Saturday, June 03, 2006
There are some obvious examples: global-warming and habitat depletion must be considered a step backward, not forward. The upcoming demographic time-bomb also suggests another instance where moving forward may cause a step back. Emotional alienation, so common today, along with the transience that comes with abilty to regulary travel over distances our ancestors could not even dream shows more evidence of how technological advances come at a price. And yes, though the Internet connects us in ways yet to be imagined, it also puts in a position where a comfortable life requires constant connection to the network. Along those lines, the constant threat of pedophiles, indentity thiefs and other electronically based lurkers and ne'er-do-wells shows another area where something on which we have come to depend also threatens us to some degree. On a broader level, the temptation of governments to track every keystroke, phone call and transaction leaves us all in a position where freedom may fall prey to technology. Amazingly, this list is far from complete. A reread of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and The Third Wave would help more make sense of this topic.
A little history of progess is in order. Until the Renaissance no one expected progress of any type. Innovation and experimentation were shunned since precious resources could not be sacrificed. Also, only members of religious orders and the courts had the leisure time to spare for developing new methods and technologies. Most innovation came in the field and changes were guarded with extreme secrecy. With the Renaissance a sense of the new started to creep into consciousness, but stay limited to a few of the elite. Only after the Industrial Revolution did progress begin to seem possible to all classes, but this feeling pretty much remain limited to European based societies. In short, a sense of progress, the feeling that the next few years will be different from the next is new to us, so new that as whole, societies around the globe have not adapted to it.
So do we or can we stop progress? Obviously not. We have come to far to start living as we once did. Instead, we need to become more aware of our impact. The progress we take for granted takes its toll on less fortunate societies, our entire ecosystem and the cohesiveness of our social fabric. We could do better by not assuming that progress is something that should triumph over other areas of our life. We should be thankful for what we have and make more of an effort to spread the wealth over a broader spectrum. Certainly, we should not continue with the attitude that moving forward is more valuable than protecting the environment, an attitude that assuredly threatens everything we have built until now.
Yes, this is a recurring theme for me, but not one I invented. Karen Armstrong, for one, constantly brings it up through her mythos vs. logos illustrations. In fact the theme goes back to the Romantic Era wherein its propenents naively called for a return to nature. Nor do I suspect will the issue go away for quite some time. In all cases, we are better off accepting the reality rather than denying its existence.
Actually, most of Esphyr Slobodkina's paintings make me swoon. For mid-century abstracts, her paintings are geometric while still being loose and free. If you think of other geometric abstracts, say Mondrian's boxes, there is rigidity that cannot be loosened every by the addition of bright colors. Slobodkina's paintings feel more organic because of the use of muted colors and her creation of depth by layering shapes and colors is fantastic.
I love this particular piece for the strong diagonal lines. She uses an interesting trick here. T shapes usually imply stability, diagonals imply movement. Slobodkina takes a T shape and twists it into a diagonal so you have movement to each corner of the painting with a firmly anchored center.
Friday, June 02, 2006
It's just a postage stamp of a yard, maybe 10' by 20'. When I first moved in a few years ago there were plans to grow things. But I have a black thumb. Since I managed to find one of the few apartments with a private yard in the city, yardless friends volunteered to grow things for me. Promises, promises.
Last year I spent a week cutting back the blackberries and morning glories that has taken over. It was kind of a battle to the death for the two invasive plants. Each one had staked out territory on opposite ends of the fence and it was a race to see which would become the dominant bush. By the time I started hacking away, a small oak tree in the middle had become the first casualty in the plant wars.
Today I was going to go start the de-greening process. The grass is almost waist high and the blackberries seem to be winning this year. But it started to pour rain. I guess my diplomatic pruning skills will have to wait.
On the Right, Bustah Blackberry coming in at 5 feet tall and 7 feet wide.
