"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, December 22, 2014

Marriage News Watch, December 22, 2014

Florida clerks can start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in January -- but if they do, they could risk arrest and jail time. An anti-gay group in Hawaii is still trying -- and failing -- to stop marriages. And things are still looking bad for the National Organization for Marriage.


The comments on NOM, while a little unusual for AFER, are pretty much on point.

Florida seems to be adopting the Kansas strategy -- fight tooth and nail, county by county -- and all that's going to happen is that it's going to cost their taxpayers a lot of money.

Another Hanky Time Video

'Tis the season. Unfortunately, I can't embed the video, but it's via AmericaBlog.

A screen cap:

kids-get-kitten-ellen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Finished!

OK -- my reviews from Sleeping Hedgehog are now all linked from the "Reviews" pages. Really. Truly.

Eventually, I will get up the nerve to tackle the Green Man Review material, which is going to be complicated -- many of those have been moved over to Sleeping Hedgehog, but not necessarily deleted from GMR.

Wish me luck.

Presenting the "Complete Picture"

This is the most jaw-dropping thing I've seen to come out of the whole Ferguson fiasco:

"There were people who came in and yes, absolutely lied under oath," he said. "Some lied to the FBI. Even though they’re not under oath, that’s another potential offense — a federal offense."

"I thought it was much more important to present the entire picture and say, 'Listen, this is what this witness says he saw,'" he added.

"Even though he wasn't there and we know he's lying."

I'm speechless.

"Home for the Holidays": Something To Think About

"Home for the Holidays" is an annual CBS special directed toward encouraging the adoption and fostering of children. This year, for the first time, it features a family headed by two men.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Image of the Week

I haven't done this in a while, but what the hell. We haven't had any snow to speak of so far, but the winter's still young. Although the days when I would go out shooting in a blizzard are long past.


More Music Reviews

I got up to "Various Artists" in the Sleeping Hedgehog music listing and realized that I was going to have to deal with the fifteen volumes of Central Javanese gamelan produced by John Noise Manis.

Next time. But I'm almost caught up.

Another Police Story

No, they're not all authoritarian assholes:

When Tarrant, Alabama Police Officer William Stacy was called to the Dollar General store on Saturday, December 6, he wasn’t especially surprised. “We get shoplifting calls at Dollar General all the time,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “Usually people are stealing things like makeup or phone chargers – not things they need to get by.”

So when Stacy arrived to find 47-year-old Helen Johnson stealing eggs to feed her two daughters, her niece, and two young grandkids, he knew this incident was different. Johnson explained to Stacy that her family hadn’t eaten since Thursday. So instead of making an arrest, the officer, 23, bought Johnson a carton of eggs. “When she mentioned the kids and said they were hungry, that’s when I knew I wanted to buy the eggs,” Stacy says. “No matter what financial situation kids are in, it’s not their fault they’re hungry.”

Click through and read the follow-up. And if you can, make a donation to your local food bank.

Via Balloon Juice.






Cuba

The only thing I have to say about Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba is "Well, it's about freakin' time." Barbara O'Brien has the most cogent summation of the whole thing that I've seen:

For a lot of reasons many of you already brought up, there’s no downside to normalizing relations with Cuba. The old policy certainly did nothing to weaken Castro or set the people of Cuba free. Business interests in the U.S. welcome the change; Gulf Coast states especially could benefit. And, of course, this should provide an economic boost for the people of Cuba. Pope Francis himself helped broker the deal.

Click through -- it's not all that long, and it summarizes both the move and the Republican reaction pretty well. I especially like the quote from John Cole.

And here's a little background from the administration side.

I may publish updates on this one, if I run across some choice bits.

OK, this is choice, from Glenn Greenwald and Sam Stein, via Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Week

Until Christmas. I've probably posted this before, but I love it, especially this version -- it's just so nice and relaxed.


Culture Break: Ancient Music

Ever wonder what the music of the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, or Greeks sounded like? We don't know for sure, but musicologists and music historians have come up with some possibilities.

This article from Raw Story, reprinted from Newsweek, describes one such attempt, by composer and musician Stef Conner, to reconstruct ancient Babylonian music:

But the words on the paper, the modern incarnations of these mineral etchings, were not enough for Conner. She wanted to know what these languages sounded like, to summon life from stone. Many of these poems and snatches of writings were sung and chanted, according to historians. The tunes played an important part in rituals in Mesopotamian societies, from funerals to lullabies, Conner says.

So she teamed up with Andy Lowings, who reconstructs ancient instruments and plays a mean lyre, a musical instrument with strings that resembles a harp. The two set out to create music that brings ancient Babylonian poetry to life, and The Flood is the result.

We tend to forget, at least we in the Western world, that most cultures didn't have what we call "concerts" -- music was part of what can only be described as theater/ritual/performance. Opera's really the closest we come, and that misses what is often the religious significance of performance. (Unless, of course, you're a diva fanboy.)

There's a soundtrack at the article that I can't embed here, but it's worth a listen.

