Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I guess this could send huge economic dislocation to the Russian economy.
Some things protestants miss by not reading the apocrypha. This is from Ecclesiasticus chs 18-19:

Do not be governed by your passions, restrain your desires. If you allow yourself to satisfy your desires, this will make you the laughing stock of your enemies.

. . .Being too ready to trust shows shallowness of mind, and sinning harms the sinner. Taking pleasure in evil earns condemnation; by hating gossip one avoids evil.

Never repeat what you are told and you will come to no harm; whether to a friend or to a foe, do not talk about it, unless it would be sinful not to reveal it; you would be heard out, than mistrusted, and in due course you would be hated.

Have you heard something? Let it die with you. Courage! It will not burst you!

A fool will suffer birthpangs over a piece of news, like a woman laboring with a child. Like and arow stuck in the flesh of the thigh, so is a piece of news inside a fool.
Ditto for this one.
One of those stories I just wish were true.
I had been planning for several days now to write a little diatribe about how iPods represent everything I find wrong with way our society handles music these days. You were only spared because I've been out of the house a lot plus I wasn't sure how to organize my thoughts on it. Well, lo and behold, Andrew Sullivan summed it all up nicely for me this morning. Key quote:

Music was once the preserve of the living room or the concert hall. It was sometimes solitary but it was primarily a shared experience, something that brought people together, gave them the comfort of knowing that others too understood the pleasure of a Brahms symphony or that Beatles album.

But music is as atomised now as living is. And it’s secret. That bloke next to you on the bus could be listening to heavy metal or a Gregorian chant. You’ll never know. And so, bit by bit, you’ll never really know him. And by his white wires, he is indicating he doesn’t really want to know you.

While I think this (possibly) is the more serious of the two points I wanted to make on the issue, the other is the issue of how we have turned music into something which happens at the push of a button, something we have farmed out to profesionals instead of learning to do for ourselves (and for others!).

It has become exceedingly rare, at least among white americans, to find people who sing. Singing is, without doubt, the easiest, most natural form of musical expression. I would assume it is naturally available to virtually everyone. I harbor the suspicion, which I'm afraid cannot prove, that many of those who claim they can't sing suffer from some form of neglect of natural talent, akin, I suppose to saying that one cannot drive. Almost anyone can learn to drive, barring major physical/mental defects. And most of those defect would not prevent someone from singing.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

More health care news. If this becomes trendy, I think hospitals will just close up and we'll all have to go to Mexico to get care or something.
While I'm not really in favor, I have to give these folks points for creativity, so to speak.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Do you think this guy will actually get out of jury duty? I suppose if being dead isn't enough, maybe being the victim will get him some sort of consideration.
Not that anyone asked, but I thought I would mention a little about my reading habits. Somewhere around 10 years ago I started growing frustrated with myself about having started a dozen books but not being able to finish any of them before starting more. I made a simple resolution to myself that I would start reading books all the way through. Over time this evolved into a system whereby I allow myself three books at a time, but I won't start a new one until I finish one. While I will make an exeption from time to time, I have kept pretty closely to this system.

I also realized at some later point that I wasn't reading the quality of literature I wanted to, so now I try tomake sure I only purchase books which I've gotten some sort of strong recommendation for. I read very few best sellers. I try to make my fiction reading to be of high quality authors as much as possible, and my non-fiction reading broad, though I have certain categories I try to get some depth in.

In terms of systemetizing that aspect, I keep a reading queue. Any new books I get go to the end of the line. I occasionally feel frustrated that I can't read anything quickly, in terms of getting the book and immediately setting down to read it, but I'm pretty happy with the way things have gone. Delayed gratification is a good thing and I always need things to help teach me patience in our instant gratification age.

I try to make up for the frustration by setting high reading goals for each week. Two years ago my goal was 2 books per week. This was done fairly easily, so I made it 3 books per week last year, and that worked out pretty well. I've treid to maintain that this year, but I'm a little behind. It always depends on exactly how heavy the individual books are. I've got Norman Davies' fat History of Europe staring at me on my shelf, challenging me to start it and finish it in some reasonable time. I've got a bunch of skinny books in the queue, so I may start it soon and work a bunch of other books around it. I did that last year with a World Literature textbook which took me 3 or 4 weeks to get through. Was fun to read short stories from Africa and Japan and so forth.

