (who still has an appeal pending) but because of the a blanket failure to offer alternatives to trickle-down economics and members who simply bad mouth the other guy? I don't know, I'm just asking.

What I'm saying, though, is that whether or not Sanford's piece is poor politics, it sure seems like poor Biblical exegesis. How the taking the "log out of your own own eye" became a synonym for scapegoating Ted Stevens is not exactly clear to me.

It's funny to me how many people these days have taken to citing this verse aggressively, as a means of telling others that they have beams that they should take care of before criticizing someone else (usually the person citing the verse). Isn't doing so--attacking someone else with this verse--the very opposite of what the verse admonishes us to do? Isn't it, in the semantic sense, a perversion of this verse?

Thank You, Soldier

I read a lot of articles this political season about people dissing yard signs. Well not yard signs exactly, but the notion that yard signs persuade or comfort others and create a bandwagon effect.
Part of what allegedly helped one campaign was direct contact. I've been thinking about that this morning when it comes time to ponder the call to "support" our troops. I'm sure there is a value to flag pins and yellow ribbons, but I know, too, that when I'm around military people the thing that I do that most consistently gets a positive response is to say "thank you for all that you are doing and sacrificing for me and our country."

That's not to say that we do not need to support our troops in tangible ways as well. We need to honor our commitments to them, whether it be for Veteran's care or by providing the tools they need to do the job we ask them to do.

We should also pray. Regardless of where we think our military personnel should or should not be, when they answer the call of duty let us pray that they would soon be rejoined with their families.

I was reminded this month of what a great privilige it is to be an American and of how many freedoms I enjoy, including the freedom to cast a vote for who will lead our country. These rights were obtained for me and preserved by citizens and, at times, soldiers, who gave of themselves for the good of the whole.

Thank you, solider.
Thank you, veteran.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What is "Christian Fiction"?

The new reference encyclopedia, Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Literary Genres is now available (see link below). It includes an entry written by yours truly on "Christian Fiction."

The essay contains a definition of the genre, a history of its development, common themes, current issues, and selected authors who participate in it. I do manage to cite M. Leary's "How Should we then Review?" essay as well as E.J. Park's essay about commercialization (in Christianity Today) and my own essay in The Matthew's House Project on evangelical pornography).

While the price of a three volume set of reference encyclopedias would probably be prohibitive for individual buyers, I do recommend the essay if you have access to a reference library and (if you work at or in conjunction with an academic institution) think it would make a good addition to a school reference library that could be recommended to your acquisitions department.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Do You Believe in the Power of Prayer?

Just catching up on some pre-election shows on DVR, including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Colbert made fun of some clip of a guy praying for a McCain victory and reminding God that His reputation is at stake because members of other religions "for various reasons" are praying to their gods for the other guy to win.

I asked Cindy if she ever prayed for Obama to win. She said, "not specifically."

I thought back and realized that, well, neither did I.

So here's my questions to anyone who wants to answer:

1) Did you pray about this election?
2) What was your prayer?
3) To the best of your understanding, was your prayer answered?
4) What inferences, if any, do you draw from the answer to #3?

Just the Luck of the Draw?

Harvard political historian Barbara Kellerman made headlines over at CNN by suggesting that history will be kinder in its assessment of George W. Bush's presidency than his current low approval ratings suggest.

Her quote:

"I think it's possible when people have stopped being as angry at the Bush administration as they are now ... that they will realize that some of this is just ... the luck of the draw."

Kellerman, author of the book "Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters," noted that Bush has not had luck on his side for the past eight years.

"He [Bush] has been a quite unlucky president. Certain things happened on his watch that most people don't have to deal with -- a 9/11, a [Hurricane] Katrina, the financial crisis, being three obvious examples," she said.

"And yet they happened on his watch. He is being blamed," she said.


