Thursday, August 14, 2008

Woo Hoo!

Bargaining is over; I might just survive this job, assuming I don't melt first.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Taking Control"

To steal a phrase, I do not think that means what Mr. Fitzpatrick thinks it means:

They know that only by encouraging young people like us to take control of ourselves - our sexuality, our behavior, our values - and resist the absurd "consequence-free sex" crud we've been force-fed at OSU and elsewhere. [sic]

In other words, we're being told that "taking control" means doing what Mr. Fitzpatrick says and following only one course of action.

More on the GT's editorial slant

I just figured out that the GT Publisher/Editor posted a response to this post of mine, in which I make some snide comments about the GT's editorial stances in regards to business and the environment. McInally:

Here’s the truth: The only policy directive I’ve ever seen from Lee about editorial stances is that its newspapers should write editorials about local issues. I have never, in nearly 30 years of working for Lee (the last 10 as an editor or publisher), received any other directive about what positions to take on the editorial page.

I appreciate Mr. McInally's responding, though I am still highly skeptical. There are other ways to influence editorial stances besides directives. Nevertheless, he is quite clear on his experience - and I look forward to an explanation of how editorial decisions are made, especially around candidates and elections. I wish more newspapers offered such a level of transparency into their decision-making processes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


What the... look, I don't valorize the flag, but c'mon people, the guy is clearly either an idiot or doesn't believe any of the shit that comes out of his mouth:

... in other words, if Bush is going to metaphorically drape himself in the flag, the least he could do is display the fucking thing properly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

[Letters to the Editor] Parsing Letters

The DH opinion page is really aflame today. What it is about Monday and LTEs?

Just finished reading the one-sided article written by Diaa Hadid, who appears concerned about the barrier separating Israel from Palestine.

When a nation lives next door to a country that fires not only rockets into its cities but also sends suicide bombers in to kill their civilian population, they are confronted with no other choice but to create a barrier between them.

Mmm.... funny how the Israeli military occupation and military bombings are not mentioned. Nor the fact that a wall will a) have all sorts of other consequences, like preventing people from getting to work and/or school, or separating families and b) won't stop attacks.

Israel acquired their land through a World War II mandate from the British. Immediately upon occupying this land they were attacked by the surrounding Arab nations. Israel won that war and subsequent ones as well, thereby justifying its presence on the land.

I wonder if might would continue to make right if the US lost a parcel of land? For that matter, how is the original mandate from the British justified?

I believe that once the Palestinians learn to control the militants and permanently stop all this carnage, then not only will peace in that region ensue, but also, ultimately, some accord on the land issue as well.

It's just.... ah, fuck it.

Another letter:

I am writing this in regard to low-income families. Years ago Goodwill was a place to help the low-income people. When I go there now, I cannot afford their things.

I have heard tons of complaints about their prices. It is not right. They get their things for free. People who cannot afford school clothes or other items are supposed to be able to turn to Goodwill and places like that for those reasons.

Well said. I attribute Goodwill's increase in prices to a combination of things: College students who shop there but do not need to (especially in Corvallis, perhaps), rising gas prices, globalization/general economic strain, and the fact that the Goodwill CEO has made as much as $800,000/year. That latter has dropped (by a whole quarter!), but the fact that it was ever that high... yeah.

Oh, and don't forget #5: Capitalism. It's both a cause and consequence of the increased prices at Goodwill.

My favorite letter, at least when it comes to being delightfully short on reason, has to do with McCain and Obama:

McCain has a good idea on how to protect this country, having been in the military. His prisoner of war status gives him a good idea how our enemies think.

Wrong. Having been a POW does not automatically grant one insight into one's captors. This is not Rambo. Similarly, being in the military does not grant one special knowledge about the big picture. I know too many current and former military folks to believe that for a second. This argument might not totally suck if we were talking about a former general, but McCain? Seriously?

Obama has no idea how to protect this country and will be elected our next president.

Funny, I always thought that's what the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense, or possibly the National Security Adviser or National Security Council were for. Silly me. Not to mention that I'd argue with the claim as applied to Obama himself.

Over 60 percent of our population has no military experience and no idea of why the military even exists, other than it is traditional.

Even I don't believe the latter part is true. Of course people know the point of a military: To blow shit up. What, has the author never played Gears of War?

With Obama’s lack of knowledge, our military will become weaker after he pulls them out of the Middle East, setting us up like we were before World War II.

This is nonsensical. Also, the implied comparison to anyone in the Middle East and Hitler is ludicrous.

At or near Obama’s end of term the terrorists will have united the Arab countries enough that the Arabs will invade Europe. Nuclear bombs — probably smuggled in — rather than missiles will decimate cities of the United States.

Basis of these claims in fact? None. Amount of amazement I have regarding the fact that this sort of statement is not laughed out of the room? A whole freakin' lot. C'mon folks: "Obama as President = nuclear attacks on America" is just stupid, not to mention morally bankrupt. Of course "uniting the Arab countries" is about as likely as humans making to Alpha Centauri by tomorrow, but hey, when you're in a fact-free zone...

The terrorists may have learned not to start terror activities while a Republican is in office. Do their damage while a Democrat is in office, or before the new president can get a handle on what is happening.

Nice save of Bush with that last clause. I wonder of the author could explain this? For that matter, how does the author reconcile this with the "we are fighting them over there so we don't fight them here" claim, or the mere existence of the entire Iraq debacle?

To keep the U.S. out of the war as long as possible, hit U.S. cities before we can mobilize. While at the same time start the war in Europe, hoping to take Europe out before the sleeping tiger (the U.S.) can get on its feet.

Again, with what army? What nukes?

I am neither a Democrat nor Republican and spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy. I have never voted for a Democrat yet.

