"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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hint: Hitler Is Not a Role Model

And neither is Trump:

Homosexual men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death in concentration camps in Chechnya. This is the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler's camps in 1930s.

Reports have emerged that 100 gay men were detained and three killed in these camps last week. Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper known for its critical and investigative coverage of Russian politics and social affairs, said that several camps have been set up in Chechnya where gay men have been forced to promise to leave the republic.

The report in Novaya Gazeta said that those arrested include well-known local television personalities and religious figures.

President Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, allegedly ordered the clampdown and is known to have previously encouraged extrajudicial killings of homosexual men as an alternative to law enforcement.

At least the children in Trump's camps aren't being tortured. That we know of.

Of course, this is a time-honored technique that we see being utilized by all sorts of people -- neo-Nazis, white supremacists, conservative talk-show hosts, evangelical "Christians" -- pick a minority and go after them without let-up. It's good for reinforcing your position, not to mention raising money.

Today's Must-Read: Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is

Except he's not making a lot of noise about it. Interesting and detailed article on Colin Kaepernick's charitable giving:

Kevin Livingston was driving home with his daughter when he received a random call one Saturday morning last April: Colin Kaepernick has something for you. How far away are you?

Livingston runs a charity, 100 Suits for 100 Men, that provides business attire for job seekers who have recently been released from jail or suffered hardship, and after he dropped off his daughter, he raced to the Queens parole office, where he keeps a desk. Kaepernick was waiting for him in his SUV, where he’d been sitting for almost an hour. The QB stepped out wearing lime-green sneakers and a black T-shirt emblazoned with a panther, lugging two overstuffed cardboard boxes toward a glass door marked STAFF ONLY. He opened a box, pulled out a gray, custom-made three-piece suit, draped a striped tie over the jacket and posed for a few cellphone pics, flashing a smile. One of those photos became an Instagram post, and that post went viral. . . .

That’s how Kaepernick, 30, speaks these days: through this kind of work, and then through those he touches. He’s the most prominent athlete activist in decades and is close to fulfilling his pledge to donate $1 million to dozens of charities. Much has been made about his choice not to comment on the legions of NFL players protesting during the national anthem—a movement he began last year, kneeling to draw attention to issues like police brutality and racial inequality—or to challenge President Donald Trump’s portrayal of his kneeling as unpatriotic. Instead he stays up late, on his laptop, Googling charitable organizations.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Kaepernick's protest was not about the flag or the military -- it was about America not living up to its promise -- specifically, the murders of black people by "officers of the law" who never should have been given guns and badges to begin with.

And since then, Kaepernick has been very quietly going about the business of finding those organizations and programs that are going to be able to use the money to most effect and giving them what they need.

How rare is that?

With thanks to commenter HarveyRabbit at Joe.My.God., in the comments at a post on how effective the Nike boycott has been. (Not.)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

Almost forgot -- got kind of rushed this morning and ran out of the house before I'd done this week's GMR update, but don't worry -- here it is:

Earle Stanley Gardner, Concert swag, a China That Never Was, Old Hag tunes, Benjamin Britten, Kedgeree, an Elizabeth Hand novella and other neat stuff

And the "other neat stuff" is really neat, so click on over and enjoy.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kavanaugh/Ford: Connectng the Dots

A series of posts at Hullabaloo that pull together a lot of threads on the attempted rape accusations against Brett Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford.

Start with this one from Tom Sullivan, about the beginnings of the "evil twin" defense:

The doppelganger defense that has been percolating for days appeared on Twitter yesterday, reports the Daily Beast:
A former Supreme Court clerk gave an alternate explanation for Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in a Twitter thread. Ed Whelan, former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of a think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center, attempts to map possible locations for the party Ford described when telling her story about the alleged attempted assault. He points to a home belonging to another person whose floor plan “corresponds closely to Ford’s description” of the party house. Whelan claims Kavanaugh and the other person closely resemble each other.

