I am fully aware that the Taliban grew directly out of the mujahideen forces supported by America in the 1980s. I am also fully that during the 1980s, the largest supporter of Iraq was, in fact, the United States, for we saw him as a useful tool to counter Iran, an extremist state with connections to Russia. I am also aware that a significant number of the combatants that show up in any theater where Muslim extremeists are involved can be traced back to Afghanistan. Ironically enough, a significant percentage of the munitions used against us in Afghanistan were probably US in origin.
But if you'll notice, the only reason the US was in Afghanistan was to counter the presence of the USSR in the region. We supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan because they were fighting the Russians. This was an international affair. We haven't supported other non-governmental groups because their activities are largely domestic. When the Russians withdrew, there was no longer any reason for the US to support these terrorist organizations, so we stopped. We stopped supporting Iraq Then things got interesting. I submit for your perusal the following document, entitled "Significant Terroist Incidents 1961-2001: A Brief Chronology" put out by the State Department.
Things to notice: first, the number of terrorist incidents between 1961 and 1982 is equal to the number of incidents between 1983 and 1986. A significant ramp up of activity, it seems to me. They only get more numerous from there. Second, until 1993, the vast majority of terrorist targest have been government and/or military targets, all of them overseas.
But in 1993 Islamist extremists planted a bomb in the World Trade Center. They failed to do more than blow up a floor of the parking garage, but he still killed some people. After a years-long manhunt and trial, some of the perpetrators were convicted and imprisoned.
In 1996, the Khobar Towers, an American military housing complex, was blown up in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 and wounding 515.
On February 23, 1997, an Palestinian sniper opened fire from the observation platform of the Empire State building. He killed one person - who happened to be Danish - and wounded several others before turning the gun on himself.
On November 12, 1997, two American businessmen were killed in Pakistan. Two Islamist groups claimed responsibility.
On November 17, 1997, Islamists open fire on tourists visiting the Hatshepsut temple in Egypt, killing 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians. This time, the suspects were probably Egyptian terrorists whose link to Al Qaeda was secondary at best.
In 1998, two US Embassies, one in Nairobi and the other in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were blown up. Osama bin Laden is the chief suspect.
In October, 2000, the USS Cole was attacked, killing 17 and wounding 39. Again, bin Laden is the chief suspect.
11 months later, 9/11/01, New York was hit again, this time accomplishing what the terrorists failed to do 8 years before.
The list I have compiled is only a small portion of the State Department list, which is itself not complete. But something to notice. The number of attacks has been increasing, and the targeting of Americans is definitely there. We are less safe than we were during the Cold War, when the terrorists had other things to think about, and were often supported by us. You don't bite the hand that feeds you. "Nibble a little maybe, in an affectionate sort of way, but not actually bite." In the last 20 years, we have lost more people to terrorism than military conflict. Hell, 9/11/01 alone would accomplish that. But in any case, I do sincerely believe that since the end of the Cold War, we are much more likely to be hit by terrorists, and much more likely to have those terrorists strike home. The Washington sniper incident, which turned out to be entirely domestic, could have easily been accomplished by foreign nationals. If that guy had been wearing a turban, you can bet your hide that we would have gone into Iraq the next day.
(And if you think about it, those two guys in a car did a far more effective job of paralyzing a city than the WTC hijackers did. Drop 40 guys around the country with high powered rifles, and you've got a very cheap way of scaring millions of people).
The US has been very fortunate as far as terrorism on our soil. The last 10 years only saw four major incidents, and two of them were domestic. Ironically enough, the decade in which the US experienced the most terrorism at home was during the 1960s, and liberals were solely responsible. They were liberal nut-jobs, but liberals nonetheless. (I love the fact that I can say that.) Until 2001, terrorist strikes against the US were growing in number and potency. If they have dropped off, I defy you to tell me it has nothing to do with the fact that the US government has opened up a can. Oh, but I do agree with the idea that a "War on Terrorism" is a really bizarre concept. How do we know if we have won?
Concerning the awarding of contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq I have two things to say. First, Cheney divested himself of all holdings in Halliburton after the election, so he isn't going to be making any money here. Brown & Root is a subsidary of Halliburton. My source for this kind of information, OpenSecrets.org won't display Bush's financial holdings at the moment, so I have no way of verifying your claim about Bush. But second, doesn't it make sense to hire the largest petroleum services corporation to take care of Iraq's problems? Certainly they would be the best choice. And about Bechtel: they're the largest general contractor in the world, and responsible for constructing the Alaska pipeline. Why wouldn't they be given the contract for Iraq? They have the experience, infrastructure, and resources to take on this kind of project. Who do you want them to hire, Bob the Builder?
