"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Culture Break: Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 4: Allegretto pizzicato

I'm rather fond of Bartók, and always have been. And this seems to fit the mood today:


This is a performance by the Amadeus Quartet.

This Is The Way It's Supposed To Work

According to some. Very good post, if depressing, at Mahablog this morning, based on this article by Joseph Heath at Salon.

The take-away:

The status quo depends on nothing getting fixed, actually. So the status quo will see to it nothing gets fixed. Krugman’s column today says, “Today’s political balance rests on a foundation of ignorance, in which the public has no idea what our society is really like.” And the system is rigged so they can’t find out.

I very reluctantly have come around to thinking that the system is so broken it cannot be returned to anything resembling functionality. The most likely outcome is that the U.S. will continue to decline economically and politically over the next several years until quality of life is so eroded for enough people that something big and nasty and possibly violent will happen to change everything. We may actually have to become a failed state first, though.

Any student of history has seen this coming for a while. Think back to Dwight Eisenhower's warnings about the "military-industrial complex." Guess who's running the government. And our "independent press" is playing along -- the major news outlets are corporations, too.

There is a ray of sunshine, though -- a small one, and it's hard to know how effective it's going to be. From a post by Spocko at Hullabaloo, built around Google severing ties with ALEC:

ALEC and Rush appeal to people's most selfish impulses. They use greed, fear and ignorance to get what they want. They want us to believe that everyone thinks like they do, when in fact it is a self-selected minority that holds these beliefs. They say if you only believe them, you will be among society's winners.

But when we go to the interested third parties and educate them, many of those real winners are disgusted with what they hear. Combining that education with appeals to both personal and stated corporate values systems and you have a solid package to help them decide to walk away.

If you want to convince people within the corporate form to walk away from a right wing media personality or a right wing legislation bill mill, learn who they are, what they say their company is about and ALL the things that they care about.

There are more and more companies that are finding out that being socially conscious is good business. Whether that's enough to offset those who don't give a damn is the big question.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Futility of Commenting

Against my better judgment, I've gotten involved in a couple of comment threads on the poor, persecuted "Christian" farmers in upstate New York who host weddings on their farm -- for some people. As long as those people are acceptable to cafeteria "Christians." There are several commenters on the YouTube thread -- yes, of course they made a video, with all the necessary buzzwords ("entrepreneurs," "family," religious freedom," etc.) -- and I finally just muted the alerts to stop cluttering up my e-mail. There are, of course, the requisite supporters of these bigots who seem to be impervious to rational arguments -- repeated assertion seems to be their preferred mode of discourse -- and since the discussion was going absolutely nowhere, I opted out.

There is, however, one thing I'd like to say to all of these people who claim that their "religious beliefs" are violated by having to treat gays and lesbians as human beings: "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40, KJV)

There, I've gotten that off my chest. On the upside, I managed to write a Review in Brief. Look for it Sunday.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Marriage News Watch, September 29, 2014

With the delicious Matt Baume -- who I discovered recently has a partner. Bummer.

This is the week when the Supreme Court meets to decide whether to take a marriage case. After meeting in conference on Monday, the Justices will announce their decision next week, on October 6th. Currently, cases from Virginia, Indiana, Wyoming, Utah and Oklahoma are ready for consideration. The court could take one case, or several, or none at all.


Note: I was going to do some more housekeeping in the Reviews pages, but a friend with a free pass invited me to go to the Art Institute, so I'm going to spend some time looking at art today. I need it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Science: Reaching Critical Mass

No, it's not about atomic bombs. It's about the evolution of birds:

The early stages of the process through which birds evolved from dinosaurs was slow and gradual, and there was no single “missing link” separating the two different types of creatures, according to research published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Current Biology.

Lead author Dr. Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and his colleagues analyzed the anatomical make-up of more than 850 body features in 150 extinct species in order to map the evolutionary journey from meat-eating dinosaurs to ancient birds. Based on the fossil records, they found that the emergence of birds took place bit-by-bit over the course of 150 million years.

That's something I've noticed in reading about dinosaurs -- as we've discovered more about them, it's become apparent that things like feathers were around long before there were birds to wear them. It makes sense that other characteristics would pop up along the line until you had something approaching bird-hood.


And then things started happening really fast:

“There was no moment in time when a dinosaur became a bird, and there is no single missing link between them,” Dr. Brusatte said in a statement. “What we think of as the classic bird skeleton was pieced together gradually over tens of millions of years. Once it came together fully, it unlocked great evolutionary potential that allowed birds to evolve at a super-charged rate.”

