September 17th, 2012


various small things

#1. This post is mainly to show off my new icon. LJ insisted on cropping it even more than FB did but I'm thinking it's, well, iconic enough that people can figure it out.

#2. LiveJournal sent me a notice saying that arandil13's birthday is today. For some reason when I got the notice I read it as being Aranel Took's and thought that I really should send her a note or a drabble or some such thing. She was my MEFA partner in crime for too many years, and thinking of her made me realize how lucky I was to have her as a friend for so long. I'll probably drop her a note at some point, but I just want to say publicly: I really appreciate the way she kept me sane and worked so hard to make that website happen, both as a MEFA participant and as a friend who was glad to have her help.

#3. L'Shannah Tova to all my Jewish friends. I think I'm going to make toast with apple butter for breakfast in honor of the day. I'll also probably be doing my normal self-evaluation looking for where I might need atonement over this next week, so you guys may get a week out of this. It's always struck me as odd (but beautiful and serendipitous in its own way), just how meaningful I find the Jewish holidays. Maybe it's the noncommercial aspects or the fact that they are different from what my family and friends do (and so the day's symbolism is uniquely mine), but I've always found this particular week deeply significant. It's the best parts of the secular New Year, with added fodder for deep thoughts and less boozing. So a L'Shannah Tova to me as well, I guess. :-)

#4. Yesterday I mentioned that it was Dawn Felagund's birthday. But a lot of people on FB were acting like it's also Linda Hoyland's - unless I have you confused with someone else? I feel bad that I mentioned Dawn specifically but not you. This is why I typically don't mention birthdays, because I always leave people off. Assuming I'm right, I hope you had a good day too!

#5. Ellen Kushner (the Swordspoint author) is running a fanart thing, basically design a mock-cover for the new audiobook, The Point of the Sword. There's so much good fun in these covers, both high art and just fangirls (and -boys?) being fannish. But it's the intro that truly got my attention:

Lace! Leather! Silk and steel!

And, of course, Girls with Swords.

... because wouldn't "Lace and Leather, Silk and Steel" make the perfect title for a drabble series focusing the four main couples of Gondor, at least in my 'verse? Aragorn and Arwen, Denethor and Finduilas, Boromir and Theodred, Faramir and Eowyn. At the risk of stealing the lovely Ellen's title for something thoroughly non-Swordspointy, I'm tempted. Tried to deflect this particular nuzgul on just_ann_now, but it's thoroughly backfired and I think I'm going to have to write the thing. If only so I can write more scenes like this one (slightly edited since it's several years old):

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There's just something about the sensuality of fabrics and first meetings. Who am I to say no?

#6. Yesterday, I posted a list of parallels between the Hunger Games and various ethical theories. It has spoilers for tthe later books since I'm reading them, but not for the movies since I'm not really following that news. Anyway, I thought people might be interested in a fairly spoiler-free version, so I copied that list into a Word file and blacked out the details that are specific plot points from later books. I may have missed some, but I tried to not give anything away. (I also didn't black out later discussions of events from the first book, like Katnis's analysis of the incident with the berries that occurs at the beginning of Book Two.) So if you're interested, feel free to read the list screened for spoilers here.

Think that's it for now!

(grown) men behaving badly

As usual, Mr. Pitts hits it out of the park:


Not to trivialize a deadly situation, but in considering these would-be defenders of Islam, one is struck above all else by their childishness. I am thinking of a specific scenario familiar to any parent of two children or more.

The kids are in the back seat, and suddenly you hear the dreaded words: "He's touching me!" It is whined at a pitch of such fevered urgency that if you didn't know better, you'd swear one child was killing the other. But no, it's only that child number two has discovered she can, with little effort, drive child number one into spasms of apoplexy. So she keeps doing it till you hear yourself yelling, "Don't make me turn this car around!"

Yes, the second child has gone out of her way to needlessly provoke her sibling. But you are also irked at the sibling for being so easily provoked, for not understanding that if he simply stopped giving his sister the reaction she craves, she'd stop doing the stupid thing.

It is that dynamic we see play out repeatedly among Muslim extremists. We saw it in 2005 when riots erupted over a cartoon depicting Mohammed. ("He's touching me!") We saw it in 2011 when riots erupted after a Florida "preacher" burned a Koran. ("He's looking at me!") Now we see it in the uproar over this stupid film. ("Don't make me turn this planet around!")

I think this is what many people find so frustrating about the culture wars, both globally and the American version that usually go by that name. They're just so thoroughly, idiotically stupid. Obviously people have died, including a diplomat who if the editorials are to be believed was a true patriot working very hard to fix things in this corner of the world. And that tragedy isn't stupid, but the event itself... it's tragic but also pointless beyond belief. I guess all tragedy is, but man.

Here's where I disagree with Mr. Pitts, though. Toward the end he writes:

Children, at least, have the excuse of being children when they fail to understand how an over-the-top reaction only ensures further provocation. The hotbloods of Islamic fundamentalism are old enough to know better. They ought to grow up.

Like with the fundamentalists of all stripes - you find them in most religions as well as non-religious movements like secularism, and groups that have nothing to do with religion as well, political groups and the like. And simply stressed out individuals. Children lack certain psychological capacities to deal with stress which most adults have, but when those groups feel pushed down for prolonged periods of time, denigrated and infantilized and denied what they expect or think is rightfully theirs.

