Saturday, January 24, 2004

Nifty

Last night I was introduced to a website that I think is nifty.  mecompany.com.  I haven’t delved very deep into the website, they offer a news and a merchandise button to click, but I have enjoyed goofing around with one of the windows that opens up when you click the link provided here.  Give it a whirl and check out the wallpapers offered, free, by clicking on the white dots.  Oh, and turn the volume up a bit on your speakers, if you have them.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/24 at 10:52 AM
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Friday, January 23, 2004

I Can’t Talk Right Now

The title to this post would make an interesting epitaph.  I mention it because Daniel Medley of LoboWalk linked to a blog called Sheila Astray’s Redheaded Ramblings.  Sheila has a small collection of famous epitaph’s and last words posted that are enjoyable.

Update Epitaph:

If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.

H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomaty, Epitaph, pg. 679

Posted by John Venlet on 01/23 at 02:56 PM
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A Short Reflection on Turning the Other Cheek

This morning, while wielding the accoutrements of a competent hotel housekeeping staff, in preparation for the homecoming of the lovely Melissa, I was contemplating on the above.  I mean the title to this post.  This pathetic cliche, of almost mythological proportions, is trotted out by Christians, pacifists, secularists and the like as a justifiable argument against war, protecting yourself from harm and who knows what else.  This “turn the other cheek” mentality is derived from Matthew 5:39 and is repeated in Luke 6:29 of the Book.

Now don’t misunderstand me here.  I can appreciate turning the other cheek, say, if I am slapped by a lady for uttering crude commentary in regards to her appearance, to her face.  Ungentlemanly behavior indeed.  Or, say if I am mocked for some foible or irrational thinking. Or, a more common occurence, which I would wager has happened to most of us, being flipped off while driving.  I will readily turn the other cheek in those instances.  But let’s consider turning the other cheek in the instances where the cliche is most commonly applied.

For example, let’s say some two-bit thug is demanding my wallet, and, as a means of convincing me, said thug is brandishing a knife or a gun.  If I turn the other cheek in this scenario, I am more than likely going to be turning that cheek for the last time.  I think the more appropriate response is to teach the thug a lesson in respect for property rights.  This lesson could be delivered in a harangue, for which the thug will have no patience, or, more appropriately, by allowing the thug to contemplate his mortality and, possibly learn something about property rights, quickly, by peering into the barrel of a Berreta.

How about in war?  Should we be turning the other cheek in war?  I think not.  If all individuals, collectively, turned the other cheek in a war scenario, sure, the war would end quickly, but, more than likely, so would the individuals.  The agressors would consider the turning of the other cheek as a sign of weakness and a license to rape, pillage, plunder and mutilate.  I do not think the cliche can be intelligently applied here.

I am in favor of forbearance.  I have to be, I’ve got four teenagers who, at times, emulate their father’s unending questioning of authority, but I’ll be damned if I will allow some dirt bag to push me around and take my property because a group of men decided to slip into the Book the turning of the other cheek.  It’s only in there because these men thought it might be useful to keep the sheep penned up.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to scrub the commode.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/23 at 12:55 PM
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Something Lite

My brother, The Wizard, sent me this in an email.  I Googled it up, and it appears that its been floating around in cyberspace for awhile, but, I got a boot out of it.  The beginning of the piece.

If you lived as a child in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or 70’s…

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have…

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

(Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

Enjoy.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/23 at 09:24 AM
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A Comment Submitted to Roderick Long

Roderick Long, in a post titled Brothers in Arms has embraced new terminology for creationism and socialism.

Most creationists profess to hold socialism in disdain; most socialists profess to hold creationism in disdain. Neither side seems sufficiently disturbed by the strong similarity between the two viewpoints.

Both creationists and socialists distrust invisible-hand processes and cannot conceive of order emerging except through some sort of centralised top-down control. (And neither side has much fondness for Herbert Spencer!)

From now on I’m calling creationism “cosmic socialism,” and socialism “political creationism.”

My email comment to Roderick.

Roderick -

While I appreciate your suggested nomenclature for creationism, I think “cosmic socialism,” as a term, would be more aptly applied to the man made dogmas conjured by organized religions in regards to the teachings of Christ.  Creationism, as you are aware, is “a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usu. in the way described in Genesis.”

Though creationism is a “top-down” theory, it is not from this doctrine that the errant socialist ideals, in Christianity, arose.  Those errant ideals arose from within organized Christian religion hierarchies as a means of fleecing the flocks of their hard earned dollars.

Best

John Venlet

Posted by John Venlet on 01/23 at 08:27 AM
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Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Why are people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.

Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.

—Tao Te Ching

Via J. Orlin Grabbe.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/23 at 08:03 AM
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“Watership Down” Berserkers

In the Netherlands, a land from which my forebears departed for America in the early 1900’s, a prison warden is worried by the rabbit warrens which run under and around the prison.  It seems the rabbits are gnawing ”...underground alarm, phone and power cables and tried to tunnel under its walls,...”  Rascally rabbits.  The solution seems to be death for the rabbits as this headline cleverly illustrates.  Rabbits on death row for gnawing alarms.

