Guest rant by Jean S. Gottlieb
Much of our lives seem to be consecrated to making simple things complicated without the benefit of making complicated things simpler. Why is it so hard to get basic information, like a telephone number now that phone books have become endangered species? Computers were designed by people who like intricacy of the Dungeons and Dragons kind of thing, so they don’t “think” in a simplifying streamlining kind of way–at least not for the likes of me. I hate what has happened to the home page on the computer. Full of jumping ads and “information” I neither want nor am interested in. I hate what has happened to television which has been poisoned by the computer bug–all commercials and maybe 10 minutes of programming–I’m speaking of news broadcasts. All channels do the same stories at the same point in their broadcast; all synchronize their commercials to minimize viewers’ opportunity to get news on channel A while channel B is trying to sell you a car or some medication that they warn you to check with your doctor about because it can have ominous side effects.
I guess I am just in a ranting mood, but even simple things, so-called, like ordering tickets, airline, theatre, whatever, has become a humiliation, as has airline travel. What happened to the notion that service was what some of these bozos were supposed to be offering us? Why, with the the marvel of the computer to handle great gobs of data so that our records will be orderly, intelligible, and simplified, are medical records, for instance, often a muddle? Why does the doctor have you fill out the same form with the same (dumb) questions every time he sees you? Why doesn’t Dr. A. EVER seem to ask Dr. B. what he has been prescribing for you, or why is it sometimes the alert pharmacist who says, “You better not take both these medicines, they react badly on each other”? With all his record keeping the Dr. seems not to know something as important as conflicting medications that are both supposedly listed in your records!
I AM crabby tonight. Dad whupped me again at scrabble . . .
[reprinted with permission from an e-mail to amba]
Jean adds in response to comments:
What comes to mind as a further insult to the senses and the intelligence (?) of consumers is the totally distracting and unnecessary number of varieties even something as basic as TOOTHPASTE comes in: whitening, whitening with cavity preventer, gel or paste, extra scrub power, I can’t even begin to name the huge, unnecessary number of kinds of just that one item.
As for the respondent who says he prefers online shopping, I understand and sympathize. Retail has lost its lustre as a location where knowledge, charm personality, intuitiveness, whatever, are prized–or even exist. That’s a fault of employers who won’t or can’t train people to see the work as dignified. So selling a pair of shoelaces is like selling someone a winter coat (almost). What we gain is quick and easy and sanitized retail, no interpersonal relationship, no exchange, only snippy or bored “associates,” who are undifferentiated from the seller of hamburgers at McDonald’s.
Jacques and Charlie Miller have been through more between the two of them than all the rest of us put together. Charlie was fascinated by Jacques and gave him the first smile of the visit.
For a better view of Charlie:
They’re both miracles — Jacques who survived gangrene and boxed and did road work on his scarred legs; Charlie who came through brain bleeds and intestinal resection and just being born one and a quarter pounds, and claps his hands, stands on his feet with a little help from his friend above, laughs and says “Da-da” and “Ca” — cat — not known before today to be in his vocabulary.
For more and better pictures, watch Danny’s blog in the days to come. Danny and Kendall went out of their way from Chicago to see old friends in Durham, and Danny and Charlie came out of their way from Durham to see us.
Oh, I feel blessed.
The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t yet begun fundraising for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the state attorney general’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 — not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase.
The group also lacks even the most basic real estate essentials: no blueprint, architect, lobbyist or engineer — and now operates amid crushing negative publicity. The developers didn’t line up advance support for the project from other religious leaders in the city, who could have risen to their defense with the press.
The group’s spokesman, Oz Sultan, wouldn’t rule out developing the site with foreign money in an interview with POLITICO — but said the project’s goal is to rely on domestic funds. Currently, they have none of either.
Weeks into the controversy, Sultan told POLITICO that the project’s developers are hoping to get their “talking points” together.
“Give us a little time,” he pleaded.
“They could have obviously done a lot better in explaining who they are if they really wanted to get approval,” said publicist Ken Sunshine, a veteran of New York’s development wars. “There’s a real question as to whether there’s money behind this.”
“As I understand it, there’s no money there,” said another prominent business official.
A prominent supporter of the project was blunt: “This is amateur hour,” he said.
“That’s why the idea that this is some big conspiracy is so silly,” said the supporter. “Yes, you could say this is not a well-oiled machine.
Clearly, the dark forces driving for “Islamication of America” are no match for the hardened realities of New York City real estate.
Michael Reynolds restates American exceptionalism for our time.
. . . about Imam Rauf, splendidly said by Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House:
[T]he more I read about this fellow Rauf makes me ask my liberal friends if they know who they are getting in bed with when they so viciously attack those who are opposed to building the mosque. I don’t trust people who say one thing in one language, and another thing in another language as Imam Rauf has done repeatedly. He has also been silent in the face of extraordinary statements by his colleagues in Malaysia about suicide bombings, Hamas, and hatred of the US. He has blamed the US for 9/11, defended Palestinian terrorism, refused to disavow Hamas’s goal of eliminating the state of Israel, and attended at least one conference with known terrorist sympathizers.
This guy is about as moderate a Muslim as Rush Limbaugh is a moderate conservative.
Despite this, to summarize my take on the “mosque” controversy (otherwise strung out on Twitter), the actual building and its location do not merit the rabble-rousing verbal description of a triumphal structure “towering over Ground Zero.” It is neither towering nor over Ground Zero. It doesn’t live up to its blazing marquee billing as a symbol either of Muslim triumphalism and dhimmitude, or of tolerant pluralism. It’s just another building in a busy neighborhood. The overwrought Right has made it much more important than it really is, thus elevating Imam Rauf to celebrity (rather than subjecting him to outside-the-limelight investigation) and causing the idiot Left to rush to the “mosque’s” defense. Maybe that was the plan. Maybe it was just a political trap that the Democrats obligingly fell into in plenty of time to lose them more votes in November. If so, does the end justify the means? Or does cranking the volume of our political “discourse” up to 11 over this poor choice of symbol merely deafen everyone further, locking the left into their defense of yet another dubious ally and the right into an ever-hardening opposition to all of Islam? The Left is too uncritically eager to designate and embrace Muslim allies, but the Right has now created a litmus test in which the only possible good Muslim is one who opposes the Ground Zero Mosque.
