30 November 2006

On Having a Wonderful Wifey

It's amazing how big a difference she's made in my life. Today, as we were cleaning out the closet, we went through a bag of old stuff from a life I can't believe I ever lived. An old keychain and a patch from my undergraduate school, a toy car I used to send across the floor of the newsroom on late nights while the computer was restarting because it had choked on the scripts my former boss had slapped together, a ticket from a glee club concert I had sung in... a small heap of reminders, somewhere between memorabilia and what Philip K. Dick called "kipple."

I'm light years away from there now. I remember driving home from work at three in the morning, the only one on the roads, staring at the stars above as I rolled down the lonely country road toward my family's house. I remember the empty pang I felt, the regrets about how little I had accomplished, about how lonely I would be when I crawled into my solitary bed and slept the morning away.

Looking back, I realize that those were some of the most productive days and nights of my life. I learned so much, felt so much, did so much that I didn't see... but I'd trade those four years in a heartbeat for a single day with her (even though I've already had hundreds of those and will probably have 10,000 more).

This morning, she came out and made a bagel while I was working. Her smile, her groggy "good morning," the way she rubbed the sleep out of her gorgeous blue eyes and came over to hug me... these are things that I knew would be good, but that are so much better than I imagined that I wonder sometimes if I'm dreaming.

I know I'm rambling, I know this is boring and nearly incomprehensible and probably way too saccharine, and I know that I should be typing away at my immigration project instead of typing this. I just had to let it all out. Thanks for reading it, if you did. Next time, I'll try to have something more interesting for you.

21 November 2006

The Light, The Glory, and The Frustration

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

At church the other day, I had a conversation about American history with a middle-aged homeschooling father. It went a lot like most of my discussions on that topic with that particular demographic (including my own father, whom I love dearly and respect deeply).

In this case, though, the discussion centered on a pseudohistorical text called The Light and the Glory, which I would encourage you to take a look at if you can manage to do it without putting money into the pockets of certified nutcases David Manuel and Peter Marshall. Basically, their argument is that the Puritans were spot-on in their idea that God chose America to be a "City on a Hill," his modern-day Chosen People. This, of course, implies that it also was God's will for Western Europeans to brutally force indigenous peoples off their lands and gradually annex an entire continent from one end to the other because it was their "destiny" to do so. Here's what Tim LaHaye, of Left Behind fame, has to say about The Light and the Glory: "[It]reveals our true national heritage and inspires us to stay on God's course as a nation."

The fact that Sunday's "discussion" focused on that book made it very hard for me to adopt my normal strategy for dealing with politics at church (smiling and nodding until they stop talking at me).

Homeschooling Dad: So, have you read The Light and the Glory?

Me (desperately wanting the answer to be different): Well, yeah.

HD: Boy, isn't it great to see how God's finger is in American history all the way through, shaping us into what we've become today?

Me: Hm. It sure is neat that God cares about us.

HD: I really think that's what's wrong with our society, ever since the '60s when they started taking all of that stuff out of schools. That's why we're so evil as a nation today.

Me: Hm.

HD: So, what did you think about the book?

Here's where I'm faced with a dilemma. I know that telling him what I really think of the book has the potential to generate a whole lot of heat and not much light. But, quite frankly, it's not a very good piece of historical writing.

For one thing, the authors constantly and insidiously insert their own ideology into their narrative of events. I know that any scholar will be biased in her account of a particular event, but she should at least make an effort to discuss those biases and try to minimize them, if history is to be told in any kind of objective way.

For another thing, the sources they use are frequently a.) taken out of context, b.) extremely biased toward the Puritan view of American history, and c.) gauges of individual convictions rather than historical events.

On top of that, the authors' proposed solution to what they see as a biased, secularized American history is a polar opposite that only serves to reinforce a problematic binary. Ultimately, I decide to err on the side of not laying the issue down quietly.

Me: I didn't really like it, actually.

HD: Really?! Why not?

Me: It doesn't seem to be very balanced, for one thing.

HD: Well, after 40 years of imbalance, isn't it about time that we had our say?

