Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sean has a new job!

So totally cool! Congratulations, Sean!

Make Way Partners Update

This is an email I received from Milton Smith of Make Way Partners, the organization that helped rescue Mary the Dinka woman. A team from the US traveled to the Sudan to help Kimberly Smith (Milton's wife, I think), the Executive Director of the organization, who is already at a village which is dealing with a meningitis epidemic, and this is a report. (I believe that Mary the Dinka woman is at this place.) I get updates via email from time to time. Let me know if you want to be added to the MWP email list, or you can go to the website and sign up.

Dear Fellow Sojourners:

I just now finished talking with Kimberly. She said the team arrived on Tuesday Sudanese time. All of the team is in good spirits but tired from the long journey.

When the plane landed in Nyamlel, all 400+ of the children of the Make Way Partners compound were there to meet the plane. Not only were the children there from the compound, but many of the villagers were there and they were all singing. They sang Christian songs, about Jesus, and they danced around the arriving guests. They then led the arriving team through the village in parade fashion out to the compound.

Once they arrived at the compound, Kimberly showed them the medical clinic that is being built and the meningitis clinic. The meningitis clinic is separated from the regular clinic in order to quarantine the meningitis patients.

Then, after a period of rest, Kimberly took the team over to Marialbai which is across the river. During the meningitis outbreak, Marialbai has become a portion of our responsibility. As the team got to Marialbai, a little boy was dying of meningitis. He was an orphan from the last attack by the Janjaweed upon his village. During the attack, the boy’s parents were killed. An uncle of the child had been taking care of him since then. The uncle is a guard at the clinic in Marialbai. The team saw the uncle hold the child’s body and he sobbed. The team cried too.

After giving the team some time to process what had taken place, Kimberly called the team together and led the new team in a foot washing of the medical team that has already been on the ground. After the foot washing, they shared the Eucharist together.

Please pray for the team’s effectiveness in this next week and that God will be glorified.

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Grace and Peace,

Milton Smith

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Joyce Hatto Scandal

In today's WSJ, an article headlined "Apparent Hoax Shakes Up World of Classical Music" describes the discovery that a series of CD recordings by Joyce Hatto, allegedly made while she was dying of cancer, were copies of recordings by another artist. Joyce Hatto's husband engineered the copies.

A British classical music magazine, Gramophone, initially broke the story. An American CD listener discovered the hoax, and his subsequent probing of the matter led to the Gramophone article. But the Gramophone article does not detail just how the listener first knew something was wrong. The WSJ article does.

When the CD listener inserted the disc into his Apple computer, he "was surprised when . . . iTunes software identified it as a CD by another pianist," Laszlo Simon. The American followed up the anomaly, and that led to the investigation by Gramophone.

The WSJ article explains the iTunes technology that enables it to recognize

a CD by querying a database maintained by a company called Gracenote, of Emeryville, Calif. Gracenote recognizes a CD by the number of tracks it has and the length of each of those tracks; when combined, the two form a mathematical fingerprint that Gracenote says is essentially unique for CDs with more than about five songs.

The Gracenote software was able to recognize the CD of the real pianist, even though the husband of the dying pianist had shrunk or stretched some of the tracks.

There is a lot on the internet about this hoax. You can start here or simply google "hatto simon hoax".

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Isn't There a Despair.com Poster On this Subject?

Meetings.

Go Duke!

Succisa virescit!

Another great review of The Unforseen

From SpringBoardMedia blog, the executive director of Renew Media:
Sundance Wrap-Up - Unforseen and GWS
My favorite films at Sundance this year were Laura Dunn’s The Unforseen and Craig Zobel’s Great World of Sound. Both were films that made me glad I attended the festival, and that reminded me why I keep working in the realm of indie film. They are very different films, but similar in one key way – they are both artistic, small films about big ideas, with a lot of heart and apparently little chance of being seen by the masses.

