Saturday, November 6, 2010

no, no, they can't take that away from me

There is such a thing as lovesickness for good horses and mules, and for this there is no cure. People who operate machines know nothing like it. This creaturely love can keep one interestd all day long in every motion of a good team or a good saddle horse. And not only all day long, but all year round and all life long. Grandpa's life, I think, was shaped around this passion.
--Wendell Berry

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In those days was [righteous king] Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

Then the king turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, "I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with an undivided heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." And Hezekiah wept sore.

And it came to pass, before Isaiah could get halfway out of the palace, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, 'Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal you. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years.'"
2 Kings 20:1-6

the power of no

Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch resistance to Nazism from 1940 to 1945 was pronounced and fairly successful. In Norway, for example, teachers refused to promote fascism in the schools. For this, the Nazis imprisoned a thousand teachers. But, the remaining teachers stood firm, giving anti-fascist instruction to children and teaching in their homes. This policy made the pro-fascist Quisling government so unpopular that it eventually released all of the imprisoned teachers and dropped its attempt to dominate the schools. … In Copenhagen, Danes used a general strike to liberalize martial law. …

But, surely the most amazing but widely neglected case of nonviolent resistance against Nazi Germany was the protection of Jews and other persecuted minorities from deportation, imprisonment, and murder. … Gene Sharp shows how the nations which nonviolently resisted National Socialist racial persecutions saved almost all of their Jews, while Jews in other Nazi-controlled nations were vastly more likely to be placed in concentration camps and killed. The effort to arrest Norway’s seventeen hundred Jews sparked internal resistance and protest resignations; most of the Norwegian Jews fled to Sweden. … When Himmler tried to crack down on Danish Jews, the Danes thwarted his efforts. Not only did the Danish government and people resist – through bureaucratic slowdowns and noncooperation – but, surprisingly, the German commander in Denmark also refused to help organize Jewish deportations. This prompted Himmler to import special troops to arrest Jews. But, in the end almost all Danish Jews escaped unharmed. …

The omnipresent pattern … is that totalitarian governments are not omnipotent. They need the cooperation of the ruled to exert their will. If a people denies cooperation, even a government as vicious as Hitler’s, bound by few moral constraints, might be unable to get what it wants.
--Bryan Caplan(The Literature of Nonviolent Resistance and Civilian-Based Defense)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Samuel Dickson was 17 years old, almost a man, that April night in San Francisco 100 years ago. He and a friend had gotten standing-room tickets for the opera and heard the great Caruso sing.

The night was clear and beautiful, so after the opera they went to the top of Telegraph Hill to look at the city -- the lights of the Barbary Coast, the steeple of Old St. Mary's Church on California Street, the rounded domes of Temple Emanu-El on Sutter, the alleys of Chinatown and the distant gilded dome of City Hall.

"It's the most beautiful city in the world," his friend said.

Dickson remembered that remark all of his long life, because the next morning, April 18, 1906, would begin three surreal days of terror, flight and chaos. A killer earthquake would strike. Untold numbers of people would die. Uncontrollable fires would rage at temperatures of 2,000 degrees. At least 250,000 people would be left homeless. And everything that Dickson saw before him, the great city of San Francisco, would be destroyed.

"San Francisco is gone," Jack London wrote later. "Nothing remains of it but memories."

Monday, October 4, 2010

The U.S. Army has used local television stations in the U.S. as training posts for some of its psychological-operations personnel, The Upshot has learned. Since at least 2001, CBS affiliates in Raleigh, N.C. and Savannah, Ga., have regularly hosted active-duty soldiers from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations group as part of the Army's Training With Industry program. Training With Industry is designed to offer career soldiers a chance to pick up skills through internships and fellowships with private businesses. The PSYOPS soldiers used WRAL and WTOC to learn broadcasting and communications expertise that they could apply in their mission, as the Army describes it, of "influenc[ing] the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign audiences."

The relationship between PSYOPS, Training With Industry, and television news operations has stirred controversy in the past. In 2000, after a Dutch newspaper reported that PSYOPS troops had been placed in CNN's newsroom under the program, CNN discontinued the internships and admitted that they had been a mistake. "It was inappropriate for PSYOPS personnel to be at CNN, they are not here now, and they never again will be at CNN," a spokesperson said at the time.

Forgiveness is not a tiny, inward act which a discrete effort of will brings forth in response to specific types of occasions. Rather, it is part or product of an overall orientation of lives of a certain kind, which is "there" before any occasion or whether or not any occasion ever arises. The media spokespeople and various public officials expressed amazement at how forgiveness functioned in the Amish community after the recent schoolhouse slayings. But that was the "natural," though not the inevitable or unalloyed, response of the people involved. The intentionality structures of thought, historical understanding, feeling, and evaluation around which their consciousness and life were organized, support and issue in forgiveness in relevant situations. The people in that community thought about and approached forgiveness from within the framework of the intentional structures of their particular kind of life and world. Forgiveness requires a substantial self, incorporating subtly nuanced and dynamically organized long-term dispositions of thought, feeling and valuation into a character embracing all essential dimensions of the self. (If it hasn’t got to your body yet, it has a ways to go.)

To cultivate forgiveness as a part of human life, if it means anything at all, is to cultivate an overall character of the sort that can do forgiveness, and, when in good shape, can do it at a walk. It is better when one does not have to do this in a particularly self-conscious manner, but any sensible way is better than none at all. "The quality of mercy is not strained," wrote a profound soul. Likewise for forgiveness. A forgiving person will not understand what all the fuss is about. What else would one do? Like the "righteous gentiles" that put themselves in mortal danger to save their Jewish neighbors. Was there, given who they were, anything else to be done?
--Dallas Willard

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

caption this

Send your submissions to:
"Caption This, No. 14"
c/o I. Papas
General Delivery
Molalla, OR

nothing to envy

If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night,you’ll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light. This area of darkness is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Next to this mysterious black hole, South Korea, Japan, and now China fairly gleam with prosperity. Even from hundreds of miles above, the billboards, the headlights and streetlights, the neon of the fast-food chains appear as tiny white dots signifying people going about their business as twenty-first-century energy consumers. Then, in the middle of it all, an expanse of blackness nearly as large as England.

