09.20.12

winter

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:44 am by Administrator

i used to hate winter

and yet i loved the way winter
made our lips pale.

winter made us stamp our feet
and breathe out clouds of fog.

it made us wear layers upon layers,
dressing up, and then undressing ourselves.

it made us kiss with cold lips,
and smile with wet eyes,

seek warmth in another’s arms
and huddle together for want of song.

winter was bitter if we were still
or alone. that’s why we moved

constantly, and closer, and always
with wordless, sorrowless aching,

with no luxury in listlessness
or in lack of a destination.

we had no peace with the bitter wind,
nor errant thought of what might remain

to drive us forth, after

09.14.12

lexicon, continued

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:49 pm by Administrator

in my entry on 5/24/11, entitled “Political thoughts”, i blogged one of my first (of many) scathing critiques of Obama. regarding Arab “Spring”, i had this to say:

and now, Obama is offering military support to rebels in Libya and voicing a hard-line stance on Israel’s policy of occupation at a time when political stability is most tenuous in the Arabic Middle East. does Obama really want to empower the Arab street? does he recognize what broad and tumultuous revolution is going to create in this volatile region? at a juncture when Obama should be most interested in calculating a strategy for political transitions and long-term alliances, he is instead alienating his most important regional ally while helping to dismantle secular governments which have held fundamentalist, anti-Israeli, and viciously anti-Western elements at bay. no one likes Gaddhafi; but no one should be opening the door to the next Ayatollah. and there is perhaps no better regional precedent for what we are witnessing than the Iranian revolution of 1979.

democracy has not existed in the Arabic Middle East for the last century, and it will not happen now—not without a rising middle class capable of supporting economic growth. this blithe fantasy of “Arab Spring” is both naive and terrifically stupid.

i’m a bit taken aback by some of the language i used in this entry, which strikes me as pro-Israeli. in fact, i’m not pro-Israel. i’ve always opposed settlement and strongly advocated an autonomous Palestinian state. but i think what i was getting at in this entry was realpolitik. Obama’s administration has demonstrated a remarkable lack of poise and acumen in its Middle East policy, and its inability to differentiate allies from enemies has confused its rhetoric.

even now, Obama’s attempts to backtrack from his prior enthusiasm for Arab “Spring” seem horribly misguided to me. he must have known that his public judgment of Egypt as neither enemy nor ally creates ambiguity in a region that demands absolutes. Obama should have had the balls to stick to his guns; he supported Arab Spring, and he should stand by the consequences of revolution.

i dug out this entry after i heard Hilary Clinton’s public address this morning. “how could this happen in a country we helped to liberate?” she asked. i was impressed with the question and its implications. “how could this happen?” she says, as if stupefied by blatant ingratitude, as if the Libyans owed the United States its triumph over Gaddafi and its newfound democratic state. rhetoric like this resonates with our sense of exceptionalism; it also reinforces the international perception of America’s naivety, idealism, and arrogance.

i don’t want to suggest that the Libyan and Egyptian revolutions, among others, were unfortunate developments. i just think that the United States had no business involving itself in those revolutions, nor did it have any reason to believe that the result of those revolutions would be liberal democracy. the Arab street might use Facebook, but they are not governed by the cultures and principles of the industrialized West. America and what it represents will always be anathema to societies dominated by poverty, tribal identity, and, above all, religious faith.

and here is where the conversation becomes nuanced for me. i once wrote that the Islamic fundamentalists of the world represent terrorism for some but hope for others. this is because, beneath the political ends that they agitate for, they represent a paradigmatic alternative to that of advanced industrial society. their paradigm places the mystical above the rational; it favors moral consensus over tolerant diversity; it focuses on religion, rather than on humanist principles. while i cringe at the violence inflicted by both sides in this so-termed “war against terror”, i do try to maintain some vestige of perspective on what this conflict means on a philosophical level. it is my belief that the advanced industrial world will inevitably pit itself against the primacy of religion; and thus countercultures, like what we see in South Asia and the Middle East, represent a last bastion against the secular force of global capitalism. in a sense, the people we label as “the other” might in some ways be fighting for something important to us all.

i think it is naive for Americans to believe that we can embrace religious tolerance while truly valuing religion. even in the Christian faith, there is no precedent for the tolerance or encouragement of other faiths; in fact, the prime teaching of the New Testament is that Christ is the only way, truth, and life. the worship of idols and the proliferation of other faiths is detestable to the Christian God, and in fact genocidal war was once demanded of God’s people to deal justice against those who followed other gods. what differentiates the Christian from the Covenant Jew is that the Christian submits that the world is already lost. he doesn’t “tolerate” other faiths; he battles against them by preaching the word of God in eager anticipation of the world’s passing, in anticipation of a new world to supplant the old. there is no reconciliation with the heathen, nor any vision of a mutually tolerant utopia. there is only war.