Laura Dunn is one of our Fellows, but I don’t think I need much of a disclaimer – we’ve never met, she received her fellowship before I started working for Renew Media and it was for a different film. So half-hearted disclaimer aside, I think The Unforseen is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen at any festival in at least two years. It helps that it was shot by Lee Daniel, the cinematographer for Rick Linklater among others, and that her graphics (no small part of the movie) were done by Kyle Cooper, who has done the opening credits of Seven and Spider Man. [This is a great compliment to Jef Sewell, who actually did the graphics in the movie. KC did the credits, but that's it. Maybe Jef will get the credit he deserves someday. -- Macon] Daniel’s footage is ethereal - a combination of old super-8 (from the looks of it) and modern footage which is always well-lit, beautifully framed and gorgeous to watch. Laura’s style evokes Terrence Malick, who was an executive producer of the documentary, and leaves you mesmerized – not an easy task for a film about urban sprawl, politics, the environment and a vanishing way of life in the Southwest. This is not a sensibility seen in many docs today, which often eschew visual style and an attention to form to focus solely on interesting subject matter. It’s one of the biggest problems facing documentary today, this lack of attention to form, and Dunn firmly establishes herself as one of the smartest documentary filmmakers precisely because of her attention to it. This film could have easily been much less of a movie, but through her attention to the craft of filmmaking, Dunn has styled an important film about a weighty subject. It is nuanced – you feel real pain for the “big, bad” developer - without striving for some mythical journalistic “balance.” It is important – urban sprawl and its effects on our environment shown for the political choices they are - without putting the weight of the world on your shoulders, like a powerpoint film. It is also beautiful, an aesthetic choice made not to save money and get it done fast, but to do it right. It is also, unfortunately, doubtful to be seen at a theatre near you anytime soon. It’s not easy to market, too long for most and while it has a star (Reford), he’s not the focus of the film. I never thought that the effects of a developer on little Barton Springs in Austin, Texas could have such an affect on me, but Laura Dunn’s treatment of the subject gives me new hope for documentary film.
Clearly, this is a blogger of good taste and discernment.

Nightstand Reading

I added a spot for us to note what Kith&Kin are reading these days. If you send me the names of books you're reading, I'll keep it up to date for us. Email citostokes at gmail. All Kith & Kin readers are welcome to submit! There is no limit to submissions.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Jarhead Footlocker Principle

My friend and colleague, Juan, is a US Marine. He told me when he was in boot camp, all the men in his unit (platoon?) were housed in one barracks. At the end of the day, the shower room could handle half of them at a time, so one half remained in the barracks while the other half cleaned up.

At the foot of each bed in the barracks sat a Marine's footlocker, housing all the possessions he was allowed to have at the base. The DI said that a Marine must keep his footlocker locked. The DI said that the very first day.

Of course, someone forgot as he went with his group to the shower. When he got back, his footlocker was upended and all of its contents scattered throughout the barracks, courtesy of the DI. I guess it happened just that once.

The point of the rule and the stringent enforcement of the rule was to keep temptation out of the way of the other men in the unit. It's fine to talk about honor and self-enforcing codes and the like. But the DI didn't look at it that way. His view was that each of the men had a responsibility not to put a stumbling block in the way of his comrades.

I have thought about that principle a good bit as I have read what is going on in Durham with the Duke lacrosse team criminal proceedings. Certainly, we can all lament the fraudulent action of the prosecutor, the abandonment of the young men by their professors, and the cynicism of the test-the-wind-first administration, but what about the Jarhead footlocker principle? What responsibility does the Duke lacrosse team bear for making possible the theft of their reputations by the stripper? What responsibility does the Duke community bear for developing and sustaining a culture where off-campus parties like the one involved in this case have been tolerated since I was at Duke? Those who rejoice in their righteous indignation over the miscarriage of justice for the young men should temper themselves a bit and consider who is responsible for setting the stage for the unfortunate, perhaps inevitable drama that ensued.

The South Florida Underground Weirdness Magnet

I say, send it to Austin, to mate with the one there.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Alleged Wikipedia Source Sued for Libel

The Miami Herald has an article this morning about the pro-golfer Fuzzy Zoeller suing a Miami law firm, alleging that the defendant is the source of defamatory material about him posted on Wikipedia. The reporter does a nice job of describing the legal issues involving liability for defamatory information on the internet. Zoeller's attorney, Scott Sheftall, is a Davidson grad and a friend of mine. I don't know anything about the firm that is being sued and have never heard of it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Formatting

In case you hadn't noticed.

I'm sorry that we lost the comments, but now I hope that comments will last longer than they used to, and that we might get a bit more functionality out of the comments.

Stay tuned!
It was I.

