Sunday, December 17, 2017

Teaching Yourself Hatred

I have mentioned here at least once the principle of getting someone to like you by asking them to do a favor for you, rather than by doing a favor for them.  You might remember the story of Ben Franklin getting a political opponent to lend him a difficult-to-obtain book, and that creating a relationship of cooperation.

It occurs to me this morning that this likely occurs with hatred as well.  If you do something mean to person, such as throwing them under the bus to colleagues, or losing your temper, then they must be a bad person, because you, a good person, would not otherwise treat someone that way. It likely intensifies or solidifies as we go forward.

If you treat people well, you will like them better.  They might not be any better, but you will think so.  If you treat people poorly, you will learn to hate them. You might make them worse people by doing so, certainly, yet even if they remain unaffected, you will perceive them as worse.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Refugees, Part I of God-Only-Knows

I find as I compose this in my head that it ends up being a manifesto for a great portion of my Christian beliefs.  It keeps leaking out into other topics, which deserve at least some commentary to avoid being misunderstood. Alas, I find that usually, the longer I go the more I am misunderstood.

Refugees are a lot more work than most other ministries. They are more helpless than the ambitious, even devious others who try to come to America to get ahead.  That doesn't mean that they all are helpless, and will never find work, and will always need people to rescue them. Most of every tribe on earth is composed of people who know how to do some work or be trained, who know how to get along with others, have some idea of how to bring up children, some way of dealing with conflict. Some refugees were persons of education and cleverness in their previous culture. If you know 100 refugees who have been here a decade, almost all of them will have at least some employed family member, will have found a network But most is not all, and a larger percentage of refugees than other immigrants will never quite figure it out.  Their children are wildly over-represented in needing special services and interventions. Their crime rates are high, especially WRT crimes against women. I can assure you that they are high users of public mental health services. They are over-represented in food stamps, on Medicaid, on disability. A lot of this is temporary.  A lot of it is not.

So when Christians agree to take in refugees and help them adjust and get launched, they are binding the rest of their society in to absorbing some of that cost. It used to be that people could come only if they had sponsors, and I think some version of that is still true. Most church groups do this responsibly and do most of the work, getting people into jobs, and apartments they can afford. We did a lot with Laotian refugees in the early 80's.  We did a lot with Sudanese refugees until recently, and still contribute heavily to their church. In between, I have had lots of refugees at the hospital.  Southeast Asians and Africans, mostly, but some Slavs, in small waves. One of the additional difficulties is that refugees usually do not have an ethnic community they can connect to, of people speaking their language, giving them advice, helping them out with small things, providing networks for jobs. Immigrants from Mexico, Brazil, or the DR have that.  Bosnians and Dinka do not.

It's hard, and churches that take on this ministry are not able to do other things. Once a church has decided that this is its calling, then that may be less important. I am of the school that says "You put your money on 32 red, and where the ball lands you live with it." If God sent you there, that is some comfort that even though it is impossible and you may not succeed, you are in His will. Once they are here, you don't have much choice.

If you are one who is doing this ministry, then I think you have some heightened say about how many more the society around you should take.  In America, you do not have anything like authority about that, but I think you should have influence, both for the positive and the negative. We can do more.  Get us some more.  Approve some more. Though also We can't do more. Our people are stretched.  If you can't find other people to take this on, then those over the sea must wait. What I dislike greatly are those who say that "we" can take more in order to signal how virtuous they are, when they have no intention of doing more than dropping by and saying something encouraging. They are forcing other people in their society to work - a kind of slavery.  If you are insisting that America take more refugees, then you had damn well be one of the ones teaching English, driving to appointments, or directly contributing lots of money. I might grumble about carrying extra weight, but if you are shouldering the primary burden, then I will honor your work as fellow citizen and take my turn.

If you aren't, then I hate you.  Really, I do.


Didn't like this version at first. I usually insist on hearing the harmonies in equipoise. But it grew on me quickly.

Liked this, too. We sang this in the car a lot when the boys were young.


Here is another word that has changed in meaning, and so deceives us now.  When  one hears that something is a "leak," the image is one from physical reality, as a leak in a bucket or a balloon.  It is something unintentional, an indication that something has gone wrong and is a problem.  By analogy, when a news source reports that something is "leaked," it carries the image that the clever reporter got some incautious should to reveal something he should not have, or that an individual or small group within an organisation were acting against orders and secretly let out information for their own purposes, or nobly, for the good of the public.

This is no longer remotely true, if indeed it ever was. A leak is a carefully-managed bit of information.  There is nothing accidental or unintentional about it.  News organisations perpetuate the myth because it makes them look clever, providing a service to the public. They are actually providing a service to the leakers.

I am told that the Washington Post is the house organ of the federal agencies, including our intelligence services. All of the news agencies work from sources they have cultivated and give off the impression that they have dug deep and are shining the light of truth on events, but in terms of the federal government, WaPo is king. In their minds, they are performing the service of telling us what is "really" going on.  I suspect they mostly believe that. It is even somewhat true - nothing could long sustain if it had no truth whatsoever.  But it is a highly managed truth, in the service of anonymous sources.  The word "leak" is misleading.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Net Neutrality

Am I for this or against it?  I haven't put any effort into thinking about it.

