Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Today's Political Moment #4: My Political Orientation.


There are "centrist Democrats" and "moderate Republicans," and "independents." Under almost all circumstances I'd vote for whoever seemed best qualified for the job, but in essence I'd drectibe myself as a "centrist socialist."

I don't believe in proletarian militancy as the vehicle for worldwide reform which rules out communism, nor do I take Marx quite literally enough to be an unabashed socialist. At the same time, social democracy seems too much policy compromise... too much dance and not enough music... to really evoke a holistic political perspective.

Essentially, I believe that the individual is an entity that exists and that society is an entity that exists, but that their definitions are so inextricably bound together that mutual consideration is necessary.

On the one hand, a legitimate democracy recognizes its citizens as equal. This necessitates that it must act on behalf of larger numbers, since to do otherwise is to impose an artificial status upon minorities.

But this observation is where socialist governments have run into trouble and where communist governments have become tyrannical... because of problems of relativism and prejudice in determining what actions are in whose mutual benefits, a state acting without its own checks (a libertarian might say, for example, in the form of property rights, or a social conservative would argue for legislating morality), is just as subject to inefficientcy, corruption, and eventually, despotism, as the corporate entities it curtails and suppresses.

On the other hand, a classically conservative argument goes that the best way to define and preserve the rights of a group is to define and preserve the rights of the individual.

And again, there is merit here, but it also runs into issues. Since the people in a democratic system define the rules of governance, and rights protect individual property and autonomy, there is an inevitable (and empirically observed) accumulation of power in the hands of a few: if nothing else to determine that availability and disemination of information which will, again, cycle into peoples decisions and reinforce benefits for the same groups. Were this to not affect the quality of life, it would be a valid question whether this was even an issue, but we need not consider this question since the bias obviously does affect the quality of life. Moreover, democratic autonomy does not guarantee individual good judgment any more than state control precludes beneficience; automomy spreads control among empowered individuals but does not guarantee wisdom. This is observed in any number of democratically elected predatory regimes around the world.

In short, there is no silver bullet.

I am not classically conservative because I believe that, inasmuch as "meddling" and inequity is inevitable, a government is the agent with the most resources and incentive to redress inequities.

I also think that communist governments have a wretched track record with their own ideology, and that while classic capitalist nations to a decent job protecting the middle and upper strata of their societies, they have very little incentive (the cornerstone of competitive self-betterment) to improve, and do so only gradually and under duress.

I think the nations with the best track records for civil liberties, uniform and high standards of living, and reasonable foreign policy have what could be described as "social democracies": Canada, Scandenavia, and the Low countries as examples. However, these nations are all industrial and typically small and homogenous in population. There are substantial physical and cultural obstacles to establishing such criteria throughout larger prosperous industrial nations such as the U.S. and Western Europe, much less in the developing world.

Still, it makes a good goal.

- I support subsidized health care, education, housing, and an expansion of welfare.
- I believe that where these programs have failed in the U.S. it is due to a lack of supported inquiry and sustained, sophisticated development.
- I support civil liberties against civil curtailment with regards to supplication of the burden of proof.
- I also don't buy that civil liberties must be always sacrificed for momentary expediencies; often there is a possible other sacrifice that is viewed by empowered groups as less expendible than civil liberty. Most often, the liberties sacrificed are not essential to such groups.
- I don't believe that ideologically motivated socialist movements have the right short circuit legislative means to arrive at well-intentioned ends. I think they are as responsible for bloody hands as anyone else.
- I don't think that cool heads always prevail; they do more often however. So I'm skeptical of revolution, to say the least.

In short: I'm a Centrist Socialist.


Today's Political Moment #3: Flint and Poverty.


This is Booty.

Behind Detroit.



Today's Political Moment #2: War and Terrorism


I've had a number of thoughts bubbling up and out for awhile, and the best opportunity to test them was actually last week, when I got into a rich discussion/argument with the unlikely combination of my brother, parents, aunt, grandma, and two family friends. I think this richness had to do with the continuum not of political philosophy but attitude, ranging from bile and vinegar to sugary optimism. But most of all, the question of agreement or disagreement seemed to be besides the point (while we were agreeing and disagreeing)... the emphasis just seemed to be on understanding something better.

Of course, the topic was terrorism, the Iraq war, and whatnot. Here's my take, and I would be delighted if this bloomed into an actual discussion, although I wouldn't immediately blame someone who thought that this conversation has been conversed to death, at least in the conventional ways.

1. One person argued that Islam is an inherently and objectively more violent religion; that the manner, degree, and extent of violence perpetrated by Muslims has roots in the doctrines and traditions of their religion.

I disagree. I have read the Qu'ran, the Hadiths, and the Bible. Comparing the two main documents, both contain moments when acts of violence are divinely condoned as well as explicit exhortations to behave with neighborly pacifism. Dogmatically, there is nothing tying Islam to violence more than Christianity.

This point can be broadened. Of all world religions, Buddhism emphasizes peaceful conduct most directly and continuously, yet Buddhists have been involved in acts of violence just as severe as other major religions. Moreover, sectarian violence seems to be just as rife as interfaith conflict, as demonstrated in Iraq today and a decade ago in the former Yugoslavia.

And, of course, Christianity has a history at least as bloody (certainly numerically speaking) as any other faith.

