Monday, June 30, 2008

Another June Wedding; or, Seven Reasons To Bring An Infant To A Wedding

--no, Roy, no photos.

My wife's cousin got married over the weekend. As it was black-tie-optional, I decided I would actually wear a tux. I did lament that somehow I ended up with my father's Texas flag vest (mine is XXL, his is XL), and so I had to go with a relatively tame checked print vest. (I was expressly forbidden in the name of family unity from wearing this one.) And so off we went. Wee One came as well, for reasons best not outlined in a public forum. It turned out to be a Very Good Thing.

As my wife was a member of the wedding party (she was doing the Bible business), we had to arrive early for photos. Now at my own wedding (of blessed memory), I allowed my wife to think that she was letting me put my foot down when I said that I would only pose for a limited number of photos: us, us + immediate families (each side), wedding party. Everything else would be "action" shots, i.e., I don't pose for pictures, get used to it. Such was not the case at this event. Every conceivable shot under the sun was being taken, much to the delight of Mother-of-the-Bride and the photographer, whom I surmised had sold MotB on The Whole Nine Yards. This dragged on for quite some time. Wee One slept, I sat in the back and checked phone messages.

Guests began to arrive. The noise level gradually rose. Just as the organ music started, Wee One began to fuss. I fulfilled my oath as Daddy and whisked her out the door at the rear of the sanctuary. And so I discovered why Bringing A Baby To The Wedding was one of the best ideas Mrs. and I ever conceived:

  1. It is much quieter in the outer foyer of churches.
  2. One gets to see the bride in that most candid and penultimate of moments: just before she walks down the aisle with her father.
  3. One gets to hurl wisecracks at the bride, if one is on personal terms. (NB this can earn you retribution from equally-witty Fathers-of-Brides, e.g., "Yes, my boy, take a good look at your little girl there and my little girl here, because in twenty-five years that's gonna be her and you're gonna be me!")
  4. One gets to be snarky about the entire ceremony with other parents of infants, without fear of disapproving stares from neighbors and relatives.
  5. One can scratch, cough, hum and text-message without fear of interruption or disapprobation.
  6. Change a diaper in mid-service? No problem!
  7. Big loud slurp of one's 64 oz. soda that one bought on the way to the wedding and conveniently stowed on the baby's stroller? Go for it!
The ceremony was remarkably brief; the homily lasted only three minutes or so. We were in and out in no time flat. Or would have been, except that Part II of the Photo Shoot That Would Not End was now in full swing. Wee One had gotten playful and so I brought her into the sanctuary to see Mommy and jump on the pews. Eventually she wore out and by then the photographer ran out of film --that's the only excuse I can say, because suddenly everyone was being told to get out and head for the reception at the country club.

Open bar. Man I love country clubs. And as I had on my tux, I felt no hesitation in calling for a martini. ("No, I do not want Stoli, real martinis are made with gin, my good sir! And not too dry: if I wanted my gin without vermouth, I'd have called for a Churchill!") Wee One was incredibly well-behaved, and a good time was had by all.

General wedding observations: young people should not get married --at least in terms of Having A Big Church Wedding. They go overboard with the preparations, the wedding party members aren't nearly mature enough to carry off the decorum, and it ends up looking and feeling more like senior prom. The groom's party members certainly carried it off in that manner. The bridesmaids and other young female attendees were more conservatively attired than the ones at the previous engagement, but my general caveat about shoes still applies.

A tip to you younger men out there: it is generally worth your money to invest in a tuxedo at an end-of-year-clearance from some place such as Al's Formal Wear. With the exception of some of the more extreme styles, tuxedos never go completely out of fashion, you are always ready for a formal dinner, and if you go out on a Friday (or Saturday) night to the theater, you ooze class --and you give your best gal a chance to completely doll herself up, and most younger women enjoy that immensely, so you earn points. Trust me. Also, splurge for your own dress shoes and spend a bit of time breaking them in. You'll never have to pay shoe-rental fee for your friends' weddings, plus you know they'll still feel alright at the end of a long evening. Boots are acceptable with a tux only in the South, Southwest and Mountain states, and they need to be exotics and highly shined.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wherein we commend The Living Room Candidate website to our readership

The Living Room Candidate. This online display by the Museum of the Moving Image contains a significant cross-section of television campaign ads for President dating back to 1952. I use it regularly in my second-half American survey courses. I curse that I cannot link directly to individual ads, however.

