I took Eden and Lily out in the dark night just now for a walk around the neighborhood to see the decorations, the beautiful...and yes, the gaudy. Lily periodically screamed with delight, enunciating every syllable, "Chwistmas....wights!!!" They were ecstatic. Unimpressive by day, the lights are breathtaking at night.
You must read in this month's issue of Touchstone this musing (free without subscription) by Wilfred McClay on why Christmas music cannot be all bright, all sleigh-bells and joy. For without remembering the long, dark night, the brooding bleak midwinter made desolate by Satan's power, we might forget what good news it is that Christ came, the light shining in darkness.
"There are constant reminders of this darkness, if one has ears to hear them, running through the great liturgy of our Christmas carols, with their memorable evocations of bleak midwinter, snow on snow, sad and lonely plains, the curse, the half-spent night....The older lyrics are laced with just such evocations of darkness. They help us remember why it is symbolically right, even if historically wrong, to celebrate Christ’s birth in winter."
We would do well this winter to "hold in our minds a keen awareness of the darkness into which Christ came, and still must come, for our sake."
Well, that's the last time I mention to young Mr. Jobe (as I did last week at church) that I was planning on "getting around to" posting on the blog. I showed up this week to a disapproving "Hmmmm, I see you didn't post."
Well, here's what's been going on...
1. We drove to Virginia for the week of Thanksgiving...28 hours, each way. Yeee-haw! Carrie and I took turns, starting out at night, which let the kids sleep through about the first half of the trip. It's a little surreal driving all night, stopping for coffee or gas or sundry goods in the wee hours. We hit Memphis going in each direction around dawn, and drove all the next day to our destination. The most depressing thing about driving from Texas to anywhere is...eight hours into the trip, YOU'RE STILL IN TEXAS!
2. Bodo's is open on the Corner! If you're not from C'ville, you may not know that Bodo's Bagels, for my entire time in Mr. Jefferson's town, was "Coming Soon!" in its enviable location on the Corner. Now the long-expected eatery has arrived, and we partook while visiting, to our gastronomic delight. We even bought T-shirts.
3. I replaced the major light fixtures in our house with more trendy ones...not expensive ones, mind you, just better looking than the vintage 1995 ones the house came with. Hopefully this will give our house the certain je ne sais quoi for some prospective buyer next summer.
4. Read Grisham's latest nonfiction book, An Innocent Man, while on vacation in Virginia. A far cry better than his recent novels (The Broker being the most egregious example), it details the history, arrest, conviction, and subsequent exoneration of an innocent man for the murder of a young Oklahoma woman.
5. Ate at the Texas Farm to Table Cafe, one I've been wanting to try for a while. Housed in the old Pearl Brewery location as part of a revitalization project, the Cafe is an example of community-supported agriculture, using only Texas-grown and produced foods on its delicious menu.
Well, posting will resume soon. Check out updated pictures in the photo album for now...
Thanks to Dave Ramsey and my parents' incessant encouragement and teaching, Carrie and I wrote our last check to the bank that owned (emphasize past tense) our car. We're now debt free!!! (Except our house, that is - Dave makes an exception for that, since it is an appreciating asset and most don't own it outright until they're 40-50+).
We credit Dave's plan of abandoning credit cards in favor of a weekly cash allowance (when it's done, it's done), and my parents' encouraging us to commit to never rolling a credit card balance over. ...also, lots of beans and rice. "If you'll live like no one else now, then one day you can live like no one else."
My Mum's new book, Meditations of a Happy Homemaker, was published this year. It's a collection of essays and letters she has written through the years, reflecting on life events and commemorating milestones. (She has assured me that I appear in the book only in anonymous form). In any case, she's the one responsible for any serious flaws in my English grammar, reasoning abilities, or psychosocial faculties, since she home educated me for a few influential years. Refer any complaints to her.
Brian "The Groovemaster" Jobe and myself hit the Austin City Limits music festival last Sunday. After morning worship at Redeemer, we hopped in my little "W"-sticker-wearing Civic and made the drive in cool, sprinkling, overcast weather. Arriving into Austin I heard a honk from just behind; when I turned to see the car passing me, all I saw was a big middle finger sticking out the driver's window. So much for hospitality and tolerance and all, A-town.
My first impression of the crowds (which were everywhere, a couple hundred thousand people in Zilker Park) was "Wow, look at all these hippies!" But the more I saw the tie-dyes, the dreadlocks, the typical Austin hemp fiber/dirty flipflop/bandanna wearing look, it seemed like these were fairly white-bread people who came out all dressed up for the fest. These were bank tellers and students with tuition paid by daddy and retail clerks and teachers, out for a dressup ball...on a muddy Sunday afternoon. By the way, the ubiquitous dust, the bane of ACL years gone by, was nonexistent this year due to the rain.
