Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday NIght Rock Show

One night in early April of 1986, my friend Jim came back late from doing his radio show on the college station. He knocked on my door and tossed a cassette tape at me. "I think you might like this," he said.

Jim was wrong. For the next four weeks, until I left for the summer, I literally listened to nothing else (I must have bored my neighbors to death). It was the first solo album by Eric Johnson, Tones. Here is the first vocal track from that album, from a recent (?) Austin City Limits appearance. The song is "Friends":

Weaving & Re-weaving Webs of Belief: Richard Rorty & Charlotte (Part I of II)

Note: This is the second in a series of posts I hope to do on the philosophy of Richard Rorty, whose works I am currently reading. I previously wrote here about Rorty's approach to civic virtue. What follows is the first of two parts on Rorty's approach to issues of knowledge, rationality, and argumentation. I believe they are highly relevant to many issues addressed in this blog, and reflect my approach to these matters more clearly and concisely than I ever could.

My kids got the latest movie-version of Charlotte's Web in their Easter baskets, so you may forgive me in using my almost constant exposure to this version of E. B. White's classic children's tale as a jumping off point for discussing something supposedly deep like philosophy. It has struck me, both as I watched the film version and re-read White's book (my older daughter has read it recently; I read it last in 1973 or so, but how can one forget it?) how close to Rorty's views on notions of "truth", "belief", "justification", "argument", and "rationality" are the events in Zuckerman's barn. I shall try and be succinct in my summation of Rorty here, so as not to unduly bore anyone. He proposes that the philosophical notions of "truth", of "rationality", are nothing more or less than the words we use to describe what he calls a web of beliefs and desires. Following Donald Davidson, Wittgenstein, and John Dewey, he sees no reason to insist that what we profess to believe either could or should reflect something "real", or that the words we use are somehow made true by something that is not words. Rather, we are participants in a language-game, one in which we are introduced to certain rules and boundaries, and we negotiate with other participants in this game. He views the idea that there is something mysterious or occult about the "language-reality" dichotomy to be question begging. After Darwin, how else could we describe language and thought than as reactions to stimuli in our environment? This is neither controversial nor in need of philosophical unpacking. More interesting than figuring out to how to get "behind" language, or "around" language, or figure out the "one true vocabulary" for describing what is, is the project of describing how different participants in all the variety of language-games interact, and in that interaction, weave and re-weave their webs of beliefs and desires in to wholly new and surprising webs, none of which are predictable within previously understood vocabularies, and some of which might hold the key to something beneficial to us all.

As I hope anyone reading this remembers, Charlotte manages, through her cleverness and Wilbur's earnest good nature, to save the life of a spring pig by weaving words in her web, words which attempt to draw attention to the uniqueness and special nature of Wilbur. Wilbur is no longer just "a spring pig" destined for Christmas ham and winter bacon and sausage, but an individual, "Some Pig", "Radiant", "Terrific", and "Humble". Charlotte manages, merely through the use of words, words woven into a web, to change the perspective of an earthy farmer toward one of his capital assets. Wilbur is saved because, as White says, Charlotte was a good friend and a good writer. New words, a whole new vocabulary for talking about a pig, changed Zuckerman's way of thinking about who and what Wilbur was. There was no "argument" here, no "rational discourse", indeed there was no meeting of the minds, as it were. Rather, Charlotte introduced new and interesting words to Zuckerman who, upon reading them, started to weave these woven words into his own vocabulary, with surprising, and happy (for Wilbur, at least; as a fan of pork steaks and sausage, I might be a bit disappointed) results.

Along with Davidson, Wittgenstein, and Darwin, Rorty also incorporates Thomas Kuhn into his view of the way we think about the world. Kuhn's major work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, showed that the "rational reconstruction" model of scientific discovery was sorely mistaken. We do not change the way we think about the world because science somehow approaches the true nature of reality. Rather, we change the way we believe the world is because we invent whole new ways of talking about the world. It is pointless to argue that "Copernicus is right, Ptolemy is wrong"; that is like saying "French is right, German is wrong". They are just two different vocabularies, two different ways of describing the world. We can pride ourselves on having made a "discovery" that is "true" but there is no rational way to make this point. It is an assertion, for which there is no rational reason. In a thousand years, all our verities may seem as absurd as Ptolemaic astronomy and spontaneous generation.

