Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Antagonizing my friends

As a young man born and raised in the hills of East Tennessee, much of my childhood was spent watching and cheering the Tennessee Volunteers. And, as many of you know, four years in Nashville, as a student at Vanderbilt University, changed me in many ways: especially when it came to the Vols.

Over the course of my undergraduate career, the Dores slowly, but surely, converted me from a life-long Tennessee fan to a dyed-in-the-wool Vanderbilt fan (in addition, of course, to being a faithful alum). The turning point, for me, as the Tennessee-Vanderbilt football game during my senior year. Watching our boys almost-win against those people (as most Vanderbilt people call Tennessee fans) made something click.

Since then, I've become a true Vanderbilt fan, and our defeat of the "Vawls" in Knoxville this year was the capstone of my transformation. Needless to say, I've taken a bit of heat, and while it's true that I still pull for UT when they're not playing Vandy, I am fully a Commodore.

That's why this article from the Nashville City Paper makes me smile a little wider as I look on this past year, and ask, "Who ya with!"

* * *


by Brett Hait
The Nashville City Paper
December 27, 2005

Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams was shopping recently at Costco with his wife. Football was the last thing on his mind.

One person after another, many of whom Williams had never met, approached him and gleefully wanted to discuss Vandy’s November victory at Tennessee.

It’s not that Williams didn’t appreciate the enthusiasm. But his wife wasn’t getting the shopping done. Finally, Williams retreated to the car and waited on his wife.

For Williams, who oversees Vanderbilt athletics, the point was clear: For Commodores fans, the win at Tennessee represented much more than the end of a 23-year losing streak.

“This gave them something to be proud about,” Williams said. “It allowed people to feel really good about putting that Vanderbilt shirt or hat on.”

Nothing energizes that Vandy fan base like victories over the hated Volunteers, and it has never been better for the faithful than it was in 2005.

For the first time in recorded history, Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in football, won both men’s basketball games and won a baseball series in the same year.

It began with VU’s 88-63 basketball victory in Knoxville on Jan. 8. On Feb. 2, the Commodores knocked off the Vols again, this time in a 67-62 decision at Memorial Gym.

In April, Vanderbilt won two of three games from the Vols in a weekend baseball series at Hawkins Field.

Then, on Nov. 24, a touchdown pass with 1:11 remaining from quarterback Jay Cutler to wide receiver Earl Bennett handed Vandy a 28-24 football win at UT’s Neyland Stadium.

Vanderbilt’s unprecedented success against Tennessee will reverberate beyond 2005, Williams said.

“When I got here, one thing that I was concerned about is everyone said Nashville is Volunteer Country,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wait minute, this is our country.’ They should have Knoxville, but certainly we should have Nashville.

“The battle for Nashville and the battle for middle Tennessee certainly helps us when we can beat UT in all sports, and in particular those sports. I think it’s very significant.”

Williams and the Vanderbilt athletics community were all ears last month when first-year Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl proclaimed that Nashville is “Big Orange Country.”

No offense was taken, but the battle lines were drawn yet again.

“Who knows if it has been true, but certainly I can tell you our plan is to make sure it’s not true going forward,” Williams said. “I understand what they’re trying to say. They are the state school, and kids will grow up with UT on their minds.

“We’re a private school, and quite honestly, it’s harder to get in here. But I think we’re making inroads in saying that we might be a private school in Tennessee, but Nashville is our home and we’re going to do all we can to make this Commodore Country.”

Williams also believes that Vanderbilt’s athletic success against Tennessee and other Southeastern Conference opponents validates VU’s philosophies.

“We did all of that in an environment where we are the smallest school in the SEC, and we take pride in the fact that we’re an emerging athletic power, if you like, but we’re an academic juggernaut,” he said. “If we have to choose between educating people or winning a game, we’ll choose education, but we have stood on the grounds that we think you can do both. We are accomplishing that.”

In 2005, at least, there would be no argument from Tennessee.

* * *

LISTENING TO: My mom and my sister talking about New Year's

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Break: Gainesville and Rogersville (to date)

Sorry that I haven't been up to date on the ol' blog of late. My trip to Gainesville and subsequent journey to the Promised Land has left me away from the internet for a few days (yes, yes, I know: how did I survive). Anyway.