My point isn't to condemn any particular faith, but the most compelling evidence suggests to me that when there is a strong incentive to violence, religious arguments tend to be sidelined altogether, unless they can be used to justify violence. It's a clear case of selective interpretation and prooftexting.

2. It has also occured to me, with regard to suicide attacks, that it is not the suicide we find so repellant but the targeting of civilians.

Self-sacrifice is, for the most part, regarded as admirable. I don't have to rigorously defend this because there is evidence everywhere; the Purple Heart is one of the most respected awards one can receive in our military, those who lose their lives in the line of duty are routinely elevated to "hero" status, and in films from Braveheart and Apocalypse Now to Casablanca, the climax occurs in an instance of self-sacrifice.

On the other hand, most of us have a somewhat close knowledge of the holocaust and at least a vague awareness of the genocide of the Native Americans; the emphasis in these histories is that genocide was perpetrated on those who 1) were unable to defend themselves and 2) in many cases did not seek out conflict.

Hence, when we deplore terrorism, to the extent that we can look beyond racist or religious prejudice, it is not the self-sacrifice or even the radical vigilantism of terrorism we object to, but the fact that the toll is executed upon civilians.

I think this is a healthy vantage point; I agree that any "just war" (neglecting any messes there for the moment) might be best viewed as a social extension of "self defense." At the same time, I think that the U.S. specifically and the western world in general have been conveniently hypocritical. Unless the highest priority in any war objective is protecting civilian population, the credibility of the war is sacrificed. It is useful to keep in mind that there the primary difference between collateral damage and an act of terrorism is not a question of life or death at all, but of political fallout.

3. The other face of #2, however, is that terrorism is murder. Moreover, if we must be more careful in protecting civilian life, such considerations need not apply to armed antagonists at war with us.

In other words, I'm not a pacifist.

4. #3 does not mean, however, that civil rights ought to be compromised.

Inostensibly, we are at war (any war) to preserve our civil, sane society. If just war is an extension of self-defence, than civil rights are the domestic extension of the same principle; war is a state's obligation to preserve its people from hostile action abroad, and civil rights are a state's obligation to protect its people from discriminatory internal elements.

Compromising civil rights to win a war is essentially the same as neglecting foreign civilian safety; it undermines the credibility of the action.

5. #4 seems to take a hard line, though, which I don't want to do. Sometimes, a limited compromise might be necessary if it is rigorously discussed and analyzed and strenuously monitored.

Abraham Lincoln is known to have suspended habeas corput during the Civil War. I don't know the pressing need in that instance, but I would stop at saying that there is no legitimate case to be made of a suspension of some civil liberties.

In the present case, however, with a cowed media, a secretive executive branch riddled with contradictory policy and all branches of government dominated by political ideology supported by a scarce half of the nation (if that), I don't see any evidence of rigorous discussion or monitoring.

The burden of proof or need and extent should fall upon those who would curtail liberties.

6. To return, briefly, to the large situation, the War on Terror, for the record I was part of the 12% that did not think Bush was doing a good job in the days after September 11th. That said, I cautiously agreed with the suggestion that the War on Terror should be a "new kind" of war.

As described, however, I believed that war would take a very different form than it has. It would be single minded in its pursuit of one objective (eliminating terrorism). Since it would need to operate in many quarters, particularly in developing and politically unstable nations, the effort would work hard for international consensus and support. An emphasis on intelligence would allow for a highly selective determination of targets based on the most comprehensive threats, and most importantly, an emphasis on international civilian rights and outreach would diminish the attraction of terrorism to potential recruits.

But that's not the war we got, is it?

Instead, we are fighting a highly conventional war of troops and tanks for a multitude of (mostly unacknowledged) political and economic reasons based on uncertain evidence in a part of the world where the multivalence of our actions energizes the base that terrorists draw from. This war has isolated the U.S. from the international community as well as marginalized our allies in the Middle East and encouraged militant factions. At home, we have compromised our own civil liberties under very dubious arguments and sacrificed the credibility of our efforts.

7. To address conservatives, there is certainly no point in "lying back and taking it." But anyone who persists in denying these very fundamental objections to American foreign policy (stated by those wiser than me) is either failing to closely consider the policies themselves or truly, in the real sense of the word, "living with a pre-9/11 mindset."

We can't shoot all the bad guys, this is the world we live in, and we have to deal with it.

Economic expansion does not mix with cultural isolation.

Bush's war is, in fact, no different from any other war ever waged.


Today's Political Moment #1: Jon Benet


As profoundly dumb as I usually find Glenn McCoy's comic (ie. wallowing in the mud of punditry), he probably had the best evocation of the media and the Jon Benet case. Which is here at least for today (since I couldn't find a permanent link to this strip).


Gloamane 7, 29.


- So Jess and I went to the Bronx yesterday. The game was rained out and the rest of the series sold-out. So we'll have to wait until next year to see the Tigers play the Yanks. :(

- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (who wrote Frankenstein) and Huey Long (who wrote that "when Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag"). And Warren Buffett.

Pup Ponders the Heat Death of the Universe.

Between ripping, freezing, crunching, a vacuum metastability disaster, and other alternatives, what would you prefer for the final fate of the universe?


Tuesday, August 29, 2006



Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb?: MONDAY MORNING MANAGER: Week 21: Let's Hope Tigers-Yankees Series Doesn't Mirror 1961 Debacle.

