You know you’re in Virginia… Monday, Oct 29 2007 

genlee.jpgWhen the luncheon fare at the Hotel Roanoke consists of  peanut soup, spoon bread, sweet potato chips, and apple  butter biscuits.   And life-sized portraits of General Lee and George Washington smile graciously  over proceedings in the lobby.   And outside, the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains  rise all around the horizon of the valley.  

And so in this state I find myself this day.  It’s a friendly, lovely, historical kind of place.

What’s new in the academy in the new millenium . . . ? Saturday, Oct 27 2007 

The context of this blogservation comes from a Youtube production that’s not funny. disted2.jpg My younger brother shared the link with me. Most Youtubes are silly, but this one is sobering and contemplative, especially to those of us who labor in the loft of the ivory tower. View the video before reading further:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o

That’s a pretty provocative uTube. I am fascinated. “Digital ethnography”–Never heard of that in Dr. Anders’ sociology class back in’71 . . . . and we looked at her as this stunning, articulate goddess who knew anything that was known or could be known! She was the quintessential fount of erudition who professed her discipline before awestruck students and dazzled us with her scholarship. (Notice I describe my generation as “students” in the preceding phrase rather than as “learners.” Such a distinction lies at the heart of one theme I detected in that UTube piece. Yea, how little has changed in the lecture hall, in spite of PowerPoint occasionally supplanting chalk!)

I see the Youtube piece as an indictment of the barnacle-encrusted traditions of the academy as well as the bent of our technological culture, both of which are in danger of failing pretty miserably to intersect at meaningful points.

And yes, our civilization and our culture are in trouble.

For real, who says knowledge can only be administered in three credit-hour doses by a pontificating talking head at the front of a lecture hall?

“Why, the Dean said that! Anybody who’s been around the academy since the Industrial Revolution knows that’s how scholarship is done!”

Yep, pretty provocative. In conclusion, I offer the following observation:

“A great portion of this piece’s relevance is that it exposes the irrelevance.”
–David Pulling, Unappointed Educational Philosopher, Rhetorician, and Occasional Poet

How’s that for sounding all epistemological on a Saturday evening?

I ran into an old friend tonight . . . Monday, Oct 22 2007 

ford.jpg We made an after-hours Wal-Mart run this evening for some medicine. Driving on to the parking lot, I was astonished that there, under the misty lights, stood an orange,’83  F150 Ford pickup.

Could it be?

No,, surely not.

But it has the markings, the battle scars: the missing “R” from the letters in the tailgate that spell “Ford,” the electrical plugs for the trailer hitch dangling below the trailer hitch ball, the indentation on the right front fender from the shopping cart that I ran into on the old Wal Mart parking lot more years ago than I care to remember. And anyway, how many orange Ford pickup trucks have I ever seen?

Yep, pas d’erreur, it was my old truck. Bought second-hand in around 1987, handed over to Zach around 1998, and sold to a nice fellow in town for $1800 around 1999. I used to see the truck around town for the first few years after I sold it. But then, it disappeared . . . until tonight.

Ah, precious memories. Old trucks are kind of like old dogs, or old slippers–they have character and they evoke memories.

All those commutes to Lake Charles and Lafayette when I was a graduate student; hauling lawn mowers to mow grass all over town those years as an underpaid school teacher trying to make an extra buck to keep the family in milk and potato chips; having Ann in the child seat in the middle, Zach and Sarah squeezed into the passenger seat, as we drove across the state to MaMaw’s and PawPaw’s, and Ann kicking the gear selector into neutral while whizzing down Hwy. 190 at 65 miles per hour. Yep, that was old ‘Rusty.” (I never called the truck by that name, but these years later in retrospect, it seems like a good label.)

And thank God for the marvels of technology, for Sarah took the snapshots with her phone, and Ann blue-toothed them to my phone so I could email them to myself to post here in the blog.

We’ve come a long way since 1983!

ford-tailgate.jpg

Everlasting Arms Tuesday, Oct 16 2007 

menu01.jpgI like to look back in the journal at what I was writing and/or thinking about in the past. A couple of years ago, we were still shell-shocked by hurricanes–Katrina and Rita extracted their toll.

I had called on a local high school on business around this time of year but ended up out in the front lawn under the Live Oak trees for which the school is named (“Beau Chene”), writing with the students during one of my good friends’ English IV(AP) class. The following is the result of that writing exercise.

Everlasting Arms
Composed at Prairie Basse between Grand Coteau and Arnaudville
at Beau Chene High School, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, October 2005

Prologue
I came here to work . . .
The state paid the way!
And what am I doing on taxpayers’ time?
Writing poems!

 

(Tell not the governor.)

Yes, writing poems—
Under this grand Beau Chene.


How many storms has she weathered?

