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Archive for April, 2007

Jumping on the dead author bandwagon

April 30, 2007 1 comment

9

Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

I somehow missed reading anything by Kurt Vonnegut in high school. I’ve wanted to since then, but my fiction reading is rather lackluster (there’s too much real information to learn to be bothered fake stuff), so I only just now got around to it. Overall, it was a decent book, but nothing too amazing.

I’m really not going to attempt any sort of review of the book. Literary criticism is not my thing. Oh, Billy watches a war documentary backwards! That’s like saying war is backwards! I’m fucking brilliant! It was a good book, though I can’t say I was a huge fan of the style. It’s unique (to me, at least) and interesting, but it didn’t really hook me. It has its funny and powerful moments, but I’m just not much of a fiction guy, so I wonder if I can truly appreciate it.

Like I said, no real review here. It was a good book and a nice break from nonfiction. I’m still going to read TMiaHM, but after that it’ll be back to nonfiction full time, I believe.

Categories: 26 in 52

Ugh

April 30, 2007 Leave a comment

Man, this “weekend” sucked.

Also, Geddy Lee’s voice is no longer causing me to want to gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon. I haven’t decided if that’s a good or bad thing yet.

Categories: Personal

Speechless

April 25, 2007 1 comment

I…wow. There’s nothing to say.

Categories: Silliness, The Right

Comment of the day

April 24, 2007 Leave a comment

Some Imam in Pennsylvania:

“She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death,” said ElBayly, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976.

Although ElBayly believes a death sentence is warranted for Hirsi Ali, he stressed that America is not the jurisdiction where such a crime should be punished. Instead, Hirsi Ali should be judged in a Muslim country after being given a trial, he added.

“If it is found that a person is mentally unstable, or a child or disabled, there should be no punishment,” he said. “It’s a very merciful religion if you try to understand it.”

Curious definition of merciful, innit?

(via Dispatches)

Categories: Religion

Love lost

April 22, 2007 2 comments

8

All The Shah’s Men

by Stephen Kinzer

This book tells the story of America’s first coup: overthrowing Mohammed Mossedegh and a struggling democracy and putting into place the autocratic Shah of Iran. The coup has had an undeniable impact on the history of the Middle East and American foreign policy. The book lives up to its subject and provides an engrossing account of the coup and some of its aftermath.

The story of the coup revolves around a British oil company: the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, known today as British Petroleum. The company had full control of Iran’s vast oil reserves and gave little back to the people of Iran. The Iranian workers used for lower level positions were housed in squalid ghettos and paid next to nothing. Little of the profit was paid to the country’s government. Mossedegh’s time in office was consumed with one issue: nationalizing AIOC. The British were bound and determined not to let this happen; they refused any compromise and displayed staggering arrogance and contempt for Iran. Despite this being the story of America’s coup, the fault lays to a large degree at the feet of the British. The Truman administration attempted to bring Mossedegh and Britain to a compromise numerous times, but it was rejected time and time again. The British, in turn, began (fruitlessly) pushing Truman’s administration to help them subvert Mossedegh’s government. During the conflict all British residents of Iran were expelled and aspirations of doing such a thing themselves ended. The Truman administration then left office and Eisenhower was elected. A much more aggressively anti-communist administration than Truman’s, they (particularly the Dulles brothers) signed on to Britain’s plans and carried out the coup.

The story is an interesting and complex one, far more so than the brief summary above. Kinzer makes connections to our current unpopularity in the Middle East, which is undoubtedly correct. Guessing what would have happened if the coup had not been carried out is difficult, but it would certainly be a different world. Would Iran be a stable democracy? Would they be friendly to the U.S.? We’ll never know.

Categories: 26 in 52

Explanations of what happened at VT

April 17, 2007 1 comment

Foreigners, too many guns, too few guns, evolution, original sin, atheism, an uncaring capitalist society…

I realize we all want to explain why something so horrible happened, but are we really getting anywhere by simply blaming it on a political hobbyhorse? I thought not.

