Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lance Armstrong Has Issues

I'd chalk this one up to a mid-life crisis, but he seems to have already had a couple of those (e.g., here and here).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Rudy Giuliani is probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency.... There are only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11."

Senator Joe Biden, at the Drexel University Democratic Debate, October 30, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Love-Hate Relationship With Art Fairs

A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I hit up a huge artisan fair in Alexandria. The afternoon stroll from booth to booth looking at all the handmade arts and crafts reminded me of a realization I came to in Europe over the summer. While in Switzerland and Italy this August, we had welcomed the opportunity to meander around the numerous street markets, where scores painters and craftsmen would peddle their wares. Although we ended up purchasing a handful of choice finds, I decided that I had a what you'd call a love-hate relationship with these sorts of fairs.

On the upside, I'm a big fan of good art work, even though our collection right now is pretty meager. When we can afford it, I'd love to have my house filled with nice photography, paintings, pottery, and sculptures. But for now, outside of a few nice pieces, we rely pretty heavily on mass-produced prints and products. Here's where the artisan fairs and markets come in. Original works of art and handicraft sold by the artists themselves at prices that typically blow anything you'd find at an art store or gallery away. Unfortunately, however, that's also the downside. See, I'm pretty particular about the kinds of art I like, and artists, in their drive to be original... let's just say the quality or appeal of their work can run the gamut. In my experience, avant-garde is often code for "weird as hell." So the trip to an artisan fair can end up being... well... awkward. As I stroll, I often find myself reticent to enter a lot of booths and look closely at too many items because, as I disinterestedly set down a particular work or quickly walk past a set of paintings, I'll feel the artists eyes burning into me. I'll look over, meet their gaze, and usually manage a weak smile while rejecting their work through my indifference. Sometimes I'll mutter something about the art being "really nice" or, in particularly exigent circumstances, I'll baldly lie about coming back after I check with my wife.

So if I find it so excruciating, why do I go? Why do I willingly submit to the torture? I'm not exactly sure of all the reasons why. But I think its because a good find can usually make it all worthwhile. If you come across something that's your style and that you actually are interested in buying, it's great. You get original works at a great price while also having the opportunity to shoot the breeze with the artist. We came across this one guy in Rome whose work we loved. We probably bought six or seven paintings and sketches from him without breaking the bank and ended up talking with him for the better part of half an hour.

These good experiences, however, can be tempered somewhat if you're also bargaining over the cost. The quibble over prices, for me, opens a whole 'nother can of worms. Instead of just implicitly rejecting someone's work, I'm now telling them to their faces that they aren't worth what they're asking. I try to rationalize that they've likely hiked up their prices in anticipation of such bargaining, but I never fully convince myself of it. I end up thinking of all the time they must put into their craft and what a paltry income they probably make. While I've been known drive a hard bargain on some things, haggling over prices for art just seems different than pushing someone hawking pirated watches and handbags for a better deal.

So, you don't have to tell me. I know that I'm an oversensitive schmuck. I'm never going to see these people again, they're expecting a lot of foot traffic at these events from people who don't plan on buying anything, and, in reality, they typically only need to sell a handful of works each day to consider their outing a success. I've told myself this all before, but it doesn't seem to help. I still end up feeling bad. And, like a masochist, I still end up going back for more. Like I said, it's a rocky relationship... and I don't have much hope that it's going to improve.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Elder Kirby?

Robert Kirby. If you don't know who he is, people might characterize you as either sorely deprived or mercifully blessed, depending on their perspectives. For those unfamiliar with Kirby, he's an LDS columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune who has been compared to both J. Golden Kimball and a modern-day Korihor. He ends up seriously rankling some readers and is adoringly heralded by others. I tend to love the man... or at least his columns related to Mormonism.

In short, Kirby's a humorist who makes fun of just about everything... and everything frequently includes various aspects of Church culture. A former police officer who started writing a weekly column for the now-defunct Utah County Journal (this is his first article... now a cult favorite), he eventually got picked up full-time by the Tribune. As I see it, the Trib' probably liked the fact that, as a Mormon, Kirby had a longer leash to poke and prod on some issues than the paper's editorial staff. I think he's usually pretty good about not crossing "the line," but there are those who clearly feel that he should be strung up and shot (or at the least given his packing papers).

This divide in perception was made all more interesting by General Conference two weeks ago. Since then, I've been debating whether Kirby now carries a sort of unofficial Church imprimatur.... I mean, given that one of his columns was basically recounted in its entirety by Richard C. Edgley and served as the foundational lead-in for Edgley's talk (Here's the talk in case you missed it). Today Kirby posted some reader feedback he's received about being quoted by Edgley, including my favorite: "Polygamy, blood atonement, and now Kirby in Conference. I can't take it anymore. I have to leave the church."

Me personally... I could get used to hearing Kirby in Conference. Kind of gives Saturday morning a little spice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waiting to Exhale

Worst Feeling in the World: Looking at the bar examination results list online and thinking you don't see your name.
Best Feeling in the World: Realizing that you merely glanced over your name in your state of anxiousness.