Whelan et al. have set themselves up for a major defamation suit, especially since Ford squelched their ploy right at the start.

Digby looks at some of the background used in pulling the "evil twin" defense together:

That story had been teased in right-wing circles for a few days, even making it into the Washington Post opinion page when Kathleen Parker published a fatuous op-ed suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh must have an evil twin (she called it a "Kavanaugh doppelganger") who attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party. Most people not steeped in the right-wing fever swamps thought Parker's piece was just a bizarre fantasy, but those who are tuned in to social and professional GOP establishment circles understood that she was previewing a quasi-official alternative theory of the case.

It's obvious that the Republican leadership doesn't want the FBI investigating this, or anything else to do with Kavanaugh, but there have been death threats:

On Rachel Maddow on Wednesday Sen Hirono of Hawaii called out the death threats and intimidation of Dr. Ford as witness tampering and said the FBI should "do its job" and investigate.

Since July Senator Feinstein's office honored Dr. Ford's wishes to remain anonymous. But then the press found out who Dr. Ford was so she identified herself publicly. At that point Senator Feinstein's obligation to keep her identity secret was dropped. However, as a constituent of Feinstein, an American citizen, and a key witness in an important government decision, Feinstein still has an obligation to Dr. Ford to protect her and defend her rights.
(Emphasis in original.)

It's starting to look like they're at the point of just throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. I don't have any high hopes that this is going to derail Kavanaugh's confirmation (jokester Susan Collins notwithstanding), but if they do ram it through, I have a feeling there will be fallout in November.

Holy Package, Batman!

Batman goes full frontal -- briefly:

Today marks the debut of Batman: Damned #1 by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, the first book released under DC Black Label. The nascent imprint is aimed at a slightly more mature audience than DC’s mainstream offerings, which was made very apparent when readers caught a glimpse of Bruce Wayne doing the most human thing in the world.

As he enters the Batcave after a night of fighting crime and solving a murder (the Joker’s, no less), Bruce Wayne starts taking off his superhero suit with each step. The camera pulls out to show his nude form from the front, never pulling away, revealing, for the first time ever, Bruce Wayne’s penis.

Of course, DC chickened out after the first print run:

CBR has been informed that, while Black Label is an imprint for mature readers, it was decided Bruce Wayne’s nudity was not additive to the story. Thus, the digital version blacked out the scenes. Additionally, CBR has confirmed that future printings of the issue will use the altered panels.

Not to say that there's a double standard in comics, perhaps reflecting the misogyny of young boys (who, traditionally, are the audience for superhero comics), and not to belabor the fact that the Black Label imprint is for "more mature" audiences, but if you think about it, how often do you see male characters portrayed with the same degree of nudity as female characters? (Not that comics in general are full of nudity, although given the prevalence of spandex. . . . But America in general has a problem with nudity; chalk it up to our "Christian" heritage. And no, I don't consider that attitude at all healthy, in case you were wondering.)

And if you want to know what all the fuss is about without surfing the web:

The full sequence is here.

Political Ad of the Year

To be honest, I'm surprised to see a Democrat playing hardball like this -- watch all the way through:

Thanks to commenter BeccaM at Joe.My.God.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People

We know that Trump himself is no diplomat. He doesn't even come close. But isn't there someone in the White House who's supposed to avoid things like this?

The Polish government did everything it could to turn Tuesday’s visit into one of Trump’s more enjoyable moments.

Yet, somehow, Trump managed to offend the Poles so deeply that the fallout was all over Polish news sites on Wednesday morning.

What happened? At the end of their meeting, the two leaders agreed to sign a strategic partnership pact to boost defense, energy, trade and security ties. But what could have been a peaceful moment for both presidents immediately took an awkward turn.

While signing the document, Trump sat comfortably in his chair while the Polish leader was forced to stand next to him and awkwardly reach over the table to sign. Poland’s Duda still somehow managed to smile at the camera, as Trump looked on with a stern face. The scene was captured on camera by the White House and was tweeted out shortly after — much to the bewilderment of Polish journalists, politicians and researchers.