Me: But I don't think the answer is to create an oppositely biased account. That's like letting the other side define you.

HD: Oh, so you just disagree with the approach they take to fix the problem?

Me (frustrated): Sure.

Marshwiggle: OK, time to start Sunday school, everyone. Let's open in prayer for Luaphacim's liberal soul.

No, I did not make that last part up.

Tee hee. I love that Marshwiggle guy. :-)

20 November 2006

Actual Conversation With Mrs. L.

Guy on a skateboard rolls past Luaphacim and and Mrs. Luaphacim as they walk up the hill to school.

Luaphacim: That hippy needs to stop gallivanting around on his skateboard and get a job.

Mrs. Luaphacim: But maybe he's on his WAY to his job.

Luaphacim: Well, it's not a very responsible mode of transportation! What happens if one of those wheels comes off? Then where will he be? A hippy on a worthless, three-wheeled skateboard. A three-wheeled hippy.

A long pause, punctuated by the sounds of Luaphacim panting as the hill gets steeper.

Luaphacim: I mean, even those new-fangled roller skates would be better.

Mrs. Luaphacim rolls her eyes.

Luaphacim: No, really. Because if one of the wheels came off, he could just go on one foot. It's easy, I see 'em do it all the time.

Another long pause.

Luaphacim: I mean, even those in-line skates that all those young punks wear would be more responsible. Because that way if you lose one, you've got a whole row of extras. You probably wouldn't even notice you were missing one. Yep. That'd be the way to go. Mmhmm.

Mrs. Luaphacim: You're so weird.

Wonderful News!

New dollar coins with president heads! w00t! Here's the schedule for the first year (2007):

* George Washington - February 16
* John Adams - May 18
* Thomas Jefferson - August 17
* James Madison - November 16

I can't wait for Taft! By my calculations, he will arrive in fall 2014... which is kind of a bummer. I WANT HIM NOW

14 November 2006

This is Why I Don't Self-Identify as 'Evangelical'

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

Interesting story in the New York Times this morning:
Many conservative Christians say they believe that the president’s support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state, which some of them think will play a pivotal role in the second coming.
The story does a better job of capturing the issue's complexity than I could do here, but I do have a few thoughts and responses to add.

First of all, I find it sad that modern American Christianity has been hijacked by a nineteenth-century eschatological construct: namely, the idea of a "rapture" that is somehow separate from the return of Christ to judge the world. The construction of elaborate timelines and pseudo-scientific accounts of "The End Times," as this camp describes the age in which we live, is a hallmark of this movement. You can see examples of proponents' handiwork everywhere, from Bible commentaries to the New York Times best-seller list. Tim LaHaye and Jerry. B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame are perhaps the most prominent pop-theologians for this brand of theology.

The most disturbing part of the phenomenon, for me, is that these folks take prophetic accounts and literalize them in order to establish an account that artificially imposes human ways of understanding over the power of God. Ultimately, this insistence on human ways and methods is what is wrong with the Evangelical movement's support of Israel, as well.

Evangelical support of Israel springs directly from the writings of people who hold this Rapture/Tribulation/Second Coming view of eschatology. Their logic is that, since the Biblical book of Revelation talks about the existence of a Jewish people (which they conflate with the modern nation-state) in the "Last Days," the existence of a nation-state comprised of Jews must be necessary in order for the prophecies to be fulfilled. They further assume that it is the United States' role to ensure the prosperity of said state.

Secondly, in their blind support of "Israel," Evangelicals ignore the misdeeds of the Jewish state and its officials. Israeli leaders have been responsible for many civilian casualties, and they have resisted sensible plans to allow the Palestinians a home for the past 60 years. Their resistance has embittered and hardened the Palestinian people to an enormous extent -- perhaps to the point of making a lasting peace impossible.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it is not the role of Christians to ensure that God's plans succeed. He has no need of our pitiful political machinations. If He wants to use the modern nation state of Israel as a vehicle to fulfil prophecies, that's His prerogative. What we should not -- indeed, must not -- do is to impose our own notions of "the End Times" over God's plan. We should focus on doing what Christ commanded: loving the Lord with all that we have and are, and loving others more than we do ourselves. If God wants to do things in Israel, I bet He can take care of that without our think-tanks and pro-Israel rallies and careful plans for bringing about the Second Coming.

