Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Clash of Civilizations? In an op-ed piece in the WSJ on Tuesday, George Melloan considers a speech that Douglas J. Feith, the US undersecretary of defense for policy, gave to a Heritage Foundation audience in November. That speech offered the "Bush view" of the idea that we are involved in a "clash of civilizations", with the Muslim world on one side and the Judeo-Christian West on the other.

The Bush view is that the battle of ideas in the global war on terrorism is largely a "fight within the world of Islam, between the extremists and people in the Muslim world who oppose them." Feith said that "We [the US in its current foreign policy] look at ourselves as being allied with millions of Muslims-who we believe are a clear, overwhelming majority-who do not want to come under the rule of fanatics and extremists." I think that's a helpful and healthy idea. It tends to reign in any impulses I have as a Christian to paint all Muslim people as the enemy or as a people incapable of being reasonable participants in a free political economy.

Recently, I became acquainted with a young man who graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, had moved to Miami to follow his girl friend, and was looking for a job. He comes from a Muslim family in Buffalo. What a fine young man! How I wish I could have found a place for him in the firm!

We started an email dialog via email, had a meeting here at the firm, and we have continued our dialog via email as he continued his job search. I contacted a number of people in other firms who might have a position. He kept looking and we kept talking via email. He finally got a job in a top firm, as I thought he would. He certainly is an example of a Muslim who is a credit to this country. The Bush administration seems to think there are a lot like this young man and his family around the world. Do we have any choice but to proceed on that idea?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Free Flea. Yesterday I went to a "free flea" in the parking lot of the Motorola center on Sunrise Boulevard. A "free flea" is an event that a ham radio club sponsors where hams bring junk from their garages, set up card tables, and sell the stuff to one another. Some of the engineers at Motorola are hams, they have a radio club, and they sponsor a "free flea" every six months or so, or when their garages fill up to the point where, to preserve domestic tranquility, they have to push the stuff out on the rest of us. As a ham radio operator (K4JSU), I just love these events, and so I went.

These events also provide the opportunity to meet hams in person with whom one has spoken on the air. You can put a face with the call sign, the first name, and the voice (or, if you mainly communicate digitally, the "fist").

Meeting other hams in person is a problem for hams, however, because, as my late father observed, most hams are "introverts". His theory was that the only way the sorts of people who become hams can relate to other people is by the relatively elaborate mechanism of licensure, antennas, transmitters and receivers, propagation, and RF. Now this does not apply to all hams. My dad was a ham (WA4DCK), and he certainly was not an introvert. But my experience with hams supports this view, and the free flea was no exception.

Because I wanted to make contact with people I had worked on the air, I wore a badge that has my call sign and first name on it. It is permissible to wear such badges in ham protocol, even if most hams will not wear them. Most of the hams at the free flea did not wear them.

Most hams think that ham radio is all about the radios All about the junk. Of course, it is not. It is really all about shy people devising a safe means to relate to one another and carefully giving other people permission to talk to them. Of course, I knew all of this when I went, and did not expect many people to have badges on. I knew that if I wanted to know whether I knew any of these guys (they are almost all guys, by the way) I would have to be fairly outgoing.

So I would go up to a card table with junk on it, behind which sat the ham carefully avoiding eye contact. Instead of my standing there looking at the junk and then in a monosyllabic way, commenting on an item, ("Is this an early serial number?") I would brightly smile and say "Good Morning!" There would be a sort of look of surprise, almost a flinch, and the ham would, after just a moment, say "Hi" and we would talk about the junk or the weather or something, and it would be pleasant. For they are really pretty nice people, though shy (To my dad, being an introvert was like having a disability.)

I did meet some guys that I had met on the air, and really had a good time.

I spent $2.

Politics on the Blog! Mary's blog generated some political commenting, including my own. Let all who read this be aware that this is a free-speech blog and that people can say whatever they like. There will be no hurt feelings.

