College Bowl Season


As a UCLA alum, of course I'm rooting for my team in the little known Silicon Valley Bowl against Fresno State. I just hope it doesn't turn into a dismal night as the Bruins have shown little offensive punch and the defense can get worn down being out on the field so long.

Tonight, is the Holiday Bowl with WSU vs. Texas. It would sure be great if the Pac10 can smoke them Longhorns.

Other big games of interest to me are the Fiesta with KSU taking on OSU. I'll be rooting for KSU to poke the Big10 in the eye with a win there.

In the Sugar Bowl, I have to go with the underdog LSU to maul the Oklahoma Sooners. That team was thinking itself the team of the ages and well they deserved to get beat up against KSU and they deserve another one for their sin of pride and arrogance.

And finally, the tough one is the Rose Bowl. As a UCLA alum it is hard to root for USC. However, as an observer of sports and a reasonable objective one, USC should be able to defeat UM. However, if UM is able to control the clock with a running game it will get very exciting. Also, if the UM defense is able to knockdown the USC QB and make him run for his life then they will have a good shot at winning. The problem all year was that USC QB could stand tall behind the O-line and had all the time in the world to look for his big and fast receivers so they just blew everybody out. If the game goes that way UM will just be another speed bump in the USC bandwagon.

Beagle may be lost


The news from the Beagle Mars project doesn't look good. A third attempt to contact the lander has failed and hope is fading. There will be some more attempts. Except:

There are 13 further scheduled transmissions before the probe goes into emergency auto-transmit mode. The next chance to detect it was set for 2 a.m. EST on Saturday.
...............
But Mars is a formidable foe with a track record of wrecking pioneering space missions. Of the previous 11 probes dropped on to the planet's surface, only three have survived and it is estimated that around two in every three Russian and U.S. missions to Mars have been whole or partial failures.

Mission scientists say Beagle 2 might have been blown off course by dust clouds and storms which sweep the surface of Mars. Alternatively, its antennae might be pointing in the wrong direction for the rocket to pick up its signal.

The worst-case scenario is that it disintegrated on landing or burned up as it hurtled toward the planet's surface.

The war on terror


With the orange alert here in the USA and various terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv (the unfortunately all too common feature of Israeli life), Iraqi ambushes and attempts on the life of Pakistan's president Mushareef my ears are always alert to the latest news.

Here is some good news as the Turkish government was able to catch some of the Al Qaeda operating in Istanbul.

A Tale of Two Basketball Programs


I attended UCLA as an undergraduate during some lean times for the basketball program. I have to say it didn't get as bad as it did last year. I attended UC Irvine for graduate school and the team more or less did nothing. The biggest news would be upsetting UNLV but that was it. I think one year the team lost 20 games.

Well, this year's Bruins aren't expected to do much. Getting to the NCAA would exceed expectations. An NIT bid is possible and probably would be accepted by the team if offered. The high water mark so far was the win over Michigan State on the day the court was dedicated to Nell and John Wooden. The other was the good effort against Kentucky. Victories over Vermont, Riverside and LMU were not very impressive but they got the W which is something they didn't do much of last year. UCLA plays 18 Pac10 games and if they can finish 10-8 in conference, people will be hailing Howland as a genius.

The Anteaters got in some good games in pre-season. Mid-major programs stuggle to get good teams to play them in the pre-conference schedule. They got to play Pac10 teams (Stanford and California) which is a good test for the Eaters even though they lost those two games. They got two nice wins against Princeton and Pepperdine which are notible teams that aren't in a power conference (Pac10, SEC, Big10, Big12, Big East, ACC). Utah State and UCSB are the strong teams in the Big West Conference. A 12-6 record in the Big West would be realistic for the Zots.

American Experience: The Chinese Story


Today was the grand opening of the Chinese-American Museum of Los Angeles. It was a long time in the making and it is great to see it finally happen.

I went to college in an era when ethnic studies was just beginning. My biochemistry major didn't allow for many general education classes. Alas, Asian studies was not on my list of classes I took.

I think there is a place for understanding one's cultural background. Like most people, it is a mix of good and bad and I have to blend it all with my life of being born in the USA yet visibly being an ethnic minority. It has only been in the last decade or so that I learned that Chinese were not well treated by America in the past. However, today, by-in-large, Chinese in America have made incredible progress and we find ourselves with a place in the American family and in positions of power and prestige.

There will continue to be a place for lobby groups with an ethnic flavor because groups that are small in number can be overlooked by the majority. However, what irks me is when those groups appeal to fear and overstate the problems. I personally don't like to assume racism at the outset. Perhaps some would believe me naive to think this way. However, as a matter of personal practice, I just don't like the idea of assuming racism when there isn't any. I don't get that kind of thinking. Why expend energy expecting the worst in people?

There was a time for Chinese when assuming the worst was the safest course of action. But I live NOW, TODAY, HERE. Does that mindset fit the reality I live in?

Aside from assuming racism exists when there might not be any, the other thing that burns me up is when there are attacks from within one's ethnic group. When I hear some in the black community say that Colin Powell and Condi Rice are traitors to their race, I think, have you lost your mind? Where does that kind of muddle-headed thinking come from?

The Asian community isn't nearly as vocal but there is the whispered slur of Twinkie and Banana.

In my mind, as Dennis Prager likes to quote Viktor Frankl, "There are only two types of people, the decent and the indecent."

I'll finish off this post by going to today's LA Times where there was an essay by a Chinese American. I appreciated the writer's honesty. He pointed out where there were problems with how Chinese were treated. But he also pointed out the progress. Excerpts:
In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred my grandfather and tens of thousands of Chinese from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens and kept others out altogether. Its preamble says, "The coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities." A poster of that era depicted a Chinese man eating a rat, with the slogan, "They must go."

The law, which was amended or modified every 10 years, later included Asians from other nations. On Dec. 17, 1943, at President Roosevelt's urging, Congress partly repealed the law but still limited the number of Chinese who could immigrate to this country to 105 a year. It wasn't until 1965 that this nation finally put immigration from both Asia and Europe on an equal footing.

Growing up in New Orleans during World War II, I had a less ambivalent view of the U.S. than my grandfather. I was proud of my dad because he worked for Higgins Industries and helped to design and to build the landing craft that delivered Allied troops on the beaches at Normandy on D-day and the Pacific islands.
...........
It's astounding how few Americans -- even in high places -- know about this ugly chapter in our history. I asked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recently if he would support an effort to win posthumous U.S. citizenship for Chinese and other Asian Americans who fought in the Civil War.

"Anyone who has served this country with valor should be recognized," McCain said. Then he asked why it had taken so long to apply for citizenship for these veterans. When I told him about the exclusion laws, the senator seemed stunned.

I told him one of his constituents, Sharon O'Connor of Tucson, was the great-granddaughter of one of those Civil War veterans. Edward Day Cohota, also known as Sing Loo of Shanghai, China, was in the Civil War. He served a total of 30 years and tried unsuccessfully until his death in 1935 to become a U.S. citizen.
.............
The Chinese have contributed much to this country, but the laws prevented them from doing more. Many of the history textbooks have little or no information about the challenges these people faced or tell of their accomplishments.

The Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles, which opens today, will help illuminate some of this history and illustrate how Chinese Americans helped to build a better nation. I'm confident that if Grandfather Chu Lin were alive today he would say, "Much more needs to be done, but America has changed for the better. I'm happy that I brought my family here."

Taking the last line and adjusting it for myself, "I'm happy that my ancestors brought our family here."

Sullivan's comment today


Lots of news and comment out there about the Hussein capture. Here is one that had some perspective. Excerpts:

It is not for us to understand fully what these people were put through. At a moment like this, when we can see fully and clearly the evil that existed for so long - evil that we in the past did our part to maintain - it is important simply to recall the dead and their loved ones. Think of every moment when some poor soul believed he was about to die, every moment spent in hellish prisons, every person tortured beyond imagining, every child dumped in a mass grave, every person of faith treated as an enemy of the state. To watch the perpetrator of this extraordinary evil brought low - into a rat-hole in the ground - is a privilege. It happens rarely. It is a moment when some kind of cosmic justice breaks through the clouds, and all the petty wrangling and mistakes and political jockeying fall away in the face of liberation from inescapable fear and terror and brutality. It was a day of joy. Nothing remains to be said right now. Joy.