The reaction in Poland was not positive:

“It’s nice of President Trump that he moved a bit, because otherwise our president would have had to sign the document on his knees,” Polish radio correspondent Pawel Zuchowski sarcastically commented on Twitter.

There's a lot more at the link.

This is not even about protocol, it's about common courtesy, which is not in Trump's repertoire. In Trump's world, everyone is either an enemy or an employee. Either way, they get treated like dirt. He simply has no clue, not only about how to deal with other world leaders, but how to deal with people, period.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, September 17, 2018

About The Midterms

Whatever happened to fair elections? A lot of people are wondering:

A new poll provides evidence that there is an increasing lack of faith in American democracy. According to a new NPR/Marist poll nearly half of American voters do not believe that their votes will be counted accurately in November’s midterm elections. In addition to that bad news, nearly 40% do not believe that U.S. elections are “fair.”

And strangely enough, distrust of the system is highest among non-whites, women, and Democrats.

It's a sobering article, worth reading.

This sort of struck me as more than a little both-siderism:

There has been a trend in recent years for the party in power to try to suppress voter turnout, which is undemocratic, and this must change.

I'm not saying that no Democrats anywhere have tried to rig the system (I live in Chicago, remember -- where, amazingly enough, our elections are very transparent, but I remember the good old days), but a statement like that needs to be qualified: look which party has been in power in most statehouses in "recent years." And it's the states that control voting.

Thanks to commenter justme at Joe.My.God. for the link.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: Burning Sky: Creation

Burning Sky is Michael Bannister (percussion), Kelvin Bizahaloni (flutes, didgeridoo, bass), and Aaron White (guitar, synthesizer, rattles). Creation is an example of what can happen when Native traditions make their way into the contemporary popular music scene, particularly in the hands of Native musicians who have assimilated the culture that surrounds them while maintaining a firm grasp on their own traditions (Bizahaloni is Navajo; White is Navajo-Ute).

One of the characteristics of North American wooden flutes is their haunting, melancholy tone. The cedar flute of the Plains and the Southwest has been seen as a messenger, evoking the wind and tying the player and the community to the natural world. It is very easy to picture the High Plains or the Southwest deserts, with all their vastness and their striking silence, their endless, living emptiness, when listening to Native flute music (especially when the recording engineer is savvy enough to give it a slight reverb).

That said, it comes as no surprise that the four tracks on this CD are titled "Sun," "Wind," "Rain," and "Earth." I admit I was suspicious of this album, given the packaging: there is some New Age music that is substantial and worth listening to; there is more that is pabulum, and this CD must, I think, be put under "New Age." (The term, like "psychology" and "photography," seems to have vacuumed up everything that doesn't quite fit anywhere else.) There are enough elements of jazz and mainstream pop music involved in these songs that I don't think one can honestly call them "Native American" music with any degree of accuracy, although the foundation quite obviously lies in that tradition.

The common elements throughout the music are the flute melodies, some of which are haunting, as they should be, and the fact that the flute remains largely in a "traditional" mode; the incorporation of jazz and pop elements – there are several guitar passages that are worthy of some of the greats, and show the same focus that builds the kind of intensity that Eric Clapton or Robin Trower might have put into a three-note riff; percussion that is usually completely what it should be, although some of the more jazz-inspired passages don't quite make it – not to fault Bannister's playing, which is crisp and fluent and displays a high degree of musicianship, but more because, I think, they were not necessarily a good idea to start with. There is an underlying unity that makes pointing out highlights superfluous – you're either going to like this album, or you're not.

That said, I have to admit that the album largely leaves me cold, and I can't quite put my finger on why. It may just be that, along with some of the patterns, the music has incorporated some of the distance of jazz, that kind of intellectualism that becomes opaque; there is an inwardness to portions of this recording that never makes it past the speakers. (Subjectivity alert: There are large portions of the jazz repertoire that are simply blank to me; I just don't connect with a lot of jazz at all, and this is coming from someone who can find passion in Philip Glass and Steve Reich.) All in all, Creation is better than I had feared, but not as rewarding as I had hoped.