what America embraces is not Christianity or even Biblical principle. what America embraces is a secular paradigm—one flavored with Western religion, but nevertheless one which pointedly marginalizes faith as a primary perspective. even in our own country, we have effectively found ways to caricature Christ and to compartmentalize church so that it serves to support the humanist-capitalist ideological framework. Americans believe in themselves; they believe in their wealth; and they believe in personal entitlement, masquerading as civil rights. they pay lip service to the idea of a god, but in their hearts they feel threatened by societies that devote themselves to superstition, tradition, or overriding mysticism. the world should play by our rules; and thus, like Hilary Clinton, we find ourselves amazed when other peoples defy the basic laws of reason. decency, in other words, is a uniquely secular phenomenon.

so, on the one hand, i see the political side of this—the curiosity of America’s foreign policy in the Middle East. but on the other hand, i see the cultural war that’s being fought, and it is not a war between the enlightened and the ignorant. this is a war over the primacy of faith. and say what you will, the people of other nations are not overreacting to a mere video; they are reacting against a culture that defames gods of all faiths. and we cannot pretend to be anything other than the world’s most dominant secular force, an entity hostile to the primacy of faith. this is what we are. we propose religious diversity, while we marketize peoples, introduce our secular ideals, and then insidiously corrupt the basis of mystical faiths of all kinds. in this era, the people who worship one god are alike in this one way: we do not know where we fit anymore. we are curiosities and fools, excluded from serious conversation, and destined for irrelevance

1 peter

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:01 am by Administrator

i’m still reading scripture. i’m averaging once every two days, but i’m trying to rehearse and review the two chapters of Ephesians on a daily basis. it’s really not easy reading the Bible. i have to remind myself that my reasons for reading the scripture now are relevant reasons, different from the reasons i once had. i’m pointedly not reading the scripture to be a better person, or to learn more about God, or to become more erudite. i’m really trying to read the scripture so that i can understand God’s design for me—and so that i can conform to that design. the reasons may sound the same, but they’re not.

carl directed me to 1 Peter, and i specifically read it because i want to understand this thing called salvation. what is salvation really? i remember what i felt the day i was baptized; i thought i’d gained entrance into heaven. i clung to that sensation for a long time. decades later, i feel that salvation is not a one and done thing for me; right now, in fact, i’m clamoring for salvation. i’m wishing to be saved from the fate that my sinful nature even now presses me toward, a certain destruction. i’m wishing to be saved from the daily reality of my own fallenness, my loathsome ways.

i’m struck when i read 1 peter that peter had his own sense of salvation–a gripping, immediate, and visceral sense of salvation. peter, like many of the first century saints, felt the vortex of the surrounding world, literally propelling the new Christian believers into torture and death. the world order as he knew it was aligned against Christ. the Jews, the Romans, and the unseen world were conspiring to crush the young church, and Peter could see the immediate effects of persecution. his call to the saints was to celebrate their newfound citizenship and glory, in the face of this terror. his conviction was that the world was veering toward a righteous demise, and quickly so, and those who’d been called to faith would be rescued from that dismal destiny, albeit through death and through the following resurrection. in the example of Christ, Peter saw very clearly the hope that awaited those who would believe—a conquest over death, a departure from a dying world.

this was salvation to Peter. his eschatology, like that of Paul’s, implied the imminent passing of the world and the return of Christ. salvation was literally deliverance from the ravage of Armageddon.

i recognize when i see the patent emotion in peter’s words of encouragement that i don’t share his eschatology, nor his particular understanding of Christ’s resurrection. he saw it with his own eyes; i imagine it, as a borrowed memory. he experienced imminent persecution; for me, i expect to live and die in a society that tolerates my religion. the idea of being saved from the vortex of a world on the brink of extinction is very remote to me. hence, salvation strikes me as a mystical thing, more often than not, an afterlife phenomenon rather than a deliverance from a clear and present danger.

but i recognize that it’s possible for me to borrow from peter’s perspective. the more i recognize the true weight and hazard of my daily struggles, the more i understand that my circumstances differ from peter’s in quality but not in fundamental nature. what i remember from the words of peter is that we both subscribe to a belief that invites, if not provokes, persecution, spiritual warfare, and the slander of the world. and if we demonstrate our faith to the fullest, we will inevitably be ostracized for it; suffering, alienation, and marginalization are the lot of anyone who really demonstrates the nature of Christ. because if Christ experienced these things amidst a people who should have known Him and revered Him, then how can we escape them, in a world brimming with violence and the worship of self?