Indeed.

Hopefully, there will be more days down the road that will mark the return of normalcy to the Iraqi people. This is probably the third moment. The first was the night the air attacks began. The second was the day the big Hussein statue in Baghdad was brought down. This would be the third moment.

I suppose another moment will be the public trial of Hussein by the Iraqi people and probable execution. Another will be when an Iraqi elected government takes office. And finally, when normalcy is truly there: the time when Iraqi won't be news and people go to Iraq as tourists and a proud people can show off their nation to the rest of the world.

News flash: Hussein Captured!


Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2003 05:25:06 -0500
From: CNN Breaking News
To: TEXTBREAKINGNEWS@CNNIMAIL12.CNN.COM
Reply-to: newseditor@MAIL.CNN.COM
Subject: CNN Breaking News
-- U.S. forces capture a number of wanted Iraqis in Tikrit, possibly including former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials say. Identities still being confirmed.
========
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2003 07:15:06 -0500
From: CNN Breaking News
To: TEXTBREAKINGNEWS@CNNIMAIL12.CNN.COM
Reply-to: newseditor@MAIL.CNN.COM
Subject: CNN Breaking News
-- U.S. officials confirm former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein captured. ========

Read about it here.

Now, that is what I call wonderful news and a good step forward for the future and freedom of the Iraqi people.

Frum: Gore endorses Dean to revive Gore chances in 2008


An interesting take from NRO's Frum can be seen here. Excerpt:

It’s already easy to predict the Democratic party’s after-action reports on 2004: “We got pushed way too far to the extremes, especially on national security issues, by a candidate who lacked national experience and was foisted on us by a bunch of white college kids who didn’t know anything and didn’t care anything about the economic problems of our voting base.”

Sometime after November 2004, a candidate who hails from the border South, served in Vietnam, appeals to black voters, accumulated a long record on national security issues, held the country’s second-highest office, was associated with the longest economic expansion in the country’s history, and proved himself a popular vote-getter in three national elections will begin to look good to his fellow-Democrats, never mind the Florida recount.

So Gore needs to speed his party toward the cataclysm – and if he can win new friends on the party’s left and look like a good sport while greasing the skids, all the better.

It’s very striking that the party’s two frontrunners for 2008, Gore and Hillary Clinton, are both borrowing pages from the old Richard Nixon playbook. Hillary is reinventing herself just as the “new Nixon” did in 1968; Gore meanwhile is following exactly the same plan for 2004 that Nixon adopted in 1964, when he made sympathetic noises toward Goldwater while complacently watching his successor lead his party to the worst debacle in its post-Depression history.

I could never be a politician and think that many steps ahead so I got to give him credit even if I didn't vote for him in 2000 nor would I in 2008.

Big Media Likes Bad News From Iraq?


Did you know there were anti-terrorism rallies in Iraq? If it were not for the blogosphere, the story would not be told. Instapundit wonders why big print media is not covering the story?

Instapundit rounds it up here and here.

Language: culture and reality


One of the nice things about having friends who are in the performing arts is that I get to be exposed to events I would ordinarily not hear about.

The other day I had the chance to see Brian Friel's "Translations" at the Crossley Terrace Theatre.

In the world of drama, there are only a finite number of story devices and each movie, play, novel or whatever have some variant on familiar concepts. Indeed, Translations has a love triangle where two of the characters are hopelessly star crossed, tensions within a family, in this case, a father and his two sons, and the struggle of the old versus the new.

In this play, these threads were woven in the small fictional Irish town of Ballybeg at the beginning of England's take over of Ireland. The event that sets the play in motion was the arrival of the British military whose job was to rename everything in English for maps. Thus, language became the fault line for the story arc of the three threads which tied together form an exploration of the significance of language to culture and how it affects reality and progress.

The theatre for some reason was rather warm that night which made things a bit uncomfortable. The play was a little slow starting up in establishing the characters and the premise but not excessively so. The story has moments of deep emotion and other parts that were quite funny. The set design was simple but effective as were the costumes. The actors were on top of their game and portrayed the characters with sympathy and authenticity. In all, I would give the production 2.5 stars out of 4 and a thumbs up.

The first production of this play took place in 1980 in Friel's native Ireland where it would resonate considerably because it would not only have the emotional content of the story which is somewhat universal but also the historical context of the personal experience of the audience and its collective memory.

I do not know the history of England's take over of Ireland and to what extent it was resented. The perspective in this story was England imposing its English on the natives. My Chinese ancestors had ties to America as immigrant laborers but my generation was the first to be born here in the USA. Thus, our introduction to English was voluntary and desired as it was for one of the characters of Translations.

As an American born Chinese, I would reflect the views of someone one or two generations after the setting of Translations. Thus, my relationship to the tensions discussed in Translations would be more looking wistfully at a lost past while the characters (most of them) in the play look forward fearful of the life they will lose.

It raised questions for me about how interlinked language is with culture and identity. I found myself thinking about the incredible choice immigrants make in leaving their language and culture for something unknown and alien. I felt the tension between keeping the best of the old and wanting the best of the new. It was true then and it is true today. A work of non-fiction that illustrates that tension is The Lexus and the Olive Tree. NY Times writer Thomas Friedman used The Lexus to symbolize the aspirations for economic progress and the Olive Tree as a metaphor for traditions that define identity.

Am I making sense here?

For Southern California readers, the show runs until December 14, 2003.
For more information contact:
Actors Co-op
323-462-8460
http://www.ActorsCo-op.org

Fly paper strategy working?


Instapundit cites Citizen Smash - Indepundit who cites MSNBC/Newsweek about how Al-Qaeda is shifting resources to Iraq.

Excerpts:

Osama bin Laden’s men officially broke some bad news to emissaries from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the elusive leader of Afghanistan’s ousted fundamentalist regime. Their message: Al Qaeda would be diverting a large number of fighters from the anti-U.S. insurgency in Afghanistan to Iraq. Al Qaeda also planned to reduce by half its $3 million monthly contribution to Afghan jihadi outfits.
       
All this was on the orders of bin Laden himself, the sources said. Why? Because the terror chieftain and his top lieutenants see a great opportunity for killing Americans and their allies in Iraq and neighboring countries such as Turkey, according to Taliban sources who complain that their own movement will suffer.

Indepundit goes on to comment:

Iraq is a far better place for the Coalition to fight al Qaeda than Afghanistan. We have tremendous military strength in country; the terrain is favorable for modern mechanized warfare; a substantial portion of the population is friendly to us and hostile to terrorists; and our on-the-ground intelligence capabilities are growing stronger every day.

We'll fight al Qaeda anywhere on Earth, but if they want to come to Iraq it will only make our job that much easier. Certainly, we'd rather face the enemy in Mesopotamia than Manhattan.

Looks like that "Fly-Paper Strategy" wasn't such a bad idea, after all.

Bush put it undelicately awhile back by saying, "Bring 'em on." But if the above mentioned items are all true then all the more we need to hold firm in Iraq.

Picture of the day


Baghdad at night...











February 1, 2003
April 11, 2003
October 1, 2003

Images from http://www.cpa-iraq.org/essential_services/electricity.html
Hat tip to David Frum

Pay any price, bear any burden: Hosea 3:1-5


Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." (2) So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. (3) Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you." (4) For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. (5) Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.

Its been a little while since I've written on this semi-regular thread of taking a tour of an obscure but amazing book from the Hebrew Scriptures. If you are curious about what went on before in this story, check the archives for Sept 25 and 29, Oct 5, 8 and 17, and Nov 11. To briefly recap, Hosea was told by God to marry Gomer. Gomer was unfaithful and strayed away. There was amazing poetic descriptions of the betrayal and desire for restoration.

Here in Chapter Three, God instructed Hosea to take back the woman who betrayed him and this text again explicitly makes the analogy that what Hosea and Gomer were experiencing is what God was experiencing with the nation of Israel.

"I bought her." Whoa?! This woman who wandered off from Hosea had to be bought back? It would appear in her waywardness from chapters one and two, she wound up a slave and Hosea had to pay to get her back. And God is telling him not only buy her back but to love her. Hosea paid the price of 15 shekels and 1.5 homers of barely. Shekels were silver coins of the day and each was about one month's wages (denarius another ancient unit of wages was I believe one day's wages) and a homer of barely was some number of bushels. Thus, the payment was not a trivial amount.