(Canyon Records, 1996)

What's New at Green Man Review

Our usual wide range of material:

Tull live, a really big chocolate treat, a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall, Irish music books, good milk chocolate, live music from De Dannan, an excerpt from de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart and other matters as well

Those "other matters" include a lot of music. From all kinds of places. Click on through and enjoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday Science, Part II: Education

A couple of stories this morning. Two deal with creationists doing their best to screw up science education. First, in Arizona, the Superintendent of Schools appointed a young-earth creationist to a panel charged with revising the science curriculum:

Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas tapped a young-earth creationist to serve last month on a committee tasked with revising the state’s science curriculum standards on evolution.

Joseph Kezele, the president of the Arizona Origin Science Association, is a staunch believer in the idea that enough scientific evidence exists to back up the biblical story of creation.

Click through to the original article: Kezele keeps going on and on about "real science" and how it proves Biblical creation. All that proves is that he's delusional. And despite the disclaimers from the superintendent's spokesperson that she was unaware of his creationist views, given her own attitudes, I'm calling bullshit -- she knew exactly what she was doing.

And just to show that we're not alone in our insanity, this one's from British Columbia:
Darrell Furgason is one of the candidates running for the Chilliwack School District Board (in British Columbia) and his platform seems pretty sensible: He supports “Academic Excellence,” “Inclusivity for all,” and a “Quality, fact-based curriculum” that promotes critical thinking.

The problem is that he believes none of that in practice. Furgason is actually an anti-LGBTQ Young Earth Creationist whose primary allegiance is to the Bible and not the students.

Another nine-commandment "Christian". And unless people do some research, which they won't, he'll probably get away with it.

And offered as an antidote to those is this one, about a twelve-year-old who is working on her third book about the joy of science:

Bailey Harris was only eight when she was inspired by Neil deGrasse Tyson (who was hosting COSMOS at the time) to learn more about astronomy. It resulted in her writing a book (with her dad’s help) called My Name Is Stardust, about how all living things are made up of the same basic ingredients. Earlier this year, she released her second book,
Stardust Explores the Solar System

Now she’s working on the third: Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders: Geology & Evolution.

There's a wonderful video at the link that, unfortunately, I can't embed, so check it out. It really is very good.

Saturday Science: But Is It Art?

Archaeologists have discovered what they're calling the earliest example of human drawing:

A small stone flake marked with intersecting lines of red ochre pigment some 73,000 years ago that was found in a cave on South Africa’s southern coast represents what archaeologists on Wednesday called the oldest-known example of human drawing.

The abstract design, vaguely resembling a hashtag, was drawn by hunter-gatherers who periodically dwelled in Blombos Cave overlooking the Indian Ocean, roughly 190 miles (300 km) east of Cape Town, the researchers said. It predates the previous oldest-known drawings by at least 30,000 years.

This had me scratching my head:

While the design appears rudimentary, the fact that it was sketched so long ago is significant, suggesting the existence of modern cognitive abilities in our species, Homo sapiens, during a time known as the Middle Stone Age, the researchers said.

Um, hello? Same species, same capabilities. Sure, allow time for building a cultural history, but why would anyone be surprised that early modern humans would draw? And, while I don't want to belabor the point, this is the Middle Stone Age, meaning fairly advanced and sophisticated tool-making. Did someone say "cognitive abilities"?

Footnote: I was reminded while viewing a nature/paleoanthropology documentary on Netflix (Nova's Dawn of Humanity) that until recently, scientists pooh-poohed the idea that modern humans -- or humans in general -- could have originated in Africa, which is what all the evidence points to. Just goes to show you -- scientists are not free from prejudice or pre-conceived notions. By the way, the program itself is fairly good -- about finding another missing link.