Detroit Free Press: DREW SHARP: Tigers-Yankees series might be fall prelude.

Detroit Free Press: ACT II: DETROIT AT NEW YORK: Stage is set.

This has been a public service announcement.


Gloamane 6, 29.


- Yesterday after work I bought a book by each of my instructors: Sky Lounge by Mark Bibbins and Jesus Saves by Darcey Steinke. Then I went to the start of the school year reception at the 11th Street building, and briefly to an after party a block from Union Square.
- Today Jess and I watch the Tigers destroy the Yankees in the Bronx. I'm going to wear my hat. We'll see if I'm too bruised to type tomorrow...

- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Charles Kettering, Ingrid Bergman, Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, and Michael Jackson.

"I never could stand losing. Second place didn't interest me. I had a fire in my belly." - Ty Cobb.

What's your favorite surprise to discover inside a chocolate cupcake?


Monday, August 28, 2006

Gloamane 5, 29.


I'm back!
Look for updated blog images/background by tomorrow.
Look for a number of other updates to Here Is No Why by Friday.
Expect a major expansion/reconfiguration of the site for my thesis project by mid- to late-September.

There have been many developments on the basis of the work I've done in the last week, which I'll get into later.
However, I do think I've settled upon a name: Hungry Rats.
The story is divided into three parts:
Hungry Rats and Fat Rats
Hungry Rats at the Devil's Ranch
Hungry Rats, Adrift on the Mainstream

It appears that we may have a big tropical storm on hand. Ernesto may or may not be a Hurrican when it makes landfall in the U.S., and the area of impact has essentially been narrowed to Florida generally. It's too soon to tell, of course, but during a year that predicted exceptionally high hurrican activity, the main story of this summer's weather is likely to be the heat waves.
It's been one year now since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. The next six days will be one year anniversaries of New orleans residents stranded without food and water. Fatalities to date include over 1,836. If the number of missing (who've been "missing," mind you, for a year now) are added, the figure rises to 2,541. That is, the death toll from Katrina approaches that of 9/11, yet what broad changes have we seen in U.S. policy as a result? When do we beging the War on Dangerous Weather?
Furthermore, my mind is called to the 180,000 - 200,000 killed in the South Asian tsunami of 2004, and the ten million who die of starvation and malnutrition each year around the world.

Our priorities are all mixed up.

But, the weather. The rain is going away from the midwest and northeast. The northwest is cooling down.

I haven't been following this week, although I heard we lost pretty badly to the Rangers, Bush's shitty team, which is a shame. We're still five games ahead in the Central Division, and the competition is from the Twins and not the White Sox, which is nice for a change.
Tomorrow, Jess and I are going to see the Tigers at Yankee Stadium. I will be wearing my ballcap!

- AUGUST - Is the month of Vacation.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Lot's of writers: Goethe, le Fanu, Tolstoy. Shania Twain. Belatedly, Jen K.

It takes too long to compile.
Find it out here:

Did you know anyone involved in Hurricane Katrina? What have they been doing since?


Friday, August 18, 2006

Behold! Pines, Spruces, Firs.


I'm off for the next ten days, at Jeff's wedding, then hunting the elusive 19th-century serial killer lumberjack.

I'll be back at the end of August with chilling stories and jaw-dropping photographs.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fun with Demographics: Life Expectancies Around the World


From Facts-on-File. Estimated life expectancy from birth, calculated as a median of the total population.

EUROPE: Western Europe: 78
AMERICAS: North America: 77
EUROPE: Northern Europe: 77
EUROPE: Southern Europe: 77
AMERICAS: Central America: 73
ASIA: East Asia: 72
AMERICAS: South America: 70
AMERICAS: Caribbean: 68
EUROPE: Eastern Europe: 68
ASIA: Western Asia: 68
AFRICA: Northern Africa: 66
ASIA: Southeast Asia: 66
ASIA: South Central Asia: 61
AFRICA: Southern Africa: 52
AFRICA: Western Africa: 51
AFRICA: Eastern Africa: 50
AFRICA: Central Africa: 48

It's tempting to read too much into a simple chart like this; for example, every region includes a number of individual nations and hundreds of millions to over a billion people.
In some cases, individual nations drastically effect the results. In the case of Oceania for example, Australia (79) balances against dozens of small Pacific archipalagae (~upper 60s) to create an artificial "median" that suggests a society less prosperous/healthy than most of Europe, but more prosperous than most of the Americas. China alone almost obliterates huge discrepancies with Japan and Mongolia, which represent a 13 year spread themselves. And the fact that East Asia is ten times as populous as Southern Africa cannot avoid distortion. Lastly, some of the regional designations seem arbitrary. For example, the United Kingdom was put together with the Scandenavian nations in Northern Europe as opposed to with France, Germany, and the rest of Western Europe. From the standpoint of culture, health, history and politics, this seems erroneous.

All that aside, however, it is possible to see that there is a substantial regional bias in life expectancy; that despite whatever counterbalances there are between the more and less prosperous nations in any one region, there is still a sharp regional difference in standard of livings. The top three regions are all within a year of each other, for example, and when oceans are included, are coterminous. Africa, on the other hand, exclusively occupies the four lowest ranking positions, with four out of five of her regions represented, and a nine year spread between the median life expectancy of the fourth and fifth ranked regions.