Fine. I confess, I was the one to wait until the very very very last minute before one year's science fair project.

But, in my defense, let me say, "Hey! Is that Elvis over there?!?"

*runs*

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The clash of civilizations Nita, my mom from Atlanta, refers to our new granddaughter, Honor, as Ah-Na. She mentions this to one of her Latin friends. "Oh," her friend remarks, "how nice. The little one is Anna."
Bill Frist. Doing good in rural Kenya.
Dealing with Technology. Glenn Reynolds found this one.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Shotgun Report. I went out to Trail Glades Gun Range again this afternoon. The Trail Skeet and Trap Club had its big tournament today. People from all over the county had registered, but because of some bad weather in the other parts of the country, flights were cancelled and delayed, guns that had been shipped ahead had arrived late, etc. But there were still a good many people there, and there were gunsmiths who had set up to work on guns, do engraving, and that sort of thing. This was the third day of the tournament, and I watched several matches of skeet before I went over to the club house.

At the club house, which reminds me a lot of a fraternity chapter room, were a number of people, mostly men, sitting around talking, working on laptops, and drinking coffee. (No alcohol, of course.) In one group I saw two of the men I met last week, one the president of the club. I greeted him and told him I had checks for the first year dues for Jack and me. He was happy that we were following through, and introduced me to the others.

When they realized I was a beginner, several started offering advice and discussing how to get started. They were quite friendly and helpful and made me feel comfortable. The consensus seemed to be to first acquire a semi-automatic, one that you could take hunting as well as to the skeet range. The Remington 1100 was the favorite, although the equivalent Beretta also made the list. They suggested a 12 gauge. They also suggested Remington ammo, 2 3/4 length, 1290 velocity, 1 oz. shot, 8 shot shotshells.

I would use the Remington 1100 until I determined whether I liked the sport. Should I decide to go to the next level, the idea is that I would purchase a used gun from one of the members, no doubt an "over-under". There is this hand-me-down system, apparently. At the top of the pecking order are guns in the $25,000 range! There are many hand-me-down levels below that, and the next level above the 1100 seems to be in the $2000 category. (Whew!)

One gentlemen suggested getting a good teacher right at the start. They all mentioned someone named Red Hill, who seems to be some sort of legend. Bill, one of the men I met last week and who is in his early fifties, told me that when he was a teenager, Red Hill was the coach of their college skeet team and they went to "nationals" together. He's about 80 years old, lives in Naples, and usually comes over to the Trail Glades Range on Wednesdays. They warned me that Red is a Marine, and I would have to withstand his war stories. They said they get old when he gets to the fiftieth retelling. So I got Red's number and will give him a call.

Jack didn't come with me today, because Asher is in town with his family.

The national organization for skeet is in San Antonio. Its called the National Skeet Shooting Association.

I talked to Macon about this a little on the phone today. He told me how much fun it was to go bird hunting with Scott.

More to come, I think.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dave Barry on Science Fairs. An oldie but goody.
Skeet. Reading along in Migdalski about shotgunning, I learn that, while the first recorded trap shooting occurred in 1793 in England, Charles Davies of Andover, Massachusetts, invented skeet shooting in the early 1920s. He was dissatisfied with trap shooting because the crossing and incoming shots of bird shooting were absent. His game became so popular that two hunting magazines offered a prize of $100 to the person whose name for the sport was accepted. "The lucky winner was Mrs. Gertrude Hurlbutt of Dayton, Montana. Her offering was 'skeet', an old Scandinavian word meaning 'shoot.'" Hence, when you say "let's go shoot skeet,' you are really saying "let's go shoot shoot.'"

Skeet, you learn so much reading this blog

(The game of hurlbutt will be covered in a later post.)
Spain. Trial of the 3/11 bombers began this week.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Right, Men are from Mars. Happy Valentine's Day Anyway. This morning Carol and I exchanged cards. Her's was beautiful. On the front was a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning about counting the ways Mrs. Browinng loved Mr. Browning. Inside were additional beautiful thoughts, including one about the "many tomorrows" Carol hopes to spend with me, although in my sleepiness I at first read "many tomatoes".

My card for Carol also had a poem:

I'm a little teapot
Short and Stout
Just Tip Me Over


[Open Card]

And Let's Make Out!