Granted, Halliburton and Bechtel were two of the largest contributors to the Bush campaign. But if you, like Michael Moore, are going to alledge that the reason we went to war is solely for some kind of quid pro quo, I really don't have anything else to say.
For continuing coverage of the state of affairs in Iraq, I would direct you to Andrew Sullivan, who is doing a wonderful job of both getting the word out about how things really are in Iraq, and the disasterous job the media is doing of covering it. Certainly if the allegations you level against the government are true they would be far more damaging than the entirely mythical quagmire that they keep on about.
Gosh, that was long.
...is the title of this essay. Notwithstanding the creepiness of linking to a site dedicated to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the essay is spot on. If this is the kind of thing our legal system allows, it has failed.
Again, Andrew Sullivan gets it exactly right. This article is an attack on the anti-war peaceniks. He also has a link to an essay that points out that the BBC has a history of this kind of thing: they opposed Churchill before WWII, and the director of the BBC at the time was "an admirer of both Hitler and Mussolini." These people are enemies of the West and civilization. They are the 21st century barbarians. What the Vandals did to Rome, they're fixing to do to us. Let's give 'em what for before they do.
A little while back, Mesh linked to an essay by David Brooks, where Brooks argues that for all its apparent fractitiousness, we're really one united people when it comes down to it. This essay rang false for me, but I didn't have an immediate response, so I didn't say anything there or here. But after reading this Christopher Caldwell article at The Weekly Standard, I feel more ready to address the issue.
For me, the key part of the Caldwell piece is in the last paragraph:
"As for the general election, Republicans seem unaware of how riled up Democratic activists remain, even three years after the 2000 elections. A substantial segment of the party's base has been radicalized to the point where it does not recognize the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. This is a very different thing than mere dislike of a president. It means that Democrats are prepared to fight this election as if they were struggling to overthrow a tyrant. One fears that 2004 could wind up--in its rhetoric and its electoral ethics--as the dirtiest general election campaign in living memory." (emphasis in the original)
He's right. And pundits from Moore to editors of Salon do not hesitate to bring this up. We've got a Radiohead album called Hail to the Thief for crying out loud, and they aren't even American. I think the last election was a severe blow to the unity of America. Look at the results. Admittedly, we currently have a minority president, but uncommon as that is, it is technically legal due to the Electoral College system, and if I remember correctly, not unprecidented. But just look at the map. The divide is pretty clear: Gore got the Northeast, heavy industry Great Lakes region, and West Coast. Bush got everything else. If you want to do a land-area comparison, it's not even funny.
Men like Dean included, I don't think that anyone honestly believes that George W. Bush can actually be defeated next year. He's raised almost as much money as all his competitors combined, he continues to bring in outrageous approval ratings, and he cut taxes. How could this guy lose?
And that's the only thing that keeps be from being really bothered about the upcoming elections. If you thought the last election cycle was ugly, you ain't seen nothing yet. If the votes are anywhere near close, liberals are going to go completely apeshit. I'm pretty sure that Brooks' assessment of the unity of our country is wrong, and I'm pretty sure that he will be proven wrong in the next 14 months.
If you actually need a reason for that kind of thing, check out this article.
Listen people: this was posted almost a year ago. This is not an active discussion, and hasn't been for months. If you've got a comment, stuff it. No one cares.
Actually, I'm doing fine. But the song "Little Red Light" by Fountains of Wayne is great. This is a good breakup song. Here's a guy that is no longer with his significant other (no details are given), who is "still a mess," but is getting on with his life. He's distracted, hurt, lonely, but as mentioned in "Bright Future in Sales," still getting his "s--- together". He doesn't seem to be hurting less than an emo-kid (thanks for the correction Matt), but that doesn't stop him from going to work. It's a damn fine song.
...and it was a happy ending? Wha....huh? That was my reaction to the end of Terminator 3, which I saw with Josiah, Mesh, and Holton on Saturday afternoon. Big spoilers here for those of you who haven't seen it, just so you know.
Basically, it turns out that Judgement Day hasn't been averted, only postponed.