Was Bush blamed for Hurricane Katrina or for how he handled Hurricane Katrina? Does Bush have low approval numbers because he is being blamed for 9/11 happening or for what he did in the wake of it? Is Bush unpopular because the financial meltdown just happened on his watch or because deregulation and a culture of greed contributed to it?

I certainly don't think President Bush has a top secret weathermaking machine in the basement of the White House that he unleashed on New Orleans in the secret hope that red-state Lousiana would learn a lesson. But I do totally understand how, in the wake of it, someone like Kanye West might draw the conclusion that George W. Bush "doesn't care about Black people."

I, of course, don't think that George W. Bush had anything to do with 9/11, but I certainly find persuasive the argument made in No End in Sight (and elsewhere) that his advisers and think tanks wanted to go to war in Iraq even before 9/11 and I don't think history will view the Iraq war as something that just unluckily coincided with Bush's time in office nor view it as a necessary response to events that did (i.e. 9/11). I do blame him for pushing the Patriot Act through and eroding our civil liberties in its wake and empowering people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Alberto Gonzalez to torture first and ask questions later. I don't think those things just "happened" on his watch.

I'm reminded of some people I used to play Euchre with online--who would win about 42-48% of the time over literally thousands of games (a good euchre player wins on average about 52% of the time, great ones make 53-54) and complain about how unlucky they were and how they never got good cards, especially at the key moments.

Yeah, that must be it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A More Perfect Union, Still Imperfect...

I've gotten away from blogging about film or much else besides politics in the past few weeks. I hope to change that soon.

Last night was a time of renewed hope more me; it was a time that reaffirmed my hope in the American people and reminded me of what it means to be an American and what a great honor and privilege it is to be relatively free.

While watching President Elect Obama's speech, I commented to my wife that the mood was more sober than triumphal and that they audience was not going wild. She responded: "They're listening."

Maybe that was Obama's real victory. He got us to listen again, to believe that there is power in the exchange of words and ideas, that a politician might actually be saying something that we needed to think about and not just responded to when "Applause" went up on a teleprompter.

There were a number of things that alloyed that joy. Some were selfish, others were and are more things that made me somber about the challenges the new president elect faces in bringing a divided culture together. They are:

1) North Carolina still hasn't been called. I wrote at another venue:

According to results posted at Fox News and ABC and CNN, Obama is ahead by 12,160 votes. (Fox says 99.8% have reported, ABC and CNN say 100% but haven't called it.)

This is a difference of 0.3%. (Obama 49.84; McCain 49.54; Barr 0.59%). Bob Barr's 25, 181 votes was double the margin of victory.

Every vote matters

The outcome of the national election isn't in dispute, but (this is one of the selfish ones), it matters to me that my state goes blue. It will be bittersweet to me if the general election is won but North Carolina lost by the slimmest of margins.

But how must my friends and colleagues who voted Republican feel? Intellectually, I understand that winner take all is no different at the state than national level, but there seems something odd about all the electoral votes going one way when the margin is less than 1/2 of 1 percent. Will there be a recount? I hope not, but state law allows for a candidate to request it in a margin this close. I sincerely hope that some day we can do away with the electoral college. It is a remnant whose time has passed, that served its function but is not the best way, I think, to elect a president.

2) Not All Life is Equal, Apparently.
A lot of Americans care about the long as they aren't born and grow up to be gay.

Whatever bittersweetness I might feel at North Carolina being so close, I can only imagine it is a small sliver of what gays and lesbians must feel while watching the results come in. African-Americans have waited so long for the practice of America to approximate its promises that I can only be thrilled and happy for them and for us. But I did feel some hackles raised when both William Bennett (on CNN) and John McCain gave variants on the spin that this historic election means that no longer should Americans tolerate the "excuse" that achievement is impossible for some individuals because of insurmountable barriers. Unless, of course, that achievement is marriage and the individual is not black, but gay.