The total spread, from Western Europe to Central Africa is thirty years. The average resident of Central Africa will live less than 62% as long as the average resident of Western Europe.


Lauras 25, 29.


- TIGERS - I know it's not Monday, but at this moment they're poised to sweep Boston, and worst-case scenario, they've still won the series.

- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Elvis, Madonna, and Becky!

Gate in Persepolis.

You have the opportunity to mastermind a ten-band festival (with three mainstage acts) with the sole purpose of being a cultural watershed. Who do you put on the bill, and what will be the first venue? What will you call your festival?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Places I Want to Live: The B-Sides.


When I started the list I posted yesterday, I was going stream-of-consciousness and actually came up with 190. Then I cut the list down to 100. So here are the others; all places I'd like to live, albeit not in my top 100.

101. Flint, MI, USA: Westside
102. Flint, MI, USA: Carriage Town
103. Flint, MI, USA: Downtown
104. Detroit, MI, USA: East Side
105. Muskegon, MI, USA
106. Grand Traverse County in Michigan
107. Marquette, MI, USA
108. Cleveland, OH, USA
109. Chicago, IL, USA: Uptown
110. Chicago, IL, USA: Roseland
111. Chicago, IL, USA: Oakland
112. Chicago, IL, USA: Jacowo (Avondale)
113. Chicago, IL, USA: Andersonville
114. Chicago, IL, USA: South Deering
115. Gary, IN, USA
116. St. Louis, MA, USA
117. Omaha, NE, USA
118. The Badlands in SD, USA
119. Ponca City, OK, USA
120. New York City, NY, USA: Inwood
121. New York City, NY, USA: Alphabet City
122. Atlantic City, NJ, USA
123. Boston, MA, USA
124. Baltimore, MD, USA
125. Charleston, SC, USA
126. Pensacola, FL, USA
127. Corpus Christi, TX, USA
128. Austin, TX, USA
129. Northeast TX, USA
130. Albuquerque, NM, USA
131. Las Vegas, NV, USA
132. Portland, OR, USA
133. San Francisco, CA, USA
134. Fresno, CA, USA
135. Fairbanks, AK, USA
136. Barrow, AK, USA
137. Honolulu, HI, USA
138. Vancouver, BC, Canada
139. Yellowknife, NT, Canada
140. Saskatoon, SK, Canada
141. Winnipeg, MB, Canada
142. Toronto, ON, Canada
143. Montreal, QC, Canada
144. Halifax, NS, Canada
145. Tijuana, Mexico
146. Mèrida, Mexico
147. Belize City, Belize
148. Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic
149. Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
150. Port-au-Prince, Haiti
151. Guatemala City, Guatemala
152. Sabo, the Netherlands Antilles
153. Caracas, Venezuela
154. The Amazon Basin in Brazil
155. The Pampas in Argentina
156. Maputo, Mozambique
157. Tunis, Tunisia
158. Cardiff, Wales
159. The Midlands in England
160. Rekjavik, Iceland
161. Languedoc in France
162. Vilnius, Lithuania
163. Warsaw, Poland
164. Budapest, Hungary
165. Ljubjana, Slovenia
166. Sarajevo, Bosnia
167. Dubrovnik, Croatia
168. Florence, Italy
169. Milan, Italy
170. Palermo, Italy
171. Madrid, Spain
172. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
173. Hamburg, Germany
174. T'Bilisi, Georgia
175. The Punjab in India
176. Colomba, Sri Lanka
177. Bangkok, Thailand
178. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
179. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
180. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
181. Singapore
182. The Island of Kyushu, Japan
183. The Island of Hokkaido, Japan
184. Taipei, Taiwan
185. Sydney, Australia
186. Around Ayers Rock, Australia
187. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
188. Federated States of Micronesia
189. Wellington, New Zealand
190. South Georgia


Lauras 24, 29.


- TODAY - is the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Napoleon Bonaparte, Leon Theremin, and Oscar Romero.

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

The Evil Duke Glasnost has savaged your garden, murdered your pet snail, stonen the jewles of Karmeikos, and publicly impugned your honor! What do you do?


Monday, August 14, 2006

My list (for the next five minutes).


(Chronological order)
1. Flint, MI, USA: East Village
2. Flushing, MI, USA
3. Chicago, IL, USA: Hyde Park
4. Chicago, IL, USA: Humboldt Park
5. Flint, MI, USA: Eastside
6. Chicago, IL, USA: McKinley Park
7. Chicago, IL, USA: Edgewater Beach
8. Brooklyn, NY, USA: Fort Greene

Assuming safety, security, and the opportunity to explore:

(Ordered by nation and continent, not preference)
9. Flint, MI, USA: Mott Park
10. Zanesville, OH, USA
11. Detroit, MI, USA: Southwest Side
12. New Orleans, LA, USA
13. Seattle, WA, USA
14. Placencia, Belize
15. Cairo, Egypt
16. Dublin, Ireland
17. London, England
18. Paris, France
19. Ploiesti, Romania
20. Rome, Italy
21. Athens, Greece
22. Jerusalem, Israel
23. Baghdad, Iraq
24. Calcutta, India
25. Beijing, China
26. Tokyo, Japan