Hosea, after freeing her, asked Gomer to be faithful in verse 3. The price was paid with no assurance she would turn from her ways. We do not see any further narrative in the rest of the story indicating how Gomer responded. Chapters 4 to 14 switch exclusively to Hosea's poetic sermons to the people.

Verse 4 forecasts the fall of the nation when the Babylonians take over in 586 BC. Verse 5 was fulfilled when Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the walls and temple in 538 BC. In Christian theology, there is a debate as to whether this verse will be fulfilled again in a larger sense at some point in the future in a restored and powerful nation of Israel. I'm not a theologian but I'm told those who hold a "dispensational" view say Israel will regain a high standing. Those who hold a "covenant" theology position would view fulfillment through the church as the New Israel. I suspect the arguments on both sides are not slam dunks and clear cut which is why a diversity of opinion exists.

What can we agree upon however is this: God wants us to be free from slavery. In this individual narrative, God wanted Gomer to be free and told Hosea to buy her back and love her.

In the Christian world view, freedom is what Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Sunday is about. Christmas, the time when Jesus is born and enters this world to begin the liberation. Good Friday when Jesus died on the Cross to pay the price for sin, selfishness and all that binds us in sorrow and sadness. Easter Sunday when Jesus resurrects as a demonstration of power and proof of victory.

John Kennedy, in his inaugural speech of 1961, said of America, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foes, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

God has done exactly that and far more. God did it when the Jewish people were liberated from slavery in Egypt. God did it through the work of the prophets of Hebrew Scripture. God has done it in Christ and the Cross.

Is God doing it today?

Do we participate in this liberation?

First, we can be recipients of this liberation: thank God almighty, free at last!

Second, we can help set other captives free.

Hosea did in his relationship with Gomer. One man freeing one woman. Most of us won't have to do likewise to that extent. Yet, in our lives, we all have people who are part of our lives. In what way will we be instruments of God for their liberty? What price am I willing to pay? What burden will I bear?

Townhall Meetup


Is the internet really going to change the way politics is done? A lot of political commentary takes place on the internet and in blogs bypassing the traditional print media. All serious campaigns have web pages to post events, provide talking points and, of course, get donations.

Tonight, I'll be going to a meetup for those of us in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. It will be interesting to meet other Townhall.com readers. I'll blog back later.

UPDATE: Just got back from the meetup. There were four of us at the Louise restaurant on Los Feliz and Hillhurst. Imagine: a writer, an artist, an engineer and a medical researcher meeting for dinner because we all happen to visit Townhall.com?

We shared stories about how we came to hold conservative political views, our opinions on the death penalty, the war in Iraq and our hopes that the Arnold will be able to turn California around. We didn't agree on everything but we agreed on a lot of things in particular our respect for President Bush and for Dennis Prager.

We also talked about life. Two in our group shared their stories of raising kids and the wonder of it all in how things turn out in ways you least expect. And with the thanksgiving just past, we all felt a sense of gratitude for being citizens of America. No, we don't blindly believe our country can do no wrong but clearly we are blessed to live in a nation where people care about what is good and right and we have the liberty to pursue our potential.

Public Service Announcement: Beware of Flu


With all the wonders of modern medicine, it is easy to think of flu epidemics as something from our less medically sophisticated past. For instance in 1918, 20 million people died worldwide from the flu. Though we have not had a pandemic on that order since then, flu typically kills 30,000 Americans annually.

This year's flu season appears to have arrived early and the stain appears to be more dangerous than usual as reported here and here.

For a complete FAQ, check out the CDC web site.

If you haven't got your flu vaccine shot yet, please do if at all possible.

The voice of Stardate


As an astronomy fan, I occasionally will catch the Stardate radio broadcasts originating from the MacDonald observatory. As far as I can remember, the wondeful voice of the show is Sandy Wood. I've always wondered what she looked like. Well, now, we can all know by, of course, checking out the Stardate web page.

In case you are too lazy to do that, here it is:

image from http://stardate.org//images/sandy.jpg

Bush trip to Iraq


Like most Americans, I was surprised to hear of the Thanksgiving visit to the troops. They sure know how to keep things quiet. And like most Americans, I was moved by what was shared in that 2 hour visit. And I want to say, I am grateful for our military men and women who are serving us and the world where ever they are.

Andrew Sullivan is all over the story. He has an email from a military person who was there, the carping of Dana Milbank of WaPo, a looney letter to the editor from an SF woman, an email about Bush and Rice as the "normal looking couple" and Sullivan's own take on the visit.

If you are a military person reading this blog or a family member of a military person, let me join with most Americans in saying: Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

What I'm listening to


As usual, I'm behind the curve on pop culture. I recently got introduced to Coldplay's big hit Clocks.

For me, the first thing I notice is the music and if it is catchy and haunting. Then I'll hunt down lyrics which I've pasted below. Clocks has both.

I asked some friends, what does it mean?

We eventually concluded it was a love song or rather a love lost song. I suppose when you hear any song on the radio, if you say it has to do with love you would probably be right 85% of the time? What do you think? Higher or lower?

Onto the lyrics:

Lights go out and I can't be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
You've put me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead (singing)
Come out of things unsaid, shoot an apple of my head (and a)
Trouble that can't be named, tigers waiting to be tamed (singing)
You are, you are

Confusion never stops, closing walls and ticking clocks (gonna)
Come back and take you home, I could not stop, that you now know (singing)
Come out upon my seas, curse missed opportunities (am I)
A part of the cure, or am I part of the disease (singing)

You are [x6]
And nothing else compares
Oh no nothing else compares
And nothing else compares

You are [continues in background]
Home, home, where I wanted to go [x4]

Haunting.

The Matrix movies pose the question of the existence of FREE WILL. Some would deny its existence. Some would question its value if it exists.

What do you think?

Most of people are looking for love and even though many occasions we will experience the love-lost sorrow embodied in a song like Clocks, we dust ourselves off and try again. If that isn't proof of free will, I don't know what is? Love often acts so impractically and for motives beyond procreation. The existence and experience of love is beyond hard-wired biology.

UPDATE: Was looking at the lyrics again. Wonder if the lost love died? The last line if read this way: you are home (died and gone to heaven), home where I wanted to go ... hmmm ...

UPDATE: Regarding free will, here is an interesting link on the subject.

What is at stake for the Turkish


Recent events in Turkey are very disturbing. Postrel comments linking to Sullivan who linked to the original item in the Guardian. Read the whole thing. Excerpts:

After the bombs

Maureen Freely grew up in Istanbul. After Friday's terrorist attacks she caught the first plane back - and found the city bloodied but defiant

Tuesday November 25, 2003
The Guardian

When the bomb exploded outside the synagogue in the old Istanbul neighbourhood of Galata 10 days ago, my brother Brendan was in his flat around the corner. When the bomb went off outside the British consulate five days later, he was on his way to his favourite chicken shop outside the fish market opposite the consulate entrance. If he had left a quarter of an hour earlier, he would no longer be with us.
.................
All the bombs that went off in Istanbul last week were in busy neighbourhoods that hundreds of thousands of people pass through daily. Most of them might be Turkish Muslims, but Istanbul has always been a city of many religions and cultures. A large percentage of the country's Turkish non-Muslims are concentrated in these same areas, as are the city's many thousands of foreign residents and the many hundreds of foreign-owned businesses. The area around the British consulate is teeming with other consulates. There are three churches and a mosque within a few hundred yards. There is no way of targeting foreigners without targeting Turks in these crowded streets and no way of protecting them either. This is presumably why the Foreign Office has advised all British nationals to stay away from the city until further notice, and why almost everyone I know in England thinks I was crazy to fly home on the first plane.
................
So I was expecting to find the streets empty and most of the city's 10 million residents cowering behind closed doors.