The music itself reminds me a little bit of the musical form known as "gharnati," from medieval Iberia, as reconstructed by Jon Balke and Amina Alaoui and presented in the album Siwan, although there's obviously a much stronger Arabic influence here. (Although I can't help but wonder if the Babylonian original might not sound closer to this -- there's often an emphasis on the kind of embellishment in singing of the sort that Alaoui engages in here in non-Western music, particularly in the Middle East, and there's no telling how far back that tradition goes.)


We're on slightly firmer ground with ancient Greek music -- the records are better, we know more about the instruments and about the context. Here's a piece from Conrad Steinman's ensemble, Melpomen, from the album of the same name:


And of course I've reviewed some of this stuff:

Jon Balke/Amina Alaoui, Siwan

Conrad Steinman, Melpomen

The Police

This is an illuminating exchange, but this summation, I think, gives us a good idea of what the real problem is with too many of the police in this country:

"How about this: Listen to police officers' commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop," he said. "I think that eliminates a lot of problems."

"I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it," he added.

And for some strange reason, the response from people who don't think they should be living in a police state seems to have struck a nerve.

Charles Wilson, national chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, told TPM that he thought both sides had the right to express their opinions. But he has sensed a change among his peers.

"What you've got to understand is that cops don't like to be criticized. We have a hard job to do. ... Cops are just like everybody else, especially when they think they're doing the right thing," he said. "But I would have to tell you, yes, they have become quite a bit more defensive."

Contrast that with this statement from Andrew Hawkins, the Cleveland Browns player who wore a T-shirt calling for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III, both killed by police.

To clarify, I utterly respect and appreciate every police officer that protects and serves all of us with honesty, integrity and the right way. And I don’t think those kind of officers should be offended by what I did. My mom taught me my entire life to respect law enforcement. I have family, close friends that are incredible police officers and I tell them all the time how they are much braver than me for it. So my wearing a T-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people.

And just who, exactly, is the problem here?

You can read Hawkins' full statement at the link.

Addendum: CNN decided to do a special on cops involved in lethal force situations, and invited viewers to submit questions. The response was a bit more than they bargained for.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today in "Disgusting People" -- An Antidote

Reading through the various blogs and news items this morning, I was about to get depressed all over again, from Bryan Fischer saying that Jesus would support torture (how's that for perversion?) to a spokesman for FRC saying he's not sure if gays should be executed, to outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn single-handedly blocking a bill to for a new veterans' outpatient care facility because it's "too nice", and Ted Cruz, just in general(he even manages to piss off other Republicans) -- well, you know it's endless.

Then I ran across this:


Click through for a transcript and the backstory.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Marriage News Watch, December 15, 2014 (Update)

South Carolina's anti-gay Attorney General may have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to gay rights groups. New research shows why marriage equality has been so successful so fast. And Hillary Clinton gets thanks for supporting the freedom to marry from an unlikely source.

There's also the possibility -- probability -- that other states that fought the decisions will also have to pay costs and attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs.


Update: Just ran across this in the comments to this post at Good As You:




Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Begun

I've started pulling in the Sleeping Hedgehog music reviews. I'm sort of bemused by the range of music I've reviewed, there and elsewhere -- everything from Nickelback to Clannad to Bartók to Wagner's Ring, with a helping of gamelan and raga.

Sort of bears out my idea that "it's all just music."

Well, That's Unfortunate

The Senate passed the omnibus spending bill yesterday; Obama's expected to sign it. They didn't strip out any of the nasties that Republicans and "moderate" Democrats tucked in.

And who would have thought that Congress would be using fear of a shutdown as a smokescreen? Clever, aren't they?

More on the "National Security State"

From Digby, who starts off with the horrific story of a Mr. Bashmilah, a small businessman originally from Yemen who ran an import/export business in Indonesia, detained on a trip to visit his mother and eventually turned over to the CIA. That story's bad enough. Digby's commentary is what leapt out at me, though:

Our government officials showed us that they are hysterical panic artists who cannot be trusted to keep their wits about them during a crisis. They proved they will revert to superstition and primitivism when they are afraid. They are openly admitting it this week with all the excuses about how we need to understand the "atmosphere of [f]ear" they were living with in the aftermath of 9/11 and how the panic and hysteria of the moment led to all these "mistakes."

These are supposed to be professionals, people whose jobs it is to stay calm when the public is frightened. They are supposed to have the cool heads and the experience and training to keep it together in these situations. They are not supposed to be running around in circles, unable to figure out the difference between the enemy and some random guy who had a new passport. They were supposed to already know what countless studies dating back decades (centuries!) have shown: that torture doesn't work. They were supposed to be good at this.

Do I really need to say more? Except to opine that maybe someone should hang Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld upside down for three weeks.

OK, one more point: I'm willing to allow that the Dubyah administration was being run by a bunch of sadistic frat boys. The fact that the CIA, NSA, and allied agencies (and see this post for a run-down on that whole situation) are still not accountable under Obama is even worse: it's a calculated policy, because Obama is nothing if not calculating.

Read the whole post. It's guaranteed to ruin your day.