Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What Will Probably be an Ongoing Series Reporting on the (Premature, Exagerated, and Just Wrong) Reports About the Death of the Humanities and the End of Literature as We Know It With Links

July 7, 2013

The Hyperarchival Parallax

David Brooks’s 20 June 2013 op-ed piece for The New York Times, “The Humanist Vocation,” in which he declares that the humanities are in decline, has sparked a flurry of debate and response. One of these reasons for the flurry of commentary is that the issue is more complicated than Brooks allows for in his quite brief piece (and he’s simply wrong on a few points, see Michael Bérubé below). Another reason for the considerable response is that his discussion of the humanities cuts to the bone for those of us who actually work in the humanities. (Certainly for me, as will be apparent below.)

Brooks’s article accompanied a report released by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences titled The Heart of the Matter, which takes the familiar line of: the humanities have to “retool” to fit the changes presented by our networked, scary world, with its…

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In the shadow of the temple

April 10, 2010

Unless church members are willing to admit that 1) the church is often responsible for destroying the families of people who question it, and until the basic point is accepted that 2) there is a love of church that goes beyond bonds of friendship and beyond father and son or mother and daughter or husband and wife–and then square those two anti-family things with the stated and supposed family values of the church–then there is neither hope nor real love of Christ in the hearts of church members who cannot fathom or acknowledge these two facts.

For the LDS faithful, if you are really about “integrity,” “honesty,” and courage, and “character,” something ironically drummed away at in countless ward, stake, and conference talks, then please, for the love of Jesus Christ, see the DVD from this site: In the Shadow of the Temple.

People are hurt by the church and by its usually well meaning members for the simple fact that they have, for whatever reason, decided they can no longer follow or believe the doctrines of the church.  The love-bombing, the carrying-on, the pressure tactics, the unannounced visits, the phone calls, the letters calling for repentance–these are all hurtful things.

If you are a friend of the person who has left the church, then be a friend.  Be a friend first of all.  If the church isn’t a cult, then you should be able to be a helpful and supportive friend of someone who is leaving the church without pressuring them to go to church and without being threatened or struck with terror and fear when that person expresses his feelings about the church.  If the criticism is too much for you, just say so without judging the person.  Simply say that you still have a testimony and a love of the church and you’d rather your friend not put it down.  It’s tough, but leaving the church is tough, and being a friend in a time of real need is tough.  And isn’t that what courage, integrity, character, and all the other church espoused virtues (charity, the love of Christ perhaps?) are all about?

(Shout out to Suspicious Minds at the forum.  See also the thread this post is a response to at Arza Evans’s “Families Held Hostage.” )

Marijuana legalization makes sense for a rational and free people

December 1, 2009

Alcohol prohibition ultimately failed because a) lots of people wanted the product, b) the product didn’t create the end of a productive society, and c) poor people–anyone–could make the stuff in stills and “apple-jack” or homebrew kegs at home. Prohibition couldn’t in the end be enforced enough.

We have a similar situation with marijuana: lots of people want it, the product doesn’t create the end of a productive society, and anyone, even the poor, can grow it for themselves.

Think about it: An impoverished person suffering from some painful ailment can, without paying for a doctor’s scrip, grow his or her own supply of pain relieving herb (grown in advance to have on hand), and pretty much in the same way that such a person could buy a fifth of whiskey to relieve a toothache until it could be properly fixed. I’m sure many people have been in need of some hefty pain-killer, but have had to tough it out unnecessarily because they couldn’t afford to see the doctor or pay for the drugs or simply had to wait before they could get in to see the doctor. Adding to the ordinary person’s home remedies is a basic part of building liberty and self-sufficiency.

Finally, legalizing drugs, especially low-end, non-schedule I substances (and substances that shouldn’t be so scheduled like Marijuana), is self-limiting in a rational population: Most rational people won’t do stuff that’s that bad for them or they will be judicious about their uses of such things, e.g., keep their serious drinking to the weekend, etc., or when the kids are away.

