Monday, April 30, 2007

Blood spilling and life taking

Last week, Warren posted a few observations on violence over at Salsa Night. The post is worth reading. The main point Warren makes is that modern society is less violent that older societies. He looks at examples of animal cruelty in entertainment (bear bating, cat burning) and some violent sports to demonstrate this idea.

I think Warren is right. Violence has been much more commonplace historically than now. But I don't think we need to look as far back as bear-bating to bear the argument out. (Incidentally, the companion sport to bear-bating was bull-bating, and the terms bear market and bull market actually derive from these sports because a bear would swipe down at a pack of hounds, while a bull would buck up to throw the dogs, but I digress.) Our own history, even fairly recent history is much more violent than most Americans probably know.

We all know the Civil War was bloody. But we are for the most part ignorant of the culture of violence that produced the Civil War and that was rampant throughout the South and on the frontier. Perhaps the most salient example is Bleeding Kansas. For about 5 or 6 years beginning in 1854, slave-state Missourians free-state settlers from the east clashed at the polls and on the field. The problems started with the compromise of 1854 which set aside the Missouri compromise and established that slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska would be decided by the settlers rather than by the Senate. Kansans were mostly free-staters, so slavery-favoring politicians in Missouri incited mobs of Missourian "border ruffians" to cross over into Kansas, illegally vote at the point of the bowie knife, and take over the polls, blocking free-staters from voting. The Missourian plan worked, and a bogus pro-slavery government was established. The free-staters refused to recognize the illegally cast votes and established their own government. For a time, Kansas had two rival governments and armed militias on both sides regularly raided the seats of each. The federal government vacillated its support between the two Kansas legislatures.

During this time it was not uncommon for partisans of both groups to murder each other on the slightest provocation (or none at all) often cutting off limbs, hands, fingers, ears, slashing faces, and otherwise mutilating and defacing their dead enemies. Similar depredations had been experienced by Mormons at the hand of Missouri mobs a decade earlier. A Boston woman visiting Kansas in 1855 wrote home about the unprovoked murder of a local free-state man: "The border Missourians are a horseback people; always off somewhere; drink a great deal of whiskey, and are quite reckless of human life. . . .To shoot a man is not much more than to shoot a buck." (1) The unwritten code in the South was that "killing was all right if any prior threat had occurred. Sneak attack, attack from ambush, attack on the unarmed or even the sleeping, attack on one by several did little to detract from the honor of these public. . . murders." (2)

And these acts of violence were not limited to low-life border scum. Kentuckian Senator Henry Clay, the great compromiser, fought in two duels and his reputation remained intact. President Andrew Jackson once killed an opponent in a duel and assaulted another opponent with a gun and a knife. (3) In 1856, Charles Sumner was famously caned---savagely beaten with heavy gold head of a cane---by South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks because of a perceived insult to a distant relative. The family feud was common in the antebellum South (and though not common, survived even into the post-bellum South). According to Mark Twain's Buck Grangerford, "a feud is this way: a man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man's brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides goes for one another; then the cousins chip in---and by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more feud." (4) Sumner, attacked by surprise, was blinded by his own blood and became trapped under his desk. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he ripped the desk out of the floor, staggered up the aisle and collapsed, unconscious. Brooks walked up the aisle and resumed beating the unconscious Sumner until he broke his cane and then quietly left the chamber. Sumner's blood was smeared around his desk and lay in a pool on the floor. (5)

Since we Americans are cursed with historical Amnesia, it helps to be reminded how recent the civil war really was. At the time of the First World War, the Civil War was as recent as the Second World War is to us. As late as 1932, a Civil War combat veteran was serving on the Supreme Court.