It is baffling how a nation of 23 million people can appear as vacant as the oceans. North Korea is simply a blank. North Korea faded to black in the early 1990s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had propped up its old Communist ally with cheap fuel oil, North Korea’s creakily inefficient economy collapsed. Power stations rusted into ruin. The lights went out. Hungry people scaled utility poles to pilfer bits of copper wire to swap for food. When the sun drops low in the sky, the landscape fades to gray
and the squat little houses are swallowed up by the night. Entire villages vanish into the dusk. Even in parts of the showcase capital of Pyongyang, you can stroll down the middle of a main street at night without being able to see the buildings on either side.

When outsiders stare into the void that is today’s North Korea, they think of remote villages of Africa or Southeast Asia where the civilizing hand of electricity has not yet reached. But North Korea is not an undeveloped country; it is a country that has fallen out of the developed world. You can see the evidence of what once was and what has been lost dangling overhead alongside any major North Korean road—the skeletal wires of the rusted electrical grid that once covered the entire country.

North Koreans beyond middle age remember well when they had more electricity (and for that matter food) than their pro-American cousins in South Korea, and that compounds the indignity of spending their nights sitting in the dark. Back in the 1990s, the United States offered to help North Korea with its energy needs if it gave up its nuclear weapons program. But the deal fell apart after the Bush administration accused the North Koreans of reneging on their promises. North Koreans complain bitterly about the darkness, which they still blame on the U.S. sanctions.

They can’t read at night. They can’t watch television. “We have no culture without electricity,” a burly North Korean security guard once told me accusingly. But the dark has advantages of its own. Especially if you are a teenager dating somebody you can’t be seen with. When adults go to bed, sometimes as early as 7:00 P.M. in winter, it is easy enough to slip out of the house. The darkness confers measures of privacy and freedom as hard to come by in North Korea as electricity. Wrapped in a magic cloak of invisibility, you can do what you like without worrying about the prying eyes of parents, neighbors, or secret police.

I met many North Koreans who told me how much they learned to love the darkness, but it was the story of one teenage girl and her boyfriend that impressed me most. She was twelve years old when she met a young man three years older from a neighboring town. Her family was low-ranking in the byzantine system of social controls in place in North Korea. To be seen in public together would damage the boy’s career prospects as well as her reputation as a virtuous young woman. So their dates consisted entirely of long walks in the dark. There was nothing else to do anyway; by the time they started dating in earnest in the early 1990s, none of the restaurants or cinemas were operating because of the lack of power.
--Barbara Demick from Nothing to Envy

Monday, September 13, 2010

On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a national emergency with respect to the terrorist attacks of three days earlier. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 requires the President to renew this state of emergency on an annual basis if he wishes it to remain in effect. Bush renewed it every year he was in office, and now President Barack Obama has extended it for the second time during his term.

The United States of America, therefore, is now entering its 10th year under a continual state of emergency.

"don't tread on us" (or we putcha outta biznuss)

Health & Human Services Sect'y K. Sebilius

The mobster walks into an office. "Mighty nice insurance company you have here," he muses. "Be a shame if anything happened to it." Shortly thereafter the business owner "voluntarily" hands over a payment for "protection."

The Obama administration didn't quite pull a page from the Sopranos last week -- but it came awfully close.

Faced with the fact that the new health-care law was driving up insurance premiums, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned that the administration would have "zero tolerance" for anyone who blamed them for those price hikes.

"We will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes . . . on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections," she wrote in a letter to the insurance industries' trade association.

At the very least, she noted "bad actors" could be excluded from new government-run health-insurance exchanges that will begin operation in 2014 under the law. People also might not be able to use government subsidies to buy insurance from companies that don't toe the administration line. What's next? Only companies that write checks to the Democratic National Committee can participate?

Well, at the risk of sleeping with the fishes, let's be clear about what ObamaCare means for insurance costs. The new health-care law requires insurers to provide coverage even for people who are already sick and forbids them from charging sick people higher premiums than healthy people. It requires all insurance plans to include a host of added benefits and prohibits insurers from capping how much they pay out over a year or a lifetime.
--NY Post

Some years ago I gave my expression to my own feeling – anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called – in a somewhat startling way. It was at the time of the second Afghan war, when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenæum Club a well-known military man – then a captain but now a general – drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying – “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”
--Herbert Spencer

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness -- the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven -- a senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves," and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all."
--C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mission Accomplished, Part II

"They're leaving as heroes. I want them to walk home with pride in their hearts," declared Col. John Norris, the head of a US Army brigade in Iraq. 1

It's enough to bring tears to the eyes of an American, enough to make him choke up.

Enough to make him forget.

But no American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured ... the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up ... an army of young Islamic men went to Iraq to fight the American invaders; they left the country more militant, hardened by war, to spread across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia ... a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again.
--William Blum

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Candidate To Accuse Opponent Of Racism Just To See What Happens

NEW YORK—With polls showing him trailing in New York's Republican primary race for U.S. Senate, candidate David Malpass told reporters Friday he planned to accuse his opponent Bruce Blakeman of racism just to see if it caught on with anybody. "It couldn't hurt, so I might as well give it a shot," said Malpass, explaining that his campaign had whipped up an ad accusing Blakeman of making disparaging remarks about Hispanic-Americans. "I'll just kind of float the idea and see if it gets any traction. If it does, fantastic; if not, well, I wasn't really married to it anyway." According to sources, Malpass then shrugged. (Onion)

Friday, August 27, 2010

you can't make this stuff up

From The Miami Herald:

In a gratifying show of multicultural sensitivity, the US Navy has announced that the forced tube feedings of prisoners staging hunger strikes to protest illegal detention and torture will be performed only before sunrise and after sunset--out of respect for the Islamic custom of fasting throughout daylight hours during Ramadan.

According to Pentagram spokesman: “Each detainee receives 5,500-6,000 calories per day and has six menus to choose from." To demystify [force feeding] a bit, Navy prison camp hospital workers some years back created a display of different flavored supplements and let visiting reporters handle a sample yellow rubber feeding tube.

By last summer, staff were pointing to Butter Pecan flavored Ensure as popular with the chair-shackled captives. Flavor made no difference going down, one nurse explained, but a captive could taste it if he burped later.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pakistan is in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. More than 20 million people have been displaced by floods whose extent beggars the imagination; at one point, an area the size of Great Britain has been underwater -- and more floods are coming. Millions face the threat of immediate starvation. In the wake of the water and the massive displacement, disease is growing, with "6 million children are at risk of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition and pneumonia," as the Guardian reports. "Stagnant flood plains in densely populated, poverty-stricken urban areas may become breeding grounds for cholera, mosquitos and malaria." UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls it the worst natural disaster he has ever seen.