With between 96-100% reporting, clear winners seem in place for these ballot iniatives:

Arizona 102 (Ban on Gay Marriage)
Yes--56% No 44%

Arkansas 1 (Ban on Gay Couples Adopting Children)
Yes--57% No 43%

California 8 (Ban on Gay Marriage--only 92% reporting)
Yes--52% No 48%

Florida 2 (Ban on Gay Marriage)
Yes--62% No 38%

Over the last eight years, I've often chided the Republican party for being schizophrenic in its pro-"life" stance...of talking the talk on opposing Roe v. Wade but not walking the walk when it comes to respect for all human life. So, too, the Democrats seem to have chosen a candidate who embodies hope and inclusion and tolerance, who includes talking about gays in his speech, while on the state level telling that candidate that they want equality, but not, apparently, for everyone.

We must crawl before we can walk, I suppose.

3) You know, in spite of the fact that I kept hearing about record turnout, I was surprised to hear from that the youth turnout only went up about one point. According to the North Carolina election board site. Approximately 67% of registered voters voted. I suppose there are reasons that might prevent someone from voting, but consider this--in an historic election, facing two wars, a financial crisis, the possibilit of several supreme court appointments, etc. nearly 1 out 3 registered voters in North Carolina didn't vote.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King quotes Saints player Scott Fujita yesterday:

"A lot of people think their vote won't make a difference, or that their voice will never be heard,'' Fujita texted. "But if we all felt that way, then the system would be broken. There's a lot more good than bad in this country, and the only way to begin to fix what's bad is to get out and vote. Also, suffrage rights didn't come without incredible struggle for a lot of people in this country -- women and blacks in particular. To me, not voting would be a huge slap in their faces.''

How many people fought and died so that I could cast my vote? How many didn't give the ultimate sacrifice but gave of their time, talents, and income? How many lawyers fought for my rights? How many politicians put the ideals of democracy against expediency? How many that walked before me had to give of themselves or sacrifice so that I could be free? How anyone could take that for granted or receive that gift with anything other than awe and respect is something I simply cannot fathom.

Come on North Carolina....

...make me proud of my adopted home.

I get to spend Christmas with friends and relatives from California and Ohio.

Don't make me be the only one hanging my head.

ABC NEWS Says 100% reporting:

McCain (R) 2,088,670 49%
Obama (D) 2,102,175 50%


Even though I am a Duke fan, from this day forward the phrase "Tarheel Blue" will have a special place in my heart.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

One Voice Can Change the Room...

View From the Trenches in a Swing State

I spent 3-4 hours this morning volunteering at the local Obama precinct house in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.

They said what they needed was canvassers. People to go door to door with their lists of voters in high priority districts to ensure they knew where to go (election day precincts are different from early voting precincts), that they had voted, or whether they needed any assistance getting to the polls.

It was raining steadily all morning, but the turnout in the precinct house was impressive. Some of the people I rode or worked with said that in comparison to previous elections, a high percentage of people indicated they had already voted (early or earlier in the day) or were heading out to do so.

I've heard over and over that voter turnout favors Obama. If that is the case, things look good in these trenches. I was worried about the weather, but, again, many had already voted and those who were on there way were not to be deterred. Just about any model for a McCain victory that I've seen depends upon polling seriously mismeasuring voter enthusiasm or turnout.

A side note, too.

This is the first time I've felt strongly enough about an election to donate time or money. Participating in the process does make such a difference. I would urge many of my friends or colleagues who are indifferent or undecided (God knoweth how) to be a bit more engaged rather than taking the "I'm undecided CONVINCE me" posture. That low level of interest tends to lead to apathy. Getting out, even if it is just a couple of hours (I spend 2-3 hours on two different days canvassing neighborhoods and disseminating information) takes you away from your Internet or neighborhood bubble and shows you how people live. It moves the consequences of an election (local or national) from the category of the abstract to the real.