In the law we recognize a zone of contention where "reasonable men can differ". In a trial, where there is a crucial fact at issue and the evidence is such that "reasonable men can differ" on whether the fact is established by that evidence, then the case goes to the jury, and the jury decides. If, on the other hand, the evidence is so clear that reasonable men would not differ on whether the fact isestablished, then the judge rules and the case (or at least the issue of whether that fact is established) does not go to the jury.

The judge is the person who decides whether the evidence is such that reasonable men can differ as to what it means. That's what make judges so powerful and important in the intense, little world of the jury trial.

I propose that we be very broad in defining the zone of contention. There is no judge here anyway, just our own consciences.

On the matter of whether Bush "lied" or not, I am not sure whether I would want to characterize his manipulation of public opinion quite that way, if he did really know better about WMD. But if I were so to characterize it, then I should be ready to hang that stark label on his adversaries. Kerry is a particularly vulnerable figure if we are going to do that. I am not ready to use the label on either figure, because I don't want to cut myself off from a full understanding of who Bush and Kerry are and what each has to say.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

I'm with the band . . . Linkin Park part 2

One of the super cool things about being good friends with Phoenix's (the bassist) brother is that when we go to an LP concert, we get "back stage" passes. Kellsey and I are always floored that we get such a privilege. Every time I walk past the "Security" guy and flash my pass I think these two things, simultaneously: "Woah, this is the COOLEST. THING. EVER." and, [shaking my head, mentally] "This is so bizarre, I am so such a normal guy, how did I ever get to do this?"

The first time that Joe and Anne took Kellsey and I back stage with them, we were both pretty much of the same mindset: This is really neat, and we're so tickled to meet the band, but we sure don't want to bother them, we're sure they have a hundred things they'd rather do than meet the friends of Phoenix's brother and sister-in-law. But Joe assured us that it would be fine for us to go back, and so we did.

This was when the "Family Values" Tour came to Charlotte in 2001. We met the Farrells there, who gave us our tix and passes and then went backstage to meet Phoenix. (We'd actually met him before at the Farrell's home in Winston, but it seemed very different to meet him again backstage.) Then we went back to watch some of the show.

The show went: Stained, followed by Linkin Park, followed by Stone Temple Pilots. We got back out in time to watch Stained's last two songs, which were the two that were getting radio play at that time, so we were pretty familiar with them. The crowd seemed to be moderately into them.

Then LP came out and completely lit up the crowd. They brought (and bring) a real energy and presence to their shows. You can tell that they're dialed into where the crowd is energy-wise. I think that part of the reason they connect well with their crowd is that there are two lead singers. While it seems to me that Chester is more of the official "front" man, he and Mike pretty much both lead from the stage vocally. I think that the fact that they have to interact and communicate during the show and can't, by definition, be completely self-focused, that helps them to be aware of what the crowd is doing around them. This makes for a great show.

One thing happened that really impressed Kellsey and I, though, during that show. As you might expect, the crowd make-up of a show with Stained, LP and STP was more of your shaved-head, punk/hardcore types who were really into slam-dancing and the mosh-pit. I've got absolutely nothing against that. It mostly looks like fun to me, so I say: have at it. But sometimes those pits can get rather hurtful. Another thing that was going on was typical crowd surfing, but when the surfers made their way over to the pit, they often fell rather abruptly.

This happened a couple of times, until, in the middle of one of their songs, Chester stopped singing and stopped the band's playing and said to the crowd, "Hey! What do you do when someone falls down?!" The crowd didn't quite know what to make of this. Some of them thought he was joking and laughed, others made some rude, non-kith&kin-comments. Chester gave them the answer, "You pick them up!" (there may have been an f-bomb thrown in there, for emphasis, but I'm not sure) He then repeated his question and waited for the crowd to yell back, "You pick them up!" They did this call and response about three more times, until Chester was satisfied that they'd gotten the point. Then they started back with the song.

I thought that was a really classy thing to do. And convinced me that these guys really did care about what happened to their fans. Who, really, weren't even their fans, they were STP's fans.