Yet you could go days without hearing or reading about this epochal suffering. And in the UK, you could read yards and yards of print about the UK-Pakistan cricket series without being disturbed with ugly scenes of children dying in their own watery filth--or, indeed, with any of those annoying pleas for donations that always crop up in other disasters.
The looking-away from this disaster is extraordinary.

Meanwhile, as the Pakistanis were literally trying to keep their society afloat in a world-historical cataclysm, Peace Laureate Obama was lobbing a few more missiles into remote Pakistani villages, killing alleged "rebels" in yet another in a series of illegal acts of aggression on the sovereign territory of an American ally.
--Chris Floyd

Monday, August 2, 2010

Important movie documents the black hole of the 20th century.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lest it should be possible that any unchildlike soul might, in arrogance and ignorance, think to stand upon his rights against God, and demand of Him this or that after the will of the flesh, I will lay before such a possible one some of the things to which he has a right... He has a claim to be compelled to repent; to be hedged in on every side; to have one after another of the strong, sharp-toothed sheep-dogs of the Great Shepherd sent after him, to thwart him in any desire, foil him in any plan, frustrate him of any hope, until he come to see at length that nothing will ease his pain, nothing make life a thing worth having but the presence of the living God within him.
--George Macdonald, "The Voice of Job"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the wager

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich was the author of a popular book, The Population Bomb, which argued that mankind was facing a demographic catastrophe with the rate of population growth quickly outstripping growth in the supply of food and resources. Julian Simon was highly skeptical of such claims. Simon offered a bet:

You could name your own terms: select any raw material you wanted — copper, tin, whatever — and select any date in the future, "any date more than a year away," and Simon would bet that the commodity's price on that date would be lower than what it was at the time of the wager...

Ehrlich and his colleagues picked five metals that they thought would undergo big price rises: chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Then, on paper, they bought $200 worth of each, for a total bet of $1,000, using the prices on September 29, 1980, as an index. They designated September 29, 1990, 10 years hence, as the payoff date. If the inflation-adjusted prices of the various metals rose in the interim, Simon would pay Ehrlich the combined difference; if the prices fell, Ehrlich et al. would pay Simon...

Between 1980 and 1990, the world's population grew by more than 800 million, the largest increase in one decade in all of history. But by September 1990, without a single exception, the price of each of Ehrlich's selected metals had fallen, and in some cases had dropped through the floor. Chrome, which had sold for $3.90 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.70 in 1990. Tin, which was $8.72 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.88 a decade later.

As a result, in October 1990, Paul Ehrlich mailed Julian Simon a check for $576.07 to settle the wager in Simon's favor.

All of [Ehrlich's] grim predictions had been decisively overturned by events. Ehrlich was wrong about higher natural resource prices, about "famines of unbelievable proportions" occurring by 1975, about "hundreds of millions of people starving to death" in the 1970s and '80s, about the world "entering a genuine age of scarcity." In 1990, for his having promoted "greater public understanding of environmental problems," Ehrlich received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Generations yet unborn will dwell with peculiar delight upon the scenes that we have passed through, the privations that we have endured; the untiring zeal that we have manifested; the insurmountable difficulties that we have overcome in laying the foundation of a work that brought about the glory and blessings which they will realize; a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight, for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets—a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.
--Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, Vol 3, October 1841, 776.

Friday, July 2, 2010

tell me a story

We don't need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.
--Philip Pullman

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When you are on the board of a decent corporation, for example, if you have a direct financial interest in a matter under consideration you’re expected to “declare an interest” and absent yourself from the vote. But in a mature democracy, the most self-interested citizens are those most likely to vote. Currently, about 20 million people work for government. About 45 million receive Social Security benefits. About 34 million depend on food stamps.
As I think Ayn Rand said, in any compromise between food and poison, poison wins.

This morning I read an interesting story in Soundings magazine. It recounted the final voyage of the S.S. Morro Castle, purportedly one of the safest ships afloat back in 1934 when it regularly transported revelers on junkets between New York and Havana. Then, on the night of September 8, a series of unfortunate events occurred that ended with the ship washing up on the New Jersey shore the next day, close to half of its 300 or so passengers dead.
First, the ship was hit by a storm. Then, while fighting the towering waves, the veteran captain clutched his chest and fell dead from a heart attack, moving a less experienced man into command.
Next, a ship’s steward discovered a group of drunken passengers entertaining themselves by flicking lit cigarettes into a trash can in one of the salons. About an hour later in that same salon, a fire broke out.

With the ship still battling through the heavy waves, the crew now had to turn to putting out the fire – but were shocked to discover that there was no water pressure, rendering the fire hoses useless.
Making matters decidedly worse, shortly afterwards the fire ignited an explosion that blew out the salon window, sucking in the air necessary to turn the blaze into an inferno.
Quickly thereafter, the raging fire burned through critical ship’s wiring, causing the electricity to short out. That, in turn, resulted in a failure in the steering, leaving the ship helplessly afloat in the turbulent seas.
With the blaze rapidly spreading, the replacement captain gave the command to abandon ship, but as there had been no lifeboat drills, the scene quickly descended into chaos and death that ended several hours later with the burned-out hulk washing ashore… turning the floating party palace into the ruined remains seen in the photo here, in the proverbial blink of an eye.