ESPN and Racism, Sexism

There's a lot of commentary in the conservosphere that ESPN is losing customers because of their unrelentingly liberal politics.  Well, maybe. I don't think I would like it much better if they were unrelentingly conservative in their politics. The line always is "These issues are important! We can't refuse to talk about them.  We have a responsibility..." Yeah, sure. I think they are important, too.  I do want to hear about them.  Just not from sportscasters and athletes and coaches.  I don't care about Tom Brady's take on racism in the NFL, or Bill Belichick's. I might, might be interested in Richard Sherman's take.  Yes, his main qualification is that he is a great athlete, but he has secondary qualifications of being intelligent and thoughtful.  Mouthy, I'm not thrilled with, but I can endure it.

So a few minutes of Sherman, maybe.  Stephen A. Smith has interesting delivery, so a few minutes of him.  But why on earth should I be interested what Mike and Mike think, or Jemele Hill?

Nu Tandas Tusen Julejus

This was fun to find.  We just sang these for Luciadag.

Christmas Parang

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Related to the previous post: Sometimes in a comment thread a person will claim that the writer or some of the commenters are "racist" because they believe there are measurable differences among races. If one goes browsing around the online dictionaries, there is some diversity of definition, with one requiring that race be the primary determinant of some characteristic while another only mentions race as one factor.  Some definitions lean heavily on included meanings of superiority and inferiority. One dictionary goes so far as to label any belief in differences in races at all as "racism."

It is often hard to be precise.  Yet surely one requirement must be that all uses of letters in the same order cannot be interchangeable in every setting.  If that were so, I would be congratulating my patients on their good fortune when I tell them they have outstanding charges.

Diversity: Meaning Change and Fashion

The word diversity has changed, acquiring a related but separate meaning. It is a political, not a scientific or literary meaning. If you don't know that, and insist on using the word as if it has not moved, you will seem to be a bigot. In addition to the previous meaning of "variety, multiplicity, heterogeneity" it now means "showing conscious respect for previously disadvantaged groups, especially African-Americans." You will not find this meaning if you look in dictionaries (though this will be coming soon - modern dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive and don't care what people think a word should mean). Yet if you google "diversity" and look at the autocompletes, you will see that the new meaning is already the more common one in popular culture.

Therefore, when some Ohio senator tweeted that diversity is not a strength, assimilation is the strength, he was assailed from many sides.  His statement, according to the old meaning, is not only true but blindingly obvious. Only a fool could disagree with the first half of that statement.  The second half - well, it's going to depend on what one means by "assimilation," but I'll bet I would agree with him.

However, his critics took him as if he was using their more modern and fashionable meaning, as if he was saying "It's not important to show respect to black people, or gays, or women, or Hispanics, or whatever. Keeping them invisible and powerless is okay." Do those attacking him not understand what he meant? I am tempted to say that they understood him entirely, but they want an excuse to attack him, and to insist that their meaning - their culture, their fashion, their signalling - is the real one. There is a real boot-stepping-on-a-face-endlessly nature to this.  It is Newspeak, where only the special ones understand, and they get to punish those who must be evil because they aren't woke. Liberalism is sustained by fashionableness, after all. I have no doubt whatsoever that this pretending to not understand is a fair accusation against many in The Resistance.

And yet...I am not now coming of age with words as they are currently used.  I am old, and my reading and culture ally me with generations prior even to my own. I don't really know how thirtysomethings hear the word now. They might not be pretending to misunderstand (as one of the nastier critics,  John Podhoretz clearly is) that use of "diversity;" they might actually think there are two meanings, and have leapt to the conclusion that because it's about politics, the political meaning is the true one. Some are dishonest.  Some are indoctrinated. I cannot discern between them.


Additional note. Most of my black friends vote consistently Democrat, but many are not especially political, or are at least not public about it.  Those few who adopt more of an advocacy stance are very liberal, very confrontive.  I notice that they uniformly pronounce the word "die-versity," and absolutely only mean black people, not gays or folks with disabilities or Asians. The nuances of that are going to be clearer to an African-American who keeps up with politics than they are to me.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


 Lelia linked to an interesting article about the ability to visualise objects. I had not much thought about the topic. Just a bit from time to time over the years.

I don't miss body language and visual cues that much, but do find I am much more attuned to tones of voice. I can picture things, especially geometrics - even complicated ones. But I don't picture them all that vividly. The colors are seldom vibrant, and the images dissolve and have to be refreshed frequently. Unsurprisingly, I do not much enjoy description in novels, preferring plot and dialogue. When I finally broke down and watched The Lord of the Rings I was quite grateful to Peter Jackson for providing such wonderful scenery and monsters.  I was less pleased with the bodies and faces of the people, which did not entirely match my own.  However, neither had the still illustrations of the characters over the years much convinced me either, and his were better than most.  I could make the adjustment.

