Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I watched most of The Big Sleep last night, but I nearly fell asleep towards the end. Now I've got to watch the rest of it and soon, because I have to learn how Bogey solves the case. Lauren Bacall is some kind of fire, in case you were wondering.

I'm reading Bill Bryson's Notes From A Small Island. Bryson is a real smart aleck, but it's a fun read. I'd like to do similar writing someday, minus the snarky remarks about Lady Thatcher.

Lately I've been listening to a lot of Keren Ann. Her new album is called Nolita. She's Isreali. She sings in French. If Portishead and Azure Ray had a baby, it might sound like this. I'm also enjoying the new albums by Ben Folds and the Esoteric, the latter of which may be the best metal album I've heard in a long while.

I need to learn to speak French.
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Matt :: permalink


I realize I'm a bit behind the times, but I'm enjoying Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. That said, Charlotte Simmons may very well be the most obnoxious protaganists I've come across.

I'll have to go back and do some reading, but I seem to recall most conservative critics painted Charlotte in something of a sympathetic light. Hogwash. She is a sheltered little twit.
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Matt :: permalink


Sunday, May 29, 2005
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not complaining. But it's nearly midnite and I'm sitting here blogging and listening to Til Tuesday.

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Matt :: permalink


Saturday, May 28, 2005
I like to measure out my life, to some degree, in landmarks of time. Two examples, both of the related to television. Wednesday night was the season finale of Lost. (It was great, by the way) New episodes won't start up until September. I know I'll be watching the show, but I wonder: where will I watch it? And with whom? And what will I have done that day? How will I look?

The new season of the Sopranos starts in January. I ask the same questions.

Last year, on New Year's Eve, I was in Nashville watching Alabama find a way to lose in the Music City Bowl. Driving back to my friend's apartment after the game, I thought about football. Will Alabama be in a bowl game next year? Will it be another mediocre bowl for teams with 6-5 records or will it be a bowl worthy of Bama's stature? Will I be in attendance? Will I be at the game with my roommate and his girlfriend, just like in Nashville? Will I have someone with me? Or will I fly solo, which isn't all that bad of a thing?

I realize this is slightly neurotic thinking on my part, but I offer it nonetheless. I've been away from this thing for a while, but I've been all kinds of busy taking care of things at work, reading a few good books like this one and this one and this one, making new friends and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.

Before I turn thirty, I'd really like to do this.

I'll rant about the Democrats and John McCain later, but believe me, it's coming.

Also, go here.
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Matt :: permalink


Monday, May 16, 2005
This is the first in what I hope becomes an ongoing examination of the evangelical approach to conservatism. The lack of evangelical presence within the conservative intellectual world is no accident, and I am eager to explore the reasons behind this development. Reader comments, e-mail and trackbacks are encouraged and appreaciated.

Though the relevant pieces are a week or so old, two recent works by Christopher Hitchens and Al Mohler reveal some interesting viewpoints on the part of a leading evangelical. Though Hitchens was recently described by Hugh Hewitt as being “center-left,” Hitchens is one of the most difficult pundits to categorize. The patient reader finds much to chew on concerning his work, even if he does not agree with the author. Mohler, too, is confusing in his own way. A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention with heavily Reformed leanings, he is a fine scholar. He is conservative, generally speaking, but Mohler has yet to come out as a anything resembling a Buckley or Kirk-style conservative. The closest parallel that I can find is that of the brilliant Catholic Richard John Neuhaus, though Neuhaus’ work has for a long time been more specifically political.

It was Mohler who brought the matter of Hitchens’ view of religious conservatives to his own blog, referring to the juxtaposition of contrasting articles by Hitchens and James Taranto concerning religious conservatives that recently appeared in OpinionJournal. Hitchens’ piece clearly discusses his disagreement with, if not his disdain towards, Christianity. Ok, fine. Nothing new there. Hitchens goes on to demonstrate his opposition to a “shallow, demagogic and above all sectarian religiosity.” It is worth mentioning that the only evangelical leaders mentioned in his article are Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. In his own analysis, Mohler would have done well to acknowledge this tidbit. Hitchens points towards two thinkers who have been influential in modern American conservatism: Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss. Both were non-religious if not atheistic, and Hitchens is acknowledging that conservatism has heretofore allowed such thinking into its tent. (Readers interested in the fumbling talk of Pat Robertson should follow this link to the Evangelical Outpost.)

Mohler’s disagreement with Hitchens is muddled, in my own view, simply because in many cases Mohler’s point is unclear. Hitchens cites Barry Goldwater as a model conservative, a point duly noted by Mohler. Would Mohler disagree with this? If so, there’s a lot of conservative – many of whom are religious believers – who would jump to Hitchens’ and Goldwater’s defense. Whereas Hitchens’ merely denounces a particular religious approach to politics, Mohler claims that Hitchens seeks a Right willing to denounce all believers. This is nonsense. Hitchen’s citing of Rand and Strauss was simply a demonstration of the fact that conservatism, while rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethos, has never been an idea exclusive to those profess Christ. The Christian Russell Kirk would agree with this, as he included the works of nonbelievers, Benjamin Franklin and John Locke, to name two, in his The Portable Conservative Reader. Hitchens himself defended religious conservatives (in his own unique manner) in this post-election piece for Slate.

