too much politics, not enough poetry

Acorn is an independent journal of haiku-in-English founded and edited by AC Missias, whose own haiku were among the first “international haiku” (viz., haiku not written in Japanese) I remember reading:

father’s kimono
fluttering empty
still protects his yard
spring chill —
rounded sparrows cling
to bare branches
far from land
waiting for sunrise
— the creaking of ropes

Subscription is less than USD12/year. I’d happily pay that much for just one good poem.


scissors icon Why would Mel Gibson make a movie about the ancient Middle East and fill it with white people? William Rivers Pitt answers at length and with restraint. Me, I think Gibson is a bigot; end of story. And if you think I’m going to go see his grubby little porn flick, think again. (via Eliot)
scissors icon (heh) has a nice simple introduction to social network analysis and interesting examples of the method in action. I particularly liked the analysis of book buying habits (2003 version here) and viral spread. (link-fu props to John Q at Crooked Timber)
scissors icon I bloody knew it. It’s the same everywhere, and don’t let the bastards tell you otherwise.
scissors icon Pix Populi is a Los Angeles photoblog by Neil Baylis. I like.
scissors icon (via Boing Boing) How to make matchstick rockets. You know I’m going to have to try this.
scissors icon These look like heaps of fun: for example, watch some of these quicktime movies. Sadly, they seem mainly to be available through unethical suppliers like Wal-Mart. They are manufactured by Swiss toy company ACTIVE PEOPLE, who don’t say where their factories are, and distributed in the US by the icky-looking Body Time Wellness.
scissors icon Leuschke points to this review of this book, which I have added to my predictive model of things I will like in the future.
scissors icon has some fun tests aimed at uncovering hidden biases. According to the one I just took, I have little or no automatic preference for or against a particular body type (thin or fat). (Being on the chunky side myself, I’d have expected to be somewhat pro-fat.)


the playpump in action Oh, this is wonderful. The Playpump uses a children’s playground toy to pump water to a holding tank, dramatically reducing the workload of poor women in South Africa. Advertising on two sides of the tank pays for installation and upkeep, and the other two sides are reserved for public health messages like the one in the picture at right. Via Rivka, who provides lots more detail; go read about it, it will cheer you up no end. diagram showing how the playpump works

add your pebbles to the avalanche has been following the gay marriage debate, and links (scroll down) to further coverage and activism by the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD.
HRC offers excellent background on the issue, the arguments and the politics, including a clickable map of relevant US State laws and statistics. Right now, you can join me (and, at time of writing, 326683 others) in signing the Million for Marriage petition (it will sign you up for an email newsletter, which is annoying but you can unsub). If the media are your thing, GLAAD is keeping an eye on them and offers a variety of ways to take action.
Update: Natalie Davis would like you to sign the Million for Marriage petition, too. Really, go do it.
Portland Communique continues to cover the local angle, and quotes this OPB story in which “County Counsel Agnes Sowle says any day now a same sex couple could ask for a marriage license in Portland, just like in San Francisco”. So it’s “cousel”, not “council”! I’m a tool. b!X also points to gay marriage polls by KPTV, KATU and Basic Rights Oregon (whose homepage is still useless); go vote, because media polls can have a real effect on public perceptions. There was a KGW poll but it’s disappeared; I did find this story on the flowers.
In the good news department, Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, NY will marry a small number of same sex couples today. Said Mayor West:

The people who would forbid gays from marrying in this country are those who would have made Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus.

On a lighter note, George Wallace is a dab hand with a double dactyl; here’s the first of a series of six entitled Epithalamion:

Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Gay men and lesbians
Flock to the City Hall,
Follow their bliss,
Purchase their licenses,
Swear to their permanence,
Pose for the camera crews
Sharing a kiss.

Update — poll results:
KPTV: “Do you think gay marriage should be unconstitutional?”

yes 54%
no 42%
not sure 4%
n = not specified

KATU: “Do you agree with President Bush’s stance on gay marriage?”

yes 63%
no 37%
n = 2608

Basic Rights Oregon: “Do you support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage rights?”

yes 4%
no 86%
not sure 9%
n = 337

KGW (using “previous results” link): ” Do you support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage?”

yes 50%
no 49%
not sure 2%
n = 5626

KGW earlier poll: “Should gay marriage be legal?”

yes 52%
no 47%
not sure 1%
n = 9771

Update: Atrios wants you to torture Lou via his CNN poll: “What offends you most?”