Rabbit stew anyone?

Via Anna at Belligerent Bunny.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/23 at 07:24 AM
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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Enjoyed While Walking Tonight

Cold tonight.  Zero.  Just the hint of a breeze.  I walked longer than normal because of the effect light was having on the skies due to atmospheric conditions.  I didn’t take this photo, but it’s a fine representation of why I lingered outdoors.

UPDATE - 01.22.2010: Photo is not from 2004 but it is a fine representation of the night I originally posted this.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 09:27 PM
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This Does Not Compute

Perusing the NYT today I came across an op-ed written by Barry Schwartz, professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.  Schwartz is the author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.  I have not read this weighty tome myself, but, I perceive by reading the op-ed, that Schwartz is propounding the ideas presented within the book, in a more condensed version, as a method of sales promotion.  The op-ed is titled Nation of Second Guesses.

What follows, are some of the arguments presented by Schwartz to bolster his claim that too much choice causes “paralysis, not liberation.”  His words will be blockquoted.  Mine will not.

Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, psychologists at Columbia and Stanford respectively, have shown that as the number of flavors of jam or varieties of chocolate available to shoppers is increased, the likelihood that they will leave the store without buying either jam or chocolate goes up. According to their 2000 study, Ms. Iyengar and Mr. Lepper found that shoppers are 10 times more likely to buy jam when six varieties are on display as when 24 are on the shelf.

While I appreciate the importance of jam or jelly for a slice of toast, and a fine piece of chocolate, I think that studying shoppers’ willingness or unwillingness to puchase one, the other or none, based on varieties available, is hardly indicative that too much choice in the gastronomic department is a paralyzing event from which sound conclusions can be drawn.  I would propose, prior to making such a broad conclusion from the data according to Iyenga’s and Lepper’s findings, that a thorough study of individuals living under current or former socialist regimes be conducted to determine their “paralysis” or “liberation” when confronted by two dozen individual types of jelly, jams or chocolates.

In a study that Ms. Iyengar, Rachel Elwork of Columbia and I are working on, we found that as the number of job possibilities available to college graduates goes up, applicants’ satisfaction with the job search process goes down. This is particularly true for job seekers whose aim is to get the “best possible” job — while people in this group receive more and better job offers than those who are aiming for “good enough” jobs, they also tend to be less satisfied with their career decisions than their less demanding counterparts. They are also more anxious, pessimistic, disappointed, frustrated and depressed.

In this second example, above, might I suggest, once again, that the researchers broaden their field of study to include more common individuals.  Say, the unskilled, or, blue collar factory folks, or, individuals with families who are unemployed.  Is it, truly, any surprise, at all, that college students are “anxious, pessimistic, disappointed, frustrated and depressed” when confronted with the real world job market?  The majority have been indoctrinated, since grade school, that the world is their oyster and that having that magical piece of paper in their hand, that college diploma, will magically open all doors to them.  Six figure a year jobs and perks galore.  Hooey.  Though, in actuality, the world is their oyster.  Its just that no one has ever informed the college graduates that oysters need to be pried open to obtain their treasure.  Accurate information cannot be gleaned from individuals nannied all their lives.

Schwartz offers a couple of other examples to support his hypothesis but I leave it to you to investigate.  I leave you with the following final paragraph from Schwartz’s op-ed.

While a life without any freedom of choice would not be worth living, it appears not to be true that more choice inevitably leads to more freedom and greater happiness. Indeed, there may be a point when choice tyrannizes people more than it liberates them. The implication of this news, both for individuals and for government officials, is that sound social policy simply cannot consist of throwing an ever-greater menu of options at the American people.

A more execrable conclusion I cannot imagine.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 03:42 PM
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“Last Words”

My current read, listed in the sidebar left, is, without question, the best book I have ever had the pleasure to read.  And I’ve read a few books.  The title to this post is the title of an essay, by Mencken, exploring democracy.  I have read it at least a dozen times in the past week or so and each time I do, I am struck, “bastinado” style, by its clarity.  It seems only appropriate that I post a link to the entire essay for your personal edification or denouncement as the circus prepares to come to a town near you.  The first few sentences follow.  I hope they whet your appetite to read the entire piece.

“I have alluded somewhat vaguely to the merits of democracy. One of them is quite obvious: it is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. The reason is not far to seek. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying to the vast majority of men than what is true. Truth has a harshness that alarms them, and an air of finality that collides with their incurable romanticism.”

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 12:45 PM
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Enough Already

I’ve had a couple of things to say about the moronic debate surrounding Mel Gibson’s upcoming film The Passion which you can read here and here.  The first link is to the initial disclosure of the Pope’s so-called utterings on the film and the second link will take you comments on Frank Rich’s delusional condemnations of the Pope “hawking” the film.

Peggy Noonan has weighed in on this a couple few times also, but I point you now to her most recent response to the latest revelations of the Pope said or the Pope didn’t say, which, according to Peggy, matters.

Three, very brief excerpts, from Noonan’s piece with my comments following.

The truth matters.

Indeed it does, but in this instance, it is simply a tempest in a teapot.

