Some classic cars in old McCarthy town

Every year we usually have a gang of armed thieves descend upon our little Alaskan village at the end of the road, these are desperadoes who take advantage of our small town and peaceful hippie ways and rob and pillage our village, leaving us poor and destitute. All of the parts of the last sentence are more or less not true, except that every year we do have a group of, like, really dedicated classic car junkies who band together and drive their antique gems into McCarthy from, like, somewhere, like Anchorage or something.

So, once they get here, then we’ve got all these cars from, like, a hundred years ago, and they all seem quite at home in our little old west town, a town that looks a lot like it did a hundred years back (at least from the outside) back in the days when they were mining the hell out of the Kennicott mines (and making a lot of money for thieves and desperadoes like J. P. Morgan), back when McCarthy was an Alaskan sin city, and back in the days when this little village was one of the prime spots in Alaska, bigger, at one point, than Anchorage, which used to be just a little tent city.

 

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How social media saved socialism | The Guardian

Forget the idea that Twitter and Facebook are bad for democracy. Bubbles can be beneficial, and help emerging movements unite against the elites

I sometimes fear that I’m some sort of a “slacktivist.” At its worst, a slacktivist is someone who only exerts the most minimal efforts toward causes they deem worthy. A slacktivist may share a meme on Facebook or sign an online petition, then after burning .01 calories in about sixty some seconds of exertion, they hear a distinct and rewarding voice in the back of their heads, congratulating them: you’ve done your part. [pat on the back] Read more

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

How I rate it:  4 of 5 stars

What I liked: This is a book with many layers that plays with the theme of reality and fiction, heroes and anti-heroes, heroism and escapism… 

Plot Summary: There is a remarkable inter-weaving of time period (WW2), character development, and subject matters (comic books, superheros, and magicians). Kavalier and Clay seek to transcend the sense of desperation and helplessness they experience, living through the Second World War by way of their creation of comics. They take the hero’s journey, they are both scarred by their pasts, but ultimately they must come to grips with their frustration at being subject to fate and forces beyond their control…

 

The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash, but everyone knew it was only an illusion. The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost that they might never have existed in the first place.

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What dies on the cross?

Slovak Zizek asks the simple theological question: “what dies on the cross?” It’s a question asked by many millions over the last two thousand years. The standard, traditional answer is to say that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins, so that sinners who stand in a precarious relationship to God — condemned and estranged — can be made clean and be “justified” hence restoring our relationship to God. But perhaps there’s a deeper sense here, deeper and wider, something that has been hidden in plain sight.

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My Brilliant Friend by Ella Ferrante

How I rate it: 5 of 5 stars

What I liked: This is a deeply intimate novel, and I’m hopeless and helplessly hooked. I’m a fan of historical fiction, but this, like all good historical fiction, transcends the era by its deep and honest engagement with the tensions of the characters inhabiting their time and place.

Plot Summary: Two exceptional and intelligent girls, Greco and Lila, form an unbreakable but complicated bond growing up in a poor, harsh, and at times violent neighborhood in Naples, Italy. The novel is set in the 1950s and is the first novel in the four-novel Neapolitan series that follows the two women through the course of their lives.

I began to weep with lonliness. What was I? Who was I?…What signs did I carry? What fate? I thought of the neighborhood, as of a whirlpool, from which any attempt of escape was an illusion.

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Is Robinson Crusoe Colonialist?

A blog by an old seminary friend, Chris. We discuss colonialism……Me: As I’m familiar with it, the Colonialism debate isn’t about whether or not the colonial power subjugated the natives and exploited their resources but whether or not, on balance, the colonial powers left their subjects in better shape or not. So, in India one might debate whether, on balance, being Christianized and modernized was worth the genocides, cultural chaos, and loss of resources and raw materials. Obviously, one of the more fundamental questions is whether or not the colonial powers themselves have the right to even comment on the question. Who were the Brits, for example, to determine for the Indian peoples what is good for India? What gave the Dutch and English the right to determine what was best for South Africa?

Chris M. Van Allsburg

This article by Dennis Prager, on Why the Left Hates Western Civilization (do please read it) reminds me of a conversation I once had an an evening soiree, where a professor of Literature and I discussed Robinson Crusoe.  As an enthusiast of the Western Canon of Literature, I prize Crusoe as a brilliant spiritual biography as well as a killer adventure story filled with ingenuity, economic wisdom, planning, and heroism.  I’ve taught some sublime tomes in addition to Crusoe to high school students, including Dante’s Inferno, and The Brothers Karamazov. 

However, I was told that Crusoe is actually a propaganda piece lauding the white, Christian male of British imperialism and colonialism.  This can be known due to Crusoe’s reference to the savage he rescues from cannibals—named Friday— as “My man.”  The professor repeated this phrase over and over and she seemed rather angry.  My

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A Yuge Difference: Is America ready for Bernie?

Bernie was on Saturday Night Live recently, and there’s a skit I love, featuring Larry David (of Seinfeld fame and Curb Your Enthusiasm). The scene is of a sinking ship. “Women and children first!” yells the captain. “Really?” Larry David says, incredulous. There’s a good bit of back-and-forth between Larry and the Captain, as women and children are loaded onto the life raft. Larry can’t seem to convince them to take him on the raft before the women and children, and he worries that he’ll not make it on the raft, so he finally plays his trump card: I’m really wealthy, he says. “I’m worth more than all the rest of you put together.” That’s when Bernie steps in, dressed as a commoner. Read more

How to avoid smoking nervous cigarettes

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One of my favorite discoveries of 2015 is The Elements of Eloquence, written by a chap named Mark Forsyth. Forsyth is a Brit, hence the reason that I’ve picked up the term “chap.” Don’t let the title of the work fool you, because The Elements of Eloquence is by no means a serious or pretentious work. While it’s true that you can’t appreciate it unless you are a writer or have an inner grammar geek, this is a book that’s a good bit of fun. It’s packed with pithy puns and offhand irreverence, it’s a book I’d imagine Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy) might write had he written a Hitchhiker’s Guide to Grammar or something along that line. I’ve had more laughs with The Elements of Eloquence than with any other book this year.  Read more

In defense of Facebook minutia

I’m not typically the guy with the Facebook updates sharing what I ate for breakfast. I don’t mind seeing what you or others eat for breakfast, and I certainly don’t have anything against breakfast, per se. Breakfast is a wonderful time of the day, so rich with potential, our bodies are on the verge of great creativity and productivity, if only it were given the fuel necessary to energize it. For my part, I had a bagel with cream cheese. That was my breakfast. And I sprinkled some sugar on it and added cinnamon. That’s not my typical breakfast. Usually it’s just fruit. Fruit and perhaps a handful of almonds. Why is this my normal breakfast? Well, if I told you, then this would start to seem like a story. Read more