@ David Zubik, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, on the decision to file charges against a CMU student who paraded naked in papal regalia:
[T]his is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.
It seems like a fairly strange conclusion to reach, given that the student faces misdemeanor charges for indecent exposure, not impiety. Moreover, CMU President Jared Cohon announced that the University wouldn’t take any disciplinary action, and that while “many found the students’ activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas.”
I think this is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that respect can’t be legislated — and even if it could, wouldn’t it lose a big part of its meaning?
@ From a pamphlet anonymously published in 1672 on the evils of that “nauseous puddle water”:
[T]he excessive use of that newfangled, abominable, heathenish liquor called coffee, which rifling Nature of her choicest treasures, and drying up the radical moisture, has so eunuched our husbands and crippled our more kind gallants that they are become as impotent, as aged, and as unfruitful as those deserts whence that unhappy berry is said to be brought. For the continual sipping of this pitiful drink is enough to bewitch men of two and twenty and tie up the codpiece point without a charm.
I can only imagine what they’d say about my daily soy mocha lattes.
@ Erin Kissane writes about how she defends herself from the fury of social media while preserving what’s sane or comforting:
By using rules to guide my participation and tech to block the interactions that stress me out the most, I open up time and energy for longer, better conversations with people I love and respect, and I preserve my focus for the projects I choose to spend my attention on.
She’s honest enough to subject herself to the rules too:
[P]ublishing my worries might let off a bit of emotional steam for me, but if it worsens the anxiety of those in my community, it’s a net loss. I get this wrong more than right, but it’s something I think about a lot.
Anxiety begets further anxiety, and this applies to our interactions online too. It’s a lesson that I’ll keep in mind.
@ Michael Copeland talks to Marc Andreessen about the future of personal computers. Mobile devices have been taking the spotlight for a few years now, but Andreessen poses an interesting thought experiment that suggests we still have a soft spot for desktops. Copeland paraphrases:
Let’s say we all grew up in tech world where we only used tablets and smartphones. Then one day, someone comes up to you with a 27-inch display hooked up to a notebook. You could have everything you have on your tablets and smartphones, and then some. Except you don’t have to download anything or update it. Everything is the latest and greatest, and just one click away. If you are a software developer, there are no gatekeepers telling you if your latest creation is approved, or when you can add the latest flourish.
@ Tim Kreider on confessing one’s own ignorance in their writing:
Real life, in my experience, is not rife with epiphanies, let alone lessons; what little we learn tends to come exactly too late, gets contradicted by the next blunder, or is immediately forgotten and has to be learned all over again. More and more, the only things that seem to me worth writing about are the ones I don’t understand.
When I look back at my favorite essays, I find they often raise more questions than they answer. And the answers they do give are self-consciously tentative.
@ David Cain on living by default:
So much of our lives consists of conditions we’ve fallen into. We gravitate unwittingly to what works in the short term, in terms of what to do for work and what crowd to run with. There’s nothing wrong with living from defaults, necessarily, but think about it: what are the odds that the defaults delivered to you by happenstance are anywhere close to what’s really optimal for you?
But these defaults aren’t like other defaults that can be readily identified. Since my defaults are different from your defaults, they might masquerade as choices.
And unlike other defaults, the defaults of our lives can’t be adjusted once or twice to meet our needs. Any adjustment soon becomes a new default, so change must be constant.
@ The origin of yerba maté, according to a very strange legend, as recalled by G. W. Ray in Through Five Republics on Horseback (1891):
God, accompanied by St. John and St. Peter, came down to the earth and commenced to journey. One day, after most difficult travel, they arrived at the house of an old man, father to a virgin young and beautiful. The old man cared so much for this girl, and was so anxious to keep her ever pure and innocent, that they had gone to live in the depths of a forest.
The man was very, very poor, but willingly gave his heavenly visitors the best he could, killing in their honor the only hen he possessed, which served for supper. Noting this action, God asked St. Peter and St. John, when they were alone, what they would do if they were Him. They both answered Him that they would largely reward such an unselfish host.
Bringing him to their presence, God addressed him in these words: ‘Thou who art poor hast been generous, and I will reward thee for it. Thou hast a daughter who is pure and innocent, and whom thou greatly lovest. I will make her immortal, and she shall never disappear from earth.’
Then God transformed her into the plant of the yerba mate. Since then the herb exists, and although it is cut down it springs up again.
@ From Lewis H. Lapham’s Feast of Fools, a fiery and honest essay on the “ritual performance of the legend of democracy”:
On political campaigns:
They stay on message with their parsing of democracy as the ancient Greek name for the American Express card, picturing the great, good American place as a Florida resort hotel wherein all present receive the privileges and comforts owed to their status as valued customers, invited to convert the practice of citizenship into the art of shopping, to select wisely from the campaign advertisements, texting A for Yes, B for No.
The cable-news networks meanwhile package dissent as tabloid entertainment, a commodity so clearly labeled as pasteurized ideology that it is rendered harmless and threatens nobody with the awful prospect of having to learn something they didn’t already know. Comedians on the order of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher respond with jokes offered as consolation prizes for the acceptance of things as they are and the loss of hope in things as they might become. As soporifics, not, God forbid, as incitements to revolution or the setting up of guillotines in Yankee Stadium and the Staples Center.
On the most expensive dramatic productions ever:
Happily, at least for the moment, the society is rich enough to afford the staging of the fiction of democracy as a means of quieting the suspicions of a potentially riotous mob with the telling of a fairy tale. The rising cost of the production—the pointless nominating conventions decorated with 15,000 journalists as backdrop for the 150,000 balloons reflects the ever-increasing rarity of the demonstrable fact. The country is being asked to vote in November for television commercials because only in the fanciful time-zone of a television commercial can the American democracy still be said to exist.
@ Mitt Romney on family structure:
The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother. What should be the ideal for raising a child? Not a village, not ‘parent A’ and ‘parent B,’ but a mother and a father.
Personally, I feel that being raised by a village would’ve been fun and extremely rewarding. Romney’s comment is plainly heterosexist, but more fundamentally, it betrays an alarming lack of imagination.
If there’s a war on families, it’s being waged by those who profess to know what families should look like, and who would prohibit those that look a little different.
@ Kathryn McCullough on front porches and blogging:
Originally important as cool, shaded spaces for families to gather, front porches became common-place by the middle of the 19th-century, peaking in popularity into the earlier 20th. Only after World War II and the movement of American families to the suburbs did back yards replace front porches as a primary outdoor place for children to play and parents to socialize. Slightly more removed from the public eye than the front porch, back yards insulated families from their neighbors, as, in recent years, television and the internet, in moving America almost entirely indoors, have reinvented the notion of neighborhood altogether. [...]
Blogs, like porches, transition us from private to public space and back again. They link us to something larger, something outside ourselves, something more meaningful than counting planes, or page hits, for that matter. Blogs are open doors. They create a shared space, become a place where friendships form and lives change. Blogs encourage dialogue, deepen connections, create an experience that is richer than any single post in and of itself.