Sunday, November 24, 2013

Honey, I bubble-wrapped the windows!

I did a little googling about bubble-wrapping windows as cheap insulation, then took a roll that had been in the basement and started in. People are right: it's easy and effective, so long as you don't mind the effect. I used a foot-wide roll of the small bubbles. I didn't do the windows with my favorite views, and in a couple of cases, I only did the bottom three-fourths. The house seems much cozier now.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Doris Lessing on political correctness

From Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer:
The phrase “political correctness” was born as Communism was collapsing. I do not think this was chance. I am not suggesting that the torch of Communism has been handed on to the political correctors. I am suggesting that habits of mind have been absorbed, often without knowing it. 
There is obviously something very attractive about telling other people what to do: I am putting it in this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I see it as nursery behavior. Art — the arts generally — are always unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be, at their best, uncomfortable. Literature, in particular, has always inspired the House committees, the Zhdanovs, the fits of moralizing, but, at worst, persecution. It troubles me that political correctness does not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it troubles me more that it may know and does not care. 
Does political correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful. The trouble is that, with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe; the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to examine our assumptions, there are 20 rabble-rousers whose real motive is desire for power over others, no less rabble-rousers because they see themselves as anti-racists or feminists or whatever.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Brother Will vs. Vox Day: The requirements of Christianity

At Vox Popoli: Mailvox: Are Christians "required to be dicks"?, Vox Day cites four verses to defend Christian dickishness. Two are offered to support expelling self-professed Christians who "willfully and proudly" disobey Christian teaching:
2 Thessalonians 3:6: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us." 
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 "I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”"
Two are offered to support silencing or expelling false teachers:
James 3:1: "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
2 Peter 2:1: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves."
I agree that the Bible supports the internet advice, "Don't feed the trolls." But I'm fascinated by the context for those verses that Vox Day doesn't dwell on because they don't support a conservative's concept of Christianity:
  1. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2, what is "the teaching you received from us"?
  2. In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, who are the "greedy"?
  3. In James 3:1, why is it that "we who teach will be judged more strictly"?
  4. In 2 Peter 2:1, who are the false teachers who will "secretly introduce destructive heresies"?
In Matthew 22, Jesus taught,
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Since these are the greatest part of Jesus's teaching, two questions arise: What does it mean to love God, and how do you love your neighbor as yourself?

The Corinthians' quote tells what people who love God and their neighbors are not: "anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler". Breaking that down:

1. People who love God and their neighbors have sexual relationships that are moral—to use the King James Version, they are not fornicators, or to use Wycliffe, which may be clearer here, they are not lechers. The teaching is simple: People who love God and their neighbors have honest and responsible sexual relationships.

2. People who love God and their neighbors are not greedy. Jesus said if you want to be perfect, give your wealth to the poor. But he didn't demand perfection—he praised Zacchaeus, who only gave half of his possessions to the poor, which Zacchaeus may have learned from John the Baptist, who said those with two coats should give one to someone who has none, and those who have food should give half to those who have none. Jesus taught that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven, then added that with God, all things are possible. In the context of his teachings, that means God can help the rich share at least as much as Zacchaeus did.

3. People who love God and their neighbors are not idolators. Idolators both worship idols and own them—they spend time and money on things that don't help them or anyone else. In Matthew 9, Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" He was referring to Hosea 6.6: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Idolators turn God into an idol when they focus on ritual rather than improving the lives of others.

4. People who love God and their neighbors are not slanderers. Honesty is one of Jesus's recurring themes, as shown by his harshest epithet, hypocrite, the person whose words and deeds don't match.

5. People who love God and their neighbors are not drunkards. In the context of Jesus's teachings, one of the first reasons would have to be that drunkards often hurt themselves and those around them, and rarely help anyone.

6. People who love God and their neighbors are not swindlers—or to use the KJV, extortionists. Which is to say, you must not exploit anyone. The Greek word that's being translated is harpax, "a extortioner, a robber". Perhaps the simplest way to say this would be that people who love God and their neighbors don't take advantage of others. Which, Brother Will has to point out, doesn't leave room to profit from the work of others.

