Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Solzhenitsyn Essay I Hadn’t Read, Until Today

As I mentioned in a post previously, I’ve read quite a bit of Solzhenitsyn’s work.  But today, while following some links on an unrelated subject, I fortuitously stumbled upon, perhaps, Solzhenitsyn’s last essay penned in the Soviet Union.  It is titled “Live Not By Lies.”  Though Solzhenitsyn wrote the essay as a rebuff to his fellows Russians, the essay presents thoughts that are applicable to today, no matter if you live in the East or the West.  An excerpt I particularly enjoyed.

“So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood—of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one’s family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies—or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one’s children and contemporaries.”

Need I say, read the whole thing?

Via Orthodoxy Today.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 12:11 PM
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21st Century Attitudes Don’t Work in Colonial Times

I’ve caught the first four episodes of PBS’s Colonial House and I must say, so far, I’ve been disappointed.  Though it does make an interesting study in human action as Bill Cholenski at Catallarchy hoped.  An example of my disappoint, and the failure of 21st century attitude in colonial times, would be the participants seemingly total helplessness when they first attempted to strike a fire with flint and steel, and, having little success, state they have failed, and instead of try, trying again, venture forth and mooch a coal off of an individual who was able to strike a fire.

A more interesting story, aired on PBS, would be “Alone in the Wilderness.”  The story details Dick Proeneke’s year in Alaska, as this blurb illustrates.

“To live in a pristine land unchanged by man…
to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed…
to choose an idyllic site, cut trees and build a log cabin…
to be a self-sufficient craftsman, making what is needed from materials available…
to be not at odds with the world, but content with one’s own thoughts and company…

Thousands have had such dreams, but Dick Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country. This video “Alone in the Wilderness” is a simple account of the day-to-day explorations and activities he carried out alone, and the constant chain of nature’s events that kept him company.”

- Sam Keith

A very enjoyable show.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 10:22 AM
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Ah, The Good Old Days

“Women of the 1600s, from queens to prostitutes, commonly exposed one or both breasts in public and in the popular media of the day, according to a study of fashion, portraits, prints, and thousands of woodcuts from 17th-century ballads.”

...

“In paintings, breast exposure could have symbolic meaning, particularly when only one breast was shown. Jones explained that high court ladies often were painted in allegories as classical figures or as female saints, whose martyrdom usually involved breast removal.

Far from being a sign of tawdriness, Jones said breast exposure during the 1600s could indicate a woman’s virtue.”

Maybe Jackson’s Superbowl performance was a pining for the nostalgic?

“Study: Breast Baring Popular in 1600s.”

Via Fred Lapides.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 10:08 AM
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Civil Disobedience Risk Assessment

Each of us runs risks everyday, it’s part of being alive, I think.  But what about the risk when it comes to laws, specifically civil disobedience to laws promulgated by the state?  How do you assess the risks in regards to civil disobedience?  Do you assess the risk of civil disobedience as you would assess the risk of getting in your car and driving to work?  How do you assess the risk of owning, and carrying, a gun without a permit?  How about assessing the risk of acquiring or not acquiring a fishing license?  A dog license, a building permit, or any of the other lesser intrusions by the state into your life?

When I look at my own assessments of risk regarding civil disobedience, I tend to assess the risk based on my perceived chances of being caught, and whether I would voluntarily participate in such and such a program.  For example I don’t license my dog or utilize a leash.  Low risk.  I don’t license my weapon, and I carry.  High risk, if caught, low risk overall, though, because who knows if I do or don’t carry, unless I’m foolishly advertising the fact by brandishing.  (Would writing that be considered foolish or brandishing?)

How about that fishing license?  I bought one, again, this year, though I mulled it over for quite some time, and only acquired my fishing license on opening day of trout season, though the risk of being asked to prove my legality to fish is minimal.  Why did I purchase that fishing license?  Because I would voluntarily pay to fly fish on private waters.  How about plates for my car?  Yes, I have them and a driver’s license.  If I had neither, the risk, as I assess it, is quite high for being apprehended and punished for not having them.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time and yesterday, when I stopped by Karen DeCoster’s blog, I thought about it some more, because Karen has a post up titled “Steenkin’ Permits and the Impossibility of Defeating the State”  Karen has all the requisite permits, and in her post states her reasons why she does, which I can respect.  As for the impossiblity of defeating the state, I’m not certain if I would concede to that.  I may concede to some of the interference from the state into my life, but I think that where I do allow it, I am allowing it voluntarily, though the coercive force behind the state does factor in.