i’m reminded today that salvation is a very real thing. it’s no theory, an idea of paradise to follow the present. it is a deliverance from a living, present terror, the thing that oppresses us and seeks our ruin even when we cannot see it, the thing that works from our insides, corrupting the conscience and blinding us to the things that tear at us from within. salvation is real, and it is desperately needed, and once gained it is inestimably precious

09.12.12

radio

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:35 pm by Administrator

on my flight back from seattle six months ago, i ended up sitting between two people that i happened to know very well, albeit indirectly. the woman on my left was a writer for the New York Times, and the woman on my right was a fairly notable medical professor in my field. as far as airplane conversations go, the conversation we had was fairly interesting. at points, i found myself representing the medical viewpoint, the male viewpoint, and the Christian viewpoint in various debates.

in any case, i am fairly easily influenced through personal conversation, and the journalist convinced me that NPR presents reporting as shallow as what you might find on a twitter feed. so nowadays when i listen to NPR, i hear her in the back of my mind reminding me that i’m not really getting the “news”, not like i would through the New York Times in any case. but i still like NPR on my morning commute, and perhaps i appreciate it more now that i listen to it for entertainment. the beauty of NPR lies in its presentation. the anchors have personality (but not too much of it), there are no ads, and the segments usually feature guests that are lively if not controversial.

i think that the absence of advertisements is particularly attractive to me. while i know that i’m being influenced by the language and terms of the radio journalists, i’m not being overtly marketized. that means something to me; it enables me to relax with the medium. i contrast that with the usual music station experience, in which the staccato pace of commercial soundbytes is so audiologically irritating that i’m almost triggered to channel surf. i’ve often told my wife that when i’m exposed to ads i feel manipulated, and it makes me feel uneasy. she doesn’t get it really. and when i press the matter further and insist that ads have a subconscious effect that we can’t recognize, she thinks i’m moving into “conspiracy theory” mode. i think this belief goes back to something i learned at CTY when i was a junior high school student. but in any case, i appreciate NPR because they’re not trying to make me buy things.

a sign of my growing commitment to NPR is the fact that i’m calling in. i’ve called in three times over the past couple months to give my two cents on various things. yesterday i called in to “Airtalk” to talk about 9/11. calling in makes me feel greater kinship with other callers, and yesterday was no exception. the caller right after me started crying when he talked about his experience of 9/11, and i almost started crying myself. i realized as i was tuning in how much i really did want to connect with other people, to hear what they were feeling, as if their feelings were validation of my own. in a strange way, the radio was my best medium for that sort of experience. you can’t really interact with TV programming; and the internet excludes the voice, which filters out emotion. NPR gave me a place to grieve with a larger audience over something that isn’t publicly commemorated out here on the West Coast.

that being said, i find it hard to articulate my feelings on the radio. i can’t physically relate to the person i’m talking to. i’m conscious that the seconds are being counted. the pressure makes it tough for me to express myself fully. yesterday, i think that my comment came out jumbled, because it was a lot of unprocessed thought. but after i heard some other callers after me, i think i had a better sense of what i’d actually wanted to say. my comment on the radio was that 9/11 has changed in terms of what it means to me; but what i really wanted to say is that we have changed because of 9/11, in ways that make me feel very sad.

NPR news, like most of the media outlets, presents matters in the Arabic world in remarkably consistent terms. words i hear often are “tolerance”, “terrorism”, “violence”, “democracy”, “freedom”, and “justification”. i heard those same words on NPR this morning, with respect to the Libyan attacks that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador and his staff members. the picture painted is one of prevailing order threatened by senseless, impulsive violence; the rubric is of national entities struggling to transcend street realities. whether we speak of the war in Afghanistan, the embargo against Iran, sectarian violence in Iraq, or the civil war in Syria, we assume the primacy of political identities, while we tackle the ambiguous matter of tribal entities. there is, in other words, a pretense of order—and an implicit idea of what is ideal. when i struggle to interpret the “news”, what i struggle with in the end is this implicit ideal. it is always there, buried in our lexicon, implied in our imagined structures of the world.

