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October 2008

Day Late and Dollar Short

Confusedmoi Did nobody get the irony of this? Did no one step back and say, "wait a minute: haven't I seen this somewhere before? Didn't we get in trouble the last time we did this?" And didn't somebody think it was a little odd to be praying for money? Unless you're Cindy Jacobs, I guess. I suspect her stock portfolio has tanked in a big way and her broker needs an intervention. But, you know, the site is just a tad off, what with its association with, say, golden calves, Mammon, and other gods implicated in idolatry. Isn't there a commandment about this?

Bullprayer2 According to CBN, "Cindy is calling for a Day  of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. They are calling for prayer for the stock markets, banks, and financial institutions of the world on the date the stock market crashed in 1929. They are meeting at the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, and its 12 principal branches around the US that day." Sez Ms. Jacobs:

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion’s Market,' or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”

Sheesh, nobody reads the Hebrew Scriptures anymore.

I'm a science blogger! How'd that happen?

CocktailphysicsmoiLost my mind? Moi? What makes you think that? Oh, the other new blog? Oh it's not such a big deal. Well, actually, it is. It's kinda huge, really. Since my friend Jen started her blog Cocktail Party Physics, I've been guest posting over there every now and then, writing mostly on science fiction and its themes and relevance to science geekdom. Now, Jen's turning her blog into a group blog, and I've been asked to be a regular contributor. I'm so flattered! You won't believe the company I'm keeping! Along with Jen, I'll be blogging with  Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, author of The Physics of NASCAR; M.G. Lord, author of Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science; Allyson Beatrice, author of Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby?; and budding science writer Calla Cofield.

My first post went up today and I'll probably be posting once a week or so. It's full of sciency goodness, so if you're interested, pop over and take a look!

Life Sucks: Let's go have a beer and sing about it

Beermug_moi Back in grad school, in the wastelands of Michigan, I was up studying one night with NPR on and John Schaeffer, on his show New Sounds, played a couple of songs by a band from Ireland called Clannad. I didn't know it then, but I was doomed. The first one's always free, you know? It didn't help that on my first trip to Edinburgh, I'd been lucky enough to be standing on the ramparts of the castle one late afternoon when one of the pipers started to practice. It sent a chill up my spine and some ancestral gene woke up, as though switched on by the sound but waiting for that first real hit to lock into the receptor. In short order, I bought the album, "Macalla" (this was back when everything was still vinyl and East Lansing was the capital of cheap music and cheap beer). Before too long I was hunting out more contemporary and traditional Celtic music. Then I stumbled across and was utterly bewitched by the crystalline tone of Alasdair Fraser's fiddle, which is even more awe-inspiring live. I wrote most of my novel to his and his band Skyedance's music, to Clannad, Altan, The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies and Joanie Madden, and a pile of Celtic music collections comprised of various artists doing traditional and remixed arrangements of traditional tunes. I fell in love with the pipes—bag pipes and uillean pipes. I bought a penny whistle and played along.

See, the thing I quickly realized about Celtic music, and I suppose about the Celts themselves, is that their operating philosophy seems to be that when things get bad, if you can't fight it, you might as well have a drink and sing instead. Good friend just died? Forget the weepin' and wailin'. Take the carcass down to the pub and tie one on with all his mates. And not in a gloomy way, either. No cryin' in yer beer. It only dilutes the liquor. I've never run across any other music that can break your heart with the sadness of the words or the tune at the same time it's making your feet dance while you sing along. Don't get me wrong: some of the ballads are heart wrenching, but in a music set they'll immediately segue right into some frenzied jig or reel before your tears have time to dry. Either that or some utter tragedy will have the most upbeat melody, as if to say "fook it. Yeah, it's bad, but you have to laugh." Not a bad philosophy. And it seems to have kept the Scots and Irish alive and kicking all those centuries under the British thumb, and on their peripatetic diaspora across the Atlantic, into America's Appalachia and Canada's eastern seaboard. Not to mention their cousins in Cornwall, the Channel Islands, France, and Spain.

Continue reading "Life Sucks: Let's go have a beer and sing about it" »

"If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people."

Radicalmoi This quotation is taken from former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister Tony Benn in Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko." It sums up the British rationale for creating a National Health Service after WWII. (See the clip below the cut.) I can't think of a better summation of the failures of the U.S. government over the past 20 years. If a society is judged by how it treats its weakest members, ours is failing.

