Monday, March 08, 2004

TEXAS and some thoughts about presenting papers with undergrad students
I arrived in Irving Texas last Friday and left Sunday to give a paper at a conference. I was very happy to see the Bienvenue en Louisiana sign at the border. Turns out I can only handle a maximum of 24 hours in cowboy land. Who knew? While driving back, on the radio we were listening to a guy talk about Umberto Ecko and wax museums, about how fake America is. I think Texas is fake America supersized. First of all, there is this whole idea about dressing up like a mythological character the cowboy. People that live in cities do not need to where boots, giant hats, chaps, and giant belt buckles with an outline of their state on it. They also don't need giant moustaches and gun racks on the back of their trucks. Historians say there was about a 10 year period at most where there were ranchers doing the think that the cowboys emulate, but it has nothing to do with the way these guys act and dress. Friday night we went to eat at a sort of living wax museum where there were steaks, country music live, and line dancing. There were cowboy guns and other cowboy things everywhere, even in the bathroom. I ordered the Rattlesnake steak. What a joke! But they did have 31 cent beers. That was cool I have to admit. Halfway through the meal some large group of workers came out ringing cowbells and then cut off the tie of some girl. They asked her first. It was weird. The workers obviously did not want to be doing that ridiculous skit, and the girl with the tie put it on as sort of joke. She was embarassed. The whole thing was just so bizarre.

Even more disturbing than the cowboy tie cutting thing was what was going on at our hotel during the conference. There were little Joan Bennett Ramseys all over the freakin place. There was some kid beauty pageant there at the hotel for the title Queen of USA. There were five year old girls with hair the size of Tammi Faye Baker, and moms that smoked and worked to get the kids to pose better and have longer lasting fake smiles. Several kids were just kids doing their stuff, distracted, etc. But the scariest things were the five year old pros, the kids who would shake their toddler chests as if they had giant breasts and were strippers or something. What kind of parent would put their kids through something like that? It was very disturbing, especially later when the swimsuit competition came up and there were five year olds wearing swim suits and high heels. I wanted to come home and throw all the Barbies away that are in our house. It made me wonder whether this is a Texas thing or a nationwide problem. I decided that I can only take Texas in tiny doses.
Oh yeah, and while at the conference I presented a paper on the historical context of the Tabernacle. I'm blogging about it because one of the Theology majors, Roy DuBose III presented the paper with me, and he did a great job. I got lots of great feedback about how in the future more people at this conference ought to present with students. Many people thought Roy was a graduate student. Anyway, he was very nervous before, but in the end I was very proud of the job he did. It was also nice to spend some time out of the classroom to get to know him better.

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