And... exhale. Whew.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cutting Out The Crap

I've been wrestling with the question of balance in my life since I started working full-time about a month ago. I've got to admit that the transition from the flexibility of student life to the structure of the salaried workforce has been a bit of an adjustment for me.

Over the past few years, the frequent break and detour have become my signature move... so much so that Melbo has fondly taken to calling me "Captain Distracto." Unfortunately, that sort of routine doesn't really jive with what's expected of me these days. At least not if I want ever want to see my son or enjoy a home-cooked meal with the family.

So I resolved to change my ways. The resolving was easy. It's the change that's been hard. A creature of habit with a law degree is prone to revert to familiar ways. We're taught to be persuasive... and persuasive we are. I can hardly say no to myself, and it's hard to feel bad after I eventually cave in because of who I was up against. Me. I can rationalize with the best of them.

And so it happens that I meander over to a nearby office just "for a second" and end up rehashing the weekend in sports for thirty minutes. I get online "just to check an email" and get off having responded to three while also having skimmed the front page of the Washington Post, New York Times, Deseret News, and the Drudge Report. I convince myself that a particular bill has to be paid "right now" or that I need to call and consolidate my private student loans "before I forget." And on and on. The end result is often me getting home later than I had hoped and bringing home more work than I otherwise would have to (errr... don't tell the wife).

Sadly, this cycle doesn't end at work. By the time I get home, I'm often so worn out that all I feel like doing is vegging' out with Melbo in front of the tube. We end up watching a lot of crap instead of things we always talk about doing (e.g., writing in our journals, working on our photo albums, knocking out a few more books on our reading lists, or saving the world).

Seeing me flailing about, pathetically trying to steady myself, God had mercy and told Dallin H. Oaks I needed some counsel. Several millions of people may have been listening to General Conference last weekend, but it's clear that Oaks intended his remarks for me personally. Maybe it's because, as a former lawyer himself, he understands my struggle, but he didn't characterize my distractions as bad; instead, he merely suggested that they weren't the best use of my time. He said:

We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives...
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice [may be] more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom" (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).
At some level, I already knew all this. But hearing it struck a chord. I've resigned myself to the fact that balance is likely to be a life-long struggle for me, but Oaks gave me hope. While I'm not convinced an animal like myself can easily change overnight, I'm optimistic that, with time, I can at least learn to chose the better, if not the best. Tough questions still loom, however, like whether this blog rises to the level of a good or a better ('Cause there's no way in hell it's a best).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quote of the Day

"My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined.
I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."

Senator Harry Reid,
addressing students at a BYU Devotional on Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Just Thinking Back...

One big reason I decided not to go to BYU Law School.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Remixing the Sabbath

So Woo has the scoop on what we might expect from Quentin L. Cook, the newly-ordained Apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"My Cheap Friends"

So apparently I'm a cheapskate.

My friend Anderson would claim he's known this for years, dating back at least to the time we bickered about gas money after an impulsive road trip to California. Last night, however, it was a nationally renown and best-selling author leveling the accusation.

The wife and I went to D.C. to hear David Sedaris read some stories he's been working on for an upcoming book and a few magazine articles (here are some samples of commentaries he's done for NPR). The material was up there with his very best. He had us all bowled over laughing and managed to steal two hours from us before we knew it. He wrapped up the lecture by answering some questions and recommending a few books to the crowd, including a favorite that he keeps extra copies of on hand for those "emergency" situations when he unexpectedly feels obliged to proffer a gift.

Afterward, Sedaris stuck around to sign books and fraternize. Melbo and I waited over an hour for our shot at him. We had copies of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Naked for him to sign and, as we approached him, I mentioned to him that it was ironic that he had plugged his "emergency" gift book that night because our emergency gift book just so happened to be his Corduroy. I explained that about a year ago we'd found it on clearance at Borders and had purchased 12 copies; I then pulled the four remaining ones we had had left in our basement out of a bag that Melbo brought.

Sedaris laughed and thanked us for pointing out that Corduroy was now considered a remainder book at a major book retailer like Borders. We tried to save face by pointing out that we'd actually bought a couple his other books at full price. But the damage was done. Everyone in line now knew that David Sedaris was sitting there staring at a stack of books that we'd paid a quarter of the list price for and now seemingly wanted him to sign. To assuage our guilt, he reassured us that he still got paid the same regardless of what price the retailer sold the book at. We agreed that that was all that mattered, and he insisted on signing the lot of them.

Believing we'd smoothed over my witless remark, we slid our library of books over to him, and he signed away while we curiously asked him questions and engaged in some good-natured small talk. We then thanked him for his kindness, stowed our newly autographed, clearanced-priced wunder-gifts, and went on our way.

It wasn't until we were contentedly driving home from our enjoyable evening out that my wife finally showed me how Sedaris had signed our copy of Naked: