Why Colonel Sartoris?

Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Passive-Aggressive Conversations I Wish I Had: Talking to a Supervisor

"Hi.  Got a sec?"

"Always!!!  The only bad questions are those left unasked!"  She gesticulated wildly--at least by 21st century office standards--pointing her finger upwards, reminiscent of the classical orator's pose exemplified by Augustus's statue on the Prima Porta Gate, and flipping her hair sideways. She defiantly warded off the creeping powers of indolence with her enthusiasm and motivational tactics.

"Um, okay.  I have this 1200-page document, and it basically says ..."

"Let's go look at it!"  At the t in Let's, she had already taken two heavy, stiletto-heel-driving stomps toward the querulous document, determined to wrangle it into submission.  She grabbed the mouse and surveyed her quarry.  "Well, so it's actually 1164 pages, and it looks like ..."

"Yeah.  Sorry if those extra 36 pages I claimed to have existed rendered the problem insoluble.  I was using this new mathematical concept called 'rounding,' which is gaining popularity.  At least based on what I've observed anecdotally."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Third Day

Scroll down to the bottom of this blog and read the Faulkner lines. If I tried to attempt such elegy, it would likely sound maudlin, but it is no matter, for Faulkner said it better then, and he says it better than anyone can say it now.

This is the 150th anniversary of the third and final day at Gettysburg. It was not a last stand but a hubristic effort with minimal chance of success. Its glory--thousands of men marching for home and family, brimming with valor and bravery--is sadly overshadowed by Lee's single mistake of the war: his overestimation of his troops'--and perhaps his own--capabilities. He incorrectly weighed elementary tactical considerations about numerical strength and geography against intangibles, such as the effect of a withdrawal in his men, and their enthusiasm for a fight. It was a blunder, and likely a prideful one at that.

And yet Lee's devotion to duty and love of country, and that of his officers and men--from the cavalier, aristocratic Virginian planters to the slaveless, hardscrabble Texans with Hood--nearly brings me to tears on this day. Pickett's officers likely knew that they were matching to their death that day, yet they did so gladly. They believed in something greater than themselves, whether it was home, God, or a sense of "duty." And it is moving to think that a mass of men was willing to fight and die for these things.

Lee blundered. He disregarded basic strategic considerations for emotions. The last day is bathed in so much sadness, so much needlessness, so much folly, that oftentimes its sadness is all one can glimpse. But we should always remember its beauty. Watch Gettysburg and see the incredible love between Marse Robert and his soldiers. See the grace with which his men went into battle. And see Lee stoop and shoulder the burden of defeat and loss unreservedly. It is tragic, certainly, but it is beautiful.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Introducing a New Word: "SNARKIRAZZI"

Pronunciation: \ˌsnär-kə-ˈrät-(ˌ)sē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, a portmanteau of "snarky" and Paparazzi, surname of a gossip a photographer in the film La Dolce Vita (1959)
Date: 2013
1. A growing class of young, well-educated, politically liberal, usually self-described "progressive," bloggers who rely on conceited, dismissive, and belittling sarcasm in their writing to express conclusions or opinions formed without knowledge of relevant facts and without exposure to or consideration of any justification or rationale for that which they criticize.

2. People who read such writing or who speak or think in a similar manner.

Yeah, it's "a thing," so I made a word for it. I have long railed against East Coast elitism in the press and among "educated" people my age, so I figured I would come up with a word for those acolytes of elitism, those sacerdotes of snark.

The best example is Gawker. Smart people write for it, people who can turn an effective phrase and bulls-eye shoot the tone and impression they aim for. But it's annoying. Their authors try to outdo themselves in snark (not the eponymous creature of Lewis Carroll's poem, but the snot-nosed, vitriolic put-downs that today pass for wit) with every post, every report, every "article" that gets written. They write without facts and without having considered other points of view. And they spout disgust for people who disagree with them.

I understand that people think differently; they do not. I try to start with the premise that other people probably have a rationale for doing the things they do and that I should try to understand it before criticizing it. Snarkirazzi, in contrast, start with the premise that they are the smartest, coolest on the block and whatever they don't understand after a nano-second glance must be idiotic and thus ripe and proper fodder for mockery.