I think Warren is right that we commit as a society fewer acts of savage violence than earlier generations. However, I wonder at our entertainment. While it is true, as Warren points, out, that medieval societies enjoyed violence as entertainment, and that we could look farther back to Nero's treatment of Christians in the coliseum for even more gruesome examples, there isn't much in American history in the way of a public spectacle that people would pay to see that compares with, say, 300 or Gladiator. Even more disturbing is the fact that often our entertainment violence is participatory rather than just a spectator sport. The games we play put us in the position not of watching violence, but actually committing it in fantasy.

Another variable in the equation is today's increased capacity to inflict harm. The savageries of Bleeding Kansas saw men hack each other to death with sabers and bowie knives, but today one deranged man can kill scores before he is apprehended or takes his own life. It is this combination of fantasy violence and technological capacity to kill that makes contemporary American violence so disturbing.

(1) Hannah Anderson Ropes, Six Months in Kansas, Boston: John P. Jewwtt, 1854., see ch. 4

(2) D. Grimsted, American Mobbing, Oxford U Press, 2003., pp. 91-92.

(3) D. S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist, NewYork: Knopf, 2005., p. 160.

(4) M. Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885, New York: Norton, 1977., p. 89.

(5) Reynolds, supra, p. 159.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Citizen Cheney Part Deux, or, Dick Back in Black

Yesterday, envested in the black robes of a false priesthood, Richard Bruce Cheney received an honorary degree in public service from BYU and served as keynote speaker for the commencement exercises.

Predictably, he was welcomed enthusiastically by most of BYU (there was another protest and an "alternative commencement" but the organizers blew all their credibility when they included Ralph Nader). For me, the two most disappointing moments were 1) when the students applauded louder when Cheney's name was mentioned than when President Hinckley's name was mentioned seconds earlier, and 2) when the student giving the invocation thanked God for Cheney's presence and asked heaven's blessings first on Cheney and then only later did the same for President Hinckley. We thank the O God for a Vice President? Seems a little off to me. Maybe this student had Luke 6:28 in mind---perhaps the Vice President has not cursed the Mormons, but he sure did (despitefully?) use us for political gain.

I was wrong about one thing: I predicted that Cheney would use the commencement as a political forum. His speech was not overtly political. He mentioned politics only in passing. It was a short, relatively bland speech. There are a few possible explanations: 1) Cheney realizes that the administration is beyond recuperation and a political speech would have been in vain. 2) Cheney realizes that his audience is already in the bag and a political speech wouldn't accomplish anything that isn't already accomplished with Utahns. 3) The First Presidency, when they accepted Cheney's self-invitation to speak, explained the purpose of commencement and asked him to leave politics off campus. 4) Cheney himself realized that a political commencement speech was inappropriate. 5) Cheney knew that his purpose (to give the impression of church approval) was already accomplished by the fact that he got to be commencement speaker and he also knows that most people ignore commencement anyway so he didn't bother putting much effort into it.

The speech itself was not an awful speech. It was not a very good speech either. Very mediocre. One moment of perhaps unintentional honesty gave me a chuckle with Cheney saying "my entire political career has been an unplanned enterprise." Well, isn't that what we've been saying about the invasion of Iraq?

I know it's a tradition to give honorary degrees to speakers, but I was still disappointed that Cheney received a degree in public service. Especially since Pres. Samuelson kept emphasizing that this is the highest honor that BYU can give, and that it is only given to people who have demonstrated outstanding service in some way. Being VP is an accomplishment, but accomplishment and service are not the same thing; it is debatable at best that Cheney has done any public service. Pres. Samuelson didn't even give any examples of his alleged service, he just gave a run-down of his political career. Somehow, I feel, viscerally, even though I know that it is logically absurd, that my own degree is somehow sullied or cheapened. I'm just glad I graduated last year. It smarts, but it will fade.

You can still watch commencement here.

A friend's blog

NT, a friend and classmate, is writing political commentary over at The New Right. NT and I disagree on almost everything politically, agree on almost everything socially, and are pretty much half and half on economic policy questions. If you need some more conservative fire-eating in your life, check it out.

