Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The End is Near...Oct. 2 to be precise!!!

Under normal circumstances I would simply laugh and scoff at those who proclaim that we are now living in the End Times. As a professing Christian I feel I do have an eschatological worldview (that's a big word we learn in seminary having to do with, of course, the End Times) but am very dismissive of those preachers who scour the scriptures and examine current world events for clues to the impending Apocalypse and the Return of Christ. Until now. My reasons? Could it be the worsening conflict between Israel and Lebanon? The disaster that is Iraq? The growing Iranian tensions? The dynamic geo-political relations in all of Asia, with the potent threat of nuclear annhilation coming from China, India, Pakistan, or North Korea? While those provide interesting fodder for the Left Behind folk, my real reasoning for my new-found belief in our living on the cusp of Revelation is the Rolling Stones are coming to Wichita! What further proof do I (and you) need?

The Genius of Tex (and YouTube)

For those who haven't experienced all that the internet has to offer, here is one of its greatest resources: YouTube. While wasting some precious work time I discovered on this most glorious of sites the works of one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, Tex Avery. One of my particular favorites is the Car of Tomorrow. I hope your computer has the capability to enjoy this cartoon. I need to warn you, there are some quaint gender stereotypes and a few unfortunate overt stereotypes that gives insight into the mainstream mindset of the 1950s (I'll let the sociologists deal with that for now).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

DMV: A Success Story

One's life can be traced as a series of small victories against overwhelming odds. At times it seems the human condition is pre-disposed to structuring it's own society in ways which serve to de-value and de-moralize attempts to break free from the bonds of those very constructs that hinder our full potential. Yet breakthroughs do occur and life reveals itself to be capable of maintaining hope and promise in spite of the apparent bleakness. Some experience those breakthroughs as evidence of a just and merciful God, others as simply luck (I fall firmly in the former category yet do acknowledge the role of chance in our lives).

As has been previously posted I have been undergoing a journey of sorts. Maybe not on the same level as, say, Ulysses or Frodo, but one which illustrates the elation of triumphs great and small. My return trip to the DC DMV yielded the desired result and I got my driver's license. I had all the necessary paperwork (sidenote: I did not need to have a police report documenting the saga of my lost license. This time through the line nobody asked for it. Though part of me wants to lash out at the system that would send me on a wild goose chase I was too grateful to care. Perhaps that is one way they pacify you.) My visit lasted an hour and I left, new license in hand (fortunately with the same photo of a more fitter me). I may have even hummed "Ode to Joy" as I walked back to the Metro.

So, I am happy to report that I have experienced a small victory that should offer hope to anyone needing to get anything from the DMV. Perhaps a whole devotional could be devoted to those DMV triumphs. It could be shelved next to Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.


Monday, July 24, 2006

DMV, part VII

I know everyone has been on the edge of his or her seat since Friday's post. Well, sorry to keep you on edge. I made it down Saturday only to be told that I was, in fact, missing a crucial document that of course was not mentioned on the web site. I got the document but did not return that day. I also found out something else that was crucial, which is readily available on the website. On Monday's the DMV does not provide driver license services (but they do schedule hearings in case you've had it revoked). Fortunately I went the extra mile and instead of finding this out on-line I made the trek down to the DMV early this Monday morning to make sure they weren't open. BTW, the line is also much shorter on Mondays.

Buenos Dias!!!


Friday, July 21, 2006


The DMV is often the source of humor and ridicule regarding its over-bearing bureaucracy and lack of expediency. We've all had our far share of silly moments when getting new car tags or a driver's licence. Old Communist Russia, when criticized about its long lines just to get toilet paper probably shrugged it off by stating "look at those long lines at the DMV!" DMV incidents could be (and probably is) an entire blog unto itself. So, bearing that in mind, I just wanted to add another in a long list of complaints/anecdotes that I hope someone is keeping track of and can turn into a best-seller (or maybe a folk album? Sufjan?).

Nonetheless, I will add yet another tale of misery and woe concerning one's plight to that black hole of efficiency. Having recently lost/misplaced my driver's license I obviously needed to attain a new one. Because of my youthful good looks, I obviously needed proper ID in order to maintain my legality, specifically if I wanted to enjoy a pleasant drink (or even vote, or even drive). After navigating online to see if I could re-order one on the not so user-friendly local government website, I discovered that I needed my driver license number to re-order one. Apparently I should have that number committed to memory (given our present age when it is no longer legal in the District to use your SSN as you DL number, which is just as well. I'm not too concerned about someone stealing my identity with my lost license, though when the CC bills with the trip to Maui start pouring in...). Without that info I would have to take the sojourn downtown.