since 9/11, i have been groomed to believe that the predominant tension in today’s world is between the forces for progress and the forces for historical regression. the forces for progress plead for democracy, egalitarianism, and tolerance, while the forces for regression agitate for totalitarianism, male chauvinism, and senseless violence. in every war or conflict that has transpired since 9/11, the media has always identified a “good guy” (the force for progress) and a “bad guy” (the force for regression). in Afghanistan, we were the good guy, while the Taliban was the bad guy. regarding Iran, the Green Revolutionaries were the good guy, while the government was the bad guy. in Iraq, the Shi’ites were the good guys, while the Sunni’s were bad. in Syria, the Sunnis were the good guys, while the Alawites and Assad were the bad guys. and in Libya and Egypt, the bad guys were the old regimes, while the good guys in turn were the revolutionaries. we, the listeners and observers, never had to interpret who was right and who was wrong; the correct sides in each conflict were chosen for us, by our moral judges—the news media.

but lately, the rhetoric has become somewhat confused. are the Taliban really bad? or now that Bin Laden is dead, might they be considered just another political entity that can be negotiated with? how about Pakistan? are they really our allies, or are they bad guys because they fund organizations that the U.S. is now designating as terrorists? now that the Libyan street has killed our ambassador, do we support their revolution? or are they Islamist rabble that we will soon be labeling as state sponsors of terror? how about Ahmadinejad? is he really the criminal mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or is he just a political pawn being manipulated by the Ayatollah? here and there, we see the story unravel, or we see the story become confusing. that serves no one’s purposes—not the politicians, the advertisers, or the warmongers.

eleven years after 9/11, i feel that there is no compelling story about its meaning or its significance. of course, there have been many stories about it, many rationales and analyses and political theories. other countries and other lands have developed their own stories about what occurred and about what America has imposed on the rest of the world since then. the stories cannot be reconciled, because the cultures and the assumptions inherent to them cannot be reconciled. i’m no less a creature of post-modern America than anyone else here, but i’ll admit a certain weariness with the story that’s been given to me—this tale of terrorism, justified war, and the pursuit of international justice. the story sounds too much like a myth to me; and the farther along we go, the less convinced i am that there is a good guy or a bad guy in this tale. all i can say for certain is that many have died. thousands died on 9/11; and hundreds of thousands have been killed since 9/11. grooms on their way to their weddings; babies in their mother’s arms; people who believe in Allah; people who believe in no god at all. the story is bloody, and it strikes me as sad. but as for democracy, reform, terrorism, and the like, the terms sound foreign to me, like language out of a fairy tale.

even NPR doesn’t speak a language i care to understand. i listen to it, like music, something strange but at times remotely familiar. i’m a citizen of something, i remind myself, but i don’t know what that means. the book we’re writing is altogether fantastic but rings false, and it’s no bible to me. i won’t have it—this interweaving of nation-states and ideas of progress, scripted to mythological proportions, all surging to contrive a consumer’s paradise. it’s nonsense, all of it, even terrible nonsense, and i relish the fact that after my twenty minute drive, all i need to do to get away from it all is to turn it off

09.06.12

Philadelphia’s Eagles: The Super Bowl Run Begins

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:18 pm by Administrator

last year in my August 22nd entry, I correctly predicted an 8-8 year for the Philadelphia Eagles. most of my friends were shocked by how sour i was on the eagles, given the incredible hype surrounding the team during the 2011 preseason. won ho, like a lot of the Philly media, was predicting an Eagles’ Super Bowl. i scoffed at the idea back then, but my feelings are different now. this year’s Eagles are not a popular pick for the championship, but i think that they are for real. for the first time in fourteen years, i’m coming out and saying that i think that this is our year.

my reasons for doubt in last year’s squad were fairly simple, and i documented them in the 8/22/11 entry. for all of its flashy talent in the secondary, Philadelphia faced the challenge of getting its new defense to play well together. this challenge was compounded by the immaturity of a young, undisciplined linebacker unit. i felt strongly that the Eagles would be unable to stop the run in 2011, and that proved to be the case many times over. last year’s Eagles did not grossly underachieve, despite prevailing opinion to the contrary. they were a rebuilding team, and they played as poorly as one should expect of a team suffering incredible turnover and poor leadership.

despite my continuing lack of faith in Andy Reid, i think it’s possible that the trials and tribulations that this group has suffered over the past twelve months have transformed its identity. the Eagles let down their fans, they were roundly lambasted by the media, and they now face vitriolic critics in their own town. expectations are sufficiently low as to not be a distraction this year. and the addition of demeco ryans, the departure of asante samuel, and the maturity of the defensive ends on this squad mean that this defense can finally play to its strengths.

i believe that the philadelphia eagles will prove themselves to be a top-5 squad on both sides of the ball. and, in the end, it is their defense that will carry them through the playoffs.

i’ve had a good run in predicting sports outcomes since 2001, and i’m hoping that this run will culminate in a prediction to beat all predictions—a win that will vindicate philadelphia’s long-suffering fans everywhere.

