Sunday, March 30, 2008

Group Rights

Article 27 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reads:
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.
In Jack Donnelly's Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, 2nd ed., he mentions this article while pointing out that it is the people constituting these minorities and not the minorities as minorities that possess these rights.

Nothing particularly groundbreaking, just interesting. He addresses self-determination in a later chapter; I'll report on what I find there when I get there.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Je Recueille de Beaux Objets

Just watched The Science of Sleep.

Yeah, it was a bit difficult to work through, to be honest, but it was still one of those perfectly strangely wonderfully beautiful films that I like so well.

It occurs to me that a lot of my "art life" has been spent adoring films like this, or music like Edith Piaf, Bessie Smith and Cinematic Orchestra, or sculpture like Claudel's "Waltz" and paintings like Wyeth's "Christine's World." I suppose that these sorts of things inspire the quickest and deepest emotional responses; it's that odd love/sad thing that happens. Billie Holiday makes me want to climb a tree and cry while doing it. There must be a name for that emotion.

Let's call it "cry" + "love" = CROVE. Billie Holiday's music is crovely.



4000 today in the Fertile Crescent

From Laurence Binyon's For the Fallen:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What is Poverty?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Scattering of Authority

My old discussion about the Empire Superstructure has come back to me during a presentation about heterarchy. Yes, it is what it sounds like. I am now quite enamored of the idea. What was not discussed during the lecture is how the nature of power shifts. Some actors have a monopoly on power or advice during only a few given points. These times of power can change by the day. I wonder if we can therefore conceive of the international system as being a half-ordered, constantly-shifting system of governance. We'd better hope so, because there are things that we need each other for.

At the end of the lecture on hetarchy, I wrote in my notebook that hetarchy was, quite simply, a quantum theory of non-power-endpoint (shifting) international organization with a focus on the absolute necessity of superordination. Let's be honest: There is probably someone or something that can do Job X better than I or my organization can. Perhaps we would be well off to apply the model to the micro scale, too, like in cities and stuff. Or families.

Or friends.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sleeping In

The plan: Wake up at 3 a.m. MST. Get showered and finish packing the few things left outside my bags. Eat the rest of my bread, a banana, and some ricecakes. Spend 20 minutes worrying about what I'm leaving behind. Head out to the bus stop and catch the 15 - Billings at 4:28. Head to Billings and hop the AT to DIA at 5:23. Disembark and head to Airtran's counter, pick up my ticket, fly to Atlanta for a 4-hour layover, then continue on to Reagan International to land at 6 p.m. and hop the Metro to DC-NW.

The reality: Wake up at 3:54 a.m. MST. Scramble madly to get cleaned. Forgo the bread. Crumble the ricecakes and stuff them down the throat with banana. Scramble more madly. Pack everything in a rush and spend 3 minutes worrying about what I'm leaving behind. Catch the 4:28 bus. Catch the 5:23 bus. Try to retrieve my e-ticket. Nothing works. Just about to ask for help when I realize that I'm trying to check in at USAirways. Stomp down to Airtran and pick up my boarding pass and my Dulles International. That's right, I bought a ticket to the wrong airport. Land in Atlanta, ask to fly standby and hop on the next one out, thus saving myself the layover in the tornado-prone capital of our peach-state and putting me on the Mall at 3:45 p.m., with enough time to visit the Hirshhorn Museum, grab some Indian food (way-overpriced), and still make it to Dupont Circle with many minutes to spare.

And so it is.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Emelius Browne's College of Witchcraft pt. 2

Seriously, the accordion work in that song is great. Call it a squeezebox, call it a concertina or a flutina, but the thing has got a real sound to it, doesn't it?


Emelius Browne's College of Witchcraft

I was meandering my way through London a few years ago and had the great fortune of visiting a place that had up until then only existed in my head and on VHS. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the 1971 Disney musical based on Mary Norton's book, had been an oft-viewed part of my childhood. It had just the right mix of fantasy (in the form of animated suits of armor) and historical something-or-other (in the form of a foiled Nazi invasion of England). I really dug watching it.

The characters in the film find themselves on London's Portobello Road, searching for magical books. I'm not sure why that's italicized; it just seemed right. Portobello Road is a huge antique market, with all kinds of cool stuff to be had. While there, I bought my mom some cool old-as-hell spinning bobbins. The Portobello Road of Bedknobs and Broomsticks was a far more fantastic place than the English flea market that I encountered, but it was rewarding nonetheless. Fabulous stuff, really.