Obviously, I am into nuance.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Judy Karpis, We Know You're Out There! Judy is a reporter for the Gazette. My friend Nancy told me that she ran into Judy the other day, and Judy said she had come across our blog. Be nice, Judy, we all are subscribers.
Just because I knew you were all starved for more of Honor, here you go:





Some Great Photos over on Mary's Blog! She's back from Mt. Kenya, safe and sound.
Political Correctness in Shotgun Land. I have already blundered as I contemplate the shotgun sport. I referred to those things that one tries to shoot as "clay pigeons". (Originally, the game had real pigeons. These were released for the shooters from holes in the ground or boxes called "traps".. Thus the name "trap shooting".) One must refer to these objects as "clay targets" out of respect for pigeons and all things living. Thank you.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Unarmed Kenyans. The crime wave in Nairobi and its environs unrelentingly continues. The problem may be the large numbers of unarmed Kenyans there. Of the three classes of people who are involved in the crime wave, the police, the criminals, and the people upon whom the criminals prey, the unarmed ones are, of course, the people upon whom the criminals prey. This has not gone unnoticed. The inverse relationship of an armed populous to the incidence of violent crime has been noted over here.
Nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. Describing John in Chapter 3, Luke writes:

A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
And all mankind will see God's salvation.'

Here is a description of the topography of the Messiah's coming. There will be flatlands. Like the desert in Gulf War 1 - no impediment to the power of the US armed forces, a broad table on which the Revolutionary Guard is flanked and destroyed. No impediment to the projection of God's power, no obstruction to his line of sight. No crevices or hidden valleys where one can lay low to avoid his judgment. Or his mercy. A great image.
John the Presbyterian. Enough of boom, and back to the voice. In chapter 3 of Luke, John exhorts the people, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." The people are confused by this. After all, it should be enough to be a Jew.

"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"

"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

It's OK to be rich, but share what you have. It's even OK to be a tax collector. John says be an ethical tax collector. He also doesn't say, "Soldiers are the tools of pagan Rome!". He simply says be an ethical soldier.

John is not a revolutionary as we have come to think of revolutionaries. (80 years ago, the people we call revolutionaries now would have been called anarchists.) In a way, he is very conservative. We are not about class warfare and tearing down social structures, we are about redeeming those structures with repentant, redeemed people. With redeemed people, the social structures will take care of themselves. So like Jesus, don't you think?
More Boom. Jack asked me a few weeks ago if I would be interested in looking into trap and skeet shooting with him. This is the sport where one shoots a shotgun at a "clay pigeon" thrown up in the air by man or machine. I said yes (of course), and yesterday we went to Trail Glades Range, an outdoor shooting range owned by the Metro-Dade Park system out on the Tamiami Trail. There are trap and skit ranges there. The clay pigeons are launched by machines.

I had no idea what "trap and skeet" meant until yesterday. They turn out to be two different ways in which the clay pigeon (the "bird") is launched. Trap is where the bird is thrown up before and roughly away from you. Skeet is where the bird is thrown across, from your left to right or your right to left. These two "games" mimic the way in which wild fowl present themselves to the hunter.

One of the range officers told us that "trap" is easier to learn, but harder to master and that "skeet" is harder to learn but easier to master. It all look pretty hard to me.

The person at the main desk of the range told us that there are two skeet and trap clubs there. There are always two organizations of a kind in Miami-Dade, though less so in the last 15 years, a "Cuban-American" club, for "Cuban-Americans", and the older club (I'll call it "the American club"), which would also be for "Cuban-Americans" and the rest of us too. As the "Cuban-Americans" are now into their third generation here (and becoming more comfortable in English than Spanish), I look forward to getting back to single organizations.

I think it important to note several things about this dualism. First, I learned that the American club, the older club, had built the clubhouse. The other club came later. It was also housed in the American clubhouse, because the American club made it available to them. Second, there was no one there from the CA club, but there were a half dozen or more from the American club. They welcomed us, among them one of the board members. His name was Carlos. May the CA Club soon become part of the history of South Florida, if it is not already so. (And, no, there is absolutely no way I will support Tancredo. I thought I made myself clear on that.)

But the subject is boom and I digress.