I did not adjust to the voices of the characters no matter how long I watched, except for Sam, who sounded much like my own read-aloud voice for his character. (I have read the entirety aloud three times in my life.  Gollum can really damage your voice.)

This may explain why I have found writing fiction difficult, even though dialogue just springs naturally, and seldom needs much rewriting. I do not consistently describe things well.  There is a range, and I will occasionally hit it just right, but more often it is pedestrian, lifeless. This weakened visualisation may also explain why I consider film a dangerously powerful medium and tend to avoid it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Mannheim Steamroller Concert

I lost The Little Drummer Boy Challenge on December 5 this year.  I went to a Mannheim Steamroller concert, and of course it was on the bill.  I should have seen it coming.

I was even more annoyed because their version, including the accompanying video, was so poor that I could not even get any enjoyment to compensate. However, analyzing why it was so poor revealed to me a good deal of why the entire concert was disappointing, so it gave me something to think about, and now write about.  So I think it's a fair trade after all.

They have not updated the arrangement since 1988. They have not updated any of the arrangements. This may not be bad in itself, if you created a classic the first time or got exactly what you wanted.  That's not likely when it's every song. Now, it just sounds like they're stuck in the 80's. The world did not go in the synthesizer direction. Chip Davis was creative, with unusual arrangements of older music - lots more drum, synth, bass, and percussion than we were used to. You liked it or you didn't, but it was an attempt at something new. Now they've added a Genesis-style light show and some mostly-irritating videos to musicians performing their CD tracks.

"The Little Drummer Boy" video was about a toy drummer, 
plus a lot of other Christmas toys being woken up to dance and play at night after Santa's elves have gone to sleep. Ah, so you didn't actually listen to the lyrics, then, did you? Davis has always been a bit strong on the Magic of Christmas nonsense and sentimentality, yet I did think there might be something Christian in there. Listening to the 1988 version in that context, with its mechanical effect, it is clear that a toy drummer was his intent from the start.  I'm surprised I never noticed it before.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" has this video of a guy in medieval costume saddling up and then riding a horse across fields.  Hard, as if on some errand. This made no sense. I eventually decided that it was merely a superficial response to the archaic phrase in the title.  It's medieval, doncha get it? So we have this medieval guy. This was confirmed when the video ended at a moated castle, with a baron and baroness waving behind the parapet. When Chip Davis's daughter Elyse sang "Greensleeves," she had green sleeves.  Nothing in her vocal or facial expression showed the least connection to the lyrics. "Angels We Have Heard On High" had this journey through space with ethereal angels in diaphanous gowns looming up repeatedly on the screen, reminiscent of Star Wars - A New Hope just before they would go into hyperdrive. Passing planets on the way, too close together. "Carol of the Bells" had these vaguely demonic modern interpretive dancers arranged on the screen - very 70's choreography.

There was some non-Christmas music as well, very space-and-light-show, techno sound. To which I can only say far out! 

 We were about average age for the concert audience, maybe even a bit young.  Chip Davis is the Lawrence Welk of our generation.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Dogs That Didn't Bark

Documents long held confidential about the JFK assassination were released recently.  I expected there to be a significant uptick in old conspiracy theorists dragging out their wares and placing them out on table in the market for buyers to peruse. There was a flurry about some little thing in the first day or so.  I don't even recall what. I haven't heard anything since thing, suggesting that there really isn't anything to add.  Dogs would be barking, but there are no dogs barking. It is a shortcut I am taking, because researching this doesn't rise to level of importance. 

The whole Seth Rich story rose up and died down months ago. There was a thought that because he was a strong possible of who leaked the DNC emails that his death may not have been accidental. It all seemed like a Robert Ludlum novel right out of the gate.  There were odd details about the robbery.  The work of a private detective kept the story going for a while. But his parents said it wasn't true, and liberals said it was mean to pursue it because of that. (Though in a Robert Ludlum novel, the parents would also have been threatened, so why would their opinion be decisive?) Whatever agency was investigating it determined that there was no need to go further and dropped it. Anyone bringing it up afterward was dismissed as a paranoid right-winger. Until Donna Brazile, of all people brought it up again. She barked. She was worried that her life was in danger because of the information she was revealing about Democrats, and specifically referenced Seth Rich. So she thought her own people capable of this, enough to say it right out loud.

But since then no other dogs have barked.  There are people much more paranoid and obsessed than I am out there who have informed themselves about all this and run through the various speculations.  I have to figure if there were some reason to bring this back they would be trying to work it in at every turn. I use my shortcut again. Researching this does not rise to any level of importance for me. I rely on the fact that no dogs are barking.

Yet this morning it all got weird.  I had a third example, but the dogs just started barking again. I have a great deal of admiration for the uh, doggedness of Judicial Watch. Real documents which the government doesn't want to release. So maybe whether dogs are barking or not isn't as good a shortcut as I thought.