Sunday, January 31, 2010

important distinction regarding books and ebooks

At [publishing] More on the Amazon vs Macmillan problem, Jay Lake says, "Books are a product. Ebooks are a service." In the comments, John Chu beat me to pointing out the error in that:

Books are a product. Ebooks with DRM are a service. Ebooks without DRM are a product.

As for the Amazon-Macmillan War, elephants are fighting, and I'm the grass.

what title this is I think I know

Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows.
Attention, multitaskers (if you can pay attention, that is): Your brain may be in trouble.

People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.
I'm tempted to move: The Secessionist Campaign for the Republic of Vermont

Phys Ed: How Exercising Keeps Your Cells Young

Metafilter post of the day:

great teaching takes true grit

What makes a great teacher? Analyzing more than twenty years of data, Teach for America has found that great teachers had trained in their subject areas rather than in education, and had high "life satisfaction." They also demonstrated five tendencies: they
"constantly reevaluate what they are doing... they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls."
This last trait is measured by the Grit Scale, which has been shown to predict good outcomes in both teachers and West Point cadets. (Do you have grit?)

Not everyone agrees:
The Problem with Teach for America: 12
True Grit
Why I Hate Teach for America
posted by anotherpanacea

Saturday, January 30, 2010

this is the title you're reading now

My "Blogging break" now means "links only, and only links that may be useful for years." And, okay, brief commentary. And, uh, whatever I damn well feel like. Like this realization:

I need to stop saying "but" and start saying "and." Too often, I say "Yes, but—" or just "But—" and I'm heard as denying what the other has said when I actually mean that the other's point is valid, so far as it goes, and there are more, and possibly greater, factors to consider as well. The 4-Hour Work Week (which I decided was not worthless, but was not for me) mentioned the "criticism sandwich": give praise, then criticism, then more praise. When I was a kid, the technique was called "sugar-coating." I think my metaphor will be "trick the cat," because when we've had to give medicine to cats, adding salmon or tuna flavor made a huge difference.

Ulysses Grant: Our Greatest President?
...it was only anti-democratic racist violence and a rightwing court system that frustrated that American ideal. Too many liberals buy into a myth that Jim Crow was democratically supported in this nation which just feeds its historic legitimacy.

What we should honor and remember by honoring Ulysses Grant is that his vision of racial justice was the will of the American people-- all its people -- and that the following hundred years of segregation was an illegitimate betrayal of that democratic will.
Italics mine. Link via Making Light.

via rialian (thanks!), a site I may follow: Front Porch Republic. rialian pointed out The Politics of Ingratitude; I found a great selection of songs in Lookin’ Out My Back Door; Or Sounds From Boo Radley’s Porch, and this quote:

"Property in the hands of labor is freedom. Labor in the hands of property is slavery." –Dmitri Kleiner

And, for fans of recursive art, The Turtles perform the theme to It's Garry Shandling's Show:

Friday, January 29, 2010

how long will this blogging break last?

Too often, my blogging seems like writing with nothing to say. My tepid defense of Chris Matthews is a fine example: he's a rich old white liberal. Why should I care if folks call him a racist because he praised Obama using rhetoric from the '70s and '80s? I'm too often powerless in the face of SIWOTI.

I'm sure there are loose ends in my blogging that should be wrapped up. The only one that occurs to me just now is that I finished Jim Goad's The Redneck Manifesto. It had one surprise for me: when he mentioned realizing his parents were embarrassing because they were lower class, I remembered the same thing. For me, that happened in sixth grade, when we moved from the country to the nearest city, Gainesville. At first, I thought our new house was a big step up in life, because my brother and I no longer had to share a room with our sister, but sometime during that school year, I realized we lived in a small house in a blue-collar neighborhood, and the rich kids at school--meaning the middle-class kids--had very different lives than mine.