Taking his cue from Kuhn, Rorty sees our ways of changing our minds as a matter not for rational argument, but rather of being introduced to new and interesting words, perhaps even new and interesting sentences, then trying to fit those sentences into the larger structure of sentences that together form the web of our beliefs and desires. When the new structure is complete - saying, for example, "Some Pig" - it may not resemble anything we could have imagined, and it may just open up all sorts of possibilities, not just for us as individuals, but for all of us. That is why it is always impossible to predict, based upon our current understanding of the way things are, how things are going to be, because when change occurs, the whole structure of the way we speak and believe the world is changes; we are no longer participants in our previous language-game, and there is no master linguist who is able to describe the rules for all possible language games. We are the creators of the world, with all sorts of potential, both wonderful and horrible.

While I doubt very highly that White set out to set forth a good example of pragmatist anti-epistemology, his little children's tale demonstrates the power of words to change the world, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small ways, and how, in so doing, it is not so much the world that changes, but our reactions to it, which is all that really matters for us.

When Is Censhorship Not Censorship?

There is a bit of confusion in the comments' section over at Democracy Lover's blog and in my previous post. There seems to be some confusion concerning what it is I am advocating, and (while I shouldn't have been surprised, I was) the dreaded "c" word reared its ugly head. While ER's comments are more thoughtful and express certain liberal platitudes - the marketplace of ideas and all that - his reproach becomes clear when he uses the phrase "liberal fascism" (kind of like right-wing socialist).

Censorship is when official organs of the state ban or otherwise suppress dissent. not only would I never advocate that, if the Bush White House went after anyone, even Rush Limbaugh, to try and silence them, I would be at the front of the line demanding such actions stop. I shall say this here and now, as loudly and as clearly as I possibly can:

Were it the case that Glenn Beck, Michael Smerconish, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Levin, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, or Rush Limbaugh used their hours of air-time to advocate for left-wing causes, but lied, were intellectually dishonest, made up incidents, statistics, and so on out of whole cloth to do so, or otherwise acted in ways both invidious and destructive, I would want them gone. It isn't the political content of their radio programs that I object to; it is the constant flow of disinformation, of hysteria, of hatred, bigotry, and the distortion of reality to which I object. This isn't about political perspectives of equal weight being carefully considered in a marketplace of ideas. Those listed above have no ideas to which one should lend any credence; their speech is the contemporary equivalent of the crazy guy with the sandwich board waling around the park, except these crazy guys are paid a whole lot of money to wander around and spout off.

Another point at issue, for those who want to take the First Amendment high horse, is that this is not, in the end, about speech. It is about money. A whole lot of money. Millions and millions of dollars in advertising revenue, contract revenue, endorsement revenue, plus the other subsidiary rights and contracts such as paying ghost writers to put out books under the names of these guys who probably have a problem finding "g" on a keyboard. If you think I am wrong, consider the story I wrote about back in January in which a local blogger from San Francisco started emailing clips from a right-wing radio station to advertisers. Advertisers started to pull out. The station, owned by Disney, landed on this guy with both of Mickey's over-sized feet, and lashed his pencil-thin tail around the guy's neck for good measure. There is a disproportion in economic and social power at play here that needs to be understood if the issue is to be grasped fully. In our public square, those who pay more, get to say more. Radio is a business, even though it operates in a publicly-owned arena. Corporations pay a whole lot of money - in station infrastructure, in licensing and user fees, in contracts - to be able to make even more money. Even a million bloggers can be stymied by this kind of cash, because, as the saying goes, "money talks, and bullshit, even First Amendment bullshit, walks". Let us not delude ourselves in thinking this has even the remotest connection to Constitutional issues.