Indeed, there was a great hush in the arrivals lounge. For the first time ever, I did not have to queue for a visa. But once we had left the airport, it was hard to see any sign of a crisis. The streets were clogged with traffic and people shopping for the holiday that begins today. The shores of the Bosphorus were lined with fishermen and a procession of large, slow-moving families enjoying the unusually fine weather. The restaurants and cafes were doing a brisk business, and every few hundred metres there was a florist overflowing on to the pavement to meet the seasonal demand.
...................
This was Istanbul's September 11. They thought they were safe from the war on terror because they thought all Muslims were brothers. Now they know otherwise, and are unified in their condemnation of the terrorists, who cannot be "true Muslims". The fact that the terrorists staged this attack in the last days of Ramadan has added to their outrage. But no one is in any doubt why the city has become a terrorist target. How its residents respond to their new status depends very much on how much support they get (or fail to get) from the allies who dragged them into this. As one shopkeeper put it, "Surely, now that we have suffered this, the EU must open its arms to us." If it doesn't, or if the US gives the impression, as it has sometimes done in the past, that it is taking Turkey's "sacrifice" for granted, the sense of betrayal could be huge.

But right now, everyone's mind is on the present, on trying to survive. By that I do not mean that people are avoiding danger, but that they are quite adamantly refusing to let danger change the way they live. [ed. note -- emphasis mine] And God only knows they have had practice. In the past three years, they have been playing this game so much they have hardly had time to breathe. Begin with the earthquake, in which the official death toll was 18,000 but may well have been twice that. Continue with the crippling recession, which has yet to ease, and the crimewave that has followed in its wake. Even so, this has remained an exemplary city. To visit Istanbul over the past few years has been to see friends look after each other in ways that we in the privatised west have long forgotten. According to the local code of conduct, the most dangerous thing is solitude, the next worst thing is to sit at home behind closed doors. The worse things get, the more important it is to go out with your friends and do whatever you have to do to laugh adversity away.
............
Istanbul is not another Riyadh, where foreigners jet in for two or three years to service foreign interests, to live in separate compounds. It has been the opposite of Riyadh since the days of Byzantium. There were large and commercially significant European concessions - Venetian, Genoese, British, and French - and many of their descendants remained in the city throughout the Ottoman Empire. There were 100,000 Greeks in the city right up until the Cyprus crisis in 1964. About a third of the girls in my secondary school were Greek, Armenian, and Jewish. The last time I went to my sister's (Catholic) church I heard a service in which children sang Christmas carols in 17 languages.

Bogazici University, where my father still teaches, has been a Turkish institution since the early 1970s, but for a century before that it was an American college for Turks. When we arrived 43 years ago, most of the faculty was still American and more than a few of them had come here because, like my father, they dreamed of a world beyond McCarthy, 50s conformity and cold war paranoia. We did not lock ourselves up in expatriate isolation; we were part of the city and we still are.

The gulf that divides the east from the west is something we think about a great deal but we do not see it reflected in our everyday lives. Istanbul is more cosmopolitan than it has ever been. Millions have either worked in Germany and other parts of Europe and still have families there. Any family that can afford it makes sure that they give their children a chance to spend time studying abroad. Since the earthquake, eased relations with Greece have opened the way to an array of cultural and educational exchange programmes. The economic links between the two countries are also growing, as have the links with countries in the former eastern bloc.

When I was a child, Istanbul was an enchanted but neglected cold war outpost. Over the past decade, I have watched it become the hub for all the regions that surround it, a city neither eastern nor western but both at the same time. It still is, but for how much longer?

Not a pleasant thought


Instapundit relates this rather disturbing possibility. But I guess we have to take the Israelis as our example: you go on with your life anyway.

Let the hype begin...


MSNBC/Newsweek has this story about the soon to arrive, "The Return of the King." I'm really looking forward to it. Will it live up to the hype? Matrix stumbled to the finish line. The second trilogy of Star Wars has been only B+.

Bush speech in London


Postrel has an extended excerpt of the speech. See WH release for the full text. Here is an excerpt:

The movement of history will not come about quickly. Because of our own democratic development -- the fact that it was gradual and, at times, turbulent -- we must be patient with others. And the Middle East countries have some distance to travel.

Arab scholars speak of a freedom deficit that has separated whole nations from the progress of our time. The essentials of social and material progress -- limited government, equal justice under law, religious and economic liberty, political participation, free press, and respect for the rights of women -- have been scarce across the region. Yet that has begun to change. In an arc of reform from Morocco to Jordan to Qatar, we are seeing elections and new protections for women and the stirring of political pluralism. Many governments are realizing that theocracy and dictatorship do not lead to national greatness; they end in national ruin. They are finding, as others will find, that national progress and dignity are achieved when governments are just and people are free.

The democratic progress we've seen in the Middle East was not imposed from abroad, and neither will the greater progress we hope to see. Freedom, by definition, must be chosen, and defended by those who choose it. Our part, as free nations, is to ally ourselves with reform, wherever it occurs.

Perhaps the most helpful change we can make is to change in our own thinking. In the West, there's been a certain skepticism about the capacity or even the desire of Middle Eastern peoples for self-government. We're told that Islam is somehow inconsistent with a democratic culture. Yet more than half of the world's Muslims are today contributing citizens in democratic societies. It is suggested that the poor, in their daily struggles, care little for self-government. Yet the poor, especially, need the power of democracy to defend themselves against corrupt elites.

Peoples of the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and a need for freedom as deep as our own. It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it.

Really hope all involved can live up to these high ideals. I want to believe.

Just surfing and rambling...



Instapundit essay...
Great post over at Insta-Pundit about the uniqueness of America and how the experience of the Civil War is a part of that.

Bruin fan defends USC sort of...
As a UCLA fan, it pains me to know the odds makers are giving us 22 points. It would be a terrific end to a dismal season to derail USC's National Title hopes. However, it would seem the BCS computers are doing a fine job all by themselves. Ohio State jumped to #2 in the BCS poll but USC is #2 in the "human" polls. Look, as a Bruin, I want to see USC lose but ON THE FIELD not because some computer programers say so. In the article, there is a side-bar with speculation on how Oklahoma could lose one of their next two games and still wind up in the BCS championship game.

McLachlan's Music...
Recently downloaded on my iPOD is Sarah McLachlan's "Fallen". I'm new to her music. The instrumentals are outstanding and her vocal quality terrific. Then there are these lyrics:
Heaven bent to take my hand
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
to a long and painful fight

Truth be told I've tried my best
but somewhere along the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
and the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though i've tried, I've fallen..
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
better I should know
So don't come round here
and tell me i told you so....

We all begin with good intent
Love was raw and young
We believed that we could change ourselves
The past could be undone

But we carry on our backs the burden
Time always reveals
The lonely light of morning
the wound that would not heal
it's the bitter taste of losing everything
that i have held so dear.

Though i've tried, I've fallen..
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
better I should know
So don't come round here
and tell me i told you so....

Heaven bent to take my hand
nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to those i thought were friends
to everyone i know
Oh they turned their heads embarassed
pretend that they don't see
but it's one missed step
you'll slip before you know it
and there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed

Though i've tried, I've fallen..
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
better I should know
So don't come round here
and tell me i told you so....

Muscians are the poets of our day and put into words the inexpressible feelings many of us feel.

As I listen to this song, it is a sad one but I find myself hearing an echo of the Christian faith,
Heaven bent to take my hand and lead me through the fire...
Heaven bent to take my hand nowhere left to turn...
and there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed...


Oh, Sarah, I wonder if you were thinking of the Cross? Jesus taking up the Cross was "heaven bent to take our hands." The Cross, the emblem of suffering and shame of Roman totalitarianism seems to be the furthest thing from what it IS: redemption and freedom for all of us who have fallen.

A monday news round-up...


This blogspot was pro-recall so to see this day actually happen is just amazing... woo hoo!

AARP backs GOP Medicare legislation. Wonder how the Democrat opposition will respond? They have been trying to portray the Republicans as wanting to throw grandmum over the cliff when it comes to Medicare and Social Security issues. Will they be backpedeling furiously knowing that the senior vote is one of the most power voting blocks in the USA?

Louisiana governor's race pretty much flew under the radar. In the end, the GOP candidate, an Indian-American came up just short. Jandel, at 32, will have other chances or perhaps he will return to a quiet life out of the public eye. Either way, this blogger wishes him and his family all the best.



More Stacey Pressman of ESPN


Who would have thought I'd find such fascinating sports related non-sports material on ESPN.com. Having been intrigued by the Stacey Pressman essay on Metrosexuality, I found out she has been writing for ESPN.com about lots of stuff.
To see her archive go here.

Anyway, looking over the titles of her articles, I checked out this one. Excerpts:

I can't tell you how many times I've heard it:

Girls would be shocked to find out what guys really want.