After all the post-semester parties, I drove down to Gainesville to see Kat. On the way, I ran into some pretty heavy traffic, and a trip that normally takes seven hours took twelve.

Needless to say, Kat was not very happy: she had arranged dinner plans for us with some of her friends who she doesn't get to visit with much because they are married and feel funny inviting their "single" friends (which apparently includes Kat, since I'm 600 miles away).

Anyway, because of my traffic delays, Kat had to cancel our dinner plans with her friends. So, as "punishment" I got to buy Kat dinner at one of Gainesville's nicest restaurants. It was a nice, little bistro called "Cafe 1245" -- which is, apparently, their address, not an assemblage of random numbers that have no significance.

The food was good, though, and the atmosphere was even better: Kat and I got to sit down to a nice, romantic dinner for the first time in a long time. We enjoyed a lil' fermented grape juice and proceeded to order a rather indulgent dessert which we shared. It was really good.

After dinner, we went out with Kat's friends to downtown Gainesville. The downtown area is fairly nice, and one can tell that the local officials have tried really hard to keep it vital through redevelopment. There were a couple of fairly classy bars, but we didn't stop in there. Instead, we met some of Kat's friends at a dance club, and watched as they proceeded to dance the night away.

The music and the atmosphere certainly fit with a little more left-oriented crew than I'm used to, but I was with Kat: I didn't care where I was, as long as I was with her.

We had a lot of fun, and we both got a little silly trying to dance to the uber-hip music they were playing (a combination of an Abercrombie-store soundtrack and techno club music).

It was the first time I had been in a club with "the public" since sophomore year at Vandy (hey, what can I say: once I started dating a Greek and was a Greek myself, renting clubs out to share time with lots of people you know is a lot more fun than being bumped into by random, possibly-sketchy people). Still, though, it was a lot of fun, and it was good to get to meet and hang out with Kat's friends. Let me say this, though: I hope I'm never in a dance-off with any of them (equal parts of me being bad and them being good).

The next day, we woke up around noonish and proceeded to grab lunch at Moe's Southwest Grill (to which I was duly introduced to by the Lieutenant when we were back in Nashville -- there's one over by the Hundred Oaks shopping center off I-65). After lunch, we went to see Kat's new digs, and make sure her new roommates were ready for "Operation: Katharynic Relocation."

Turns out no one was there, but we knew where the "secret access device" was located (e.g., we knew where they kept their extra key).

We started moving Kat; ultimately, it took three trips with my (beloved) 4Runner crammed to the brim. On the third trip, Kat's new roommates arrived, and surveyed the vast holdings that are Kat's belongings in Gainesville. Kat was slightly embarassed, and I made a joke about hwo much stuff she had in order to try to settle things. Kat, of course, smoothly took things over and served as peacemaker, being self-deprecating, in order to secure their assent to our continued transfer of Katharynic belongings.

After we finished moving Kat, we went to dinner with the couple who we had stood up the night before; we ate at this pizza place on University Avenue (right across from Florida Field, a.k.a., "The Swamp"), that has gigantic slices of pizza. I mean, seriously: they serve slices of pizza that are approximately 16-18 inches long. I was in heaven.

After dinner, and some great conversation with the couple (they're from Wisconsin), we went back to Kat's very-bare room and did a last once-over to make sure that we hadn't missed anything.

The next day, we duly prepared for departure, and finally left Gainesville around 10 am (eastern). It was, of course, raining -- I say "of course" only because the Lord has seen fit to cause it to rain every single time I have ever moved Kat, except for once (last year, senior year, at Vandy).

Anyway, our journey began. We took a Florida highway, instead of the Interstate, to Jacksonville, where we dropped off Kat's Corolla, so that she could drive back to Gainesville when she flies into Jacksonville after Christmas Break.

We consolidated vehicles at the airport, and began our journey to the Promised Land.

Our route:

--Interstate 95 north from Jacksonville to Savannah, GA
--Savannah, GA to South Carolina, at the junction of I-95 and I-26 west.
--From the junction, we travelled toward Johnson City, TN via Columbia, SC; Spartanburg, SC; and Asheville, NC.
--From Johnson City, we took the local roads home to the Promised Land.