(Ordered by nation and continent, not preference)
27. Saginaw, MI, USA
28. Hamtramck, MI, USA
29. Calumet, MI, USA
30. Chicago, IL, USA: Rogers Park
31. Chicago, IL, USA: Pullman
32. Kansas City, MA, USA
33. The Black Hills in SD, USA
34. The Bronx, NY, USA
35. Pittsburgh, PA, USA
36. Wheeling, WV, USA
37. Washington, DC, USA
38. Miami, FL, USA
39. Yazoo City, MS, USA
40. Iota, LA, USA
41. Denver, CO
42. Salt Lake City, UT
43. Yellowstone National Park in WY, USA
44. Reno, NV
45. Yosemite National Park in CA, USA
46. Los Angeles, CA, USA
47. Hawaii Island in HI, USA
48. Anchorage, AK, USA
49. Iqalui, NU, Canada
50. Mexico City, Mexico
51. Havana, Cuba
52. San Juan, Puerto Rico
53. Cuzco, Peru
54. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
55. Sao Paolo, Brazil
56. Buenos Aires, Argentina
57. Patagonia in Argentina
58. Bamako, Mali
59. Lagos, Nigeria
60. Nairobi, Kenya
61. The Namib Desert in Namibia
62. Zanzibar, Tanzania
63. Cape Town, South Africa
64. The Burren in County Clare, Ireland
65. Stockholm, Sweden
66. Tallinn, Estonia
67. G'dansk, Poland
68. Prague, The Czech Republic
69. Berlin, Germany
70. Seville, Spain
71. Naples, Italy
72. Bucharest, Romania
73. Cluj, Romania
74. Iasi, Romania
75. Constanta, Romania
76. Maramures in Romania
77. St. Petersburg, Russia
78. Moscow, Russia
79. The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia
80. Istanbul, Turkey
81. Beirut, Lebanon
82. Medina, Saudi Arabia
83. Tehran, Iran
84. Karachi, Pakistan
85. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
86. The Region of Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan and India
87. Mumbai, India
88. Dhaka, Bangladesh
89. Jakarta, Indonesia
90. Tibet
91. Hong Kong, China
92. Shanghai, China
93. Seoul, South Korea
94. Manilla, Philippines
95. Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
96. The Pitcairn Islands
97. Uummannaq, Greenland
98. Tristan da Cunha
99. The McMurdo Base, Antarctica
100. The South Pole Base, Antarctica

Where would you most like to accompany me?
Where least?
What most intrigues you?
What am I awful for having left off?

This is much fun.


Lauras 23, 29.


- LIGHT BLOGGING - There will probably be few substantive posts this week and none the next; I'm preparing for and then executing a trip to my brother-in-law's wedding and then a week in Michigan researching my thesis project.

- HUE AND TERROR - It will hopefully be a week of hue and terror, since I will be alternately in Flint and the middle-of-nowhere, studying serial killers and evil ex-lumberjacks. The focus of this search will be James Carr, a "blood stained and filthy soul" who introduced slavery to Clare, Michigan at his "Devil's Ranch Stockage," and Maggie Duncan, his lover, a madame with icy eyes of death. Oooh. I'm gretting creeped out already. There's a lot of alleged documentation of these events, but almost nobody knows of them, because they all went down in Clare, MI in the 1870s...

- WEATHER - The Northeast, at least, enjoyed a perfect weekend; blue skies, warm air, cool breezes, perfect. This will be "disrupted" today by a heat spike to the upper eighties, followed by storms tonight, and more niceness tomorrow. Ouch. The midwest is going to get some storms and rains, and the south and west will continue to be unbearably hot. A non-tropical low is presently fluttering a few hundred miles off of the Georgia coast; it could either curve south towards Florida, north to the Carolinas, or northeast into the Atlantic, depending on how pressure centers move. It won't, however, pack any Hurricane-caliber punch.

- TIGERS - Glum. The White Sox just swept the series they hosted at Comisky against the Tigers. This is important, because it has narrowed the gap between the two teams a mere 5.5 games. While they are still separated by almost two series, the Tigers are going up against the Yankees, the Red Sox, and more of the White Sox in the next couple weeks; further decisive performances by the White Sox could pose a challenge.
Does this mean that the Tigers are unlikely to lose their playoff spot? Most likely not. At .650, the Tigers are well ahead of everyone else, meaning even if the White Sox did win the Central division, Detroit would probably get the playoff spot. More to the point, the South Side pulled a similar stunt last year, when they turned extended losing streaks (just late week they were all but tied with the Twins) into a blitz toward the playoffs. It's also worth noting that the Tigers have only been swept twice now this season; both times, it was the White Sox.
I was happy to see the White Sox win last year, and I'm glad they're still playing strong. I just hope it doesn't go to anyone's head; in Chicago, bursts of glory are typically followed by century-long droughts, and that could be said of more than a couple teams.

- AUGUST - is Admit You're Happy month.
- TODAY - is National Code Talkers day.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Steve Martin, Gary Larson, Magic Johnson, and Halle Barry.

CBC News: Mexican recount begins as protests expand.
BBC News: Chad and Sudan resume relations.
BBC News: 'Airlines terror plot' disrupted.
BBC News: China typhoon sparks mass exodus.
New York Times: Cease-Fire Begins After a Day of Fierce Attacks.