"Stacey, you're young, attractive, you've got a great job, you've got so much going for you and you're a girl who knows and loves sports."

Now here's the clincher:

"I can't believe you, of all people, don't have a boyfriend!"

This observation is enough to send any 20-something single female into a quarterlife crisis. But before I seek out Dr. Phil, or Gloria Steinem-ize the fact that I don't need a man to validate my existence, I want to vent my frustration about that generic "you-know-sports-so-guys-must-like-you" descriptor:

It's a farce.

It's a lie.

It's not even remotely true.

Let's face it -- men really don't like women who know sports.

Alas, as a male, I have to say she might be right on this point. Men have egos and like to feel competent about something... anything! Certainly sports has been a traditional male domain.

I'd like to believe my ego isn't that fragile. 8-)

There was one other article that just had me laughing. Check this one out for the isn't dating life awful sometimes file. Excerpts:

I'm about at the end of my rapidly fraying rope.

My girlfriends tell me I can't be so picky, I need to give guys a chance. So, like Coach Devine of Notre Dame with 27 seconds left, I opted to put Rudy in the game. For some reason, my game always feels like there's 27 seconds left. I decided that the next guy to ask me out, in person, regardless of who he was or what he looked like, that I would go. I'm a true humanitarian, what can I say?

So here I was on this date the other night under the pretense that we would "get something to eat" and watch a "war" movie. Can you believe I agreed to the latter? Like Ricky Williams, I think I consulted Master P before signing this bad-ass deal.

In the end, I was cool with it. We agreed to watch "Braveheart." Seen it a million times. Loved it!

My date, for what it's worth, wasn't bad looking, either. Polite and considerate, too.
............
He couldn't just settle for our "Braveheart" agreement. He called an audible at the line of scrimmage. Without consultation, he insisted upon watching every major battle scene in each of the movies on the table.

I thought I was going to lose it. Who invites a girl over and does that?
............
Like a WNBA game, it was utter torture. After about 90 minutes of this nonsense and all my hair pulled out, I threw the flag.

Do you think I was unreasonable?

All I can say is he should be thankful I don't have NFL referee Jeff Triplette's aim, or he could have ended up with injuries worse than Orlando Brown.
Awww, Stacey, you weren't unreasonable!

Dear readers, don't worry, this blog isn't going to turn into a soap opera. It just was too funny to find such stuff on a sports web page and I just had to blog it.

Post-WWII Skirmishing


Saw this item over at Sullivan's Daily Dish where he quotes from this item over at CounterRevolutionary.

They both make the point that post toppling of Nazi Germany, there were still some local people who still backed the Nazi party. Clearly the situation in Iraq is a bit more dicey because the die hard Baathists have so many stashes of ammo and other weapons of war laying around and then there are those foreign fighters sneaking in who see their chance for glory.

We shall see what the latest meeting with Bremer at the WH will yield and what the thinking is within the Central Command about how to bring the situation under control.

Pulling out would be a disaster for the Iraqis as the Baathists will just restore totalitarian rule and would embolden terrorists figuring the US doesn't have the stomach to stand and fight.

Hosea 2:16-23


Thought I'd go back to the Hosea thread I started awhile back! Take a look at the following passage and see what you think?!

(16) "It will come about in that day," declares the LORD,
"That you will call Me Ishi
And will no longer call Me Baali.
(17) "For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
(18) "In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety.
(19) "I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
(20) And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the LORD.

(21) "It will come about in that day that I will respond," declares the LORD.
"I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth,
(22) And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil,
And they will respond to Jezreel.
(23) "I will sow her for Myself in the land.
I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion,
And I will say to those who were not My people,
'You are My people!'
And they will say, ' You are my God!' "

More word play in this poetry. "Ishi" is "husband" and "Baali" is "master" in verse 16. "Baals" is also "master" in verse 17. Scripture sometimes uses a master-servant relationship to describe the relationship between God and humanity. But here in the wordplay, it is clear that God prefers the husband-wife metaphor with the negation in v. 16 and the extolling of the marriage relationship metaphor in vv. 19-20.

A master-servant relationship is mostly obligation and some elements of fear. In the marriage metaphor, love and freedom are the dominant dimensions.

The poetry then goes into two cycles:
1) a picture of nature and peace in v. 18
2) the husband-wife analogy in vv. 19-20.
1') the blessings in the natural world, vv. 21-22
2') the joy of restored relationship in v. 23.

God is the perfect blend of love and justice. Unfortunately, many people have a picture of God as only the fire and brimstone angry God. Or they have a picture of God as indifferent. I wish these folks would have the chance to read this part of the Bible because we see here a God of love and seeking relationship with us. The whole Christmas message is God seeking us and coming to us in an unexpected way.

Who is gonna run against Boxer?


Boxer keeps surviving elections because California is a heavily Democrat state and it will be hard to dislodge her. Who will take her on?

So far, I have heard of Toni Casey who has a nice biography but almost zero name recognition. There was some buzz that Dennis Prager might run but in listening to his radio show he sounded like he didn't want to do it and if he were going to run, you would think he would have announced by now and started fund raising like mad.

On the Hugh Hewitt show, Hugh often has David Drier on as a guest. Today, he asked Drier about running. Drier said he is thinking about it but from his comments, it sounds like he doesn't want to give up his powerful post in the House.

If the GOP can't field a viable candidate, I suppose I'll just vote for the libertarian candidate as a protest vote.

UPDATE: A little web surfing yielded, this page of candidates. Hmmm... don't recognize a name on that list. Drat.

The buzz about Metrosexuality at ESPN


I confess I'm often behind the curve on the latest cultural trends. I can still remember a few years back somebody asked me if I liked "Hoottie and the Blowfish?" I said, "What?"

So that gives you some idea of how (not) current I can be about aspects of pop culture.

On Friday morning, as I was driving to work, I heard Mike and Mike on ESPN radio talking about Metrosexuality and I was saying, "What?"

Eventually, I caught on to what they were talking about and they referred listeners to the ESPN.com web page where articles could be found to clue in the clueless like me.

Apparently, this discussion thread got some fuel when Stacey Pressman decided to enter the fray by lamenting the whole phenomena. Excerpt:
It's been an abysmal summer of endless channel-surfing: "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" followed by "Boy Meets Boy" and "Will & Grace" re-runs. Click. Click. Revisits to last season's "Sex and the City." "Trading Spaces." "Extreme Makeover." I would venture to say that our culture is in dire need of an injection of testosterone -- not Botox.
....................
America is being besieged by a dude who has been dubbed the "metrosexual" and who is gaining cultural currency by the minute. Surely you've encountered him? He's the post-makeover straight guy on "Queer Eye." He's the guy who scoffs at an $8 haircut at Supercuts and never lets anyone but Jean-Louis coiffure his locks for 36 bucks a pop. He might also be the guy who just traded in his red Saturn for the sprightly chili-red Mini Cooper.
...................
Mark Simpson, a British writer who coined the term "metrosexual" back in 1994, wrote a fascinating article for Salon.com last year, defining this man. Simpson writes: "The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis -- because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere."
....................
I liken the metrosexual to the female body builder. While there is nothing wrong with a woman who is healthy and physically fit, who works out and builds muscle mass, there is something aesthetically unappealing when taken to the extreme. She looks masculine. To me, all of the lifestyle characteristics of the metrosexual man make him look feminine.

Frankly, I'm done with the back-and-crack-waxing-salon-spa guy. Does America really need to see all of this "manscaping?" What's wrong with a good old-fashioned manly man? One who doesn't know the difference between mauve and taupe, and who won't refer to his wardrobe as "couture." Heck, I'll take him color-blind.

To me, there is something endearing about a man with wrinkled khakis, the kind that signifies, "I'm not too perfect." You boys can have your Armani and Gucci man boutiques. You can strive for overpriced perfection. I'll find the Armani guy. Only he'll be on a TJ Maxx rack with a tag dangling off him that reads "slightly irregular." Any savvy shopper knows there's nothing wrong with a faint quirk. It's called a good deal.
.........................
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for sensitivity. I'm perfectly fine with the salmon shirt and the between-you-and-me admission of your affinity for Rick Astley's music. But as far I'm concerned, the only person who's supposed to use the $26 bottle of 'Bumble and Bumble' shampoo and fret over hair ... is me. For you? It's 'Pert Plus All in One' in your grimy green bottle, on sale for $3.49 at CVS.
.........................
I recognize that I cross over into the male stereotype when I embrace football. But at least I'm able to retain my femininity while I do it. I appreciate the game. I am not trying to convince Marty Schottenheimer to insert me into his "cat" defense. Just remember that the next time you're eyeballing my loofah hanging in the shower. I certainly am aware that male vanity is here to stay, but you can still use a washcloth (or nothing) and a simple bar of Zest. It won't kill you.