the Prince reassessed

Laws are made by people who are, for the most part, the very scum of the earth; if something they impose on society is ethically beneficial, therefore, the coincidence involved is considerable. They are drawn from those with an urge to dominate, who have quite often never done a day's work in their lives for customers or employers who are free to accept or decline their offer. They take their powers by force and deceit (any who compete with the R&D Party, for example, are deliberately hindered by obstacles especially erected for them) and draw their salaries and large expenses 100% from funds which are not only stolen, but stolen without possibility of recourse by the victim--and stolen sometimes by absolute fraud since it's done without laws even having been written. They habitually and often make laws to enslave their subjects in a military force designed to kill their enemies, and habitually lie when questioned about the need for it; and they try to avoid being subject to their own rules whenever they can get away with it. Instead of being benevolent, disinterested and morally upright, therefore, lawmakers are normally psychologically freakish, kleptocratic, mendacious, murderous, irrational and hypocritical. Jim Davies

the doctor's tale

The doctor and patient talked and then began an involved workup, “yet no diagnosis was made.” Later, the doctor discussed the case with a colleague, who suggested getting blood cultures to test for an infected heart valve. For reasons beyond explaining, the doctor did not follow up and with his patient slowly deteriorating referred him to an oncologist whose blood cultures were positive. “Profoundly embarrassed and ashamed for missing something obvious, simply and inexpensively tested for and relatively easy to treat,” the referring doctor was nonetheless extremely relieved and told his patient he had “goofed.” Even though not feeling “ethically obligated” to do so, the doctor felt that he had “a close enough relationship with them so that there wasn’t even a question of not telling them.” He further added,
I also felt it important to be forgiven by them, not to be absolved of negligence, but so that I could continue to work with people and not feel I was being dishonest or covering up. At first, the patient was going to see another doctor in the [clinic] I worked at, but he changed his mind and continued to see me until I left a year and half later.
I also told colleagues about this mistake, something I have done in other instances because I feel the need for others to acknowledge my errors and tell me that it’s okay to be human and make mistakes. Often, they then share their mistakes and I can then go on, though almost humbled by the experience. Sharing mistakes, especially when they can have profound effects on people’s lives, is essential. If one cannot do it on any level, I think burnout, depression, substance abuse, and suicide are potential hazards.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

T. Jefferson: "A free press is the last bastion of liberty"

Lead Headline for Drudge Report, 6/22/10: FLY LANDS ON PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FACE.
A fly lands on President Barack Obama's face as he delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act and the New Patients Bill of Rights, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.… Read more »

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

1. The world as we experience it is somehow flawed.
2. These flaws are seen in light of the unflawed--some truth or notion of justice or goodness or purging of ugliness or ignorance, standards of judgment of the brokenness exist somewhere.
3. There is some supreme order or cosmos or reality, something about the whole of things that provides the standards according to which I make the judgments of (1 and (2, above.
4. All somehow see themselves as in some inescapable sense a part of the brokenness.
5. My cosmos calls upon me to do something about the brokenness.
6. Whenever my notion of what my cosmos requires of me conflicts with my immediate wishes or impulses, I ought to surrender to that higher value.
7. The psychological or emotional feelings connected with all of these.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

While the road to Hell is often paved with good intentions, the road to Heaven, too, is paved by many a bad intention that has not matured into an act.
-John Lukacs

Two People I Didn't Think I'd Miss So Much

I was surprised by my reaction to the death of Gary Coleman. I had never been a fan of his, or even remotely interested in his career. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire episode of “Diff’rent Strokes.” But when I heard that he was in critical condition with a head injury, I fervently hoped he would pull through. When I learned the next day that he had died, I was overcome with a sadness I wasn’t expecting.

I think it was partly because he was a grown man who the whole world pretty much thought of as a child, and partly because he never really got his act together and I still wanted to think that he had a chance to. I think I expect life to follow the pattern of drama, and in particular, the kind of drama were troubles get resolved and troubled people find redemption. Of course, they don’t always, and it’s a brutal reminder of what life really is when they don’t.

My response to Dennis Hopper’s death, the very next morning, was more what I would have expected: “What? He should still be here!” He was 74, but it seemed, not yet finished. Or maybe we, his audience, were just not yet done watching him. I was never an aficionado, in fact I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never even seen “Easy Rider” (although I’ve just moved it to the top of my Netflix queue).

I first noticed Hopper in “Blue Velvet” and saw him in a few other roles throughout the years. He wasn’t an actor I followed closely, but he did make a big impression, and I soon came to the conclusion -- based on little data and never having met the man -- that Dennis Hopper believed that there was something very very wrong with himself. That he was fundamentally flawed; not like everyone else in some bad, bad way. He became my working definition for the term “neurotic”: “Being neurotic means believing at a deep deep level that there is something very wrong with oneself. When there probably isn’t. Like Dennis Hopper.”

Of course I have no earthly idea what Dennis Hopper believed about himself. Only he knew that. But it is what he projected -- to me anyway. And I believe that whatever it was I saw is what he chose to confront in his work. Because in the end, the impression he leaves us with is that of a man who really took himself on. One who confronted his own demons and was, as Jesse Walker so aptly puts it, “...willing not just to stare into the abyss but to fall into it, climb out, then merrily dive back in.”

Gary Coleman, on the other hand, seems to have taken the opposite path. The one that doesn't go anywhere near the abyss. Rather than taking himself on, Gary built a life on taking on everyone else, blaming them for everything that went wrong in his life and living in an anger directed at things he could not control. He probably never even recognized that some of the demons he was so angry at were his own. Dennis Hopper may very well have left this life never having fully vanquished his demons. But I’d be willing to bet he left knowing that he had lived life to the fullest wrestling with them. And Gary? My guess is Gary spent too much of his life looking for demons outside of himself to ever do any serious wrestling. And that he left this life the poorer
because of it.
--Bretigne Shafer

Monday, May 17, 2010

say you want a revolution

"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."
~ John Adams

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ryokan reflects

Shaggy hair past the ears,
A worn-out robe resembling white clouds and dark smoke.
Half drunk, half sober, I return home,
Children all around, guiding me along the Way.

and this:

Today's begging is finished; at the crossroads
I wander by the side of Hachima Shrine
Talking with some children.
Last year, a foolish monk;
This year, no change!
Thanks to Doug B.

hanging by a dread

If more people bothered to actually read this document – including President Obama, who once taught constitutional law and who, in this year’s state of the union address, erroneously declared that the Constitution provided that "all men are created equal" – they would discover the unlimited powers it provided to government. Beginning with a preamble setting forth the purposes of the Constitution being "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty," the document proceeds to set forth how such purposes are to be attained.

Article I, Sec. 8 informs us that "Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, . . . to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States. . . ." Later on, we discover that Congress also has the power "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

Standing by themselves, these words would provide the most ambitious tyrant with the only grant of authority that would ever be needed to carry out his or her desired purposes. As Lord Macaulay so well expressed it, "Your Constitution is all sail and no anchor." One can find in this document all the power needed for putting together any political program.

Suppose that I was given the authority to "provide for the general Welfare" and "to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" for exercising this power? What could I not do, constitutionally, pursuant to such a grant? Who is to decide what constitutes the "general Welfare," or what laws are "necessary and proper?"

For those desirous of understanding the realpolitik – instead of just the rhetoric – of how (and by whom) constitutional powers are to be interpreted, one can begin with the insights of Humpty Dumpty, who advised Alice that "’When I use a word, . . . it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’"

Who, in our political scheme of things, is to be "master" of defining words, when one "can make words mean so many different things?" This is a power usurped, on behalf of the Supreme Court, by Justice Marshall in his opinion in the classic case of Marbury v. Madison. His convoluted reasoning came down to his finding, in Article III, a power of judicial review of the actions of other branches of the government, even though such authority is nowhere spelled out, or even hinted at, in the Constitution. When the Framers of the Constitution went to such great lengths to define – albeit in very abstract terms – the powers of the other branches, why would such a fundamental authority be omitted from the section on judicial powers? Through the use of a power of "judicial review" that is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, Justice Marshall made the Supreme Court the "master" of the meaning of words found therein.

In this manner, the Supreme Court became, for all practical purposes, the sovereign political authority. Its pronouncements – not those of the electorate, or of their elected representatives – became the final interpretation of the meaning of words subject, of course, to a later court providing a different interpretation. The Supreme Court – whose members are not subject to being voted in or out of office by the general citizenry – became the seat of arbitrary power. Members of the Supreme Court will vote their respective subjective preferences – or, more accurately, the preferences of the political establishment that elevated them to their status – for the ever-changing rules that will govern the rest of us in society.

This is why it is considered so impolitic to inquire of a judicial nominee his or her thinking on specific issues over which they are to promulgate binding definitions and rules of law. It is the nature of a sovereign not to be bound down, for such a limitation implies that his or her ultimate decision-making authority is subject to the approval or review of other forces who would, by definition, become sovereign. When it comes time for them to tell you of the rules to which you will be bound, rest assured that they will do so!
---Butler Shaffer

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Description of an early Christian baptismal rite of converts from paganism:'s baptism would come on Easter eve, during the midnight vigil. At the appointed hour, the baptizand (the person to be baptized) would depart the church for the baptistery, which typically housed a large baptismal pool or (if possible) flowing stream. There, in the semidarkness of that place, he or she would disrobe and--amid a host of blessings, exhortations, unctions, and prayers--descend naked into the waters, to be immersed three times by the bishop, in the name of the Father, then of the Son, and finally of the Holy Spirit. The newly baptized Christian would then emerge from the waters to be anointed with the oil of chrismation, the seal of the Holy Spirit, and to don a new garment of white, and would return to the church to see the Eucharist celebrated--and to partake of it--for the first time. On that night, the erstwhile catechumen would have died to his or her old way of life and received a new and better life in Christ.
--Hart (below)

Stated in its most elementary and most buoyantly positive form, my argument is, first of all, that among all the many great transitions that have marked the evolution of Western civilization, whether convulsive or gradual, political or philosophical, social or scientific, material or spiritual, there has been only one—the triumph of Christianity—that can be called in the fullest sense a ‘revolution’: a truly massive and epochal revision of humanity’s prevailing vision of reality, so pervasive in its influence and so vast in its consequences as actually to have created a new conception of the world, of history, of human nature, of time, and of the moral good. To my mind, I should add, it was an event immeasurably more impressive in its cultural creativity and more ennobling in its moral power than any other movement of spirit, will, imagination, aspiration, or accomplishment in the history of the West. And I am convinced that, given how radically at variance Christianity was with the culture it slowly and relentlessly displaced, its eventual victory was an event of such improbability as to strain the very limits of our understanding of historical causality.
--David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

can you guess?

Below is a passage from the "Spaulding Manuscript," supposed source of the Book of Mormon. Can you guess what verses of the B o M derived from it? (Should be obvious)

"In making this decent, six young women & five young men by a surprizing dexterity in whirling their bodies as they dcended cleared themselvs from the quagmire—The rest as their turns came plunged in & came out most wofully muded to the great diversion of the Spectators. The incident which excited the most meriment hapned when the last pa[ir] decended. by an unlucky spring to clear himself from the quagmire he brot his body along side of the declevity & roled his whole length into the midst of the quagmire where he lay his whole length in an horizontal position on his back neither heels up or head up, but horizontally—soft & easy—but alas when one unlucky event happens another follows close on the heal.—the fair, plump corpulant Damsel, his affectionate sweetheart came instantly, sliding with great velocity—she saw the woful position of her beloved—she wished him no harm—she raised her feet this bro't the center of gravity directly over the center of his head—here she rested a moment—his head sunk—she sunk after him his heels kicked against the wind like Jeshuran waked fat—but not a word from his lips—but his ideas came in quick succession—tho't he, what a disgrace to die here in the mud under the pressure of my sweet heart—however his time for such reflections were short—the tender hearted maid collecting all her agility in one effort dismounted & found herself on dry land i[n—] instant—not a moment to be lost; she seized her lover by one leg & draged him from the mud—a curious figure, extending about six feet six inches on the ground,—all bismeared from head to foot, spiting—puffing, panting & strugling for breath.—Poor man, the whole multitude laughing at thy calamity, shouting, rediculing—none to give thee consolation but thy loving & simpithetic partner in misfortune—
Upon my soul, exclaims droll Tom—Stern formost—that bouncing Lass ought to have the highest prize for draging her ship from the mud—She was cleaning the filth from his face.

how he did it

In many ways, the most reasonable way to understanding the odd combination of ancient and modern elements in the Book of Mormon is to assume that Joseph Smith introduced nineteenth-century terms and concepts into the text during the translation process as he struggled to put the ideas into his own words. [Royal] Skousen’s [studies], backed up by the 4000 pages of his six-volume analysis of textual variants, made me change my mind. I now believe that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that the Book of Mormon is not in Joseph’s words, but that he read a pre-existing translation off the seer stone—a translation provided by God. Usually, closer analysis leads away from traditional, conservative, or naive ideas; history is nearly always more complicated than we first imagined. In this case, however, the most comprehensive, detailed study points toward the simpler, more miraculous alternative (even if it leaves us scratching our heads about the non-standard grammar and sometimes awkward diction).

I had always assumed that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon in much the way the process is depicted in LDS artwork, but the evidence for his use of a seer stone in a hat is so clear and compelling that I was entirely persuaded. I realized that God does not always work in ways that seem respectable or reasonable to us, and I decided that I would not be embarrassed or defensive about following the evidence, wherever it might lead.
--Grant Hardy

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"They look a bit like a sabre-toothed sausage"

But It isn't just their unusual appearance that attracts attention: their behaviour is about as strange as it gets in the mammalian world.

For a start, these little creatures live in huge groups. On average, you will find colonies made up of 80-100 individuals, but sometimes they can grow to a 300-strong group.

More bizarre still is their social structure. They behave like the mammalian equivalent of a social insect. Dr Faulkes points to a mole rat that looks almost twice as large as any nearby. And it is clearly pushing around some of its punier companions.

"That's the queen," he says. "Even in these really huge colonies, there is only a single female that breeds. And she mates with one or two, or sometimes three, breeding males.

"And then the rest of the colony, of both sexes, have their reproduction suppressed and never ever breed." But the sex-free mole rats have another job: "The small ones tend to act as workers, so they carry out colony maintenance activities,and keep predators, such as snakes, at bay.

Dr Faulkes explains: "They behave like the mammalian equivalent of a social insect - they have many, many similarities with bees, ants, wasps and termites." Throw in on top of this the fact that naked mole rats also live for an unfeasibly long time for a small rodent - 30 years in captivity - and that they also seem to be resistant to cancer, so it is easy to see why scientists are so interested in them.
To further sate your thirst, see:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guerrilla Public Service

After the Los Angeles artist Richard Ankrom missed his exit off California Highway 110 one too many times, he decided to indulge in a little “guerrilla public service.” Ankrom crafted three reflective sign components—a number 5, the word “North,” and an arrow—and artificially aged them. He also whipped up an authentic-looking California transit authority uniform. On August 1, 2001, he shimmied out over the freeway in broad daylight and used his unique artwork to tag the tricky left exit to Interstate 5 North.

For nine months, no one noticed that the change was the work of a private citizen. Ankrom eventually leaked the story to a local paper. The sign was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times as art, and the locals enjoyed its functionality. The most unexpected reaction came from the California transit authorities: They left Ankrom’s civilian sign in peace for eight more years. It’s a rare day when performance art yields something useful, rarer still when public officials leave such a thing unmolested.

In November 2009, the highway authority took down the whole structure during routine maintenance, tragically destroying the signed original piece in the process. But then it paid Ankrom’s work the ultimate compliment, incorporating his edits into the new, official sign.

To prove that these sort of policed societies are a violation offered to nature ... it needs only to look upon the sanguinary measures, and instruments of violence, which are every where used to support them.

Let us take a review of the dungeons, whips, chains, racks, gibbets with which every society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in pride and madness, and millions in abject servitude, and dependence.

There was a time, when I looked with a reverential awe on these mysteries of policy, but age, experience and philosophy have rent the veil; and I view this sanctum sanctorum ... without any enthusiastic admiration.
--Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society (1756)
U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Eboni[sic] Knox boards an airplane headed for Afghanistan

"Within a matter of months, and certainly within a year, the United States will have upwards of 220,000 to 250,000 U.S. government-funded personnel occupying Afghanistan, a far cry from the 70,000 U.S. soldiers that those Americans who pay attention understand the United States has in Afghanistan,” Scahill said. “This is a country where the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, said there are less than 100 al-Qaida operatives who have no ability to strike at the United States. That was the stated rationale and reasoning for being in Afghanistan. It was to hunt down those responsible for 9/11.”
--Chris Floyd

Monday, May 3, 2010

first, be true saints

Many think that they are going right into the celestial kingdom of God, in their present ignorance, to at once receive glories and powers; that they are going to be Gods, while many of them are so ignorant, that they can see or know scarcely anything.

Such people talk of becoming Gods, when they do not know anything of God, or of His works; such persons have to learn repentance, and obedience to the law of God; they have got to learn to understand angels, and to comprehend and stick to the principles of this Church. …I bear testimony of this, and I wish you would listen to counsel and lay aside every sin that doth so easily beset you, and turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart.

We cannot become perfect, without we are assisted by our heavenly Father. We must be faithful and of one heart, and one mind, and let every man and woman take course to build up and not pull down. See that you save your grain, that you may save yourselves from the wicked of the world. Try to take care of every thing that is good to eat, for this is the work of the Lord God Almighty, and we shall have times that will test the integrity of this people, that will test who is honest and who is not.

Omitting prayer is calculated to lead the mind away from those duties which are incumbent upon us; then let us attend to our prayers and all our duties, and you will know that brother Brigham and his brethren have told you of these things...

There are trying times ahead of you, do you not begin to feel and see them? If you do not, I say you are asleep. I wish that the spirit which rests upon a few individuals could be upon you, everyone of you, it would be one of the most joyful times that brother Brigham and I ever saw with the Saints of God upon this earth.
--HC Kimball

While visiting my parents last week, my father printed out a list of all the descendents of Harry and Myrtle Mortenson. Grandpa Harry died of cancer before I was born. Grandma Mortenson lived in Cleveland, in Emery county Utah, a little farming community out in the desert. A little bit of sidewalk, a couple of little stores, a church, a post office, some poplar trees, some open irrigation ditches, and old fences.

The print-out is small print, and seven pages. Grandma, from that little tiny town way out in the middle of nowhere had an effect for good that quite literally touched every corner of the world. Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and now even great-great grandchildren include missionaries who traveled literally all over the world, missionaries to every continent. And all it took was that she loved her 5 children, her many grandchildren, and the great grandchildren that she knew. She loved the gospel. We knew that, and it meant something to us. She did it without office, position, internet, or any other media than birthday cards, and her presence at family gatherings, especially mission farewells and temple marriages.

There is a passage in the D&C 123:15 that I have reflected upon more and more over the years. "Let no one count these as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity which depends upon these things."

I've seen remarkable goodness spreading through the world because of a little old lady living much of her life out in a small desert community. I have also seen the contrast elsewhere, in families broken, and the links between generations broken, testimonies not so much lost, as simply abandoned, and with it, the potential for a continuation of spreading goodness.