(Within the first few minutes of the film I consigned myself to the utter abandonment of any of the standard time travel objections. The movie just won't hold up under scrutiny. And I'm not talking intense scrutiny, I'm talking the "Hey, I wonder if...?" The answer is no, that doesn't make sense, but watch the movie and enjoy it anyway. Which I did, just so you know.)
Anyway, plot hole issues aside (Can we all say "Swiss cheese"? I knew you could!), the thing that bothered me most about the movie was the fact that when Judgement Day happens, it's a kind of bittersweet, happy ending. We're watching ICBMs launch and detonate over major cities, and the last scene of the movie is a shot from space of dozens of thermonuclear explosions roiling the atmosphere, with some delicate, emotional string music in the background. What the hell?
When T2 came out, it was 1991. The Berlin Wall had only been down for about 2 years, and when the movie was released, the Soviet Union was in the process of disintegrating. The Cold War would end in December, 1991. Back then, we still believed that global thermonuclear war was the greatest threat to the continued existence of humanity. But we haven't faced an Evil Empire that could literally destory the country for almost 12 years. It seems that we don't believe in nuclear war anymore.
Which makes perfect sense. The only people who have nuclear capabilities are either 1) not crazy enough/have too much at stake (Russia/China[?]); 2) would use them on someone else first (Pakistan/India); or 3) don't actually have enough warheads to destroy the country (North Korea). As much as the French hate us, I don't think they'd nuke us. The Brits and Israelis certainly wouldn't. And that, folks, names most of the major members of the nuclear club. So contrary to normal practice, something that was once a dangerous reality has become the stuff of science fiction.
But remember the opening shots of T2? The playground? The piles of skulls? The quiet, muted voice-over? "Three billion lives ended on August 29th 1997. The human survivors of the nuclear fire lived on to face a new nightmare - the war against the machines." I get the feeling that Jonathan Mostow was trying to recreate this feeling of dread with the shot of human skulls under the river, but he's no Cameron, and it shows. Welcome to the first postmodern Terminator movie, where nuclear holocaust isn't real enough to be theatening, even after September 11, 2001. Or, maybe, it's because of that. We've seen terrorism, and though it truly is terrible, if that's the worst they can do, MAD isn't part of the equation. A terrorist may be able to destory a city, but only a nation can destory every city.
Now we get to wait for the (inevitable?) T4, in which we see John Conner actually lead the Resistance to victory.
Oh, and just for the record, in T3, Claire Danes has the worst day currently on record. She holds up surprisingly well.
Pursuant to the discussion on music, I'd like to offer my own thoughts on why I don't like emo. I'm pretty sure these musings are directly relatable to earlier discussions on hipsters. Anyway, here goes.
The kind of emo I have in mind is the largely acoustic, whiny sort exemplified by chief
offender proponant Christopher Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional. I'm fully aware that emo didn't originate with such pap and can get a lot harder. I've heard some of that stuff too, and while it isn't as limp-wristed, it still can come off whiny. Basically, emo says one thing to me: high school.
I've said for a while that I believe emo to be the opiate of slightly wussy high school boys. Last semester, Catacombs' resident emo guru hung this poster on his door, which to me really kind of sums it up. I'm persuaded that for emo-ites, life took them completely by surprise as "a man getting mugged in a meadow." They seem completely unprepared to deal with the things life can throw your way, and deal with that by writing - let's face it - embarassingly gushy lyrics to sad songs without the remotest touch of the duende that has been under discussion here recently. It's a sadness without hope, without looking forward, it is, I think, a sadness composed entirely of self-pity. In all the emo I've listened to - not an absolutely gigantic amout, but not tiny either - I can't detect much of a trace of wanting to move forward, learn from mistakes, or get over whatever girl just shut you down. In essence, welcome to the freshman year of high school.
This is what bothers me about it. It's like the musicians aren't moving on, have no intention of moving on, and to all appearances, moving on isn't something that entered their minds. Which makes them not sophisticated, intelligent, and fascinating, but pathetic high school freshmen. Yes, life can be tough sometimes. You were kind of supposed to know that. And when it does get tough, suck it up, have a beer or two, consider your situtation and choices for a day or two, and then get on with your damned life like the rest of us. Yes, my emo friend, you will fall in love again. No, my emo friend, your life is not over now that x has happened. Yes, you will feel this way about someone again - assumming you can get off your ass and try.
I think it's the self-absorbtion that really gets to me. It's the assumption that not only are one's emotions the most important thing in one's life, but that they should also figure prominantly in everyone else's life as well. I have enough pathologies of my own without having to cope with yours as well, thank you very much. Get on with it and do something productive. Get a real job. It doesn't matter what, the point is not what you do nearly as much as the fact that you're doing something.