06 November 2006


I was walking along a downtown storefront last week when I felt an old, familiar urge. Through the window of a second-hand bookshop, I saw a lovely leatherbound edition of Plato's Republic, one of my old favorites. Against my will, I found my steps drifting from my intended path and through the creaky old front door of the shop.

In the soft light of floorlamps and one old chandelier, the shelves around me beckoned with the siren-song of good books to be had at a discounted price. My soul yearned to go through the store, to select baskets and bags full of books, to buy everything that looked even remotely enlightening, and then dive into that stack of musty old books, never to resurface. Even the smells of the place were seductive: catnip and cinnamon-scented candles and old paper all blended together and finished off with a hint of freshly baked pizza from next door.

It was too much for me; I was compelled to go to the nearest shelf and begin browsing through the well-worn treasures there.

A hard-bound copy of Isaac Asimov's Foudation Trilogy in a tattered dustjacket was the first volume to catch my eye. It reminded me of my twelfth summer, when I read every piece of short fiction Asimov had ever written. I traced the words on the spine with a tentative finger, and immediately, the cozy little bookshop faded into nothingness around me.

I am in a bright bedroom with nautically themed wallpaper and dust-motes dancing in the beams of summer sunlight that flow through the room's double windows.

"Son," my father's voice calls, far away.

"Yeah?" I look up, annoyed, from my book.

"We're about to go to the pool. Come on out to the van!"

Normally, I like going swimming with my dad and siblings. The cool embrace of the pool never fails to fill me with joy, and I love the feeling of lying on a beach towel on the concrete pool deck after exhausting myself with swimming.

But, at the moment, psychohistorian Hari Seldon is in the midst of a dilemma that threatens the future of the human race, and he really can't afford for me to stop paying attention to the story at this particular juncture. So, of course, I do what any red-blooded twelve-year-old American lad would do: I lie.

"I'm not feeling too good, Dad. I think I'll just stay here and rest."

"Are you sure?" He sounds a little concerned; I'd better reassure him.

"Yeah, I'm sure. I'll probably be OK by the time you guys get back."

"All right, son. Get some rest."

I don't, of course.

I blinked and looked around. The bookstore was the same as it had been when I had drifted into memories, but the winter sun was lower in the sky outside the front window, and I was about 30 pages into the old, familiar story I had devoured like candy during that summer thirteen years ago. I hadn't even realized I was reading, and at the memory of my deception, I felt my ears get warm and the bottom of my stomach sink. I put the book back and continued down the rows.

I found Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn on the very bottom row of the store's "American Authors" section. It was a well-thumbed paperback edition, but the binding was tight and all the pages seemed intact.

As I flipped through the book to my favorite scene, the one where Huck describes Emmeline Grangerford's morbid art and poetry, I felt the nostalgic tug once more at my elbow. The next moment, I was gone again from the bookshop.

The early evening is muggy, and mosquitoes buzz in whining paths around my head as I sit on the veranda of the rambling, three-story camp building. Overhead, a bug-zapper crackles every once in a while, enveloping over-curious insects in its electric embrace. I am engrossed in the story of the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons; I love the way Twain unfolds the saga through the eyes of his naive, morally excellent narrator, Huck Finn.

"Hey, Micah!" I look up to see Pete, one of my good friends. We were on the maintenance crew last week. He looks excited about something.

"Hey, Pete. What's up?"

"Some of the guys are going out back to play paintball in the Maple Woods. You wanna come?"

I hesitate for a moment. I do enjoy playing wargames with my friends, but Huck has just learned about Harney Shepherdson's elopement with Sophia Grangerford, and I'm right in the middle of the part where the feud bursts out into open warfare.