The club (I will hereinafter refer to the American club as "the club') has its own trap and skeet range, separate from the ones used by the public. The men we met from the club were using it. They were using it when we walked up, and using it as we left about an hour later. They were doing skeet the entire time. They were good. The range officer we talked to said they were very good. They hit the bird almost every time, where the people we viewed on the public range seemed to hit the birds less than half the time. The men from the club used shotguns that had one barrel on top of the other, "over and unders", and the barrel section of the gun broke open from the stock section for loading. Jack remarked that he liked that part, because you knew that the people walking around with those kinds shotguns were not going to accidentally shoot you, because the practice was to load the guns and snap the barrel to the stock only as it was your turn to shoot. The club men otherwise walked around with the guns broken open and, of course, unloaded. The people on the public ranges had an assortment of types, including semi-automatic and pump types. You would have no idea with these sorts of guns whether they were loaded or unloaded, as far as I could tell.

We also met Bill from the club, he drives from Boca. We met the president, Jerry, he drives from Hollywood. These men must love this sport, and the club must be a good one.

Jerry told me that Homeland Security had just given the county $7 million dollars to upgrade the entire Trail Glades facility, because they want to encourage people to learn how to use guns. That is pretty interesting, but will that point of view change when Hillary is elected?

We didn't do any shooting ourselves, however. One can rent shotguns there, but I was shy of it. I haven't ever fired a shotgun, much less shoot something out of the air which, at first, I had a hard time even seeing. I am going to have to go apart and think about this a little. Meantime, I did what I usually do in these situations. I bought a book.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thinking about Shotguns. Enough about voices crying in the wilderness, let's talk firearms. Macon is up for going to the SigArm shotgun course in NH this summer. I'm looking into that. But it's BYOSG there, and I don 't have one. So, I'm open to suggestions.

I googled this, this, this, and this.

I've made my choice.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way. We looked at the pericope that begins with the first verse of chapter 3 of Luke, and ends with verse 20. As the announcement of John’s birth begins the nativity stories in chapter 1, so does the story of John’s public ministry introduce Jesus’ public ministry.

It was a sparse, sparse crowd at the men’s Bible study Wednesday night. But as I prepare for and teach this scripture, the more I warm to it, despite having taught Luke many times in my adult life. Some sort of fresh idea always breaks through the familiar scripture - or at least some neglected place in my spirit is nourished by what Luke has to say.

What strikes me about this passage is how the people "came out" (verse 7) to hear John preach. They came out of Jerusalem, they came out of their towns, and their villages, they came out of their routines and their comfort zones, into a rural area to hear a man call them a "brood of vipers", challenge their ideas of tribal salvation, and baptize them with a "baptism of repentance", in preparation for the coming of the Lord.

Why would they do that? Were they so dry, so parched spiritually? Or bored and with time on their hands? How did they find out about John? He was apparently unconnected with any religious institution He had no wealth and lived strangely. Did he remind people of the Old Testament prophets? Did he ring some bell implanted by childhood stores of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the others? We could say that "God was working in their hearts", but to me that is often a pretext for not worrying the scriptures for more particular answers, and is not helpful to a half-believer, of whom there are many in our Bible studies and churches. (I’m often one of those. Half on a good day.) I think they knew they were in trouble, just as all of us do when we are honest with ourselves. God plants that "uh-oh" in us. We know that there is something wrong.

So they came out, and John called upon them to repent. They "came out" of lives that were so full of routine that their cognitive powers were parched and nearly stunted. By "cognitive powers" I refer to the whole menu of ways that we perceive and understand. I think routine is an enemy of our cognitive powers. And routine works in a perverse way, it makes you think that you "know" something because you are familiar with it. Often being "familiar" with something means that you have left off thinking about it any longer. I am certainly "familiar" with Carol. But being satisfied with that could be the death of our romance. As a citizen of Jerusalem, I am familiar with being a Jew; I am familiar with the Messianic scriptures; I am familiar with it all. Boring.

And in a busy life, in between familiarity, we have a lot of stimulus in the urban world, the sort of thing that keeps you pre-occupied and unconnected. I walk across the street plugged into my iPod and don’t see the traffic (which could be of mortal imporance). I take off the iPod, sit at my desk, and see a host of new emails on my computer. The phone starts ringing, people drop in, I drink coffee, go to lunch with the WSJ, the routine starts again back at work - more emails, phones, people, but now I am running out of caffeine or energy or something. I am winding down, getting too tired to think. Etc. Etc.