In short: stop moping and grow a spine.
Really different. This kind of stuff really makes you wonder.
I spent some more time reading over the article I just linked to, including the comments that have been posted on Josh's site. What strikes me is the complete impossibility of the debate being resolved without some kind of higher discourse. I had considered posting a comment, but realized I have nothing to say to either of the main disputants: our belief systems are so different that discourse on anything but those differences would be pointless. What also struck me is how neither side can ever really defeat the other, leaving them in some kind of Ragnarok-like death-grip until one or both of them either 1) gets bored or 2) surrenders out of frustration. That isn't the kind of discussion I want to jump into, no matter how interesting I find it.
The final thing that stuck me was the degree to which people - especially pagans - can be unpleasant. But I don't think that needs any more explanation.
Here's another great piece by Josh Ellis. It's a bit colorful on the language, and resoundingly anti-emo, but I think it has some insight. He suggests that maybe sitting pathetically by yourself moping about your lost love doesn't make you a more sophisticated and insightful human being, it just makes you pathetic. It's also a pretty decent anti-histronic rant. He may be a bastard for saying so, but I'm tempted to think that he's not entirely wrong either.
I hate patents. Though originally conceived as a helpful protection for inventors and entrepreneurs, patents today are anything but that. Cases in point: SCO, for whose claims I have no adjective. Essentially they are claiming that the entire Linux movement belongs to them and are suing IBM for $1 billion. Also, InterTrust, a tiny company that consists of "a patent portfolio, 30 employees" and what could potentially be a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Microsoft. InterTrust claims a patent on the DRM technolog Microsoft has been implementing in basically everything they sell. If InterTrust wins, they could own Microsoft.
This is, like the RIAA's crusade, completely insane. We've got tiny, miniscule companies who do not currently sell the products over which they are litigating - if indeed they ever actually did - filing billion dollar lawsuits. This isn't an example of someone trying to protect their business. Litigation is their business.
Now it would have been wrong for Microsoft to simply steal from InterTrust and drive them out of business. But it's been more than a decade since InterTrust reached its peak, and today it is a tiny company. And no one is really suggesting that this is because Microsoft infringed upon their patents and stole all their customers away. InterTrust hasn't been doing much business for years. No, this came from a careful and deliberate search for infringement on the part of InterTrust for the sole purpose of soaking MSFT. Lessig is right: if you aren't going to use your copyright/patent, someone else should be able to do so. Use it or lose it.
Doc Searls has a brilliant editorial at Linux Journal regarding the continuing battle over the legal status of ideas. I agree with his analysis that the root problem here is one of language. It isn't that I and others don't want it to be possible to make money off of an idea or media creation, but that we believe that ideas are not "property" in the same way that houses and cars are. But if your opponants can spin their pro-copy right (as Searls points out, the man who made that one word must have been a lawyer, because there is no freespeechright) arguments as a defense of property rights, then no one is going to listen to you. RTWT.
This choice bit of data is just more evidence that Bush isn't really who/what he claims to be. It compares spending trends under Reagan and Bush. As Andrew Sullivan points out, "With Clinton gone, the era of small government is over." And that's what bothers me. It wasn't a die-hard liberal that conceived the insidious Patriot Act, nor did it take communists to come up with Total/Terrorist Information Awareness, a plan that was miraculously killed by enterprising Senators who cut off its funding.
There's more. Rhetoric of bringing liberty abroad aside, this administration has had a fairly wretched track record at home. We've got CAPPS II, the program under which the Transportation Security Administration now logs the travel activities of everyone who buys a plane ticket in this country. They have screening policies that flag people who meet certain criteria, which has resulted in the detaining of hundreds of innocent civilians and the creation of a "fly list" of people who are routinely stopped by the system. Republican congressmen have moved to make the "temporary" draconian measures of the Patriot Act permanant. A fairly good laundry list can be found here.
This is getting a bit scary, folks. I'm reminded of what Benjamin Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Yes, good old Dubya is starting to bother me. It isn't because of the war in the Middle East, I approve of that. It isn't because of the tax cut; in principle, I approve of that. It isn't because I think he lied to the American public; he didn't. It's because, unlike Clinton, George W. Bush seems to be an honest to goodness liberal. His track record on every issue is centrist at best, and pretty leftist on others: fiscal policy, trade policy, foreign policy, all these he winds up looking more like Kennedy than Thatcher. The link is to a recent Andrew Sullivan article (if you don't read him on a regular basis, shame on you).
