Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Category Archives: Misc

“Last Hurrah of the Republic!” – Walt Whitman

Baseball is America’s game, from the United States to Mexico to the Caribbean basin to Venezuela. It is also Japan’s and South Korea’s and Taiwan’s too. Walt Whitman said so: “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic! That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! well—it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere—belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”



Chapultapec Castle

Has a lovely art and mural collection, among much else.

Ms. Kojima

The other day I remembered fondly my seventh grade history teacher, Ms. Kojima. Someone told me a few years later that she had been at Manzanar. I never forgot this. All I remember is that she drove a black Porsche and was cool. She seemed to care about the students, too, though probably a bit less about me than the more promising ones.

She had personality and spunk beneath the veneer of discipline needed to govern unruly seventh graders. Ms. Kojima gave as good she got from her smart-ass students. She introduced me to the word obnoxious. I do not recall what I said to her that day, but I do remember her wagging her finger at me while saying, “Ga-bree-el, you are obnoxious!” This was all too true. I remember the incident and to this day my old friends and I laugh about it. What bothers me about the memory is that I do not recall looking up obnoxious.

I would give anything to have talked with her as an adult; about what she thought of the Latino kids that she taught, about her time in the internment camps, and, above all, about her and her family’s American story.
May she rest in peace wherever she is now. 

Lincoln on the Present Storm

“The bottom is out of the tub. What shall I do?”

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present…As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

The stormy present is its own thing, Lincoln warned. A corollary to this is that analogies can comfort the mind by imposing order to our present case. They can also mislead and are no substitute for hard thinking, for consideration of the facts in front of us in the full light of logically consistent theory.

We must take into account that our new leadership is constituted by a narcissistic mad man surrounded by dangerous bootlicking and incompetent ideologues. He is, moreover, enabled by an unpatriotic and oligarchical party, a party buoyed electorally by White Nationalist, anti-intellectual, anti-globalization, and alternate-fact tactics targeted at hard-hit Whites in swing states.

This is where we’re are at, as I see it.

MLK Weekend 2017

It has been in the low to mid 70s the last two days. No rain until Wed. No teaching until Tuesday as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King this weekend. I bet that in heaven he laughs out loud at Tio Abe’s tawdry stories. I imagine him and Lincoln conversing, commenting on our dark days with despondency and hope, comparing them to the hard times they endured and died in. Anyway, we should all be thinking of Dr. King this weekend who, like Lincoln, was murdered in cold blood by an assassin who claimed to love America.

A funny end of year missive from a friend…

As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you, your travails and triumphs. You find us in New Orleans, where we decided to abscond on a couple days planning. It’s been great. We had set our minds on traveling to Nashville, but the cold in [Home] was so bitter that we thought we could use some actual warmth. After scaling back our ambitions (we thought we would have enough money to make it to the Bahamas, that’s how sadly deluded we were), we settled on this pearl in the Gulf, the big city, where [our young son] has discovered new ways of indulging in the pleasures of the flesh.
I’m very happy and relieved to hear that you and your family are now enjoying the upside from the recent struggles. You have collectively survived a pretty traumatic experience; if that doesn’t bind you together more closely, I don’t know what will. I’m so sorry to hear about your niece’s accident, but there as well it seems that fortune has smiled at your family again.
Fortune, of course, has all but forsaken us collectively now that Trump has grabbed America by the pussy with his puny hands. No shame in getting fat from that, we are all feeling dejected. Get better and slimmer, and find some creative way to flip that idiot the bird. As for the infirmities of old age that are visiting upon you, welcome to my world. I would advice you to get rid of your right arm, but then your left would start acting up. The fact is that age is a slippery slope, so my real advice is that you find yourself a comely wench asap, and produce with her a couple babies.
Thanks for asking about [our daughter]. She has fully recovered from the episode of [illness], and now appears merely to have a bad haircut. I also am far calmer, though once in a while I start feeling agitated when I think about how damaged her head looked a few months ago. But you know me, I’ll feel agitated for just about anything.
We need to see each other again, soon. In the meantime, our warmest regards and best wishes for a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Some Important Books I Read in Grad School

Here are some of the most important political science books that I read in graduate school. The list, of course, is idiosyncratic and reflects my peculiar academic interests and concerns, the stuff that made me want to become a teacher and a scholar. These resonated and each is an education in itself. Even when flawed, they helped to teach me how to think critically about the subject. Oh, in assembling this list I realized that at heart I am a comparative international political economist, whatever this means.

If forced to administer assigned reading on the most relevant for our times, I would assign Polanyi, Putnam, and Olson. Above all, Polanyi.

In no particular order:

Golden Fetters, Barry Eichengreen

Politics in Hard Times, Peter Gourevitch

Making Democracy Work, Robert Putnam

The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi

Commerce and Coalitions, Ron Rogowski

Debt, Democracy and Development, Jeff Frieden

The Political Power of Economic Ideas, Peter Hall

After Hegemony, Robert Keohane

The Political Economy of International Relations, Robert Gilpin

Markets and States in Tropical Africa, Robert Bates

The Rise and Decline of Nations, Mancur Olson

Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America, Scot Mainwaring and Matthew Soberg Shugart


A Friend Asks a Question

Are your inquiries more external? (A) X is happening, how do I feel about that?

(B) Or internal, like why do I do Y?


I had never asked myself this question. My instant reaction was that I am a (B) sort. After a few minutes I thought, no, I think I am an (A) guy.

Now I’m not so sure. We all lean one way or another I suppose, but I think that (B) matters a lot more to me. I do dwell a great deal on the why I do what I do quite a lot. I sincerely hope that I am no Hamlet.

In conversation, I noted too how sitting down with my pen and paper journal helps me to work through things that get deeply under my skin, stuff that can plague one over time. This discovery is relatively recent. Working the thing out in ink, the underlying “why” I’m upset, is good therapy. This process then let’s me put the episode into the basement.

The Philosopher’s Letter

I’ve known since I was a boy that I’m less intelligent than most. I am, however, blessed with a hopeless addiction to reading beautiful things and have indulged this mistress since I was a teenager.

Even during professional and personal hard times, I never ceased to indulge my craving for great works of literature, for history and poetry.

My small brain is crowded with gorgeous sentences and poetry, magnificent and sordid characters conjured by some of humanity’s most eloquent authors, and countless cultures and places that encompass human history, real and imagined.

I have roamed the great plains of my favorite books and plays over and over again.

I am only now beginning to grasp the philosopher’s letter wherein he writes to his friend that in the evenings he puts on his regal robes to converse with the great characters of history, to learn from them the art of statecraft.

In this blog I will more regularly share some of my favorite conversations, the scenes, sentences, and characters that fill and delight my crowded and small imagination.

Now, to an extent I have been doing this already. But I did want to say that I will do so more assiduously. Mostly because I want to leave behind a journal of the treasures I have enjoyed.

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