The problem with the The Redneck Manifesto is it should be called The Redneck Rant. It's not going to convince anyone, partly because Goad's love of the gross-out will offend a lot of the "nicer" people who might've been receptive to it. If I could edit it to about a third its size, I would have a booklet that I would force on everyone I met. I think if Goad and I sat down with a drink, we'd either have a fine time or he'd think I'm a damn fool for trying to get privileged people to understand the nature of privilege.

I'd agree with him, but I'll still keep trying.

I've been trying to write fiction lately, but that's not happening. I need to change my life. I've started that. I'll provide an update when I know more. (Apologies for sounding cryptic. So far as I know, no bad things are happening in my life. My need for change comes from within, not without. Jesus and Rilke would understand.)

If this break lasts longer than usual, happy trails!

ETA: On Facebook, discussing the way people are responding to Chris Matthews' blunder, I wrote this:
The old-school activists say, "But we're all part of the human race!" while the anti-racists say, "But we're different races and we're proud of that!" It's heard as an either/or proposition when the answer should be "Both--we're the same, and we're different, and neither cancels the other so long as we treat each other with love and respect."

JON STEWART SLAMS CHRIS MATTHEWS



Wyatt Cenac's bit in the middle is great.

I hadn't known much about Matthews before. Now I think he's interesting, as confused old white liberals go. In the '60s, he did the Peace Corps in Swaziland. He admires Saul Alinsky. When Obama and Clinton were competing, he got a lot of flak for saying the truth about Clinton: "I'll be brutal, the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merit." He's been a longtime Obama supporter; during the campaign, he said, "I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often." Conservatives got all over his ass and NBC's for bias because of that.

On the other hand, at Matthews Rips Dem Congressman: 'You're Pandering to the Netroots' he sounds like a typical clueless old liberal.

today's grab bag

via DairyState Dad: Charlie Brooker - How To Report The News


via madrobins: "What Teachers Make," by TAYLOR MALI


This will probably be the tablet computer I'll buy.

Are The Rich Damned? From The Mormon Worker. The Book of Mormon has strongly commie bits, too.

Selling Poor Steven: The struggles and torments of a forgotten class in antebellum America: black slaveowners

linkies

Why I won't be getting an iPad, even though I crave one. (But it's okay. There are going to be a lot of tablets coming out this year.)

Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis’
Dr Meyer also insisted the definition of “anti-Semitic” had now changed, saying: “Formerly an anti-Semite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

kind of defending Chris Matthews

After Obama's State of the Union, Chris Matthews said, “I forgot he was black tonight for an hour." Immediately, race-not-class liberals began mocking the old guy for speaking about race in ways that're dated.

Apparently, Matthews was supposed to be watching Obama while thinking, "Black. He's black. He's so black. Damn, but that is one black man. Black, black, blackittyblack. Wait? Did he just say something about gays in the military? He must've meant black gays in the military. 'Cause he is B-L-A-C-K, that's for damn sure."

For an hour, Matthews was seeing a US president, not a black man. Maybe for the first hour in his life, he actually wasn't seeing through racist eyes. If you can't give him credit for that, at least cut him slack.

ETA: Just to be clear, when I heard what Matthews said, I rolled my eyes, too. First Harry Reid uses terminology from the '60s, then Chris Matthews uses the color-blind metaphor that was popular in the '70s. But for all his sins, Chris Matthews should not be fired just because he was praising Obama in an old-fashioned way.

Zinn's advice about Obama

"I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction." --Howard Zinn

via Kim Antieau

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Danceland

Here's Danceland, a collaboration by Emma and me from the Bordertown anthology.

ETA: Most of Wolfboy's half of the story was retold in Nevernever, but Orient's half is only available here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

copyediting and book pirates

The Book Pirates of Peru:
There is one problem with the myth about pirates bringing literature to the masses: street-level vendors tend to congregate in the same middle and upper-class neighborhoods where you find the bookstores. Their clients are people with money. One critic calls it a cultural problem: “The same people who would never consider buying fake whisky think nothing of buying a pirated book. There’s no respect for intellectual production in this country.” Here, an upper-class woman buys a copy of Orhan Pamuk’s most recent novel The Museum of Innocence
Some useful questions to try on people who claim to be copy editors (via Making Light). Regarding #3, Emma's favorite stylebook for decades has been the Chicago Manual of Style. My usual solution is to defer to Emma, but sometimes I just go with my quirks, because as e. e. cummings knew, it's okay to make up your own style. But if you do, it's nice to be consistent with your quirks. Readers can tell the difference between quirkiness and carelessness.