Howard Stern 5%
Corporate pornography 11%
Government standards of decency 26%
Gay marriage 12%
Opposition to gay marriage 45%
n = 12134

people change. not often; not often enough; but they do change.

Hazel Bryan and Elizabeth Eckford in 1957Hazel Bryan Massery and Elizabeth Eckford in 1997On the left, fifteen-year-old Hazel Bryan screams unthinking hatred at Elizabeth Eckford during the racial integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Five years later, Bryan sought out Eckford to apologize, and in 1997 they were photographed together again (right) and have since become friends. Commenter Naomi brought this story up in the comments on this post by John Scalzi; for which my thanks. Pictures from this CNN story, photo credit Will Counts.
(This has a particular resonance for me, as I too have had to resect prejudices that were grafted onto me while I wasn’t paying attention. Anaesthetic is contraindicated for that operation, and there is something of the zeal of the convert in my interest in social justice; and that’s all I have to say about that.)

go! go now!

From billmon via Kip: spend Shifty George’s ill-gotten campaign funds for him with this astroturf tool from You type in your zip code and up comes a list of local newspapers, helpfully grouped by circulation and proximity; check the ones you want to write to, cut and paste some predigested GOP propaganda write your own message into the form, and with a single click your letter is on its way to dozens of editors.
Do this. Do it now, do it tomorrow, do it as often as you can think of something to say about the state of the nation.
[P.S. billmon warns that the tool sets a cookie so you might want to nuke that little fucker after each session.]

flower power

If you’ve been reading Rafe Colburn’s blog for long, you surely have the same impression that I do, of a reasonable, thoughtful and well intentioned individual. So when Rafe says this:

You know, my views on the gay marriage issue have really polarized over the past few weeks. I’ve never been opposed to gay marriage, but I also didn’t feel particularly zealous about opening the option of marriage to gay people either. I have thought it’s a right they should have for a long time, but I was OK with civil unions as an alternative, because I was focused on the legal rights that married couples have. Then a few things happened. My views started changing when the Massachusetts Supreme Court said that legislation providing separate but equal civil unions would not suffice to meet their requirements, because separate but equal usually isn’t. I found that argument persuasive.
What really changed my attitude, though, was the marriage licenses being granted in San Francisco. Most people have seen the pictures of jubilant couples who are getting married after decades of waiting in vain. After seeing those couples, I’m ready to grant the right to marry nationwide, right now. Getting married was the best decision I ever made, period. Seeing other people joyfully getting married reminds me of how much joy marriage has brought to my life. I no longer have the energy to see the issue in a politically safe manner — we need to grant this right to same sex couples in every state immediately.

it makes me think: firstly, that the flowers were a good idea; and secondly, that an avalanche of gay marriages is an even better idea. Spousal unit and I are perfectly happy if the flowers we sent did nothing but brighten a random couple’s wedding day, but I can’t help but think that the flower sending “campaign” contributed to the visibility and feel-good-factor of the San Fran weddings. Rafe’s comment makes me believe more than ever that those weddings are important, and that A MILLION GAY MARRIAGES IN THE NEXT MONTH (ahem, sorry) could swing public opinion so far, and create so nearly accompli a fait that begrudging bastards like Bush will not be able to enshrine their grubby prejudices in law (or worse, the constitution). Happy wedding pictures everywhere, and then married gay couples are your neighbours, doctors, teachers, colleagues — and the world doesn’t end, no one riots, and nobody’s hetero marriage is altered one whit. Sounds like a step in the right direction to me.
So I thought I’d have a dig around in the Oregon constitution and law. In neither 2003 nor 2002 were the relevant statutes altered in any way that concerns my question, and the 2001 version reads:

106.010 Marriage as civil contract; age of parties. Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable, and solemnized in accordance with ORS 106.150.