Draw up a list, not to exceed one-hundred items, of places you would like to live before you die, living defined as residing for at least three months. You must include places you have already lived.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #37.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 6, Sentence 3:

Painting became the expressive use of color, line, and volume as it addressed the demands of bringing working space to the flatness of the canvas.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lauras 20, 29.


- AUGUST - Is the month of the Grateful Dead.


What's your favorite song, Deadhead?


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #36


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 6, Sentence 2:

Ignoring the artists' claims for the semantic significance of their formal experiments, Clement Greenberg cast them as seeking autonomous, self-contained states earned by following the Kantian imperative to concentrate on the properties distinctive to the medium.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lauras 19, 29.


- AUGUST - is Cataract Awareness month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Antonio Banderas for real (thanks for nothing, Wikipedia).

.:: beedogs ::.

Wow, not one QotD response in two days. You sure do hate those books. Let's try something a little less highbrow. Which popular comedian would you most like to keelhaul?


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #35.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 6, Sentence 1:

Second, the versions of modernism reconstructed after World War II in both painting and literature were as tepid as surrealism was radical.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Adventure in Old-School Hip Hop.


During the month of Lumas (June 23 - July 22), I began an exploration of Hip Hop. I had three goals:

#1. To listen to a broad spectrum Old School Hip Hop (pre-1985).
#2. To listen to a broad spectrum from the Golden Age (1985-1993).
#3. To take in all four elements (DJing, MCing, B-Boying, and graffiti).

This was, perhaps, over-ambitious, but the divides between the goals are somewhat hazy and arbitrary, so I erred on the side of definition. As it was I wish I would have deemphazied some of #1 (Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang) in favor of some of #2 (Big Daddy Kane, etc.). I only dabbled in #3, but I've got some prior knowledge of all three, and anyway, I'm living in the birthplace of all these things. When my pocketbook got low, I made it up by listening to some Beastie Boys I already had.

Hopefully I'll make this up at a later date.

Here's, then, what I took in:

  • Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Rock

  • Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill

  • Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique

  • Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

  • Beastie Boys, Ill Communication

  • Beastie Boys, Hello Nasty

  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Adventures on the Wheels of Steel: The Best Of

  • Kurtis Blow, The Best Of

  • Kurtis Blow Presents the History of Hip Hop, vol. 2

  • Kurtis Blow Presents the History of Hip Hop, vol. 3

  • LL Cool J, All World: The Best Of

  • LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out

  • Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

  • Run DMC, Greatest Hits

  • Sugar Hill Gang, The Best Of

My favorites of the early old school, besides Grandmaster Flash and Bambaataa, which are obvious, were the Sequence and the Funky Four + One More. But Public Enemy was the greatest discovery in this round.


Lauras 18, 29.



- AUGUST - Is the month of Vision & Learning.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Whitney Houston and Grandma Coyne.

Moosebeck Hideaway: The Catskill foothills, where I wish I was right now.

No takers on the book meme? That's a shame. Come on, I'll give you one more day.


1,000 POSTS!


Blue Skies Falling has finally reached 1,000 posts on the long walk from February, 2004!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #34.


Hey! Look what I found!

This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 7:

And modernism's insistence on refined, concentrated intelligence seems better suited for repressing poetic logic than for making it a social force.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lauras 17, 29.


- AUGUST - is National Inventors' Month.
- TONIGHT - is Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbors' Porch Night.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Antonio Banderas, and Amber, and the Wolf Baron.

"Anyone who has got a book collection and a garden wants for nothing."
- Cicero

I would be quite pleased for people to do the book meme below. It was a lot of fun.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Arithmetic Sequence 3: Flint.


Andy Heller recently wrote a galvinizing (literally; he supposedly got a ton of letters in response) column about Flint's recent spate of drive-bys here.

Here is my letter to him, and single qualification:


Somehow, on a first pass, I missed your recent column about the Grand Blanc drive-bys. But I read about it in this most recent column and went back. Good work. You didn't have to work to set up your metaphor or spend pages after the fact explaining it; it's an comparison that probably occurs to many people frequently but doesn't make it into print and around, opening up chances for debate and consideration, very often.

I'm going to post this and a link on my blog, just FYI.

I do have one thought however... I agree that the problem rests inside peoples homes and heads. I support more police and tougher gun laws; anything that helps, helps, and the numbers back that up. But fundamentally, I think that you're right: the problem goes deeper, and requires a deeper solution.

About two years ago I emailed you and tussled (mainly using some ancient examples) about your comments on rap music. I've learned more since then, and I want to take another stab at it. The times you mention, of course, when things were simpler, better discipline, more accountability between and within families, were also marked by some widespread injustices. Flint didn't get rid of racist housing compacts until the late 60s, for example.

Now I want to solve the issues we have with violence, but appeals to a "simpler," "more accountable" time aren't going to cut it. Part of the problem is that simplicity overlooks shades of gray. Segregation, for example, both economic and literal, postponed problems for a long time... we didn't avoid those problems by virtue of a more just society; we ignored them as long as we could. Any solution has to have its eyes on the future, because the past was only so simple because, on some level, it was neglectful and refused to be complicated.

Which is again why I come back to rap music. Hip hop has galvinized black youth in particular, and arguably youth in general more broadly than any other cultural movement since the advent of Rock N'Roll. That ride, as I understand it, was pretty bumpy as well. By condemming the "rap culture," you're painting a whole scene with one undeserved brush. Rap is not a genre filled with mysogeny and violence, but an evolution of Jamaican music with a break-emphasis. Rather, mysogeny and violence were a way to comercially market rap for a decade; a trend that has been out of vogue through most of the nation for quite some time. Flint is no longer the rule, in this regard, but the exception.