Related funnies: How to use a semicolon: The most feared punctuation on Earth

girls with slingshots

Monday, January 25, 2010

linkies

Sex and booze figured in Egyptian rites. (thanks, Bill C!)

No Gender Gap in Math: A worldwide study of nearly half a million boys and girls found no significant gender gap in math ability

5 Jokes About The Apparent Eagerness Of Certain Democratic Members Of Congress To Abandon Health Care Reform In Light Of Scott Brown’s Electoral Victory

Here. I first saw this link on BoingBoing or Metafilter and didn't bother to click through because a commenter said the joke quoted there was the only funny one. Then Chris McLaren linked to it, I clicked, and I snorted at all five. They work for me because (1) I'm really thirteen, and (2) I gave up on the Democrats during Bill Clinton's first term.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

things anti-racists don't understand: class and race traitors matter

Anti-racist ideologues frequently complain that Hollywood doesn't show oppressed people solving their problems by themselves. This is because anti-racists don't understand systemic oppression: systems are designed so that minorities can't change things by themselves. That's especially true of the US civil rights struggle; the US was determined that Haiti's revolution would be the last successful uprising by the oppressed. Any honest history has to include the whites who risked their lives for the cause.

I was reminded of this reading the 1950's "Montgomery Story" comic book about the struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr. It includes this panel:


According to Wikipedia's Robert Graetz entry, "Bombs were planted at his home on three occasions; the largest did not explode."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

reading The Redneck Manifesto

The dumb white bumpkin has always been a stock figure in the American dramatis personae. But fifty years ago the depictions tended toward the benign and comical, from Li'l Abner to Ma and Pa Kettle. As our perceptions of a lily-fisted white hegemony started to fracture, the caricatures became meaner, yieldging the murderous crackers in Easy Rider and the ass-fucking genetic disasters from Deliverance.

Cartoon people. These days, we hardly ever see the redneck as anything but a caricature. A whole vein of human experience, of potential literature, is dismissed as a joke, much as America's popular notions of black culture were relegated to lawn jockeys and Sambo caricatures of a generation or two ago. The redneck is the only cardboard figure left standing in our ethnic shooting gallery. All other targets have been quietly removed in deference to unwritten laws of cultural sensitivity. Instead of Amos-n-Andy, we have Beavis and Butthead. The trailer park has become the media's cultural toilet, the only acceptable place to dump one's racist inclinations.
—Jim Goad, The Redneck Manifesto
I dunno if Goad will address this later, but this reminds me that the redneck is white America's scapegoat. For centuries, rich whites promoted racism, first to separate slaves and indentured servants, then to separate workers. Jim Crow laws were not a demand of poor whites—they were promoted and enacted by the South's defeated rich who still wanted to justify the "peculiar institution" and thereby escape their responsibility for the nature of their wealth.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Of course class still matters

Remembering that class mobility in the US is about identical to that in the UK, some bits from Of course class still matters:
...the middle and upper classes are becoming increasingly effective at ensuring that their children have the capabilities and qualifications to populate the upper echelons of the economy and society, what the great sociologist Charles Tilly called opportunity hoarding.

