Monday, April 28, 2008


Sorry, faithful readers, I'm busy grading lots of exams (145 of them, but who's counting?), and you know what that means . . . not much time for blogging.

Remember, you can't spell "grading" without "grrr"!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

OK, Now I Can't Stand It

All this time, as pundits have been saying that Democrats are exhausted by the elongated primary season, I've been wondering what the problem is. It's not that big a deal, I thought. Sure, it's somewhat grueling for Clinton and Obama to keep going at it, but it'll all get wrapped up eventually and the party will support the winner. Stop complaining.

Now even I've had it. The Pennsylvania results were about the worst possible outcome -- Clinton's victory is not large enough to really change the dynamics of the race, but just large enough to mean she won't drop out.

And at this point, I really do feel that the primary race is hurting the party. The candidates are compelled to point out each other's flaws, when we should all really be focusing on the other party's flaws.

Can the Democrats possibly screw it up again? If ever there was a year when the Democrats should win in a cakewalk -- when they could spot the Republicans 100 electoral votes and still win without breathing hard -- it should be this year, with the economy in the tank, the Republican President having the lowest popularity in 70 years, and the Republican candidate supporting the ill-conceived, unimaginably poorly executed war in Iraq.

Well, the Dems should have won in a cakewalk in 2004, and in 2000, and they managed to screw those elections up. They sure need to do better this time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Time to Pontificate

Of course we bloggers pontificate every day, but it's not every day that the Pope shows up. So a little special commentary is in order.

I sent my resume to the College of Cardinals when Pope John Paul II died. I said I realied that I was a nontraditional candidate for the position, but perhaps the Church could benefit from a little shaking up by a nontraditional candidate.

The first thing I would do if I were Pope -- well, actually, I wouldn't do anything for a couple of years, you'd have to give people a little time to get used to me, and I'd want to go to seminary, but after that the first thing would be to issue a magnificently ambiguous encyclical concerning contraception. I wouldn't touch abortion. But I'd have those superbly subtle scriveners at the Vatican produce a perfectly ambiguous document that conservatives could point to and say, "look, the new Pope has reaffirmed the Church's traditional teaching about contraception," and the liberals could point to and say, "look, the new Pope has determined that the issue of contraception is to be left up to the conscience of the faithful."

And then I wouldn't say anything for five years. Maybe ten. Anytime anyone asked any questions about contraception, I'd refer them to the top Cardinals, who in turn would refer them to the encyclical. All your questions are answered in the encyclical, we'd tell everyone. That's how to make progress. The Church is like a huge ship -- it can't change course 180 degrees in an instant. Things would have to move slowly, and there'd have to be a period of ambiguity.

The other issue I'd move on would be women priests. Lack of applicants for the priesthood is holding the church back. Where can we find more good candidates? Well, duh -- you could increase your applicant pool by 100% instantly by allowing women. But again, it would be too controversial to change positions on this instantly. You'd have to start ambiguously.

Now, you might think that my strategy of ambiguity couldn't work on this issue. Making women priests would be pretty clear-cut.

But the canonical mind is equal to the challenge. I wouldn't actually make women priests. Of course women can't be priests, we'd tell everyone. But women could hold lesser offices -- deacon, perhaps, or perhaps a new lesser office would be invented. Then it's just a matter of gradually increasing the functions that deacons can perform until eventually they're saying mass. But they're not priests, oh no, of course not.

But of course they went and chose that Ratzinger fellow. Some people just can't accept change.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

No More Pencils

I just taught my last class -- for 15 months! Now I just have to get through every professor's second-least-favorite task -- writing my exams -- so that I can then do every professor's least-favorite task -- grading the exams -- and then -- yes! -- it's time for my sabbatical.

May 18 is the truly magical date. That's Commencement. After that, I am not required to be any particular where on any particular day until August 2009. Oh yes, this is what professors dream about. It only comes once every seven years, but we're thinking about it for the other six.

Of course, I hasten to add, a sabbatical is not a vacation. I'll be working hard on writing projects. But boy, it sure will be nice to work anywhere and anywhen I want.

Bring on those exams! I can't wait to be done with them.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Your Non-Legal Movie Review

Sorry about the lack of recent content, faithful readers. The end of the term is coming -- always a busy time.

Last night, my girlfriend and I saw Shine a Light, currently playing at DC's last remaining big-screen movie theater, the Uptown. It was sadly misbooked -- the company (which owns pretty much every screen in town) miscalculated and put the film in their big theater, which must have a capacity of 500 or so, but there couldn't have been more than 50 in the audience.

The movie is a concert film -- it's Martin Scorsese's filming of a concert given by the Rolling Stones in New York City in 2006. After a brief intro in which Scorsese gives you some sense of the frenetic preparation work for the concert and the difficulties of filming it, most of the movie is just a film of the concert, with a few clips of earlier Stones interviews spliced in.

All I can say is this: it was terrific. Mick Jagger was sixty-three when he gave this concert, but he filled the entire theater with his energy and intensity. He's up there singing, dancing, strutting, and shaking his ass better than most thirty-year-old performers. His face is craggy and saggy but his body looks great and his stage presence is undimmed -- particularly amazing was how he brought the same vitality to the last number as to the first, after a couple of hours of work that would have tested a professional athlete.

I hope I have that much energy when I'm his age. I'd settle for half as much. One only has to recall Britney Spears sleepwalking through her number at the MTV awards to realize that there's no guarantee that even the best performers will do a good job on any given night. It takes real dedication. Jagger feigns coolness and unconcern, but you can see that he's determined to give the audience its money's worth -- he's putting it out there for us and he won't be satisfied with anything less than his best.

That's what I try to give to my students. I don't always feel up for the game -- professors have much other work to do, of which students are sadly unwaware, not to mention personal lives that could be going well or badly -- but the students have paid big bucks to be there. If you run the numbers the tuition alone amounts to about $100 per class hour, so in my big class the students have collectively paid over $11,000 for me to step into the classroom each day. They're entitled to their money's worth, and I try to give them an appropriate amount of energy and intensity. I'm no Mick Jagger, but I do my best.

Anyway, whatever Mick Jagger is on, I want some. Well, perhaps not -- it's probably something illegal. But boy, he's still got it, and it's an inspiration knowing that you can still be going that strong after sixty.