The kind I was doing took a long time. Dispite having been laid off last week, John still has some work for me before I go home. I spent 11 hours today north of Hixon staining a three story deck. It was big. The square footage of this deck exceeds the square footage of the house of my current residence.
Interestingly enough, the homeowner is originally Iranian, and we chatted for a bit about recent developments in regional politics. He is understandably thrilled at the removal of Saddam, and expressed great hope at the recent developments in his native country (read Andrew Sullivan for continuing coverage). He is a lead engineer of some sort at the concrete plant I can see across the valley from my house. It was kind of neat to meet a person born in the middle east who has made it so well here.
Slashdot linked to this article on The Register earlier today, but I had to link to it as well. Apparently DirecTV is suing anyone who purchased equipment that could conceivably be used to pirate their content, whether you have ever owned one of their dishes. The minimum settlement is $3,500, and increases to $10,000 if you don't pony up quick. This is a travesty of justice. An entirely innocent hobbiest can be soaked for thousands of dollars simply because it costs less to settle than to prove one's innocence. Grrr.
I've decided to go back to good, old... okay, who am I kidding? Central PA is a hole in which I know very few people. But my family lives there, and I have a few dear friends I haven't seen in almost 8 months, so that's good. I lined up 3/4 time work at my former employer, Friendly's - for those of you not familiar with Northern chains, it's a burger and ice cream joint - at a good wage, which will both give me enough time to finish my blasted SIP and move my finances from barely adequate to fairly adequate. I'll be in Chattanooga until the end of the month.
In an odd twist of fate relating to yesterday's post on telemarketing, it seems that the current economic downturn has affected me personally. I've been laid off. Despite my best efforts, there has not been sufficient business for my employer to keep me on after this week. The weather has been brutal on us, and John said that small business owners - especially contractors - all over town are reporting slower business than usual: Brandt with TrueShine, landscapers, even Luciano's. It's hard to say whether it's just the awful weather - for those of you not living in/around Chattanooga, there hasn't been a three day stretch without rain since early June - or whether the national slowdown in spending is at fault, but it's kind of moot at this point.
What this means for me isn't entirely clear. There are six weeks left until the semester begins. Finding a job that pays well enough to support me down here does not sound like it's going to happen: no one hires an employee at >$10/hr for six weeks. So unless something absolutely fantastic turns up in the next few days, I'll probably be going home.
Right now I'm thinking that I'll stay for most of July, seeing as I've already paid for it. I won't have nearly as much money at the end of the summer as I had hoped, but I suppose that's the way the cookie gets smashed into little bits, eh? At the moment, I have enough to be comfortable until the end of the year, my expenses after August promising to be quite minimal. Yes, there are a few advantages to still being a college student, and not having to pay for rent, utilities, or food is one of them. But I certainly won't have the buffer I had wanted to bridge me between graduation in December and finding gainful employment thereafter.
On the upside, this should give me the time I need to finish my SIP. I was supposed to have it finished last semester, but I ran into a problem with the project that prevented me from concluding it. Holding down a full time job has meant that I've been able to spend little time on it so far this summer, and things have progressed very slowly. With any luck, a full two weeks of study and writing should give me the burst I need to get this sucker done.
I don't really know what's going to happen though. Prayers are appreciated.
I'm sure a lot of you have heard about the National Do-Not-Call Registry set up by the FCC that takes effect October 1. Basically, you can add your phone number to 60 million other registered numbers that telemarketers may not call without the risk of a hefty fine. When I first heard about this a few months ago (probably on Slashdot, I was in favor. But personal experience and this article on Salon have me thinking otherwise.
The personal experience is that in my current job, running the office for a small (okay very small) business, I actually do quite a bit of telemarketing. Most weeknights from 5:00 to 6:30 or 7:00, I'm making phone calls. I know it's intrusive, I know I don't like receiving such calls (and as a small business, we get a lot), and I know the reputation that telemarketers have. Yet you know what? Those few hours spent on the phone every day make up a significant portion of our business. I don't know the actual figures, but it's probably between 25 and 50%. We're talking hundreds of dollars per week in revenue.