Don't count yourself as a small thing, for there is much in futurity that could depend on you. From some perspectives, we are nothing, as Mosiah and Moses point out with such clarity, re-enforcing a lot of the messages we may get from life. But from another perspective, we are the sons and daughters of God, disciples of Christ. And if we hang around, repent when we need to, and keep our eyes open, we may sometimes get glimpses of why we are here, taking up a little space, on this little planet in an immense speck of a galaxy, for a meaningful moment or two in the vastness of time.
--Kevin Christensen

Terryl Givens

Here is an interview with Terryl Givens, who has written some of the most interesting recent books about LDS.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One tale is told of the Zen monk/poet Ryokan, that when he returned to his hut he discovered a robber who had broken in and was in the process of stealing the impoverished monk’s few possessions. In the thief’s haste to leave, he left behind a cushion. Ryokan grabbed the cushion and ran after the thief to give it to him. This event prompted Ryokan to compose one of his best known poems:

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Parable of the Old Men and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
--Wilfred Owen

Friday, April 23, 2010

war in heaven/war in kitchen

Stake President Holman centered his talk on a concept President Boyd K. Packer has taught: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov 1986, 16)

President Tolman then reviewed the plan of salvation, the basic doctrines about the pre-mortal existence, earth life, and the hereafter. Before beginning this review, and several times during the review, he asked a question along the lines of: “Which of these doctrines helps you understand a behavior that you might need to change?” This was thought-provoking and productive.

He then told us that one of his favorite authors is Carl Broderick, a therapist who practiced in Los Angeles. A wikipedia bio indicates that Dr. Broderick was somewhat of a celebrity and a devout member of the LDS Church, having served as bishop, stake president, and patriarch. President Tolman then shared a story that beautifully illustrated an application of the principle he taught us tonight. Dr. Broderick helped a Jewish clinician resolve a conundrum in counseling with LDS parents attempting to deal with a rebellious youth. The LDS couple originally consulted with Dr. Broderick, but as they lived on the other side of Los Angeles from him, he referred him to the other professional that he held in high regard. Here is the story:

“After only a couple of weeks, I got a call from my friend. ‘Carl, I need some help with this couple you referred to me.’ ‘What’s the problem? They probably just need to loosen up the parental iron fist a little.’ ‘That’s right. If they don’t, this kid is about to run away from home or attempt suicide or do something else drastic. But, Carl, every time I suggest any movement in the direction of loosening up, they patiently explain to me that I just don’t understand their religious obligation, as Mormon parents, to keep this kid in line. Frankly, I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t want to attack their religious beliefs, but the situation is explosive.’

I thought a moment and then said, ‘Here’s what you do. First, tell them that during the time you have been working with them, you have developed a real curiosity about the Mormon religion. This will serve to get their attention. Then say that there is one issue that keeps coming up when you ask about it that has you mystified. You keep hearing about some ‘war in heaven,’ but you can never quite figure out what it is about.’ ‘That’s it? I just ask them to explain the ‘war in heaven’?’ ‘That’s it.’ ‘Carl, what’s the war in heaven?’ ‘It doesn’t matter; just do what I said and let me know how it goes.’

A few days later he called. ‘Carl, I can’t believe it. I did what you said, and it was like magic.’ ‘So tell me about the session.’ ‘Well, as you suggested, I told them that since I started working with them I had gotten sort of interested in the Mormon religion. You wouldn’t believe the response. Even the rebellious teenage kid promised to give me a copy of some book on the Church with the family picture in the front.

Then I said there was just one thing that kind of confused me about their beliefs. . . . What was this war in heaven? Well, the mom didn’t as much as take a minute to collect her thoughts. In seconds she had launched into some story about a council in heaven and two plans and she gets about three minutes into it and she stops cold in her tracks and gives me a funny look and says, ‘All right, Doctor, you’ve made your point.’ From that moment on they were like putty in my hands. It was like magic.’ . . .

Of course, there was no magic. This good LDS woman simply had the unnerving experience of explaining Satan’s plan to an ‘investigator’ and, in the midst of her explanation, recognizing it as substantially her own version of responsible Mormon parenting as she had outlined it to him the week before. She understood the gospel principle fully; she just had been blinded to its applicability to her everyday challenges as a parent.’”
--recounted by Greg Jones

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"What is the sign," a young woman asked Hafiz, "of someone knowing God?"

"Dear," he replied, "They have dropped the knife, the cruel knife most so often use upon their tender self and others."
--13th century Sufi

Friday, April 9, 2010

hell to the chief

Let us hear no more excuses for Barack Obama. Let us hear no more defenses, no more special pleading, no more extenuations. Let us have no more reciting of the "pressures" he is under, of the "many obstacles" that balk him in his quest to do us good, of the "bad advisors" who are swaying him to unworthy acts against his will. Let us be done at last with all these wretched lies, these complicitous self-deceptions that are facilitating atrocity and tyranny on a monstrous scale.

Barack Obama has ordered the murder of an American citizen, without trial, without due process, without the production of any evidence. All it takes to kill any American citizen in this way is Barack Obama's signature on a piece of paper, his arbitrary designation of the target as a "suspected terrorist." In precisely the same way -- precisely the same way -- Josef Stalin would place a mark by a name in a list of "suspected terrorists" or "counterrevolutionaries," and the bearer of that name would die. This is the system we have now, the same as the Soviets had then: a leader with the unchallengeable power to kill citizens without due process.

That this power has not been used on the same scale in the American system as in the Stalinist state -- yet -- does not alter the equivalence of this governing principle. In both cases, the leader signs arbitrary death warrants; the security services carry out the task; and the 'great and good' of society accept this draconian power as necessary and right.

And of course, thousands of innocent people continue to die in the wars of dominion and profiteering that Obama has so eagerly embraced. In Afghanistan, they die directly at the hands of American forces -- including secret assassins who raid villages by night, often slaughtering civilians, even those cooperating with the military occupation. As Obama's hand-picked commander in the region, Stanley McChrystal, has openly admitted: “We have shot an amazing number of people [at checkpoints and on the roads], but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." And in Iraq -- the scene of the abominable, Nazi-like war crime of military aggression whose continuation by Bush's "surge" was hailed by Obama as "an extraordinary achievement" -- innocent people continue to die in droves at the hands of the vicious and violent forces unleashed and empowered by the American invasion and occupation, while they wait to see which brutal "hard man" will seize power over their riven and ruined society.

