Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas from Alex and Aaron!

Jingle bells! Batman smells!
Robin laid a gun,
Shoot a tree and make it pee
In 1981!

(This is from the poetic and political minds of our nephews. Both claim responsibility for the piece. Alex says, "When you think about it, it just makes sense, but I can't really explain it." We are choosing to read it a a stinging rebuke of the nation's turn to Reaganism, and it's step back from the environmental movement of the seventies. You cannot stop us from reading it this way). Happy holidays to all our far-flung friends and relatives.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Help the Families of Arrested Swift Workers

By now all of our dwindling readership has probably heard about the dramatic Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on a meat-packing plant in Greeley, a few hours north of us. You have probably also heard that the relatives of those arrested don't know where their loved ones are being detained and that there are kids who are staying with aunts, uncles, and neighbors because their parents are in detention.

Here are a couple of ways you can help the familes of the workers. the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents the workers at the Swift Plant has a hardship fund for its members, and The United Way of Weld County (Greeley) has also set up an assistance fund. As we gather with our families in the next couple of days, we might think about showing solidarity for those whose families are forcibly separated. You can find out how to make a donation at the links above. the UFCW site has a good set of links to coverage of the raid.

Monday, December 18, 2006

God Answers My Question

In my last post, I asked what the next great public display of hypocricy and corruption would be. We've had some answers. Keep 'em coming!

In the meantime, it looks like God has answered the question for us. Looks like there's been another prominent resignation at New Life Church here in the Springs over sexual misconduct. This time it's Christopher Beard, a pastor with a business degree from Oral Roberts University who, among other things, was reprimanded four years ago for staging "a missionary training drill using fake assault weapons," according to the Denver Post. Quoting Associate Pastor Rob Brendle, the paper noted that the drill caused something of a disruption.
A SWAT team was put on alert after a passing motorist thought the guns were real. Brendle said that incident played a role in Beard's departure.
What kind of "missionary work" was he training them for? For better or for worse, the Post has no information about the gory details of the really important indescretion (remember, it's sex, not violence, that matters), except to say that it wans't with Ted Haggard or with a minor. Cara DeGette at Coloradoconfidential notes that this resignation is the result of an ongoing purge, as NLC tries to clean house in the wake of the scandal. Heading up this effort is a national panel of "Overseers" (yikes!) who are charged with "provid[ing] spiritual protection to the Church" and protecting "the hearts of all involved in matters of pastoral discipline." These Overseers are asking members of the congregation to rat discreetly on any staff members or senior leaders who are suspected of any kind of moral lapse. What a nice way to create community and trust in the wake of such a traumatic event!!

In other news, Squarestate links to more irony from the Rocky Mountain News. It seems an unnamed retired state prisons official could face jail time for helping a private prison firm called the Geo Group get a contract to build a facility in Colorado. This official started working as a consultant for Geo BEFORE he retired from his state position. Jeez, whatever happened to the "revolving" door? These guys put Texas and the whole HB2292 flap to shame!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Life Imitates Comedy, Irony Gasps for Breath

OK, folks, this will be a short one, but given my history with immigration stuff I couldn't let this one pass. Months ago when the nativist Right was making noise about a border fence, the Austin American-Statesman's humor columnist John Kelso wrote a funny editorial asking, "Who would build it?" George Lopez apparently had the same idea. Now, NPR reports that, yes indeed, the contractor hired to erect the border fence is being fined for hiring undocumented workers. Its executives may face jail time as well. OK, so first we had "Brownie" becoming a hurricane preparedness consultant, then a Congressman who championed stiff (no pun intended) prosecution of child molesters caught engaging in sexy on-line chat with underage pages, then Ted Haggard and the other evangelist in Colorado confessing to secret gay liasons, now this! And we thought Irony died when Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize! Leave a comment with your predictions for the next big colorful explosion of hypocricy and corruption will be.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday Travels, Memories, and Serial Killers

The fact that we haven't updated for almost two weeks should be a sign of how hectic things have been for us. Laura has been teaching a 25-person Chicano lit class. At UT this would be a nice, small size, but here it's the upper limit for a class, and handling this number of people without a TA and on the intense all-day-every-day schedule of the Block Plan is exhausting. I have been trying to get a couple of publications out before the end of the year.

We won't be in Kansas over the holidays, but we did make it there for Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of the two of us with my folks, my brother, my Aunt Rita's family, and my cousin Sarah's boyfriend's family at the Clinton Lake, not far from my folks house.

And here is a picture my aunt took of my folks' house as she and my uncle were leaving.

Thanks to Chuck & Rita for the pics!!