There is no right to be on radio. There is no right to lie in public. There is no right to make millions of dollars (and then squander it on Oxycontin and Viagra and trips to sex-tourism hot spots like the Dominican Republic) spewing lies and hatred and distortions of the public record. These are either privileges or distortions of the marketplace we mistakenly call one of ideas. In the end, this isn't about good speech driving out bad speech. This is about clearing muck and mud and slime and filth from the public square; it is also about making oneself aware that all that dirt and ordure was put there by millionaires who want to continue to put it there, regardless of the general publics' preference that the area be cleaned up.

Friday, April 13, 2007

One Down, A Bunch More To Go

I suppose that, as a good liberal, I should comment on the whole Don Imus thing. I wasn't going to, but after thinking about "what it all means", if it means anything, I have decided that there is something here that liberals and progressives need to be aware of. Perhaps they are, perhaps not, but I think it is important to bring it up.

Imus is gone. After a vigorous, sustained campaign by many both within and without the blogosphere, he is now unemployed, although probably not for long. His prospects in commercial radio are gone. Satellite radio, perhaps, but even there, this whole episode will follow him.

I view this as a warning shot across the bow to all those sewer-spewers on the right - Glenn Beck, Michael Smerconish, Michael Savage, Michael Levin, Sean Hannity, and the Dark Lord of them all, Rush Limbaugh - to sit up and take notice. Imus was viewed as untouchable because of his ratings, his market appeal, his place within a tightly knit group of political and media insiders, and his connections. With the entire navy of the right fairing badly, when this particular ship started listing, the rats deserted it so fast you could hear their bloated little bodies splashing, and their breathing as they paddled to get as far away as possible. The momentum from this action needs to be kept up, and we need to target all of them. Imus was the biggest precisely because he had a certain cachet with political insiders. The rest of them are fringe personalities - sometimes beyond the fringe and right out there, with no umbilical cord tying them to earth - with the possible exception of Rush "Oxycontin-Viagra-on-a-trip-to-sex-tourist-land" Limbaugh. With those two strikes against him, however, it would seem to me making a case to force sponsors to make a decision regarding their support for a whole host of these reverse-peristaltic creatures only increases. This is the time to make the move to remove the blight from our public airwaves. We should not rest on our laurels, but keep the pressure on. Perhaps the public airwaves can be returned to the public through good old-fashioned grass-roots campaigning.

The Human Image, the Divine Image, & Hyper-Sex

Like an earlier discussion over the whole question of profanity, this will be my one statement on the whole issue of what images I consider appropriate and what images I consider inappropriate for inclusion in this blog. After all, this is supposed to be from a Christian perspective, so it would seem natural that anything here would be acceptable to an adult Christian, correct? I use both epithets, "adult" and "Christian" as descriptive of the type of person who might find something of interest here, although not exclusively, because I have non-Christian here all the time, and, as I always say, everyone is of course welcome. It is just that I am an adult, and a Christian, so there you go.

Having said all that, I will ask you to take a few minutes and scroll down the page, or click this link, read the post, and view the accompanying photograph, and then read the comments. I'll wait. Whistling "Warm Wet Circles" as it plays on the stereo. You back? Good. I mean no disrespect to Neon Prime Time because, despite our political differences, he is a fellow Midwesterner, and he seems a decent fellow. My problem, however, is that he saw the photo I put at the top of the article as not just inappropriate, but bordering on pornographic. What it came down to, as far as I can tell, was the fact that the model is nude. I guess Susan Sarandon was right when she said a nipple will upstage you every time.

All this is by way of introduction. I shall begin my main point by stating something that, while perhaps controversial, I believe to be nonetheless true: I believe that our society is so repressed, so afraid of human sexuality that we have ended up, in some bizarre process of inversion, sexualizing everything, to the point where appropriateness and context are meaningless. A Calvin Klein ad, Deep Throat, Body Heat, and Michaelangelo's David (at top of this post) are all on a continuum in which the unclothed human form, or barely clothed but suggestive human form, create an unnecessary salaciousness, a sexual desire that must be stamped out. All this repression, all this fear of sexual desire, creates an atmosphere in which sex pervades our culture, creating an endless cycle of unwanted desire and screeching reaction.