I leave you with the text of the song and dance number:

"Portobello Road" - Robert and Richard Sherman

Portobello road, Portobello road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
You'll find what you want in the Portobello road.

Rare alabaster? Genuine plaster!
A filigreed samovar owned by the czars.
A pen used by Shelley? A new Boticelli?
The snipper that clipped old King Edward's cigars?

"Made in Hong Kong? Two bob a dozen, would you say?"

Waterford Crystals? Napoleon's pistols?
Society heirlooms with genuine gems!
Rembrandts! El Greco's! Toulouse-Letrec'os!
Painted last week on the banks of the Thames!

Portobello road, Portobello road!
Street where the riches of ages are stowed
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
You'll meet all your chums in the Portobello road

There's pure inspiration in every creation.
No cheap imitations, not here in me store.
With garments as such as was owned by a Duchess.
Just once at some royal occasion of yore.

In Portobello Road, Portobello Road
The fancies and fineries of ages are showed.
A lady will always feel dressed a la mode
In frillies she finds in the Portobello road.

"Burke's Peerage;" "The Bride Book;" "The Fishmonger's Guidebook;"
A Victorian novel, "The Unwanted Son;"
"The History of Potting", "The Yearbook of Yachting,"
The leather bound "Life of Attila the Hun."

Portobello Road, Portobello Road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed
Artifacts to glorify our regal abode
Are hidden in the flotsam in Portobello Road
You'll find what you want in the Portobello Road

Tokens and treasures, yesterday's pleasures
Cheap imitations of heirlooms of old
Dented and tarnished, scarred and unvarnished
In old Portobello they're bought and they're sold

Portobello Road, Portobello Road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed
Artifacts to glorify our regal abode
Are hidden in the flotsam in Portobello road.
You'll find what you want in the Portobello Road

Thursday, March 13, 2008


The title of this post is Ανάργυροι. In Roman letters, it's anargyroi. We are presented with the root of arg, which near as I can make sense of, relates to silver. The an on the front of it denotes a negative, or withoutness. The bit at the end, oi, means that we're talking about a group of something that relates directly to the silver-root.

Anargyroi - Those without silver

It's an old title for Saints Cosmas and Damian, who refused payment for their work in healthcare. They brought healing and solace and asked for nothing in return. How nice. Good piece from Matthew 10:8.

Δωρεάν ελάβετε, δωρεάν δότε - Freely ye have received; freely give.

Here's a cheerful picture of Cosmas and Damian
getting beheaded for espousing socialist health

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I really do prefer to use the name "Lucifer" when referring to the Prince of Darkness. It has such a sinuous ring to it:


For being the "epicenter of evil," the name itself means "light-bringer." The name Lucy is directly related. In the original Greek, it's heosphoros, or herperus, or Ἓσπερος, which translates to "dawn-bearer." Can we then assume that Lucifer is so named because he brings light, and why would that be a bad thing? The obvious correlation is with Prometheus, who brought the "gift" of fire, and thusly, civilization, to ancient man. Did bringing light, i.e. civilization, technology, modernism, etc. to the world cheapen it? This is a question best left to others.

I prefer to view Lucifer not so much as the "bad guy," but as something more approaching the following story, retold with great care by the late, awesome Joseph Campbell:

One of the most amazing images of love that I know is Persian – a mystical Persian representation as Satan as the most loyal lover of God. You will have heard the old legend of how, when God created the angels, he commanded them to pay worship to no one but himself; but then, creating man, he commanded them to bow in reverence to this most noble of his works, and Lucifer refused – because, we are told, of his pride. However, according to this Muslim reading of his case, it was rather because he loved and adored God so deeply and intensely that he could not bring himself to bow before anything else, and because he refused to bow down to something that was of less superiority than him. (Since he was made of fire, and man from clay.) And it was for that that he was flung into Hell, condemned to exist there forever, apart from his love.

What a sad tale. I can see Lucifer's attorney (of course, lawyers) pleading his case, "His only crime was that he loved too much!" Whatever the case, it's all complicated by the cultural baggage that certain names carry. I could never get away with naming my child Lucifer (light-bringer), or even Damian (old saint of free medical care).

The name of Lucifer is sullied because of its association with ineffable evil, Damian with an evil little kid in those Omen movies.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Had an attack of the Yesterdays earlier this week. I was trying to figure out how to get back into the old Photobucket account. I haven't been there in forever. In fact, once I was in, I went to change the email contact info. It was still my old-old-old email from Aurora. Like before it was my name and was just my student number. Basically, ages ago.

