You are currently viewing archive for January 2007
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week, workers discovered an elderly woman dead in an outdoor heating and air conditioning unit at a local middle school here in Waco. The paper reported that she was "clothed in her bathrobe and slippers," and "huddled up in the corner of the unit." Initially, local authorities were unable to identify the body, labeling her Jane Doe.

Excerpted from a
Waco Tribune-Herald story by Erin Quinn in the Wednesday, January 31, 2007 edition (full article here):

"Claire Conger died tormented and alone in a very public way.

"Sadly, she lived her life much the same."

"[Daughter] of former Waco mayor and famed historian Roger Conger..., little was known or said about the girl who was once pretty and popular but later was pulled from Waco High School because of a terrible mental illness."

"Investigators are still looking into what caused her death and why she apparently took refuge inside the [heating and air conditioning] unit."

"Several days passed before Waco police could even identify the woman with the famous roots. Her father was dead. So was her brother. Her husband. And daughter. All that remains of the once-powerful Congers is her 93-year-old mother, Lacy Rose Conger, who resides in a Waco condominium."

"Dental records finally confirmed [Claire Conger's] identity Tuesday."

"But in its heyday, [the Congers were] a prominent Waco family."

"A businessman and one-time mayor, Roger Conger was most revered as a Texas and Waco historian."

"[Conger's wife], Lacy Rose [also belonged to a well-to-do family]. Her father owned a laundry equipment business that Roger Conger eventually took over.

"Roger Conger died in 1996.

"Claire Conger's brother, Roger Lacy Conger, died in a car accident at a young age."

"Claire Conger is remembered as well-liked in high school. Up until her junior year...."

"'She was a straight-A student and one day she was just gone,' said Barbara Martin, a family friend. 'She had a lovely, lovely family. And she was a very nice person. But she was tormented.'"

"Claire Conger was diagnosed with schizophrenia...."

"Medication helped, but the illness often battled back."

For the last two decades of her life she lived alone, unknown and unloved by those who lived nearby.

"To the residents of the complex of townhouses[in which she lived], [Claire Conger] was simply known as an eccentric old woman..., [who] bought expensive cars, drove erratically and often walked around in her nightclothes and slippers."

They had no idea that she once belonged to a celebrated local family.

"[However], they say that none of her neighbors were surprised that she was found dead in such an unlikely place."

Too often we forget how fragile are the threads of family, community and soundness of mind.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My wife and I saw the new Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, this past Friday. Interesting and well done. Based on a true story.

In a nutshell: Will Smith's character is a down-on-his-luck salesman. He and his wife have purchased into a plan to sell portable bone-density scanners, new technology at the time. He is not selling the machines fast enough to recover his costs and pay rent. His wife works double-shifts at her job to try to provide for them. Eventually she tires of the struggle and leaves him. Smith's character insists that their son remain with him. He desires to rise in the world. Observing the car driven by a stockbroker, he decides to apply for an opening in the internship program at a brokerage house, and gets a position. Then he discovers that the job pays nothing during the internship. Driven to be the one person hired from the 20 interns, he pushes himself to succeed. As he is trying to do this he loses his apartment, then a run-down motel room, winding up sleeping in a shelter with his son. But, he perseveres, selling the remaining bone scanners on weekends, creatively building relationships with potential clients, and taking care of his son. In the end, he gets the job.

(my reaction below)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Toqueville suggests we read and discuss this article on conservative Christians and support for the Republican party. The author's thesis is that such support may be dwindling. (It'll be a couple of days before I can respond myself)
As I mentioned earlier, the afternoon workshop I attended last week at the Cook school went to see the movie Freedom Writers one afternoon. The film is based on a true story.

In a nutshell: a young idealistic first-year teacher from a privileged background receives the cold smack of reality when she meets her Freshman English classes in Long Beach, California. The students have no interest in English literature, nor in being in school. Most of them have bigger problems. The community is divided into warring factions of black, Latino, and Cambodian, with drug use and gang violence common. Many families are broken. But, the teacher perseveres, eventually reaching her students when she has them start writing about their own lives in journals. She succeeds in creating a family, a safe and caring community, within her classroom. The students learn and grow as persons. (cont. below)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I don't know why, but I am fascinated by the series of insurance commercials featuring "cavemen." Evidently I am not the only one, as evidenced by the link to analysis with comments via Instapundit.
I'm late with this for some reason, but here are the Top Ten Religion Stories in 2006 according to the Religion News Service.

1. Muslim rioting in response to publication of Muhammad cartoons in Europe.

2. Muslims infuriated by remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI and his subsequent apology and trip to Turkey.

3. Problems in the Episcopal Church related to the elevation of Katharine Jefferts Schori to the denomination's top position. She is the first woman to hold the post, and openly supported the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop.

4. Ted Haggard resigns as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and is dismissed from his congregation, following exposure of his drug use and same-sex relationship.

5. Defeat of many Republican candidates backed by the Religious Right in the fall elections.

6. Religious voices grow louder in regard to situations and events in the Middle East.

7. Murder of five Amish girls in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse and the subsequent highlighting of the community's ethic of forgiveness.

8. (tie) The movie The Da Vinci Code and related controversy.
8. (tie) Same-sex marriage issue in New Jersey and on ballots.