Spousal unit pointed out that the wording does not rule out same sex marriage by defining it as a contract between one male and one female. Furthermore, the restrictive interpretation of that statute would seem to me to contravene the State constitution; to wit, Article 1 section 20:

Section 20. Equality of privileges and immunities of citizens. No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.


scissors iconAnimals on the underground: London tube map as constellation-riddled sky. I wonder if anyone’s tried this with LA or NY? (via the indispensible Boing Boing)
scissors icon(also from BB) John Ashcroft is barking mad. (I think Mike must have typed this Vanity Fair article in by hand, a prodigious effort.)
scissors iconStuart of DoublePlusUngood issues a challenge. I’m going to do it; so should you.
scissors iconTwo posts from the Pagan Prattle indicating that Scotland the not only Brave but also Sensible is preparing to jettison state funding for faith schools.
scissors iconAlso from PP, something I want to follow up: apparently right-wing psychofundy “Christian” bigmouth Pat Robertson recently said

I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I’m hearing from the Lord that it’s going to be a blowout.

so when (think positive!) Shifty George loses, I want to Pat to tell me: was God wrong, or did He lie to you?
scissors icon(via Jerry Kindall) I know someone who would love this: Enigma-E, a kit with which to build yourself an electronic version of the Enigma coding machine. If that’s too much trouble, PBS has a virtual Enigma you can play with.
scissors iconJerry got that link from, which is a neato keen bookmarking and recommendation service. I like it better than, which I joined and never got around to using much.
scissors iconCrooked Timber features a bunch of overeducated liberals, posting and commenting. I like that in a website. Also, Belle likes Sesame Street, and even caught them out in a James Joyce allusion. Criticisms about “preparing kids for sound-bite consumer culture” are valid I suppose, but the last word for my money goes to commenter mike: Name a single other entertainment entity that over a quarter century threw up occasional bits of disorienting depth with so much good humor and so little mean-spiritedness.
scissors iconAnother great books thread; in this one, Ed wants to know which five science and technology books you would have every (university) student read. Good stuff.

EMI can kiss my ass

I think the Beatles were crap and I can’t stand hip-hop (the music, not the culture), so it’s not surprising that I think DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album is shite. That’s not the point, though. From

DJ Danger Mouse created a remix of Jay-Z’s the Black Album and the Beatles White Album, and called it the Grey Album. Jay-Z’s record label, Roc-A-Fella, released an a capella version of his Black Album specifically to encourage remixes like this one. But despite praise from music fans and major media outlets… EMI has sent cease and desist letters demanding that stores destroy their copies of the album and websites remove them from their site. EMI claims copyright control of the Beatles 1968 White Album.

Hence Grey Tuesday, a day of online civil disobedience on which sites all over the web will be turning grey in support of artistic freedom from greedy corporate pirates and offering the Grey Album in mp3 format. I couldn’t turn this site grey if my life depended on it (html is a dialect of Martian, right?), and I frankly don’t have the stones to host the mp3s. My immigration status is somewhat delicate and I just don’t need the kind of legal aggravation that bastards with deep pockets and squads of attack lawyers like EMI could give me. Linkage is the best I can do for now. Waxy first made me aware of the issue; mathowie and 6foot6 both have the album and a great, thoughtful post to go with it; and is the official site and has lists of all participating sites.

why do you care; or, if you don’t, why not?

Joi Ito, in one of his thinking-out-loud style posts, wondered about what it is that makes people care:

What is really striking to me and something that I’m trying understand is the process that people go through to reach a higher level of caring for human beings outside of their immediate circle. I think that this process holds the key for some of the important contributions that technologies can make.