UPDATE: Better stated:

As with every American tragedy, we are about to learn all sorts of “lessons” in the aftermath of the VT shootings. And true to form, most of these lessons will be hastily implemented versions of pre-existing agendas, shoddily conceived, and in the long run, more painful than the tragedy itself. It is a uniquely American form of grieving, completely predictable, and equally difficult to stop.

Categories: Social issues

Creationists coming to town

April 16, 2007 3 comments

This weekend a local church is putting on a “creation science” conference (PDF), featuring the illustrious Institute for Creation Research. That’s right, we’re going to be in the company of such luminaries as Henry Morris and Duane Gish for a weekend.

I’m very tempted to head over for the Friday night sessions with Morris and Gish. The program doesn’t appear to allot Q&A time for those talks, though, so it wouldn’t be that interesting.

You can also register and get a credit at the “Montana Bible College” if you complete some kind of coursework and pay $130. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of MBC, though it’s located here in Bozeman.

Perhaps I should just go to the Museum of the Rockies for an evening. That would be far more educational and I could see the giant T-Rex skull they have.

Categories: Religion, Science

Your rant for today

April 15, 2007 Leave a comment

Here, courtesy of some silly college kid.

Can you beat attacking MySpace and encouraging people to take better care of the environment? I think not.

Categories: Environment

Oh, for fuck's sake

April 14, 2007 1 comment

David Lynch, whose movies I enjoy quite a bit, spouts debunked New Age nonsense in the Independent:

Indy: You’re talking about Transcendental Meditation?

Lynch: Yes. Transcendental Meditation is a mental technique—it’s not a religion, it’s not against any religion, it’s not a cult, it’s not a sect. It’s a mental technique and an ancient form of meditation that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is bringing back now. It’s a mental technique that allows any human being to dive within and experience subtler levels of mind and intellect, and transcend and experience the unbounded, infinite, eternal level of pure bliss consciousness, what modern scientists call the unified field at the base of all matter and the base of all mind.

I was actually trained in TM as a teenager, but I think I was too young to appreciate it. I understand the basic principles, but not some of the concepts you discuss in the book. Like, what are peace factories?

In Transcendental Meditation, you’re experiencing the deepest level of life, and it enlivens that level, and that level is totally positive. It’s like a bright light of positivity, and when you experience it you enliven it and you grow in that. The side effect of growing that unity and that pure consciousness and that bliss, is that negative things start to recede. When negativity recedes you start to enjoy life more and more.
Negativity is hate, anger, fear, depression, sorrow, anxiety, tension, corruption, disease—all these things. When that goes there is huge freedom, huge happiness and a flow of creativity, increased intelligence, energy and power. Beautiful, beautiful things happen just from transcending and visiting “back home” and enlivening that beautiful field. If you can enliven that beautiful field as a group, it has been proven successful at reducing crime, violence, road accidents, trips to the hospital.

Indy: And you say that it takes the square root of 1 percent of the population to create a peace factory?

Lynch: It has been tested 52 times, and independently verified. It’s a group that practices advanced techniques of meditation together, enlivening that field of unity within, and pumping this light out into collective consciousness, influencing collective consciousness with harmony, coherence, dynamic peace. The side effect of that is negativity starts to recede and peace can come to earth.

Um, no. TM has done nothing like that and has not been verified scientifically. It’s a meditation technique with the benefits of such techniques and that’s it.

The interview continues with more New Age babble and a few interesting comments about his movies. Kind of a bust, if you ask me.

(link via Jay)

Categories: Montana, Skepticism

Amazon's got it

April 11, 2007 2 comments

The Secret is apparently quite popular now, but I think the Amazon page is perfect. The two spotlight reviews both give it one star. The second one is particularly entertaining. The movie is apparently so stupid it produces rational thoughts from left-wing conspiracy theorists. Now that’s bad.

Categories: Culture, Silliness
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