Once we got to the South Carolina up-country, I could feel myself-- well, it's difficult to describe. As I began to see the mountains, and as we watched the temperature drop from the fifties (in Florida, and along the Georgia-South Carolina route of I-95) to the thirties and twenties (of the mountains), I just felt like I was being recharged; like there was some force that was filling me back up with the essence of who I am.

I know that's all pretty weird-sounding, and probably a little too metaphysical for the ol' blog, but anyway: as Kat and I made our way into the Smokies, in North Carolina, it felt right. When we crossed the line into Tennessee, I remembered why this place is always going to be in my heart.

I was home.


Kat and I got to my house around midnight-ish, and mom and my sister were waiting up for us (which was a very nice gesture). We were both pretty worn out, from our twelve hours of driving (it ended up taking 12 hours to get from Gainesville to Rogersville), so we both went straight to bed (though, of course, I did not get to enjoy my bed).

The next day, Kat and I joined my sister and my mom in going to my home church, First Baptist Church of Rogersville. It was great, great day. We celebrated the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and it was a wonderful worship experience. Our Minister of Music, Justin Nelson, arranged a beautiful service that included congregational singing of "O Come All Ye Faithful" with the organ, a handbell choir, and a trumpet. I could keep going on about the other hymns, and the method through which the Advent candles were lighted and the children helped to assemble our church's nativity scene at the front of the Sanctuary -- but I'm probably falling into my old habits of making a boring blog. So, moving on.

After church, we went to Charlie's (yes, that is spelled correctly) restaurant over on Highway 66 in Rogersville. After enjoying my usual post-worship meal (hamburger steak, baked potato, green beans, a roll, and sweetened tea), Kat and I went to Wal-Mart (a.k.a., the "Devil"), to go finish some shopping that she needed to do.

That evening, I went back to church (with Kat and the family), because Justin (minister of music) had asked me to sing with our church's Sanctuary Choir in our annual Christmas cantata, "The Story of Christmas."

The cantata was designed by Justin, Mae Brooks (our venerable director of the Drama Ministry), and Eutha Hageman (apparently, the person Mrs. Brooks has chosen to be her apprentice, since Mrs. Brooks is getting-on in years).

It consisted of three primary parts: there was a narrator, played by Rogersville resident Bruce Campbell, who (with his purposefully-grown, white beard) looked astonishingly like a shepherd (which is good, since that is who he was supposed to be). After Mr. Campbell came in and narrated a segment of the Christmas story, the lights would go off of him, and come up on the second part of the cantata: our Sanctuary Choir, accompanied by organ, piano, and an orchestral ensemble consisting of several violins, a few cellos, French horns, clarinets, flutes, and a couple of trumpets.

The ensemble was diverse enough to beautifully play portions of Handel's Messiah, elements of which served as prelude and postlude to the cantata.

We sang a wide variety of pieces, including one from Handel, and three or four from John Rucker (I believe that is his name), including the always-special "Shepherd's Pipe Carol."

When Justin asked me to join the choir in presenting the cantata, he gave me the music to review before the service that night. It was a great compliment, I suppose, that Justin believed in my musical ability enough to suppose that a few hours' review would be all that was necessary in order for me to make a positive contribution to the overall sound of the cantata. In reality, though, the pieces that Justin chose were so beautiful because they were so difficult. Our choir had apparently been rehearsing this music for almost a month-and-a-half; my make-shift preparations were not exactly up-to-par with the choir's significant (and well-done) rehearsals.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and attempted to give back to God with the gifts that He gave me (namely, music).

The third element of the cantata was carried on while the choir was singing a song that illustrated a portion of the story of Jesus' life upon which the narrator had just expounded. For instance, after Bruce (our narrator) made mention of the prophecies of Isaiah, an actor (in this case, the Pastor, Rev. Bob Riley), made his way through the sanctuary to the stage, and acted as though he were receiving and copying the prophecy about which the choir was then singing.

Overall, the cantata was both well-planned and well-performed. My fiancee, no stranger to well-conducted and well-orchestrated musical performances, said that she was very impressed with the presentation. I told her that it was performances like this that led to my appreciation of music, and my desire to worship God through music. If there's one thing that Baptists do well, it's sing and play and act to give praise to God.