And that's just for two guys in a truck. As the Salon article points out, telemarketing is a multi-billion dollar source of revenue. It's the cheapest form of advertising known to man, and the sales it produces account for between 2 and 3% of our GDP. We're talking 4 million jobs here. And who is in these jobs? College students. Single mothers. The disabled. And lots of people just off of welfare. And the FCC has just regulated this industry - an industry that is not illegal - out of existence.
Is this really something we want to be doing right now? I thought we were shooting for some kind of economic recovery here, right? Yet if the numbers are correct, there will be about 2 million layoffs in the months immediately following October. If the unemployment rate is hovering around 6% now, who knows how high it will go? Because if you lay off the telemarketers, firms won't be selling as many goods and services, so they'll have to lay off manufacturing and service jobs too. And none of those people are going to be spending money. If we aren't in a recession now, this could certainly send us into one.
I could go into it more, but I'd just be repeating the article. Read the whole thing.
Spend one day away from my netconnection and look what happens. I'm way behind in the discussion. I was north of Soddy Daisy all day today working on a house with John. I suppose I'll catch up tomorrow.
My prolonged ranting on the hipster phenomena has produced some comments of interest. Peruse this for background.
This one's long. Here we go...
Well, we've got a couple of things worth talking about here. First, benny poses some questions for me. I'm talking in particular about the kind of vaguely retro, anti-corporate, anti-conservative, trendy urban dweller that is pretty well described by sites like the hipster handbook and others. You know the type: loathing for mainstream culture, highly concerned with art, etc. But more generally, I'm talking about the kind of person who is currently represented by the hipsters. In the sixties we had the hippies. Now we've got the hipsters. Different day, same face, basically. To put it more succinctly, I'm talking about the gamut of young, middle to upper-class overeducated bum that inhabits city centers everywhere.
But more than that, I'm talking about the kind of attitudes that this kind of person has, and to a lesser extent, that many young people today - including myself - occasionally evidence. These include a naively idealistic view of the way the world works, and a confusing dislike for the things that makes our lives possible. Also high on the list: the quest for reality through appearances rather than vice versa.
Do I interact with anyone I would call a hipster? Not in the purest sense of the word, but there are some people I could name that have hipster tendencies.
Do I think hipsters read my blog? Who knows? I really have no idea who reads this. I think the regular readership is somewhere between 10 and 20 people, several of whom check a few times a day. My traffic per day has hit a maximum of 83 hits (that being yesterday), so I don't really think any hipsters are in the audience.
Why have I gone off on hipsters for the past two days? Because I was reading about them, and the more I read about them, the more they bother me. Why do they bother me? I can think of a few reasons. First, last semester I took a course on the Sixties. We spent a lot of time talking about the
idiocy, ahem, activism that went on during that time, and I was struck time and time again at how destructive and self-destructive these actions were. This book is a pretty clear picture. And as I'm reading about the hipsters this week, I keep being reminded of the liberals of the 60s. And, for that matter, the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Here's a group of people opposed to my way of life economically, politically, and philosophically. For further information, see the title of my blog. This is my rant space. It happens to be public. But as this space is something you have to seek out yourself, I'm not making any apologies for the content.
Now we get to the questions raised by one "SK" who, I am told, is a friend of Matt Allison's parents (thanks to Josiah for the info on that one). He points at what he describes as "the near absence of words that would identify the bloggers as in any way Christian." As a good Covenant student, I am committed to the idea that one need not use Christian buzzwords or even reference theological concepts to be Christian.
But personally, I'm at a place in my theology where I don't have any burning questions right now. All of them were either satisfactorally answered, or I have accepted the absence of an answer. So they aren't really live issues of conversation for me; they're more foundational. I spent a lot of time in high-school and my first year or two at Covenant working those issues out, and I'm satisfied with the degree to which I have done so. Which is why I don't feel the need to talk about it all the time. Again, read the title of my blog. This is simply rant space. If you'll browse through my archives, you'll find that I occasionally address a theological subject. It's always under the surface, and if you poke me, it'll come out. But I save theological language for special purposes, having been in places where the language has been cheapened by overuse.
I'm not going to talk about what God is doing in my life because I don't want to do that here. That's personal and private, and this space is neither of those things. I'm not going to talk about what God is doing in other people's lives for the same reasons. In fact, you'll notice that I rarely reference any of my friends by name unless they have a blog of their own I can link to. I'm not going to talk about what I think God is doing in the world, because I haven't a clue besides the obvious: saving a church for himself and bring the world into judgement. I'm not sure what's left. SK, I'm not sure what you want from me, and I'm not sure I'd give it to you if I knew.