The crowd was really into LPs set. Much more than you would expect for an opening band. We (Joe, Anne, Kellsey & I) decided to watch some of the STP set and give LP a chance to shower and clean up before we went back stage again. Besides, Joe and I liked the STP we heard on the radio and thought it'd be fun to see the show.

We were so very disappointed. In contrast to LPs set, which I now could see had been very audience focused, STP's front man was all about himself. It was startling to see how much that had an effect on the crowd. It wasn't as if the crowd got upset, but the energy level and interaction dropped significantly. Their music was technically very fine (just like their CD), but it was a little stomach turning to watch this 30 something man glory in himself and his own star-ness.

We decided that it wasn't worth our time to stay out watching anymore, so we went backstage and met Phoenix. He invited us out the back door into their tour bus, where the rest of the band was staying. This bus was WAY cool, with satelite tvs, bunks for sleeping, and a large screen tv in the back of the bus where they played on their PS2s (pre XBox days).

We met the rest of the band, all of whom were very gracious with Kellsey and me, virtual strangers to them. In fact, we'd walked in on Brad (the guitarist) as he was beginning to eat his dessert from dinner. Chocolate cake, or something like that, as I recall. He was sitting at the table in the bus and he looked up at our entrance, introduced himself, and offered to share his dessert with us. We politely declined, embarassed that we were interupting his dessert-eating-time. But he was fine with our presence and made polite conversation with us.

If we hadn't been sold on the band before that night, we definitely were sold by the time we left.

Next time: maybe the concert in Greensboro. But i'm not promising anything.
Mom recently sent me a link to a piece published on opinion journal by Andre Glucksmann, a French intellectual/writer: The World of Megaterrorism. Glucksmann responds to recent events in Spain and makes a passionate appeal to all of Europe to be on guard, and to fight against "megaterrorism" by Al Qaida and Islamic extremists. Having spent a semester abroad in Barcelona back in the fall of 2001, I have been especially interested in and concerned about what has happened in the country in recent weeks, and appreciate Glucksmann's perspective. I particularly liked his last paragraph, which recalls Spain's rich and conflicted literary and political past:

"Rome, Paris, Athens, Warsaw, Berlin . . .? Don't ask who's next! "Never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Hemingway the anti-Francoist was quoting John Donne, an 18th century poet. Bin Laden's mercenaries take their inspiration from the Spanish fascist Millán Astray: "You want life, we want death." Will Mr. Zapatero find the voice of Miguel de Unamuno, the independent thinker of Salamanca who denounced the fascist general's "cry of necrophilia," and stand up to today's nihilist killers? It is never too late to prevent a disaster."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Why I Like Linkin Park (and why you should, too.) Part 1

Several weeks ago now, I had the pleasure of attending a Linkin Park show at the Greensboro Coliseum. It was one of their last stops on the Meteora tour (Meteora is the name of their current album). I've been meaning to write about the concert since then, but work, church, work, finding out we're pregnant, and having visitors kind of got in the way of my posting.

Kellsey and I come by our love for LP in a round-about kind of way. Four or five years ago, when we lived in Winston-Salem, we became friends with Joe & Anne Farrell, who, one otherwise unremarkable day, played some strange music for us while we were hanging out at their house. Joe casually walked over to their stereo and asked us if we'd heard of "this band called Linkin Park." "Not really," we replied, visions of swing-sets & slides & green grass running through my head (you know, things-in-a-park stuff). So Joe hits play and this strange hybrid of rock/hardcore/techno/electronica comes out, and I can't decide if I'm hearing something American or Euro or Asian. He tossed us the liner and we noticed that the lyrics to that particular song were rather insightful, so we bit: "Interesting. How do you know about this band?" "My brother will be their new bass player," Joe says, grinning.

That, at least, is how I remember my introduction. It's probably only slightly related to how it actually happened, but you get the gist of it. If you want story details which are correct and correlated with reality about anything that happened more than three months ago, your best bet is to talk to Kellsey. (I like to think of it like: with Kellsey you get the word-for-word translation of the past, with me you get more of a dynamic, idea-for-idea translation of the past. Depending on your needs, you'll want one more than the other. Like in a courtroom, you'd want to be talking to Kells.)