Utah County and the magic world view

This is pretty unbelievable. Utah County Republican believes that Satan is behind illegal immigration and offers a proposal at the County GOP convention to formally oppose Satan's plan to destroy the United States through illegal immigration and set up his New World Order.

I just wonder if this means that carne asada is smoked over the fires of hell.

Thanks to Nick over at Salsa Night.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lyrical Power Ballads: Installement the Second

Here's a poem I've been tinkering with for the past several months.

Thoughts on the Mpls housing projects

From the window of the law school library
—the way the early morning light plays off the golden leaves of a sycamore,
gradually lights across a green slope, manicured and trimmed,
while pines throw their shadows down the grass—

out of obscurity
the towers rise, seemingly ex nihilo,
materializing in the shadows as the morning breaks on them,
valleys of concrete crags, the everlasting hills of the metropolis.
Sheathed in mismatched panels of unwanted cast-aside colors,
the towers hang in picturesque, pathetic majesty.

What Dickensian scenes will play out in dismal rooms today?

O, the nobility of the poor!
Apotheosized like inhuman Olympians,
cold alabaster, eyes plucked out,
their lifeless, stony heroism
incapable of sin, of sorrow, incapable of joy—

To us, devotees, their poverty becomes a quaint fable
that ends with a contented quietist moral,
an old lie.

This is too extravagant to be maintained.

I await feedback.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Eats Sheet & The Book Revue: The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

In this post, the Eats Sheet and the Book Revue join forces to review the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: the restaurant, the book, the legend.

The Legend
The original Dino BBQ was a road outfit, peddling their smoked meat wares at state fairs and biker gatherings. After 5 years on the road they opened the a restaurant in Syracuse, NY in 1988. At first just take-out, they expanded to include a bar and live blues before long. In 1998 the Rochester location opened in an old station of the defunct Lehigh Valley Railroad, overlooking the Genesee River. In 2004 the Dino opened its third restaurant, in Harlem.

The Restaurant (Rochester)

The first and most important thing you need to know about the
Dinosaur is that the food is absolutely fantastic. Not surprisingly, barbeque stand-bys like ribs, smoked brisket, and pulled pork are the foundation of the menu, but Stage's years on the road took him all over the south, and the Dino's brand of 'que is a dusky blend of authentic influences from Texas to Memphis. In addition, there are strands of Asian, Cuban, and Creole influences laced throughout the menu. Because the Dino is a rib joint, you would be remiss to not try the ribs, but the combo plates and the BBQ samplers are a good way to get a wide taste of the menu.

The goodness doesn't stop with the main dishes, though. Part of the Dino's appeal is the sides menu. My three favorites are the fresh cut fries (always crisp, never limp), the Cuban Black Beans (a great accompaniment to pulled pork), and the Honey Hush Cornbread. The Dino also has Saranac Root Beer available on tap (it comes in pints) and a variety of bottled root beers (including Pirates' Keg). If you're looking for wings, though, don't come here. The BBQ chicken wings are good, but they are not the Buffalo Wings that you would find in an average upstate New York pizza joint. In addition to a rockin' menu, the Dino also has rockin' tunes. Several nights weekly the Rochester location hosts blues artists, some local, some national. The tunes are always good. Plan to spend about $15/person to really get a good experience, but you can get cheaper meals. Vegetarian options are available (smoked portobello burger), but I don't know why you would go here to eat vegetarian.

The Book
The great thing about the Dino cookbook is that it is not just a set of instructions to make a product. It is a book of principles that can be applied in practice to the craft and the art of fine bar-b-que food. Think of the recipes as canvases on which an artist can work. It includes important instructions on how get authentic smoker flavor out of a tiny kettle grill, how to avoid overcooking a piece of meat, and how to tell when a stake is done without piercing it with a thermometer and letting all the juices out.