To my friends who want to vote Obama but are concerned or influenced by Republican rhetoric regarding Roe v. Wade, I make a last minute appeal:

If all you cared about were legalized abortion on demand, you wouldn't be undecided, would you? The fact that you are struggling tells me on some level, in your heart of hearts, you really want to vote for Obama but are afraid--of your (sub)community, friends, maybe even family. It's okay. God gave you a mind to reason and a conscience to listen to. There is more than one commandment and we all fail every day to be perfect. There are people who are great Christians in both political parties--who disagree about how to reduce abortions (and unwanted pregnancies for that matter). I won't repeat all of the arguments here, because most of you have heard them before.

What I will say is--I give you permission to vote for Obama. If you lose your credibility or respect as a Christian because of your vote, then your friends and community don't care about the sum total of your relationship with God and development of your faith, they only care that you are either "with us or against us."

George MacDonald wrote in Wilfrid Cumbermede:

The upper hand of influence I had over him I attribute to the greater freedom of my training, and the enlarged ideas which had led my uncle to avoid enthralling me to his notions. He believed that truth could afford to wait until I was capable of seeing it for myself, and that the best embodiments of truth are but bonds and fetters to him who cannot accept them as such. When I could not agree with him he would say with one of his fine smiles, "We'll drop it then, Willie. I don't believe you have cuaght my meaning. If I am right, you will see it some day, and there's no hurry."

Many will tell you there is a hurry, and urgency. That you agreeing with them is a matter of life and death. That may even be true, but I'm not sure that it is God's way. Even in the matters of life and death truth must be truth to the listener or it cannot carry the force of accepted fact. Don't let others decide for you or spiritually bully you into going against your beliefs.

MacDonald also wrote in The Hope of the Gospel:

If then we go wrong, it will be in the direction of the right, and with such aberration as will be easier to correct than what must come of refusing to imagine, and leaving the dullest traditional prepossessions to rule our hearts and minds, with no claim but the poverty of their expectations from the paternal riches.

Trust yourself, but more importantly, trust God. Believe that if you will but move in the direction of the right as you see and feel it (even if that is not the direction that seemingly makes sense to your friends or comrades) that you will train your heart to be obedient to the convictions God places there and any errors you make will be "easier to correct" than will be the results of refusing to imagine, refusing to think that you could be right and those who are so very sure could be wrong. Easier to correct, indeed, than the results of substituting someone else's conviction for your judgment, and taking the path of least resistance rather than the one that you think to be true.

Monday, November 03, 2008

New Article

The November issue of The Matthew's House Project just went live, and they included my essay, "I Am a College Professor (and I am not Ashamed)."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Understanding Poetry...err, I mean Torture

My English 101 class is working on critical thinking skills by analyzing a series of pro and con arguments about controversial topics. One of the issues the students selected to discuss was whether or not torture is ever morally justified.

The affirmative is argued by Mirko Bargaric and Julie Clarke in a strange article entitled "Not Enough Torture in the World?" They argue, following Alan Dershowitz's lead, that harm minimization can be attained by making torture legal so that oversight can be made. In a section called "The Formula" they set out the circumstances in which torture would be acceptable. And let me just say before I quote, that I am not making this up and it is not a piece from The Onion:

The strength of the case in favor of torture can be mapped as follows:

T x O


W=whether the agent is the wrongdoer
L=the number of lives that will be lost is the information is not provided
P=the probablility that the agent has the relevant information
T=the time available before the disaster will occur ("immedicacy of the harm")
O=the likelihood that other inquiries will forestall the risk.

Whew. Where to start?

I find it funny that "W" is represented as an either/or quanity but "P" is a probability and hence on a sliding scale. One wonders whether or not the numerical value of "W" is such that it can be "0" and the numerical total crossing the threshold could still be reached? If it isn't, then is it so high as to make L and P irrelevant?

These are, of course, ridiculous questions for a ridiculous formula. My real question is this. Where is Robin Williams when you need him?

Disc Golf Life Lessons

I played disc golf today at Buckhorn. My lifetime average on that course is about a 54, though I've been getting steadily better in the last few years. Since I hadn't played the course in a while and it was a bit cold, I set a goal of 54 (par) for my round.

Things went bad pretty quickly.

I lost my yellow, special edition Leopard during warmups, a key disc in my bag. I spent a good 45 minutes to an hour looking for it since that disc is not manufactured any more. My the time I gave up, some muscles had tightened up, I had stepped wrong on a sore ankle and pushing off with my knee was was a bit painful. I also didn't have one of my key drivers. After holing out for a birdie on the first hole, I proceded to bogy the next five holes to put me at +4. Holes 7 and 8 are birdieable, but I went a bit deep on 7 and missed my come back for biride when I hit the lip of the basket. On hole 8, the shortest hole, I hit a tree, leaving me a little short and again hit the basket on my birdie bid for a tip in par.

So I stepped to the ninth tee, almost half done, without a key disc, sore, and having bogeyed two of the easier holes on the course (2 and 5).

I have been trying to work on not giving up on rounds when things don't go well, but this wasn't even really a matter of a few weird breaks. The wheels were off. Nevertheless, I tried to imagine myself in a competitive round where each stroke mattered. I made a long drive on 9 but went a little deep and left, but I finally made a long putt for birdie. A good drive on hole 10 was ruined by hitting a tree, but another booming drive that actually went dep on 11 had me set up for a long putt. I made it, and all of a sudden I had that inexplicable thing called momentum.

Not for long, though. Hole twelve is a 297 foot right turning hole, and I set myself up for a decent par bid. I delivered my putt square in the chains and reached down to pick up my marker when the hole literally spat the disc out. Very rarely in disc golf you can hit a putt too well. It can be so centered that it pushes the chain into the pole and bounces off the pole and back. Or, it can, as in this case, become tangled in the chain and fall out when the chain rattles. (Picture a swish in basketball that doesn't hit rim but has so much back spin that the net curls around the ball and then backspins it back up and out of the rim. I couldn't have placed the putt any better, and 99 times out of 100 it would have stayed in. That my 1 in 100 bad break came at the worst possible time seemed to give credence to that part of me that said, "Today's just not your day."

I had six remaining holes and was back to +3 and three of the remaining holes were ones I usually used my Leopard for. On hole 13 I threw a Sidewinder low with a cut slice rather than trying the long anhyzer with a dive back at the end and managed to skp low up to the hole for a birdie putt. On hole 14 I threw a DX Sidewinder and while it didn't turn right as much as my Leopard, it left me to the left of the hole and deep for another birdie putt. A part on 15 left me with one remaining birdie hole, and I threw a perfect left to right slice for a birdie tip in to, miraculously, find myself back at par.

Here's the thing, though. Holes 17 and 18 are no gimmes. 17 is a long shot over water that I have to lay up on and try to approach over water close enough to get a par putt. I've gotten a five on it (for going in the water) more times than I've gotten a three, but today I managed to gut out a 20 foot putt to come to the 18th. Here again I made a good throw, but I got just too much turn and hit a tree, which kicked me away from the hole and into some rough.

Golf is like life in so many ways. A friend of mine once said bogeys are like trying to lose bad hole can take a lot of work just to get you back to where you started. Or, it's like the stock market, which doesn't care what you had to do on the last few holes to finally pay off some bills only to tax your resources once again. Well, I made about a 120 foot approach, snaking through some sparse, skinny trees and laying up for a twelve footer to save my par and a round of 54--hitting my goal on the nose.

Cindy is fond of reminding me that you don't know what kind of round you are having while you are having it. That's a hard life lesson to learn as well as golf lesson. I've had better scores, but I'm not sure I've had much more satisfying rounds. I had to fight not just the course but myself and the human tendency to just throw in the towel when things get tough and say, "Life was against me today."

Turns out it wasn't.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I'll Have the Chicken

David Sedaris sums up my feelings on this year's presidential election.