I tried to find, but was limited by time, one of a myriad of Renaissance Virgin and Child paintings in which (a) Mary was topless, and (b) the baby Jesus was naked. The reason for this is simple: Renaissance Italy was a society in which human sexuality was repressed, especially among the lower clergy, who also happened to make up many of the artists. This repressed sexuality came out in perverse ways, including somewhat disquieting images of Jesus and his mother. Yet, these paintings are, despite the suggestive nature of the composition, considered great art, indeed they are great art. A sexually repressed society often creates hyper-sexual art.

I believe that there is nothing inherently sexual about an image of the nude human form. Indeed, I believe that to so view nudity is a failure of imagination, less a reaction to whatever may or may be in the piece in question that a reaction to the desire that wells up in the viewer. Since sexual desire is a no-no, any instance of it, and its cause, must be stamped out. I am not speaking here of obvious sexual imagery - porn, both hard-core and soft-core - or the sophomoric obsession with sex contained in popular entertainment, including television and popular music (although, to be honest, sex has always been a part of the music of the common people; that's why our betters never liked it all that much; can't have the great unwashed multiplying, you know). I am speaking of any image or representation of the human form. When sexual desire is kicked in to drive by any glance at a naked person, I do believe we have reached a place where collective neurosis has set in.

For my part, I believe there is something beautiful about the human body. We are, after all, created in God's image, and the Creator did happen to say something after all was said and done on the sixth day, to the effect that, with the creation of human beings, creation was "very good". Oh, yeah, Adam and Eve went around naked and unashamed. It seems to me that as a mark of the New Creation - something we Christians proclaim with joy, especially in the aftermath of last Sunday - a return to that idyll is not unwarranted. Having said that, I will also say that I will not ever put an image here I find inappropriate, deliberately salacious or sexually provocative, or downright pornographic. Since I don't think nudity in and of itself is either bad or inherently sexual, however, there might, on occasion, be the image of an unclothed individual.

My governing philosophy for this blog is that of what Wynton Marsalis called, in an interview in Ken Burns' Jazz documentary a "certain adult sensibility". That is, this is for grown-ups. I firmly believe that there is and should always remain a distinction between what is appropriate for children and what is appropriate for adults. The latter include serious discussions of issues of grave importance, serious discussions of culture, and accompanying images and sounds that might (or might not) contain images or words that children have no business being exposed to. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, why should everything we produce be viewed or listened to by your average eight-year-old? That's just a silly idea, not just a "dumbing down" of our culture, but the active infantilizing of us all. As a parent myself, I live this out in a number of ways, not the least of which is that my children are not allowed to view my blog. After all, why should they?

In the final analysis, this is my blog, governed by my rules as to what is appropriate and what is not appropriate (as I said to Neon Prime Time, as this is my blog, here, at least, it is all about me). Should you be one of those who just can't handle seeing the unclothed human form, I suggest you glance with one eye just barely open in the future to make sure you don't see anything that might offend or unnecessarily arouse. As with profanity, I certainly will not set out to be provocative, but if something fits, I will not shy away from it just because someone, somewhere might be offended. I can only do what I do the way I know how to do it. I will not apologize for any unwarranted offense, because the offense is in the eye of the beholder, and to my mind says so much more about them - and our weird, repressive, hyper-sexual culture - than it does about me.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

While I Was Away . . .

Miss a day and a half and you miss a lot. Lost e-mails. Don Imus losing MSNBC. Patrick Leahy losing his cool on the Senate floor because the White House lost emails. I wouldn't be surprised in Imus lost his cool with Leahy for losing his cool because of some lost emails!