The next day, Kat and I desired to go shopping for Christmas presents for her friends, for her family, and for my mom and sister. At first, we were going to go to the mall with my sister after her dental appointment, but she was a little woozy after they had to some repairs to dental work that she had undergone in the past. Not wanting to waste a trip to the mall (since I need Brooke's prowess and insight to purchase good gifts), Kat and I decided to instead remain in Rogersville, and just "unwind."

We had lunch at El Pueblito Authentic Mexican Restaurant on East Main in downtown Rogersville. It's my favorite Mexican restaurant in the world, and it did not disappoint this time.

After we finished our lunch, we decided that we would walk around town and enjoy Rogersville at Christmas-time (after all, one of the reasons I love Kat so much is that she loves Rogersville almost as much as me -- almost). We decided to check out Rogersville's first coffeehouse, Coffee & Tea on South Church. We had some great hot chocolate, and we both got excited to realize that my mom's (and others') efforts to promote economic growth in downtown Rogersville have been working.

There has been a veritable explosion of shops in the downtown area, remniscent of the glory days of downtown Rogersville in the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries (the last two times that downtown was a center of economic activity).

Katharyn and I ended up spending the whole afternoon in downtown, at the various shops and galleries that have opened there, including my favorite: the Local Artists' Gallery on the corner of East Main and South Church.

Finally, as we realized that the sun was beginning to set, we realized that we had spent (literally) the entire afternoon shopping in downtown. I was ecstatic.

After that, we went home and grabbed some dinner after watching a bit of the news. My good friend from high school, Michael Anderson, called and asked Katharyn and I to try out Rogersville's newest watering-hole, assuring us that, unlike past venues, J.B.'s was actually a fairly classy establishment.

He was right. Kat, Brooke, and I joined my high school friends Robert Galvez, Elizabeth Beach, Megan Price, and Michael at the new place, and had a lot of fun catching up on all the goings-on among our friends (and foes) from the heart of the Promised Land.

The next day, Kat and I joined Brooke in a trip to the mall to shop for mom and (unbeknownst to P.L.S.) my sister. We came away with our mission accomplished, and in good order.

Kat and I had dinner at Peking Chinese Restaurant & Buffet, another fine, Rogersville establishment.

The next day, sadly, Kat had to fly back home to be with her family for Christmas. After an emotional, tearful good bye, I turned her loose into security at Knoxville's McGhee-Tyson Regional Airport as she prepared to fly to Washington's Dulles International.

After I was sure that she was safely aboard, I began the journey home, but got a call from my friend Evan Schlank to go grab some dinner since I was in Knoxville. We went over the West Towne Mall, and while I was there, I saw fellow Rogersvillians Eric "Stick" Sandefur and Tyler Pace (though I don't think Tyler saw me: he was with some attractive, young lady, who I gather was consuming most of his attention).

Well, I believe that brings me to the present: I lounged around the house today, determined to watch Star Trek and check my email (which I haven't done for real in four days -- thanks Kat -- lol).

Once again, mission accomplished (four episodes and email is done and done-er).

This has turned into quite a post: if you've made it this far in reading, congratulations. Maybe you should leave me a comment on why (or why not) you enjoy checking out the Annales.

FEELING: At home in the Promised Land
LISTENING TO: Streaming radio from WNAZ in Nashville

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The campus lights are gleaming bright

First of all, I had a blast at the SBA end-of-the-semester party tonight down in Five Points (Birmingham's equivalent of Nashville's Second Avenue). Though not as many of the one-ells showed up (because most of them have left already), it was still good to hang out.

It's really weird to know that I'm not going to see these people that I've been in extremely close contact with over six months at all for a few weeks. And it's especially weird to not have to be somewhere reading, studying, or writing an outline.

I guess what they say about Law School is true: it really does change you.

Tomorrow I head down to Gainesville to see my darling fiancee. She's been really stressed out about exams these past few days, and so I hope she's looking forward to seeing me as much as I'm looking forward to seeing her.

I'm going down to see her, but also to help her move: she's getting a really sweet house right across the street from the Law School at UF.

Anyway, tonight was a blast, despite the crappy weather that Birmingham is apparently going to send me home with. At least, however, I did come home to this little tidbit from the Vandy athletics website.