By the way, I bolded the line in the quote above because the encounter of my brother, an education journalist, with the Fethullah Gülen movement (depending on your point of view, a modern, tolerant, world-peace-promoting strain of Sufi Islam or a stealth Islamist attempt to theocratize Turkey and resurrect the Ottoman Caliphate), which actually runs (without admitting it) over a hundred charter schools in the U.S., got me thinking about taqqiya, the Muslim precept of deception in the service of the faith. (Here, about a third of the way down, is Gülen allegedly, and eloquently, advocating taqqiya to followers back in the 1990s. If authentic, this speech should probably not be understood as plotting for world domination; it’s all about Turkey and, perhaps, Turkic Central Asia.)
It struck me that one of the best ideals of the West (even though richly honored in the breach), and at the same time one that can render us vulnerable, is the assumption that people mean what they say, that we can take them at their word, that candor, forthrightness, transparency are aspects of honor, values we can trust we share with most of those we have dealings with. Given this noble yet naïve orientation, perhaps unique to a young and fortunate civilization, we are particularly ill-equipped to cope with the unnerving concept of taqqiya. We are bound to meet it with either excessive trust or excessive paranoia.
Hitchens has a deathbed conversion after all, and swears that the him who told us that wouldn’t be the real him wasn’t the real him, which one do we believe?
(My answer in the comments.)
This picture was taken yesterday in the van at the airport, just before Christian went to catch his plane to Philadelphia and from there to Frankfurt.
Jacques was a little out of it and didn’t quite seem to get what was happening. Or didn’t want to.
Christian stayed with us for almost two weeks, during which he cheerfully came and went, exploring the town, going salsa dancing, renting a bike and a car, driving all the way to Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks and back, reporting on his adventures. I cooked, he bought pizza and lasagna, and, as the visit wore on and his early resolve to lose weight gave way to some kind of emotional fatigue and comfort need, he brought home Coke and potato chips and chocolate and Danish. Which I found endearing.
Notice I said “home.” This is the longest continuous visit or proximity we’ve had with anyone in years, certainly in the four years we’ve been in Chapel Hill. (He had one of those lavish European vacations.) Most of our two handfuls of treasured visits have been for a night or two. Probably because Christian is family and we’ve known him since he was a kid, and because he’s a cheerful, energetic, affectionate person as well as (now) a keen and worldly grown man, it seemed completely natural and comfortable — and comforting — to have him here. I woke up this morning assuming that warm wall of presence, shouldering out the infinite, still closed off the far end of the apartment and my consciousness. It felt strange to realize it was gone.
For the most part I don’t get avidly attached, don’t latch on to people. I have too bone-deep a familiarity with the futility of it. (Maybe that’s what aborting your only child can do to you.) It was so unusual to experience something so usual — simply having another person living with us. He didn’t try to be super-helpful with J, though he was in small ways, nor did I ask him to be. That I would not have wanted to get used to. (I have dared to become dependent on the hospice ladies’ three-times-a-week physical help, because it seems like it isn’t going away, though it could.) It was the casual, steady company that was such an unaccustomed luxury.
Only this afternoon, as I was in the kitchen rinsing dishes, did it occur to me that he must be long since safely home. (Air travel is so remarkably safe that on the very rare occasions when anything goes wrong, the whole world hears about it.) I wondered how the trip had been and whether I’d soon get an e-mail from him. Within three minutes of that thought, he called.
My mother always advised me not to worry what people think. Of course I questioned her advice — what would happen if I really didn’t care? And of course she didn’t mean what she said. She was really just rebelling against old fashioned conservative ideas. Worrying about what people think used to go without saying, because the social group was always more important than the individual — the whole was more than its parts. And that has probably been true in every society — human or animal — except for our modern liberal society. Now the parts often seem to be valued more than the whole.
But not really. We all care, very deeply, what other people think. We might not worry about it consciously, but our subconscious mind is always hard at work, paying careful attention to the infinitely intricate and subtle details of social life. We must resonate with some kind of social context. When liberals like my mother say they don’t care what the neighbors think, they actually mean they don’t care what the old-fashined conservative neighbors think.
People who really don’t care are the ones who don’t resonate with any social group. And they are, by definition, insane.
An old belief said that each society, human or animal, has its group mind. The group minds, or “over souls,” might exist on every level. Each village could have its group mind, and so could every household. In other words, I am talking about gods. A god is a unifying force that holds societies, and sub-societies, together.
So if you resonate with modern liberal humanism and atheism, for example, your subconscious mind is a devoted worshiper of a god that rules over that belief system and holds its followers together.
Retriever asks for recommendations of good driving tunes to keep her and her co-drivers awake and happy.
Here’s the list I posted for her:
Grateful Dead – Deep Elem Blues
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will the Circle Be Unbroken
The Beach Boys – Barbara Ann
Earl Scruggs & Steve Martin – Foggy Mountain Breakdown – be careful… this one tends to encourage speeding!
Another one that triggers lead foot syndrome is the Ventures’ Wipeout.
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
Marty Robbins – Ghost Riders in the Sky
Roger Miller – King of the Road
and… as an afterthought for 55 mph driving: Massenet’s Meditation from Thais.
So…. what’s your favorite driving music?
Also posted at Opining Online.