....Alan Milburn's lethal report on social mobility showed that, despite only 7% of children being privately educated, 75% of judges, 70% of finance directors, 45% of top civil servants and 32% of MPs were independently schooled. And if current trends continue, tomorrow's professionals will come wholly from the better-off 30% of families.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

6 essential points from Thandeka's "Why Anti-Racism Will Fail"

I suspect some readers miss the brilliance of Thandeka's Why Anti-Racism Will Fail because of its theological points, so here's a pocket secular version with quotes from her speech:

1. Absence of oppression is not privilege.
Imagine that business and government leaders decreed that all left-handed people must have their left hand amputated. Special police forces and armies are established to find such persons and oversee the procedure. University professors and theologians begin to write tracts to justify this new policy. Soon right-handed persons begin to think of themselves as having right-hand privilege. The actual content of this privilege, of course, is negative: it's the privilege of not having one's left hand cut off. The privilege, in short, is the avoidance of being tortured by the ruling elite. To speak of such a privilege -- if we must call it that -- is not to speak of power but rather of powerlessness in the midst of a pervasive system of abuse -- and to admit that the best we can do in the face of injustice is duck and thus avoid being a target.
2. Privilege comes from wealth.
80 percent of the wealth in this country is owned by 20 percent of the population. The top 1 percent owns 47% of this wealth. These facts describe an American oligarchy that rules not as a right of race but as a right of class. One historical counterpart to this contemporary story of extreme economic imbalance is found in the fact that at the beginning of the Civil War, seven per cent of the total white population in the South owned almost three quarters (three million) of all the slaves in this country. In other words, in 1860, an oligarchy of 8,000 persons actually ruled the South. This small planter class ruled over the slaves and controlled the five million whites too poor to own slaves. To make sense of this class fact, we must remember that the core motivation for slavery was not race but economics, which is why at its inception, both blacks and whites were enslaved.
3. Anti-racism misinterprets actions resulting from feelings of shame and powerlessness.
...a minister I will call Dan...is much like the many goodhearted liberal white UU's I have met who are neither white supremacists nor racists.

One day, over lunch, Dan recounted an experience that helped shape his racial identity as a white. In college during the late 1950s, Dan joined a fraternity. With his prompting, his chapter pledged a black student.

When the chapter's national headquarters learned of this first step toward integration its ranks, headquarters threatened to rescind the local chapter's charter unless the black student was expelled. The local chapter caved in to the pressure and Dan was elected to tell the black student member he would have to leave. Dan did it. "I felt so ashamed of what I did," he told me, and he began to cry. "I have carried this burden for forty years," he said. "I will carry it to my grave."

The couple at the next table tried not to notice Dan's breakdown. The waiter avoided our table. As Dan regained his composure, I retained mine. I could see his pain. I felt empathy for his suffering but was troubled by his lack of courage. Dan's tears revealed the depth of the compromise he had made with himself rather than risk venturing beyond the socially mandated strictures of whiteness.

I realized that being white for Dan was not a matter of racist conviction but a matter of survival, not a privilege but a penalty: the pound of flesh exacted for the right to be excluded from the excluded. Dan's tears revealed the emotional price of his ongoing membership in the "white" race.

Although he is not a racist, Dan might make a confession of racism to a UUA anti-racism trainer because this would be the only way to mollify the trainer and also because racism is the only category he would have to express a far deeper loss and regret: his stifled feelings and blunted desires for a more inclusive community. But Dan did not cry during our lunch together in the restaurant because he was a racist. He cried because his impulses to moral action had been slain by his own fear of racial exile.

The anti-racist charge of white racism gives persons like Dan a way of addressing their moral failure of nerve without having to face a harder truth that they acted in racist ways not because they were racist but because they were afraid of being rejected. The charge of racism does not heal this condition or even describe it. It simply punishes a person for being broken.
4. Anti-racist rhetoric divides people.
...the silent majority...know that the anti-racist rhetoric ... runs counter to the economic realities of this country and their own lives. I believe that these persons simply dismiss the rhetoric as insulting to their intelligence and walk away. ... This is the way in which our community is broken. One withdrawal at a time.
5. Anti-racism does not offer solutions.
When it comes to specifics, [anti-racists] call for no other action on the part of the white sinner except confession.
6. The true solutions are to talk about class and race, to empathize, and to organize.