My sixteen-year-old brain weighs the benefits of paintball against those of reading: adrenaline versus art, struggle versus sensibility, interaction versus intellect. After a careful moment of consideration, I make my decision.

"I'm really kind of tired, Pete. I don't think I'd enjoy it as much tonight. Maybe next weekend."

He looks slightly dampened, but he nods. "OK. That's probably smartest; I don't know how late we'll be out. I guess you'll probably get to sleep before us tonight." He laughs as he turns to leave.

I laugh, too, but not for the same reason.

I came to myself in the bookstore, my finger in the middle of Huckleberry Finn and my eyes staring off into the distance outside the window. I found myself wishing I had gone with my friends that night; "next weekend" had never come.

The sun was almost down now, and I had to stop by the grocery store for a gallon of milk on my way home; I knew I really ought to leave. I sighed and carefully slid the book back into its gap on the bottom shelf.

As I made my way toward the door, I noticed that the book that had lured me inside had somehow been knocked over in its display. I had every intention of simply setting it back up and then leaving the store -- it was getting late -- but something compelled me to handle it a little more than necessary in the process. I flipped through it, smelled the old, worn leather, and felt the pages brush against my fingertips.

I felt myself being transported away again, but this time I knew what was happening. I could simply set the book down, open the door, and step out into the chill of the winter's night. I could be on my way to the grocery store, and then home to my wife.

I could have resisted the pull, but I didn't.

My eyes are bloodshot, my muscles ache from sitting in the same position for hours on end, and my brain is weary. I have a philosophy paper due in eleven hours, and it's nowhere near done yet. If I want any sleep, I need to complete this thing soon.

The good part is that the paper is about Plato's
Republic, a work for which I have developed quite an affinity. I love his ideas about reality; they seem to fit well with my own observations of the world and the futility of human actions.

I am in the middle of typing a wonderful sentence about Plato's shadows on the wall of the cave when an instant message window pops up on my laptop's screen. It's from Mike, one of my old camp friends.

"hey," it says, "we're playign ultimate 2nite. u wanna play? :)"

I consider it. I really enjoy ultimate Frisbee, and I've been working for a long time, but I'm fascinated by Plato's conception of reality.

"No," I type back. "I'm sort of busy. I have a paper due tomorrow."

"weenie. i have a paper too, but u dont see me studying. just come out for like 30 min."

"Well... I don't know, Mike. I really feel nervous about it."

"it'll do you good to slack off, you never takea break. i guarentee my paper is longer than yours anyway."

Plato calls me from the dogeared book in my hands, but I do have a good start on my paper, and my brain is really tired. Amazingly, the call of Frisbee begins to drown out the call of the book. I do a mental double-take; I'm not sure I've ever experienced this feeling before in my twenty years of life.

"OK, Mike," I type. "Where are you guys playing?"

"on the quad like normal. its right behind the library, so i expect to see you out there by the time i get there from my dorm."

"You got it, buddy."

As I shut down my computer and pack my books, my body vibrates with tension. Part of me -- a really big part -- wants to reboot the computer, sign on to Messenger, and tell Mike that I can't play after all. But another part -- maybe the part that hasn't fully bought into Plato's idea of the Real, which can only be attained by philosophers -- tells me to keep packing my academic life away, to go out to the Quad and play Frisbee with my whole heart.

And I do.

On the drive through the wintry night toward the grocery store, I contemplated the memory of that evening when I first realized I could say no to the books. It was a refreshing revelation; it freed my mind and body from chains that I never realized I had been wearing. It was my first step in a journey toward a more balanced existence, one in which I recognized that socialization and physical activity were, in some ways, even more necessary than mental activity.

I smiled and patted the leatherbound Republic on the seat next to me. I would have to reread it sometime -- but not tonight.

03 November 2006

Life Pauses

Every once in a while, in the middle of a hailstorm, there's a moment of calm when the frozen spheres of ice stop pelting the wet earth. Then, a heartbeat later, the hailstones start up again, harder and faster, and leave your brand new hybrid SUV with a fresh coat of pockmarks.