Now, there can be no shuffling, no waffling on the matter. Obama has made it crystal clear for even the most avidly self-duping progressive: He will murder his fellow citizens without trial or evidence if he sees fit. The state can murder whom it pleases. This is the system we have. This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. You cannot escape this logic, this judgment. If you support Obama now, in this, then there is no crime he can commit that you will not support.

And thus you become one of those people that we all used to puzzle over, the accomodationists to brutal tyranny: "How did all those people go along with the Nazis? Why wasn't there more opposition to Stalin? How could they countenance all those obvious abominations? What kind of people were they?"

Now you know. They were you. You are them.
--Chris Floyd (again)

Friday, April 2, 2010

inspiring story

Some people are born successful. They’ve got everything. Some people are born with a frog’s chance in snowball hell. My friend was born without a head. Unkind people would give him hats for his birthday. Or ties. Or sunglasses. But he was pretty philosophical about it.

When we were kids, he used to get teased a lot. They would say, “So what are you going to be when you grow up? The head of a big corporation.?” And then they would all laugh. My friend just ignored them.

When he got older, he started saving his money for a wooden head. He finally ordered one from the Philippines, but it never looked quite right. Actually it looked a lot like one of those monkey heads they carve out of coconuts. And the straps chafed his armpits. I think he was pretty disappointed, seeing how he had saved for years for that head. But it was better than nothing.

I always tried to be a good friend to him and went out of my way to avoid certain phrases, like “heads up,” “well, I guess I’ll be headin’ home” and “put a head on this.” It wasn’t much, I know, it was the least I could do. I think he appreciated it.

Naturally Halloween was his favorite time of the year. He would put a big coat on and carry his Filipino monkey head under his arm and everyone would say, “Great costume.” Of course the next day he would just be that guy without a head again.

But my friend was determined not to let his handicap keep him from living a normal life. He got a job at an elegant French restaurant as head waiter, but people just couldn’t get used to him putting the tray on top of his shoulders, even though it was every efficient and made perfectly good sense. Next he tried opening a headshop, but he freaked all of his customers out and sent most of them into recovery. It was at this time I lost track of him.

Several years later I got an unexpected package with a Jamaican postmark. Inside was a letter and something wrapped in newspaper. I opened the letter. Seems my friend had finally succeeded at being normal and was living the good life as headmaster of an exclusive school for the blind in Ocho Rios. He was married and had two lovely children, both born with heads, something he was quite pleased about. He sent me a picture of himself and the family and I was was happy to see that his wife was not only very pretty, but also had a head. He said she loved him for his mind and the fact that he had no head to keep it in didn’t bother her one little bit. She was considerate as well and never used the excuse, “Not tonight, I have a headache.” In deference to his condition but amazingly, to his great delight, she always acknowledged him as “the head of the household.” Women like that are hard to find. You bet.

I guess it just goes to show that anyone can fit it, even if they have to go all the way to Jamaica to do it. I miss my friend and plan to go for a visit during the Spring break. I think about him all the time now. Oh yeah, that thing wrapped in newspaper was the wooden Filipino monkey head thing. I’ve got it on my mantelpiece, so it’s kind of hard not to think about him all the time. He had a note attached to it: “Won’t be needing this anymore. You keep it. Or give to some needy headless person. Or use is as a doorstop. I don’t care. Thank for avoiding the “H” word all those years.

Your friend, Hedly.
--as told to Irene’s Mustache by Kona Lowell

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

oh, never mind, whatever

BELMONT, NH—Stating that she wasn't in the best place right now, and that things have been sort of you know, Belmont resident Megan Slota announced Thursday that sometimes she just feels….

Due to a general sense of…well, it's hard to explain, the 28-year-old dental hygienist reported that she just needed to work some stuff out, and that she would probably be a little I don't know for a couple weeks or so.

"It's not anybody's fault, honestly," said Slota, standing in her kitchen and holding a mug of tea with both hands. "Sometimes I just get like this where it's like I'm not, I guess, whatever. We don't have to get into it right now."
Added Slota, "I'm really, like, argh, I don't know."

After that thing with Dave on Thursday, people were concerned that Slota was in a weird place, which she initially denied. But Slota later admitted that she was just taking some time to figure things out and needed a little space, but it's not like she wanted people to leave her alone or anything like that.

"I had a really good talk with Debra," Slota said. "She's such a good friend. It's good to know I have someone like her. It's just a crazy time right now. And I've been really busy with work, too, so that hasn't helped."

While admitting that it must suck to have to deal with her lately, Slota said that she appreciates everyone's patience while she sorts all of this stuff out. Sources close to the sort of spacey, sort of—oh gosh, what would you even call it—distracted woman confirm that it's always the same this time of year, because of her dad.

"I worry about Megan," longtime friend Alex Polson said. "Times like this, she can get a little strange. Not strange strange, but still kind of strange where you're like, 'Huh?' But you know what? She's tough. She'll get through all this and be back to her old self in no time."

Though she's been kind of blah lately, especially at the family thing where she had to be on her best behavior, friends and coworkers have been understanding about what's going on with her, and want to let her know they're there if she needs help moving, or needs someone to go shopping with her, or just wants to hang out and not talk about the thing that happened with Samantha last week.

"You know, it's like when you're just," Slota said. "You feel one way but then you're also sort of, I don't know, maybe it's just one of those things. And you don't want to force it, right? I feel like you just have to accept it sometimes, I guess."
"It is what it is," she added.

Regardless of the thing that's, oh, whatever, it'll pass eventually, Slota maintained that she's forging ahead and taking things one day at a time.

Dr. Andrei Robinson, author of the book It's, Well, I'm Not Sure How To Describe It, Really, says that Slota's condition is not uncommon. "As a therapist, I'm seeing more and more patients with problems and conditions related to Ms. Slota's," Dr. Robinson said. "But ultimately, there's not a lot I can do for them. It's just another facet of this, whatever it is. You can't understand the, you know, well, anything, really. It's all too much sometimes, but it's her deal. She's got to work through it. We've all been there, right?"

"I don't know," Dr. Robinson added. "Does that make sense?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

more from MOBA

This single painting planted the seed that grew into the Museum of Bad Art. The motion, the chair, the sway of her breast, the subtle hues of the sky, the expression on her face--every detail combines to create this transcendent and compelling portrait, every detail cries out "masterpiece."
--MOBA catalogue