Thursday, May 31, 2007

Archive Dust

Day Two at the Amistad Research Center proved productive. I went through eight boxes of unprocessed files so it was quite a feat. One of the boxes was the jackpot--30 years of the organization's quarterly publication. It's a shame they are sitting in a box.

I decided today I am not organized enough to ever eventually donate my papers to an archive. And in the digital age it would seem ego-maniacal to print every email correspondence to save for posterity. But there is something about reading someone's hand-written notes that seems so intimate, even if it's about how the president spent the organization's money.

I spent an hour at the end of the day in the French Quarter... got some pralines and some beignets, walked around, watched a scene for a movie be filmed at a cafe (it takes a ridiculous amount of people and security to film two people sitting at a table), and took a few hasty pictures.

My favorite part of the day? Watching a man in the Quarter lead a crowd in "This Little Light of Mine", clapping and singing. "Jesus is comin' back, I'm gonna let it shine..."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tales from the Archives

Greetings from the Big Easy! Here begins the first step of my out of state research for my dissertation.

I'm staying across Lake Ponchatrain from New Orleans with relatives in Mandeville. So we drove across the 24 mile bridge (longest in the world) and through all the city's devastation. I saw where the breach happened in one of the canals and it's smaller than I would have imagined for all the damage it caused. Many houses are abandoned, some are rebuilt, and FEMA trailers dot every few driveways for those who still do not have livable houses. The scene is bleak to be honest. One sign read "Bulldoze house but don't cut down tree." The tree weathered the storm, so why destroy it now? One church was getting ready to re-open this Sunday and a team of congregants busily prepared.

My first stop was Dillard University, which fared decently during Katrina minus its library. I was unable to ascertain before I arrived that the special collections have relocated to storage while the library is being rennovated. An unfortunate consequence.

So I went onto the Amistad Research Center at Tulane. Tulane and the surrounding mansions and parks look untouched. Partly that's because they suffered less damage and partly because they were repaired first. The only time I recognized the impact of Katrina was overhearing a conversation of some professors discussing the university's new evacuation plan. Class and race inequalities were thus impossible for me not to see today.

But Amistad was great... I got through two boxes today and will peruse several more tomorrow they are bringing from off-site storage. I got so excited exploring these materials, like I was starting to put pieces together and to discover. I hope this is representative of how the rest of my trip will go.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Woman Behind Wonder Woman


"Written by men for 60 years, feminist icon Wonder Woman finally gets a female author in novelist Jodi Picoult, only the second woman to write her story (the first was Mindy Newel, who scripted three issues in the original series). But Wonder Woman's (male) illustrators haven't changed: Picoult reports she advocated for a breast reduction, to no avail. Still, as a role model for girls, Picoult says "I love the fact that [Wonder Woman] is strong and has muscles and powerful thighs." But what about that costume? "All I'm gonna say," responds Picoult, "is that any woman knows you can't fight crime in a bustier."
(artwork by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Anti-Genocide in the Book of Esther

I've been reading the book of Esther and it has a very clear anti-genocide message. Haman, the evil right hand man to King Xerxes, decides in a moment to decree the destruction of the Jews after Mordecai, a Jew, disrespects him. One personal issue (that shouldn't even have been an issue) and he makes a decision to kill an entire people group. The rest of the book speaks of Esther and Mordecai being used to stop this genocide.

Why isn't it ok? Because it's wrong... God is a God of redemption not of destruction. Even in OT terms of His wrath, God is merciful. And in the case of Queen Esther, the King's own wife would have been killed. Our neighbors and family members could represent a targeted group. Then there's Mordecai, the annoying citizen who sits outside the king's gate and does things no one seems to understand. To put it more bluntly, I see Mordecai representing the homeless or the foreigners who never quite fit "our" customs and standards and thereby pose some sort of threat.

How do they stop it? It takes everyone... Esther as an insider in the kingdom who doubts her power but wields it creatively and convincingly with the people who matter. Mordecai, giving Esther encouragement and strategy. The people, who dress in sack cloth and ashes and pray and fast.

I can find myself in each of those solutions. And I must.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Laundry Room

While some people complain about community laundry rooms, I quite like them. I might like the one in my apartment complex less if it weren't two doors down from me, but I like running into people, having random conversations, checking the mail, etc. Once you get past the awkwardness of separating your laundry as you talk, that is.

I have had a hell of a week. To be honest I'm overwhelmed with just about every area of my life. School, work, relationships, family, the future--it's all got it's own stress right now. And it added up and crashed in on me tonight.

While I was waiting for my clothes to dry, I checked my mail and found a letter from my mom's college roommate, with whom she is still close. It was completely out of nowhere, and extremely timely. Two pages of funny stories and lots of encouragement, the kind that you can only appreciate from a life long friend who gets the complexity of your life and the things you're capable of.

So that was it, I burst into tears, reading this letter in the laundry room. No real way to hide. My neighbor, who is a hospital chaplain, came in just as I tried to shield my face. He asked if he could pray for me. I nodded my head yes, choked up, and talked to him while he hung up his shirts. He started to walk out the door and I looked at him, confused... Apparently he meant could he pray for me in his heart, like over the weekend. But he kindly offered to pray with me, and since I was so desperate for someone outside my everyday circle to lift me up, I said yes, please.

He came over and joined hands with me and my roommate. He led us to be still, to remember that God always hears us. And he prayed for tears to wash away pain, hard feelings to illustrate possibility, and conflict to begin growth.

Old friends, neighbors, roommates, prayers, the God who always hears, and the most inane community space.

These are my peace.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Be Not Afraid

To overestimate human potential,
To recognize good,
To become more.