So, from the get-go, we had a quasi-personal connection to these LP guys. We were pre-disposed to like them, since Joe could personally vouch for his brother, who could personally vouch for the other guys in the band. (I mean, they wanted Joe's brother to be in their band, they had to be good guys, right?)

Another reason which made it inevitable that I like LP's music was what I'd grown up listening to and loving: good old rock&roll, hardcore (e.g. Strongarm, Six Feet Deep, P.O.D.), punk, post-hardcore (e.g. Stavesacre), techno, dance or "house" music (as they called it in Miami), and industrial music (e.g. Circle of Dust, Chatterbox).

You'll notice that all of those bands are "Christian" bands. They're the ones I remember. I owe any sophistication in my musical tastes to Walter, who introduced me to all this stuff, and without whom I'd still be thinking "Bang Bang" by Danger Danger was a rockin' song. Walt played much secular music for me as well, just so you know. (Maybe sometime I'll post on my perspective of Walter's musical journey.)

All that to say, one of the reasons why I like LP so much is that I think they bring together in their compositions influences from all those genres. Since I like those genres, it's not so surprising that when a group of artists come along who bring them all together in a new kind of sound, I would like their work! There may have been bands who put it all together before LP, but I don't think anyone put it together as well as they do, nor with as much commercial success as they have had. (And I don't think that "commercial success" necessarily disqualifies a band from being "good" or "legitimate" or "authentic", by the way.)

That's why I like the instrumental, rythmic and melodic work that they do. Because LP makes good art (although in this case, the art is music), I think they're accessible to a broad audience, and you don't have to have liked those genres to like them now.

Next time: lyrics, or maybe some personal interactions with the band, maybe both.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Here's the URL of that article:

Johnny Ramone of the Ramones in the Washington Times. Not sure about the whole "most influential rock band of the last 30 years" bit...

"....Johnny dropped his job as a construction worker in 1974 and held down stage right for 22 years as the guitarist for the most influential rock band of the last 30 years. The Ramones fertilized the punk-rock scene first in their hometown of New York City, then in England. Eventually — who knew? — that sound would form the chassis for what the corporate rock industry later dubbed "alternative" and, eventually, infiltrated top 40....

....Johnny was driven right by a youthful revulsion against, um, face-ism. "It was in 1960, the Nixon-Kennedy election," he says, recalling his first inclination toward the right. He was an only child of Irish heritage in a working-class neighborhood. Families on his block voted left, pro-union. "People around me were saying, 'Oh, Kennedy's so handsome,' and I thought, 'Well, if these people are going to vote for someone based on how he looks, I don't want to be party to that.' "

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Jewish Trial of Jesus (Part 2) It would help us understand what happened to Jesus before the Chief Priests and their colleagues if we had a clear picture of the Jewish legal system at that time. Then, if we must judge the participants, as inevitably we do, we would be able to judge them against a set of standards or "the system" to which they subscribed and not against those to which we subscribe. That would seem more fitting. We can assume that Jesus' adversaries knew the system. But I think we can also safely assume that Jesus had some idea of the system as well; his few remarks during the trial supports that assumption. But how do we know what the system was?

We know more than we might think we know about the sources of the Jewish law that made up "the system". Anyone who kept awake while growing up in Sunday School knows that there were two sources of law among the Jews of Jesus' time. There was "the Law", that is the Mosaic Code, the written law, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. And then there was the source that gave Jesus so much trouble: the pre-Talmudic oral tradition, a sort of commentary on the Pentateuch that became the trade of a class of professionals who were Jesus adversaries, the scribes and the Pharisees.

We have a two source system in our own legal culture. For example, there is the Internal Revenue Code. It contains the federal tax laws that were enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President. Right now on my bookshelf, I have a copy of the current Code. It consists of two volumes, two large paper back books, each at least an inch thick.