Timeless, ageless,
Her massive trunk–
Gnarled, sturdy girth–
Swells from sprawling roots
To spread everlasting arms
Arching up, over, and down
To kiss nurturing earth.

How many storms has she weathered?

And scattered neath her dappled shade
Etching innocence onto lined leafs of paper,
Her children, our children . . .
They write their poems.

How many storms must they weather,
Like this ancient matron?
Can they grow old, strong, and wise,
Weathering storms to come?

Days lately grow uncertain,
Normal a pained recollection
Of time
Before storms
Numbed our souls.

Yet this sturdy Oak
Stands fast,
Monument to time and weathered storms past.
A branching, leafy canopy
Proclaiming
Grace,
Shelter,
And everlasting arms
To embrace God’s children.

Jindal, Boasso, and The Boys of October Thursday, Oct 11 2007 

boasso2004.jpgbobby-votes-early-101x67.jpg

Bobby Jindal, Walter Boasso, Candidates for Governor of Louisiana

This piece is offered mainly for outsiders who don’t understand Louisiana politics. (Of course, who does understand Louisiana politics? So maybe this is for all readers.)

Election season in Louisiana coincides with both hunting season and football season. How appropriate. The three cults of Louisiana culture all converge at this time of year.

While I predict that Bobby Jindal is going to smoke the field and walk into the Governor’s mansion without a run-off, second-runner Walter Boasso (the republican black sheep in democrat wolves’ clothing?) makes the race interesting. Both Jindal and Boasso are from the New Orleans suburbs, one on the east side of Orleans (Boasso from St. Bernard) and the other on the west side of Orleans (Jindal from Jefferson).

Of course, the TV spots this time of the season get pretty pointed. Boasso shows a cast of credible witnesses from around the state who have testimonies against Jindal that portray Jindal as a brainy protoge without a heart. Jindal, on the other hand, recruits St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephenssheriff_jack_stephens.jpg to make a spot relating how US Rep. Bobby Jindal showed up in Chalmette like a knight in shining armor, riding into the disaster zone in a helicopter a few days after Katrina.  Stephens’ testimony makes Jindal’s heroism sound kind of deus ex machina,  like this Washington god-dropped down-from-the sky to set the bureaucratic wheels of relief in motion for the stricken Parish.

I remarked to my wife when I saw that ad at the irony: The Sheriff in Boasso’s own Parish plugging the candidate from the rival suburb (Jindal’s Jefferson and Boasso’s St. Bernard, in spite of their geographical proximity and wetlands similarities, aren’t much alike in political complexion).

Then I had to laugh at my own sense of humor. I told my wife, “Yeah, wiry Bobby-the-motor-mouth was racing in to the aid of his constituents. Portly old Walter, a public servant himself as a State Senator, I mused, “may have been busy bailing floodwater out of Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant in Chalmrockycarlos.jpgette because he needed a 700 calorie macaroni and cheese fix.”

Oops! That was pretty mean of me. I should repent, because I know Walter was just as flooded out as most other St. Bernardians in that truly catastrophic situation.

But it seemed like a funny and deserved jab at the political nonsense that bombards us these days. I could poke fun at Jindal’s campaign and some of his ads just as readily. The long and short of it all is I’m ready for all of this to be over.

Life’s too short to have politics as a part of it, especially Louisiana-style.

Coach P. Monday, Oct 8 2007 

When the last student-athlete graduated last year, we figured “We’re home free!”  Wecoach-p.JPG attended the tee ball, the softball, the summer leagues, the All-Stars, the high school–football and softball– boy and girl.

We’re free!!!!   Friday nights belong to us!!!!  No more road trips to distant district games!!!

But nope.   God (had to be Him!)  had another plan.  From the beginnings of time when He formed the earth, he pre-ordained that Zach would grow up to be a coach, and Zach would want dear ol’ Mom and Dad and lil’ sis to be at his games just as much now as he did when he was the EHS Bobcats pulling guard years ago.

So we do the honorable mom and pop obligatoire.  Whether the game’s in Lake Charles or Cecelia, Church Point or Crowley, mom and pop watch “Coach P.” do his thing.   No matter that his Crowley Gents are the arch-nemesis of our home town school, no matter that we could find some other way to spend Friday night, no matter that we’ve paid our dues raising two student athletes, paying hundreds of dollars in admission tickets from Tioga to Abbeville–We go, because we’re “Mom and Pop.”

And that’s reason enough.  We were created for this!

The solution for stress: Moderation, the Solomon principle . . . Thursday, Oct 4 2007 

 

Ol’ King Solomon knew the secret. From Ecclesiastes 7, I find the following pearls as inspiration and encouragement to these mortal bones:solomon.gif

6 Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself? [In other words, it’s OK to chill out?]

17 Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time? [In other words, avoid legalism!]

18 It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes . [In other words, “all things in moderation?]

Yay, Solomon!!! He felt what I feel.