Wednesday, March 31, 2010

enter sandman - in bluegrass style


YouTube - enter sandman - in bluegrass style - iron horse

via Larry's Pretty Good LiveJournal

Our side? Plus misc.

Back from a great dinner with friends. Sat on their patio and watched the almost-full moon rise over the Rincon mountains while eating blue chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, salad, mushrooms and eggs, some sort of awesome potatoes, bananas flambe... Also, wine and brandy. The coyotes sang for us. You are free to be jealous. (But I'm sorry you couldn't be there.)

1. On my facebook, a friend said, "I have little patience for people who get all offended about art they have heard about. That's what the other side do, not our side."

Which made me realize "our side" has changed. When I was young, this was the package deal for cool folks: you supported free speech along with equal rights for people of all hues, genders, classes, and faiths. Censorship and banning was for "the other side"--the squares, the straights, the unhip, the people who love oppression.

But when the general idea of equal rights was finally embraced by the middle class, free speech was ignored, maybe because the middle class just feels a need to repress someone. Schools ordered teachers and students to adhere to speech codes. In some countries, laws were passed to punish "hate speech." (To spare me from saying why I think restricting speech is wrong, see Hate Speech on Campus | American Civil Liberties Union.)

The people who call for restrictions, the people who say certain subjects are taboo, are not "our side". When your means are wrong, your motives don't matter.

2. Because two people asked, I'll try to clarify this: I am in favor of warning people about potentially triggery things, just as I’m in favor of spoiler warnings. That's simple courtesy. But having a trigger does not give me the right to demand that the world change its ways for my sake. So long as humans talk, they’ll use metaphors and examine subjects that will bother some people. As Philip Pullman said about his current book, “...no one has the right to live without being shocked. ... You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That's all I have to say on that subject."

3. Misc. stuff:

Gluten Free Call to Action - Gluten Free Mom: A gluten-free product isn't necessarily gluten-free. Thank you, capitalism.

13 small things to simplify your workday | Zen Habits. An excellent list. I should adopt all of them.

Raymond Chandler on Grammar: 'By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss-waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have.'

Sunny Fader has a blog about ordinary people who have taught her lessons. I especially liked this quote from one of those teachers: “I don’t know why people are afraid of the unknown. It is the known, with all its limitations and rigid conventions that should frighten us. It is in the known that we tend to get stuck. But the unkown—the unknown is full of infinite possiblities.” --Edward “Ted” Huntley

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a guaranteed last post for 24 hours

We're back from a lovely seder. No, we're not Jewish. We're Unitarian-Universalist, which means no holiday is safe from us.

My Boring Ass Life � Et Tu, Eberte?: Kevin Smith has also gotten crap for something he didn't mean in a tweet. His case is even more egregious than Amanda Palmer's. Moral? Don't tweet anything but links or what you're eating. (Unless it's puppies.) (thanks for the link, indecisean!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

classical cheesecake break: Herbert Draper

Sabrepunk: Herbert Draper: "Draper was a late Victorian painter of “classical” subjects, which seems to have been an excuse to paint nekkid ladies. Nevertheless, he does it really well, and I love this painting. Click on it to go to a gallery that shows more of his work."

links of the day

Mongolian Yurts: "In Mongolia it is considered impolite to knock on a yurt’s door. You are always welcome in a yurt! To warn of your approach, one usually shouts “attach the dogs!”."

Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction - CNN.com

Working-Class Cool � Working-Class Perspectives


YouTube - BE COUNTED - George Takei & Brad Altman

Half Of Americans Say They'd Support An Openly-Gay President (POLL)

Answering some questions about Marxism and socialism � Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Bush tax cuts

Too Much | Health Care Reform’s Hidden Tax Gem


Access to health care does not make people healthy. American middle-income people who already have health care, research has shown, have far worse health, as measured by a variety of yardsticks, than comparable middle-income people in Japan and many other nations.
If health care doesn’t automatically translate into healthier societies, the obvious question becomes, then what does? Equality. People who live in more equal societies, epidemiologists have documented, live longer and healthier lives than people who live in more unequal societies.
But here’s the encouraging news: The just-passed health care reform package includes provisions that will help make the United States more equal. Some of these provisions are starting to receive considerable press attention. The health care reform package overall, New York Times analyst David Leonhardt noted last week, just may represent “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”

context matters: yellow journalism, flame wars, and Amanda Palmer's "Klan" tweets

Flamewars and real ones often erupt over something taken out of context and re-interpreted. I'm reminded of the apocryphal story that artist Frederic Remington telegrammed Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba and 'There will be no war.' Hearst responded 'Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.'

I've assembled Palmer’s most relevant tweets in chronological order. Though her haters seem to think she was recommending giving money to the Klan as an ironic act, it’s clear to me she was mocking the idea of “ironic product placement.”
finally just watched the gaga/beyonce telephone video. painful product endorsement. amazing colors, visuals & production. terrible song.
4:51 PM Mar 24th via web

@olganunes it has that xerox dance-club feel and no discernible hook or depth. dance music is hard to make actually good. it's an art.
4:55 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to olganunes

@collectdust you can't cash in on irony. it negates it.
4:56 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to collectdust

@chillibbz but this is the whole problem with gaga. you can't cash in on your irony and cry art. (however, warhol would so disagree.)
4:59 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to chillibbz

@olganunes i think taste in dance music is tied specifically to personal teen nostalgia. if i were 33 in 2030, i'd be sighing "lady gaga".
5:00 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to olganunes

@JoanArkham ironic product placement is only ok if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan.
5:11 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to JoanArkham

@trixiedarko i looked that up. it seems like some were direct endorsements, some were used for fun, and some were relationship builders.
5:52 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to trixiedarko

