Art, the left, and pretty girls sans clothes

Hindrocket plays art critic:

Well, you know a painting is offensive when the guy who painted the Pope with swastikas thinks it’s over the line. I’m a little puzzled, though, by what the show’s organizers considered to be a “relevant political message,” i.e., how the oil companies “abuse” the United States. That would be, I suppose, by providing petroleum products that allow us to go places, heat our homes, have offices and factories in which to work, and operate equipment so that, instead of living like the ancient Egyptians, hauling blocks of stone around with ropes, we can sit at desks and do things like operate computers. Is that how the oil companies “abuse” Americans? I suppose the idea is that without the oil companies, oil and gasoline would spring magically out of the ground (pollution-free, of course), and into our gas tanks and furnaces. For free.

Leftists are so childish that I cannot understand how anyone can take them seriously.

In fairness, John, these are left-wing artists we’re talking about. Artists are possibly the least well-educated college graduates out there – those who have a degree in the first place – after all, you’re not going to learn much about economics, history, chemistry or anything else in art history or English class.

This doesn’t mean that non-artistic leftists are necessarily much more likely to make a rational and informed argument about the Iraqi War or anything else, but they are less likely to be as hopelessly childish. I mean, at least a socialist economist knows what GDP is, even if he has trouble grokking the fact that increasing G will reduce I, sooner rather than later.

Your average artist, on the other hand, is operating on the level of the high-school dropout stripper who can’t understand why all the poor people don’t just move to Jamaica.

It’s been said that the Constitution is not a suicide pact. I therefore note in passing that universal democracy is somewhat conspicuous by its absence in that particular document.

A mild dissent

From the Associated Press:

A new three-part series, “Archangels: The Fall,” co-authored by Christian fantasy writer [a certain name familiar to most here], is on the stands and available in a collector’s tin. The first installment of the next trilogy, “Archangels: Legacy,” comes out next March.

“It’s definitely a ministry tool,” said “Archangels” creator and writer Patrick Scott, 36. “It’s really meant to evangelize and to plant a seed of hope in the minds of people that have no hope.”

This may surprise some of you, but I tend to disagree somewhat with the wholly evangelical focus of most of these people, including my co-author. Evangelizing is occasionally an element of my writing, but it is usually a small one even when it is there. The problem is that a focus on explicitely repeating the same message over and over renders too much similarity between what would otherwise be very divergent works of fiction, or comics, and there’s little point in reading a second novel where the protagonist, devastated by the death of his [fill in the relationship here], struggles with his faith but ultimately comes to an understanding that everything is okay because God is in control of everything.

Even if you agree wholeheartedly with that basic concept – and you know my doubts on that score – what’s the point of reading a second book following that plot, let alone a third, fourth and fifth.

Of course, one could accuse secular science fiction of much the same sin, albeit in a different direction. That being said, ARCHANGELS: THE FALL is a fairly straightforward retelling of Lucifer’s Fall, Adam’s subsequent Fall and the Crucifixion, so Patrick’s description is completely accurate.

In my own fiction, I prefer to use the Christian worldview as a starting point, not an end. To me, the point of a book is to tell an interesting and entertaining story, not change someone’s way of thinking. If I’m seeking to do that, I’ll write a column or put together a lengthy blog post. I have no problem with Christian writers who feel otherwise; it’s just my creative philosophy.

I think there was probably too much preachiness in WAR, but I’ve tried hard to get away from that in my most recent book. It’s just not necessary, being inherent in the underlying worldview, and it significantly weakens the story by throwing the reader out of it.

So close, and yet so far

Anti-Buffoonist gets lost in the madness:

What I don’t get….is the title of Vox’s blog. It’s basically the same set-up…the second word looks like a genitive singular, so it’s “voice of *******”. But “popoli” is either spelled wrong, or where the Greek comes in.

In neither my own real life dictionary, there’s no word spelled p-o-p-O-l-i, only with a U instead of O. An online Latin dictionary doesn’t have popoli. I don’t know Greek or have a dictionary, but an online one doesn’t even give anything for popoli. (The Greek one didn’t gave anything for populi either, but since I already know that’s Latin, I expected that.)

The Latin popUli means “of the people, of the populace.” The nominative singular form of the noun means just that, “people or populace.” If it were an adjective, then it’d have been “Vox Popula.”