I don't think the mainstream media is solely responsible for the popularity of gangsta rap, but I do think that by neglecting to make careful and important distinctions, (ie. acknowledging the rap that helped birth techno in Detroit and pushed Atlanta past the feuding coasts vs. the gangsta rap that you *really* deplore) too often the media dismisses a whole youth cultural movement that *could*, and *must* be a part of any solution.

In this case, I've read your very persuasive column, but I still find that it unecessarily alienates a whole generation of readers who could probably benefit from your argument otherwise.

Just my two cents,



Reading Meme.


I've been tagged by Sumara.

1. One book that changed my life:
Les Misèrables, by Victor Hugo. It moved me; it also informed me for the first time that a novel can strive to contain and encompass (and be encompassed by) everything in the world.

2. One book I've read more than once:
The Empty Space, by Peter Brook.
I've read it five times between 1995 and today. It's a theater book that's given me the best advice not only for theater, but writing, reading, politics, and life.

3. One book I'd want on a desert island:
The Bible. In addition to being the cornerstone of my faith, it's not something that one skims through in a day, and it can be read on multiple levels. That is, it could last me a good long time, which is important when one is stranded on a desert island.

4. One book that made me laugh:
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen.

5. One book that made me cry:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

6. One book I wish I had written:
None. 1. That's a really dicey project, fatewise. 2. I want to be known for writing what I write. Is this the spirit in which the question was intended? Probably not.

7. One book I wish had never been written:
I could just go for the obvious and say Mein Kempf, forstalling Hitler's unexpected popularity. Or I could go for the indulgent and say Mao II, because then I wouldn't have had to have read it. But as before, I feel weird about wishing this. Wishing a book wasn't written feels like wishing someone wasn't born, and I'm uneasy with that at best. Is this the spirit in which the question was intended? Probably not. >:P

8. One book I'm currently reading:
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. I've been reading it seemingly forever, maybe 2-3 pages per day on the subway. It's difficult and beautiful.

9. One book I've been meaning to read:
Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, dammit!

10. The Four People I'm Tagging:
#1. Elisabeth
#2. Gemma
#3. Mxzzy
#4. Sam


Lauras 16, 29.


Well, last week we officially melted. It was too hot for me to get much done during the early part of the week, and anyway, I was too preoccupied later on with Jess' and my birthday and our 1 year anniversary (yesterday) to pay much attention to projects. That may help to explain (somewhat) the light posting.
This past weekend the weather was perfect on the East Coast. Temperatures had dropped a dozen or so degrees to hang out in the upper eighties, the skies were blue and filled with fluffy white Cumulus clouds. Today, that has changed with a hit between moist air from the south and a cool front moving in from the northwest. So we should expect storms and humidity. Today, however, the eastern Midwest will get a break in the form of a cooler front, and that ought to reach the East Coast by tomorrow. Likewise, storms and fogs are cooling and moving along the West Coast. Inland, things aren't so swell. The Great Plains and the South are still suffering from extraordinarily high temperatures. Kansas City and environs, in particular, are baking. In the South, the cotton crop is being hit at a critical time by combined heat and lack of precipitation. Fortunately, Tropical Storm Chris turned out to be pretty weak, but another low has formed in the mid Atlantic. Over the next month, we'll enter the most active period of Hurrican season.

The Tigers just swept Cleveland in three nail-biters; in the third game they won just 1-0 against a Sabathia who allowed only six hits in seven innings. This reinvigorates their lead over the running-up White Sox to nine games. That single run was scored by Brandon Inge with the help of a sacrifice.

- AUGUST - is Kiwi month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Elizabeth Báthory and and fellow scav judge Joe A.

Guardian Unlimited: Outcry after dissident dies in Iranian jail. North Korea rejects flood aid offer.
Reuters: Ukraine's Yushchenko proposes rival Yanukovich as PM. Fragile peace shattered as Tigers hit Sri Lankan army.
BBC News: LRA leaders declare ceasefire.
Reuters: President says Somalia's cabinet dissolved.
BBC News: Scores killed in Ethiopia floods.
New York Times: Oil Prices Shoot Up as BP Shuts Huge Field.
New York Times: Hostilities in the Mideast.
New York Times: The Reach of War.
Jessica turned 25. Connor turned 28. Together, we celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary.

Have you ever been in a fight, by which I mean a physical altercation, not an argument.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lauras 12, 29.


Today is my birthday! I'll post more tomorrow...

What is the coolest street name you can think of at this moment?


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cynicism continued...


5. Did I mention I work on the seventeenth floor of a midtown skyscraper, and that the air-conditioning is broken?


Lauras 11, 29.


- AUGUST - is Civility month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Wes Craven. And Sean! And my Jessica!

Gray Nurse Shark.

What is the last thing you usually are thinking before you go to sleep?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cynicism continued...


2. Now I really do have a legitimate beef with Toyota, because they have that ad where there's the weird little, turbined-driven Mars-rover style machine, puttering along haplessly. Then the stupid Toyota comes and rolls it into tiny pieces before sucking up all the fuel. And I'm like WTF, because the little machine is way cooler than any car I've ever seen in flesh and blood. So that's wack.
3. I think more kids are molested in Law & Order than in New York in reality. No, I'm not kidding, I think a statistical analysis would be enlightening.
4. Billy Corgan, where are you?