@HayleyFiasco she's a tsunami in the postmodern ocean. i maintain:
6:04 PM Mar 24th via web

...gaga is a human billboard; an end-times media mash-up. but i see her more as victim, not savior. ask me in 20 years.
6:09 PM Mar 24th via web

@sigilgoat she's smart as shit. still: i'm pretty hypocritical. i might have a different opinion if i thought the song was good. go figure
6:12 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to sigilgoat

@Cillinface i think it's pretty now-centered dance pop music that will not stand the test of time. bowie = different. bowie = good songs.
6:14 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to Cillinface

@trixiedarko i ain't saying the victim of anything but her own cultural bondage.
6:15 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to trixiedarko

and on that note: we are all victims.
6:15 PM Mar 24th via web

best bet for gaga on the next tour: write some fantastic songs and play them on solo piano. it'll cost nothing and shut everybody like me up
6:18 PM Mar 24th via web

@litrock she slays on piano. if she lost the production/stripped it all down NOW, she'd do what no other rising pop star has dared to do.
6:23 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to litrock

@Energist it was totally blatant/on purpose/self-referential/ironic. that's the whole point here. it's just sad we've come to this.
6:29 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to Energist

to all tiy saying "BUT IT WAS IRONIC". yes. i KNOW. but ironic like a gun-safety instructor accidentally shooting a student. you know?
6:31 PM Mar 24th via web

@drauh you took my analogy too far. i meant simply: ironic in a tragic way.
6:37 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to drauh

good blog on the lady gaga product placement that echos most of my thoughts. not pro, not con, just smart:http://bit.ly/a5bcUl
6:42 PM Mar 24th via web

RT @adistantworld Irony in contemp. mainstream pop music is becoming another marketing device anyway. She's turning into a parody of herself
6:48 PM Mar 24th via web

@Smoph gaga DOES play her own instrument...she's a great pianist and writes much of her own stuff. do some youtube searching.
7:05 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to Smoph

1.mainstream media headlines: "is gaga selling out?!" 2.fans, in defense: "no, it's art/irony!" 3.winner -> virgin mobile
7:14 PM Mar 24th via web

re: the blog @ http://bit.ly/a5bcUl. what resonated most: i was raised to detest product placement & teens now accept it as cool/necessary
7:36 PM Mar 24th via web

for those of you out there who can't bear the thought of the ku klux klan used ironically...you'll LOVE this!!:http://bit.ly/awIOOX
1:03 PM Mar 25th via web

Sunday, March 28, 2010

what's declared taboo is made sacred, plus What's wrong with Harvard?

Amanda Palmer tweeted, "ironic product placement is only ok if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan." Since then, the haters have come down, saying that joking about the Klan is taboo because the Klan did horrible things. Perhaps the most extreme example is at sparkymonster: A lesson in good vs. bad irony thanks to Amanda Palmer.

But taboos only exist in the context of sacred thoughts, and I believe nothing is sacred. If Amanda Palmer makes a joke that shows she thinks giving money to the Klan is wrong, more power to her.

When I was young, there was a TV show about a German POW camp called Hogan's Heroes. There were people then who said you should not joke about Nazis, but
The actors who played the four major German roles--Werner Klemperer (Klink), John Banner (Schultz), Leon Askin (Burkhalter) and Howard Caine (Hochstetter)--were Jewish. Furthermore, Klemperer, Banner, Askin and Robert Clary (LeBeau) were Jews who had fled the Nazis during World War II. Clary says in the recorded commentary on the DVD version of episode "Art for Hogan's Sake" that he spent three years in a concentration camp, that his parents and other family members were killed there, and that he has an identity tattoo from the camp on his arm. Likewise John Banner had been held in a (pre-war) concentration camp and his family was exterminated during the war. Leon Askin was also in a pre-war French internment camp and his parents were killed at Treblinka. Howard Caine (Hochstetter), who was also Jewish (his birth name was Cohen), was American, and Jewish actors Harold Gould and Harold J. Stone played German generals.

As a teenager, Werner Klemperer (Klink) (son of the great conductor Otto Klemperer) fled Hitler's Germany with his family in 1933. ... He defended his playing a Luftwaffe Officer by claiming, "I am an actor. If I can play Richard III, I can play a Nazi." Banner attempted to sum up the paradox of his role by saying, "Who can play Nazis better than us Jews?"
To those actors, being able to joke about people who had done horrible things was part of denying the power of Nazism.

Bobby Sands said, "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children." Don't give power to the things you hate by forbidding them. Desecrate them with your jokes.

2. Because many of the haters are Ivy Leaguers, and Sparkymonster is from Harvard, I did a little checking on Harvard and free speech. I got:

Free speech again quashed at Harvard - News Features - Boston Phoenix. If you follow the link, be sure to read the second comment, which I love. The short version: Harvard invited someone to be on a controversial panel, then discovered he actually was controversial and withdrew the invitation. Discussions of controversial subjects among the upper class tend to be between people who don't stray too far from the conventional Republican and Democratic position.

Greg Lukianoff: Why The Harvard Law Review Comment Defending Campus Speech Codes Matters notes "despite all the law to the contrary and no less than eight prior decisions ruling speech codes unconstitutional, what some might consider to be the premier law journal in the country published a comment legitimizing campus speech codes. That's a problem because while speech codes have had the law uniformly against them for decades now, as many as three quarters of the universities in the country still maintain unconstitutional speech codes." Harvard is one of them.

I also got a hit for Yale: Greg Lukianoff: College Students Can't Say 'Sissies' Anymore? Yale Goes for Old-Timey Censorship Against F. Scott Fitzgerald Quote.

what's declared taboo is made sacred, plus What's wrong with Harvard?