Which is why, finally, I decided it's time to vote: Not because I actually trust politicians. Oh hell no. Or the political system either. But because I'm not afraid, not demoralized, not sick and I don't take orders very well. I am, however, very tired of the top 1% of this country calling the shots and crapping on the rest of us. When "trickle down" economics was first introduced, someone said "We all know what the only thing that trickles down is," and he was right. The poor and working class in this country have been steadily disenfranchised and stripped of their ability make a living, while the wealthy fail to pay their share of taxes and live off the backs of their workers and the spoils of deregulation, greed, and war. Do I sound like a Socialist? Get over it. We're actually allies of a number of socialists countries, and their systems work pretty well—actually better than ours in some cases. Socialism ≠ Communism. At least the socialist states aren't 29th in the infant mortality stats like we are.

Continue reading ""If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people."" »

Who Does She Think She Is?

Feministmoi "Who Does She Think She Is?"

She's a woman, and an artist, and a mother. Why is this still an issue? Why is anything about whatever women do besides marry men and raise babies an issue? If you're a woman and you do some kind of art, whether you choose to marry and/or raise kids (and it's all about choice, isn't it?) should not be anybody's business but your own. It shouldn't make you a bad mother or a less serious artist any way you do it.

And yet, it does, as this dumb-ass review of the movie from Time Out NY indicates:

This documentary encapsulates everything that gives feminism a bad name, from whining about patriarchal society to celebrating the goddess within. . . .  Pamela Tanner Boll’s thesis—it’s hard to be both mother and artist—neglects to mention that it’s tricky for anyone to make a living as an artist.

Missing the point anyone? Of course it's hard to make a living as an artist, but it's a hell of a lot easier when you have built-in childcare and a personal chef, and are living in a society that says it's fine for you to make art. It's not about how hard it is to make art; it's about how hard it is to make art as a woman and a mother in a society that doesn't support you and only sees one role for you: bearer of Great Artist's children, and Helpmeet.

Honestly, that stupidity makes me want to crack somebody upside the head. Or cancel my subscription. Doing that right now, in fact. Watch me: here I go.

Watch the trailer. Go see the movie. Read the blog. More information here.

[Cross posted at Blogorrhea. H/t to Art Biz Blog]

If you can't be famous, be notorious

ConfusedmoiOkay, this is getting very weird. There I am lecturing away in class about Realism, Naturalism, Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Experimental fiction, New Journalism and all those other isms when another faculty member knocks on my door and asks if she can come in for a second and advertise some new classes being offered. No problem. She introduces herself, I introduce myself. I barely get the first syllable of my last name out when she says, "Oh, Professor Kottner! I've heard about you!" and obviously in a good way, not that, "I've heard about you, missy! And you're in deep shit!" way.

Can I just say how utterly bewildered I am by this? I mean besides being called "Professor Kottner"? (At least it's not Fraulein Doktor Professor Kottner.) It's starting to freak me out, because every time I speak to one of the regular faculty I get the same response: "Oh, I've heard about you," or "I've heard good things about you." Not that I'm complaining. It's infinitely better than having the more or less complete strangers who are my colleagues come up to me in the hall and go, "I've heard you suck!" But still, it's a little weird that everyone I meet at school, including the students, says the same thing.

Continue reading "If you can't be famous, be notorious" »

Blog Action Day on Poverty: Teach a Man to Fish

Radicalmoi"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  —Chinese Proverb

Blocactionday2008_2 Today is a Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty. I haven't participated in one of these before, but this is something I feel strongly about. Teaching at the College of New Rochelle's extension campus in the South Bronx has only made me more aware of how dire the problem is. Understandably, the current financial crisis has too,though I have little to lose in it personally. The longer I teach students like the ones I have now, who are coming back to school later in life either because they didn't understand how important it was at first, couldn't afford it, or had other obstacles to overcome, the more clearly I see how education is one of the most important tools for fighting poverty. Sure, living wages and a redistribution of wealth would help too, but there's truth to the idea that you can't ever take away someone's education or skills from them.

Continue reading "Blog Action Day on Poverty: Teach a Man to Fish" »

It's, Like, An Epidemic, Like

GimmestrengthmoiThe sponsoring association may be fictitious, but I almost wish it weren't. God knows the MLA is officious enough, and I hate the Language Police as a general rule, but enough is enough, people. I don't hear this particular tic much here; maybe it's a SoCal thing. We've all got verbal tics, you know? Our spoken vocabularies are usually smaller, and that contributes to the problem but sometimes it's hard to tell if the speaker is just shy, inarticulate, or, well, just plain stupid. You decide. (h/t to MG) I


Another Reason Why I Left the Midwest

Do I even need to explain? I can't stand the racism, the bigotry, the narrow-mindedness, the willful ignorance. It's so pervasive and so full of knee-jerk fear. [from Blogger Interrupted, via Shakesville.

(Sorry I've been such a bad blogger. Just had an unexpected guest for an unexpected amount of time, and I'm way behind on on my classwork. Can't let my students down. More next week, when I hope to be caught up again.)