First of all, these are not yuppies. Young Urban Professional? These guys are professionally unemployed. Young and urban, certainly, but not professional.
What I find exceptionally bizarre about the whole thing is that for some as of yet unexplained reason, the same people who go out of their way to acquire and voluntarily wear gas station attendant uniforms and trucker hats would never dream of actually performing either of those jobs. They seem to like the romance of holding down a working class job and obviously sneer at the middle-class - especially their parents - but won't get off their retro faux-leather and actually do some work. They want the appearance of "authenticity" - just try and define that one - but would probably rather die than actually fill the roles they mimic. There's nothing "authentic" about wearing a trucker hat if you aren't a trucker. There's also nothing authentic about hanging out in an old man's bar if you aren't an old man. Both activities put you in the position of being around people who are somehow "authentic" while simultaneously preventing you from being so yourself.
The hipsters may call their state an existential crisis and a search for authenticity, but I'm starting to think it's just plain old ennui. God made us to work, which, in chronological order, comes before anything else (even sex, see Gen. 2). So by putting on the trappings of the working-class while remaining perpetually unemployed and under the literal patronage of the middle-class, these moguls of the authentic are perhaps the least authentic people I can think of. So yes, mesh, the charge to "Get a f------ job!" does seem to be something of a solution to their problems, at least the authenticity bit. It's certainly not the whole answer - it won't do anything about the whole going-to-hell thing - but it's also a step in the right direction. And if I remember correctly - which I don't have to because I've got it open in another browser tab, but anyhoo - Ecclesiastes says "Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God." (Ecc. 2:24)
That's what I call authentic living. Eat and drink. Work hard and well and enjoy your work. Love your family and friends. And for pity's sake, hipsters, get a job. You'll feel better, really.
Browsing around, I found this blog entitled "Hipsters Are Annoying." I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Start at the top of the "Hipster Theory" frame and work your way down. It's pretty good, and damn funny.
Joel Engel has an article on The Weekly Standard about the Boomer generation. The fact that most of them seem to feel this way pisses me off. They sound a lot like the hipsters, both of which I find incredibly annoying. Get a job, like everybody else. There's something truly ironic in the fact that this kind of people, both in our generation and in our parents, are dead set to destory the very thing that allows them to live in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. If it weren't for other people doing the suburban 9-to-5 deal, they'd have to get real jobs and wouldn't have the time to get all counter-cultural.
Wired.com has an article about how people are using computer games to make movies. The ever popular Red vs. Blue is an excellent example of this "machinima," the term used to describe the making of movies using video game engines. Apparently, Lucasfilm is going to use some build of the Unreal engine to storyboard Episode III. Now if only game developers would get together with these other creative types and embue some of their games with something resembling a plot...
A. S. Byatt has an article in the New York Times (free registration probably required) on the Harry Potter books. It's an analysis of why both adults and children - particularly today's adults and children - read and enjoy these books. It also compares/contrasts the Potter books with other "secondary worlds," specifically with Tolkien and the other masters in mind. Comparison is also made other "consumable books." A nice, short read.
The New York Times has the article. It's about how people who are "Always On," especially through multiple access devices, are finding that their attention spans are shorter and that they feel "withdrawl" if they can't be connected. All you geeks out there should read up. I certainly know what they're talking about. There's something compelling about being connected.
Apparently aspects the Wal-Martization of America have been greatly exaggerated. CNN Money has a story about how more and more old-style strip malls are dying. Reasons? The advent of superstores such as Target, Home Depot, etc., and a desire for a "sense of place" are noted. I'd bet a lot that Internet shopping has something to do with this too, but it isn't mentioned in the article.
I'm sure most of you have probably heard of the now infamous "Star Wars kid," whose self-produced video made the rounds on the Internet a few months ago (a remixed version with glowing blades and sound effects is available here). Well, as it turns out, the crew of the upcoming Episode III (somebody, please stop Lucas from
ruining directing this one!) has watched it and enjoyed it. This article on TheForce.net intimates that he might get a part in it. I guess only he can decide if that's worth being publicly humiliated before millions.
It's somehow fitting that today, Independence Day, should be the day that I discover the Government Information Awareness project from some folks at MIT.
At the time of posting, the site has just been slashdotted, so it's a bit slow, but it should be okay in a few hours.
