28 February 2013

OK, I've officially had it with this orgy of concern trolling (I don't know what else to call it, really, except perhaps imperialist condescension) about violence in South Africa.

Rather than face our own problem with police brutality and hourly gun murders head on, too many Americans are screaming "Pistorius! Pistorius!" and gawking at things that happen in their country too, but are just more newsworthy when occurring in a faraway land.

27 February 2013

The view from my window this afternoon.

This is what happens when you don't fill in a pothole about three feet wide, there's piles of snow on the ground, and it rains for 24 hours straight.

26 February 2013

I think I'll begin today by citing two wise men.  First, Freddie De Boer:

"After all, an ever-shrinking circle of those deemed righteous only serves to further burnish the righteousness of those within"

 Second, Nirad Chaudhuri:
"In demagogic politics the less extreme never has any chance against the more extreme.  There is a Gresham's Law as much in politics as in economics..." (Autobiography of An Unknown Indian)

It is with these thoughts in mind that I feel confident in predicting that, no, the Republican Party is not going to moderate itself until we Americans have elected*, suffered under, tried, and executed a Republican president.  I can imagine a few exceptions to this grim scenario, such as said president resigning under overwhelming duress (much more than it took to get Nixon out of office) -- but the demonic passion that drives people like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan will not respond to any number of conservative bloggers pleading for sanity.  I tremble for my country.

*Due to the planned redistribution of some states' electoral votes, this may not require any more of the popular vote than Romney got last year. 

22 February 2013

Mark me down as permanently absent in this ongoing blogosphere conversation about how Americans like their presidents' ideology.

Five of the last six elections have been won by the younger major-party nominee.  (In the case of 2000, Gore and Bush were and are less than two years apart in age).  It may be an unbearable thought for political scientists that it really all boils down to choosing the younger face, but having grown up with cable TV and a political mass media driven by superficialities, this is my tentative conclusion.

21 February 2013

If video games had Academy Awards -- and as of 2003 BAFTA began giving Games Awards (leave it to the British to be forward-thinking) -- these are some titles I consider worthy of them:

1991:  Civilization
1992:  Sonic the Hedgehog 2
1993:  Myst
1994:  Final Fantasy VI
1995:  Chrono Trigger
1996:  Mario Kart 64
1997:  Final Fantasy VII
1998:  Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
1999:  *
2000:  Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

*This year sucked in terms of new games.  We were treated to Chrono Cross, a sprawling rococo mess of an RPG that claimed to be a sequel to Chrono Trigger.   As many video gamers were discovering sex this year, it hardly seemed to matter.

17 February 2013

I'm telling you now, this is the best meditation on love that any Christian could read this Lent. 

I suppose because there's an F-bomb in the first paragraph, most American Christians won't instantly warm to it.  Well, Mr and Mrs American Christian, I want to tell you an important truth:  next time you wonder why more and more people have stopped going to church, think about the kinds of words that are deemed acceptable in your church.  You might also think about what happened to kids that were left in the care of "celibate" representatives of the largest Christian denomination in this country.  (Maybe your church doesn't even consider those folks real Christians, but in that case you probably left the reality-based community long ago).

12 February 2013

Benedict Carey:  you know what else besides violent video games "can stir hostile urges and aggressive behavior?"
Reading the Bible.

I flipped mine open at random (yes, I swear it) and found Ezekiel 33, which reads as follows:

The word of the Lord came to me:  O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads.

It was texts like these that most likely got John Brown's ire up when he thought about millions of American slaves held in suffering.  Perhaps we could have prevented the Harper's Ferry incident by clipping verses like these out of all Bibles in circulation at the time.

In all seriousness, the readiness to blame works of art (that is what video games are) for real violence has many historical precedents but has never made an iota of sense.

05 February 2013

I think Andrew Sullivan is a great writer, and a moral man.  But I must concur with Ta-Nehisi Coates that he can be pretty maddening.

In his reflection on a documentary about Catholic clergy and sexual abuse, Sullivan writes:

If those of us are asked why we still believe in the salvation of Christ in the Catholic community, in the midst of all this, we do not have a good answer. All we can say is that we are, in some ways, trying to live in a parallel church, finding those many, many good priests who have been unfairly tarred by the pedophile brush...
Maybe Sullivan has cut off all financial support to the Catholic parish churches he attends.  I sure hope so.  But still there is a problem of explicitly identifying yourself with a criminal syndicate (and I'm using Sullivan's own language here).  It's not that much different than saying "I'm trying to live in a parallel Nazi Germany, finding those many, many good government employees who have been unfairly tarred by the anti-Semitic brush."

I can understand that cradle Catholics have a deep attachment to the rites and spiritual practices that they grew up with.  This is in fact why so many have moved over to the Episcopal Church!  This doesn't have to be every Catholic's answer to disaffection with the Roman hierarchy.  Still I am annoyed when any Catholic makes these sorts of excuses for continued affiliation with a church of mass child rape.

04 February 2013

A good and provocative piece on drone warfare.  Here is the concluding paragraph:

The fault lies not in our drones, but in ourselves. The reason our wars – secret or no – are so poorly managed are because of the policy process itself and the goals it seeks, alongside the incredible capability of the U.S. military and federal government which lets them sustain the weight and persevere through so many missteps and failures. The draft does not stop failing wars, overt or covert, as we learned from Vietnam and the “secret wars” surrounding it. That the condolence letter of a pilot crashing his aircraft in Yemen might be the difference between peace and war seems proper, but what would make its power so much greater than those for the advisors and the spotters, or the vastly larger number of letters for the fallen of Afghanistan, which was sickeningly, but unsurprisingly, absent from the general election? The political silences that enable these processes are older than we care to admit. It is not just that we cannot turn back time, but that there is no extended length of time much better to turn back to. Before drones were, these kinds of wars were there, waiting for them.