In 1934, Louisiana Senator Huey Long led several trainloads of LSU fans to Nashville for the LSU/Vanderbilt football game at Dudley Field. When Long returned to Baton Rouge, he was so enchanted by the ladies of Vanderbilt that he wrote and published a song about them.

Long praised the Vanderbilt co-eds with the song entitled “Miss Vandy”. The cover of the sheet music is in black and gold with a photo of Lucy Ann McGugin, daughter of Coach Dan McGugin. These are those lyrics to Miss Vandy:

The campus lights are gleaming bright at dear old Vanderbilt tonight,
And as the twinkling star light gleams,
Seeing the co-ed of my dreams,
Miss Vandy, I’m learning the charm of your smile, and
My heart is yearning for you all the while,
In every dream you seem so near,
When I awaken don’t disappear.

My thoughts keep on straying in love dreams of you,
And I keep on praying you’ll make them come true.
Everything you do brings me back to you,
Miss Vandy, you’re heaven to me, miss me.
Miss Vandy, I’m learning the charm of your smile,

And my heart is yearning for you all the while;
In every dream you seem so near,
When I awaken don’t disappear.
My thoughts keep on straying in love dreams of you,
And I keep on praying you’ll make them come true.
Everything you do brings me back to you,
Miss Vandy, you’re heaven to me, miss me.
Miss me.

What can I say, but that I agree: and, just as they did for Senator Long, a girl from Vandy stole my heart. And I get to see her tomorrow.

FEELING: Excited about seeing Kat
LISTENING TO: Huey Long's "Miss Vandy"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


After our last final tonight, the law kids basically went crazy. After all, our lessons were over!

People were completely wasted by five o'clock in the afternoon. And while I'm not going to list names here (that'd be a little in appropriate), let's just say that it was, at times, entertaining.

The Lieutenant and I went over to Mac Bracwell's place to hang out and partake of some fermented, canned beverages. We got to see a lot of our friends who have been in hibernation, studying for finals. It was really good to see them all.

Later tonight, we went to my favorite "hang out" spot in Birmingham: Innisfree.

When we first got there, the place was mostly empty (what, with it being a Tuesday night, and all), with about 8 or 10 of our law school buddies. As the night wore on, more and more Cumberland kids showed up, and eventually most of Innisfree was packed with unwinding law kids.

I had a really great time, again seeing people that I haven't gotte to see because of exams; I especially enjoyed getting to hang out with my friends from my own section, § 1. It was good to see the Uno's representin' with all the other kids.

Tonight ended rather eventfully for me, but I still had a great time. The biggest thing about tonight, though, was the lesson I learned: first, that no matter what happens, I know that Buck Burris has got my back. What an amazing friend. Second, I learned-- well, I'll leave that lesson unwritten, because I think putting it on here would spoil it.

I hope this isn't too boring for all you blog readers out there. And thanks to everyone who told me, tonight, that my blog served as an effective exam-distraction during finals.

I'm glad I could help.

All I know is that I can't see Katharyn soon enough; and the Promised Land never beckoned me more purposefully than right now.

FEELING: Reflective, frustrated, and grateful
LISTENING TO: The still, small Voice

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Exams = laziness

There's just something about exams that brings out the laziness streak in me. I mean, normally, as most people will attest, I'm fairly lazy (review the jobs I've had: lifeguard, disc jockey, and intern -- no strenuous work there, though sometimes during the interships that wasn't necessarily always the case).

But today, at Panera, I was joined by the Lieutenant and by Dave Sawyer for a study session extraordinaire. During our time at this trendy little bread shop (that sometimes reminds me of the batisseries of France, only Americanized), both David and I were enjoying people-watching the Samfordites (a.k.a., Samford undergrads) who were here studying.

They're usually quite hilarious, and today proved no different: in between a mom counseling her daughter's beloved about what job he should have once he graduates (the kid was all of 17) and the vast amounts of sexual tension between the kiddies, it was a people-watcher's dream.

During this people-watching fun-time, I wanted to call Dave's attention to certain individuals, using the time-honored "clock system," where straight ahead is "12" and behind is "6" and so on.

Here comes the sad part: I used instant messenger to communicate this to David, despite his being one table away. I admit it: it was pitiful, and it was unexcuseable.