Katherine Kersten and the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative

Joel Monka asked what I thought of At U, future teachers may be reeducated, a response to Minnesota's Teacher Education Redesign Initiative Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group (pdf) preliminary report. Katherine Kersten (whose middle initial I would love to know) is a Michelle Bachman apologist, the sort of rightwinger who would argue in earlier times that freedom means slaveowners should be free to own people and the state should be free to prevent citizens of different races from marrying.

But no one is ever completely wrong about everything. The Minnesota report has problems. Its writers accept the ideology that Thandeka critiques so well in Why Anti-Racism Will Fail. Some examples of their goals: "Our future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression." "Future teachers will recognize & demonstrate understanding of white privilege." "Future teachers are able to explain how institutional racism works in schools." They promote the artificial social construction of race by recommending Janet Helms' A race is a nice thing to have: a guide to being a white person or understanding the white persons in your life. They speak of "white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values" as though middle-class Jews and blacks don't share those values.

The report makes token mentions of class, but its writers seem to assume the word refers to poor people of color. To them, the world is divided between white suburban schools and urban schools "of color" rather than schools in poor districts and schools in wealthy ones. They seem to have no idea that black and white middle class students have more in common with each other than with black and white lower class students. (I suspect they would have the usual anti-racist indifference to that facts that almost 40% of black Americans believe there are now two black races, a poor one and a richer one, and that in the US today, poverty is approximately 3% Asian, 25% black, 23% Hispanic, and 49% white.)

On the positive side, they recommend Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, a book that I would happily make required reading in every high school. They're right that people need to learn about the cultures they encounter—that's not political correctness, that's common courtesy. The USA has a problem. Unfortunately, ideological anti-racists have the wrong answer.

Next post: In praise of Thandeka's Why Anti-Racism Will Fail.

The Bankruptcy Decade: 10 Years of Failure

The Bankruptcy Decade: 10 Years of Failure

Friday, January 8, 2010

inspired by Stephanie Zvan's insight into District Nine...

In the comments on my post about Race Traitor movies, Stephanie Zvan said...

It's also worth noting that one of the themes of District 9 is the construction of criminality. I found it very hard to look at the aliens, who were clearly shown being pushed in their status as criminals, and not see the Nigerian criminals (who were never seen outside the same ghetto to which the aliens were restricted) as a commentary on the modern situation in South Africa. I can't tell you whether that was how it was intended, but that's how I saw it.

Hollywood sometimes depicts urban gangs as white or multi-cultural for fear of being called racist. The result is a lie about the geography of class and race in the US: Gangs reflect the regional nature of poverty. The Nigerian gang in District Nine is troubling to Americans who focus on race. But the writer, clumsily or not, was telling a truth: gangs exploit whatever they can, and if the new market is space aliens addicted to cat food, they'll supply that need. If District Nine was remade with an American setting, the gang should be black or Hispanic if the ship stops over a city, but if it stops in the country, the gang could be whites who found a more profitable product than meth or marijuana.

inspired by Stephanie Zvan's insight into District Nine...

In the comments on my post about Race Traitor movies, Stephanie Zvan said...

It's also worth noting that one of the themes of District 9 is the construction of criminality. I found it very hard to look at the aliens, who were clearly shown being pushed in their status as criminals, and not see the Nigerian criminals (who were never seen outside the same ghetto to which the aliens were restricted) as a commentary on the modern situation in South Africa. I can't tell you whether that was how it was intended, but that's how I saw it.

Hollywood sometimes depicts urban gangs as white or multi-cultural for fear of being called racist. The result is a lie about the geography of class and race in the US: Gangs reflect the regional nature of poverty. The Nigerian gang in District Nine is troubling to Americans who focus on race. But the writer, clumsily or not, was telling a truth: gangs exploit whatever they can, and if the new market is space aliens addicted to cat food, they'll supply that need. If District Nine was remade with an American setting, the gang should be black or Hispanic if the ship stops over a city, but if it stops in the country, the gang could be whites who found a more profitable product than meth or marijuana.

the unbearable whiteness and upper class privilege of anti-racism

Wondering why anti-racists don't like to talk about class issues, I finally took advice that's always good if you want to understand anything in a capitalist society: Follow the money.