Seriously, though, is anyone really, really, REALLY surprised that, "Hey! Sorry! We lost 'em!" was the response? Of course, it might be they lost them because they were never actually being kept . . . which happens to a (ahem) violation of the law (that whole high crimes and misdemeanors thing again), but why shouldn't we give the Bush White House the benefit of the doubt, right? Beside the fact that they are corporally and institutionally incapable of telling the truth, I would suggest you go read this post by Glenn Greenwald in which we begin to see a trend in "losing" and then, miraculously, "finding" documents, videos, whatever . . .

So next Tuesday Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the midst of an on-going tussle with the White House over the release, or perhaps even the existence, of emails directly pertaining to many of the questions Gonzalez may face. Were this a court case, and were Gonzalez a criminal defendant, his attorney might call for a continuance, or perhaps a directed verdict, or perhaps even dismissal. Of course, the prosecution would most likely return with charges of "obstruction of justice", "evidence tampering", etc., and the judge, were he or she inclined to take the lack of credibility of the defendant in to account, I would assume the case would continue, with things made that much worse for the defendant. So, perhaps in an attempt to protect Gonzalez, or even their own collective selves, from possible criminal indictment, they have only managed to make things that much worse for Gonzalez.

Well done. Seriously. It's that whole "anti-Midas" thing again. They are incapable of doing even basic intrigue and guileless corruption well.

I'm Back . . .

April snow showers took down my broadband, but I'm . . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

High Standards? Feh!

You know, the empty-headed elitism of some journalists just takes my breath away. Over at Swampland, Ana Marie Cox writes about a forum at which Mark Halperin appeared. She writes of Halperin's comments vis-a-vis bloggers and their complaints concerning the mainstream media:
As for those bloggers, the ones "tainted" by having ideological motives -- unlike our patriotic politicians, mind you -- Halperin generously allowed that "I don't mind if people blog -- but they should apply high standards of journalism," and "they should focus on news organizations when they fail to meet the standards of the profession," i.e., accuracy and objectivity. In fact, he said, "the best solution is for serious consumers of news to write letters to the editor."

There are so many things wrong with this quote, if it is indeed a quote (no link provided in the original), that it is easiest to work through it. I shall start with the end and move backward. First, "the best solution for serious consumers of news [is] to write letters to the editor"? Oh. Sweet. Loving. Jesus. How noblesse oblige can one get (actually, he does get worse, as I shall point out anon)? We ordinary non-journalist citizens should not voice our complaints about the abysmal performance of major journalists on blogs. We shouldn't point out glaring errors of fact or analysis, errors that include not taking into account all available information, context, history, etc. No, we should just write letters to the editor. Please, keep me from weeping . . .

As for those alleged "high standards of journalism", I'm still waiting to see those in action. Seriously. This past week, with the Pelosi trip to Syria still fresh in our minds, how would Halperin account for the press' almost universal bleating of Republican talking points, unless he is willing to concede that these so-called high standards of his were honored more in the breach than in practice? This is just one example, but we could write a whole series of posts, indeed a whole blog about this subject. You know, kind of like Media Matters for America.

The most egregious statement is "I don't mind if people blog". I am so glad I have the imprimatur of a serious person like Halperin for what I am doing. I can now sleep because I have his permission. I honestly think Halperin has no idea how ridiculous, how inane, and how comical a fellow he has just made himself. He has, with the words quoted above (even if not direct quotes, they may just perhaps reflect the essence of his remarks), completely and utterly removed himself from consideration as a person to be taken seriously.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

Women, Women's Sexuality & the Right

I've been thinking about this post and the accompanying photo in the context in which it all came about - French fascist Jean Marie Le Pen's comments on how women should avoid unwanted pregnancy - and the larger issue of sexuality, especially women's sexuality, and the social reaction to it. I had been thinking about how to say more, from a Christian perspective (or at least my Christian perspective) on this question, but I wanted more than just my opinion to be out there. I started one yesterday, then gave up. Then, late last night, I came across this piece by Jane Hamsher at FDL on Rudy Giuliani, and lo! and behold! it began by summing up much of what I wanted to say by way of background, and I quote (although it would be rewarding to read the whole thing):
I know I'm late to this particular party, but I have to disagree with just about everyone who thinks Rudy really stepped in it with his abortion comments last week and believes he has now alienated the mouth breather vote. It may have been an artless move, but I think it actually won't cost him a thing — in fact, it liberates him from an image of slavish devotion to wingnuttery that will help him in the long run, and I seriously doubt that that the lizard brains are going to abandon him.

