30 September 2011

If Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is accurately portrayed in Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker review (abstract here), God help those students who are assigned to read it. Consider this:
Do [New Orleans, St. Louis and Detroit] lag behind in "the civilizing process" because they're poor or educationally disadvantaged? No, Pinker argues; the key factor is that they have large African-American populations. Low-income blacks in the US are "effectively stateless," living in a sort of Hobbesian dystopia beyond the reach of law enforcement.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that every low-income black man who's ever been arrested for possession of marijuana would love to live in that Hobbesian dystopia. And this:
There is no indication that anyone but Hitler and a few fanatical henchmen thought it was a good idea for the Jews to be exterminated.
French Fascist collaborators? Didn't exist. Polish anti-Semites? Didn't exist. Catholic Church? Didn't exist.

26 September 2011

I suggest a new short mission statement for the Episcopal Church:
For those looking for abundant religious life and deepened spirituality, the Episcopal Church offers honest and unconditional acceptance. We worship the Trinity--God with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit--in a non-authoritarian community.

22 September 2011

19 September 2011

Then when Fingon heard afar the great trumpet of Turgon his brother, the shadow passed and his heart was uplifted, and he shouted aloud: 'Utulie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatari, utulie'n aurë! The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and fathers of Men, the day has come!' And all those who heard his great voice echo in the hills answered crying: 'Auta i lomë! The night is passing!'
Tolkien, Silmarillion, "Of the Fifth Battle"

16 September 2011

As a citizen of an EU member nation (United Kingdom) I am calling for Italy to be suspended from the EU until they can find a prime minister fit for civilized company.
Jennifer Rubin elaborates:
Conservatives can and should be anti-elitist to their heart’s content in attacking supercilious liberals who don’t trust average Americans to run their own lives...
Alas, it's not liberals who are telling me how to run my life. Most of the GOP candidates say they want to reinstate Dont Ask Dont Tell, keeping me out of the military, and to ban me from getting married everywhere (because states' rights only applies to straight people). Bachmann particularly wants me to undergo reparative therapy for my "immoral lifestyle."

15 September 2011

Jennifer Rubin is troubled by Rick Perry's pride in his lack of education.

Yes, he was trying to be self-deprecating, but it’s disturbing to see that he thinks being a rotten student and a know-nothing gives one street cred in the GOP. Is it so important to defy the MSM by flaunting affection for anti-intellectualism?

Duh. Less than 7 years ago Americans elected George W. Bush. Anti-intellectualism is an effective strategy in American politics. Nobody has gotten elected president, ever, by trumpeting his bachelor's degree, much less a law school record or any graduate education. (Some may think we have broken this phenomenon by electing Obama, but I don't recall Obama ever saying anything like "vote for me because I did so well at Harvard Law.")

If Rubin wants to make the electorate less anti-intellectual, perhaps she should start getting involved in campaigns to improve public education. She could also stop spreading false information in her Washington Post column.
Contagion, the new film directed by Steven Soderbergh, is the best movie about HIV's impact on the gay community ever made.

This is a strange statement, considering that there are no gay characters in the movie, and the fast-spreading disease depicted is certainly not HIV. What Soderbergh manages to pull off is showing us how a virus can rob people of the sexual lives they believe they are entitled to. Matt Damon's blonde, clearly heterosexual daughter, having survived the sudden death of her mother and young brother, is imprisoned with her father as her suburban Minnesota neighborhood is convulsed by the disease. She frantically texts her boyfriend and others about her situation, and how she might recover her romantic life.*

The national panic that ensues when the virus takes root in America is familiar to anyone who experienced the onset of AIDS in this country. Soderbergh focuses on the efforts of noble doctors in the CDC and WHO to understand and defeat the disease. The military is a vaguely sinister force butting in at unwanted moments. The President is never shown or given a voice, and nobody mentions him until at least an hour into the film: an interesting echo of Ronald Reagan's longtime refusal to talk about HIV.

By transposing the fear felt by gays in New York, West Hollywood, and San Francisco** onto Matt Damon's Midwestern family, Soderbergh does a service to millions of American moviegoers who would never see a thoughtful film about gay people. Philadelphia, released in 1993, discussed gay life and was popular, but a fat lot of good it did the gay community: Don't Ask Don't Tell was made law that very same year. I suspect that Contagion will be more effective in educating people who believe that gay sex is the root cause of all bad stuff.

*This is my interpolation. It would have been clearer if she were shown writing emails, but as we know, all teenagers are functionally illiterate and use numbers as hieroglyphs!

**In the film, San Francisco is being stalked by the muckraking blogger Jude Law. This was a very poorly drawn character.

13 September 2011

Nonetheless for long it seemed to the Numenoreans that they prospered, and if they were not increased in happiness, yet they grew more strong, and their rich men ever richer. For with the aid of Sauron they multiplied their possessions, and they devised engines, and they built ever greater ships.
from Tolkien's legend of the second age of Middle-Earth, Akallabeth
"I think we're making too much out of the bedroom."
RIP Bishop Walter Righter.

12 September 2011

And in the state of my birth, legislators (i.e. white men over 40....this is what happens when most people forget to vote) are plotting to bring back the days of witch trials.  (Yes, really:  the Republican chairman gloats that 1679 was a great year for the colony).
On a visit today, I discovered the problem with Barnes & Noble in a nutshell:

I found 21 copies of Newt Gingrich's novels.

I found 7 copies of Richard Wright's books (remember the guy who wrote Black Boy and Native Son ?  Yeah, him).

10 September 2011

Women shouldn't be serving in combat because....CHILDREN!!

I guess if a male soldier develops PTSD, comes home and terrorizes his kids, this is an acceptable cost of war.  But woe to any female soldier who ventures near depleted uranium--her uterus is national property.

08 September 2011

The recent hurricane and storm damage to Washington National Cathedral is unfortunate, but it has made me wonder why a supposedly secular nation has a National Cathedral at all. Yes, their website says they provide an "indispensable ministry for people of all faiths and perspectives." However, I don't see any regularly scheduled services for non-Christian faiths.

02 September 2011

Sometimes answers are easy.

Isthmus asks "how far right will the Wisconsin GOP go?"

As far right as they can get away with. Please remember this is the party that called for the execution of Obama on a conference call.

01 September 2011

People can say that I should have become a nurse, or an engineer or whatever else, but when I started college and the economy was still good young people were sold the idea that they should 'follow their passions'. The jobs were supposed to come. I didn't take out a mortgage for a property I couldn't afford; I didn't participate in credit default swaps or create a Ponzi scheme. I went to college and educated myself. I've spent countless hours at libraries educating myself. I've taken care of sick relatives and taught immigrants how to read and write in English--with no pay. But I'm not responsible enough to run a retail store.

A must-read
for anyone who believes my generation (born 1980-1990) lacks motivation.