Monday, February 14, 2005

As Daniel has already mentioned, we had a couple of wonderful weekend visitors to our church from South Africa to speak about reconciliation. What I just love about our church is that our senior pastor invited Union Baptist, the largest black church in Durham, to come join us for the Sunday evening session. Union provided all of the music, which was terrific. Their last piece was a alto solo with the choir singing "God is my All in All". It rocked. Their pianist was one of the best blues/gospel stylists I've ever heard. Had a good time talking to him afterwards. Most pianists are usually interested in my profession :)

The one comment that really stood out from the message, though, was Micael Cassidy saying that one of the white churches in SA condemned his views as too political for opposing apartheid. Somehow opposing apartheid is political, but supporting it is not. It apllies well here, in the sense that just as all things can be considered "religious", so all things can be considered "political". Its not a matter of "whether" politics, but "which" politics.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

We have a train track that runs through the middle of Mebane. One of the main intersections in town has a traffic light on both sides of the track, which leaves the possibility, of course, of people stopping on the tracks to wait for the light. There are signs conveniently posted which say "Do Not Stop On Tracks", but many ignoe these. So just a few minutes ago I heard a loud BOOM. I looked outside and saw smoke rising, so I decided to go down and have a look. It so happened that a car was hit by an Amtrack train and exploded. No further details. I hope that this is the past time this happens in Mebane for quite a while. Fear always served me well as a motivator to stay off the tracks and I hope that will spread to the rest of the town.
If your name is Mark Horne you may click here.
It's a good thing that such potential injustices are being protested and brought to light. Think what might have resulted.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Given my abiding interest in the subjects of honor and shame, I found this fascinating. Are other authors questioning modern notions of identity? I a couple of Charles Taylor's books on my "to read" shelf, and I suspect he talks about the issue of modern identity to some extent.

I remember when I was teaching on ancient ideas of personality using the "Who are you" question as a jumping off point. I realized that the way we think of personality these days is rather problematic. When (and how) do you really know someone today? What do you have to know about someone to say you know them? Is it even possible to know another today?

Part of the answer today seems to be in consumer choices. I remember at one point had a program called "Just Like You", where you could look at the user profiles of other people who had purchased similar products or rated products similarly to you. Thus one's identity becomes "I am the sort of person who likes [x movie] or [y book] or [z tv show]" etc.
A must read interview with Neal Stephenson. WHo knew he was reading Walter Wink?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Two words for you. Napoleon Dynamite. This would the opposite sort of movie to the one mentioned below, but hey, a good comedy is perhaps harder to come by than a good drama. I can't ask any High School friends to see this one cuz they've already seen it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ordinary People. Strong movie. I would love to watch this with some of my more mature high school student friends. Especially the young lady who's on the swimming team. Anyone watched it lately?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

We've got problems. Of course the problem, so far as I can tell, is that we just consume way too many health servces, and increasingly costly ones. Broadening coverage, socialized or not, can only exacerbate that, unless that means that we make doctors' offices and hospitals so awful that no one wants to go there.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A little dream sequence for all of you who are paranoid about technology and personal freedom.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Last night we watched a French film called He Loves me, He Loves Me Not. About a third of the way through I thought it was pretty awful, but then something weird happened in the story and suddenly I was fascinated. You have to see it, but I don't want to spoil anything. Its an interesting illustration, though, of how "facts" don't interpret themselves but always require an interpreter. Plus it has Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame.
Someone should take up a collection for these girls. Perhaps the most ridiculous "no good deed goes unpunished" story I've seen, ummm, ever. Link via The Corner.

--Update, already being done.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Well, it seems that the story linked below in the Telegraph regarding Germany was probably rather inaccurate from the get go. Sorry about that. But hey, it COULD happen, right?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Riddle for you. How does a man born blind learn to paint? Be sure to look at the pictures.