The book also tells you how to develop a palette of basics from with to work your art. How to create spice rubs, sauces, and marinades. My favorite dishes out of the cookbook are the Oven Roasted Mojito Chicken, and the Cuban dish, Ropa Vieja. If you're looking for a quick meal, don't look to the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que cookbook. If you're willing to donate an afternoon or even a weekend to the creation of culinary art, this is a great place to start.

The book is available on the Dino's website, but it is cheaper if you get it from Amazon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Citizen Cheney, or, Wah! Err! Um! Wah!

Yes, the Cheney-The Penguin comparisons have grown so commonplace as to almost be tiresome. On the other hand, perhaps the longevity of the comparison is an indication of the fact that it rings so true. If its a tiresome joke, its only because it's so easy. In a Penguin look-alike contest, Cheney would probably beat out FDR even sans cigarette holder. But it is a pretty close race:

As many of you are aware, Old Dick himself will be speaking at commencement at Brigham Young University this Thursday at 4:00 PM Mountain Time. You can watch it here by clicking on "tune in now". After all that's been said about Cheney at BYU, Eric Snider's piece is the most insightful.

My take on it: BYU's decision accept Cheney's self-invite to speak isn't the end of civilization as we know it, but it probably was ill-advised. Were BYU an average run-of-the-mill independent private school, there wouldn't really be anything wrong with it beyond the bare fact that Cheney is unpopular and annoying. But BYU is not an average private school; it is the flagship educational institution of a major religious organization with a declared commitment to political neutrality. I don't think BYU in the abstract should refrain from inviting political officials, even controversial ones, to speak on campus. But the question cannot be considered in the abstract.

1. This is not just a speech, this is commencement. Commencement ought to be apolitical. Anyone who thinks that Cheney will not use commencement as a political platform is fooling himself.

2. Commencement gives the impression that the University endorses the speaker. Speaking at a forum is speaking to the University community, but speaking at commencement is in most people's minds, speaking to the graduates on behalf of the University.

3. This comes at a time when only one other campus has allowed Cheney to speak at commencement, and when the Administration's approval ratings are beyond abysmal. In this environment, accepting Cheney's self-invite could easily be construed, right or wrong, as some kind of implicit endorsement.

4. BYU, despite its efforts to be even-handed, has a pattern of inviting more conservative speakers to campus. Inviting Cheney only reinforces this pattern and in doing so, undermines the Church's effort to be politically neutral.

It has been suggested that inviting Tom Lantos to speak a few years ago balances inviting Cheney. The comparison is flawed for several reasons. First, Lantos' wife is a Mormon; it is not unusual that BYU would invite someone with ties to the LDS community, regardless of politics. (The same is true about Harry Reid, who spoke at BYU Law commencement a few years ago). Second, Lantos himself is a holocaust survivor. Someone with that kind of experience is a good speaker to have regardless of politics. Third, Lantos is only one of hundreds of members of Congress. Cheney, on the other hand, is the number two of a co-equal branch of government. While it is true that democrats have spoken on campus, to get one comparable to Cheney in national profile and party stature you have to go all the way back to Bobby Kennedy's speech at the Smith Fieldhouse in 1968; and he didn't even speak at commencement. (On the other hand, that was during the Wilkinson years; the fact that he even got on campus is kind of a big deal).

I think part of the issue here is that the BYU administration sees the world through Provo-colored lenses. In that worldview, there's nothing partisan or that even appears partisan about BYU's choice of speakers. But BYU is not a regional school anymore, it is a national school, and it represents an international church. From a national or international perspective, BYU's choice of speakers tends to lean to the right.

Let me be clear: I don't think BYU or any other school has a legal or an ethical obligation per se to be even-handed in its speakers. But if the First Presidency is going to continue to insist on partisan neutrality, any appearance of a lack of neutrality in BYU is damaging. This is even more so now that media attention is shifting towards Mormons for a variety of reasons (Romney, the PBS documentary, the Mountain Meadows Massacre movie, Kyle Sampson, etc.).