What I found: Modern anti-racism is a commercial movement driven by graduates of the most expensive private colleges and universities in the US. That may explain why Thandeka, author of Learning To Be White, says anti-racists “make an erroneous assumption about the nature and structure of power in America.”

Though whiteness studies is a racially diverse field, three of anti-racism's most influential promoters, based on how often they're cited by the anti-racists I encounter on the web, are white:

Peggy McIntosh wrote “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” She's the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, one of the fifty most expensive colleges in the US.

Judith H. Katz first defined racism as “prejudice plus power.” She's the Executive Vice President and “Client Brand Lead” of the Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, a business that prospers by teaching anti-racism.

Tim Wise, a graduate of Tulane University, has lectured about anti-racism at “over 400 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale, Columbia, and Vanderbilt.” I watched a little of one of his youtube videos, then turned it off when he claimed he was doing what black speakers could not. I was a teenager when my father went to a university in the late 1960s—black speakers were very popular on college campuses then. The idea that someone like Ralph Abernathy or Fannie Lou Hamer could not speak at a college campus today is as silly as the title of one of Wise's books, Speaking Treason Fluently. When the majority of a nation supports diversity, a better title would be Speaking Truisms Fluently.

So far as I can tell, Wise, Katz, and McIntosh are all very good people. That they content themselves with a superficial understanding of injustice in the US— Well, my favorite Sinclair Lewis quote applies yet again: “It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

ETA: Most Expensive Colleges for 2009-2010

The Most Expensive U.S. Colleges

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Walk Away From Your Mortgage!

Walk Away From Your Mortgage!

anti-racism excess: KFC ad, or the intersection of anti-racism and US cultural imperialism

Via KFC ad: Placate threatening black people with fried chicken…:


Racist KFC advertisement?

I wondered if this was like the Aussies in blackface performing in front of Harry Connick, Jr. Nope. Maybe it's just because I recognize Australia's national colors, but it seemed obvious to me this was about two different sports teams. Which it turns out it is. Australia's playing the West Indies team soon.

But American anti-racists are imposing US racism on other nations now. As any number of Australians have pointed out, Aussies didn't have a clue that in the US, black people liking fried chicken is racist.

Which, frankly, is one of the weirder bits of US racist code. I grew up in the South, and everybody down there liked fried chicken. We owned a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant for a while, and were one of the few places in the county that served whites and blacks. Mom and Dad were told by some black families that they came out of their way to support us. By eating fried chicken...

But I digress.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

speed review: Sherlock Holmes

Liked it. Needed an edgier actress for Irene Adler--Claudia Black? Diana Rigg via time travel? Could've used more Watson. And this might be the hardest to explain: it needed an ordinary person for a client, an individual whose life would be transformed by Holmes and Watson. It wasn't as exciting as Iron Man, but I'm more likely to see this again than Iron Man. The important part commercially: I'll be there for the next one.

in support of race traitor stories (regarding Cameron's Avatar)

I had been thinking about discussing Avatar and the merits of stories about race traitors, but I didn't want to see Avatar, not because I suspected, as its antiracist critics claim, that it was racist, but because I suspected it was stupid science fiction (as opposed to the smart stuff).

Roz Kaveny has saved me the trouble: Avatar. She makes me want to see it. She reminds me that for all that I hated Titanic, I enjoyed Terminator 1 and 2 enormously. My only quibble with her discussion is that in mentioning District 9, she says it was racist. Is it racist to depict all the members of a criminal gang as having no redeeming qualities? Simplistic, yes, but racist?

ETA: Just remembered that he did True Lies, which I hated so much more than Titanic that I forgot it existed. But I still want to see Avatar now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Life, the TV show

Emma and I are quite fond of Life. It took me a few episodes to get into it, but now I'm sorry there won't be another season.