So that’s all I got for now. If I went into too much detail and sounded condescending or whatever it wasn’t intentional, but Latin’s one of the few things I know well enough to explain.

I have no doubt that her Latin is superior to mine, especially when it comes to ablatives and other bits of grammar that one might confuse with Traveller equipment. However, an Italian dictionary would have set you straight. The linguistic switch which was necessary to maintain the pattern, for, as you know, “day” is not exactly proper Latin either.

It serves two purposes. One, I wished to avoid confusion with any other uses on the old Latin phrase floating about the web. Two, it offers fair warning that I may, without provocation, drop the occasional translation of an Eco article here. I was actually toying with translating the Riziero book I’ve been reading, as there is no English translation, nor, do I think, is there likely to be. I abandoned that notion after encountering the first embarrassing romantic interlude, wherein the James Bond of the 16th century encounters a nubile young lady-in-waiting.

“Riziero’s member could not have done other than follow and immerse itself in that freshness, just as the August vacationer seeks to plunge his sweating head into a fountain.”

In any event, the Greek comes in elsewhere. Bad linguistic elitist! Bad!

The Firemen of the Internet

The Virgin Queen is judged unworthy by Google:

Being a penniless student, one of my constant readers advised me to check out Google’s Adsense program to see if my site would be approved and perhaps make a few dollars. I didn’t investigate very thoroughly, just put in my application and waited for a response — I got one all right.

My site was rejected. I quote from the email: “We regret that you are not able to participate in the Google Adsense program due to the racially insensitive material located on your website.”

I find it ironic that the Left always loves to scream about censorship, while the only people to actually do any book-burning and censoring for the last two centuries are leftists.

Blog Star

Fluffy Blog elects not to play pinata this week:

It was the summer after I graduated from high school, the world was at my feet, and between June of ’89 and July of ’90 the nine of us were inseparable. Quite literally our group formed one night in the Mullet Man’s cul-de-sac. I had never met half these guys before and I was sure I’d be treated like an interloper. See, Mullet had gone to a Lutheran prep school with these guys and had grown up around them. Mullet, the enigmatic Lurch, and I had formed a fast friendship in class at Bear Creek High and they were anxious to introduce me to the boys. So we met at Mullet’s house in preparation for a Friday night out. My apprehension was abated when Marky Mark shook my hand, tossed me a beer, and made me feel as if I’d been part of the group all along. It was like slipping on an old pair of comfortable shoes. What happened that night was a true cosmic convergence. It was perfect.

Our trip to South Padre Island for spring break in ’90 was one of those mythical road trips that have become a right of passage for every American male. We all piled into Q-Tip’s green & white ’65 Ford F100 pickup, Leonardo’s ’88 Nissan pickup, and my girl friend’s Jeep Wrangler. We left on Thursday night and got to our hotel around 6 p.m. on Friday. The drive took us through west Texas, which incidentally is like driving through the bowels of Hell, and we were praying Tip’s POS would hold together until we got to South Padre. One memorable night we went to this bar (I think it was Tequila Frogs but don’t quote me) and mainlined tequila (ever after pronounced ta-kill-ya) for a few hours. Afterwards Tip, Mullet Man, Hop-along, Hollywood, and I broke out the golf clubs and played midnight nude golf on the beach. Marky Mark, the Whiner, Lurch, and Leonardo headed back to the hotel to sleep of their bender. Once we got bored with smacking around a golf ball we went exploring and found a golf cart that belonged to one of the hotels. Being the drunk and butt naked dumbasses we were we decided to abscond with our new mode of transportation and drove around for a while. Somehow we found a pier and proceeded to drive the cart into the water. Laughing and flailing we scrambled back to shore, put our now soaking wet clothes back on, and stumbled back to our hotel. Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico is a golf cart with our names on it.

There were those nights spent playing Risk and shooting the s**t until the wee hours of the morning. Poker night in Leonardo’s garage was always something we looked forward to. We’d get our paychecks on a Friday afternoon, cash them, and assemble at Leo’s and play poker until dawn. Lurch showed up to vainly try to recoup past losses, Mullet Man loved the pizza we got from Beau Jo’s, and Tip always started the peanut war. Lurch threw parties that were legendary. These were the type of party where you sleep where you fall and his back yard always looked like the Jonestown Massacre. Hollywood would host impromptu pool tournaments that usually degenerated into a giant smack talking festival. Mullet’s mom always cooked the bomb ass dinner for us and the look on his father’s face was priceless as the nine of us ate him out of house & home. He was always found later in front of the TV muttering something about how we all had hollow legs to be able to eat that much that quickly.