I used the phrase culture wars advisedly above, because I think there really is a psychological connection between what we in Americans call culture wars and Muslim extremists throwing a first-class hissy-fit. I'm thinking of incidents like the annual "war on Christmas" outraged that stores might say happy holidays rather than merry Christmas. Or the way groups on all sides battle over such minor points when it comes to "issues" like abortion access and contraception coverage and someone praying at an event where politicians happen to be present and gun rights and ... the list gets depressingly long these days. These flashpoints occur around different things in different cultures, but they aren't limited to the Middle East or America, for that matter. The common factor, as far as I can tell, is that the people involved all feel put-upon for some reason or another. They either used to have a certain privilege that is being denied to them now (or is no longer uniquely theirs), or nearly as often they are hearing from their various quarters that they deserve some right, that everyone --or at least everyone that isn't an ignorant fob-- agrees with them, yet they still don't have this right they think they deserve. That can sap the emotional wherewithal any adult has to treat minor irritations as just that.

None of this excuses violence, or makes those deaths America's fault. And none of that changes whether a certain position is objectively good. Let me say this unequivocally: I really and truly am glad that stores say happy holidays rather than merry Christmas. But just because I like the happy holidays approach, that doesn't mean I can't feel sympathy for people who were used to thinking everyone was like them. I don't think they were ever entitled to that impression, and it's good that they're adjusting to a more accurate view of reality. But that adjustment is still draining and disorienting. It doesn't excuse the histrionics, but it does explain them a bit.

So think about the situation in the Middle East. European colonization and all that meant economically and culturally. The blame for 9/11. Drone attacks. The way terrorism has become seen as brown-skinned and Muslim, so white supremacists, when they kill groups of brown-skinned people you hardly hear the name. To say nothing of the inevitable collateral damage of conventional war. If I was a Muslim living in the Middle East, this would wear on me. Doubly so if I had been promised a brighter future, put my life on the line by protesting... and found change to be too slow or somehow insufficient. (It always is.)

I guess I can just get why people would get stressed and overreact in juvenile ways like this over and over again, without necessarily having to grow up. When I had a massively bad day last Thursday, by the end of it any little thing had me angry beyond belief. If that had gone on for a week, I can see myself getting angry enough to throw a stapler across the room. If we were talking years or even generations, in a much more volatile situation with much worse injustices and indignities, a stupid amateurish film might even be enough to make me storm an embassy or two.

I wouldn't be right to do that. In fact, I'd be incredibly in the wrong. But I can see myself getting that upset, without the need to grow up. There's just a limit to what humans can stand, and I think part of helping life from crossing that critical point is recognizing when you're pushing people too far.

Enough heavy. As a celebration of simple pleasures and happiness that I think are the best antidote to this kind of frustration, have a clip from the "Cosby Show."

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doing nothing

Today's been a good day for doing not much of anything.

  1. I picked up my key for the library carrel.
  2. I bought socks at the bazaar at Fordham Plaza.
  3. I ate lunch at Faculty Dining - rotiserie chicken, green beans, raw fruit and apple pie for desert.
  4. I bumped into Dr. M. coming out of the dining hall and mentioned that I wasn't teaching and the basic topic of my dissertation. He pointed out I should look to Gorgias (the pre-Socratic philosopher) who did some interesting work on being, conceivability, and naming before that stuff was cool.
  5. I attended the Fordham Philosophy Society meeting (our department's graduate student association), where I made jokes and managed to commit myself to nothing more substantial than presenting at the dissertation colloquium series.
  6. Walking down the hall, I said hi to Dr. G, our local bioethics specialist and the old undergraduate program director (so he managed teaching). We ended up having an hourlong discussion on how the fetus's status as a person affected the morality of early-term abortion.
  7. I settled business with the student loan peoples and my old bank in Cleveland. The first was easily handled (I'm still a student, they just need me to fill out a form proving it). The second, it's more theater of the absurd. I have a savings account containing $0.32 which is (a) too low for their guidelines, and (b) too low for them to issue me a check. I keep telling them I don't care about getting the money, the representative says she'll figure out how to handle it, and then three months later I get a call from another banker. Eventually I'll have enough interest where they won't charge me $5 to close the account...
  8. I notice I now have precisely 200 friends on FB - family, Fordham peeps, fannish friends, and friends of friends who think I say interesting things, mostly. At what point can I stop pretending I'm an outsider loaner?
  9. I drafted a ficlet for the series I mentioned this morning: Denethor impresses Finduilas at first meeting by being a first-class geek and owning it. (Wish fulfillment, much?) Needs work, but not bad for a start.

Now I have two hours until a seminar. I think I can crank out a few more paragraphs on Anselm and read at least one of the seminar papers for tonight. We're doing the cosmological argument. Not Aquinas's version, but contemporary ones and criticisms thereof. But it's been nice just doing nothing, as Christopher Robin says.

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(no subject)

Squirrels are freaky rats with big poofy tails. Whether that's a good or bad thing, I leave that to my readers.

Squirrel Nut Zippers, on the other hand, are an awesome band. Just saying. :-)

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