Occasionally, when a horde of gibbering barbarians are ripping you limb from limb, a butterfly lands on your nose, forcing a brief hiatus in the carnage as you all admire its delicate gracefulness. It only lasts a moment, however, and soon enough, you find yourself adding a delicately musky flavor to several dozen pots of nutritious broth.

Very infrequently -- in fact, so infrequently as to be almost unheard of -- the Internet has a moment of universal lag. All over the world, illegal music downloads stand still, a million Counterstrike players curse simultaneously, and the rerun of Wolf Blitzer's talking head comes to a jerky halt. It only lasts a microsecond, and then the seekers of immorality, frivolity, and futility can resume their lives.

Sometimes, even the sea itself stops its motion and simply lies there, full and unwanting, self-reliant, at perfect peace.

These moments are necessary because they give the universe a chance to recalibrate. Anubis tares his scale against Ma'at's feather; Loki, in his raven form, has a delicious snack of birdseed; Lazarus asks Abraham for one last drink before shuffling back to the mortal coil.

Ultimately, though, even the sea must return to action, as Matthew Arnold wrote:
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
But just before that note of sadness, there is a heavenly caesura whose soundless resonance cannot be overwhelmed by the sea's despairing, eternal cadence.

Obscured, yes.

Extinguished, never.

02 November 2006

After Apple-Picking

The weather was frosty this morning, so I thought I'd post some Frost-y poetry. :-)

After-Apple Picking
Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

This is Me Not Rejoicing in My Enemy's Calamity

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

This brief was in USA Today this morning.

Let's all pray for her. And certainly not exult in her potential downfall.
Coulter may face charge of voter fraud

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has refused to cooperate in an investigation into whether she voted in the wrong Florida precinct and may be prosecuted for voter fraud, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson said. He said that his office has been looking into the matter since the Feb. 7 Palm Beach Town Council election and that he would turn over the case to the state attorney's office by Friday.

Knowingly voting in the wrong precinct is a felony. Anderson, a Democrat, said a letter was sent to Coulter on March 27 requesting that she clarify her address for the voting records “or face the possibility of her voter registration being rescinded.” She and her lawyer have yet to respond to several inquiries, he said.

01 November 2006

Progress on the Immigration Project

The more I go through Minuteman documents and communications, the more I realize that I didn't understand a few important things about their movement:

1.) Its rhetorical complexity
These are not just xenophobic people wanting to keep the other out of their nation; they draw lines between legal (authorized) movement into the country and illegal movement. Nonetheless, their ways of thinking about what it means to be "authorized" are sometimes extremely offensive -- English-only policies, for instance. They wish to maintain their sociocultural hegemony by ensuring that all legal immigrants are "integrated" into our society, and I have a problem with that. That, however, is beyond the scope of this semester's paper.

2.) Its (often shockingly) deep roots in U.S. history -- albeit a very mythologized, ideologically colored version of that history
The Minutemen, as their name implies, seem to envision themselves as the intellectual and ideological descendants of the ragtag group of militia who were ready to fight "on a minute's notice" in the Revolutionary War against King George. From that, their use of military language and ideas readily follows. Interestingly, the modern-day Minutemen seem more interested in maintaining the establishment (as defined by law) than in doing anything really revolutionary. They do, however, see themselves as opposing the Congressional establishment in some very interesting ways.

3.) Its use of military metaphors without necessarily viewing individual immigrants as enemy combatants
The use of "invasion" and "battle line" terminology is extremely frequent in this particular discourse... what's really, interesting, though, is that several of the ground-level folks in the movement go out of their way to paint the picture of individual immigrants as idealistic, hopeful people rather than as enemy troops. The real villain seems, in many ways, to be the politicians south of the U.S. border -- Minutemen have a perception that the politicians are corrupt and unwilling to "fix" their national problems.

The metaphors that seem most common so far are these:



(as opposed to subjects) BEING MOVED BY LARGER FORCES




I'm trying to arrive at some overarching conclusion as to what big structural metaphors shape this whole debate, but I don't have any solid, final answers yet.