Tax drugs by a schedule: hard stuff gets taxed huge, lighter stuff gets taxed more modestly. Punish people for the violent crimes they actually commit rather than the crimes that you think they might commit because they are taking substances that you theorize might lead to the person taking other drugs or doing smaller crimes that lead to bigger ones. Most rational people will not allow their drug use to consume their lives and take over their actions. Criminals however will do crimes, with or without drugs. The commission of actual crimes against persons and property should be the LEO’s priority, not made up or arbitrary crimes like smoking a Marijuana cigarette by someone with an otherwise clean record.

Our current drug policy is irrational and needs to reflect the will of a free and independent, rational people: Our markets are so organized and premised. The government doesn’t tell you (beyond naming illegal substances and acts) how to spend your disposable income. Why? Because the assumption in a market economy is that people are rational: they will prioritize, buy relatively nutritious food (instead of just buying ice cream, for example), shelter, and necessary transportation instead of drinking, or smoking, or injecting themselves senseless. The people who can’t control their use of liquor or marijuana or anything else are self-destructive anyway and Marijuana might actually help them, i.e., sedate them, and certainly won’t be as harmful as alcohol as Marijuana use does not lead to violence.

Follow-up from

Good LDS apostate podcasts

September 23, 2009

Women leading men and men leading women: Who is the same?

September 19, 2009

Comment to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article “How the ‘Snow-Woman Effect Slows Women’s Progress,” dated September 16, 2009, by Mary Ann Mason.  See article and reader posts at

One cannot argue in essentialist terms (while also arguing against essentialist gender divisions) that women in leadership roles will mitigate risk, men being so risk crazy, while at the same time seeing a need for women to be able to behave aggressively in leadership roles in a putatively typical male fashion.

People should be able to behave in ways that do not warp their individuality, but arguing for the wisdom of mollific feminine ways on the one hand while bemoaning a culture that rejects assertiveness and brassiness in women who would lead on the other hand, strikes me as doublethink.

Maybe I’m wrong, but men leading women would have to conform to certain behaviorial standards that they would not if they were leading men. Likewise, women intending to lead men need to be mindful of who they are intending to inspire and lead.  I’m also not convinced that most women would respond well to either women or men who tried to lead by yelling, stamping feet, being shrill, otherwise crude, and with erring standards of what constitutes good taste and good manners.  The best leaders lead with intelligence, class, and style.

The LDS Church Not Good for Families

July 21, 2009

I’m in a de facto mixed marriage and it ain’t fun. My wife’s pretty cool about it; she knows I’m not a big believer (we’re both converts; none of our parents are Morg), but I still go through the motions of church attendance and haven’t formally resigned yet. There are so many strings the Church ties you with. You can read details about my situation at an older post and a recent post about my view of the Church at my blog.

The responses at on that particular thread were quite helpful and will probably be useful to you too. The advice seemed to be to go slow, but not super slow. Detox gradually for yourself and your family.

The more recent post at my blog was started over discussions at two different sites listing Top Ten Cults. The LDS Church is not listed in the top ten, but it seems to be in a number of folks’ top twenty because the two sites’ threads I contributed to each had people talking about the cultic qualities of the Church and suggesting it for inclusion in the Top Ten.

The definitions on what makes a cult “a cult” get tricky and allow LDS apologists like Jeff Lindsay to point speciously to early Christian church behavior and say, “See, they were a ‘cult’–and the Church is no different: So if the Church is a ‘cult,’ then it is in good company.” (See his cult page).   Of course, he’s being disingenuous by clinging to a particular, sociological definition of cult and ignoring how the Church busts up families (even while it hypocritically talks about “strengthening families”).