I got up early in the hopes of getting closer to the front of the line. However, I forgot to take into account that no matter how early you get up, someone else is getting up earlier, in this case about 4o people. And there we stood in front of the deteriorating 301 building waiting for them to open the doors. The time at this point was 7:50, so I had at least 25 minutes. Luckily I had a book. Always bring a book/paper/magazine to the DMV (as well as make absolutely sure you have every piece of documentation necessary or you will be sent home in shame). Finally the doors opened and a uniformed guard came out and explained the ground rules, which contained some very valuable rules, the most important one being if you come to the DMV early and have to wait in line, do not bring a bag. Let me repeat, do not bring a bag/sack/purse of any sort. Why is this detail important? Because you get to pass through the significantly shorter line for the metal detector. My position moved up at least 20 places because of this. (Another important rule, do not bring anything that may resemble a weapon, including key chains from New Mexico given as a present from your mother, which is a whole other story for a different day.)

Unfortunately my moment of triumph lasted all of two minutes. A little lady came out into the hall and said that the mainframe was down and so they couldn't process anything. If only I had a picture of the faces who had chosen this very day to make their trek to the DMV. They were full of sadness and supressed anger. Certainly they couldn't fault the messenger but needed to lash out against something. At that moment I chose to silently chide the mayor, knowing that it was pointless, given that he isn't even running for re-election. I imagined the mayor as Sisyphus having to continually go through the DMV line only to be rejected because of a missing document or downed computer. I was reminded of a line from Tender Mercies spoken by Max, "I don't trust happiness." The DMV has that effect. I left, needing to get to work where at least I know my mainframe will be operating. The sad thing is this is the second time in a row this has happened to me at the DMV. Hopefully when I go back tomorrow the third time will be the charm.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kansas...The Land of Ah's

Prolific singer-songwriter and 50-state balladeer Sufjan Stevens has just released his follow-up to the great Illinois titled The Avalanche, consisting of outtakes and extras from the Land of Lincoln. Though I am excited by the prospect of listening to his latest effort, this release begs the question "Why not devote your creative energy to Kansas?" An album about The Sunflower State (or Jayhawker State) would be a nice addition to his "50 States" project. I even have a title for him, courtesy of a late eighties initiative to promote the state (tough to do when you're sandwiched between Missouri and Colorado), which simultaneously pokes fun of and embraces it's Wizard of Oz imagery. Who wouldn't buy an album titled "Kansas...The Land of Ah's"? The promotion even created controversy when the state of Connecticut tried to rip off the slogan. Typical of the East Coast to try to impose it's supposed superiority over anything west of Appalachia. Who knew that state tourism boards could be so cutthroat? But, I digress.

The point is Kansas would provide a far superior backdrop for Sufjan's music to anything else he's done. I have a few suggestions that could help ease the burden of research and produce voluminous material for the album. For instance, John Brown and Ossawatomie. Everyone's favorite abolitionist created quite a stir on the prairie when he decided to take the law into his own hands and punish those mean pro-slavery ruffians living on the wrong side of the Kansas border. Massacre and mayhem always provide good fodder. Other interesting characters include temperance queen and axe-wielder Carrie Nation. Or perhaps a sad ballad about Amelia Earhart and her doomed flight. I mean, there are dozens and dozens of Kansans to sing about. But please, no songs about BTK. Sufjan already explored that territory on Illinois with John Wayne Gacy.

Plenty of cities to choose from, too. Imagine riding along with windows down, a summer breeze blowing through the Flint Hills to the tune of Wichita, Air Capital of the World!!! Or maybe an homage to the State Capital. Or maybe a little ditty about my hometown, Augusta. There are plenty of oddities in some of these towns such as The Garden of Eden in Lucas. It's not the Taj Mahal, but does involve a husband's strange devotion to his dead wife.

In other words, the possibilities are endless. I'm barely scratching the surface. I could quite possibly spend the next several weeks writing about everything that could and should be sung about the 34th state. There are buffalo roaming and a rich Native American history, cattle drives and cowtowns, and much much more. All the elements are there to create a rich tapestry of history that values the prairie as an inspirational mecca. Sufjan should consider this an introduction to what surely would be his next masterpiece, perhaps the crowning achievement and creative pinnacle of his career. Consider this. Consider Kansas.

Friday, July 14, 2006

No hablo espanol...pero yo estudio Pop Culture

Well, last night I took a Spanish test. My wife and I are currently trudging through Conversational Spanish I. It has been quite an adventure considering my language skills are lacking plus what other language I have studied (high school German, with only a few shards still floating around in my braincells, but what shards they are!) keeps popping up and wreaking havoc. Fortunately we're auditing, so grades don't really matter. I just feel bad knowing that I'm capable of rendering a beautiful language spoken by millions and millions of people into unintelligible vowels and consonants (or at least I think that's what they sound like), and that's without attempting to roll the r's. Nothing brings out my hickness from Kansas quite like reading a Spanish text easily translatable by a four year old. Fortunately following the test the class went to a Mexican restaurant and drank some Margaritas and listened to the sweet serenade of Mariachi. I really do want to learn to speak Spanish, to move beyond the banality of Me llamo Jeff and actually have a reasonable discussion with another (en español). Hopefully this is the start of something great. In no time I will be translating the lost works of García Lorca or translating the latest García Marquez. Ok, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but one can dream can't they?