There is a central misconception at play wherein people believe that because the social conservatives make so much noise about abortion, it's something they actually care about. It isn't. It's an abstraction. If you think they really give a happy hootie about innocent fetuses, you're living in a fool's paradise. George Bush could say the war on terror will be won tomorrow by stringing up Islamofascist blastulae and torturing them at Guantanamo Bay and nobody would make a peep. Not a one. Being anti-abortion is an article of faith, a calling card, a way of saying you are a member of the tribe. It's Michelle Malkin showing up in a white hood to the Klan meeting. The "unborn child" is what they profess to care about because what they really care about are self-determined urban women with lives of their own who take their jobs away and have sex and don't bake quite enough pies, and they hate 'em. But that's not okay to say so we get yet another chorus of "Every Sperm is Sacred."(emphasis added)

It is my belief that the Supreme Court's decision in Roe V. Wade, legalizing abortion on demand, was the last straw for many on the Christian Right. For a decade since the introduction of the birth control pill, the prospect of women being able to have a fulfilling sex life without fear of unwanted pregnancy posed a mortal threat to male dominance of society. For centuries, sexual freedom was a male prerogative. Women were the objects of male sexuality, quite often nameless, faceless, non-persons who were walking masturbation aids. With the advent first of the pill, then of abortion, which took care of those missed by the pill, women were now emancipated from the fear of issue and could exercise their sexual desire and power with a freedom previously only reserved for men.

I do not wish to downplay the economic dimension, either. With both conception control and abortion available as live options, women were now free to pursue careers outside the home with a freedom even their mothers had not had. As legislation and case law increasingly defined the limits of discrimination against the employment of women, and as women were no longer bound by either tradition or biology to limit their options, it increased competition in the workplace. Indeed, in many ways, the pool of available workers suddenly doubled, as both men and women became potentially equal partners in the job market (I say "potentially" because it hasn't happened, and we are years away from the playing field being even). Combined with the more elemental threat of a more free sexuality available to women, the reaction of the right, especially the Christian right, should have been obvious.

A generation later, however, we have yet to grasp the almost elemental fear and hatred of women among many on the right. I do not mean hatred of individual persons who happen to be women; I am talking about the fear engendered by free, powerful, sexually and (relatively) economically liberated women upon men. As long as women fulfill roles defined for them, there is nothing to fear. Once women start to press the limits of "acceptable" behavior, however, one can almost hear the howls of rage. Consider, for a moment, the disdain for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the past two weeks, there has been an onslaught against her for a trip to Syria, part of which included bringing along a message from the Israeli government to reassure Bashar al Assad that Israel had no plans for a spring or summer offensive against them (the Israeli government claimed afterward that no such message was given, even though the Israeli press had been discussing it prior to Pelois's visit; this is a separate matter deserving a much fuller treatment elsewhere). For our purposes here, it is just enough to consider the almost universal screech, not just from members of the Administration and Congressional Republicans, but from members of the mainstream press who should be aware that the trip was (a) bi-partisan, and (b) unremarkable because members of Congress routinely do exactly what Speaker Pelosi has done, not the least of them being Newt Gingrich. Yet, as Glenn Greenwald has carefully and thoroughly demonstrated, the attacks upon Pelosi began before she even took office as Speaker of the House and have continued in the same manner for the past five months.