However, the fact that BYU has invited Cheney to speak at commencement and the backlash against that decision have put the administration on their toes. This could mean that BYU will make a greater effort to invite political figures from both sides. At least one of my old profs has said that he will donate nothing to the Alumni organization until BYU invites the anti-Cheney to campus.

Further Reading:
Provo Daily Herald: "Opponents Organize Against Cheney Visit" "Students peacefully protest Cheney's upcoming appearance at BYU"
A blog with pictures of the April 4th demonstration

Monday, April 23, 2007

Erf Day

Yesterday, April 22, was Earth Day. But in the great Federal tradition of pushing all holidays off to the nearest Monday, I celebrate Earth Day today.

It should be, perhaps, self-evident that preserving the earth is a virtue.

The first commandment the Lord gives to Adam and Eve is well known. But in general, we seem to only want to do the multiply part, virtually ignoring the replenish part. Earth Day reminds me of the importance of replenishing the earth. According to the Genesis story, at least one of the purposes of human life on the earth is to serve as its stewards, to "dress it and to keep it."

The Enoch story goes even further, personifying the earth itself. In Enoch's apocalypse, the earth asks wearily, "When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?" Moroni likewise predicted that his record would be published during a time of "great pollutions." Joseph Smith's revelations say that natural resources are here for the "benefit and use" humanity, but also record the Lord's injunction that all things "be done in cleanliness before me."

So happy Earth Day. Let's replenish.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pirates: Buccaneers or Gentlemen of Fortune?

As I said in my Peter Pan review, Hook is a great pirate. But not to be outdone by Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow is also a great pirate.

Perhaps the two aren't well compared, though. They're two very different kinds of pirates. Captain Jack is a scalliwag, a rapscallion, a low-life who gets along by pure wit and canniness, a rogue and a rum hound. Hook, on the other hand, is a gentlemanly fop. He plays the harpsichord, he enjoys poetry, he is obsessed with the ideal form, he has a cultivated appreciation for the finer things. With the soliary exception of Smee, he isolates himself from the uncouth brutes that crew the Jolly Roger. He waxes melancholy, philosophical, weary of life. A poor misunderstood soul. Not Jack. His first appearance on the screen shows him riding into port on the mast of a rickety old dinghy so dilapidated that it doesn't even make it to shore without sinking. But he sails it triumphantly, as though it were the finest vessel on water. He revels in infamy. Jack may be the worst pirate you have ever heard of, but you have heard of him.

Who is the better pirate? I can't say. But the third Pirates movie is coming May 25th.

But speaking of Pirates and Hook, does it seem at the end of the first Pirates movie that Will Turner is trying to bring back the Hook-style pirate dress? He doesn't have the bright colors, but he's got the ridiculously big feather, the longish hair, and the wispy mustache.

Of course, everyone's first thought is that he's the fourth musketeer, D'artagnan's tag-along little brother, Pierre. But then again maybe Disney is tipping its hat to its first great pirate. Although, Hook's mustache has a bit more Dali in it than does Turner's.

Friday, April 20, 2007

PBS Documentary: The Mormons

Here's a Deseret News review of the new two-part PBS documentary, The Mormons. Part one airs April 30, 8:00 Central, part two May 1st also at 8:00. Watch a trailer here.

Here's an article from the church's website.

I am Cinematographicus: Peter Pan (1953)

I am Cinematographicus. I review movies for We might be windmills. This is my first time to essay a review.Recently, we watched Disney's Peter Pan again for the first time in many years. Based on J.M. Barrie's much-imitated play, Disney's version is mostly good. Of course, there is the inexcusable racism. Though not as bad as Song of the South (1946), racist portrayals of Native Americans and one stereotypical portrayal of an Italian pirate made me cringe. But the music is well-done, the story moves at a good clip, and there are some great characters: Hook, Smee, and the Crocodile, most notably.

