Let us entertain you

27 02 2015

Yes, it’s well over a year out, but I’ma itchin’—itchin‘, I tell you—gas up the theme that’s gonna take us all through the sorry mess that it our presidential campaign season.

(Just what I’m itchin’ is none of yo business.)

Anyway, I thought of “Barn-burner 2016”,  but that’s rather too square-dance-ish, don’t you think? “Flash Mob 2016”? Stale.

I then considered something throwback and classic, but I couldn’t figure out how to whittle down “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” into something both recognizable and workable.

Then I went waaaaay back and classic—Roman Empire back-and-classic—and “Bread and Circuses 2016” is now in the lead.

My only hesitation is that, as a bread-and-roses (good thing!) socialist, the bread-and-circuses (bad thing) bit may be misleadingly close.

Still, it does have a nice ring to it, and it brings to mind bloody gladiatorial combat designed to distract us from what’s really going down behind the velvet curtains.

(She said, rolling her hands over each other. . . .)

Oh, and I could of course deal with the filter issue for “Clusterfuck 2016” thru elision or asterixing, (Clusterfck or Clusterf*ck), but, honestly that word describes so much of our politics that it seems a shame to confine to merely one election cycle.

Anyway. The quest continues.





Wrecking ball*

26 02 2015

So, Company Man Scott** has decided that union-bustin’ = freedom-fightin‘.

In response to a question about how to defeat ISIS/ISIL, he Manfully*** argued that:

“We need have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message that not only will we protect American soil, but…freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need that confidence,” he said. “If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Yes, because union members and protesters are JUST LIKE TERRORISTS.

[redacted curse]

[redacted curse!!!!!!]

[redacted redacted cuuurrrrsssssssseeeeeHOOOOOOooooowwwwlllllll!!!!!!!!!!!}

~~~

*I was initially thinking of Emmylou’s “Wrecking Ball”, but those for Miley Cyrus’s version—“I came in like a wrecking ball”—would work well, too. That video, tho’—huh.

**I do try to be at least somewhat mature in my presidential campaign posts, but as I’ve mentioned, Walker brings out the worst in me. Given the various names/descriptions I had considered before settling on this one (for this post, at least), “Company Man” seems downright neutral. I will try to bring my Howling Badger under control, but please understand that this is as much restraint as I could currently summon. Especially after a shitstorm like this.

***Yeah, yeah, big tough guv then has to whinge (yet again!) about his words being taken out of context and the media’s out to get him, sniffle-whimper-pout. You can take on unions and terrorists, but reporters are apparently too much for you.

****No, I don’t have anything quadruple-asterixed, above, but not for nothin’, I’m still in the market for a good 2016 campaign theme. I was thinking “Clusterfuck 2016”, but I do prefer a title that’s not going to get hung up naughty-words filters.





Love me, love me, say that you love me

23 02 2015

I am all in favor of Rudy Giuliani’s continuing contributions to our nation’s political discourse.

Anything that helps to reveal  what a shit Scott Walker is is allllllll right by me.

~~~

Does this post indicate incipient Walker Derangement Syndrome? Only if he wins, people, only if he wins—and you’d better believe I’m gonna do. . . um . . . something. . . to . . . kneecap his chances.

I really don’t need to spend 4-8 years howling into the wind.





Don’t get your back up over this

17 02 2015

You thought I was exaggerating about that whole Boston-area-get-outta-my-fuckin’-shoveled-park-spot-or-I-WILL-MESS-SHIT-UP bit?

I was not.





Marchons, marchons

16 02 2015

FINALLY.

I’d collated all (+/-) of TNC’s posts on the Civil War, then at some point began annotating the list. There were two large chunks (120+ posts total) which remained naked.

Until today.

Since I didn’t have work for my second job—office was closed for President’s Day—I thought I might as well start backfilling those annotations. I didn’t think I’d finish them, but at some point thought, Ah, what the hell.