This is a really significant project. It is similar to the immensely valuable OpenSecrets.org in that it is a way for US citizens to keep tabs on their officials. But while OpenSecrets is fairly limited in its focus, dealing solely with financial contributions to national officials (though it does provide a voting record as well), the GIA project aims to compile as much information about as many public officials as possible, elected and otherwise. The basic premise is that if the government has the right to observe all its citizens, than the citizens should have the right to observe all of their government officials. It's even got C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 linkups. This is definitely a site worth keeping tabs on, and from what I can tell, it has the ability to alert you on the occurance of specified events.
Apparently this, umm, thing, washed up on the shores of Chile yesterday. No one has any idea what it really is. Eeeew.
Clay Shirky has an interesting piece entirled "A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy," which deals with the nature of community. I thought that in light of the current discussion others might be interested in reading it as well. Knock yourself out.
Mesh responded to my essay with a post of his own. I began to respond to his, and found that I had enough for another post myself. So here it is. Once again, you'll have to read Mesh's piece and probably the rest of the discussion (here, and here).
Describing chapel as a community center bothers me in ways I cannot begin to express.
I've always been comfortable enough in my "second place" that I've rarely felt a burning need for a "third place". I'm at least as happy hanging out in either my home or someone else's as in a third location. Let's face it: I'm something of a loner.
But more to the point, it doesn't seem to me that these "third places" were originally designed to be "third places". A bowling alley is not built to house a community, it is built so people can knock down pins with heavy round objects. A pub is not primarily built as a hang out spot, but as a place to sell food and beer. I can say this because regardless of how excellent a community may come to dwell in a particular bar, if they stop buying beer, it'll fold. Witness La Dolce Vita: the establishments built primarily with socialization in mind tend not to do very well, as they have no economic viability. But a good, economically sound pub, bookstore, or other such place will attract people and become the home of a community. Economic strength contributes to community life. So a Wal-Mart can be a tremendously effective a gathering place, as I have yet to hear of a Wal-Mart ever closing.
That sounds a tad Marxist. Which is okay. I've always liked parts of his historiography, even if I think his politics are half-baked.
Now, you might make the argument that the older shops encourage browsing and lingering in ways that Wal-Marts discourage. This is probably true. But I hear more and more about people going there, not to buy stuff, but to hang out.
I think that I, like Matt, am much more open to the idea of change and seeing what happens than others might be. To me, the addition of a Wal-Mart signals not a permenant destruction, but a temporary turbulence as communities rearrange and relocate. If community is as important as people say it is, it'll happen, be it at Wal-Mart or elsewhere.
Okay, so for me, the discussion started with Mesh asserting that Wal-Mart is somehow detrimental to community centers, especially thriving downtown areas, as it encourages people to take their business from the smaller shops downtown to the multiplex in the burbs. I think that the latter part is true and that small shops do tend to suffer when Wal-Mart moves in. But I suggested that this isn't really detrimental to community centers, for two reasons. First, I suggested that they're mostly dead anyway. Second, I suggested that they aren't killing as much as relocating the center.
Josiah came back with the assertion that the reason I think that community centers are mostly dead already is that I, coming from the North as I do, have never been around one. He is certainly correct in the facts of the case. Neither my hometown, Hershey, PA, nor any of the surrounding towns have any thriving community center of which I was aware (and I'm not talking about the municipal building). Community type events seem to get a pretty lackluster turnout. Josiah also suggested that out West and in the South, such centers still exist.
I must admit that I'm skeptical. If Chattanooga has such a thing, I'm not aware of it. Downtown is as close as anything I've seen, and that's pretty pathetic. Yuppies, hipsters, and tourists do not a community center make. And as Chattanooga seems to be doing far better economically than most of the rest of the country, it would seem that it would be decently logical for such a thing to exist here. But I'm just not seeing it. Nor have I even really heard of such a thing. Come to think of it, I'm really fuzzy as to what a "community center" really is.
But that probably has a lot to do with the fact that not only did I grow up in the North, but I've never really felt as if I belonged to a community of pretty much any kind, let alone anything that could be described as having a center. Call it personal disposition, call it coincidence, hell, call it bad luck. I hear a lot of people around Chattanooga talking about community, but if there really is such a thing, I must not be part of it.
I'm taking my filesharing underground. Welcome to Freenet, the first entirely anonymous filesharing network.
The way it works is that you donate a chunk of hard drive space to Freenet, and the network uses it as it needs to. You have no idea what is in that space. To share stuff, simply upload it into the network, and the network will store it someplace. Strong encryption, entirely untraceable. Eat that, RIAA.