Dr. Mohler is a wise man, and I wish very much that all evangelical leaders possessed his level of knowledge. Yet at the risk of sounding like a certain boor from Massachusetts, I wish his own writing bore a trace of nuance. Hitchens may be philosophically at odds with the Christian faith, but does not suggest that Christians stay quiet in their churches while the atheists run the land. He does, however, disapprove of a certain political approach that is embodied in the Falwells, Robertsons and perhaps even Dobsons of the world. It is not likely that Hitchens would take such umbrage at the political work of Neuhaus or Chuck Colson. While I do not fully agree with Hitchens, it is disappointing that Mohler cannot understand the differences between Falwell and Neuhuas. Until such distinctions can be made and articulated, it is unlikely that the evangelical influence on politics will progress beyond a grass roots campaign.
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Matt :: permalink


Sunday, May 15, 2005
Wal-Mart on a balmy Sunday afternoon. Not a fun place to be. I loathe Wal-Mart. Really, I do. I don't care how all American it is. It's filthy and loud and it takes two hours for the tire department to fix a flat tire. Ok, I admit that a lot of the people in there today were poor and tired and weary and broken and so am I, but still...

On the topic of Wal-Mart loathing, I was happy to learn that Rod Dreher's book on crunchy conservatism is pretty well finished. Though my current living situation, to say nothing of my bourgeouis, Vanity Fair-inspired proclivities, prevents me from being a full-fledged cruncy con, I share many sympathies with the movement. My refrigerator full of organic milk and Bolthouse Farms juice can back that up. But I did give my Birkenstocks to my little brother.

One area of crunchy conservatism that finds some common ground with the Left is the matter of land use. We're concerned that our towns and cities will become one big strip mall. I spent yesterday cruising around my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and I know of what I speak. Economic growth is a necessary thing, but heavens to Betsy - are we going to perish without that extra Blockbuster and Hallmark mini-mall? I doubt it very much. Here's hoping Dreher's book can kickstart a sensible conversation on the topic.

On a similar note, I've always found the urban-centered liberalism of the D.C. punk scene to be interesting. It's far less belligerent than what one hears from Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, though both of those men would find a home in the Beltway. Fugazi is a band that always stood for left-wing causes, but in a rational, debatable manner that this right-winger could always appreciate. I'm pretty bummed that the band is effectively no more, but thank goodness for the Evens. The Evens are Ian Mackaye of the legendary Fugazi, Embrace and Minor Threat and Amy Farina of the Warmers. (Anyone know if she's related to Geoff Farina of Karate?) The sound of their debut self-titled album is Fugazi-lite, quiet and minimalistic, with a greater emphasis on jazzy instrumentation and quirky harmonies. There's nothing that a Fugazi fan like myself can't enjoy, while at the same time, there's a sense of growth in Mackaye's work, both lyrically and musically.

The lyrics, as one would expect, are often politicaly in nature, but there's never a feeling of unresolved cynicisms. Ian Mackaye doesn't snarl; he asks questions. And I'm pretty sure he's willing to talk about an answer. Thank goodness for bands like the Evens, who consistently push the envelope of what rock music can be, and what it can ask and what it can dare to conclude. hope the Evens are planning to tour, though I won't be surprised if they don't. Fugazi toured less and less as the years wore on, and I am thankful for having seen them late in their career, still full of passion and energy.
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Matt :: permalink


Monday, May 09, 2005
Sorry I've been M.I.A. as of late. Things have been busy down in Dixie. Here's a brief run down of some very superficial things.

I'm reading this book. And this one.

I'm listening to this album. And this one. And both albums by this band.

Tonight I'm going to watch this movie.

I'm working on a post about this guy and this fellow, as well.

And I'm going to try to write about every one of these things in the next few weeks.

Keep me accountable to it.
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Matt :: permalink


Sunday, May 01, 2005
What a weekend. I believe it was sometime around one a.m. Saturday morning when I noticed that the temperature felt more like December than it did April, but I can be thankful that today it at least looks like spring. That wind is still pretty stiff, though I can safely classify today as gorgeous. That said, I am not like outside relaxing on a blanket like the dozens of people I just saw. Nope; I'm updating a blog that's read by roughly one hundred people a week. You know how some people thank someone else for pushing them in the right direction in life? They thank that friend or roommate or teacher who forced them out of their comfort zone and now they've got this great life?

Well, let me tell you I have a great life but you know who I thank for getting me addicted to this blog business and keeping me indoors on the prettiest day this spring? Andrew Sullivan. Glenn Reynolds. Hugh Hewitt. Thanks, guys. When it's June and I'm pasty white with no tan and I'm desperately out of shape, I'll read a copy of Blog and drink a skinny hazelnut double espresso - to keep me up and blogging furiously into the early morning - in your collective honor.

There's a copy of Key Largo sitting on my entertainment center. I'm dying to get into it, but I've got exams and graduate school applications. I'll have to wait. Studies call. This is what we refer to as maturity. It wasn't so mature yesterday when I caroused around Tuscaloosa looking for eggs, orange juice and maple syrup. We wanted pancakes. We had pancakes. The pancakes were good. Just one caveat. We ate the pancakes at two-thirty in the afternoon. When I was leaving the supermarket with my maple syrup and orange juice, having already procured the eggs from the health food store, I saw Chick-Fil-A across the street. I was starving. I wanted a biscuit. I knew it would not spoil by appetite for pancakes but then it dawned on me that it was after one p.m. No more breakfast. There were families in the drive-thru ordered kids meals and fries as they made their way home from the mall. They were leaving the mall. I had yet to shower and these families were done shopping. What nerve they had, being responsible and waking up before noon. I couldn't believe it.

Ah well. I had my pancakes and they were most excellent. The Braves have won two in a row, the sun is shining in Dixie and I can still blast Interpol from the car and get a curious glance from the Jackie O sunglasses in the next car over at the red light.

Life is good.
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Matt :: permalink