Marky Mark and Q-Tip grew up to become fire fighters and will always have my undying respect. Marky Mark has three daughters while Tip’s first kid was born about a year and a half ago. Mullet Man is still a serial monogamist and went into the real estate business with his dad. Funny, I always thought he hated the man. Lurch is now pulling down a mid six-figure salary at Charles Schwab. Leo lives in Fort Collins and works for Hewlett-Packard. The Whiner is an investment consultant and does some estate planning. Hop-along does part-time modeling, or so he says, and God only knows what else. Hollywood is married, has a kid, and works for Invesco.

My most vivid memory of these guys was July 2, 1990. We had all gathered at Mullet Man’s for a barbecue and beer. It was your average low scale get together with us and the women folk. Nothing significant happened…other than it was our last night together.

The next night, July 3, I was driving to Lake Granby to meet up with the boys for a night at some cabin and 4th of July golf tournament the next day. It was raining cats & dogs and visibility was crap. I rounded this bend on Berthoud Pass and came up on a gas tanker that was backing across the road with no running lights on or signal flairs. I had no time to stop and my Honda Civic T-boned the tool box underneath the tank. I broke my neck and have been in a wheel chair ever since. I was nineteen.

I haven’t seen Mullet, Leonardo, Hop-along, or the Whiner since Marky Mark’s wedding in ’91. Q-tip and I try to go to at least one Bronco game a year and I saw Hollywood about five years ago. I ran into Lurch at our ten year high school reunion.

I’m not trying to preach about friendship or to teach some kind of all encompassing universal truth. This also isn’t meant to be some cheap, not-so-subtle tug at the heart strings or a heavy-handed plea for sympathy. This post is simply a tribute in a very public forum to youth and eight old friends. Gentlemen, wherever you are let me say thank you and take care.

Mailvox: the loan trap

An older reader emails a cautionary tale:

Back in the 90’s I had several gold and platinum credit cards. I had a typical mortgage on a typical house. I had a good paying job with decent benefits. I had savings in the bank and was “investing” in a 401,000. I actually owned my Chevy suburban. My family was living the typical American dream, nice home, good cars, delivery pizza twice a week, etc., etc.

Then the job went away. It didn’t go down the street, it went overseas. But, I had years of education and training in electronics, computers and math, so another job was just a few resumes away, no problem.

During the time it took to send out 473 targeted resumes, the bank wanted their mortgage payments and the bills kept rolling in. At first, the payments came out of savings. Unemployment benefits mostly handled daily living expenses, and the savings would be replaced when a new job was found.

It takes very few mortgage payments to wipe out a modest savings account, and unemployment benefits disappear quickly. No problem, all the credit cards were sending blank checks with the monthly bill, so I started paying the mortgage with those credit card checks. Again, no problem, the credit cards would be paid back when the new job arrived.

It dawned on me (finally) that it was not just my job that had been exported, it had been the bulk of the industry. American IC chip foundries, IC chip manufacturers, IC chip designers … almost all gone to the Asian rim. I am told that in the process, we lost 3.5 million good paying jobs in America’s IC chip industry in less than 36 months.

It takes very few mortgage payments to Max out a credit card … try it sometime.

So here I was, no decent job in sight, savings gone, cards maxed, unemployment benefits used up, but the bills (of course) never skipped a beat.

So, we got a second mortgage on the house. That kept the bank and the credit card boys happy, along with food on the table… until it was gone.

Still stupid to the extreme, I was still clutching to the idea that a decent job was out there to be found. To stay afloat, my wife and I jointly decided to cash in the 401,000 for living expenses. Try to guess how much of the money we lost doing that.

Tell you what I finally found. A job in the paint department of a Super Walmart for six bucks an hour, NO benefits but workmen’s comp.

The house is gone. The Chevy suburban is gone. The credit cards are gone. The savings are gone. The 401k is gone. Our credit rating is tanked. The only thing we have now is Social Security, which allows us enough money for a one bedroom apartment in the “older” part of town, and we are driving an eleven year-old car with almost 100,000 miles on it. When it blows up, we walk.