Though Spanish has proved muy difícil we've been fortunate enough to have access to cable this week. Each night on VH-1 they've been showing the World Series of Pop Culture. Apparently several months ago there were trivia tournaments across the country that pitted teams of three against each other in a bracket format. As the title indicates, the focus is on a team's knowledge of all things catchy and kitchy, from film to music to tv and beyond. Some of the teams are really good, such as Almost Perfect Strangers and El Chupacabra, others I wonder how the hell they made it this far (which leads to the inevitable "and why the hell aren't I on there"). Each round consists of six questions. Generally 4 to 5 of the six questions are fairly basic, though that doesn't stop some of them from blowing it on a grand scale. I mean, who doesn't know that Bob Guiney was a contestant on ABC's The Bachelor? Or that one of Meryl Streep's Oscar- nominated roles was for Sophie's Choice? Come on people, if you're gonna win $250,000, while the rest of us watch with bitter resentment, there are at least a few essentials you need to know, or as my Deutch teacher called it, BMK (basic minimal knowledge). Oh well, until then I'll continue to trudge on. Maybe next season.



Monday, July 10, 2006

A Return from Beyond

Sorry folks for the brief hiatus. Things have been well, interesting, since July 4. Needless to say I am now operating at full capacity. A lot has happened in the interim, so I'm still in the process of trying to sort things out. Let me first give a "Happy Birthday" to everyone's favorite Giant Panda, Tai Shan. Check him out here. Also, my wife (of MatlockMornings) and I are currently dog sitting a little Dachshund name Fritz. We're busy people.

But, what is it I wish to pontificate upon at the moment, you may be anxiously asking yourself? Well, gentle reader, how about a movie review? Last Saturday, when I was not attending the Belle&Sebastian concert in Columbia, I sat down with Fritz to enjoy the Robert Duvall movie Tender Mercies. It opens with Duvall getting a beat down and waking up hung-over in a desolate Texas motel room only found in the movies. The landscape is sparse and the music is quiet C&W. Duvall plays Mac Sledge, former famous country singer seeking some sort of redemption for his past transgressions, hoping to build a future with the motel's owner, Rosa Lee and her son, aptly nicknamed Sonny. Mac also has a daughter from a previous marriage to a country star he hopes to reconnect with. In 90 minutes the film conveys how sadness and hope often converge and overlap, to the point where Mac expresses his "distrust for happiness." Those who enjoy exploring religious dimensions of film will have much to ponder here. One avenue of redemption involves church life. Another involves the need to connect with each other, through the gifts at our disposal. For Mac it is music. The promise of unconditional love is examined through the eyes of Rosa Lee and her acceptance of Mac and all his various demons. Tragedy occurs in the midst of joy and Mac ponders life's cruelty. The dialogue is as minimal as the scenery, helping to alleviate the more melodramatic elements of the film. The quietness of it amounts to a very moving and engaging film.

Another film recently viewed, this time on the big screen, was the Altman classic Nashville. Having only previously viewed it on video, to see it in a theater was a very transformative experience. There is so much going on in each frame visually and audibly that I hope to get to see it again soon to experience the parts I missed. Following a couple of days in Nashville in the mid seventies, Altman deals with a wide variety of characters, from successful singers to those destined to remain on the fringe. Some only eminate goodness, while others can only be described as unredeemable jerks. Yet all their paths converge, sometimes in a traffic jam, at a Grand Ole Opry Show or in a political rally. Those seeking a singular statement will be disappointed. Politics and Pop Culture are one and the same in Altman's view. The most significant of persons can easily be cast aside. Altman is able to present the motivations and heartache (and occassional triumph) of over a dozen people in two and half hours. This is Americana at its finest.

Has anybody else have any recent positive (or negative) movie going experiences?

Bye for now,


Monday, July 03, 2006

Danielson Continues to Rule

With the exception of a brief moment on Sunday, for the last three weeks the car has been continuously playing one CD: Danielson's Ships. This unprecedented monolopy of the airwaves in the car (with the occassional moments of NPR sprinkled in) will certainly come to an end, but much like Ken Jennings's historic run on Jeopardy!, with each passing episode in the car it appears as if we will never be able to overcome our urge to listen to the lush melodies, but we know it will happen. And when will that be? Where will be going? A quick trip to the grocery store, with just enought time to listen to one and half songs? A long road trip through the Shenandoah's? Who knows? It almost happened Sunday with a trip to pick up a pizza from Ledo's (which, btw, rules!), but the foe (in this case the new Mojave 3) was vanquished with my need to listen to "Did I Step on your trumpet." Our addiction knows no bounds. Until we hit rock bottom, Danielson remains in the cd player.