The Church is a cult in the destructive sense (not Jim Jones or Charles Manson destructive, but also not merely in the strictest, neutral academic sense of being simply a harmless splinter group either: The Church damages, often enough irreparably, the FAMILY relationships of those newly “inactive members” who choose not to buy into it). Look at all the folks like us on these ex-Mormon sites trying to cope with keeping their families intact (or having their families demolished) because, as you put it, they do not want to play ball with the Church anymore. You don’t see this kind of stress put on people in mainstream protestant religions. My folks were Baptist and Methodist, and went to each others’ churches, changed churches, went through alternating periods of inactivity, etc., and never dreamed of divorcing over a #@$@% church or denomination affiliation! My wife’s parents were on again, off again Disciples of Christ, and her Mom’s family were lukewarm Presbyterians.  These religious differences never caused any parents to miss children’s weddings or to have awful or non-existent relationships with their kids (or to be depressed, suicidal, driven to drink, or divorce, etc.).  Organizations that do those things to departing members on a routine basis cannot be benign.  Again, check the hundreds or thousands of exit stories posted from former Mormons–people are obviously wounded deeply when they leave this group and in part because the church’s organization is coercive.

See original post here.

Linux fights in the consumer desktop arena with one hand tied behind its back

July 13, 2009

I’ve recently been getting back into Linux, which has matured a lot in the last ten years since I was installing Debian and Redhat on 386 and 486 machines. Ubuntu (and the Ubuntu variants, most notably Crunchbang), OpenSUSE, Puppy, Mandrake, and Go-OS are all more or less ready for the average user who wants to access the Internet, “cloud,” and web 2.0 apps.

An emphasis on ease of accessing the net or automating networking activities still needs to be high priority. If Grandma can’t easily get online to share flickr photos, Youtube vids, email, IM, and webcam with the grandkids, she’s not going to use her Linux box for much else. Expecting her to scour the Ubuntu support boards and piece together diffuse clues about her lack of internet access (chicken and egg, I know) is expecting too much.

If you only want computer hobbyists, professional tech support people, and CS majors to mess around with their Conky configs, their Compiz themes, their triple boot, multi-partitioned boxes, and their frackin’ GNU/Linux sound systems, that’s one thing, and the Linux community already provides a great haven for various and sundry geeks, but the average user has other more immediate needs and interests.

These basic needs and interests include word processing, internet browsing and communication, multimedia support, and software upgrade and installation. The Open Office software is quite adequate for everyday user needs. The Ubuntu Applications > Accessories, > Games, and > Graphics offerings should do for most users. Media access, however, is still problematic: music players linking with digital portable players is rough, and watching DVD’s, doing video editing, and just using Adobe web apps (Flash) can still be a challenge in Linux. Installing anything non-Synaptic packaged in Ubuntu (and mutatis mutandis for the other distros) is a chore and a crapshoot.

The Debian and Ubuntu software repositories are filled with all sorts of good but also many specialized applications. These should be categorized not just by function but also by expertise or specialized interest: games are popular little apps and should be top level, readily visible, but why clutter an average user’s experience with stuff like aylet.gtk or basilisk2? If Joe Sixpack is trying to find a good game for his cheap Ubuntu box (that his geek neighbor set up for him), Synaptic handles that pretty well (although more high quality, good looking games and amusements are important to the average user experience). But Joe should not have to wade through selections for bastille or zssh or other technically specific programs. If he actually develops an interest for a Mac emulator, he can ask his geek buddy for help or start Googling for information, though that’s not a likely scenario in any case.

Probably the biggest disappointment for Linux enthusiasts in the last year has been the widely reported 4X greater customer returns of Linux netbooks over WinXP netbooks. To me that is still a puzzle. Users want something familiar, and yet average users are constantly confronting new OS schemes on cell phones and other digital devices. Why balk at a sweet looking, very recent looking, Linux netbook for not being some teletubby colored, nine-year old piece of software that’s still visible design roots go back even further to 1995 (Win95)?

Linux fights in the consumer desktop arena with one hand tied behind its back: Linux’s great strengths (multi-user support, networking, radical configurability, and scalability) are lost on the average desktop user. (Of course, some commentators don’t even think Linux should try to compete on the desktop.) What’s left is its stability, inherent security, design potential (interface and theme designers have to work harder to capture users’ imaginations–brown may not cut it), its large, free software repositories, and the inexpensiveness of the OS itself.