My point?

I see many other Americans in exactly the same cycle as we were.

It would be easy to offer post-facto criticism of this man’s past decisions, but instead of people wasting space attempting to derive a smug sense of superiority by posting how they haven’t imitated him, I’d prefer to focus on some of the important lessons to be learned here.

First, an immediate lifestyle response to a reduction in income is REQUIRED. English novels from the nineteenth century were filled with the sad ends of those poor, short-sighted souls who were foolish enough to spend their capital; they may have been fictional but were salient examples to bear in mind nevertheless. Wealth derives from capital, ergo it must never be spent except in extreme emergencies.

Second, it is always easier to find a job if you have a job. Any job. It is quite common to make the mistake of thinking that if you don’t “waste time” working at an inferior position, you’ll be able to devote more time to job-hunting. That may be true, but the problem is opportunity cost and the subconscious message that unemployment sends to prospective employers.

TPAM, an attorney, took a floor job selling computers at Computer City after he was encouraged to leave the first law firm at which he worked over his reluctance to artificially inflate his billable hours. Not only did this job cushion the blow of his reduced income, but the computer knowledge he gained there gave him the leg up he needed to get a job as first a contract lawyer at a multi-billion dollar company, which eventually led to his becoming a director there. The fact that he was willing to take a “lesser” job did not harm him at all in the eyes of his prospective employer, instead it sent the message that he was a man who didn’t shirk from doing whatever needed to be done.

Another friend, a pretty MBA with a somewhat rosy-glassed approach to life, spent two fruitless years looking for the perfect job in New York. When I needed someone to fill in for a data entry position for three weeks, I called her and she took the job, more as a favor to me than anything else. In her next interview, the guy was impressed with her international experience and consulting contacts – however limited they were, she had more than the other applicants – and hired her to set up and run their London office.

Third, if you have a mortgage and lose your job, and you don’t get an equivalent job within two months, immediately sell the house and switch to rental accomodations. You can always get back into debt to buy another house, but a reluctance to take immediate steps in a vain attempt to preserve your lifestyle uninterrupted can mean losing the house, the capital and the lifestyle.

Fourth, credit is a killer. Debt kills perfectly profitable companies, it puts relationships under incredible pressure and it simply isn’t worth the ability to live beyond your present means. I know a number of wealthy people who spend more time worrying about their ability to maintain their lifestyle than they do enjoying it; a beer on your humble porch is much better than a bottle of Crystal a hotel balcony in Paris if you can’t afford to pay cash for the latter.

There will always be stories in the glossy magazines about how people have made zillions through leveraged investments. But the far more numerous stories about houses lost, bankruptcies, and relationships broken under the pressure of debt are seldom heard because they simply aren’t as sexy.

If you live within your means, you may not live a terribly exciting and glamorous life, but unlike the Joneses, you will be unlikely to eventually have cause to regret it.

Going down, Mr. Tyler?

From Editor & Publisher:

The average circulation decline among 684 US daily papers is averaging 1.9% in the past year. In some places it is catastrophic. This is the biggest drop in the last five years. And no one is forecasting a turnaround yet. In case it hasn’t occurred to anyone, that means fewer slots for Newspaper Guild workers. Media credibility is in the toilet, even if the Koran isn’t.

The Manchester Guardian’s Peter Preston explains where the circulation is going—-“the defectors are packing up and moving out of newsprint: to broadcasting in tiny measure (though radio and TV news are losing customers, too) but overwhelmingly to the Net.” And it isn’t the Right or the blogosphere that are doing this to us, although that is what the MSM would prefer to believe. We are doing it ourselves.

If the most basic tenets of Journalism 101 are now no longer important enough for the media itself to honor and defend against their own members who violate them, where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable “first draft of history” – much less its value for sale? And if we lose sight of that irretrievably, who needs us? There are bloggers out there today with more credibility than Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley combined, and their audiences are growing.

But they’re professionals! PROFESSIONALS! Yeah, well, I don’t recall seeing any journalists drafted on ESPN this spring. Lawyers, however loathesome they might be, are professionals. Doctors are professionals. Veterinarians are professionals. Journalists? I don’t think so.

It’s a trade, not a profession. Otherwise, Dan Rather, Linda Foley and a whole host of similarly truth-challenged individuals would have lost their ability to practice some time ago.