It wouldn't bother me so much if so many people didn't subscribe to this way of thinking and ape it. I am afraid, however, that people my age do. I realize that Gawker is not the New Republic, but that does not bother me. What bothers me is that few people my age know the New Republic/The Nation/whatever and understand the value that thoughtfulness and reason have in political news.

We talk about my generation's discontent with the current partisan gamesmanship that passes for statesmanship in Washington--the 2008 Obama campaign encapsulates that sentiment. But this gamesmanship, failure to compromise, and a literal inability to talk to or understand the other side is being trained into us and reinforced by sites and news outlets like Gawker.

They are educated enough to write better, and we are educated enough to read better. Way better than what we're fed by the snarkirazzi.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oxford: Southern Picturebook

In trying to describe Oxford, I started to write all kinds of absurd hooks (e.g., "Do you ever wish life would slow down and say howdy?").  Although all of them were true, none of them worked.  They all sounded like promotions for planned communities a la Seaside or radio commercials for Blue Bell.  I honestly couldn't stomach these wrenching cliches as descriptions of something that I've come to dearly love and hold so closely.

But like I say, all of the cliches are true.  Life does in fact slow down.  People are as polite as I've ever seen (I consider myself painfully etiquette-bound, and I was struck by their politeness).  The town is leafy and green and emanates from a square that literally embodies tradition, cleanliness, morality, style, learning, and cuisine.

And all of it anchored by Ole Miss.  It's a campus grand in its modesty and stateliness.  The white columns and red brick are totally at home with themselves.  The architecture itself seems especially
organic, as Ole Miss's Greek Revival architecture takes its cue both from description and from proscription.  Descriptively, the campus sits miles from the Delta, described by some as "the most Southern place on Earth," where Greek Revival columns seem to grow from the ground like cypress trees.  And proscriptively, the buildings take their cue from the architecture of Plato's Athens--as do many universities, of course--but here they even label the focal point of the campus the "Lyceum."  I've rarely seen a campus get it this right.

There should be more to come, but I could go on for hours about Ole Miss's effort to right wrongs, wright leaders, and right its pigskin ship.  But it's enough, for now, to revel in Oxford's near perfection.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Playing Possum: I Feel Tears Wellin' Up

The original "King George" is dead.

That's incredible.  His voice--with its instinctive phrasing and pure, rich melodic notes--defined country music for decades.  He sang with and for the Establishment, the "Nashville Sound."  If he thought that strings would enrich a song, he let them in.  No Nudie suit?  Fine.  George would wear a white leisure suit.  But it simply did not matter, because whatever his producers suggested, no one could pack more emotion and meaning into a song than George Jones.

"The Nashville Sound" is and was a dirty epithet and point of contention for  fans, and rightly so.  Those people--myself included--hail Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Cory Morrow, and Jason Boland as the antitheses of Nashville's soul-destroying, over-producing hit-factory.  "The Nashville Sound" is oftentimes viewed as the antithesis of "real," soul-felt music.  Much of that sentiment rings in me.  The eschewance of overproduced "Nashville" for more organic "Texas" is a common trope.  I love all of the artists who decided to forge a path in country music through channels outside the established Nashville folkways of country stardom.

And yet I cannot escape George Jones.  And no one can.  He is to country music what Frank Sinatra was to all pop music of his generation.  The weeping steel may have been supplemented by teary strings, but it was certainly not upended by them.  George Jones's voice was simply dynamite.  Anyone who could pack that much emotion into two minutes deserves our respect, no matter his genre.  He interpreted and carried a song like no one I've heard since him.  No one on radio, country or otherwise, can bring the raw emotion (i.e., supply meaning) to song like he can.

And so I say "The King Is Gone." Every time I play guitar and sing, that song carries your influence.  Thank you for teaching us how to sing, and listen, and love, and feel.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Music

I wrote this song my first year in law school on Good Friday.   It had sort of languished as a song that I played once a year, but had never recorded. But I had some free time today and recorded it on my iPhone. And then I posted it.  If you like it, great.  If not, that's fine; it still means a lot to me.

Happy Good Friday.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I really enjoyed meeting with you ...

... but I cannot extend you an offer of employment at this time. We consulted a crystal ball while standing in mallard urine during this month's waxing gibbous at midnight-thirty, and we determined that you are not a good professional fit at this time.

We now insert a hackneyed euphemism to console you.

Big Law