I’m sure I’ve missed posts I should have included and included posts I should have missed, and some of my annotations are. . . odd, but the mess is now more or less complete as of today.

~~~

Another reason for doing this might have a little something to do with another bout of self-pique: yesterday I turned a bunch of my dissertation research into printer paper—did I really need to keep a copy of a DOE ELSI Contractor-Grantee Workshop from 1997?—and proceeded to have a mini-meltdown.

Nothing serious, and nothing I haven’t had experienced before.

It happens whenever I confront all of the work I have done and how little I have done with that work. If the paper of all of that research wasn’t wasted, it seems like the research itself was. Yes, I created a dissertation out of all of it, but beyond that, nothing.

Nothing.

The dissertation matters unto itself, but it’s also supposed to serve as the cliff from which one is to dive ever further into the work. And for me, it didn’t: I peered down from different overlooks (my bioethics fellowships), but ultimately backed away.

Reasons, reasons: I had my reasons, but those reasons were no good.

And so, periodically, I am reminded of what I tossed away when I walked away, and not having any good way to deal with that deliberate waste, I stew.

Today, at least, I did something productive—if not with my own work, at least with someone else’s.





Ain’t that America

12 02 2015

Three Muslim students were gunned down by an atheist and somehow the more reassuring story is that the murders were not over religion, but a parking space?





Map of the world

11 02 2015

My medieval-modernity project may have fallen apart, but I’m still hoovering up books about old Europe.

And the words do work for me—I’ve said in the past that I’m a text- rather than visually-oriented person—but sometimes, mmm, sometimes you need a map to make sense.

To cite one example: I just finished John Julius Norwich’s A Short History of Byzantium (great fun: I want to track down the 3-vol. series), and I kept flipping between the copy and the maps at the front of the book to figure out where, exactly, were the boundaries of the empire or the position of yet another battle. It helped, some, but the maps were few and small and I couldn’t always determine where the characters or I were.

So I happened to ask my colleague and friend Jtte. if she had any suggestions for atlases (Jtte. does historical research and has constructed a number of terrific maps for her work), and she immediately said “William Shepherd, Historical Atlas“.

Shepherd constructed his atlas in the early 20th century, so I wouldn’t be surprised if archaeological work in the intervening years might yield different maps, but oh, are these maps beautiful.

Jtte. pointed me to the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at UT-Austin, which includes a section on historical maps, and a link to a 1911 and 1923-26 edition of Shepherd’s work.

Here’s one from the 1920s edition, of Asia Minor:

asia_minor_p20

Reference Map of Asia Minor under the Greeks and Romans

Or this one, of Europe under Rome (I’m finally reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire):

european_provinces_rome

Reference Map of the European Provinces of the Roman Empire

Click to make ’em see-able & zoom-able.

These are gorgeous, and a bit of a mess, but isn’t that exactly what an historical atlas should be?

Happily, the Strand had an 8th edition (1956, with maps added to Shepherd’s final 1929 edition), so I won’t have to go online to see, say, The Growth of Russia in Europe, 1300-1796 or The Ottoman Empire, 1481-1683 or or the Growth of Frankish Power 481-814 or or or. . . .

(Of course, the zoom feature is pretty handy: lifting my glasses and sticking my nose an inch or two from the page isn’t always enough.)

Oh, I am going toss away so many hours leafing through and peering at these maps, and to no discernible productive end whatsoever.

Ain’t knowledge grand?





Better stop sobbing now, v. tl;dr

11 02 2015

If you’re going to hold to any significant political, religious, cultural, or economic commitments, someone else is going to point out the bad shit associated with those commitments.

That’s how it is, so stop whining.





Better stop sobbing now

11 02 2015

I have no sympathy for Christians who whine that President was unfair to Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Not just because I am not a Christian, nor because I disagree more generally with these folks’ politics.

No, the reason for my “get over it” response is their unwillingness to grapple with the violence woven into the history of the belief they hold dear. It’s as if they can only hold to Christianity if Christianity without [recent] flaws.

Oh, wait, that’s pretty much exactly what they mean, even if they didn’t mean to mean it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a couple of posts on the response to Obama’s remarks, as does Jamelle Bouie, and they do a fine job of tag-teaming the No-True-Christian phalanx: here is this example and this example and this example and, oh look, another example of how Christianity was used to justify violence and oppression.

Reference to the historical record is crucial (even if the tres or quinque solas types want to claim history’s got nothin’ on them) if want wants to make or rebut historical claims—that’s kinda the whole point of historical claim-making.

But I want to focus here on the bad faith of those who seek to wash Christianity of its sins: they cannot abide criticism of their faith, not because God will punish them if they don’t savage the critics—I’d think such a position bonkers at best and murderous (see: killers acting to uphold the honor of the Prophet Mohammaed) at worst, but it has its own kind of insane integrity—but because it is “offensive” to and displays “contempt” for Christians.

And, yes, I get why these folks don’t like having the unsavory bits of Christianity against the unsavory bits of Islam—We’re good and they’re bad so how dare you!—but honest to pete, is their faith so thin that it is bruised by mere mention of imperfection?