Then there is the second source of tax law, "the Regulations" or "the Regs". This is sort of a commentary or interpretation of the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. The Regs were not enacted by Congress and signed by the President. Instead, they were developed by the Internal Revenue Service. They take up about six volumes on my bookshelf. A practitioner cannot feel comfortable about reading something in the Code without going to the Regs and reading what the IRS believes is meant by that part of the Code with which the practitioner is concerned.

Now and then, someone takes the position that the "real law" is in the Code and that the Reg that might apply to the particular subject matter of the Code must yield to what the Code "really" says. Except in the case where Congress has expressly authorized the IRS to make law through a Reg, the person contesting the Reg might actually be able to persuade a court that he is right and the IRS is wrong. In that case, the court would overrule the position of the IRS.

Is this a digression? Arguably yes, but it does show that there is a tendency not to leave a Code alone, whether it is the Mosaic Code or the Internal Revenue Code. Too many new circumstances arise that test the Code, that seem not to have been anticipated by it, that seem too particular for the more general aspects of a Code provision to control. So particular applications are developed. They seem to make sense and are passed around from user to user. A tradition develops and experts in the tradition rise up. Now we have two sources of the Law: the Code and the Regs. The Law and the laws. Maybe we should be a little more sympathetic to the system in which we see Jesus. Maybe it is a lot more like the one that we know than we would like to think.
Matthew 10:38
"he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

I think today when we read this verse, we read it with the knowledge of Jesus on the Cross, his paying for our sins, doing the work for us, and so on. That's not the way it was heard.

He spoke these words before his crucifixion, of course, and to an audience that had no idea that a crucifixion lay ahead.

I think these words are all the more striking in that context.

Jesus's call is for complete sacrifice (and humiliation 'take up your cross') today, in faith that he is worth the cost and that the Spirit will sustain us, but without the benefit of knowing what is ahead aside from the provision and salvation of God.

Of course, no one will prove themselves worthy of Jesus. Should we let that be our concern? "by no means!" heh.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The Jewish Trial of Jesus (Part I). There were two trials of Jesus, maybe even three, as he made his way to the Cross. The first and most controversial was the trial before the Chief Priests. The second, maybe in two parts, was before Pilate. The third before Herod.

But the first is the most interesting, in part because it presents a vivid example of how an advanced legal system, designed to safeguard the right of the accused and even to frustrate the imposition of capital punishment, can come under terrible political stress at the most critical moment in its history. It is also interesting because it is generally misunderstood to have been the direct cause of Jesus' death and, as a result, has provided grist for the pagan mill anti-Semitism over the years. The legal system that actually condemned and executed Jesus was Roman, of course. This fact has implications beyond the anti-semitism question. It has great significance theologically.

Finally, in the Jewish trial we confront the question of whether Jesus was a passive victim of a mindless legal process or whether he participated in that process actively, as part of his submission to God's will.

My approach will be first to describe the Jewish legal system as it may have existed during Jesus' time. Then, with that background, to look at the scriptures and see how that system played out when Jesus entered it.
The Middle East is already laid waste.

Pop culture will destroy the nationalistic and religious ties that unite the Middle East against the West.

Pop is completely decentralized and depends on technology, not any nation, for its power. The Middle East recoginizes their enemy in Pop Culture, but lacks the framework to understand its decentralized nature.

They mistakenkly believe that they can defeat it by destroying the US and the West.

They don't realize that pop has already destroyed the US and they have no hope against it outside of Christ.

How long will it be before societies reorient themselves around something other than nations?

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Just what does "Passion" mean, anyway?. A perfume? A great love? Intense emotion? Those would be my guesses, but this probably indicates the post-Christian culture in which I live or the Southern Baptist/American Protestantism with which I grew up. The movie sends me to the dictionary.

Webster's New International Second Edition Unabridged ("WNIDSE") was the US law firm standard when I commenced the practice. In its definition of passion, we reach the idea of a "feeling; emotion" only in the fifth definition; of "desire", as in sexual desire or lust, in the sixth definition. In the seventh definition we get to "strong desire or predilection, esp. as expressed in action . . . " And in the eighth we finally reach the idea of passion being "an object of love or ambition". The ninth definition gives us "pl the feelings or emotions collectively".