While in Lawrence, we did some early Christmas shopping at the Bizarre Bazaar, a craft fair that appears to have become an annual event in the years of my absence. Lawrence has grown and changed much since I left in 1987, but every time I return I see signs that the small college town I knew isn't entirely gone. One of these was the fact that I could walk into the fair and see for sale on the wall a picture (left) of the family doctor in Tonganoxie who treated me as a child AND pictures of a late record-store cat who once belonged to my best friend from high school. Of course, it wouldn't be Lawrence without a touch of strangeness. In Northeast Kansas and Western Missouri, the phrase "Bizarre Bazaar" inevitably evokes memories of the serial Killer Bob Berdella, who sold skulls, shrunken heads, and eerie occult paraphernala from a booth called "Bob's Bizarre Bazaar" at the flea market in Westport when I was in high school. In 1988, a man bearing signs of torture and wearing only a dog collar escaped from Berdella's Kansas City house, and Berdella was later discovered to have murdered and mutilated six people. The case has acquired a "cult" status, and films have been made. The thing I can't figure out is, how does this name pass to a crunchy-chewy craft fair in Lawrence where a friend of ours sells childrens' clothing made from used fabrics under the label "Wee-cycle?" Somebody has a sick sense of humor.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Memories of "Memories of East Texas"

Do you remember when the record reviews in Sassy magazine were good? When I was fifteen, you could find a couple of decent albums in there every month. I can remember saving up spare cash, or begging my parents for it, and then spending it at Natural Sound on the latest sounds of teen alienation. No wonder my older sisters thought my taste in music stank. Still, every once in a while, a Sassy would point me to a real gem: point in case, Michelle Shocked's Short, Sharp, Shocked.
Now, the cover has a picture of Michelle being held by a helmeted policeman in what appears to be a very painful pressure point restraint. One of my older sisters looked at that cover and instantly assumed that it would be a full tape of angry noisecore. This album, instead, is an earnest, stripped down collection of songs about the lonely lives of small town kids. I listened to it almost constantly, and related to it so throroughly that I sometimes have a hard time separating my memories of highschool from her lyrics. And then my older sister, the one who had sneered at the cover, heard the tape for the first time. She was shocked, shocked I tells you, that she actually liked a record that I had bought. And for some reason, right about that time, my copy of Short Sharp Shocked disappeared. I consoled myself by sharing the Pixies' Surfer Rosa with the entire neighborhood, and eventually moved on to other musical fields. When Arkansas Traveller came out, it filled all my Michelle Shocked needs for a long time. I didn't really think much about the the first album for years.
Last week when we were in Lawrence for Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law gifted me a copy of Short Sharp Shocked. I hadn't listened to it in years, but it instantly transported me back to highschool. I felt the lift that I used to get from the song "Hello Hopeville." This is a song about running away, something that I wanted to do almost every day at my Catholic highschool. Every day, the song ran away from home just for me. Also, the song "Making the Run to Gladewater," about a thirty minute beer run, was nothing like I ever experienced in my own teenage life. However,I did dream of a day when I would have enough friends to lose the toss and have 15 minutes to make a thirty minute drive.
But, for me, the song "Memories of East Texas" is the one that remains most poignant. Listening to it now, I wince at how thoroughly I appropriated the lyrics of this song into my own personal psychodrama, especially this verse:
Memories of east Texas.../
Looking back and asking myself/
what the hell did you let them break your spirit for/
you know, their lives ran in circles so small/
and they thought they'd seen it all/
and they could not make a place/
for a girl who's seen the ocean...

At the time, I really did think so much of myself that I equated the loneliness that I felt with possession of some grander vision. Now, my classmates did not live in what most people would call small worlds. Some of them have moved on through some very expensive educations to prominence in professional fields, as did I. However, I experienced highschool as a very constraining place. I saw my peers as living lives ruled by clothing labels and drunkenness. As someone who had little fashion sense, and less social sense, I never did feel like there was a place for me in the grand scheme of my school, and that until I got out of there I would always feel alienated and weird. This song takes me back to a place and time where I could blame them for how weird I felt, for their smallness and lack of vision. I could still dream that I would escape, that I would someday find myself in the land of people who read Tolstoy for fun, of brainiacs and bookworms, where we would all get the attention that we so craved and talk about stuff that really mattered to us (a wish that proves that axiom that when the gods want to curse you, they give you what you want). It would be years before I finally realized that if you want a place in the world, you have to carve it out for yourself. I'm happy with the place that I've made for myself, and proud of my accomplishments. And I'm a little embarassed for my teenage self, and the pomposity with which I used Michelle Shocked's music as a lens on my own life. Still, it's nice to visit with that teenage self, nostalgic for the days in which I actually believed that I could escape who I was, and reemerge into a world in which I was truly appreciated.
Bye-bye, baby girl, I know they're gonna treat you wellwellwell.