And, about the Indians, I know it's a fantasy, but the Indians seem really out of place in Neverland. I mean, come on, the place is an island. Mermaids, yes. Pirates, yes. Fairies, okay. Lost boys, whatever. But Indians? Especially since Disney paints them as plains Indians (tipis?), what the heck are they doing on an what appears to be a tropical Island?

Interesting thing is, Peter Pan himself isn't really that great of a character. The movie might be named for Pan, but he isn't the protagonist, Wendy is. The story is about Wendy's initial recoiling from and later reconciliation with the idea of adulthood. And Pan isn't even the most compelling character in Neverland. That has to be Hook. I mean, come on, the guy is an incorrigible fop while at the same time being a ruthless buccaneer. That's a hard combo to pull off. But he does it, and with good form. Like Milton's Satan, he is the villain that steals the show. Both Pan and Hook are narcissistic egomaniacs, but Pan comes off like a arrogant brat at times, while Hook self-consciously and endearingly revels in his self-absorbed foppery.

An interesting complication is the muted sexual rivalry between Wendy and Tiger-lily, between Wendy and Tinkerbell and then between Wendy and the mermaids. Perhaps it is this constant unjustified female fawning on Pan that makes him seem like a brat sometimes. Hook is right. He crows like a rooster, but flies away like a "cowardly sparrow."

Pan's voice is, with sad irony, supplied by Bobby Driscoll, a child star that (like Macaulay Caulkin and unlike Drew Barrymore) never really made the transition into an adult acting career. After Peter-Pan, Disney terminated his 5-year contract two years early due to severe acne. As Driscoll's childhood acting career sharply declined, he turned to drugs. He died at the age of 31 of hepatitis and a heart attack in an abandoned tenement in Greenwich village. His body, found by two playing children, went unidentified and was buried in a mass grave on Hart Island, also known as Potter's Field. It was only later that he was identified, through fingerprints taken before burial.

The movie sports the voice talent of the incomparable Bill Thompson as Smee, but who is probably best known for his work as the voice of Droopy Dog. An interesting feature is that Disney preserved Barrie's original casting which called for Mr. Darling and Hook to be played by the same actor, by casting the same voice, that of Hans Conried.

The movie has been called anti-climactic, with Hook's defeat just kind of a fizzling out rather than a blaze of glory. But perhaps this was intentional. What better way for childhood to defeat the foppishness and over-seriousness of adulthood than to make adulthood a laughing stock? Hook's agonizing shout, "I'm a codfish," and the ridiculing laugh of the children is far more appropriate a climax than had Peter run him through.

This is a great story, and pretty decent movie version of it. One of Disney's classics for sure.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


In Gonzales v. Carhart, (click here for full-text of the opinion) the Supreme Court yesterday upheld a nationwide ban on certain types of abortions.

This kind of throws a wrench into the semester of jurisprudence my Con Law prof. has been laboring to construct since Christmas.

The law at issue passed both the Senate and the House in 2003 by a fairly large margin. It bans a specific (and fairly gruesome) abortion procedure. Today's decision is not a surprise, especially given the fact that the court's makeup has shifted a bit to the right since the last time an abortion ban was considered. The controversial aspect of the decision, though, is that it contains no exception to preserve the health of a mother. I does contain a life exception, but no health exception.

Is this decision significant? Not really. As a symbol, perhaps, but not in any real practical way. The radical right will trumpet it from the rooftops as a victory over godless secularism. The radical left will call it the downfall of civilization as we know it. In reality, over 90% of all abortions performed don't even come close to using this procedure. In those cases that do use it, other abortion procedures are readily available that are not outlawed. But regardless, get ready for the demagoguery from both ends of the spectrum. It's only going to get louder.

Separated at Birth?

Posting this picture of President David O. McKay on my last post,

I couldn't help but notice a resemblance to this other big white face.

Something in the mouth and the eyes...