And so we now have everything from sparrows to ostriches.


I have to admit of a certain fondness for sparrows. They're just always so busy.


Blackhat: Official Trailer

It seems to be turning into Movie Day. Just ran across this trailer at Towleroad, and I think it's going on my list of "must-see" movies:


I mean, Chris Hemsworth does a cyberthriller -- what could be better?

About Those "Sissies"

Offered without comment:


OK, without much comment: This is a film that should be distributed in places like Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, where they still hold to those stereotypes, which at this point are laughable in any civilized nation.

And no, I'm not an athlete, or a Navy Seal, or mountain climber, or any of those real macho types, but you know something? People don't mess with me on the street.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Logic and Robert George

I just happened to run across this story from last month, but I thought it was worth noting:

Last week, National Organization For Marriage cofounder, Federal Marriage Amendment author, and Princeton University professor Robert George went on Catholic radio to talk about openly gay Christian singer Vicky Beeching.

When pressed by host Todd Wilken for a biblical reason to stop at affirmation of consenting adults who love one another rather than move on to those who sexually abuse minors or who end the lives of others through serial murder, the prominent conservative thinker couldn't think of any "logical stopping place"[.]

I've read some of George's articles. I won't say that George and logic are complete strangers, but they're not what I'd call "intimate," you know?

Of course, one of George's problems, being the good Catholic that he is, is that he never questions his assumptions. Sorry, but if you're going to persuade me about anything, you first have to demonstrate that your assumptions are valid and have some basis in reality. So far on that score, George's arguments, such as they are, have proven to be notably lacking.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dyspeptic

That's what happens if I read the news too much. Same old -- accidental shootings, shootings on purpose because whatever, Tony Perkins is lying (again), Bryan Fischer hates America (still), the "coffee cup salute" (note to the right-wing echo chamber: if that's the best you can do, you maybe should consider getting a real job -- and maybe start listening to someone who's not senile) (Oh, and on the "appropriateness scale":


And the president is not required to return a salute because a) his hands were full and b) he's a civilian and c) he's the commander-in-chief.)

And then there's the latest on your friendly, helpful police (oh, and Ferguson -- this is choice) and on and on.

Yes, it's a link dump. Sorry, but the commentary is too obvious.

Monday, September 22, 2014

This Is The Way Professionals Do It

You've no doubt heard about the security breach at the White House over the weekend, when a man jumped the fence and made it to the front foyer before he was intercepted by the Secret Service.

The Secret Service on Saturday launched a security review to learn how a man carrying a knife was able to get inside the front door of the White House on Friday night after jumping a fence and sprinting more than 70 yards across the North Lawn — the first time that has ever happened.

Within seconds, the man who his public defender said served three tours in Iraq — and relatives said served as a sniper — got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He had a folding knife with a 2 1 / 2-inch serrated blade.

I'm not going to address the possible lapses on the part of the Secret Service -- they'll take care of that. I just want to point out one thing: the man, whose name is Omar J. Gonzales, Jr., and who served 18 years in the armed forces, was not shot. Get that? Nobody shot him, because they didn't have to. And Secret Service agents are trained when to shoot and when not to shoot, and have to be aware of possible consequences -- like stray bullets, bullets passing through the target and hitting someone else, and the like.

Of course, if this guy had been a black teenager walking down the street someplace. . . .

Through the Looking Glass Award

Goes to Breitbart, for this headline:


Here's the real story:

More than 300,000 people marched through the streets of New York City on Sunday in what organizers called the largest climate-change demonstration in history.

With banners, flags, floats and drums, protesters at the "People's Climate March" overwhelmed midtown Manhattan in flocks of vivid color, demanding action ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit this week.

Via Joe.My.God.

Part of me is encouraged by the demonstrations, which are part of a world-wide effort, and part of me is wondering if the world leaders gathered for the summit are actually going to do anything. It's a toss-up, as far as I'm concerned. Consider what position the oligarchs running the oil-producing countries are going to take when faced with the possibility of cutting off the cash flow to their Swiss bank accounts.





Marriage News Watch, September 22, 2014

The official summary:

A surprising reveal this week from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg about the court's plans for taking up a marriage case -- or maybe not taking up any. An Arkansas clerk breaks ranks with top state officials, declaring for the first time that the state's marriage ban is unconstitutional. Plus: numerous states freeze their marriage lawsuits while they wait for a Supreme Court ruling.


I noted Justice Ginsburg's comments on Saturday -- if you missed it, just scroll down to the last post.