I’m a pinko, and there has been all sorts of nasty shit—war, oppression, mass murder—done in the name of pinkoism. I can say Oh, but I’m not a Bolshevik/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist, that’s got nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with Real Socialism, but that would properly be understood as a bullshit response.

I am an adherent to a tradition which has all too often failed miserably, murderously, to uphold its promises of liberation and the creation of a truly human society, and it would not be in any way unreasonable for you say, Uhhh, so why do you hold to ideas which have been used to justify those miserable, murderous failures?

And whether or not your motives were bad in asking this, I’d still respond, with both acknowledgement of the flaws in various incarnations of the socialist politics and a defense of the socialism itself—because I am fucking serious about my belief in socialism. As long as I think it possible to avoid or overcome the problems of previous socialist regimes, I will continue to think socialism is a program worth pursuing.

In other words, even though socialism has been flawed six ways to Sunday, I still think there’s something there worth hanging on to. I take socialism as it is, and as it has been, and what I think it could be. It ain’t perfect, but it’s all right.

Now, I understand that it’s easier to hold to imperfection in political than in religious programs, and my general sense that, well, to quote Leonard Cohen, there is a crack in everything, means that I can still see that’s how the light gets in. I don’t require perfection because I don’t think it’s necessary (which is also handy, given that I don’t think it’s possible).

Still, even you do believe that Christ were perfect, and that Christianity is the only path to salvation, it’s not clear why you can’t accept the bountiful historical evidence that that belief in something perfect has nonetheless been used to justify war, oppression, and mass murder. It’s a hard acceptance, sure, but if you want to argue on behalf of the Christian movement within history, then you have to engage that history, not wave it away or scourge those who dare to refer to it.

Again, radical sola types may not bother with history one way or another—all that matters is God, and we can’t really expect much of humans, etc.—but those who are incensed at the mere suggestion that Christian history might fairly be compared to Islam’s history clearly do believe that this history—the actions of Christians in the world—matters.

So to those who think history matters but are unwilling to look closely at it, I can only ask, Why not?

Because if you cannot accept the imperfections of Christianity in this world and still have faith in it, then I question whether you can have any faith at all.





For your ribbons and bows, 17

8 02 2015

You might think this story were from The Onion. You would be wrong.

Princess Bedrooms

The opening:

When their new $70,000 princess-themed playroom is finished in March, Stella, 4 years old, and Presley, 2½, will have a faux gem-encrusted performance stage, a treehouse loft, and a mini-French cafe. A $20,000 custom carpet with colorful pathways will lead the girls to the various play areas.

“It’s going to be a pink explosion, with hearts and bows and crowns and tassels,” says their mother, Lindsay Dickhout, chief executive of a company that makes tanning products. The playroom will occupy about 1,500 square feet on the ground floor of the family’s 7,000-square foot home in Newport Beach, Calif.

I’d like to note that my apartment is about 400 square feet. I’d also like to note that if I could afford it, I’d love a bigger place (my id: MORE SPACE! MORE SPACE! MORE SPACE!) but 1500 sq feet seems extravagant (not that I’d turn that down, mind you. . .) and 7000, well, that might as well be 70,000. Jeez.

Onward:

Dahlia Mahmood, whose company Dahlia Designs has offices in Los Angeles and Ashburn, Va., created a $200,000 princess-fairy themed room for a 2-year-old girl in Virginia five years ago. She built a castle-shaped bed with turrets in which all the girl’s princess dolls could be stored. The room has its own entrance with a tiny door, too small for adults but just right for the little girl. Hand-painted bathroom walls were accented with Swarovski crystals.

When the girl turned 4, Ms. Mahmood returned to the project and redesigned the room, removing portions of the castle, expanding the bed to full size and installing two large, molded, fiberglass trees outfitted with twinkle lights, she said.

Now, why do I think this is more about the parents than the children? Perhaps this:

While the family was out of their Millstone Township, N.J., home, Ms. Blum Schuchart went in and installed the “royal prince nursery.” The room, which Ms. Urs estimated cost between $15,000 and $18,000, included a crib with blue satin ribbons, a Rococo-style dresser painted in silvery-gold and elaborate tufted blue curtains. The family saw the room for the first time when they came home from the hospital with their new baby, Luke.

“The boy’s room is very regal. I’ll be heartbroken when Luke wants it to be a big-boy Dallas Cowboys room,” despite her love for the team, Ms. Urs said.

And status, of course. It’s all about status:

Some companies say that when it comes to princess décor, Marie Antoinette-level pricing works best.

PoshTots, a Chesapeake, Va.-based online retailer of children’s furniture, sells expensive items including $35,000 princess carriage beds. A few years ago, the company introduced a $3,900 princess bed in the hope it would find more customers than the company’s nearly $10,000 option. But sales of the cheaper product were a dud. “If our customer wants to go princess, they’ll go for the $10,000 bed,” said Andrea Edmunds, PoshTots’ director of marketing.

Some parents do have a glimmer that indulging every offhand desire of the tot set just might have adverse long-term consequences, but one mother bravely waves aside such concerns:

“They have their whole lives to think practically and be efficient in the real world. This is about being creative,” said Ms. Dickhout. “I’m not at all worried about them becoming princesses.”

~~~

h/t Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution