This article by Nicolas Carr in The Atlantic caught my eye, as I have noticed a decline in my ability to focus and concentrate in the past few years, my brain seems to flit all over the place. I've wondered if I have ADD, but that seems like a feeble excuse. I didn't used to find it difficult to concentrate. The author thinks that our skimming on the web is altering the neural networks in our brains and essentially making us stupid. Unfortunately, it was a 5-page article. I can't focus long enough to read the whole thing.......so I just skimmed it. And linked to it. I can't help it!!
Seriously, after my week in Chicago with limited internet access, I found out how much time I had been spending on the internet, it can really suck you in. And much of that time is flitting around, clicking, clicking, always in search of something new. Could be dangerous, I'm cutting way back. Hence the reduced blogging too.
Former NASA illustrator Kurt Wenner created these amazing 3-D paintings at the Waterloo station in London. According to his website, Wenner began street painting in Rome in 1982, inspired by Renaissance frescos and sculptures. Wenner "translated the anamorphism - the technique used by classical artists to create the illusion of height - into a new way of painting to give depth to the street surface." Really breath-taking stuff.
This painting is Princess Aida from Verdi's opera being captured into slavery (click to enlarge). More paintings here. Hat tip to Jill of Estate Vaults.
I'm both amused and dismayed by the passionate denunciations in the comments section of this blog post. The commenters are sure that Giselle is a skank, Brady is a cad, and Brigid is a victim. Could be true, who knows what really happened except for Brigid and Tom? The commenters write as if they were intimate friends with the celebrities, which I doubt very much. Such is our modern age that people get emotionally overwrought by the lives of celebrities. Perhaps celebrities replace the gladiators, royalty, and saints of earlier ages, the larger-than-life people that many ordinary folks looked up to and measured themselves by. Yeeks.
In the finger-pointing and denunciations, they've missed the point of Eagan's op-ed, which is that 1) single motherhood unfortunately no longer carries a social stigma and 2) the baby will no doubt suffer from not having a father. Eagan doesn't blame the actress, the model or the quarterback, she laments that our society has lost its moral bearings. It's wonderful that Brigid didn't abort their baby, but it's a shame that their child will have no father around. That's just not something to be happy about.
One of my Muslim readers and I went back and forth via e-mail over my coverage of the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB). She criticized my blog, saying that I "seem to be obsessed by everything muslim that is happening here in New England." I disagree. My response to her was:
"I don't think I'm obsessed by everything Muslim in New England, just the ISB, the (Boston branch of the) Muslim American Society, and the two imams arrested on religious visa fraud charges. Sometimes those stories overlap. As you know, there's lots going on in dozens of different Islamic communities across New England, not just those two organizations and those two imams. Since there is very little coverage of these particular issues in the Boston newspapers, I blog about them."
The reader took issue with what's in my About Me page:
My concerns in the world are with coarseness of popular culture, the rise in Islamic fundamentalism and the decline in Christianity. I want to do my part to preserve and improve what is good about our society, and push back a bit against the barbarians.
My interests (include) preserving and bettering Western civilization.
Not in that order, I would add. My reader didn't like the implication that Western Civilization is any better than any other civilization. She wrote: "I am sorry to say that your comment that the western civilization is superior to other cultures is racist." No, my dear, it's not. Race has nothing to do with it. The basic tenets of a society are what's important: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rules of law, democratic government, a functioning civil society. And Western civilization (warts and all) provides those elements in spades. Emigration patterns support the superiority of Western civilization, as many thousands of people continue to leave non-Western countries every year and flock to Western countries. Where would my reader prefer to live, in Mali or Canada? Bangladesh or Australia? Somalia or the U.S.? Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently spoke about cultural differences in a speech written for Dr. Martin Luther King Day:
If I allow myself to be inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., then my dream is that those lucky enough to be born into a culture of "ladies first" will let go of the myth that all cultures are equal.
Human beings are equal; cultures are not.
A culture that celebrates femininity is not equal to a culture that trims the genitals of her girls.
A culture that holds the door open to her women is not equal to one that confines them behind walls and veils.
A culture that spends millions on saving a baby girl’s life is not equal to a one that uses its first encounter with natal technology to undertake mass abortion simply because baby girls are not welcome.
A culture with courts that punish a husband for forcing his wife to have sex with him is not equal to a culture with a tribunal that decrees a young woman be gang-raped for talking to a boy of an allegedly higher caste.
A culture that encourages dating between young men and young women is not equal to a culture that flogs or stones a girl for falling in love.
A culture where monogamy is an aspiration is not equal to a culture where a man can lawfully have four wives all at once.
A culture that protects women’s rights by law is not equal to a culture that denies women their alimony and half their inheritance.
A culture that insists on holding open a position for women in its Supreme Court is not equal to a culture that declares that the testimony of a woman is worth half of that of a man.
What she said! I do defend our Western Civilization against its enemies without and within, and that doesn't make me a racist. If anything, that makes me a humanist, since Western Civ offers the greatest rights, protections, freedoms and opportunities to all humans of all races, men and women, old and young.
"Councils, police, health trusts and the probation service are all using the tribe's name to promote the "well-being" of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals.
"The "Navajo" charter mark, was launched by North West Lancashire's health promotion unit in 1999.... More than 100 organisations have obtained the Navajo charter mark under a scheme set up to ensure that they are "gay-friendly". The project's supporters say the name was chosen because the Navajo traditionally believed that homosexuals had "special spiritual powers", and afforded them a "unique" status in society, where they were "admired and honoured for their sexuality".
Not so fast, Beligana. You're a long ways from using the tribes' name to support "gay-friendly" organizations in England.
"The native Americans, however, are furious. Their attorney-general has written a letter, passed to The Sunday Telegraph, expressing "great concern". The 300,000 Navajo live on a huge reservation in north-eastern Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, and enjoy considerable independence from Washington. They make many of their own laws, including one passed overwhelmingly in 2005, banning homosexual marriages."
"Louis Denetsosie, the Navajo attorney-general, says in a letter to the Roberts: "The Navajo nation is greatly concerned regarding the use of the word Navajo in any context, but even more so when it is used to express a view or policy that is contrary to Navajo law."
"Healthy new-born babies may have been killed in Ukraine to feed a flourishing international trade in stem cells, evidence obtained by the BBC suggests. Disturbing video footage of post-mortem examinations on dismembered tiny bodies raises serious questions about what happened to them."
"Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world. There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases. But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies."
Is this a "natural" result of creating a commodity out of the earliest stages of human life, something that people buy and sell? Or are the workers in this hospital in the Ukraine especially depraved?
Mark Steyn reviews Nicholas Wade's book Before The Dawnhere. Sounds like a great read. From the book:
"Both Keeley and LeBlanc believe that for a variety of reasons anthropologists and their fellow archaeologists have seriously underreported the prevalence of warfare among primitive societies. . . . 'I realized that archaeologists of the postwar period had artificially "pacified the past" and shared a pervasive bias against the possibility of prehistoric warfare,' says Keeley."
Archeologist Lawrence Keeley calculated that 87 per cent of primitive societies were at war more than once per year, and some 65 per cent of them were fighting continuously.
"Had the same casualty rate been suffered by the population of the twentieth century," writes Wade, "its war deaths would have totaled two billion people.....The common impression that primitive peoples, by comparison, were peaceful and their occasional fighting of no serious consequence is incorrect. Warfare between pre-state societies was incessant, merciless, and conducted with the general purpose, often achieved, of annihilating the opponent."
More from Steyn:
"The reality is that "civilization" -- Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian -- worked very hard to stamp out the primitive within us, and for good reason"
"We've constructed a fantasy past in which primitive societies lived in peace and security with nary a fear that their crops would be stolen or their children enslaved. War has been the natural condition of mankind for thousands of years, and our civilization is a very fragile exception to that. What does it say about us that so many of our elites believe exactly the opposite -- that we are a monstrous violent rupture with our primitive pacifist ancestors?"
Last Sunday, the Boston Sunday Globe magazine cover story was Single and Loving It, about single people buying houses, having babies, and vacationing alone - "and they couldn't be happier." The article bothered me on two levels: 1) it makes being single sound like a great adventure, when it's a lonely place for most people and 2) it diminishes the institution of marriage in many ways. First, we'll deal with part 1. I'll save part 2 for another day.
As a woman who was single for most of my adult life (I married late), proclaiming the singles "couldn't be happier" is a crock and we all know it. They certainly could be happier, and I bet that each and every one of those allegedly deliriously happy single people would rather NOT be single. But due to a number of societal trends, there are fewer people interested in marrying, which is a shame for these individual people, and it's unfortunate for the society at large (and for the children they adopt).
What are the trends? The advent of birth control and the sexual revolution is one, which disassociated sex from marriage and procreation (just like the Vatican said it would back then). There simply isn't the value placed on marriage that existed 40 years ago, there's less pressure to get married. Many men are reluctant to commit to marriage, and they can be sexually active without it. Many women are fearful of losing their "independence" in a marriage. Young women are still told to postpone getting married and having kids until they're established in their career. (Pretty bad advice for women who do want kids, start young while you're fertile and energetic). Our culture is vastly more self-absorbed and selfish nowadays. People are more interested in their own individual "self-actualization" than in learning to share their lives with another person. A single woman who wants babies is more concerned with her personal fulfilment than with the child's fulfillment, or the child's right to have a father.
Many of the couples in the article said things like "I'm not willing to settle..." and "It's going to take one hell of girl." The other person has to meet high standards, the other person has to be exceptional. We're talking soul-mate material only! But no one said anything like, "I'm willing to share and compromise, I know there's give-and-take in any relationship. My relationship with another person might come ahead of my personal desires sometimes, there will be some self-sacrifice." Blasphemy in these irreligious times! Nothing is more important than the individual, it's all about me!
It's well documented that married people are happier, they do live longer, their finances are better, they're more altruistic, and their kids are happier, more secure, and also financially better off. Society is better off having stable families taking care of children. There's a good reason your parents and friends are still trying to set you up, they love you and want you to be loved and cared for. Most human beings are happier with someone to share the joys and burdens of life with, including such mundane things as grocery shopping, snuggling on the couch, shovelling the driveway, paying bills, and walking the dog. For me (and my husband), the coupled life beats the single life by a million miles.
I don't buy it that these folks who are dying their hair blue or buying fancy appliances are all that happy about their situation. I'm not saying single people are miserable, I was able to entertain myself quite well in my singleton years. But it's malarkey to say they're happier. A society with more and more single people living alone in their individual houses doesn't sound like it's going in the right direction. Not much of a future there. Who will take care of them in their old age? What will they pass on and to whom?
Advice: Singles should stop pretending they're happy and OK with being single, admit that your life would be richer with a mate. Tell yourself that you want a wife or husband, and make that a priority. Drop the New Age "soul mate" obsession (it's wishful thinking and as baseless as the crushes you had in junior high school.) Develop your personality and strengths so that you are an exceptional person and companion. Relearn how to share and give and compromise. Don't sleep around, you're wasting your energies and spirit. Remember where you came from: a married mother and father (for most of us anyway). That institution is the underpinning of our very society, and dispensing with it isn't likely to be an improvement.
Cross-posted at the Modesty Zone blog, where one commenter said she found it the most offensive post she's ever read there!
Once in a while, as I'm taking out the recycling or staring through a hole in the ozone layer, I'll think, ``Al Gore should cut an album." It would alert the world that the planet is in serious danger, the way Marvin Gaye's ``What's Going On?" did 35 years ago....He may not have Gaye's eloquence or the singer's lush production values, but in an eco-horror show that politely masquerades as a documentary, the former vice president effectively warns of man-made cataclysm.
Plenty, plenty more where that came from......
``An Inconvenient Truth" is galvanizing in its own right, but it would have been something to see Gore try a Michael Moore-ish road trip, to evangelize for, say, better fuel efficiency standards and bark in front of the White House for the president to sign the Kyoto environmental accord.
Whew! This would be a delightful movie review to fisk. Perhaps a group fisk is in order, feel free to fisk away in the comments. For starters, while Marvin Gaye's song was a great tune, I can't recall any great awareness or social movements resulting from it.
I don't know how or when National Etiquette Week got started, but I'm glad we have it. There's definitely not enough civil behaviour in our world, as evidenced by people charging onto a subway train before people have gotten off, or nieces who can't write a thank-you note for a gift (or even make a thank-you phone call). From May 21-27, please try to be especially polite and respectful of your fellow man and woman. Be polite. Hold the door open for people. Wait your turn. If you have 15 items, please don't get into the "10 items only" express line at the market.
I shall attempt to do likewise (be extra polite). Not always easy on a blog, which lends itself to screechiness. No screechiness this week though.
A post at View From the Right captures my feelings about the Pasha Bordello in Cologne, Germany. Muslims there threatened violence because flags of Muslim countries were included on a 76' x 26' banner (featuring a topless woman) on the side of Europe's largest brothel. Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer have written about this, and both objected to the threat of violence by Muslims. I'm with them there. But VFR asks how it is that Europe accepts a giant ad for prostitution as normal:
"But don’t just look at the billboard, think of what it is. An 80-foot-high picture of a near-naked woman, advertising a brothel, displayed in the middle of an old and famous German city. And that’s considered normal in Europe.....Imagine people going about their business in Cologne, and looking up and seeing that sign. The Europeans have carried secularism this far. It’s as though they were saying, “We are godless people, we think there is nothing higher than us, nothing to respect and revere higher than ourselves, nothing higher than humanity and its desires, we think sex and money are all there is, we have no shame, we don’t mind that all our citizens—old people, families, children, girls, boys—should walk by and see a picture of a prostitute the size of an apartment block. No one should be offended by it. If Jesus passed through Cologne, he shouldn’t be offended by it. There’s nothing. There’s nothing but sex and the body.”
In a reply to commenter he adds:
"It’s one thing for prostitution to exist off in the corners of society. People are not being implicitly expected to approve it. It only affects the people who are directly involved. It’s another thing to present it in the most public, conspicuous way. That implicates everyone in it; it corrupts and compromises everyone."
My hockey-playing husband and I went to watch the NCAA regional finals today, BU versus BC at the Worcester Centrum. The BC Eagles made mincemeat of the BU Terriers, beating them 5-0. Pretty ugly. What was also ugly was the cheering done by rally fans of both teams late in the game, one side chanted "F*** You, Terriers" which led to a return sing-song chant of "F*** You, Eagles." It didn't last for very long, thank goodness, but how it is that fresh-faced college fans dressed in their school colors at a nationally televised event - how is it that these kids are chanting the F-word at a game? When did that become normal?
I'm actually a fan of the F-word, it's a fine word with a multiplicity of meanings and uses. It can be used in jest or in anger, with passion or with disgust. I mutter it a fair amount myself. But like everything else, there is a time and a place, and that doesn't include chanting it at a sports event, especially with children present. The arenas should have their staff stop it when it starts and the schools should make it known that it's not acceptable. Yeeks.
Nobody could accuse me of being a fashionista, but I nonetheless enjoy reading Manolo's Shoe Blog. Today he helps a young woman choose the right shoes for attending a christening in Denver.
"And so the Manolo he must now instruct the irreligious on the matter of the attire suitable for the springtime ceremonial events, such as the weddings, and the christenings, and the Easters, and the opening of the season of baseball."
"Shoes for the ceremonies of spring should reflect not only the joyousness of the season and the event, but also must maintain the modesty proper to the setting. If the Manolo’s friend does this correctly she cannot but win the hearts of the family of her boyfriend..... Thus the Manolo recommends, the Tinkerbell from the Kate Spade as being suitable for the young woman who wishes to dress both modestly and prettily. "
Such a gentleman! His gracious call to observe the setting and dress appropriately is like a voice in the wilderness of our casual, come-as-you-are culture. Sweet little shoes too.