Five de-merits for Cumberland House.

Well, as a reward for my laziness, I'm going to treat myself to Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe tonight (hey: the tickets were free from a friend).

I'm sure I'll be too exuberant to continue studying tonight, but we'll see.

Keep praying for that exam on Tuesday: looks like I'm definitely going to need it.

FEELING: A sugar-high from my Panera sweet tea
LISTENING TO: The jazzy elevator music on the loudspeakers

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Unwinding with the law crew

Thanks to some timely "hanging out" with the one-ell crew, I feel a lot better about the exams right now than I did this afternoon. It's not necessarily that I think I did better, it's more like I'm glad that I got to host twenty people at the apartment with the Lieutenant.

Who said that law students don't get to have a social life!

FEELING: Grateful for good friends
LISTENING TO: Handel'sMessiah

Friday, December 09, 2005

Well that was fun

Just got back from the Contracts final. It was ugly. Very ugly. Let's pray that professor Bolla grades nicely. But at least, in mitigation, the Lieutenant and I are hosting some folks over at the apartment. If you know my cell number, consider yourself hereby invited.

FEELING: Deflated
LISTENING TO: Switchfoot, so I can remember that grades aren't everything

Intrigue: the spice of life

So apparently, my blog is no where near as exciting as my good buddy Dave Sawyer's. Over at his blog, his entries are starting to have real world consequences.

I guess my problem is that there's too much politician in me, worrying about how my personal life, broadcasted to a large audience, will be used against me in the future. Of course, Kat would just say that I'm, as usual, being paranoid.

In other news, the Lieutenant and I are growing frustrated with our exams here at ol' Samford (pronounced, and drawlled, "Suh-am-fuhrd," by the Alabamians). It's not that they're getting any more difficult, it's just that we're becoming less and less motivated to do well on them.

Hopefully, though, our peer study group -- for whom we have yet to develop a name -- will pull us through. And by the way, if you have any suggestions for what to name the study group that consists of me, Bobo, the Lieutenant, Ashton's cousin Dave, and Carey, please feel free to Comment down-below.

SO! Who's excited to see Narnia!

I know I am. But I can't decide whether to see it here in Birmingham (which is what I'm leaning toward, seeing how I'm clearly impatient) or to wait and see it in Rogersville. The classic Dillonistic thing to do would be to, as Kat always says that I try to do, "have my cake and eat it, too." In other words, I'll see it here in the 'Ham, and then go home and see it in the Promised Land!

Yesssssssss: score bonus.

Of course, there could be a slight problem with that: it seems, according to my sources, that Rogersville's quaint-yet-functional movie theatre, Cinema 4 seems to have finally closed. I say finally not because I'm happy to see Rogersville lose a business or see our only movie theatre (the next-nearest one-worth-going-to is either in Kingsport, 30 minutes away or in Morristown, 25 minutes away, yet a world away in redneckness).

The thing is, Cinema 4 was being managed very poorly, by an individual who didn't seem to hold either himself or his employees to the highest standards of customer service or theatre quality. In other words, they let the place run down. It was getting pretty bad.

Hopefully, a new company will purchase the building -- built brand new about 10 years ago -- and new management will bring renewed vigor back to the cinematic experience in Tennessee's second-oldest town (after all, Tennessee's oldest town doesn't even have a movie theatre! So ha! How about that, Jonesborough!).

Hmmm... I suppose I'm still not quite as intriguing as Dave's blog. But maybe, if I start using more "stream of consciousness" in my blogging, it will become both more lurid and more entertaining.

And hey! Give me a little bit o' lovin'. If you read my blog, ever so slightly at all, leave a comment, and let me know how I'm doing; or, with apologies to my one-time swimming coach Carter Hale, "leave your questions, comments, witty remarks, funny stories, and caustic insults" using the clever comments device below.

Aight -- I'm out. Contracts exam is today, in fact, I will be taking it in only about two hours. Probably should cram some. And pray a lot.

FEELING: Strangely peppy

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fighting the political correctness police


Follows are remarks by the Student Body President of Dartmouth University, given at Convocation 2005, where (I believe) the incoming freshman class is addressed by various University dignitaries.

The courage of my brother in arms (and in Christ) is to be commended.