If I could, however, I would today link to the 1980 campaign (Carter vs. Reagan vs. Anderson, for those of you who didn't come to class today). Two commercials jump out at me as being relevant. The first is a "Democrats for Reagan" spot highlighting Senator Edward Kennedy's comments about Carter during the primary. I see identical ads coming this fall featuring Senator Clinton. The second is a Re-elect President Carter spot emphasizing how Carter reads the Bible every day with his wife. I cannot see any Democratic candidate even thinking about airing such an ad today. [Disclaimer: many Democrats are decent, church-going folks, just as some Republicans are atheist or agnostic. Philips is a German and he have my pen.]

Monday, June 23, 2008

Down with the NYT!

Encounter Bids The New York York Times Farewell:

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, it meant something if your book was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. A Times review imparted a vital existential certification as well as a commercial boost. Is that still the case? Less and less, I believe. The Times in general has lost influence as the paper has receded into parochial, left-liberal boosterism and politically correct reportage. And where its news and comment have become increasingly politicized, its cultural coverage has become increasingly superficial and increasingly captive of establishment, i.e., left-liberal, pieties and “lifestyle” radicalism.
--Meh, I quit reading the NYT quite a while back, I just plain don't like the smarminess. But considering their target audience, I ought not be surprised. And as I am well outside that group, I doubt that I will persuade them to change course. Perhaps if the company's stellar performance continues, they will become an attractive target for someone like Rupert Murdoch. (Not likely, Pinch's family retains voting rights controls, and they seem to be content to let him run the paper into the ground.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Family Mojo Goes Nautical

Friday night, 11:43PM --I leaned over to Mrs. Mojo, and whispered tenderly into her ear: Boat boat boat boat boat boat boat boat!!!
She kicked me. I should know by now to always preface such late-night giddiness with I wuv u first.

Saturday morning, 6:50AM --I leap out of bed, and from downstairs, Mrs. Mojo yells: Boat boat boat boat boat boat boat boat!!!
And the Wee One screamed in glee. Evidently in the night, my enthusiasm spread.

Saturday morning had finally arrived, and it was the day of The Wee One's First Boat Trip. We went to the shop to pick up the boat, and eventually (after a side trip to Academy to get two-cycle oil [aside: only fools try going to Wal-mart on Saturday]) we made our way to the river. My daughter looked like a piece of Pez candy in her under-30lbs life jacket, which she would wear at all times while inside the boat. But she loved being on the boat. Even the oil alarm going off didn't phase her --which was just as well, because there has to be a faulty sensor somewhere in the circuit, it kept going off every 3-5 minutes and I know for a fact that the oil pump was passing oil to the engine as normal.

We eventually found a calm cove with a sandy beach and got out for swimmies. The Wee One has a collapsable inflatable chair-float with its own shade canopy, so she had a ball playing in the water. Mrs. Mojo even gave her a bottle while she was there. Many pictures were taken.

And Daddy finally got to have that heady mix of river-air and outboard forced into his sinuses at 30 knots while the sun shone in the sky. (cue Der Fliegende Holländer)

All may not be right in the world yet, but Saturday was a step in the right general direction.

(Saddenz: after consultation with mechanic, boat taken back to shop to have sensor replaced)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Resting my mad poker ninja skills for a while

There was a time that I considered myself to be a fairly decent poker player. But lately I have been unable to mount a memorable win, while some of my losses have been --well, I've had worse losses, but I don't like losing, and when I lose over and over again, that's a sign that something isn't right. Now I don't play on pulling a Doyle Brunson and having a life-threatening tumor occupy several months of my time. But I do want to spend at least six weeks away from the game. My research into local history may continue, however.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term..."

"...his students look like they've been gut-shot."

I try to keep class upbeat, lively, and not boring --oxymoronic aims for a history lecture, one might say (and yes, there are days when even I get bored by the things I have to cover). But I never intentionally mislead my students. From Day One, I warn them that if they don't study for the exams --and especially if they blow off the essay questions -- they will fail. But there are a significant number who simply do not listen.

And so every term, I get Exam One grades (out of 100) like 55. 38. 18. Welcome to the world of Community College Education.

For what it's worth, I also tell the students that this happens to everyone, and that I will take significant improvement into account when final grades are calculated. My mission is to improve these students, I don't get paid extra for failing them --that's how I justify it. Even so, I also know from past experience that only half of those students who bomb Exam One (bomb: = = anything less than a D/60) will even bother to finish the course, they'll head for the door at break and keep on going to the registrar to withdraw.

It makes me sad. I can only do so much. I'm not legally allowed to use a .458 Winchester Magnum from a howdah to take down those counselors who push students into classes for which they are absolutely unprepared; nor can I use Invoked Devastation on the schools which produce these students. I can only encourage and work with those who stick it out, and at least get them on the Path of Right Thinking ("Study! Read! Think!")

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Wherein we comment on weddings and ladies fashions

Family Mojo went to a wedding this weekend in Another Great Southwest City. And when I say "family" I mean the majority of furless uprights: The Mojo Bison, Mrs. Mojo, The Wee One, The Cap'n (aka Brother of Mojo), Tantan (Cap'n's wife), and the Parental Ones (aka Noni and Granddad). It was Wee One's first major road trip and she handled it with aplomb.

The wedding was lovely, held in a high-rise venue with absolutely stunning views. The bride was beamingly beautiful --and June was bustin' out all over, if one follows my meaning. And that brings me to my point about ladies fashions. I must be old-fashioned. The bride certainly pulled off wearing that dress --she had the bod for it, and more power to her for affirming her body image. Still, I had some reservations about a sleeveless mermaid gown that required major scaffolding to hold up. Not that the bride was the only one. Maybe it's a function of this particular city, but there were an abundance of blondes wearing sleeveless low-cut dresses wherein June was bustin' out all over.

And a fashion note: ladies, if you're going to prance around wearing heels higher than 3 1/2", you need to practice extensively so that you look natural and feminine. (Random aside: all power to The Manolo!) When I see an otherwise stunning woman wearing 4 1/2" stilettos and walking like a 13-year old with her first set of skyscrapers, it ruins the vision. Plus it cuts down on the amount of Boogie-Down she can throw on the dance floor. So ladies, if you insist on heels, channel your inner SJP and work it until it looks like you're not working at all.

(And don't get me started on Whatever Happened To Hosiery?)

UPDATE: I'm being negligent, I didn't go after the men! Gentlemen: I don't care that it is the Great Southwest in high summer, you wear a jacket to a wedding unless it's on the beach, and even then, a smart blue blazer or white linen jacket wouldn't kill you. You don't have to wear it at all times, but at least keep it handy. (They invented seersucker for a reason in this part of the world.) Also, a shoe shine wouldn't kill you now and again. If a shine stand is nowhere to be found, a bit of mild hand soap will get off the dirt from leather, and you grab a small dab of moisturizer from your wife/girlfriend/SO (or from the hotel goody bag) and work it in and give it a quick buff. Works wonders.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

" Why I am an anti-intellectual" --and so am I!

PrawfsBlawg: Why I am an anti-intellectual:

Being anti-intellectual is not the same as being anti-intellect. My beef is with a particular social class -- the "intelligentsia" -- and not with the practice of using one's intellect to reflect on experience. In my experience, intellectuals (as a class) are ideologically intolerant, easily offended by ordinary humor, and pretentious in their prejudices, which they disguise as universal truths

It takes the convoluted abstractions of a Carl Schmitt or a Heidegger to offer apologetics for Hitler; a Sartre, to temporize about Stalin; a Foucault, to defend Khomeini. In this respect, I stand with George Orwell who spent the 1930s and 1940s denouncing the obscurity of intellectuals' prose as a cloak for tyranny (and, incidentally, who was also accused of being an anti-intellectual). Intellectuals spray polysyllables like squid ink, to evade the democratic decencies of conversation. I'd like not to be one of their number.
Amen, and amen. I remember being forced to read Hayden White's Metahistory in a graduate seminar. Garbage garbage garbage. What the hell ever happened to wie es eigentlicht gewesen ist ?!? Just because the Germans lost two world wars, we jettison von Ranke and instead pick up Deridda and Foucault?!?!?

I guess my problem was that I read Orwell in 9th grade (1984 and one of my all-time favorites, Animal Farm) and not only understood but also took it to heart. When the pigs begin rearranging the language, look out for the dogs. (Call me Benjamin...)