This struck me as being a fundamental question. It seems utterly — viscerally — obvious to me that human need on the other side of the world, or down the block, matters to me; that it affects me, that I must respond to it. By way of rational explanation, I offer two observations. One, I’ve been up and down a bit through my life, and it’s not hard for me to see myself in pretty much any lousy situation; and I know that it’s all too easy to end up in the shite through no fault of your own, and fault doesn’t matter much anyway when you just need a hand. Two, I am always better off if those around me, whether next door or across the world, are better off: it means they are more able and more likely to lend me a hand if I should need one, and less likely to try to elevate their situation by climbing over me. In the long term, over many generations, sharing is the only real security. In the short term, over one lifetime say, that doesn’t really hold. There are plenty of assholes living well on other people’s sweat, and since I don’t believe in any form of life after death I don’t believe they will ever pay any material price for that. The price they pay, though, is in quality of life. I don’t believe you can be happy without awareness, and once aware you cannot escape empathy. Or to put it another way: like Honest Abe, I feel good when I do good things, and that’s my religion; and I don’t see how anyone can be really happy any other way. Money and power and all the trappings thereof are no substitute; not even close.
I didn’t always see the world that way, though, and it got me to wondering how I came to have the Weltanschauung I now do. About then, kevin of joined the conversation with a careful exposition of his own journey into caring. It neatly describes my own, and so I reproduce it here with his permission:

1. Ignorance
—-Blissfully unaware of problems and plights of both neighbors and those thousands of miles away.
2. Awareness
—-Heard something on the news. Know it’s not good. Think “Someone should do something about that.”
3. Superficial action
—-Start making easy changes, that don’t affect my lifestyle. Requesting paper bags instead of plastic. Recycle bottles. “Adopt” a poor kid in Columbia. Begin to feel “I am good”, yet continue with my own irresponsible patterns of consumption, make decisions based on my own wants, rather than how they will affect other people.
My Tipping Point
3.5 Relatively satisfied with own economic / social condition
—-Realize that I don’t need to be rich, that my “quality of life” is not based on how much money I have, that I don’t need to own what TV, movies, and blogs tell me I do. Begin to have less-quantitative values. Spend less time trying to get richer, begin to have more time to read about both local and global issues.
4. Deeper awareness
—-Aware of how my life-style decisions are effecting other people in a negative way. Begin to seriously think about global / local inequalities and what it really means.
4.5 Dissatisfied with own condition as an irresponsible-consumer.
—-Realize that my superficial actions are worthless, no matter how many times I re-use a plastic bag, it doesn’t help if I am using it buy sweat-shop goods at Wal-Mart. In order to make change, I have to change my lifestyle first, because it is my lifestyle that promotes global inequality.
5. Despair
—-Overwhelmed with the enormity of the situation, and the impossibility of changing my behavior, yet remaining a member of a society that doesn’t share my values, and puts enormous pressure to put myself first.
6. Find examples / community
—-Begin reading, searching, eventually find a community and examples of people who share my values.
7. Resolution / Search for answers
—-If they can do it, I can do it too. Resolve that I will make consumer decisions based on a “first, do no harm” approach.
Research, research, research. What are the effects of my decisions? How much do I need to consume? What should I avoid? What can I cut out? What can I use as a substitute?
8. Implementation on a personal level
—-Live own life according to the information I am finding. Strive to make good decisions. This is a semi-active approach. While I am actively changing my own lifestyle, placing my wallet vote, I am not doing anything to actively influence others to make large scale changes.
9. Despair
—-Plagued with increased awareness, filled with despair that for every good choice or sacrifice I make, there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who don’t care, who are working against a sustainable, equitable earth, who can nullify a years worth of my sacrifices, with a single trip to the mall.
10. Implementation on a local level
—-Activism on a local level. First, setting an example to those around you by living in a way that promotes your ideals. Devoting time and money to help local institutions influence local policy.
11. Implementation on a global level
While I am not there yet, I have recently applied to a couple graduate programs regarding policy making for sustainability and global equity, in the hopes that I can use what I learn there to implement more wide-spread changes and influence more than my friends and family.

I’m just starting on #10. On a global scale I’m not sure what I can do, besides supporting worldwide charities and being politically active here in the US (Anyone But Bush ’04!); but that’s a start, and perhaps other opportunities will present themselves.
So to return to the point of this post, I’d like to hear from anyone reading this: do you care? If so, why; if not, why not? Answers on a postcard in Joi’s comment thread, of course.