Favorite quote so far, which appears to be the work of the writers, but may be from a zen source: "It is not what we carry with us, but what we let go that defines who we are."

where is the Kingdom of God?

At the Kingdom of God, John Vest said,
Life isn't about preparing for the afterlife. The gospel isn't good news deferred; it is good news for today. It is the hope and promise and inspiration for nothing less than the transformation of the world.

That is what John of Patmos envisioned when he wrote about a new heaven and a new earth. It isn't about us going to heaven; it's about heaven coming to us. As Jesus put it, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

This is some good news that the world needs to hear from the church. Let's not be timid about sharing it.

James also cries "woe to the rich!"

James 5 (New International Version) 1-5:

1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.

2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.*


* That could be translated as "day of feasting." I almost changed it, but I like the way James points out that when the rich feast, many are slaughtered. (There are those who argue that James was a vegetarian, but in this case, the feasting of the rich includes, I believe, the workers who die making things for the pleasures of the rich.)

The King James Version isn't as clear, but it kicks ass:

1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

1958 - Global Warming - It's NOT newly known

1958 - Global Warming - It's NOT newly known

Monday, January 4, 2010

race and US churches

Can Megachurches Bridge the Racial Divide?
...the proportion of American churches with 20% or more minority participation has languished at about 7.5% for the past nine years. But among Evangelical churches with attendance of 1,000 people or more, the slice has more than quadrupled, from 6% in 1998 to 25% in 2007.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

and now for something different

Sherlock Holmes, FINALLY answers the question, "How slashy are Holmes and Watson?" with a passage from a canonical tale, "The Three Garridebs":
In an instant [Killer Evans] had whisked out a revolver from his breast and had fired two shots. I felt a sudden hot sear as if a red-hot iron had been pressed to my thigh. There was a crash as Holmes's pistol came down on the man's head. I had a vision of [Evans] sprawling upon the floor with blood running down his face while Holmes rummaged him for weapons. Then my friend's wiry arms were round me, and he was leading me to a chair.

"You’re not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"

It was worth a wound--it was worth many wounds--to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.

"It's nothing, Holmes. It's a mere scratch."

He ripped up my trousers with his pocket-knife.

Luke versus Matthew, round two

Matthew is the comfy gospel, but Luke understands that problems should be identified. Luke and Matthew share beatitudes, but Luke adds four woes. From Luke 6:
24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. 25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
A friend says that I blame the rich. I don't; I blame economic systems that allow the rich to be rich at the expense of the poor. Jesus says here that the rich will suffer when the world's wealth is shared, but that suffering won't be caused by people or God. I suspect it will come from their recognition that they could have done so much for others, yet they did so little.

Luke versus Matthew

Luke 6:20:
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Matthew 5:3:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew's version raises a question: "What does it mean to be poor 'in spirit'?" The answer's simple if you look at what Jesus says elsewhere about wealth and poverty. From Matthew 19:21:
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Luke cuts to the chase: The blessed are poor. Matthew tells how to become blessed if you're rich.

Matthew and Luke know that's hard for rich people to hear. Both of their stories about the rich young man, and Mark's as well, have Jesus's followers asking how any rich person could be saved. Jesus answers that with God, all things are possible. Greedy people say this means God will perform special miracles for them to save them. But Jesus is only noting that some rich people, upon thinking about God and people and justice and happiness, will understand that we find the way to heaven by sharing freely.

Bonus link: Eye of a needle in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

race vs. class in the Iraq and Afghanistan War

From 2004, via http://prairiesociology.blogspot.com/2004/10/demographics-of-death-soldiers-killed.html:
...deaths in Operation Iraqi Freedom reflect the racial composition of the U.S. population in 2000, with the exception of the Asian category (n=1048)::

Whites -- 731 (70%)
Black or African American -- 132 (13%)
Hispanic or Latino -- (12%)
Asian -- 22 (2%)
Other categories were 1% or less

Deaths from Operation Enduring Freedom are a bit more concentrated in the white category:

Whites -- 116 (83%)
Black or African American -- 9 (6%)
Hispanic or Latino -- 12 (9%)
Asian -- 1 (0.7%)
Other categories were 1% or less
From 2004, via The Fallen: A profile of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
Whites are indeed slightly under-represented in today's active-duty military as a whole: They make up 64.2 percent of the force, compared with 69.1 percent of the U.S. population. (The reserve components are somewhat whiter.) But whites are slightly over-represented among the dead, at 70.9 percent.