I think the topic is interesting.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 08:41 AM
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Bodies and Souls

Are individuals bodies or souls, or a duality?  This is a question that has been contemplated for some time.  Though I believe individuals have souls, I know that I cannot prove, meaning provide a thinking proof, that this is the case.  I think I shall not know the truth of this issue until my physical life is over, but I have no way of knowing for certain, and I doubt I’ll be able to share what I find out after I physically die.

The Edge has an interesting piece posted wherein Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, casts his eye on the subject and shares his thoughts on his interest in common sense dualism.  The piece is titled “Natural-Born Dualists.”

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 08:26 AM
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First Thoughts

“Deadly weapons cache seized.”

Quick, what do you think the headline to this article is referring to?  WMD’s in Iraq?  Nope.  Homemade bombs and lots of firearms in some blogger’s backyard?  Nope?  The headline refers to,

“A FRIGHTENING, multi-bladed knife…”

Personally, I think the knife is pretty cool looking, though I think it would only be useful in very close combat.

Via The Picket Line.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 07:07 AM
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Are You Scared?

Do you recall the phrase “Shit Happens?”  It was popular both as a phrase and a bumper sticker for awhile, but I haven’t heard it said, recently.  Maybe it’s because the government is preventing shit from happening, but I doubt it.

Gene Callahan pens some thoughts on the government preventing shit from happening in a piece titled “We Need the State… Otherwise, Something Bad Might Happen!”

Gene’s concluding statement.

“The fact that otherwise intelligent people put forward such nonsense demonstrates just how thoroughly the State has done its job of brainwashing – oops, I mean educating – its subjects as to the dire consequences they will face should they try getting along without it.”

Via Mike Tennant at Strike the Root.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 06:50 AM
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Which is It?  Both?

“Sivits Found Guilty in Iraq Abuse Case.”

The first paragraph from the above Reuters article.

“U.S. soldier Specialist Jeremy Sivits was found guilty on Wednesday of three charges he faced in a court martial over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, CNN reported. Sivits, the first U.S. soldier court-martialed over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail, had pleaded guilty on all four counts he faced, with a reservation related to the taking of a photograph of naked prisoners.”

The same story, but as reported at The New York Times.

“U.S. Soldier Pleads Guilty in Iraq Abuse Trial.”

The first two paragraphs from the NYT.

“Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of abuse in the first court-martial stemming from mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The court-martial then found Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits guilty of all charges. In a quirk of military law, if the defendant pleads guilty, they have to prove to the court they are guilty and the court then formally renders a finding.”

So, though Sivits plead guilty, he still had to be found guilty, but I think it is more accurate to report Sivits pleading guilty, rather than being found guilty.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 06:22 AM
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“Dark Art of Opposition Research”

If you would stop a voter on the street, much like a pollster does, and inquired of the voter why he voted for such and such a candidate, I’d wager that the voter would mumble some words to the effect that such and such a candidate seemed like the best choice.  Bah.  More than likely, if you asked the voter to expand on why such and such a candidate seemed to be the best choice, the voter would respond with some sound bite taken from those who practice the dark art of opposition research.

The Atlantic has an interesting piece of the dark art mentioned above.  It is titled “Playing Dirty.”  An excerpt.

“Maligning an opponent, even with his own words and deeds, is a tricky business; voters take a dim view of “negative” politics, and are liable to punish the campaign carrying out the attacks rather than the intended target. Digging the Dirt provides a rare glimpse of how political operatives have learned to use the media to get around this problem, by creating a journalistic black market for damaging stories. During the first debate between Gore and Bush, in October of 2000, the BBC crew stationed itself inside the RNC’s war room, filming researchers as they operated with the manic intensity of day traders, combing through every one of Gore’s statements for possible misstatements or exaggerations. The researchers discovered two (Gore erroneously claimed never to have questioned Bush’s experience, and to have accompanied a federal official to the site of a Texas disaster), and immediately Tim Griffin tipped off the Associated Press. Soon the filmmakers would catch the team exulting as the AP took the story.”

Also via Arts & Letters Daily.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 06:05 AM
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How Much is That Doggie in the Window?, Realistically

I love dogs.  They’re great animals, but they are animals none-the-less.  My dog Iz, an Australian Shepherd, is a great dog, but she didn’t come that way.  What I mean is, Iz needed a bit of direction, like a small child does, to assist her in becoming the friendly, obedient, and intelligent animal she is.

Slate has an interesting piece up titled “Finding the Perfect Dog - There is no such animal. So, stop looking.”  Written by John Katz, the piece looks at some of the unrealistic expectations of individuals who purchase a dog, or what they feel is the perfect dog, and then realize that perfect dogs don’t just take up residence with their new masters as perfect dogs.  It takes some work.

A friend of mine states, “Raising a dog takes about the same commitment as raising a child.”  He’s right.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/19 at 05:48 AM
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