I really hope I'm not alone in this. And I hope the rest of the country is just as starved for a resurgence of masculinity. Mind you, this is not a call for a return to Bill Romanowski-brand, loincloth barbarism. But there is something to be said for masculine vigor, verve and fortitude, and maybe even a little endearing fashion cluelessness -- all traits that have been placed on pop culture's endangered species list recently.

Football may just be the answer.
I was thinking of giving equal time quotes to Mike Greenberg as he wrote a rebuttal to Pressman. But then I thought, this is the blogosphere: I have an opinion and I'll state it and equal time rules need not apply.

Greenie and Golic's morning show is noted for their weekly, "Just shut up" feature. And on this occasion, I have to nominate Greenberg's mewling response for a "Just shut up" award! Go ahead and click if you must. As for Stacey, would love to meet her. Or her sisters or her friends who are like minded.

Greenberg's partner is the polar opposite and continuing the discussion, they did a side-by-side interview are on this issue.

If you are still curious, try the Metrosexual test they have devised.

I'm a modern traditionalist when it comes to gender roles. Traditionalist in that I'll walk a woman to her car, open doors for her, stand when she arrives and all that old fashioned stuff. And of course, as a male, I like sports and my dressing ability proves the adage, sometimes a blind squrrel can find an acorn. I am also a modernist in that I'm big on the empowerment and equal opportunity for women. I count it one of God's blessings in my life that I know a number of capable, bright and independent women. My manhood isn't treatened by the fact that on some things they are smarter and more able than me.

Regarding the metrosexuality test, suffice to say I flunked big time. And needless to say, one of my more culturally aware friends said when I asked about this whole metrosexuality thing: you are definitely NOT one!

UPDATE: Because I take Christian faith and practice seriously, I feel I need to make an addendum here. I refer you to the good natured kidding around Greenberg and Golic have on their radio show. They are total opposites on this issue and they work together and sound like great friends. I'd like to believe I'd be able to do the same. I just confess that I don't know any guys like Greenberg!

Wisdom of the common folks


Saw this item while reading the LA Times during lunch. The Zagat's of Zagat guide fame defend their approach about using ordinary folks to rate restaurants. Excerpts:
Ever since we started asking diners to rate and review restaurants 24 years ago -- in the process creating a series of bestselling guidebooks based on consumer opinion -- one group has remained a tad uneasy about our success: professional food critics.
..........
Aside from the fact that "democracy run amok" sounds like a line written by Gray Davis, we think something else is at work. Whenever a commentator starts to talk about standards, you know whose standards he's trying to protect - his own. Which is exactly why we started canvassing diners nearly a quarter of a century ago, to find a consensus of customer opinion about a given restaurant as a reality check to the Oz-like authority of the professionals.

We love food critics - they are some of the liveliest, wittiest and most outspoken writers working. But do they really possess shaman-like wisdom that the rest of us lack? And are they the only source of reliable dining information?
..............
Nearly 6,100 frequent diners participated in our new Los Angeles survey, eating an average of 3.7 meals out per week and averaging 9.5 visits throughout the year to each restaurant they rated. That means they were sampling an establishment across all seasons, when ingredients and preparations can vary tremendously, to say nothing of the air conditioning or the mood swings and "off" days of the hostess, chef and wait staff.

By contrast, most critics are lucky if they get two or three meals under their belt for any one review, including when they have their own mood swings and off days. Collectively, our diners took in 3,200 restaurant meals a day in L.A. We've yet to meet the reviewer who can make room for that kind of consumption.

And who is really more prone to getting the preferential treatment that could yield a weighted verdict — a large cross section of diners whose identities are unknown to the restaurant, or the prominent food critic whose photo is taped to the kitchen wall or who may socialize with the chef, as many professional food writers do?
......................
When we started surveying diners in 1979, there was little place in food criticism for restaurants outside the so-called top tier. Neighborhood eateries just didn't register on the typical critic's radar. What's happened in the last 24 years is nothing short of a revolution, not only in how and where Americans eat out and what kinds of foods they crave, but also in the way in which ordinary diners have become empowered to make informed choices. They draw from their own peer-to-peer intelligence, rather than depending on the self-imposed standards of the almighty critic.

If that sounds like democracy run amok, tell us where to vote.
I confess, I sometimes feel this way about movie critics, art critics and political pundits! I suppose in some ways that is why the blogging phenomena is so interesting as the voices are ordinary folks. There is a place for the "expert" commentator but for many things the voice of the common people or the vote of the free market is often closer to the truth.

Why Presidents Grow Old Before Our Eyes


Cori Dauber makes an important point over at Volokh conspiracy about the different roles the President must take up. Here is an excerpt:
Untenable Rhetorical Situation: This president, I think, is in a rhetorical box that there may not be a way out of. This is the second time this week the Times has brought up the idea of the president attending military funerals. (Sunday, of course, Maureen Dowd was on him for not attending for any.) But he can't. For the president, he has to retain a relationship with the soldiers as Commander-in-Chief, where military losses are tragic tears in the national fabric. Funerals are places where soldiers shed their impersonal role as "soldier" are return to their individual role as "family member." The Commander-in-Chief can't personally participate in that.
.........
The way to win the war and to stop the killing of Americans is to prove we are willing to accept the deaths of Americans. Hence lines like, "bring it on." But the president can never only communicate to the enemy. Whatever he says is also heard by a domestic audience, where saying it leaves him open to being portrayed as "insensitive" to the "pain" of American losses, callous, etc etc.
It is these kinds of "no win" situations that Presidents face all the time and it makes them grow old before our eyes.

Online Art Gallery

Online Art Gallery








































I've had a small number of conversations with Lynn Aldrich and found her passion for her craft inspiring and her honesty about art's place in society and the life of faith thoughtful. When she mentioned that an exhibit of her work would be coming up soon, I broached the idea of developing a web based discussion about it and was delighted when she agreed to the idea.

The process of art involves people dropping in for a look and then taking away their own interpretations and impressions without meeting the artist face-to-face. Part of that often will take the shape of a "party game" of telling stories about the art. A picture or object is seen and then speculation takes place. This is part of the enjoyment and understanding of art. This stimulates creative discussions and often if two or more individuals are participating they can come up with completely different ideas. Of course, this takes merely a few minutes and nothing is written down and in nearly all cases the artist never knows of the myriad of random comments that get made.

When Aldrich agreed to this project, she asked me not to read the exhibit catalog (I only read the page that gave the titles to the works, materials used and dimensions) that has some essays about the works by her and other artists. She wanted the art work to speak for itself. This ground rule was an explicit statement of what implicitly happens when an artist hangs her work in the gallery.

However, this web "dialog" departs from the usual art process in that the artist gets to see in writing the thoughts of two viewers. We will also get to see brief comments from the artist. This is a luxury an art viewer and artist normally don't get.

My background is that of a molecular biologist. My extended comments are marked (R). To further simulate the experience of a typical art visit, the essays below also include some brief remarks from Beth, my friend who is a philosophy of religion graduate student. Her comments are marked (B). Aldrich's comments are marked (LA).

Now, please come into the gallery via the internet.


The exhibit entitled, "Research and Development" runs from October 11 to November 8, 2003.
Carl Berg Gallery
6018 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-931-6060
info@carlberggallery.com
http://www.carlberggallery.com
Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

Photography notes: Images were captured on traditional 35mm film -- Fuji 1600 and Kodak 400 ASA print film -- in a Pentax ZX-M and ZX-5N with 28mm, 50mm and 135mm lenses. An 80A color correction filter was used along with a tripod. Samy's Camera in-house photo processing was used.