But if I can "come out" of all of this, maybe there is something God has to say to me. Maybe he is in there underneath all the noise and pre-occupation. I heard about this fellow who sounds like a prophet, out there in the country; let’s put together a hamper of food for lunch and go out there. Let’s get away from this and have some time away, for ourselves. Maybe we can hear something of what the universe has to say to us.

"Repent", as I understand it, means "turn around". We are fixed on our lives by routine and noxious stimuli. We are pinned down, like a butterfly on a specimen board. Here is a call to turn ‘round, turn away, look at what’s behind us, where there is no routine, none of man’s pseudo-creation, where there is . . . what? Do we dare turn around and see?

John called on his listeners, their having come out, to turn around and many apparently did. At least they undertook the ritual, they were baptized. Now what’s next?

John says, Look out! He’s coming! Coming up behind you! Turn around quick! You've never seen anything like this before!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sorry. I agree with this. What do you think?

PS: Cellphones next!
"Dementia Tied to Loneliness in the Elderly." This is the headline of a small article tucked away in the fourth section of the WSJ on Tuesday. An accessible description of the study is here.

I see something like this in my practice. I have a client who is profoundly depressed because of loneliness, although the psychiatrist does not think she is demented. But there is a pathology related to loneliness here, I believe, even if it is not dementia. I have another client who was slipping into dementia, but in respect to whom his friends rallied, and put him in a situation where he gets constant friendly and supportive attention. He seems to have stabilized.

But are we surprised? Loneliness is everywhere linked to a pathology of one sort or another. For example, it has been demonstrated that when little babies are not held for significant periods of time, they don't develop "normally". When wives aren't romanced by their husbands, they have difficulty. When husbands are not mothered by their wives, they have difficulty. When I was in college, the book de jur was The Lonely Crowd, by Riesman and others. What distinguishes Christianity from Islam, I think, is relationship. There is no relationship with Allah. He is absolutely transcendent. But with Christianity, despite God's transcendence, there is total intimacy available with with God through Jesus Christ.

We are meant to be in relationship. We struggle against that certainty and the world would prevent relationship in any event. We go nuts without it.
Men's Fashion Post: The Undershirt Issue. Maybe I haven't been looking, but I have read for the first time a discussion in print of something that's really never discussed, the undershirt question. The WSJ fashion maven, Ask Teri, courageously addresses this question in today's paper, and if you haven't subscribed at least to the internet edition, this may push you to do so.

I thought that the talk that my mom had with me when I was about two years old settled the matter, and accounted for the dearth of discussion in the market place. As I understood it, the men's world was roughly divided between men who always wore them and men who never did. The men who always wore them were themselves somewhat divided. There was a minority that wore the sleeveless kind, but somewhere I picked up the idea that it was a bit less respectable to wear that kind. It was always assumed at my house that the proper undershirt was white and had a crew neck. (At one point, I played with the idea of the v-neck, but it during my younger years when I was obviously experimenting. Those were the same years in which I thought the idea of free-will an exotic and attractive idea.)

I don't really understand not wearing an undershirt. I feel half-dressed and a little chilly when I go without. But some of my best friends go without. Ask Teri notes that European men usually go without. I relate that to European people generally being more comfortable with body hair than we are, and it's no problem for hairy chested men to flaunt it over the top of their open collars, unscreened or managed by the undershirt.

Anway, Ask Teri seems not only to approve of undershirts and estimates that 85% of men wear them, she also, obviously, thinks the topic worthy of discussion. (By the way, Ask Teri notes that the source of that statistic is "apparel maker Hanes", so consider the source.) She notes that the issue has become more important since "office casual" hit the workspace, and men are wearing polo shirts and otherwise letting there collars stand open. The question is about the undershirt "showing".

Ask Teri thinks that's OK, but I have always been a little self-conscious, maybe because I hate to throw undershirts out. So I run the risk of crew neck breakdown, where the circle of extra stitching at the neck frays or droops or the brilliant white of the shirt gets a little yellow. So I think that wearing an undershirt requires a committment to keep up appearances. This requires a rigorous weeding out of those shirts as crew-neck integrity breaks down.