(See the original post at the Ubuntu Support Forum.)

The cultish character of the LDS Church

July 11, 2009

Mormonism is cultish for sure. To clear up some of the FUD from previous comments: Just as with Catholics and other groups, Mormon Bishops and Stake Presidents have been in the news before for sexual abuse crimes (@Sarah, Comment 104).

As a converted Mormon (plus eight years now), my opinion is that “the Church”–such is how it is called by its “members,” itself another common appellation among the LDS to refer to those on the rolls of the Church–is cultish at the least.

Note: Jan Shipps, one of the foremost non-LDS historians of the LDS Church, also refers to it in its origins as a “cult” (Shipps, Mormonism, pp. 47-51). Unfortunately, Shipps’ definition of “cult” is entirely academic, sociological, and external: She sees successful cults as those that develop and become dominant or mainstream traditions (”good” in the parlance of this thread), a fate she sees as shared by the LDS Church. Thus she refuses to judge her subject and proceeds with her narrative with archival pleasure.

However, living the faith is another matter: Being in a “part-member” family really brings the cultish character of the faith into relief. If children are involved, then one parent not being “active,” i.e., going to church regularly, can easily end a marriage and divide a family. (This seems more destructive to me than what one finds in mainstream Christianity.)

The whole emphasis on being “sealed for all time and eternity” to one’s spouse and children (creating “forever families”), and the heavy indoctrination of youth through all manner of expected activities outside of the three regular Sunday church hours, lends great force to the bind that the Church keeps “weak” members in: to split from the Church creates a serious threat to one’s family and great pain and confusion to one’s children for not having a parent of “integrity”–I’m quoting all the buzz words here.

Add to this the expected annual “tithing settlement” with the Bishop (he–always he–is like the head preacher of a given “ward” or church community–usually numbering from 300-400 people). One must go with one’s family to answer the Bishop’s question, “Do you pay a full tithe?” As invasive as this may sound to mainstream protestants, this “interview” setting is quite common in the Church, extending to regular “worthiness” or “Temple” interviews with youth and adults. Waywardness is watched for vigilantly, and to me this seems cultish. In fact, now the Church puts barcodes on “Temple recommends” and the Bishop of each ward gets a weekly report of who in the ward has been faithful in going to the Temple (another expected outside-regular-Sunday Church meeting activity from “active members”).

Connected to “Temple worthiness” (imagine being a member of a church where you are formally considered a less “worthy member” than someone else), there also are levels of acceptance and prestige in the Church as well: If one has a genealogy that goes back to the original members of the Church (1830s), that is quite special (and this is a mark of a cult–setting off some people for special consideration over the “converts”).

If one has ancestors who were part of the 19th century “Pioneers” who traveled across the US to Utah, then one is certainly pedigreed. Being a relative of one of the Church leaders in Salt Lake is certainly a way into the Church aristocracy, and there are various other ways to ascend in this informal Church hierarchy, the principle one begin the attending of BYU or one of its satellite campuses in Idaho or Hawaii, and most certainly serving a full-time mission when between the ages of 18 and 25: a very large percentage of church leaders from the local level all the way to Salt Lake went to BYU and served missions, not all, but a large percentage.

The time outside of Sunday activities deserves special mention, including home teaching, visiting teaching, service projects, weekly activity night for the youth, various “assignments” one might be tapped to do…. I don’t have time presently to talk about the importance of “sacrifice” and “service” in the Church. Suffice to say that the emphasis on these can be quite overwhelming in terms of (voluntary) time commitments from the faithful. (If you refuse a calling or to serve, then that is a mark against you and you are considered “selfish” and as someone who is “not progressing.”)

See a version of this post at  Also see a later version at

Linux Action Show

July 8, 2009

One of the smartest Linux guys on the web: Great nerdometry podcasts.

Is anxiety the true path to freedom?

July 8, 2009

Simon Critchley thinks so:  See his articles at the Guardian.

Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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