Arithmetic Sequence #2: About Malibu.


I was going to post on the Mel Gibson thing today, but my post is too tangled to make much sense, and wants revision. I'll get back to that later. For now, enjoy this sexy picture of Malibu.

Oh, I wish I was in Malibu.


Today's Arithmetic Sequence #1: About Flint.


I was telling Jessica the other day that I sometimes have doubts about moving back to Flint. The comment is pertinent right now specifically; we want to get a house after our educations are finished, and we're faced with the prospect that anywhere we go, our family and friends are gradually dispersing. I have potential job connections in the Flint area, the area is also in demand for people in all of the fields Jess is considering, and the city would keep us a manageable distance to family in Michigan and Ohio and friends in Chicago.

Not that there is anything solid; just that there this is the stage of our discussion. We've been talking about this question for many years now, and probably won't settle on a decision for several more.

What I was telling Jessica, however, is that I haven't really expressed, in a nuanced way, to many people, my doubts. Why? Well, first, just because of how much is personally invested in the discussion; it takes much more effort to have an objective conversation about a subject in which one is emotionally invested, and everyone knows that my hometown is a central concern of mine (maybe, they think, an obsession).

My awareness of this fact also skews the discussion. That is, I don't want to mention any doubts because it feels like I'm compromising myself; if I admit any reluctance, I'm opening myself to criticism on that point later on at best. At worst, I'm nourishing possibly false hopes.

On the other hand, I think this effect is reversed on the flipside. People who care for Jessica and my future are, not unwilling, but a little reluctant I think to look for / recognize any of the virtues I see in Flint because they don't want to encourage an irresponsible, misguided, or short-sighted decision.

Don't get me wrong; I think everyone is trying very hard to be honest and mostly succeeding. And it doesn't have is much to do with whether we tell the truth so much as what we choose to talk about.

* * * * *

Jess' response to my comment was that she thought people would take my hopes more seriously if I presented them along with my misgivings; that it would seem I was confronting the issue on realistic, human terms instead of trying to dress up a place as a better deal than it really was. I think that's good advice, and I guess this is a sort of "coming clean":

If at any moment I'm 60% sure I'd like to move back to Flint, then I'm 40% full of doubt. There are a number of reasons for my doubt:
- Most importantly, Jessica's happiness. I don't think I could endorse any home that wouldn't offer her security, comfort, and a good bit of fun.
- I don't want to get a house that will be worth less after a decade of living and presumed improvements than when we bought it.
- Likewise, I want my children to grow up in a neighborhood and schools where they can learn and play and explore safely.
- I want to be surrounded by friends and people that I care about. While it looks like Flint will be at least as good for that as anywhere else could be, it is sobering to me that my brother and sister at least are likely to live far away, and that most of my local friends have moved on as well.
- If I have more by way of career clout in Flint (the medium-sized fish in a small pond syndrome), there is a correspondant risk that the ceiling might be uncomfortably low. That is, I might be aiming for a William Faulkner situation (successful writer living in the middle-of-nowhere) but wind up closer to an opusless Mr. Holland.

That's it in a nutshell. More often than not, I still think that a life in Flint could rise to these challenges; especially if we're careful and deliberate in their consideration. That said, there are times when I wonder if we might not be happier in Chicago, Seattle, Belize.

I'm just saying: the thought does cross my mind, frequently and deeply.


Lauras 10, 29.


I am not ignorant of the fact that I've really dropped the ball on this discussion in the last couple weeks, having only posted a few sentences, and I don't think I've commented in quite awhile either. Sometime this week I'm going to post, like, a whole paragraph with comments. Thanks for your patience!

I'm not usually that cynical, but there's something in the air these days (see "London Bridge" below). In that spirit, I make the following two observations:
1. Disney's 1950 Treasure Island is great, but I can only imagine that the director must have told Bobby Driscoll, "just remember, Jim Hawkins is a stupid, stupid boy." Because it's oh so obvious what's going on. Still, it's worth anything to hear Long John Silver finish off a prayer with the immortal words "Ar-men!"
2. People do stupid things when drunk: take off clothes, hook up with strangers, get into fights, mouth off, annoy everyone, and vomit. Sometimes, drunk people even drive, which is absolutely reprehensible. I've never, however, heard of someone inexplicably turning into a raging anti-Semite after knocking a few back. Methinks he was holding something back.

- AUGUST - Is the month of Family Fun.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Herman Melville, and Chuck D

"No matter how rich you become, how famous or powerful, when you die the size of your funeral will still pretty much depend on the weather."
- Michael Pritchard.

What is your favorite thing to do when it's UnGodly Hot out.

* * * * *


Birthstone: Peridot.

Flower: Gladiolus.

Virtue: Discretion

Look for the first signs of the end of summer this month. One I'll be looking for is a slight yellowing of the leaves. Also, this is an exciting month astronomically, so take advantage of that if you can. Highlights should be the brightness of Venus and Mercury over the next several days, a bright appearance of Saturn around the 27th, but most importantly, the Perseids around the 12th. Does anyone know if I can see the Perseids from the Rockaways?