I was happy to see that Ask Teri notes that "Some [men] go for a tone-on-tone look, with undershirts in shades such as navy or black paired with matching shirts." I have, in fact, been toying with that idea. But being color challenged, I'm a little afraid to take the step. I'm not sure exactly what combinations I might come up with. I may just leave that one alone and concentrate on crew-neck integrity.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bernard Meltzer. I attended the University of Chicago Law School during a sort of golden age that arose from its distinguished faculty. My labor law professor was Bernie Meltzer who died recently. His NYT obit is here.

About 10 years ago, Bernie called me to ask me to help some kin of his here in Miami. And then he helped me with them. Back and forth went the drafts from here to Bernie's office, still at the UC Law School, where he was professor emeritus. He went over them carefully, and asked great questions and made a number of suggestions. I was suddenly back at law school, and he was, in his kindly way, giving me what-for. But we produced together some great documents, and he was very happy with my work. I felt so good.

Later, the local kin moved to California, and Bernie found a lawyer out there to help redraft the documents under CA law. That lawyer couldn't stand Bernie's heat and quit! I must confess that I felt even better.

How God blessed me through that law school, through Bernie and the rest of the faculty.

(By the way, Richard Posner was on the faculty - and still is. But I took none of his classes. My loss.)
SuperBowl. We all watched it together (except for Mary, boo-hoo) at Macon and Kellsey's house, bemoaning the soggy image that Miami projected, but enjoying being together nevertheless.

Sean has some good posts on the Superbowl. Here and here. Or, better yet, just go over to his blog.
Is this guy articulate, or what?

The richness of Despair Inc. is that it's not constrained to a certain medium. Recently, the company began producing audio and video podcasts. "The bar is so low in terms of what's online," says CFO Walter Stokes. "It seems that so much of content is created not from any certain framework but just to fill a void in the entertainment industry. But there's a developed fiction within Despair and a richness that lends itself to some really funny content."

This if from an article in the Austin paper last summer.I can't remember whether I already posted on it. So please forgive the proud father. (Walter's a much better looking guy than this picture.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

No one wants to see that

The scripture in Doug Fletcher's sermon at WHPC on Sunday was from Colossians 3 and it included verses 3:12-14 "Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

Doug's sermon was mostly about these fruits of the Spirit and forgiving grieveances, moving on, etc. What resonated with me initially, however, was the concept of clothing oneself with these virtues - as opposed to remaining naked, as it were.

So much idiocy and ugliness is defended with claims that one is simply "being real" and not trying to hide anything. There's a difference between hypocrisy and prudence, between what I'm thinking and what I'm going to say. That difference doesn't mean I'm two-faced or a scoundrel, it just means I have little regard for my own nature. I need to consciously clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I embarass myself when I go out underdressed.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Boy Jesus in the Temple.

At our Men’s Bible Study on Wednesday, we considered the last section of the second chapter of Luke, which the NIV editors head "The Boy Jesus in the Temple."

41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." 49"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Luke tells us that every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. My commentators tell me that this is one of the three major feasts that good Jews were to attend, but that, the nation being so dispersed, you could get by with just one, and Passover would be it. They also say that even attendance at Passover could be dealt with summarily: a single day’s attendance at this week long-event would pass, and you need not bring the wife. So this passage speaks again to the devout nature of Jesus’ parents, that they go every year, that they are there the entire week, and that not only the wife but also the kids come along and, as we see, participate. I credit Joseph here, exercising leadership, leaving aside his tools, going beyond mere observance to embracing the holy week completely. We also see that this is not simply a family matter, because the entire community appears to move to Jerusalem from Nazareth. It sounds like a church to me, moving up to Jerusalem for its annual retreat.

The commentators address the misunderstandings between Jesus and his parents and the issues these misunderstandings seem to raise. Were the parents neglectful by not noticing Jesus absence until the end of the first day’s journey back to Nazareth? I would say that looking through the prism of 21st century American parenthood, where the point is to eliminate all risk to our children as they grow up, maybe so. But Carol and I have "lost" children before. We left behind Walter one Sunday when, after church, we and the Dewhursts went to McDonalds. The Dewhursts left the restaurant a little before we did, and when we looked around for Walter we didn’t see him, and we figured he’d gone on with them. But he hadn’t. After going to their house and then our house, finding neither the Dewhursts nor Walter, we went back to McDonald’s. There he was sitting on a table behind the main counter, eating an ice cream cone and being attended by the McDonald’s folks. We had simply missed him. (By the way, he has never forgiven us that, and reminds us about it whenever he can.) I can see "losing" Jesus, as the community of friends and relatives moves back to Nazareth from Jerusalem.

And is a Jesus neglectful of his parents? There would be theological problem here if he is, of course. But it seems to me that he is simply a 12 year old with not much idea of the passage of time and thinking that he was "doing his father’s business" in talking to the teachers at the Temple. So interested is he in what he is learning that he loses himself in the moment. This reminds me of when, after his ministry begins, Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, pleads with Jesus to come to his house and attend to his dying daughter. Off Jesus goes, attended by his disciples and a great number of on lookers. But in the midst of the hurry, Jesus allows himself to be interrupted by the woman with the 12 year long bleeding problem, who, seeking healing, anonymously touches the hem of his robe. Stopping everything to deal with this mere, unclean woman, to the dismay of his disciples, Jairus, and everyone else I'm sure, we find Jesus being Jesus. Schedules, time limits, the sort of structure and limitations that fallen men impose on time don’t mean all that much to Jesus when eternal matters are at stake. ("Take no thought of the morrow . . ." he says elsewhere.)

And what of "his father’s business"? Some commentators state that this indicates Jesus’ growing realization that he is the Son of God. I’m not so sure of that, at least in the way that the commentators seem to mean it. Jesus later tells us to pray "Our father . . . " I would say that he understands what the right relationship is between created man and the Lord God: He is our Father. And I wonder also whether this could be a reference to Joseph here. Joseph made it his business to get his family to Passover, to stay there the entire week, to put the Father’s business before his own. Maybe it’s both, Father as the Lord God, father as Joseph. Maybe for a twelve year old there is a happy confusion between a righteous earthly father and the Lord God. A sobering thought for us earthly fathers.

The last verse in the section is: "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

This is a famous verse for Baptist young people (and probably other young Evangelicals) who grow up in a Sunday School program where memorizing scripture is a big item. Pepe Mesa, who is in our Bible Study and is a Youth for Christ leader, said this verse is also a big one in YFC. He said it describes the sort of balanced life that young people should seek to achieve. It has four parts, as you can see: (1) wisdom; (2) stature, good health, a sound body; (3) favor with God and (4) favor with man. Any one of these, standing alone, is probably unattainable. Education cannot be "wisdom" without the other three. A sound body needs a theology - it is either a Temple, or it is used for self seeking ends. Seeking the favor of God without the other three is probably a vain pursuit. Seeking merely the favor men will probably end in unhappiness. We get the picture.

Our Men’s Bible Study has mainly older men. We are all grown up. How can this passage be more than simply interesting. What does it have to do with us? If you look at that last verse as merely referring to a term that ends when adolescence ends, then I suppose it is not of any direct application. But if it refers to a process that is unbounded by a term of years, then maybe it means quite a bit. We think of of the verse as referring to adolescence, because at 12 years old Jesus appears to be on the threshold of adolescence. But in Jesus time, when a young man turns 13 he becomes a man, adolescence, if there was such a concept in ancient Judaism, is over. That verse, then, may not present a vision for adolescence but a vision for manhood.

And so we left it.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hello from Austin. I flew into Austin early this afternoon to visit Macon and Kellsey, Walter and Morgan, and the grandchildren, Aidan and Honor. Honor is the newest and is wondrously small to hold. Carol was already here, having come on Wednesday.

Tomorrow Walter is ordained as a deacon at the Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church. Not only will we all be there, but Morgan's parents will attend too. It will be a happy time.

It's cold here in Austin. We went to the park with Matt and Anna, Macon and Kellsey's friends from the neighborhood and their little boy Webb. I froze. But it was fun. Aidan was constantly in motion, and actually got hot and dumped his knit cap.

Tomorrow is the SuperBowl of course. Macon and Walter are rooting for the Colts, Carol, Kellsey and I are pulling for the Bears. Not that I don't like Peyton Manning and the Colts. I just like the Bears for this game. I think they will win. Usually I watch football by myself. (I've been looking for that underground guys retreat featured in the Bud commercials, but haven't found it.) I'll enjoy watching it with a bunch of people.