(1) "Far Out" (2002) Modeling compound, gesso, acrylic, oil on lampshade, 14" x 28" x 10"







(2) "Worm Hole" (2003) Fake fur on cardboard tubes, 48" x 48" x 25'

R: When I stepped into the Carl Berg Gallery, to the left was this yellow orb. Emotions are states of mind and associated with colors. We think of being red-faced with anger, green with envy and feeling blue. Cartoon smiling faces are yellow circles with two dots for eyes and an upturned arc for a smile. When I saw the fluorescent yellow, I felt a warm welcome.

The other thought that came to mind was the yellow orb of the sun in the sky. The color hung there. Upon closer inspection, you'll discover this object was a lampshade with the inside painted the bright, happy yellow color. A playful optical illusion by the artist.

B: The exhibit is entitled, "Research and Development." How does this theme connect the works of art?

R: Good question. This work appeared to be a continuation of Aldrich's explorations of the usage of color on the interior of lampshades that create optical illusions and evoke a response in the viewer. To see another example of this type of work, go to this Calvin College exhibit and see the work entitled, "The Violet Hour."

Perhaps she thinks of her body of work as in progress: developing new concepts, refining old ones and researching new ways to create visual stories? "Violet Hour" might be like an earlier exploration of communicating ideas with that media. She is an experimentalist.

LA: This whole idea of Rene's to do an on-line conversation is a welcome adventure. I'm somewhat apprehensive that my verbal contribution will dissolve the dialogical energy, since I'm the one who made the visual stuff. I'd much rather watch you guys "go for it" because I've already stared at these things for the longest time in my studio and feel pretty myopic at this point. I'll just say that I strive for complex analogies embedded within simple constructs. And for me, the activity of being an artist is an ongoing investigation of existence (research) resulting in the production of material objects (development).

























R: As I entered the first large room of the gallery, my eye was immediately drawn to the large object on the floor. It was a series of connected tubes of increasing diameter. At the small end, a lit light bulb sat.

Colored materials lined the interior of the tubes. At the light bulb end the materials were dark colors. As the diameter expands and moves away from the bulb, the colored materials were lighter.

Having grown up watching too much science fiction, I thought of a worm hole, the hypothetical distortions in the universe that can connect very distant locations. Click here to read more than you'll ever want to know or understand about them.

The choice of including a light bulb at one end and light fabric at the other may have some meaning? Thus, both ends were illuminated but in different ways. The light bulb's intensity was not sustained all the way to the end of the tubing. Yet, the fabric at the other end was a light bright color.

To see three more pictures of this object, click here.

We often think of light metaphorically as illumination of the mind or understanding (the light bulb went on above their heads) and so this worm hole connecting two distant points was illuminated at both ends. Perhaps this is a visual story of the inter-relationship of ideas. In this case: how two distant ideas can be connected in some way and be illuminating simultaneously in different ways.

B: Maybe this is a symbol for inner transformation caused by the "light of the world" (Christ metaphor). This process of transformation/sanctification takes time. At the end of the process, we are made like Christ, bright/yellow and holy. We are bigger people--hence the larger spheres.

R: I like that idea. Perhaps that is the connection between the two distant points? I'll be very curious to hear the narrative of the artist about this complex piece.

LA: I can only say that I am humbled and inspired by your theological interpretations, as well as by your acute perceptual observations of physical objects, a practice I had assumed would be underdeveloped in the on-line generation. In "Worm Hole", as in other works, I am not interested in narrative reads but rather in more slippery, layered metaphors which you are already tapping into. I consider the various materials themselves to generate meaning which is always already present (something like Incarnation). My job is to make decisions about how to present this meaning (scale, arrangement, amount, site, etc.) while interfering as little as possible.

(3) "Fling and Catch" (2003) Thread, paper tape, dimensions variable

(4) "Sea Change" (2003) Sponges, scrubbers, brushes, scouring pads on plastic tub, 25" x 23" x 18"

R: The next object I examined was the corner one. It was practically impossible to capture it on film. Aldrich told me that the pro photographers had trouble with it too. It was colored threads and white tape. Was it conceptual art? A couple of years ago, I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles and there was a series of panels with pencil marks. The docent explained that the marks were placed within certain "rules" set by the artist. Thus, the work was conceptual because it could be reproduced anywhere by following the rules governing its produciton. The rules provided some constraint, yet flexibility to yield variety and interesting patterns. Those rules were not obvious and so the marks seemed random and in a sense they were, yet, they fall within the confines of the "rules."

Were there some "rules" to the selection of colored threads? Their length? Their positioning? These three dimensions, degrees of freedom, defined this object. Merely three, yet in various combinations chosen by the artist, the result was something beautiful and intriguing.

With the title, "Fling and Catch," perhaps Aldrich was paying homage to Jackson Pollack who was noted for dripping and splashing paint. Here Aldrich is tossing threads and taping them down. Pollack's work seemed random but nobody can replicate his work. There was, as it were, a method to his madness.

What does this say about the nature of what is aesthetically appealing? Total symmetry induces boredom. Total chaos induces revulsion. What does that say about how life is to be lived?

LA: In "Fling and Catch", I was thinking about how spiders will seem to fling themselves out into the middle of nowhere and try to catch on something when I came across a poem by Walt Whitman which mentions that very phenomenon ("The Noiseless, Patient Spider"). So I made a couple of rules for myself in the construction of the piece -- each thread will be a unique color (the largest version has all 200 colors of sewing thread made by Coats and Clark). Every thread has to start on one wall of a corner and cross in a straight line to the opposite wall without altering the trajectory of the other threads.






R: There seems to be some ironic humor in the bright colors of these mundane objects. What could be more mundane than doing the dishes, the thankless chore of daily life? Yet, here before the viewer was a tub socked full of various dish cleaning accessories and its bright colors radiate a cheery feeling. Is the artist merely having some fun? Could the artist be making a bigger statement?

In an exchange before my photo shoot, I asked Aldrich about the conventions of titles for art works to which she said:
As far as titles go, I do select my titles carefully and consider them part of the work. They might nudge the viewer in a particular direction or open up a window on meaning. However, the work has to be interesting to look at without the title, and some viewers probably never even read the titles.
The item above was entitled, "Sea Change." I began to think tangential and in symbolic terms. Change and transformation require hard work and often daily effort (like washing dishes). For some odd reason I thought of the Shawn Colvin song, "Sunny Came Home" (1998). That song has a haunting sound and tortured lyrics. Within the song itself, there is no backstory, we don't know why Sunny needs to gather her children, burn her house down and flee. We only know that to resist change would cost more than changing everything drastically. We only know that in the end, there is a sense of liberation in making the change:
Oh light the sky and hold on tight...
The world is burning down,
She's out there on her own -
and she's alright.
Sunny came home...


Perhaps "Sea Change" was a picture of life change, of cleansing, of transformation and a bright and hopeful one at that? After we experience transformation in life, we can look back with some humor and recognize the multitudinous implements that helped bring it about. Don't we often say of interesting people that they lived a colorful life?

B: This to me looked like a tide pool with sea anenomes in it. Who knows what it could mean but it made me laugh!

LA: Yes, I think this piece is humorous. It also brings up questions of reality and illusion, biodiversity and the wonders of commercial product design. Beneath the whimsy, is my (ineffectual) but sincere longing to "clean up" the oceans.

(5) "Clean Water Act" (2003) Hose, pipes, acrylic on wood, 34" x 26" x 4"

(6) "Serpentarium" (2002) Garden hose, cable ties, plastic, 30" x 25" x 25"

R: The next object seemed to me like the "Far Out" piece: an optical illusion. Up close, I can see that it is cut up pieces of PVC pipes, hoses and other assorted round tubular objects of varying diameters, thicknesses, height and colors. But looking straight on, I see bubbles. Imagine a big aquarium with lots of bubbles rising up along the glass. In fact, so many bubbles that that is about all you see.

Life at times is not what it seems. Here objects associated with the transport of water when looked at a different way look like objects that transport air.

When I found out the title of the work was, "Clean Water Act," my impressions went in another direction. I looked at it again. I thought: coral. One indicator of the health of an ocean eco-system is the health of its coral. These tubes with their colors and sizes together formed a texture that made me think of coral.

B: Perhaps it takes many different hoses owned by many different types of people to actually have a successful clean water act. It takes participation on the local level--individuals need to be involved; represented by the many different individual hoses. Does this have anything to do with the "living water?" Living water being another Christ metaphor.