*sigh* Well, as far as I know, most people registered as independents consistently vote for the same party. At least this guy is not alone in that.

Whew. That last letter was amazing. It's kind of funny how the DH opinion page can pull the most entertaining people out of the woodwork. These letters even give EW a run for their money, though not quite in the same way.

By the way, this is post #805, or thereabouts. If I remember, I'll try and make note of posts #900 and 1000. I had intended to mark 800, but clearly I forgot =)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Notes on the Junction City Scandinavian Festival

I went to this today. It was.... interesting. You couldn't have pried my sociologist's hat off with a case of dynamite. What follows is a rather messy exposition of some of my thoughts that occurred during and after my visit. I have this feeling that based on past experience I'm not going to spend any time cleaning them up, so I'm just going to post them.

I definitely had some preconceptions/expectations going in: That it would be even whiter than the rest of Oregon (both culturally and demographically), that the people attending would be heavier than average (due to the likely food – lots of sweets, dairy and meat, with a distinct lack of fruit and vegetables), that there would be a lot of solid colors on clothing, and that the strength of the relationship between what would be on display and actual Scandinavian anything could range from decent to very, very weak., but was unlikely to be really strong.

Sadly, I feel like some of those preconceptions were not invalid. The exceptions: the crowd was no whiter than the rest of Oregon, nor more overweight (as far as I could tell on both counts). That said, I left with a lot of questions about the depth of the connection to Scandinavian culture (more on that later). The food also lacked vegetables or fruit, on the whole – the onions in the meat pies were about all I spotted. (By the way, the meat pie I had was really, really frackin' good. Then again, meat + gravy + pastry crust is hard to beat). Also, I suspect neither elephant ears nor bananas dipped in chocolate are Scandinavian in origin.... but they are fair food.

The whole preconception thing made me uncomfortable. Does holding either these preconceptions or preconceptions in general make me a bad person? Maybe..... what it does suggest is that I romanticize non-white culture, which is a very, very stupid and bad thing to do.

The other way to look at it as that the reason I was laughing on the inside for most of the afternoon (and I was) was that the culture on display was uncritically white, and for some reason, it came across as a parody to me. I just couldn't/can't believe people were genuinely (and not ironically) excited about it. That should tell you something about how I view mainstream culture in America, especially television.

An aside: Interestingly, this whole train of thought makes me think that Scandinavian culture is a component of whiteness. This is news, considering that “what does it mean to be white?” is often a question met with silence. Curious.

A second aside: I don't mean to imply that no one can be genuinely interested in the culture of ethnicities that have been assimilated into whiteness. Rather, it's the uncritical nature of the interest that gets me. After all, the older I get, the more interested I get in Irish culture – and I'm part Irish.

One question that was raised early on goes something like this: How do people continue to retain their connection to the culture of the place they came from? In this case, since the shift was, for the most part, hundreds of years ago, the question almost morphs into “in what ways, if any, does the presentation of Scandinavian culture change as the result of the time passed since one moves away from Scandinavia?”

Another question that came up: Given the history of Scandinavia as a whole, how was this particular vision of Scandinavia decided on? Certainly, my (limited) experience in Sweden looks nothing like what was at the Festival. This question I think I have something of an answer for: The culture that was celebrated was the culture present when immigrants moved to the US, more or less. Case in point: There is a Christian church service as part of the festival on Sunday morning. I saw nothing in the Festival that made any mention of the pre-Christian Scandinavia; it all seemed to be from, say, the 18th century. I would have been interested in any pre-Christian indigenous religions, for example... but, as noted, what was really on display was a particular time period/part of Scandinavian culture.

Some other things that came up:

What parts of Scandinavian culture are on display, and what are not? On display: Foods – mostly meat, dairy and dessert; art – mostly crafts, a few paintings; dance; etc. Missing: Why those things are the way they are, why they are important, what they were linked to: climate, geography, available resources, living in the rhythms of the land – and agriculture, always agriculture and the natural cycle of life in the specific region.

The Vikings – not many were on display, but how many of those wearing the horns (because very few went all-out; it was mostly the horns) think about the Vikings in terms of lives lost, people killed, etc? Not many, I suspect, as it's still perfectly acceptable in American culture to romanticize or otherwise value war, natch.

Dancing – I spent a lot of time thinking about this one, as the people I knew at the Festival were all into dance in one form or another. A friend and I talked about how regional differences in dances, individual (and clothes) were obscured by the labeling of dances by nation, for example. We talked about ways in which dances might spread. Also, I thought a lot about how to separate the fact that while the people participating in the various dances may have been having a lot of fun, and rightly so, those dances did not necessarily represent any meaningful connection to a specific culture. Of course, that notion was challenged by the obvious: How do I know that? I don't, not really, but it seems pretty straightforward when placed in the context of the Festival as a whole: Face it..... it was a celebration of surface culture. There was very little to indicate why the Scandinavian culture was the way it was, what conditions drove it, etc. (It's here that I start thinking about agriculture and climate again, as well as, for some reason, Samhain or Lammas.) Watching the dancing (and there was a lot of dancing), I was also confronted with an example of how traditions are passed on, and what traditions get passed on, etc.

Oh, and my favorite person at the festival? The hipster-ish guy with a horned Viking helmet. Somehow, it completed the outfit rather nicely. I think it was the combination of tiny, tiny hips and a helmet....

Strangest festival moment: When, as part of the evening pageantry, a group of performers danced around a witch who was tied to a stake... and on fire. I can't decide if I think that was insane and insulting, or just silly.

I want to conclude this by noting that even if I am coming across as caustic and highly critical (and I am), I still had a lot of fun. It was good to see people I know, the food was tasty, and it was definitely an interesting experience. I just couldn't take all the whiteness uncritically/seriously.

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