THE SEASON FORECAST:

Week 1 (@ Cleveland): W 31-10. I think Brandon Weeden will eat lots of dirt on Sunday, and Cleveland’s only TD will be on a kickoff return.

Week 2 (Baltimore): W 17-3. News out of Baltimore is suggesting something ridiculous: that Joe Flacco is suddenly going to turn into a no-huddle connoisseur. That guy can’t run a spread offense. What he can do is feed the Eagles for 2 costly interceptions.

Week 3 (@ Arizona): W 28-17. Arizona is flat-out a terrible team, and there’s simply no way the Eagles will lose this one.

Week 4 (NY Giants): W 17-14. It’s always ugly between teams of the NFC East. Going 4-0 will taste particularly sweet when we come from behind to take this one in the 4th quarter. Eli Manning has always been the Eagles’ 12th man.

Week 5 (@ Pittsburgh): W 24-14. As bad as Pittsburgh’s o-line is, I don’t see them slowing down Babin and Cole. It’s going to be an ugly win, and Vick will win this with precision in the short-medium passing game.

Week 6 (Detroit): L 14-34. We’ll drop one of our first 6 games before the bye, and I think this is the one we’ll lose—a home game coming off a major coup in Pittsburgh. Stafford will challenge our secondary, and we’ll give up enough big plays that we’ll go into the bye week with an axe to grind. It’s the sort of loss we’ll need to maintain our edge.

Week 8 (Atlanta): W 59-12. Matt Ryan is overhyped—a West Coast passer trying to reinvent himself in a vertical offense, behind a patchwork offensive line. The Philly pass rush will murder him, and I don’t see Julio Jones making more than 4 receptions in this game.

Week 9 (@ New Orleans): W 49-28. This one won’t be close. Brees will throw a couple late TDs, but the game will be essentially sealed at half-time. The key will be the Eagles’ focus on shutting down Darren Sproles.

Week 10 (Dallas): W 28-20. When Dallas comes to town, it’s always good times. Romo doesn’t like the Philadelphia crowd, and he’ll learn to hate our 4-3 as well. I think he’ll be running for his life the whole game.

Week 11 (@ Washington): L 17-20. Like I said, it’s always ugly when it comes down to the NFC East. And the worst team in the division generally beats the best one every year; that’s just how it goes.

Week 12 (Carolina): W 62-24. I think this will be a gorgeous game for Michael Vick, and he’ll show the league that Cam Newton still has a ways to go before being crowned the premiere dual-threat QB in the league. Jeremy Maclin will ice the cake on his All-Pro season with this 3-TD night on ESPN.

Week 13 (@ Dallas): W 21-10. I see us sweeping the ‘Boys this year. They’ve got good skill players but they have no heart, and their offensive line will probably be in shambles by this point in the season.

Week 14 (@ Tampa): W 33-14. Josh Freeman will feed us for at least two defensive TDs. Easy game.

Week 15 (Cincinnati): W 30-17. Cincinnati will be one of the worst teams in the league this year, and I imagine by this point that they’ll be relying on Brian Leonard to run the ball. Vick might play three quarters?

Week 16 (Washington): W 35-13. In the revenge match, Philadelphia will damage RGIII fairly badly. He’ll be starting his off-season after this drubbing.

Week 17 (@ NY Giants): L 17-38. The Eagles might play their starters for a half. They’ll finish this regular season 13-3 and get a 1st round bye, while the Giants go from Super Bowl to super-bad in the space of one year.

—————-

DIV (San Francisco): W 24-17. Two great defenses will spar off; the difference will be in the effectiveness of their run game. McCoy will win us the field position battle, while Kendall Hunter will turn over the ball.

CONF (Green Bay): W 31-14. Give me the Packers. I want to slaughter Green Bay. It’ll be personal. It’ll be 4th and 26 agony for Packers’ fans all over again—but worse.

SB (Baltimore): W 45-7. This is the Super Bowl matchup I want, because I want Vick and Maclin to prove that they’re for real against the second-best defense in the league. Meanwhile, the NFL’s top defense will remind Joe Flacco that he’s nothing more than a glorified game-manager. The epic drubbing will be reminiscent of Super Bowl XXIV and will establish the Eagles as one of the most dominant teams in NFL history.