Sunday, April 21, 2013
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Privacy, ownership, and the e-book aesthetic
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Robert K. Vischer writes in First Things, a rather conservative magazine, about "The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws" in the US. In The New York Times, legal scholar Samuel J. Rascoff reminds us that "Uncle Sam Is No Imam," based on a more extensive argument he writes in the Standford Law Review, "Establishing Official Islam?"
Monday, January 09, 2012
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Douthat's Two Minds
Walsh takes down Douthat in good and convincing manner. You may read it here.
Seriously, just when you think the political tenor of America can't get worse ...
Friday, July 30, 2010
What did Orwell really do?
We are familiar with Animal Farm and 1984, insightful stories of human vulnerabilities and manias. The question though comes down to this (ok, maybe): do good ideas really matter as active forces that direct and reset courses of life and that expose unexamined presumptions? What recent narrative can we recall that really changed things beyond integument? Civil Rights perhaps? Not sure really.
Orwell did not waste his time. I'm not saying that. His non-fiction work (his essays and personal experience narratives) remain quite moving ... but only for a few people, elitist as this may sound. Beck and Limbaugh have broadcast pulses because they are supported by millions of viewers and listeners. If Orwell had a radio show today, he would be unplugged in a week. He couldn't compete with these guys. In the same vein, I don't really think the Tea Party movement will really last long (if it does, well the Mayans maybe on to something after all), but look at how the movement is changing the political game. Listen to their "ideas" and notice their racist bearing (Civil Rights really change the essence of things?), the dribble of their inspiration sources (Sarah Palin, for example), their unfocused and highly generalized aims (details disable things in a heartbeat), and the political fear they provoke.
What good idea out there today really matters as a challenge to our disabling paradigms?
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
At first glance, it seems counter intuitive to see the number of Amish settlements increase (and all that this may mean), but when you think about it, it's really something to expect. Something has to give. Our over mechanical and pixel world would naturally drive people to seek out simplicity. Not the casual kind of simplicity, but simplicity as a way of life. No one lives without complexity or trial, but you have to suspect that some of the nonsense and subjugation we have to deal with is derived from an outlook that's alien to our Adamic natures.
I see good folks on their horse-drawn carriages, and, as I zoom by in my motor car, I try to imagine that kind of life. That's imagination speaking. Not sure how I would really react if I were suddenly in suspenders holding on to the reins. Something to think about.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
"The Lottery" and Its Author
Here's an interesting short essay in TNR about "The Lottery" and Shirley Jackson, who wrote it in a single sitting. Now that is more mind-boggling than the short story itself. The essay begins like this:
The idea for “The Lottery,” first published in 1948 and now one of the most widely anthologized works of American fiction, came to Shirley Jackson while she was pushing her baby daughter in her stroller. When they got home, she writes in an essay included in the new Library of America collection of her writings, she put away her groceries, put the baby in a playpen, and in a single sitting wrote the story ...
Monday, April 26, 2010
Our Contemporary Disaster Movie
Most people I know rail against corporations mainly because they don't own one. But there is something to say about the reach and calamity that global warming represents. And there's something to say about demystifying the potential of leaders making boneheaded decisions that truly ignore the drama of our day and that genuflect before the loins of political interests that blind and bind.
Speaking of disasters, I've blogged about this before, Solnit's article in Harper's magazine a few years ago made this very interesting observation about human reaction to disaster:
In his 1961 study, “Disasters and Mental Health: Therapeutic Principles Drawn from Disaster Studies,” sociologist Charles Fritz asks an interesting question: “Why do large-scale disasters produce such mentally healthy conditions?” One of the answers is that a disaster shakes us loose of ordinary time. “In everyday life many human problems stem from people's preoccupation with the past and the future, rather than the present,” Fritz wrote. “Disasters provide a temporary liberation from the worries, inhibitions, and anxieties associated with the past and the future because they force people to concentrate their full attention on immediate moment-to-moment, day-to-day needs.” This shift in awareness, he added, “speeds the process of decision-making” and “facilitates the acceptance of change.”
The state of mind Fritz describes resembles those sought in various spiritual traditions. It recalls Buddhism's emphasis on being in the moment, nonattachment, and compassion for all beings, and the Christian monastic tradition's emphasis on awareness of mortality and ephemerality. From this perspective, disaster can be understood as a crash course in consciousness.
. . . . The aftermath of disaster is often peculiarly hopeful, and in the rupture of the ordinary, real change often emerges. But this means that disaster threatens not only bodies, buildings, and property but also the status quo. Disaster recovery is not just a rescue of the needy but also a scramble for power and legitimacy, one that the status quo usually-but not always-wins. The Bush Administration's response after 9/11 was a desperate and extreme version of this race to extinguish too vital a civil society and reestablish the authority that claims it alone can do what civil society has just done-and, alas, an extremely successful one. For the administration, the crisis wasn't primarily one of death and destruction but one of power. The door had been opened and an anxious administration hastened to slam it shut.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Reading Wallace in Qatar
I wrote this review essay called "Reading Wallace in Qatar." In the review, published in one of my favorite book review and essay sites (The Millions), I mention my response to the volume and the pathologies it alludes to. I hope you like it.