Conversely, African-Americans are notably over-represented in the military as a whole. They make up 19.1 percent of the active-duty force, and a staggering 24 percent of the Army, as opposed to just 12.1 percent of the population. But blacks are not significantly over-represented among the dead of this global war: They make up only 12.4 percent.

The reason for this discrepancy, say experts, is that although blacks sign up in greater numbers, they cluster pragmatically in noncombat units whose training in mechanics, electronics, and logistics translates well into civilian careers upon leaving uniform. "The proportion of blacks to whites is very much smaller in the combat arms than in other branches," said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College and a noted author. He added that Special Forces and aviation units have the smallest percentage of minorities of all segments of the military.
From The Rural War:
A look at the demographics of soldiers killed reveals that Iraq is not the war of any one race or region. Rather, it is rural America's war.

...Counties disconnected from urban areas tend to have higher death rates, regardless of population size. Small rural counties have a death rate nearly twice that of counties that have the same population but happen to be part of metropolitan areas.

socialist news, mostly health care

When Drugs Stop Working-Norway's Answer: "Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics."

Don’t play Russian roulette with your healthcare: "Russia has more physicians, hospitals, and health care workers than almost any other country in the world on a per capita basis, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the health of the Russian population has declined considerably as a result of social, economic, and lifestyle changes."

History of LASIK Eye Surgery and Refractive Surgery: "In the 1960s in the former USSR (Soviet Union), Dr. Slava Fyodorov dramatically increased the safety of what was now called Radial Keratotomy (RK) ... Dr. Slava Fyodorov is regarded in many circles as the grandfather of refractive surgery due his extensive involvement in the techniques and commercialization of RK."

For Some in Japan, Home Is a Tiny Plastic Bunk: "The government says about 15,800 people live on the streets in Japan, but aid groups put the figure much higher, with at least 10,000 in Tokyo alone. Those numbers do not count the city’s “hidden” homeless, like those who live in capsule hotels. There is also a floating population that sleeps overnight in the country’s many 24-hour Internet cafes and saunas. The jobless rate, at 5.2 percent, is at a record high, and the number of households on welfare has risen sharply. The country’s 15.7 percent poverty rate is one of the highest among industrialized nations."

Cost of Health Care By Country, as Compared to Life Expectancy:


Friday, January 1, 2010

Kaluta's Eowyn

From The 1994 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar:

Ladron Que Roba a Ladron

Ladron Que Roba a Ladron. If you enjoy caper movies, catch this. Emma and I thought it was a hoot—we laughed a lot. Our main regret was that the tough girl didn't get much to do at the end. As a caper movie, I give it four stars. But for its subtext about immigrants in the USA (which, I will add, is subtext, not message), I give it five.

Netflix has it.

Crossposted at my Spanish language blog, 'cause it's a fun movie, even if you aren't interested in the language.

maybe we should move to Detroit

Can farming save Detroit?

every day is new year's day

My vows:

1. Dare more.

2. Laugh more.

3. Live more in the tangible world and less in the electronic one.

I think that means less blogging, and I'm sure it means fewer posts that only consist of links. I wish I could say that what I offer online henceforth will be unique. But sharing matters, and that includes sharing links, so there will be links.

What motives me on this day of beginning again is no different than what motivated me before, but perhaps it's stronger. Here's some of that: The Great Recession: A Hidden Depression?

And here's a position of belief from DairyStateDad that's much like mine: What I believe. He ends with this youtube video:



This is tempting: Wipe The Slate Clean For 2010, Commit Web 2.0 Suicide