R: Having seen a photo of "Garden Story" which was exhibited at Calvin College, this piece looked familiar. The garden hose as snake in Eden was a menacing image there. That impression was provoked by this work as well. It is even more frightening because the plastic tie "teeth" stick out of the maw of the monster.

I must again confess to having seen too many science fiction films because as I walked around and looked at this object, I found myself remembering the film Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi - Episode Six. For fans of the film, do you remember the crazy looking creature in the desert of Tatooine that was about to be feed Luke, Han and the rest of our heros?

These were my impression before I saw the title to this object. After finding out that it was called, "Serpentarium." The sense of fear became greater. Planetarium, an enclosed place to see stars projected on a curved dome. Aquarium, an enclosed space with water and creatures that live in water. Terrarium, an enclosed container where soil and plants interact to form an environment. Key word: enclosed. Imagine being trapped in something like a Serpentarium? Drat, those movie images come to mind again! Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy and Marion are trapped with a bunch of snakes underground?

Trapped. And trapped in ordinary materials: garden hose and plastic ties. I was talking with a friend a month ago. He was observing: people understand that the mass murderer is evil, the violent person is evil and other really obvious things are evil. But what we don't understand is that evil is also the little things like selfishness, ingratitude, unforgiveness and indifference. These little things are like the rot that makes houses collapse and the mold that spoils food. The temptation of the Garden was not some terrible and obvious overt evil and so it is often for us today.

B: Why does Aldrich use lamp shades and garden hoses? She has been doing many works with these materials.

R: Research and development?




(7) "Pools and Windows" (2003) Gold leaf paint, acrylic, oil on book pages mounted on museum board, 87" x 148"

(8) "Dark Glass" (2002) Corrigated plastic, fiberglass, 37" x 27" x 10"




R: This object was huge. It was made up of individual panels. For a moment, I thought it might have been magazine pictures cut out and pasted on top of the gold paint but upon closer inspection, I think it was the other way around with the paint covering the photos. In some cases, the image that shows through was a swimming pool, in others a window showed through. In some cases I think there was a picture of the sky and the gold paint formed the frame of the window. I didn't check every panel in the work but I'm guessing no two panels were alike. To see six more images of different panels up close click here.

What was the message here? Since there were so many panels, would each panel have a story? Or were they all variations on the same theme?

Given that all the panels were different, perhaps there was some kind of message about individuality? People who own nice homes can choose their windows and swimming pools as a reflection of their individual tastes. But in a home, there are many other items that can reflect the owner's personality. What is it about windows and pools? Windows are the portals to view the outside world. Pools are the place of leisure. Might there be some message about those choices? What do they tell us about the person or society making those choices?

Then there was the choice of gold colored paint. Would the meaning of the art work be different if another color was choosen? Gold is the color of wealth. Wealth interacting with choices tells us about people/societies and their values.

B: Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Does beauty need anyexplanation?

LA: In some ways, this work, "Pools and Windows," is actually an overt cliche of beauty, with an inherent accompanying sadness over that problem -- heavy gold leaf paint over pages of "heavenly blue" designer swimming pools for the rich and famous. I wanted to title this piece "Poolside Baptism with Light Therapy", but I didn't trust my instincts. The reality is that I live in a city (El Lay) where people walk around looking fabulously refreshed, physically and spiritually, but it's a desert.





R: The final object in this tour of the Aldrich exhibit was on the south wall. It looked like plastic materials of varying degrees of opacity. The lightest one was on the top and the progression was toward darker pieces. It would appear that was an optical illusion like "Far Out" and "Clean Water Act."

The item was entitled, "Dark Glass," further suggesting the optical illusion intent for the item was made of plastic. But the combination of the plastic together formed the optical characteristics of a dark glass. Click here for two more views of this object.

St. Paul described our earthly life as looking through a glass darkly. Because of this, some people would say religious faith is anti-thetical to reason. But is that really true? In life, we are always working with partial knowledge. If we could only decide upon a course of action with 100% certainty, we would never act. As a scientist, the idea of degrees of certainty about what we perceive is something I interact with daily. We use our partial knowledge to form a hypothesis and proceed to experimentation and then re-evaluate.

Having sat in jury duty once on a criminal case, I had to face the practical application of the phrase, "beyond a reasonable doubt." Interestingly, in law, there are degrees of certainty also. Criminal law has the strictest standard, "beyond a reasonable doubt." In civil law, the standard is the looser, "preponderance of the evidence." And in an pre-trial hearing, the standard is "probable cause."

What standard of certainty do we ask for when we have to make decisions in our lives? I suppose that is why one virtue promoted by Christianity is humility. We see another human being through dark glasses and can't know their full story. We see the future through dark glasses and can only plan knowing plans can be changed.

LA: Utopian modernists said we could know everything and make it fit into a master narrative. Contemporary postmodernists (after their thinking filters down to the masses) say we can't know anything because whatever I think up is as good a guess as whatever you think up or anybody else. But somewhere in-between is St. Paul who, simultaneously acknowledges both knowledge and mystery as the complimentary attributes of reality.



About the artist


Aldrich was born in Texas but grew up in many places being from a military family. She obtained a BA in English Literature from the University of North Carolina. Later, she earned a BA in Fine Arts from California State University at Northridge and then a MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and many other venues. Her art has been profiled in various publications such as Los Angeles Times, Artweek, New York Times, L.A. Weekly, and Artforum. She has taught at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She works at a studio in downtown Los Angeles.

Click here to see some other works by Aldrich that can be found on the Internet.

I thank the staff at the Carl Berg Gallery for the opportunity to photograph this exhibit and Lynn Aldrich for arranging the photo shoot and discussions about her work.

The Carl Berg Gallery opened in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles in late September of 2003 and has a wonderful space for displaying art. If you are ever in the neighborhood, contact them with the information below to see what is on exhbit and enjoy a visit.
Carl Berg Gallery
6018 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-931-6060
info@carlberggallery.com
http://www.carlberggallery.com
Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

Gender Genie


The "Big Three" have been blogging about the Gender Genie program that analyzes writing and determines whether the writer is male or female. See what Andrew, Glenn, and Virginia have to say.

So I tried it on my blog entries. My Monday, October 27, 2003 entry, "Weekend round-up" came up with this score:
Words: 372
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 561
Male Score: 825

Okay, somewhat male! But under 500 words so I tried another entry. I feed in my Friday, October 24, 2003 entry about "Catcher In the Rye" and this came back:
Words: 434
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 1038
Male Score: 589

Oh my, my feminine side was showing! But again, not over 500 words.

I looked for a longer post and found my Friday, October 17, 2003 essay on Hosea 2:14-15. I didn't include the Bible text itself and this is the result:
Words: 555
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 608
Male Score: 1393

Whew, I'm male afterall!

Just one more to be sure?! I went back to Tuesday, June 10, 2003 where I made long winded comments in "More on the Matrix Reloaded" and this was spat back at me:
Words: 785
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 1014
Male Score: 2380

Heh. And like the great Insta, I can cook too.

GO Bruins!


Not much was expected of the UCLA Bruin football team this year. And they still have time to live down to the lowered expectations. There are four games left in the season.

This weekend, all eyes are on Washington State and USC as they are the top two Pac10 teams in the eyes of the BCS. Technically, UCLA is tied for the Pac10 lead but because the victories were so anemic, the pollsters think UCLA is lucky. As an honest sports viewer, I can't dispute that. The key is how the Bruins do in their final four games. Stanford is a road game and thus always dangerous. Oregon, WSU and USC follow and each have the offense to make the Bruins look bad. Npw, if the Bruins go 4-0 I'll be really amazed. A 2-2 finish would be very respectable.

Hoping for the best.

clap - clap - clap - clap - clap - clap -clap - clap - U - C - L - A - fight, fight, fight!!!!

Christian Apologists on the Web


It is good to see some Christians are taking their perspectives onto the internet. So often, people of faith are slow to adopt new technology.

Anyway, those hostile to faith have their own site and they have their right to do that. I can imagine there are many others. But it is good to see, these two sites, here and here taking up the cause of Christianity. Check 'em and look up your questions and see if they address it.

Economy on the upswing?


Saw this item that says the economy might be moving again. I would guess such growth rates aren't sustainable but to have them in the + side is good news. Wonder how do the Federal deficit projections look with these new GDP figures?

Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth pla...