Opening The Book Revue: David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

No, the Book Revue is not a burlesque for literary types, it is We might be windmills' recurring review of books.

I got David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (DOM) for Christmas. Greg Prince, the principal author, is president and director of a biotech company in the D.C. area. He has also written two books about the priesthood: Having Authority: The Origins and Development of Priesthood During the Ministry of Joseph Smith (1993), and Power from on High: The Development of the Mormon Priesthood (1995). He is an active Mormon.

The most distinctive feature of DOM is that unlike most biographies, it is organized topically rather than by chronology. This allows a quick survey of a topic, and would be particularly useful for research.

Predictably, the chapter I was drawn to most quickly was the one on the development of President McKay's attitudes and opinions on civil rights and the church's institutional ban on the ordination of black members to the priesthood. DOM doesn't add anything earth-shatteringly new, but it does trace President McKay's somewhat ambivalent attitudes on race throughout his life, developing from his statement as a young missionary that he "doesn't care for" blacks, to the point that he was repeatedly struggling in prayer, wrestling with the Lord to get a revelation that would allow ordination of blacks. Prince depicts President McKay's worldwide tours as a the impetus for this development.

Less predictably, the chapters on church correlation and church education were also interesting. Likewise Prince's review of interfaith relations. One of the most remarkable moments in the book is where President McKay, visiting an Episcopal bishop with whom he had developed a friendship, accepts a blessing by the laying on of hands on commemoration of his birthday. Considering the LDS doctrinal stance on priesthood and authority, and considering President McKay's office within that priesthood, accepting such a blessing in an indication of profound humility both on a personal and an institutional level.

But perhaps the most interesting insight to take away from this book is the picture it paints of the ecclesiastical tug and pull within the General Authorities and within the church at large. This picture may be slightly exaggerated by the fact that President McKay's administration covered a time of great social and political upheaval in general. The competing influences of Hugh B. Brown and Ezra Taft Benson, the tug and pull between the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and the influence on President McKay of those not in the official ecclesiastical structure, such as Ernest Wilkinson all show that there is more to church administration than is always apparent. Understanding this sheds light on President Packer's statement that the brethren have never been more united.

If you're looking for something a bit more sensational or scandalous, Michael Quinn's articles will sate that appetite. But for something a bit more reserved in the assertions it makes, yet an open examination, I recommend the book.

An interview with Greg Prince
A review of DOM over at DMI

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An ice battle of biblical proportions

This Friday, my University of Minnesota Fighting Mondales will take on the University of St. Thomas Fightin' Apostles for round one of the Inaugural Minnesota All-Law School Hockey Tournament. Following that game, the William Mitchell Fighting Eelpouts will meet the Hamline Fighting Squirrels in battle on the ice. The winners will compete for the Championship on Saturday night.

I must say that I feel quite honored to attend a law school with a hockey team. Even more unusual is the fact that all four law schools in town have hockey teams. Only in Minnesota.

But even more important, our hockey team definitely has the best mascot. Fighting Mondales definitely beats the regular University mascot, the golden gophers. UST comes in at a close second with the Fightin' Apostles. Although I'm tempted to say that Apostles is a bit bland. I mean, come on, every Christian can claim the Apostles. It would have been more distinctly Catholic had they called themselves the Fightin' Cardinals or the Fightin' Fathers or maybe the Fightin' Archbishops.

That reminds me of an idea I once had for a superhero. He would be known as "The Bishop" and he would wear a mitre while fighting crime. He would forgo firearms, using only the episcopal cross to strike terror into the hearts of evil-doers. He would quote scripture extensively, especially the Old Testament.

But come on, Fighting Squirrels? At least go with flying squirrels if you can't think of anything else. The jury is still out on Eelpouts. It's terrible, but it might be so terrible that it goes over to being good; like if you were to put so many miles on your car that the odometer flipped back to zero.

Anyway, wish the Fighting Mondales luck tomorrow.