What a pope says matters.

Indeed it does not, unless you are a slave to the pope or Catholic church.

And what this pontiff says about this film matters.

Again, it does not.  A film is simply a film.  What the pontiff’s opinion of the film is matters not one iota, unless you are under the delusion that the pontiff is paving the way for you into heaven.  Which I don’t think he is, unless he has managed to totally extricate the board from his own eyes.

I shall say no more on this.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 09:16 AM
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Shining A Light on ‘The Tuskegee Study’

I have a basic working knowledge of, what has become known as, the horrific ‘Tuskegee Study.’  My basic knowledge was that the study was racist, callous and freely given to infecting unsuspecting blacks with syphilis.  Because I never had a need to actually pursue any further study on this event from the past, I, naively, accepted that what I knew was factual and attributed the event to an era when morons still considered blacks as nothing but an inconvenience.  I should have been more questioning.

At the website Spiked Science, there is a lengthy, seemingly factual article that examines the ‘Tuskegee Study’ and the article shines a much brighter light on what actually was occurring.  The article is titled Tuskegee re-examined.  Written by Richard Shweder, the article is worth taking the time to read.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 08:54 AM
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Lileks Studios Presents

If you haven’t listened to James Lileks remix of Dean spewing campaign rhetoric, do so now.

I laughed my ass off.

Thanks to Billy for the heads up.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 08:44 AM
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Casting Stones or Wielding Whips

In a post that touches on my post below, at least in regards to adultery, Richard Nikoley points to an Amnesty International posting titled Sudan: 16-year-old Girl to be Flogged for ‘Crime’ of Adultery.  Though I would be under no threat of punishment in the Sudan because I committed adultery, I find this type of thinking in regards to punishment of individuals who pursue sexual fulfillment outside of “social” conventions, reprehensible.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/22 at 07:57 AM
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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Basketball, Adultery, Education, Religion

I recently attended a sporting event, a high school basketball game, JV level.  The event was held at a local parochial school and the away team hailed from one of the local secular schools.  Christians versus seculars you could say, though faith had nothing to do with what went on on the court, unless you want to count the before game devotions held by the home team.

Though I’m not a rabid fan of the game, I attend these games religiously.  My twin sons play for the parochial school and make their dad proud.  I’m not afraid to be heard from the stands and unhesitantly offer my sons, in fact the whole team, coaching from my usual spot mid-court.  My sons tell me they can hear me fine.  Fortunately, for me, they take my coaching seriously as I ran my share of fast breaks in the day.  Having a couple trophies and MVP awards for them to marvel at doesn’t hurt either.

I’m happy to report that the parochial school is not as ultra-conservative as some individuals fear.  Sure the Bible is thumped in the curriculum offered, but it’s not as if the school is teaching algebra, caculus or Spanish from the holy book.  In fact, during warmups, rock and roll of the secular variety was blaring from the bar bones sound system.  Rock and roll during warmups sounds so much better from the sound systems at the public schools.  Those public educators spare no expense when building new schools to replace perfectly sound old schools.

I admit that the first time I heard rock and roll blaring from a parochial schools speakers I was somewhat taken aback.  My experience with these private institutions did not include such deviltry.  Of course that’s thirty or so years ago, and I’ll have to admit I am happy that the parochial schools haven’t gone the way of the madrassa.  The worst I think that can be said for the parochial schools, beyond some of the dogmas propounded, is they have fallen prey to a few of the public school foibles.  ADD is almost as easily swallowed as in the public schools and they also have those infernal hot lunch programs.

But, I’m getting off track.  Sitting in the stands is always an experience for me.  I sometimes feel I am surrounded by quidnuncs, a rather common byproduct in religions of all ilks, but I was fortunate at this particular event to sit next to or amongest some individuals I know very casually.  As we conversed at half-time, the subject of siblings and such was arrived at and the topic bounced to a certain behavior that was mightily frowned upon.  Adultery.

The individual, who was the catalyst for this topic, was roundly condemned and damned for the heinous act.  As I listened to this, I wondered if the same was in store for myself.  I wondered what the individual, to whom I was listening relate this condemnation of another individual, for adultery, would say, to me, if he knew that I committed adultery, got divorced and married the woman I committed adultery with.  Would the individual still so vehemently condemn the individual originally being damned?  Would the individual condemn me and think me the devil himself incarnate because of my ingratiating manner as we sat cheering on the team and me without my scarlet A?  Would the individual still want to sit alongside of me?

This dilemma never presented itself though because I made no comments during the entire adultery spiel.  I may have uttered an occasional “oh,” or, “too bad,” or nodded my head in acknowledgment that I was being spoken to, but I offered no words of encouragement or “here, here” to the judgment being levied.  I mostly felt sad for the individual doing the damning.  I’ve traveled that black road of ignorance myself in the past and though I reach my hand out to individuals still on that road, they must pay their own toll.

Overall it was an excellent evening.  An exciting basketball game, my boys, both starters, played admirably, the team went to 8-0 and I had a thought provoking conversation.  Life doesn’t get much better.

Posted by John Venlet on 01/21 at 07:53 PM
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