We got there too late to hear Kathleen Edwards, so first on the docket for us was the Sam Roberts Band, a rockin' (and sweaty) Montreal quartet. Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley was next on our stops, with a surprise appearance from brothers Stephen and Julian. Lots of Rasta flags flying with the Lion of the Tribe of Judah on them...doubt anyone really knows what that means, but syncretism never really goes out of style, I guess.
Later in the afternoon, we caught Jack Ingram, an Austinite who has played at every ACL festival so far; the stage size keeps moving up, though. His radio hit, "Wherever You Are" is probably his most popular song. His sound is country rock, and is quite good.
Matisyahu, the New York Hasidic Jewish reggae-rap artist, was our next must-see. What a fun show, to see him out in his black hat/coat/tallit with funny tails on it, singing and twirling in his Adidas tennis shoes. Maybe it's the novelty of so many seemingly dissonant elements juxtaposed, but I was intrigued by this guy, singing about the Lord being “right inside of me … right inside of that British flag over there, right inside of that cowboy hat, right inside of those people sitting on top of the Porta Potties."
We were down front for the next show, Son Volt, about 10 feet from the stage; the hearing loss is only temporary, I keep assuring myself. Jay Farrar, the frontman, has an unusual concert affect described by a prominent music review magazine as (to paraphrase) intense and unusually sincere. I actually found his stage presence a little aloof, as if he were looking at the crowd through his half-shut eyes and wondering, "Are they really here singing along with Tear-Stained Eye, or is this the only band playing at the moment?" At other times, though, as he stonefacedly pounded the pickguard on his acoustic and held it right in front of the tower of amplifiers in search of a wail of feedback, I guess I would say he was, well, intense.
As their last song echoed from the amps, behind us we heard the roar of an expectant crowd as Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips rolled out, literally, inside of a giant clear plastic beachball into the crowd. Thus began an hour of music, confetti guns, puppets, giant inflatable astronauts, and Santa Claus dancers. Opening with "Race for the Prize" and closing with the popular hit "Do You Realize?", Coyne is the diametric opposite of Son Volt's Farrar. He draws his energy from the crowd and is in continual conversation with them.
The evening wrapped up with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The crowd of 100,000+ converged on the AT&T stage for the closer, though the demographic seemed to have shifted to fifty-somethings all around us. About four songs into his set, the whipping wind and drop in temperature prompted us to skedaddle back to the car (about 2 miles off) just as the rain started pouring, lightning flashing.
As Brian and I left the park amidst a throng, we were accosted by a group of well-meaning (I'm sure) but rabid, screaming fundamentalists, dressed in suit & ties and dresses telling us that the broad way leads to destruction, but Jesus saves. I'm not sure what they thought was happening inside the park, but I hope they did some good, or at least didn't do harm, to Christ's kingdom.
Last week, talking with a nurse and another physician about one of my patients with a life-threatening surgical problem, my signal died no fewer than five times...in the middle of a 1.4 million-person city...with full "bars" of reception. After calling Cingular to complain (ironically I got the three ominous beeps of signal death while on the phone with the service rep), they agreed to investigate. My phone conversation with my friendly Cingular Wireless rep yesterday went like this:
CW: "Our investigation shows that the wireless service in San Antonio has no problems; so it must be your Nokia 1100 phone, which is definitely one of the low-end Nokias."
JA: "So you sold me this phone at your store for your network, and now you say it's at fault for my dropped calls? Are you going to replace it?"
CW: "Well, no sir, but you could purchase another phone, or...we have some free phones available with a new contract."
JA: [Guffaw of disgust]
CW: "I mean, I'm not saying a call couldn't have been dropped...I've had calls dropped myself, like if the tower is overloaded with calls, but an independent organization said we have the best wireless service with fewest dropped calls, see?"
JA: "Well, thanks for...whatever."
CW: [Hangs up on me in mid-sentence]
It actually appears that this happens regularly with Cingular, the company with "Fewest Dropped Calls," "Raising the Bar," and all those cute commercials with "more bars" of reception. The "independent organization", Telephia, which did the survey showing fewest dropped calls, can't really elaborate on its methods of statistical analysis, as opposed to Consumer Reports, which slammed Cingular for its poor service and dropped calls...not to mention its poor customer service, which I just encountered.
A couple of online exposees reveal some of the journalistic shenanigans to whip up support for Hezbollah and against Israel. How these guys can go into journalism with high ideals of finding the truth and reporting with integrity, yet end up stooping to plant people, bodies, and objects in photos to make them more gut-wrenching, is beyond me.
Hat tip to WorldMag Blog for the links.
Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, listed for a few days in the left-hand column of the blog, has been one I can't put down. Pollan, a Marin county-dwelling, lefty, liberal guy, tracks three meals. The first is a McDonald's dinner which he undertook after an extensive study of the corn industry, a head-shaking look at the government's complicity in the overblown agricultural-industrial-petroleum scheme. The third meal is a hunted, foraged meal the author himself gets and makes. The second meal is the middle third of the book, and the most interesting and enjoyable. Pollan goes to live for a week with Joel Salatin on his farm, Polyface Farms, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. ...read more »
Mel Gibson had one the other night. Stopped by authorities with a BAL of 0.12, he became belligerent and started shouting anti-Semitic and sexist insults at the LA County Sheriff's deputies. Of course, this is splashed all over the headlines; everyone, and I mean, everyone, is weighing in, most of whom just knew in their hearts that this professed Christian, just like all the others who have this too-good-to-be-true belief in God and his benevolence, is at heart, a hypocrite!
Aha! This confirms our suspicions to the tee! Mel Gibson's avowed faith, his public statements of belief, his Passion of the Christ, are all just foils - decoys - meant to distract us from his true self: a guy just like us, who simply doesn't have the decency to admit that he's a guy just like us. The emperor's new clothes have come off! He's a preachy fraud! Right? ...read more »
Our firstborn son arrived on Tuesday morning, July 25, after turning himself into breech position. After discovering this in Carrie's clinic visit, the OB did an external cephalic version (i.e. "pushed really hard on her belly to flip the baby around") and then induced Carrie. The little man was born at 0253 AM, with dimensions of 7lbs 6oz and 20 1/4 inches. He was given the name Asher Benjamin.
Asher is a Hebrew name meaning, literally, "straightahead progress," but commonly understood as "happiness". He has his father's middle name Benjamin, another of the sons of Jacob. We came home yesterday; mom and baby are doing well. Eden is enthralled by her little brother Ash, and loves to hold him. Lily is not so sure about this new addition; although she loves to touch him and say "baby," the loss of her position of prominence within the hierarchy seems to make her a little more cranky. ...read more »
Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer-poet, is one of my favorite writers. My current reading includes "The Way of Ingnorance", one of his collections of essays. There's a particularly good one entitled "Charlie Fisher" on a family whose livelihood is made with sustainable and forest-preserving logging using teams of workhorses.
In the title essay, Berry's wry humor is unleashed on the intellectuals who fancy themselves openminded but are truly just contrarian:
"The part of devil's advocate is surely one of the most sought after in all the precincts of the modern intellect. Anywhere you go to speak in defense of something worthwhile, you are apt to encounter a smiling savant writhing in the estrus of objectivity: 'Let me play the devil's advocate for a moment.' As if the devil's point of view will not otherwise be adequately represented."
The first movie that Tommy Lee Jones has directed, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, is best understood as a Flannery O'Connor odyssey set along the Texas-Mexico border. The story is gritty and foul at times, but a synopsis is as follows: Violent border patrol guard kills illegal Mexican immigrant accidentally and buries him. His body is found and reinterred by the local sheriff, but not before the Mexican's close friend Pete (Jones) finds out who killed him. He kidnaps the border agent and makes him dig up Melquiades' body, wear his clothes, and ride his horse as they set out in search of the Mexican's hometown of Jimenez. Along the way they meet a blind oracle who teaches them something about their own humanity and mortality, as well as encountering other border-crossers. The "epiphany" scene occurs in a scenic valley in Mexico where Melquiades' third and final burial takes place. ...read more »
In other music news, Kasey Chambers, is releasing a new album this summer: Carnival, out Aug 19. She's playing at Austin City Limits Music Festival in September, which I'm going to try to make for the first time since I've been in San Antonio...
Well, this week has been a whirlwind of activity. Out past 11 every night (OK, for you hip, single, childless, 8-5 job people, that may sound routine, but just wait...), Tuesday and Wednesday we were transplanting (a liver and two kidneys, respectively), Thursday was the graduating chief resident's banquet, and Friday was the J. Bradley Aust Society black tie gala.
The Aust society comprises all the residents who have graduated from the surgical program at UTHSCSA. I presented some research I had done this week at its 32nd annual meeting, and for that I was invited to Friday night's ball. Well, I planned to stay home with the girls, since Carrie had planned for a while to attend a retreat for her mothers of preschoolers group.
Well, that plan was turned on its head when I got a call from the faculty surgeon. "You need to be there." I was humbled and grateful to find out that I was the first prize winner in the clinical paper competition! So I called Carrie, she turned her car around, we asked our faithful friends Bart and Denesha to let the kids sleep at their house, and we got our duds on. (I'm to the far right in the picture, along with fellow residents and one of the private practice surgeons). ...read more »