* * *


Dartmouth University
September 21, 2005

You've been told that you are a special class. A quick look at the statistics confirms that claim: quite simply, you are the smartest and most diverse group of freshmen to set foot on the Dartmouth campus. You have more potential than all of the other classes. You really are special.

But it isn't enough to be special. It isn't enough to be talented, to be beautiful, to be smart. Generations of amazing students have come before you, and have sat in your seats. Some have been good, some have been bad. All have been special.

In fact, there's quite a long list of very special, very corrupt people who have graduated from Dartmouth. William Walter Remington, Class of 1939, started out as a Boy Scout and a choirboy and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He ended up as a Soviet spy, was convicted of perjury and beaten to death in prison.

Daniel Mason '93 was just about to graduate from Boston Medical School when he shot two men – killing one – after a parking dispute.

Just a few weeks ago, I read in the D about PJ Halas, Class of 1998. His great uncle George founded the Chicago Bears, and PJ lived up to the family name, co-captaining the basketball team his senior year at Dartmouth and coaching at a high school team following graduation. He was also a history teacher, and, this summer, he was arrested for sexually assualting a 15-year-old student.

These stories demonstrate that it takes more than a Dartmouth degree to build character.

As former Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey said, at Dartmouth our business is learning. And I'll have to agree with the motto of Faber College, featured in the movie Animal House, "Knowledge is Good." But if all we get from this place is knowledge, we've missed something. There's one subject that you won't learn about in class, one topic that orientation didn't cover, and that your UGA won't mention: character.

What is the purpose of our education? Why are we at Dartmouth?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

"But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society…. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."

We hear very little about character in our classrooms, yet, as Dr. King suggests, the real problem in the world is not a lack of education.

For example, in the past few weeks we've seen some pretty revealing things happening on the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricane Katrina. We've seen acts of selfless heroism and millions around the country have united to help the refugees. On the other hand, we've been disgusted by the looting, violence, and raping that took place even in the supposed refuge areas. In a time of crisis and death, people were paddling around in rafts, stealing TV's and VCR's. How could Americans go so low?

My purpose in mentioning the horrible things done by certain people on the Gulf Coast isn't to condemn just them; rather it's to condemn all of us. Supposedly, character is what you do when no one is looking, but I'm afraid to say all the things I've done when no one was looking. Cheating, stealing, lusting, you name it - How different are we? It's easy to say that we've never gone that far: never stolen that much; never lusted so much that we'd rape; and the people we've cheated, they were rich anyway.

Let's be honest, the differences are in degree. We have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven't been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.

The Times of London once asked readers for comments on what was wrong with the world. British author, G. K. Chesterton responded simply: "Dear Sir, I am."

Not many of us have the same clarity that Chesterton had. Just days after Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the Gulf Coast, politicians and pundits were distributing more blame than aid. It's so easy to see the faults of others, but so difficult to see our own. In the words of Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves."

Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That's character.

Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me.

It's so easy to focus on the defects of others and ignore my own. But I need saving as much as they do.

Jesus' message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

In the words of Bono:

[I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s—- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question.

You want the best undergraduate education in the world, and you've come to the right place to get that. But there's more to college than achievement. With Martin Luther King, we must dream of a nation – and a college – where people are not judged by the superficial, "but by the content of their character."

Thus, as you begin your four years here, you've got to come to some conclusions about your own character because you won't get it by just going to class. What is the content of your character? Who are you? And how will you become what you need to be?

Editor's Note: I feel a certain solidarity with Mr. Riner, because I know how difficult it is to be bold for Christ at our nation's elite universities. Godspeed Noah as he finishes out his SGA term. The article is quoted from the Darmouth website.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I'm no longer a Law School-virgin...

Well, I took my first law school exam yesterday, and it wasn't quite the scary experience that I thought it would be. Thanks to preparation and studying, I think I may have done half-way decent on it.

Of course, I also felt confident coming out of my sophomore physics exam at dear ol' VU, and we all know how that turned out (and if you don't, don't ask: it's a sore subject even still).

Anywho, it's onward and upward: exam number two is this Tuesday, and the subject is Torts (not to be confused with tarts).

Feel free to pray for me and Scott (and Kat, too, while you're at it), as we prepare for exams.