There are a bunch of pictures of kittens and dictators, as well as a good one of William Shatner. But there are also a few handfuls of shots from the old apartment, mostly from January and February of 2005, when I had just moved in. There are a few from when my hair was too short to be…short…but too long to be a ponytail. One shows me with a Cubs glass of green liquid. I remember that liquid: Bacardi Gold and dnL (7UP-sidedown). It was disgusting.

It got me thinking again about the strange series of events that has brought me to where I am. I can point specifically to a few spots that, if they had happened differently, would have significantly altered things. In some cases, I can even pick out dates, or at least approximations, for when these "turns" happened.

I am certain that this is a common occurrence. Yet, in a life full of options, sometimes wondering about the "what ifs?" is terribly interesting. I try not to dwell. What is past is past, and I am terribly happy now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Science of Graft

I finished work on the massive research project for our Democracy in Latin America lab tonight. The final piece came out to 5,585 words, which is around what I was shooting for. It's big. The document itself is near 136kb, and it comes in at 17 pages in single-space block paragraph form. A handful of snarky footnotes and a firm unwillingness to adopt a paragraphing style that is easy on the eyes have turned the paper into something strange to look at. I footnoted the title. Who footnotes titles, anyway?

The TA will tell me soon whether or not I lived up to expectations. I certainly hope so, eh? Once it's graded and I'm sure that I can move it around, I'll post it through the blog as a Googledoc.

But damn, was it a lot of work. I still have another pile of research that never even made its way into a brief mention; there were things that I just didn't have the wherewithal to mention.

On the whole, though, I find the concept of corruption as exclusion to be a pretty damn salient point when one is discussing notions of vertical and horizontal accountability in democracy. It's possible that I will return to this paper at a later date and do some more digging. There's gotta be an answer in there somewhere, right?


This might be the funniest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It was clicked on a whim, but had me gasping for air by the end.

This is going to cause me trouble in settings where I shouldn't laugh, I can just see it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You enter a tunnel of blinding white light...

Gary Gygax died today.

I thought of the time during that ridiculous battle that we were losing badly; I levitated Karl up to that floating purple dragon, Mortus, and he rolled a supercritical and killed it. We were in the gym back in high school. I think I actually shouted out loud when he rolled that 20. Destroying Mortus removed quite a few obstacles, including, in a strange way, the good dragon guy whose name escapes me. In any case, we came away from that battle with more money that we knew what to do with. Of course, it also set in motion a chain of events that would push Karl's character further and further away from mine, and eventually lead to me being installed as DM.

Then there was the Ice Cave expedition with my cousins and the twins.

Filling coffee mugs full of dice at Gen Con 1999.

Downloading maps from with every intention of using them.

Playing Baldur's Gate all the way through in three weeks during detasseling season.

Attempting to write a full history and theology for the world that I inherited from Ian.

Tying cloth around my monk's fists, dipping them in grain alcohol, and lighting them on fire in the hopes of causing extra damage to a squad of assassins, only to burn myself half to death.

Drawing the World map with Karl in his basement. I wonder if it is still there.

Sifting through vintage guidebooks at Paper Escape.

Finding my uncle's First Edition rulebooks in the basement at the old farm.

Years later, bringing those same rulebooks to Gen Con 2001, where I had them signed by the man who hosted what would become the first Gen Con in his basement in 1966. Telling that man what an honor it was to meet him, just like thousands of kids that day had already done, and still being treated as warmly as I could have hoped.

Despite all its pop-culture baggage, Dungeons and Dragons has been, and will be, a significant part of the development of a great many people. For some, it was a way to escape the doldrums of daily life. For others, becoming someone (or something) else was a dangerous, exciting proposition. Say what you will, but D&D is an ingrained part of the lives of many successful people.

And we joke about the passing of Mr. Gygax, as I'm sure he would expect, with classic lines: "I guess he failed his save vs. death!" or "Must've run out of HP…"

He's gone to the great inn in the sky, to relax in front of a roaring fire with elven rangers and Halfling thieves, evil human wizards and paladins of pure heart, mysterious sorcerers and half-orc berzerkers. They will quaff tankards of mead, and recount the glory days of d20s and diamonds, goblins and gold pieces, and the overwhelming happiness that can come from sitting with friends and imagining yourself to far away lands.

Rest in peace, Mr. Gygax.

(July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)