Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Annual Giving of Thanks

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.... Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

-- Psalm 100:2, 4

ANYA: I love a ritual sacrifice.
BUFFY: It's not really a one of those.
ANYA: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice. With pie.

-- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Pangs" by Jane Espenson
As is my personal Thanksgiving tradition, I would like to give thanks to you, Noble Reader, for reading. I am thankful that you have dropped by; I hope you will come back again.

And this year, I am additionally pausing to be thankful that George W. Bush is no longer the President of my country. A good day to remember that, for all the political frustrations and problems of the present moment, despite all my disappointments with and the manifest inadequacies of our current leadership (and they are many), things have been, quite recently, much, much worse. So thank goodness for that.

Have a joyful Thanksgiving, one and all, however (and whether) you celebrate it, and whomever (and however) you give thanks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quite a Photograph

I hesitated before (re) posting this, since the views expressed in these signs are not my own (although not entirely divorced from my own either). I wouldn't myself say what these two activists are saying. So I don't want to give the impression that I'm posting this to merely, or simply, agree with it.

But I found the photograph very striking, and couldn't get it out of my head. And I think that the message in these signs points to an aspect of the Israel/Palestine situation which is important and under-recognized, a moral dimension which -- along with others -- must be fully absorbed in any just approach to the situation. So I pass it along, not in complete disagreement, not in complete agreement, but as something worth seeing: an important perspective which (partially, over-simplistically) captures an important aspect of the situation.

So, reposted from Mondoweiss, we have:

(Web site of the woman on the left; web site of the man on the right. Photographer unknown)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fragment of an Unfinished Blog Post

...I have my own views on the subject, of course. Surprisingly strong opinions, really, given that it's not an issue that's really directly connected to me in any way. But in addition to views on the subject, I also have meta-views on my views on this subject. Which is to say, I am also strongly of the opinion that anyone seeking any information on this topic would be crazy to ask me, and foolish to listen to what I had to say if they heard it. However strongly I may feel about the subject, I am also clearly not someone with a good evidentiary basis for considering the topic, nor someone who is all that interesting or insightful or even reliable on these sorts of matters.

And why would you trust my evaluations on the topic but not on the meta-topic? Either I am trustworthy, in which case my views on the meta-topic should prevent you from considering my views; or I am not, in which case the entire set should be thrown out. (And yes, I do have meta-meta-views that my meta views are reliable.)

All that said: here's what I think on the matter...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quotes of the Day: Three Links in the Chain of Cultural Transmission

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Do evildoers prosper?
Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.
Jeremiah asks God to drag away his enemies like "sheep for the slaughter."
How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end....
Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.

-- Jeremiah 12:1-4, 10-11 (c. 6th Century B.C.E.)

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum: verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins (1889)

Hey there mister can you tell me
What happened to the seeds I've sown
Can you give me a reason, sir, as to why they've never grown
They've just blown around from town to town
Back out on these fields
Where they fall from my hand
Back into the dirt of this hard land

Well me and my sister
From Germantown we did ride
We made our bed, sir
From the rock on the mountainside
We been blowin' around from town to town
Lookin' for a place to stand
Where the sun burst through the clouds and fall like a circle
A circle of fire down on this hard land

Now even the rain it don't come 'round
Don't come 'round here no more
And the only sound at night's the wind
Slammin' the back porch door
Yeah it stirs you up like it wants to blow you down
Twistin' and churnin' up the sand
Leavin' all them scarecrows lyin' facedown
In the dirt of this hard land

From a building up on the hill
I can hear a tape deck blastin' "Home on the Range"
I can hear them Bar-M choppers
Sweepin' low across the plains
It's me and you, Frank, we're lookin' for lost cattle
Our hooves twistin' and churnin' up the sand
We're ridin' in the whirlwind searchin' for lost treasure
Way down south of the Rio Grande
We're ridin' 'cross that river in the moonlight
Up onto the banks of this hard land

Hey, Frank, won't you pack your bags
And meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall
Just one kiss from you, my brother
And we'll ride until we fall
Well sleep in the fields
We'll sleep by the rivers
And in the morning we'll make a plan
Well if you can't make it stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive if you can
And meet me in a dream of this hard land

-- Bruce Springsteen (1995)
(video here; just the words don't do justice to this last,
since they were made to be sung...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy to Oblige

The world Parker actually wants... is merely a world in which one can walk down an average city street and not be confronted by a 4-year-old in a "Future Porn Star" T-shirt, a world in which most women do not own stripper poles, a world in which most people do not know that sex-equity experts even exist.

-- Profile of Kathleen Parker (via)
I think Kathleen Parker's in luck. I myself, in a lifetime of walking down city streets, have never see a 4-year-old (nor a child of any age) wearing a "future porn star" T-shirt; despite having not looked into the matter, I feel quite certain that most women do not, in fact, own stripper poles (I don't know of anyone who does); and I had remained blissfully unaware of sex-equity experts until I had the misfortune of reading Kathleen Parker sound off about the concept in the above-linked profile. While I admit that my experience may not be typical, my hunch is that Parker's living in her own little utopia here.

I admit, however, that the second list of demands is slightly more problematic:
[The world Parker actually wants is] a world in which most people don't say "vagina" in polite conversation, vice presidents are expected to know something about the country that elected them, abortion is stigmatized but not illegal, and racial profiling is permitted but not celebrated.
Abortion is -- sadly -- terribly stigmatized in this country, but despite recent efforts by our house of representatives, is not quite yet illegal. So Parker's in luck there. On the other fronts, I don't know. Certainly the current vice president knows something about our country -- as did the previous one, although that "something" did not apparently include anything about its constitution nor its ideals. And while I myself personally have no idea how widely "vagina" is said in polite conversation, I suspect that saying it is (like abortion) sadly stigmatized,* so I think Parker's currently safe there too.

But racial profiling is, I have to inform her, not permitted. And based on the evidence of the above linked-profile, it is, indeed, "celebrated" -- at least by "the most widely syndicated female columnist in the nation," Kathleen Parker. So in one respect she has something still to strive for.

* Obligatory quote:
Maude Lebowski: The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.
The Dude: Oh yeah?
Maude Lebowski: Yes, they don't like hearing it and find it difficult to say whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his Johnson.
The Dude: Johnson?
-- The Big Lebowski (1998)