On the Left, the scrappy, scraggly Morning Glory goes for the divide and conquer defense by sending shoots off to both the left and right. At the far right of the picture is the body of the dead little oak tree- now covered in vines.
In the mean time:
1) The White Stripes-I Just Don't Know What To Do WIth Myself
2) THe Sundays: I Feel
3) Giant Sand: Mountain of Love
4) They Might Be Giants: Chess Piece Face
5) Le Tigre: Punker Plus
6) James Brown: Cold Sweat
7) Stevie Wonder: You and I
8) The Spinanes: Entire
9) The New Pornographers: MAss ROmantic
10) Death Cab for Cutie: Death of an Interior Decorator
One of today’s absurdities creating a pile of anger here on the East Coast is the big reduction in federal Homeland Security funds being parceled out to New York. The city’s share of the law enforcement funds was cut to $124.5 million, from $207.7 million last year. Reason? The feds determined that there are “no national monuments or icons” in the city, according to a story in The New York Times.
That’s right, the federal government doesn't know there are important things in the most important city in the world, which for some odd reason is repeatedly the location of actual terrorist attacks.
In the plane of reality in which the Bush administration presides, terrorists are salivating at the catastrophic national panic they could create blowing up a mall in Topeka or Tacoma as opposed to something unobtrusive like, oh, I don’t know, Rockefeller Center or the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building or the World Financial Center or Times Square or Madison Square Garden or ....
Beyond the personal dignity of the ladies in the band, the brouhaha is Exhibit 14,251 in the argument that there is no liberal media. The Chicks' records -- even the non-political songs, which is the majority of their work -- have been banned from most country stations, despite their popularity. That means stations are acting against their economic interest to carry on a ridiculous grudge.
Plus, Maines has been and will continue to be excoriated for years. Not just by unhinged fans, but her right to speak her mind will be the main issue in her media interviews for years to come. The fact is, the vast majority of fans either agree or don't care what she said about Bush, but the media will focus on this as if it were something critical. Sort of like the marriage of a certain political couple.
And the most infuriating part of all this, of course, is that no public figure gets hounded for praising Bush. Or more on point, for criticizing Democrats. No accusation is wild enough or inaccurate enough or just plain despicable enough to warrant more than a mild rebuke, if that. Right-wing authors routinely accuse Democrats -- in specific and general -- of being all sorts of things, including murderers.
And then, after you've had a cocktail or two to numb the pain, what do we do to fix this?
I'm big on the power of voting. One of my favorite things I ever did was voter registrations in poor suburbs of Atlanta. But with registration challenges and missing votes- how does an individual know if their vote was counted? What do we do to make the system better?
Thursday, June 01, 2006
If the Japanese government gets its way, educators will soon add another course to the standard curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic: teaching students to show love for their country.
The proposal to make education more patriotic signals the determination of conservatives here to combat what they see as a self-obsessed youth culture, characterized by rampant school bullying and juvenile crime, that they say is eroding the nation's vaunted social order.
So last week Little Flower got the big fat virtual cookie. This week you only get one line from one song. But here's a hint or 2- the band is Australian and this song is an 80's standard.
My possessions are causing me suspicion
but there's no proof.
Oh yeah- I write a blog. Dope.
Anyone else get locked out of their email regularly? Should I be worried that the NSA has blocked my account so they can go see what terrorist themed junk-mail I get?
A girl can dream, well fantasize really, about a John Stewart- Stephen Colbert team in 2008. Ok- the fantasy doesn't actually have me waiting till 2008 for a tag team of Stewart-Colbert, and they aren't taking over the White House as much as they are taking over my bedroom in the uhm, daydream.
But if I want to publicly declare my love for the 2 ballsy boys- I can now do it with a campaign tee.
Noonan: So the day starts in tragedy and ends in Marx Brothers.
President Bush: That's right -- we got a laugh out of it."
Nice that he could sleep that night though- he may have been the only one in the country who did.
It's just a rehash of the same old crap. Organic sex is sex without birth control, because birth control is Un.Nat.Ur.AL. The only form of birth control acceptable to the fundies is the one that doesn't work, the rhythm method.
I could get into a long diatribe about how stupid this is, but I think you should watch this and see for yourself.
Since Fursdays are our "recess" time here at the White Papers, and I found this on TBO just now, I thought I'd ask:
Do your kids have recess at their school?
A few years ago while I was working in a child care coordinating agency, I started hearing rumors that a lot of schools were gradually doing away with recess. I remember thinking: "that can't be good.... don't kids need a break from the classroom during the day?"
Apparently the rumors are true, and the Cartoon Network, of all people has found some experts with some fancy statistics & studies to back up what I guessed to be so:
An experimental study found that fourth-graders were more on-task, less fidgety, and less disruptive in the classroom on days when they had recess, with hyperactive children among those who benefited the most. Breaks are helpful, both for attention and for classroom management.
Olga Jarrett, child-development specialist at Georgia State University
Children permitted to play freely with peers develop skills for seeing things through another person’s point of view – cooperating, helping, sharing, and solving problems (NAEYC, 1997). side note: NAEYC stands for National Association for The Education of Young Children. They are the professional organization for people in the business of teaching kids birth-8 years
How active are children during recess? Kraft (1989) and Pellegrini and Smith (1998) found that elementary school children engaged in physical activity 59% of the time during recess, with vigorous physical activity occurring 21% of the time--slightly more time in vigorous activity than occurred during physical education (PE) classes (15%). Physical activity improves general circulation, increases blood flow to the brain, and raises levels of norepinephrine and endorphins – all of which may reduce stress, improve mood, induce a calming effect after exercise and perhaps as a result improve achievement.
OK, I know what you're thinking.... if you're reading this blog, chances are you may be, in the words of Hanna-Barbera, "Smarter than the Average Bear" and recess for you may have provided not only a chance to let off steam but an opportunity to practice your bully-avoidance skills. (believe me, been there, done that) But, the mean kids notwithstanding, recess still meant a breath of fresh air, a chance to use our brains for something other than the multiplication tables, or whatever it was we were supposed to be memorizing that day, our hands for something more interesting than scratching out workbook answers.
Recess was a brief space of freedom, a chance to do what you wanted in a day filled with instructions.
Recess was a given, only taken away as dreaded punishment for particularly greivous, usually collective offenses.
I'm sure that school administrators have their reasons; valid concerns that need to be addressed. I don't really think they're all evil monsters who hate kids....
But what if eliminating recess creates more problems than it solves?
I admit, I am close to being one of those who thinks religion has outlived its usefullness. while I don't think science replaces religion, its role is not up to helping the contemporary. Perhaps, this makes me jaded, but it is an opinion I am happy with.
My biggest problem with religion is that I think it is a personal choice that few people want to keep themselves. If there is a God, there is no right way to worship him/her. From another perspective, my belief is that religion is a personal choice, but I don't go around trying to convert others to my point of view.
Having said all that, I do hold that we need some type of belief to help our unrational selves; science is not a substitute; it simply is what it is. I guess this is way of saying I accept the need to embrace others as wonder attempts, but I would like to leave the Jesus part out of it.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
It does make sense if you are trying to spread the moolah to your red state supporters.
"It doesn't seem to make sense," Bichsel said. "New York is down 40 percent? Washington? Again, the money is not following the threat level."
The problem is that in industries where there are massive government restrictions (aerospace for example) business found a way to push back by reducing competition. The companies either went out of business or merged to the point that there are very few companies who do the job now. With little competition, the amount of sway the government has is lost.
The whole reason to keep healthcare competitive is to prevent some of the problems other countries with universal care have had. That is one of the few benefits of coming to the game late, we get to see the trouble spots and plan around them.
In the mean time, a study has just come out that says Canadians and healthier than Americans.
Canada's national health insurance program is at least part of the reason forAnd just for fun (not because I'm procrastinating) here are links to the previous posts.
the differences found in the study, Woolhandler said
One of the reasons for Vietnam was the domino theory, that if we let Vietnam fall to communism it would spread around the region like dominos toppling. In Iraq the hope is that if we toppled a corrupt regime and put in democracy, the other regimes in the area would fall like dominos.
We eventually got out of Vietnam. We didn't make it topple-proof from communism. But communism in most of the world fell apart anyway. So why are we in Iraq?Domino theory already failed.
I know the idea of an immediate pull out raises questions (at least in the minds of those of us who feel responsible for the current level of carnage) of responsibility to the Iraqi people. Does the Pottery Barn rule stay in effect when we break more with every attempt to fix the problem?
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I was going to write more, take apart the interview piece by piece. But I find myself stunned by every new twist in it. I am not as pro-Israeli as most Americans. I think the Palestinians have a very serious claims to human rights abuses and that creating a Jewish State should not include the destruction of another people, even though the Jews were horribly abused themselves under the Nazis.
Throughout the interview there are bits where Ahmadinejad makes some pretty clear points. One about freedom of speech (when referring to several Europeans who have been jailed for being Holocaust deniers). Though Ahmadinejad seems to be a Holocaust denier himself. Another about the resettlement of the Palestinians versus the occupation by Isreal.
It's difficult. On one hand Ahmadinejad is right about the expansion of nuclear powers, the monopoly of powerful western countries, the right of return for Palestinians. On the other hand, he sounds like a twisted version of our own Holocaust deniers and wingnuts. The Islamic version of the private militia, white power people who hide out in Idaho stockpiling weapons. Only he has the legitimate governance of a large, oil rich country and access to nuclear material.
Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point. Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe, not in Palestine.
Spiegel: Do you want to resettle a whole people 60 years after the end of the war?
Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?
So I post about shows I've been to or art I love or personal stories that don't seem political at all. I get on kicks where I am railing against the patriarchy or organized religion or even just where the hell my Kleenex box has drifted off to. We have Fursday Fun just to lighten stuff up.
That doesn't mean that serious pieces won't get written or don't have a place here.'They absolutely do. I just can't be the one doing all the heavy hitting, and since I am doing the primary writing here - I do what I can to avoid either burn out or over-covering things that have been written about ad naseum by other blogs.
I hope that you all are enjoying the stuff that is not pure politics. I hope that you all are still happy to contribute the stuff that you all are good at writing about. I think MDH's post on the new economic realities was fantastic. Wonder's take on religion was very heart-felt and it was good to see the progressive side of Christianity represented. DeeK is forever my darling friend for helping me rail against the patriarchy, even though we feel very differently about immigration (or not so different- depending on the day). Phuxy is my brother in arms and bringer of teh funny- even though he is always in the middle of either midterms or finals.
With that I would like to introduce our newest blogger. Little Flower actually gets paid to write (can you imagine) and is damn good with the politics side of politics. I hope you all give him a big warm hello in comments.
Keeping with a recent theme at the White Papers, this is the first part of a reflection on Christianity that will take more than one post:
I’ve been troubled, since I memorized the Sermon on the Mount during my teen years in the ‘70s, by the divergence between the teachings of Jesus and the practices of Christians.
There is something decidedly odd about the fact that so many of those who claim the name of the man called the Prince of Peace -- who preached non-violence, loving enemies and went to his death without a fight -- have such a love of violence and war and knee-jerk contempt for those who do not share their beliefs.
What to make of this? One possibility is that these folks -- in the spirit of Pappy O’Daniel in O Brother Where Art Thou I’ll call them “Kill-Your-Enemies Christians” -- are not. They are the false believers mentioned repeatedly in the pastoral letters of the apostles Paul and Peter. However, that puts me in the position of judging the spirituality of people, a place I don’t belong.
The position on which I settled was that God intended that his followers to take a variety of positions. My justification for this was from Paul’s image of the church as a body, and his list of spiritual gifts. The idea is that God wills that Christians be both conservative and liberal, to have different theological beliefs, and to have all different types of talents and tendencies. It all melds together into a glorious pot that one day we’ll understand at the end of time.
It is unmistakable that different denominations and sects have used different passages to come to different conclusions about the meaning of scripture. I thought that was because there was some key to understanding that was not granted to us mortals. Maybe God didn’t want everything spelled out to prevent us from worshiping the text instead of the creator.
Now, however, I’m having second thoughts ...
More to come sometime when I don't have to coach hockey.
In the mean time- for your reading pleasure
Salon has a fantastic interview with Karen Armstorng called Going Beyond God.
Very often people hear about God at about the same time as they're learning about Santa Claus. And their ideas about Santa Claus mature and change in time, but their idea of God remains infantile.From the NY Times: Government whistleblowers are dealt a giant blow by the Supreme Court
The LA Times looks at the power of charisma
Compared to poison ivy grown in usual atmospheric conditions, those exposedThank god I'm a city girl, but all you outdoorsy types might want to invest in the makers of calamine lotion.
to the extra-high carbon dioxide grew about three times larger -- and produced
more allergenic form of urushiol, scientists from Duke and Harvard University
Monday, May 29, 2006
Kid (after having seen something on TV): Mom, does war bring out the worst in men or does the worst in men bring on war?
Me: It's a feedback loop kid. That means both are true.
Me: War is caused by the worst in men, then in war people act badly, then more war, then more bad behavior and so on.
Kid: So we have to end war to stop the worst in people.
Me: That's just the beginning.
It's Memorial day, and we should be honoring soldiers who have died doing what they were told to do- going to war. But I am having a hard time with that today in light of the Haditha story. Don't get me wrong- I fully understand that the individual soldiers are there because they have to be, that they signed up to do something that I would never do. But I can't look one-sidedly at the deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan. It isn't just our soldiers who are dying, but innocent civilians whose towns and homes and lives have been torn apart. We don't keep track of the numbers of civilians who've been killed. It would undermine the public support of the war faster than anything else has, especially because the Iraqi people have never been a focus of the war- it has always been the "insurgents" who were our targets.
Stories like the one at Haditha are not aberrations. In every war there is a Mai Lai or Haditha. They are part of the act of warfare, which is not noble. There are some things worth fighting for, but that doesn't make war righteous. It makes war a necessary evil. When, as in Iraq, the war is instigated on false premises it is an act devoid of any reason done by the worst of men.
I cannot fault the soldiers for acting on their orders. Chances are they are just poor kids from neighborhoods like mine who were hoping to find a way out of perpetual poverty and a something larger than themselves to believe in. I can fault the worst of men, those in charge who have never been to war themselves, for sending these kids in to do their dirty work.
For those kids who were just looking for a way out, for the families in far away countries where life has been shattered into a thousand pieces and run over with muddy boots and hummers, I wish them peace and to see the best of men.
I've been working on a painting lately that is outside my usual repertoire. I have been reasonably competent at abstracting figures, but have had difficulty breaking the hold that figures have and producing work that is abstract expressionist in nature. I have a particular love for the color field painters (Mark Rothko is the one you all would recognize, but I like Helen Frankenthaler's stuff too). But it is this painting by Morris Louis that sends me into rapture. I want to live in the tiny white opening at the bottom, surrounded by warm, translucent reds.
The Kid loves fantasy stuff. He likes to imagine that he is some all powerful warrior with the ability to smite enemies with a single blow. At least once a week, we have a discussion about "what would your superpower be?" He changes his powers almost every week. Sometimes it's super-strength. Sometimes it's invisibility. Sometimes, after an especially long day when we are walking home, he wants rocket powered feet to power him up the hill by our house.
I always want the same things- the ability to speak every language and to shoot laser beams out of my left eye when my eyebrow is raised. The Kid thinks it's boring that I don't want to be able to fly around the world or stop time, but I think language and lasers are pretty cool.
So kids- what would your superpower be?
I believe that the creator of the universe came to earth as a human being and lived through all the stuff that any person goes through.
That he suffered an excruciating death in order to set things right between God and humanity.
That he didn't stay dead, but was brought back to life after he was buried.
That because he did all this, if I follow him, I have access to God, and I am free to live without fear of divine punishment. I have the power to change my own life.
Which does not mean i can just do whatever i want to. I 'm supposed to follow his lead. It's part of the deal.
I'm responsible to look out for those who can't look out for themselves.
If I lack compassion, If I ignore the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, I ignore my God.
I'm not allowed the luxury of passing judgment on others, because I will be held to the same standard I hold up.
I have to forgive. That's a deal-breaker.
Being a Christian means accepting a handful of paradoxes, believing the unbelievable, aspiring to the apparently impossible.
I follow Someone who made outrageous statements like:
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you."
"He who seeks to save his own life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will save it."
"The one who wishes to be the greatest must become the servant of all"
I convict myself with those words, even as I type them. I have so much, and give so little.
I resent judgmental people, and in doing so, i judge them.
I suck at this. I'm in good company, though. One of the apostles wrote: "When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway."
But there is hope in all this impossibility. God already knows everything I've done or will do. There is nothing He cannot forgive. I am not defined my my mistakes or my misdeeds.
The smae apostle worte a few sentences later that the Spirit of God empowers us to break out of the old way of doing things.
This is not easy stuff. This is no fairy tale to tuck the little ones into bed by.
What does all this imply?
Sunday, May 28, 2006
By being friends with the band- of course!
I went to fantastic show at the Funhouse last night to see my dear friend, Ruthzilla, and her band ScaryBear play. I am not a huge prog rock fan (it just doesn't mix with the indy-pop Queen status) but last night might have converted me.
ScaryBear is a tight "frantic instrumental techno thrash" joy to see. They rock the genre like no bodies business without a lot of the cock swagger generally associated with anything that loud. But that wasn't all the joy I got last night.
Next up was Black Elk- a band from Portland with a lead singer who is a weird cross between Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop if they both were screaming in terror. We were right up by the stage getting pushed by a few hapless moshers. The last time I had been in a mosh pit I was pregnant with the Kid, but I remembered how to use my elbows pretty quick and the bouncer chilled the guys out pretty fast. But the band kicked ass. This is where I get converted to loud, angry Noise Rock.
After their set, Ruth was saying hello to the bassist for Black Elk and introduced me by saying "This is Elizabeth. You guys were so good she even liked you, and she likes Franz Ferdinand!" Turns out that this scrappy bass player also like Franz. I told him how at the last Franz Ferdinand concert the band dedicated a song to "the 2 girls dancing in the balcony" and I was one of those girls. The bass player promised a shout out to me next time. My four and half minutes of rock and roll fame have now been extended by a whole 15 seconds. Whoo hoo!
Also playing were Blood Hag. They throw science fiction books at the crowd which is cool. But by then I could barely hear them because I'd been standing right by the amp during Black Elk and not wearing ear plugs. Everything still sounds muffled today.
The final act was Captured By Robots- one guy and a bunch of robots he built to play music. It was all cover songs last night and that was cute and kitschy for the first 3 songs, but by the time he broke out with Journey's Don't Stop Believing, I had enough.
I had meant to take some pictures of Scarybear, but drunkenness interfered. Instead you all get blurry drunken pictures of crowds, robots, and Ruthzilla with what looks like a giant light-filled tumor coming out of her nose. Enjoy!
It's not just me that is drunk and blurry- The Robots drink PBR!
Ruthzilla, bass player for ScaryBear, looking possessed by the light-filled tumor attached to her head