But go to the initial definition, the first. At the beginning, passion is a "Fact or state of enduring inflicted pain, tortures, or the like; an affliction. Obs. exc. specif. a [usually cap.] Orig. and usually, the suffering of Christ on the cross; or, often, his sufferings between the night of the Last Supper and his death, thus including the agony of Gethsemane. b The sufferings of a martyr; martyrdom.

The OED (Compact Edition 1971) shows the first usage in English about 1175, but the reference is in Middle (Old?) English, and I can't read it.

Passion derives, according to the WNIDSE, from a French word meaning "to suffer", and it has the idea of passivity, not activity in it. The word "patient" is related to this idea of passion, as in a patient, the one who is the passive figure, the one who suffers from an active agent, that is from illness.

And so we see Jesus in his Passion, being passive and submissive: not calling down the angels, not destroying the Temple, the prosecution, the Romans, not destroying us.

Today I spoke to Walter about the film. He said his favorite part was at its beginning, with Jesus in the Garden, when he smashed the head of the snake with a suddenness and perhaps a sort of contempt, as if that thing did not deserve a bit of attention other than being crushed under his heel. I loved that part too. Why does it appeal to Walter and me?

We want our Messiah to clean house. Yeah!

If Passion is one's total submission to God's will, then the other side of that submission is total contempt for and the efficient dispatch of evil from one's path of obedience. Would that I had that approach to the sin that wants to insinutate itself into my life.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

from Peggy Noonan's current column, the last couple of paragraphs:

But they are convinced it is going to be a close race. That's not just spin to rev the troops; it's their conviction. They don't see us as a 50-50 country but as a 48-48 country, with the fight over the remaining 4% of the population. It took me aback when I heard this--not that it was surprising, but it reminded me of something Lee Atwater told me 20 years ago. Forty percent of the country will vote Democrat no matter what, he said, and 40% will vote Republican. Every presidential contest is a wrestling match for the 20% in the middle.

That was true then, or at least the polls bore it out. Now that 20 has shrunk to four. I'm not sure what that means. No one else is either. But somehow it strikes me as both inevitable and not good.
Smashing Pumpkins broke up and Billy Corgan, the lead singer, released an album with a new band, Zwan.

lets compare some of his older Smashing Pumpkins lyrics with his newer Zwan lyrics:

"Bullet with Butterfly Wings" (Smashing Pumpkins)

The world is a vampire, sent to drain
Secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames
And what do I get, for my pain
Betrayed desires, and a piece of the game
Even though I know-I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold-like old job
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Now I'm naked, nothing but an animal
But can you fake it, for just one more show
And what do you want, I want to change
And what have you got
When you feel the same
Even though I know-I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold-like old job
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Tell me I'm the only one
Tell me there's no other one
Jesus was the only son
Tell me I'm the chosen one
Jesus was the only son for you
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
And I still believe that I cannot be saved

"Jesus, I / Mary Star Of The Sea" (Zwan)

jesus, i've taken my cross
all to leave and follow thee
jesus, i've taken my cross
all to leave and follow thee

i'm destitute, despised, forsaken
all to leave and follow thee
and follow thee

man may trouble to distress me
to drive my heart to the cross
yeah, man may trouble to distress me
to drive this heart to the cross

i'm resolute, reviled, forsaken
all to leave and follow thee
and follow thee


so perish every fond ambition
god and trouble are all i've known
yet how rich is my condition
god and heaven are all my own
god and heaven are all my own

rooms full of salt
fault my pluck
and a poets charm so far, ever far
little stars that burn the holes in my soul

and everything just feels like rain
the road we're on, the things we crave
and everything just feels like rain
the nights i sleep, what's left to dream
when everything feels like rain

drift as i dive
find the deep
out of reach of all light
stars, ever far
listless tides along the changing shore

and everything just feels like rain
the road we're on, the things we crave
and everything just feels like rain
if i should sleep, what's left to dream
when everything feels like rain