The Eats Sheet: Chipotle

The Eats Sheet may become a regular feature. In it, I intend to review restaurants, lunch counters, diners, steakhouses, grills, oyster shacks, and other eateries. This time we look at Chipotle.

While a chain is probably not the first thing I would think of to review, I chose Chipotle because there's one across the street from the law school. Such closeness makes it a great place for law fuel, and I end up eating there more often than any other restaurant.

So what do I have to say about Chipotle at 7 Corners? There's not a bad item on the menu. Pretty much anything you order will be good. One piece of advice, however: do not make the rookie mistake of mixing salsas (or, chiles). If you want hot, get hot. If you want mild, get mild. Do not get a mixture. It will look gross, it will taste gross, and the people behind the counter will think you are an idiot. Just make up your mind. Mixing chiles is a fine art that should be undertaken only by a seasoned chile artist. They have two different salsas for a reason. You can mix pico de gallo with salsa, but even that can be pushing it.

Two things that pay off at Chipotle: 1) speaking Spanish, and 2) loyalty. I have documented on several occasions that if you speak Spanish, you get more guacamole, that shangri-la of green mush. Nothing can justify passing up an opportunity to get more guac. And the generosity towards Spanish speakers doesn't stop with the guac, either. It extends to more meat, cheese, etc.

The second, loyalty, is something I just recently discovered. I have frequented Chipotle enough to have developed a rapport with the staff. The last time I was eating there, the cashier came over to our table after we had paid and were eating and gave us all a little card that informed us that ordering online and including a certain code would yield a free burrito or bol. A boon indeed.

Meals under $6. Vegan-friendly options available. I know this because a friend went vegan for lent.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lyrical Power Ballads: Installment the First

Okay so maybe the title is a bit overblown. A Lyrical Power Ballad is what would happen if any of these bands wrote a song with lyrics by William Wordsworth. I don't think that anything I write could truly be considered a lyrical power ballad, but I'm appropriating the term anyway because it just sounds cooler than plain old "poems." This is one I wrote while working in a congressional office in D.C.. I've tinkered with it a bit from time to time.

Seeric Gifts

to the words of one who sees:

He sits on a grate at Farragut North.
Metro steam rises round his head,
wraps him as a mantle,
mingles in his grizzled beard and hatted matted mop of hair.
A palsied hand extends a plastic disk,
wordlessly petitioning for spare coins.
Encircled in rags he does not speak,
but searches with his flashing eyes.

Meanwhile a man with an armful of shirts
(cotton shirts in white and blue) passes by and notices him not—
because he is struggling, pushing with his smooth, scented chin
to get the folds of starched cotton out of his eyes.

So that's it. I'm open to feedback.

Blogs are an ocean

And on this small craft, I now set sail into a vast sea of humanity (Yeah, more like, "avast ye, you manatee!"). Basically, what went down was this: a friend and brother-in-law sent me a blog post that he had written. While perusing that, I followed a link to a blog by another friend of mine who is a contributor to the first blog.

Being the lemming that I am, I decided that I too needed a non-law-school-related way to release some creative energy before it all shrivels up and falls out in my earwax and I am left a merciless hour-billing automaton. I might have some poems, essays or other creative writings, I might have some reviews of books, movies, restaurants or other such things. I might have some nonsensical stream-of-consciousness. I might slowly slip into madness. If so, I might leave a record.

Then again, it is entirely possible that I might grow tired of this and leave only a mysterious fragment---my memory buried up to its neck in the desert of time, swept by winds that whisper my name, a vagabond ghost as forgotten as the مولقيين (Mūlaqiyyīn).

The blog name is an inverted adaptation of the name of a band who took their name from a George C. Scott movie, which movie name was in turn taken from a line spoken by the protagonist of a 17th-Century Spanish novel. I don't know where Cervantes got it from.

Read if you wish. It might be a waste of time.