Nancy Pelosi is a woman who has attained the Number 3 position, essentially, in our Constitutional order (she is second in line for the Presidency after the Vice President). The threat she poses, I contend, is not just political, but sexual. She is a successful, powerful, appealing, and attractive woman - a horrible combination for men already threatened in their masculinity by female freedom in general. Is it any wonder that many on the right feel about her as frequent visitor and commentator Neon Prime Time expressed in a comment several months ago, viz., "She scares me"? What is frightening can be summed up in Simone de Beauvois's famous dictum, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Here is a woman who does not need a man to be free, powerful, a leader. She doesn't know her place. That she is physically appealing as well as politically appealing only makes the threat that much more horrendous.

Faced with the power that women have over men, a power men have had to control through de-humanization, social and economic control, sexual exploitation and physical violence, and the rhetoric of innate sexual difference, many men end up, in the end, a quivering puddle on the floor, terrified that a strong woman will discover and make public what has been heretofore a secret even to these men themselves (except perhaps in their darkest thoughts they dare not express) - these men just don't cut it. A sexually, socially, economically liberated woman is a threat on many levels. It is my contention, however, that the most elemental threat is the sexual element. There are various social and economic controls that still exist to limit the social and economic power of women. A woman who is sexually free, however, threatens men's view of themselves at its most basic level.

You might be wondering about the whole "Christian" element I spoke of above. It is my contention that all that I have written has been written from a perspective that views women as equal creatures before God, created with power and vulnerability, part of which is sexual. Unless we want to deny that sex is a good gift from a good God (as my other told me, "If God made anything better than sex, He kept it to Himself"; there is no better theology of sex that I know of!) we have to start thinking in more creative ways about human sexuality. We should begin by recognizing, as a social fact, the threat posed to men's well-being by strong, independent women. We need to recognize that threat as existing on multiple levels, and deal with it on multiple levels. We need a positive view of human sexuality, one not linked to outmoded social roles and easily avoidable biological consequences, and teach both boys and girls, men and women, about the power they have, and how it should be used creatively and positively; and about the dangers it poses destructively and negatively.

For further reading, I suggest you go here to I think the headline says it all.

Note: The photo is entitled "Forbidden Fruit" by Alexander Feodorov.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Music Monday

I've given up my music crit blog, due to my innate inability to do two things at once. So, rather than divide up my time, I will just, occasionally, write about music here. Or just post music videos, now that I know how. First, here is a live clip (from a cell phone, I think) of one my of my favorite bands, Dead Soul Tribe, performing the song that first caught my attention, "Some Things You Can't Return":

Second, is the German band Sieges Even, with the only video I could find. Both the sound and video quality do not convey their musical ability, or the singer's beautiful voice. Or maybe they just suck live. This is "The Weight":

Finally, there's Ozric Tentacles. You either get what they are doing (with or without hallucinogens) or you don't. I do, sans chemicals, and they are without a doubt the most innovative, interesting band around, picking up and incorporating everything after filtered through a synthesizer. This is "Chewier"(all their songs are instrumentals, basically roughly structured jams):

Helping by Not Helping

Apparently, this went under a whole lot of radar. With Bill Kristol leading a charge of right-wingers complaining that the British wimped out in their diplomatic success in getting their military personnel released from Iranian custody, Think Progress has this little tidbit in their highlight from FOXNews Sunday's discussion with Kristol and Juan Williams:
The [Manchester] Guardian reported this weekend that, “The US offered to take military action on behalf of the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran, including buzzing Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions with warplanes.” The article added, “The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it.”(emphasis added)

So, we offered to "help" by creating a situation which most likely would have led to the deaths of the hostages we were supposed to be helping . . .

How abysmally stupid do you have to be to think that a military strike such as this would be constructive? Or is it not so much stupid as it is bloodthirsty? Or war-mongering? Or war-criminally liable? Seriously, I think the Hague needs to start looking into these jokers that are nothing short of a clear and present danger to the well being of the entire planet.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too

My good friend, the Portuguese doctor, has a post on a recent debate in France, a debate that included the ultra-right-winger Jean Marie le Pen (the post is in Portuguese, with translation provided by Babelfish). The debate, sponsored by Elle magazine, centered on issues of women's rights and the role of women in society. During the course of the debate, on the issue of pregnancy outside marriage, Le Pen offered the idea that masturbation was a possible conception control alternative for women.