I'll stop now, with this advice: Don't use Jesus to defend dickery. Here's 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from the 1599 Geneva Bible for lovers of God and their neighbors to ponder:
Love suffereth long: it is bountiful: love envieth not: love doth not boast itself: it is not puffed up:
It doth no uncomely thing: it seeketh not her own thing: it is not provoked to anger: it thinketh no evil:
It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth:
It suffereth all things: it believeth all things: it hopeth all things: it endureth all things.
Love doth never fall away, though that prophesyings be abolished, or the tongues cease, or knowledge vanish away.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

on Jorge Luis Borges and Victor Jara, or art and evil

Sydney Padua, whose Lovelace and Babbage delights me, tweeted:
'Arguments convince nobody. But a hint, a suggestion, receives a kind of hospitality of the mind.' Borges on poetry http://www.openculture.com/2012/05/jorge_luis_borges_1967-8_norton_lectures_on_poetry_and_everything_else_literary.html
 I want to agree. I've advanced that idea in the past.

But it's Borges.

Who I loved as a teenager.

And then learned that he reviled the elected government of Juan Peron and praised Pinochet's coup. Clive James has a damning statement in Borges' bad politics:
There was a torture center within walking distance of his house, and he had always been a great walker. He could still hear, even if he couldn't see. There was a lot of private talk that must have been hard to miss; a cocked ear would have heard the screams.
Pinochet's people tortured and killed a great poet-musician, Victor Jara, a man who sang of peace, justice, and love.

And so I'm skeptical of people who call for hints and suggestions rather than revolution.









Also: Arlo Guthrie/Victor Jara - YouTube

Monday, November 11, 2013

Where Augustine goes wrong

In "What Does it Mean to be Pro-Life?" Elizabeth Stoker quotes Augustine:
And if any member of the family interrupts the domestic peace by disobedience, he is corrected either by word or blow, or some kind of just and legitimate punishment, such as society permits, that he may himself be the better for it, and be re-adjusted to the family harmony from which he had dislocated himself…To be innocent, we must not only do harm to no man, but also restrain him from sin or punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit from his experience, or others be warned by his example. Since, then, the house ought to be the beginning or element of the city, and every beginning bears some reference to some end of its own kind, and every element to the integrity of the whole of which it is an element, it follows plainly enough that the domestic peace has a relation to the civic peace — in other words, that the well-ordered concord of domestic obedience and domestic rule has a relation to well-ordered concord of civic obedience and civic rule.
This struck me:
but also restrain him from sin or punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit from his experience, or others be warned by his example
That's the belief of bullies and cultists. Punishment only teaches punishment, and the example of punishment does not show that what was done was wrong, but only that those who are found guilty will be punished. That's not morality. That's just might.

Augustine has his virtues. Brother Will says this ain't one.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Has the Ender's Game boycott been staged to increase sales?

I was just reading about a wacky conspiracy theory (our government's run by reptilians), so now I'm ready to propose one. The Ender's Game moviemakers have known for decades that Orson Scott Card's homophobia would be a public relations nightmare. Card has admitted that his side lost, but that doesn't make his haters hate him any less. So what do you do?

Until a few days ago, I had no interest in seeing the movie, partly because of Card's politics, but mostly because Hollywood scifi tends to disappoint me. If the movie had simply appeared, I would be ignoring it.

But there's a boycott. So instead of skipping articles about a movie which hadn't interested me, I'm reading about the boycott and finding smart pieces like The Director Of "Ender's Game" On Controversy, Creative Dissonance.

And now I'm tempted to see the movie.

Thanks to the boycott.

One way to deal with controversy is to take control of it. I dunno whether any of the boycotters are actually trying to increase sales, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are.

My take: There are many good reasons to boycott countries and corporations, but people who believe in free speech don't boycott art. If you do, you're on the side of the people who try to ban The Color Purple and Huckleberry Finn. Whenever you're tempted to adopt the tactics of the enemy, you haven't looked hard enough for a third choice.