10. President Bush's veto of a bill expanding stem-cell research.

my take below

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Psssst! Heh, want to see some real babes? This gallery will send you into roaring lust.

Golden Ages happen, generally, when a series of unconnected events come together in a fortuitous way to form an extraordinary moment. For example, we often view the late-1950s and early-1960s in America as a Golden Age.

Of course, many will note that we whitewash much of the ugliness of the fifties in our mind's eye, remembering the era through the prism of black and white television series in which Father always knew best and problems evaporated every thirty minutes. The social critic's question in a nutshell: "Happy Days" for whom?

Notwithstanding that critique, the period stands out for so many of us (even, perhaps especially, those of us born after the fact) as a shining moment in our national story when so much was right with America. Why were the 1950s so grand? The Golden Age materialized, at least in part, as a result of the deprivation of the Great Depression, the sacrifice of the Second World War followed by the relief of victory and the great surprise of collective affluence.

On a personal scale, think of a typically rural American, raised on a farm somewhere in the heartland during the Great Depression, growing to maturity in an environment in which “want” was a perpetual state--but making do. Coming of age during our all-out national struggle to defeat fascism, this typical American joined the battle (if male, most likely went to war). For veterans of the fight for survival during the 1930s, defeating Hitler and Tojo seemed light duty (at least a fellow got three squares a day).

Returning home victorious, America's warriors were rewarded with the opportunity to attend college and buy homes on the G.I. Bill. For so many Americans, higher education, a tried and true path to upward mobility, proved the unexpected but hilariously happy consequence of their war service. America went to college in droves and emerged in the post-war world with the best educated most resourceful workforce on the planet. Born into deprivation, tested by war, the Greatest Generation understood the post-war opportunity and made the most of it. Happy Days.

One wonders if great success is possible without severe trials. How long can a golden age last? How long can a people maintain a level of excellence without a great cultural crisis to motivate them to higher achievement?

Are we in such a crisis? Or, more accurately, are we descending into such a period of crisis? Will this coming crisis mark the downward turning point in the great American drama—or will the next test mark the beginning of a cycle of renewal?

Or as Benjamin Franklin purportedly asked 220 years ago: "Is the sun rising or setting on the American experiment?"
We have touched a nerve here at Bosqueboys with Farmer's postings on the Confederate flag, and on the justification arguments for secession, and on the causes of the Civil War. Lots of passion.

I cannot believe that this emotional response simply relates to an event a century and a half ago. Indeed, Rue-Mur talks much of the present.

May I open a related thread? I invite you to comment on why the Confederate flag, and the Civil War, etc., is an emotional issue for you today. What gives you the fire that you've shown in your comments?
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Rott has this moving essay on CPL Jason Dunham, the Marine killed when he covered a grenade and saved other Marines. For his action he has been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Here's something else I learned recently. My source in industry shall remain anonymous, but I will vouch for him.

Because Wal-Mart drives such hard bargains with suppliers, it is not unusual for suppliers to alter their specs so as to sell to Wal-Mart with a profit. I'm talking major manufacturers selling goods through Wal-Mart that are not as well-made so as to fit into the price structure. So what's the problem? Nowhere on the labels will it say that the specs differ from what one might purchase elsewhere.

That sounds fraudulent.
The list is out of those eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

Going in on the first ballot I think should be Cal Ripkin, Jr. and Tony Gwynne. I think Lee Smith also deserves in. Mark McGwire is on the list for his first year of eligibility, but I cannot lobby for him, as much as it breaks my heart (I'm a huge Cardinals fan). He has been evasive regarding performance-enhancing drugs. For my opinion on this issue see here.
From Robert P. George in National Review:

"The Story of a Well-Lived Life:
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, R.I.P.

"Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was a scholar as notable for her bravery as for her brilliance. After what she described as her “long apprenticeship” in the world of secular liberal intellectuals, it was careful reflection on the central moral questions of our time that led her first to doubt and then to abandon both liberalism and secularism. Needless to say, this did not endear her to her former allies."

Read the entire essay here .

I am convinced that most people believe what seems plausible to them. That is, made aware of an idea or assertion, most people will believe what fits with their previous experience and world-view. Truth rarely is considered in social isolation.

In the most recent issue of The Princeton Seminary Bulletin (my seminary alma mater), James Edwards reviews the book Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells (the 4th volume of Well's critique of "modern Western culture"). In the book Wells argues that the Church cannot accept the tenets of postmodernism. According to Edwards, Wells discusses the social factors involved in pluralism. The social setting for multiculturalism and postmodernism. His book points to the Immigration Act of 1965 as having had a tremendous impact on the American religious landscape. I knew this, but the statistics cited by Edwards got my attention. To quote:

Of the 35 million immigrants to the United States between 1820 and 1964, 82 percent were European, 3 percent Asian, and 15 percent were Canadians or Latin Americans. Of those immigrants, 94 percent considered themselves Protestants, Catholics, or Jews. With the Immigration Act of 1965, however, the country opened its doors to the world and the picture was virtually reversed. The total number of immigrants to America since 1965 has been lower, about five million, but Europeans now account for only 15 percent, with the remaining 85 percent coming from around the globe and bringing with them every religion, from Animism to Zoroastrianism. The United States is now the world's most religiously diverse nation.

more below

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