Amanda Palmer tweeted, "ironic product placement is only ok if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan." Since then, the haters have come down, saying that joking about the Klan is taboo because the Klan did horrible things.

But taboos only exist in the context of sacred thoughts, and I believe nothing is sacred. If Amanda Palmer makes a joke that shows she thinks giving money to the Klan is wrong, more power to her.

When I was young, there was a TV show about a German POW camp called Hogan's Heroes. There were people then who said you should not joke about Nazis, but
The actors who played the four major German roles--Werner Klemperer (Klink), John Banner (Schultz), Leon Askin (Burkhalter) and Howard Caine (Hochstetter)--were Jewish. Furthermore, Klemperer, Banner, Askin and Robert Clary (LeBeau) were Jews who had fled the Nazis during World War II. Clary says in the recorded commentary on the DVD version of episode "Art for Hogan's Sake" that he spent three years in a concentration camp, that his parents and other family members were killed there, and that he has an identity tattoo from the camp on his arm. Likewise John Banner had been held in a (pre-war) concentration camp and his family was exterminated during the war. Leon Askin was also in a pre-war French internment camp and his parents were killed at Treblinka. Howard Caine (Hochstetter), who was also Jewish (his birth name was Cohen), was American, and Jewish actors Harold Gould and Harold J. Stone played German generals.

As a teenager, Werner Klemperer (Klink) (son of the great conductor Otto Klemperer) fled Hitler's Germany with his family in 1933. ... He defended his playing a Luftwaffe Officer by claiming, "I am an actor. If I can play Richard III, I can play a Nazi." Banner attempted to sum up the paradox of his role by saying, "Who can play Nazis better than us Jews?"
To those actors, being able to joke about people who had done horrible things was part of denying the power of Nazism.

Bobby Sands said, "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children." Don't give power to the things you hate by forbidding them. Desecrate them with your jokes.

2. Because many of the haters are Ivy Leaguers, and the one most linked to in the current attack is from Harvard, I did a little checking on Harvard and free speech. I got:

Free speech again quashed at Harvard - News Features - Boston Phoenix. If you follow the link, be sure to read the second comment, which I love. The short version: Harvard invited someone to be on a controversial panel, then discovered he actually was controversial and withdrew the invitation. Discussions of controversial subjects among the upper class tend to be between people who don't stray too far from the conventional Republican and Democratic position.

Greg Lukianoff: Why The Harvard Law Review Comment Defending Campus Speech Codes Matters notes "despite all the law to the contrary and no less than eight prior decisions ruling speech codes unconstitutional, what some might consider to be the premier law journal in the country published a comment legitimizing campus speech codes. That's a problem because while speech codes have had the law uniformly against them for decades now, as many as three quarters of the universities in the country still maintain unconstitutional speech codes." Harvard is one of them.

I also got a hit for Yale: Greg Lukianoff: College Students Can't Say 'Sissies' Anymore? Yale Goes for Old-Timey Censorship Against F. Scott Fitzgerald Quote.

ETA: Shortened this.

ETA 2: Shortened this more. Precision is hard. As Mark Twain said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

P.C. vs. Free Thought - more on the Keith John Sampson Story

2009-08-26-firead.jpg
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis: Student Employee Found Guilty of 'Racial Harassment' for Reading a Book: "One of FIRE's most shocking cases in 2008 was that of Keith John Sampson, a student-employee at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) who was found guilty of racial harassment for merely reading the book Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan during his work breaks. Thanks to FIRE's involvement and the extensive media coverage of the case, the finding against Sampson was eventually overturned and his school record was cleared."



YouTube - Political Correctness vs. Freedom of Thought - The Keith John Sampson Story

Moon Girl - for Wonder Woman fans



From Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine: "Moon Girl, similar to Wonder Woman, made her debut in Happy Houlihans, had her own book under a couple of different titles, and ended up as a casualty of the trend toward love comics. Moon Girl and the Prince begat Moon Girl, which begat Moon Girl Fights Crime, which then begat A Moon, A Girl, Romance." Click the link to read a story from Moon Girl #3. Fans of old comics about female superheroes will be entertained; anyone else will think "WTF?"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

on The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

There's another book about white people that appears to be a mishmosh of useful information and silly theory. And even the amount of useful information may be suspect. From Book Review - The History of White People - By Nell Irvin Painter:
Painter misses some crucial regional differences. While Jews and Italians were nonwhite in the East, they had long been white in San Francisco, where the racial “inferiors” were the Chinese. Although the United States census categorized Mexican-Americans as white through 1930, census enumerators in the Southwest, working from a different racial under standing, ignored those instructions and marked them “M” for Mexican.
I found another reason to be sceptical in "A Half-Read Interpretation of Emerson Casts Doubt on the Scholarship" at Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The History of White People, which includes this:
Nell Painter does not grasp, or seem to want to grasp, the dialectical nature of Emerson's work as she goes about building the case that he was the father of American whiteness theory. In a sustained passage, she says repeatedly that Emerson's passages on fate and race are confused and multi-handed, that he contradicts himself, but that in the end he supports some kind of white racial ideology. Ms. Painter quotes from Emerson's 'Fate' and a related journal entry to prove her point. What Ms. Painter does not do is work with 'Fate' as a whole. In it, to paraphrase a passage Painter used repeatedly to hammer her point home, Emerson wrote that races stripped from their land and forced by circumstance to move to America are prematurely used up in labor and turned into so much guano for American profit. This is hardly a celebration of Anglo Saxon virtues. Regardless, Painter says nothing about the concept of 'Power' that appears a few paragraphs later in Emerson's essay on 'Fate.' Power, Emerson writes, can trump and overturn fate. In other words, races are not pre-determined to any genetic outcome. All people can seize power. DuBois certainly agreed with this.

It Isn't Nice by Malvina Reynolds, sung by Heather Lev

YouTube - It Isn't Nice by Malvina Reynolds, sung by Heather Lev


And the original:

YouTube - Malvina Reynolds - It Isn't nice


(thanks, serialbabbler!)

Archie Fisher - "I rede you beware"

Archie Fisher - "I rede you beware"


via medievalist: Archie Fisher "I Rede Ye Beware"

Friday, March 26, 2010

on race and book marketing

I don't know Alaya Johnson, but one of my best friends thinks she's great, and Emma has read her forthcoming novel, Moonshine, and thinks it's great. So I tend to notice when she does something like write about her experiences in Guest Post: Alaya Johnson: “What My Dad Said” | Justine Larbalestier. What her dad said was “White people are going to be way less likely to pick up a book with a cover featuring a brown person. That’s just the way the world works.” That's certainly the conventional wisdom; my first two books back in the '80s had brown-skinned lead characters who aren't on the covers.

J. L. Bell has an interesting follow-up in Oz and Ends: Shelving and Marketing in the Dark:
Johnson perceives this as Borders’s choice, but it looks to me like the decision started with her publisher, Agate Publishing. It issued Racing the Dark through Bolden Books, “Agate’s imprint dedicated to publishing both fiction and nonfiction dealing with the African-American experience.” Though it’s unclear whether the “islander” heroine of the book has any connection to “the African-American experience” except as a reflection of one African-American author’s imagination.

Of course, the hardcover was a Bolden book as well. But Agate is now emphasizing Johnson’s ethnic identity more than before.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

bad words

YouTube - Louis CK - bad words

The first two minutes are about "cunt." They're amusing. At two minutes in, he talks about "the n-word." No, not about "nigger." About "the n-word." I agree 100%.

(thanks, ygolanac!)

a serious response about trigger words

On my main blog, Chalicechick left this comment on for people with "trigger" words: "Given that everyone I've ever known who has had a "trigger word" was some kind of abuse victim, I don't really see the need for self-congratulatory mocking." Because my main blog has several feeds, I'm responding in a new post:

Where's the self-congratulatory mocking? The Onion is making a point, as it often does, by carrying an idea to a logical extreme. No one thinks, for example, that the death of someone's husband is funny.

We understand why trigger words are triggery. But that doesn't mean the solution is to make them socially unacceptable or illegal. I believe the opposite: the more forbidden a word is, the greater its power. See what happens to "Nazi" in Germany, where the word and its symbols are banned.* Or compare the people who say "the n-word" rather than "nigger." In the first camp, you get people who want to ban Mark Twain. In the second, you get great thinkers like Lenny Bruce, Aaron McGruder, and Dick Gregory (who titled his autobiography Nigger and told his mother, "Whenever you hear the word Nigger, you’ll know they're advertising my book.")

People like me are sorry that words are triggery. But replacing those words is not the solution.

I'll let Lenny Bruce have the last word: "The point? That the word's suppression gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. If President Kennedy got on television and said, "Tonight I'd like to introduce the niggers in my cabinet,: and he yelled "niggerniggerniggerniggerniggerniggergigger" at every nigger he saw, "boogeyboogeyboogeyboogeyboogey, niggerniggerniggernigger" till nigger didn't mean anything any more, till nigger lost its meaning-- you'd never make any four-year-old "nigger" cry when he came home from school."

*ETA: Censorship in Germany isn't quite as simplistic as that hasty sentence implies. Context is taken into consideration. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_the_Federal_Republic_of_Germany#National_Socialism_and_Holocaust_denial

But it's still censorship, and it makes people feel powerful when they embrace the forbidden.

for people with "trigger" words

Lindsay Tan | The Onion - America's Finest News Source:
Dear The Onion,
Coping with my husband's death has been very difficult for me; it would really help if you stopped printing articles with the word 'John' in them.
— Mary Tomlinson, Newark, NJ
03.09.10

Biblical social justice

This is inspired by Beck redefines social justice: "forced redistribution of wealth with a hostility towards individual property":

In What Glenn Beck Doesn't Understand About Biblical Social Justice, Jim Wallis makes an excellent point in more moderate terms than I think he should. He says, "Private charity, which Beck and I are both for, wasn't enough to end the slave trade in Great Britain, end legal racial segregation in America, or end apartheid in South Africa. That took vital movements of faith which understood the connection between personal compassion and social justice. Those are the movements that have inspired me and shaped my life -- not BIG GOVERNMENT."

Wallis fails to take the next step, perhaps because he's trying very hard to give no ammunition to those who call him a commie: Ending slavery required BIG GOVERNMENT. Ending racial segregation required BIG GOVERNMENT. Ending apartheid required BIG GOVERNMENT. The "vital movements of faith" (including atheists who believe in social justice) needed BIG GOVERNMENT to pass BIG LAWS. Left to follow their consciences, the rich use a smaller percentage of their wealth to help others--see, for example, The Rich Less Generous Than Others? which notes "the rich in the United States are nearly half as generous as everyone else."

As for Beck's obsession with "forced" redistribution, every Christian should know that when Jesus drove the moneychangers from the Temple, he did not go to each one and say, "I really wish you'd stop."

Rich people are almost impossible to convince. When asked about the rich entering heaven, Jesus said, "With God, all things are possible," not "all things are likely." We don't know whether the young rich man ultimately followed Jesus's words about perfection for his followers, but we knew he left sadly on hearing it.

Jesus would've agreed with Gandhi's observation, "There's enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed." Why else would he tell the rich to sell all they have and give the money to the poor? Because when wealth is shared, the only poor people are the victims of disasters, and their poverty only lasts as long as it takes for others to learn of their need and come help.

O my brethren and sistren (I've always wanted to say that), Brother Will's Bible passage of the day is 1 Timothy 6:9-10:
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Editorial - Ex-Offenders and the Vote - NYTimes.com

Editorial - Ex-Offenders and the Vote - NYTimes.com: "Many of the laws disenfranchising former criminals date back to the post-Civil War era and were used to prevent freed slaves from voting. These laws still have a significant racial impact. About 13 percent of black men in this country are denied the right to vote by criminal disenfranchisement laws, more than seven times the rate for the population as a whole."

Why "Avatar" disappoints science fiction fans

CUUMBAYA: I finally saw "Avatar" lists three of the classic SF tales that Cameron borrowed from.

Billionaires by nation, plus a quote

from Too Much Weekly:
Billionaires

George F. Kennan, a US statesman who has been called the "father of containment," wrote in 1948:
Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.

a Jewish "Dances With Wolves"?

From Don Solomono, Jewish Indian Chief:
In 1888, "Don Solomono," as he was known to the Acomas, became governor of the Acoma Pueblo, the equivalent of chief of the tribe. Remarkably, the Acomas asked the United States to recognize Bibo as their leader. Even more remarkable is that Bibo was a Jew.

Solomon Bibo was born in Prussia in 1853, the sixth of eleven children.
(Thanks, [info]lisa_marli!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What do you do about problematic books in your library?

[info]lightningrose asked me:
I've been pondering what to do with a few "problem" books... ie books I like, on a whole, but have an odd uncomfortable phrasing/content bit. I have "Jane of Lantern Hill" which is a wonderful book, on a whole -- yet contains the father stating that he "jewed" the landlord down into a lower rent for their summer home. (Being Jewish myself, it sticks in the craw). Also a recent discovery, an otherwise charming book -- Marian Cockrell's 1945 "Shadow Castle" has a questing fairy first encounter, and dismiss "primitive red Indians" before he goes off and finds some properly civilized mortals to hand with in a nice European castle. (Unlike, say, Ma's racism against Native Americans in Little House, it's not a deep plot point.) Do you keep the book around to provide teachable moments? Edit one's library? Skip over the section when reading aloud to your kids? What do you do with the throwaway racist line in literature?
My first reaction is, "You're asking me??? I am so the wrong person for this question!"

But then I realized this is one of the issues that the racefail flamewar raised. Several people on the other side said they no longer wanted my books in their homes. To which I could only say something like, "That's cool. It's your home, and your reactions are your reactions. If something bugs you, you're under no obligation to do anything more than throw it out."

But that was a lazy response. I actually think we all have a personal obligation to look closely at the things that bother us. It's the obligation expressed by Socrates as "The unexamined life is not worth living," and by Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas as "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Which might be a wee bit much when you want to read aloud to kids. (smiley here!)

If I was going to read something to kids that had a bit which I couldn't leave out, I would take a minute to talk about it. I would point out that some people use racist language because that's what they're used to, but they may still be good people who treat people of other races well. We had neighbors like that when we lived in Florida in the '60s. A famous example: George Wallace is almost synonymous with "racist" today, but as Wikipedia notes, "He gained a reputation for fairness regardless of the race of the plaintiff, and a black lawyer recalled, "Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom."" Wallace had a lot of support from black Alabamans because he did a number of things that improved life for blacks there. People are complex.

I would end by telling the kids I would be very hurt if I heard them using language that would hurt people's feelings, because now they know better than that author or character.

As for something in my personal library, I might take a pen and strike out or rewrite anything I didn't like. Marking up a book is a fine way to have a discussion with an author.

Crayola Doesn't Make A Color For Your Eyes

Kristin Andreassen - Crayola Doesn't Make A Color For Your Eyes



via DairyStateDad: A Song for the First Day of Spring

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Who is successful?

A KUOW radio show: Malcolm Gladwell: Who Is Successful? Why?

David Brooks discusses Gladwell's Outliers in Lost in the Crowd and notes that "Bill Gates was lucky to go to a great private school with its own computer at the dawn of the information revolution." Brooks then rejects Gladwell's thesis, arguing as rich folks do that the individual matters most.

But smart gamblers always bet the odds.

thanks for the link, David Raffin!

Happy Nowruz!

Iranians celebrate Persian New Year, Nowruz

Watching Avatar While Human

In “Watching Avatar While White” @ Booklife, Cynthia Ward says, "In the worlds of Pandora and the imaginary Dances “Wild West” and Burroughs’ Mars and Tarzan, a white man doesn’t just find himself redeemed from his impure, inharmonious, and sinful state. He finds himself redeemed specifically from the evils of colonialism, slavery, and the other forms of oppression that whites have imposed upon people of color for centuries."

I left this response:
The whole “redemption” idea only makes sense if you buy into the essentially Christian redemption concepts of contemporary anti-racist theory. If you don’t, if for example you’re a working class soldier who has been following bad orders, joining the other team may not have anything to do with redemption. It may just be about doing the right thing, no matter which side you start on.

The idea that Avatar is all about white guys is also at odds with Palestinians becoming Navi to dramatize Zionist oppression.

By the way, did John Carter have slaves? I never got the impression that he was one of the 300,000 rich folks who controlled the Confederacy. Being an officer suggests he has some money, but not enough to buy himself a generalship. I think one could assume Carter was like Robert E. Lee, someone who was opposed to slavery, but thought his state was more important than his nation.

Also, whites did join American Indian tribes. Google one of my favorite examples, Simon Girty, or see, for example, this site:

http://www.galafilm.com/1812/e/background/nat_white_ind.html

The native people of this continent tend to see people in tribal (ie, cultural) terms, not racial ones. There are exceptions, of course, like the modern Cherokee, but they’ve adopted the racial outlooks that Europeans brought to this continent.

Mind you, I think Avatar’s a flawed film, and making the hero the guy who rode the biggest bird was overkill, but “white” people are not the only people who write stories about outsiders who become champions. It’s a fairly common element of folktales everywhere. It’s about belonging.
I'm tempted to elaborate on what so-called redemption stories may actually be about. Justice and enlightenment should be on the list.

And the notion that Native Americans were racist rather than tribalist should also be tested with the example of Quanah Parker, the great chief of the Comanches who is seen as half-white by racists and racialists, but as Comanche by tribalists and nationalists.

ETA: Apologies for using "Native Americans" rather than "American Indians" above. I've been reading too many posts by anti-racists. I do know American Indian is generally the preferred term.

YouTube - Rodrigo y Gabriela

YouTube - Rodrigo y Gabriela

Friday, March 19, 2010

enough for everyone

Food and Water: Enough for Everyone?
...we grow enough to give each person 3,500 calories a day, more than most people need, depending on how active they are. Even many developing nations produce more than enough food for their people. Yet, three-quarters of the youngest (0-5 years) victims of hunger live in countries with food surpluses.
World Bank’s 2007 World Development Indicators (pdf)
Globally, there is more than enough water for domestic purposes, for agriculture, and for industry. But access to water is very uneven across and within countries. Poor people have limited access, not so much because of physical water scarcity, but because of their lack of purchasing power and because of inappropriate policies that limit their access to infrastructure.

Christian quotes about sharing

"We are all of the same family; all of us are brothers. And among brothers it is best and most equal that all inherit equal portions" (St. Gregory of Nyssa).

"The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help." (St. Basil the Great)

"Wealth, which so often leads men the wrong way, is seen less for its qualities than for the human misery it stands for. The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor. True, even if the voice were heard, it would be ignored.... The poor man cries before your house, and you pay no attention. There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering." (St. Ambrose)

Gandhi on sharing

"There is enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed." — Mahatma Gandhi

Evolution of Fairness Driven by Culture, Not Genes

Evolution of Fairness Driven by Culture, Not Genes | Wired Science | Wired.com: "When people lived in larger communities, and participated more in markets and religion, they were more willing to share, and more willing to punish selfishness."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

race and class for the Victorians

I keep misplacing my favorite quote that demonstrates the Victorian understanding of race and class. From a review of David Cannadine's Ornamentalism: how the British saw their empireWhy the Victorians were colour blind. In the 19th century, race mattered far less than social distinction: a West African tribal chief was unquestionably superior to an East End costermonger. By Kenan Malik:
Lady Gordon, the wife of Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, the governor of Fiji from 1875 to 1880, thought the native high-ranking Fijians "such an undoubted aristocracy". She wrote: "Their manners are so perfectly easy and well bred . . . Nurse can't understand it at all, she looks down on them as an inferior race. I don't like to tell her that these ladies are my equals, which she is not!"
Researching this, I stumbled across a LiveJournal discussion, race and class in Victorian England, which has some useful links—and which was refreshing after encountering the obliviousness to class that's been exhibited too often in discussions of race.

The First Black Britons is a bit simplistic when it addresses class issues--"white" servants were also inferiors whose purpose could be primarily decorative--but it's got great snapshots of blacks in Britain, and includes this:
The black and white poor of this period were friends, not rivals. So much so, in fact, that Sir John Fielding, a magistrate and brother of the novelist Henry Fielding, complained that when black domestic servants ran away and, as they often did, found '... the Mob on their side, it makes it not only difficult but dangerous to the Proprietor of these Slaves to recover the Possession of them, when once they are sported away'.
Also of interest: Class, Gender, and Race: Chinese Servants in the North American West

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What story (or kind of story) should I write next?

I need direction. Help me, O internet!

Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe: on metaphors and St. Patrick's Day

Everything has the power to be a metaphor, but that doesn't mean everything is. Case in point, from About St. Patrick and the Serpents:
The problem with most of this Pagan rage and sadness directed at Patrick for converting Ireland, is that it’s mostly untrue.
“The snakes he drove out of Ireland were not symbolic of druids, pagans, or goddess worshippers. They were, quite simply, snakes. The tale was lifted from the life story of St. Hilaire, who was said to have evicted the snakes in a section of France, as an explanation of why there are no native snakes in Ireland. That piece of plagiarism explicative text was added in the 10th century. Earliest versions of Patrick’s story don’t include it. They do, however, include direct claims of him besting druids in magical combat and argument, as well as having druids in his personal retinue. Catholic saints’ stories, by and large, do not truck in allegory. To cite a different reptile story, they really did mean to say that St. George killed a dragon. I have never seen anyone who’s bothered to study the way Irish saints’ lives were written down and embroidered take the snakes to be symbolic of anything. It is a neo-pagan invention to assign that story any degree of symbolism.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

why governments matter

Can Smiley Faces (and a 14-Step Program to Stop Overconsumption) Save the Global Climate?: Scientific American:
"We make bad decisions all the time," says Sabine Marx, associate director at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University, thanks to incomplete information or other barriers to action, like high up-front costs for things like insulation. Overcoming those "doesn't mean we have to manipulate people's minds," Marx says, but rather make good decisions easier.

For example, rates of organ donation vary widely within Europe, from 100 percent in France and Poland to 17 percent in the U.K. and just 4 percent in Denmark. The difference cannot be ascribed to different cultural views about organ donation but rather whether the country in question has a policy that is opt-in (check this box if you want to donate your organs) or opt-out (check this box if you do not want to donate your organs). "We think we're rational," says economist John Gowdy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. "But really it's the person who designs the question on the back of a driver's license who made the choice for us."

how capitalism works: food

One of the biggest insights of my life was this: the purpose of capitalism is profit. Capitalists will tell you capitalism is about efficiency or superiority or any number of things, but the truth is capitalism is only about profit.

Case in point: Obesity: The killer combination of salt, fat and sugar | David A Kessler | Life and style | The Guardian

(via James Veitch)

I didn't post anything today!

Oops.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bill Gates No Longer World's Richest Man

Bill Gates No Longer World's Richest Man - Forbes.com: "Indeed, last year's wealth wasteland has become a billionaire bonanza. Most of the richest people on the planet have seen their fortunes soar in the past year."

Because of my interest in what it means to be upper-class in India, I find it interesting that the fourth richest person in the world is Mukesh Ambani. I dunno if he's the guy who built the billion-dollar home.

Robin Hood and the Templars of Doom

Robin Hood and the Templars of Doom | Features | Fortean Times offers a surprisingly plausible theory for the origins of Robin Hood, says Will.

via The Erudite Ogre: Aetheric Ephemera: Ruminations and Hortations Edition

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

U.S. Death Penalties Dwindling

U.S. Death Penalties Dwindling, Owing to Costs - TIME: "Fewer death sentences were imposed in 2009 in the U.S. than in any year since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976."

I found that article when I was directed to another Time story, "The Death Penalty: Racist, Classist and Unfair." Which is true, but the last time I researched the death penalty, it seemed far more classist than racist. If you factor for class, a disproportionately high number of both whites and blacks are executed, and a disproportionately low number of Hispanics are:

Percentage of people in poverty who are white: 50%
Percentage of people executed who are white: 58%

Percentage of people in poverty who are black: 25%
Percentage of people executed who are black: 34%

Percentage of people in poverty who are Hispanic: 23%
Percentage of people executed who are Hispanic: 6%

Percentage of people in poverty who are Asian: 3%
Percentage of people executed who are "other": 2%

Row as anti-abortionists target African Americans with US racist history

Row as anti-abortionists target African Americans with US racist history | World news | guardian.co.uk

Monday, March 8, 2010

Accents Trump Skin Color: Scientific American

Accents Trump Skin Color: Scientific American: "Replicating previous research, they found that under silent conditions children chose as potential friends children of the same race. Yet when the potential friends spoke, white children preferred a black child speaking with a native accent over a white child who spoke English with a foreign accent."

The researchers seem to know little about race, because they then say,
“Race, as a psychological category, may be relatively modern in terms of human evolution,” explains Kinzler, now at the University of Chicago. In prehistoric times, “a neighboring group might have sounded different even if they did not look different,” she says. Preference for our own race might have developed later, after the more ancient preference for our own accent.
Historically speaking, race is a very recent concept—tribe is what usually matters to cultures, and an accent is an indicator of tribal belonging.

some things don't change: Engels in 1844

"...the bourgeoisie reads these things every day in the newspapers and takes no further trouble in the matter. But it cannot complain if, after the official and non-official testimony here cited which must be known to it, I broadly accuse it of social murder. Let the ruling class see to it that these frightful conditions are ameliorated, or let it surrender the administration of the common interests to the labouring-class. To the latter course it is by no means inclined; for the former task, so long as it remains the bourgeoisie crippled by bourgeois prejudice, it has not the needed power. For if, at last, after hundreds of thousands of victims have perished, it manifests some little anxiety for the future, passing a " Metropolitan Buildings Act," under which the most unscrupulous overcrowding of dwellings is to be, at least in some slight degree, restricted; if it points with pride to measures which, far from attacking the root of the evil, do not by any means meet the demands of the commonest sanitary policy, it cannot thus vindicate itself from the accusation. The English bourgeoisie has but one choice, either to continue its rule under the unanswerable charge of murder and in spite of this charge, or to abdicate in favour of the labouring-class. Hitherto it has chosen the former course." --Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844

Sunday, March 7, 2010

a hymn you don't hear much anymore

Blest Is the Man Whose Bowels Move

Fannie Lou Hamer: Speech To The DNC 1964

I dunno how young I was when I first heard about "snick"—SNCC. I probably learned about it the way red diaper babies learn about the Rosenbergs, or rich kids learn about Gstaad. Fannie Lou Hamer should be as famous as Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks.

YouTube - Fannie Lou Hamer: Speech To The DNC 1964

Steve Brust dissects "anti-racism"

To Will: Class and anti-racism — Words Words Words — The Dream Cafe Weblog:
“Anti-racism,” like racism itself, is an idea. What is the class basis of this idea? It is a theory of the middle-class, of those who deny that the class struggle is fundamental, of those who exist between the two camps who have actual power. What are the hallmarks of a middle-class idea? First, the attempt to understand social issues without regard to class–the reduction of things to “just people.” Second, reflecting the lack of real, material power, everything is reduced to an idea. The problem is not children dying because the heat was cut off because there was no money because the factory closed and a black man in a poor area has a nearly impossible task in finding work; the problem is: people have racist thoughts. The problem isn’t that the environment is being sacrificed in a reckless drive for profit, the problem is: people aren’t environmentally aware. The solution, to them, isn’t the destruction of social classes forever, thus removing the material basis for racism and the destruction of the environment, it is to explore your own mind, and to learn how to speak without hurting people’s feelings and to learn the importance of recycling.

YouTube - THE DANISH POET

YouTube - THE DANISH POET: "WINNER OF THE 2007 OSCAR� FOR BEST SHORT SUBJECTS ANIMATION"


thanks, Blue Jean!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Microsoft product I could seriously consider

Microsoft's Courier 'digital journal': exclusive pictures and details (update: video!) -- Engadget

two curious assumptions of anti-racists

Larry linked to Kate Nepveu's How to Discuss Race and Racism Without Acting Like a Complete Jerk, so I followed it, mostly to see if it mentioned class, a subject that has been taboo among the anti-racists in the science fiction and fantasy community until very recently. (Two examples: At How to Suppress Discussions of Racism, talking about class is considered a technique of suppression, and on the racist bingo card, "class issues" is a square.)

Nepveu's post touches on class tangentially in a brief section titled "The line between intersectionality and derailing can be very fine" which includes this: "first, you should be aware that people often say "well, what about X?" because, whether they realize it or not, they are uncomfortable talking about racism."

That made me see the first curious assumption of anti-racists. People who reject anti-racism's tenets are very comfortable talking about racism. When we say, "What about X?" we're not saying, "It can't be Y because it's X." We're saying there's an entire alphabet available, and you're insisting the problem is Y? We are saying, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Many of us have read enough about the history of racism to know that racism was not born in a vacuum. Thandeka sums it up nicely: "...we must not forget that white racism was from the start a vehicle for classism; its primary goal was not to elevate a race but to denigrate a class. White racism was thus a means to an end, and the end was the defense of Virginia’s class structure and the further subjugation of the poor of all "racial" colors."

Recognizing one anti-racist assumption helped me spot another. Nepveu says,
Suppose I step on someone's foot. They say, "hey, ouch, you stepped on my foot."

My proper response is, "Gosh, I'm sorry. I'll be more careful." Depending on the situation, I might add something like, "I was looking for my kid's sneaker that she always kicks off," or "I've got something in my contact," etc.

My proper response is not, "Well, I didn't mean to step on your foot, so why are you angry?!"
and also
people who are subject to racism are much more likely to recognize it, especially because white people are taught that even noticing race is rude.
She assumes that patients can accurately diagnose the cause of their suffering. But that's often not true. (See, for example, Keith Sampson's story, or the story of racist fried chicken at NBC.) You may believe there's something wrong with your arm when you're having a heart attack.

Anti-racists hide a double-standard when diagnosing racism: they ignore or dismiss blacks who reject anti-racism, whether they're progressives like Thandeka or conservatives like Winkfield F. Twyman, Jr.

Why are people like Kate Nepveu so reluctant to discuss class? I suspect the answer is in her section titled ""Racism" and "privilege" are often used to mean very different things by different people." She says she is "upper-middle-class." In your own words, Ms. Nepveu: "Your privilege is showing."

Bonus curious assumption: Where she gets the idea that "white people are taught that even noticing race is rude", I dunno. Based on my googling, Bill Bennett is the only white person who thinks we live in a post-racial society, and Stephen Colbert is the only white person who can't see race.

Oh, Israel!

Capital Anglos mobilize against practice of spitting at Christians - Haaretz - Israel News
Wondering what could bring religious people to commit such ugly acts, Katz surmised that some Jews might not have learned yet what it means to be the majority in a country.

"It's still very new for us," she said. "We're taking our experiences from the Diaspora and acting and reacting in way that would befit a powerless minority. Now that we do have power simply because Jews are 'in control,' we are not protecting the minorities and allowing the Christian or the Muslim minority to practice freely what they want to practice.... We haven't got our heads around the fact that our job is now to protect them."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Because men are pathetic

YouTube - Lara Croft vs Slave Leia snowball fight.



Brilliant in its simplicity.

Yes, gay men are probably pathetic about, oh, Han Solo vs Spiderman in a snowball fight.

But some gay and bi women are probably pathetic for this, too.

Chatroulette | The Daily Show

Video: Tech-Talch - Chatroulette | The Daily Show | Comedy Central
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tech-Talch - Chatroulette
www.thedailyshow.com
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Students sing in protest

YouTube - Students sing in protest



Amazing Grace Take2

Amazing Grace no longer flows,
Dammed up by greed so crude.
I once could eat, but now I find
I cant afford the food.

The bright young minds of our country
Now wake to meet their doom;
So why should we apply to school,
When close ahead lies gloom?

What will we say in years ahead
When strewn across the land
Are wretches poor in heart and soul,
By greedy robbers damned?
Remember, Aristocracy
Made bank from others toil.
I say we have the right to fruits
Weve grown on Natures soil.

Aloud, lament all ye who hope
To have a better life;
If our priorities dont change
We all will end in strife.

Awaken Creativity,
and doom we may waylay!
Lets make a plan while we still can
And birth a better day!

lyrics by Victoria Larkin

via Louis Proyect

scary women

The Pictorial Arts: Ulysses and the Sirens

(click for larger view)

Why A Salad Costs More Than A Big Mac

Why A Salad Costs More Than A Big Mac - The Consumerist

Thursday, March 4, 2010

why I shaved my head and beard

1. Because I will jump off a cliff if all the cool kids are doing it.

2. Because it's a gesture of solidarity with patients and prisoners and those who must shave their head.

3. Because my heroes have always included mad scientists.

4. Because it is good to be reminded that if you lose your hair, you'll still look fine.

5. Because it's spring in Arizona.

6. Because it's a symbol of rebirth.

And therefore, two quick pics.

1. Obligatory author stroking chin:


2. Obligatory author making face:


(I never realized before that my idea of Scary Hands includes folding down the little fingers, which totally sucks for grabbing anyone. Maybe power beams are supposed to be coming out of my palms?)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Be Sad and Succeed

Be Sad and Succeed: Scientific American: "Forgas reviewed several of his studies in which researchers induced either a good or bad mood in volunteers. Each study found that people in a bad mood performed tasks better than those in a good mood."