You may or may not recall that we once has a Surgeon General in the United States who was raked over the coals for bringing up the "m" word when discussing sexual education. By the right wing.

Apparently Le Pen is so stupid, or ignorant (why not both?) that he has no conception (pun not originally intended, but why not run with it?) that women may just want to have their cake and eat it, too. Being sexual is not something that one turns on and off, a feeling that can pass through the judicious use of fingers or toys.

In the comments, I wrote that Le Pen was one of those people who is so dumb we should actually demand back all the oxygen wasted to keep him alive.

New Creation Day 1: Jesus Has Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!

From the Gospel of St. Luke 24:1-7 (Revised English Bible):
But very early on the first day of the week they came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went inside, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they stood utterly at a loss, suddenly two men in dazzling garments were at their side. They were terrified, and stood with eyes cast down but the men said, 'Why search among the dead for one who is alive? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be given into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and must rise again on the third day.'

It isn't yet 4:30 in the morning here, and the sun isn't even close to rising in my little corner of the world. The Reverend is putting the finishing touches upon her Easter sermon, preparing for Sunrise Service, getting ready for a long day of work and family time. It is all routine, in a way, another Easter, another full day of singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", "He Arose", and preaching a sermon on a topic both familiar and strange. It is the most important single day on the Christian calendar, but familiar for all that.

Are we so jaded by over-exposure that we no longer recognize the utter shock of this event? Are we, like the ladies who went to the tomb to prepare Jesus' body for the long sleep of death, just going about our business, unprepared for the astounding truth that confronts us on this day? Are we, like them, looking for what we do not even understand to be the living among the dead, accustomed as we are to the grim reality of death?

There are moments in our lives that, in retrospect, we grant singular importance - for an older generation it was the moment they heard JFK was shot; for me, it was when I heard Ronald Reagan was shot, then then Pope, the Challenger explosion, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, September 11, 2001; more personal moments such as my first kiss, the first time I lay with a woman, meeting my wife, the birth of my daughters. Of course, they become important because of the emotional impact the events had upon us at the time. Yet all of these, both public and private, share a common trait: all of them involve elements of life with which we are familiar. For all their import, they are not strange or new or without precedent. Even events of historical importance - the Berlin Wall's collapse, Tom Brockaw standing in front of crowds dancing upon it; the Towers burning then collapsing, thousands of people trapped inside dying in those moments caught forever on film and videotape - are not qualitatively different from other moments in history that mark a sudden change. When Chou En Lai told Henry Kissinger that the French Revolution was still an event to be wrestled with, to be understood, he was only indicating that events of historical import have meanings that change over time, and we can never fathom them completely, as long as allow them to live.

"Allow them to live". In truth, it is we who keep these events alive; they do not live in and of and for themselves. My parents get disgruntled by a later generations' insouciance towards Pearl Harbor Day, because they remember the impact it had upon them; for us, it is no longer alive, no longer a "day which shall live in infamy".

Jesus' resurrection, however, is in no need of such assistance. This is an event that carries the weight of its meaning with it through vast distance of time and space and language and culture and confronts us with the strange and awesome and wonderful event that Jesus is alive, never to die again. From this moment forward, nothing will be the same. Life will not be the same. Death will not be the same. Relationships, community, speech, love, politics, human agency - everything from this moment forward is touched by this event. Not just the fact of physical death, but the process of death, the whole emotional, psychological, sociological interweaving of emotions and rituals surrounding this personal and interpersonal event no longer has the last word on us, our endeavors, our hopes, or our fears. We are now confronted with a new reality, a new creation, ruled not by the cycle of life, which is also the cycle of death (Nietzsche was fascinated with it and made it the cornerstone of his own thinking about the world). That circle is now broken, and we are no longer terrorized by the abyss over which we tread, because we are buoyed up by the hope granted us through the resurrection.

Nothing will ever be the same again now. The whole world, and everything that was, is, and ever will be in it has been made again.

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