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21 November 2009

Random Appearance of Deborama's WWW and My Life, My Family, Travelling

I'm in Atlanta, which it is now hip to call ATL. I am visiting my son and his girlfriend, and I am staying in the poshest hotel I have ever been in, at a fantastically reasonable rate, thanks to Expedia. (I have a picture of it on my phone, but I will have to upload it later as this computer in the hotel doesn't seem to have a USB port available.)

I have to do another Deborama's Wednesday Website of the Week, but I cannot wait until Wednesday (I will be mostly on the road to Hattiesburg then anyway) and technicallly I should not call it WWW anymore since it is far from being weekly. But I discovered the Believer magazine, a McSweeney's publication, at my son's apartment, and I have been obsessively reading it ever since. Absolutely brilliant, and I hope they'll forgive me lifting the image, since I am using it to plug their product.
Everybody here is laid off, or about to be laid off. It's quite sad what this recession is doing to those of my kids' generation, as if they haven't suffered enough. It's bad for my generation too of course; getting made redundant just as the verdant pastures of retirement come hazily into view is no picnic, I'm sure. Hopefully, I won't find that out firsthand on my return to Blighty, although it is a possibility.

05 November 2009

Unhealthy America

This NYT piece by Nicholas Kristof is good enough to drag me out of blogging semi-retirement, which means too good to only click "Share" and send to Facebook. There is no way this can be repeated often enough to get the message across - the US does not have the "best health care in the world", far from it. Saying if it ain't broke don't fix it is only clever if it ain't broke!

25 September 2009

A notable death, a death in the family

My ex-father-in-law, Lisle Carleton Carter, Jr., passed away on the 10th of September. It had been many years since I had seen him, but my son was very close to him.
Lisle was not only a person who I really loved and admired, he was just generally a remarkable man, a polymath, in that he was a leading academic administrator, a former government official and a lawyer until his retirement some years ago. And also a poet and a patron of the arts and many charities. He will be missed and mourned by many. His many achievements are featured in this editorial obituary in the Washington Post.

23 August 2009

The Best article so far on health care reform

This Huffington Post article by George Lazoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics, is very long and a hard read, but worth it. Although he is focusing on a scathing critique of, and offering a cogent alternative to, the way the Obama administration has failed to sell health care reform, along the way he makes some really razor-sharp points about what is wrong with the current system. I think everyone in favour of health care reform (or insurance reform if you prefer) should read this article as a guide in how to discuss it, not just with those who agree, but especially with those who disagree.

26 July 2009

The passing of a great friend - Gerry Bretzke

On the 18th of July, a great friend of mine back in Minnesota passed away. It was not sudden or unexpected, and from the descriptions on the web that I have been privileged to read, it was one of the most peaceful and beautiful deaths you could hope to have, given old age and disease and an imperfect world. Gerry Bretzke was a member of my church in Minneapolis and also the small spiritual study group ironically called The Initiates. The picture above, of about half of the core members of the Initiates, is an old one, from soon after I emigrated to the UK, or maybe just before. Gerry is the guy in the middle, in the feed cap, with his arm around me. The guy on the right end is George Tofte, who passed away a few years ago.

17 May 2009

Let Women Choose

Michelle Goldberg, author of a recent book on reproductive rights "The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World," has an article in the LA Times that summarises the complex arguments made in her book. Both address the conundrum that the world faces twin crises in its demographic future: soaring birth rates globally, with the great majority being amongst the poorest members of the poorest countries, and plummeting birth rates in several leading developed countries, notably Italy, Japan, Spain and Russia. It may seem crazy to assert at first that both problems are the result of women's lack of reproductive and economic freedom, but the arguments are pretty strong. This book is in my Wish List.
Here's an excerpt from the article:

Some social conservatives are using the threat of rapid First World population decline to argue for restrictions on women's rights. But that gets it precisely backward. In developing countries, lower social status for women is associated with higher fertility, but once societies become highly industrialized and women taste a certain amount of freedom, the reverse is true.
Fertility is reaching dangerously low levels in countries where social attitudes and institutions haven't caught up with women's desire to combine work and family. When faced with men who are unwilling to share domestic burdens, inflexible workplaces and day-care shortages, many women respond by having fewer children or forgoing motherhood altogether.

22 March 2009

Blogkeeping - my holiday

This is definitely the longest I have gone without blogging. Also the longest I have gone without a holiday. The last time I was abroad was Thanksgiving 2007. The only trip I took in all of 2008 was a one-day trip to Portmeiron, not even staying overnight. I am determined not to let 2009 go by the same way. I just got back Friday evening from a six-day trip to "the North" (where we do what we want!) I have reviewed and journalled the trip in more detail at Deborama's Kitchen, so check it out there.
Part of the reason I didn't travel is that last year everyone in my far-flung family was in a state of flux. My older younger sister and her husband, one at a time, have temporarily abandoned the family homestead in Gulfport and set up house in Kansas. This has left my aged Ps behind in a little duplex bungalow they built mainly for them. So now my younger younger sister, an academic in Hattiesburg and her husband, a realtor, are buying a second home in Hattiesburg and moving the aged Ps there. My daughter has split with her ex-partner, father of grand-daughter Savannah. My son is still with his partner, who graduated last year from her PG Architecture course and got a job in her field - just as the property market crashed. My son's company was sold and he was offered a less attractive job than he had, but of course he's going to take it for the stability. But no benefits, no holiday, and the stability is not real stability, as nothing is these days. Both my kids have two extra sidelines for income: Aimee is a web designer for her main job, and also teaches web design and is a photographer. Carey works for an online game company, and does painting and web design free-lancing. I am so proud that I raised two smart, hard-working, creative and above all resilient kids. And like all parents and grand-parents, I pray things don't get too much worse before they get better.
I have been meaning to do a blog on here called "The Fifteen Year Depression of 2008 - 2023." I would say keep an eye out for it, but it may not happen. (The blog that is; I am pretty sure about the depression.)

31 January 2009

Torture 101

For over 20 years, I have supported the campaign to close the School of the Americas in south Georgia. All the while, there was this other military academy of torture that was even worse, that was probably the source of much of SOA's curriculum and that I had never even heard of. The author of this article, himself a "graduate" of the SERE, surmises that military interrogators would think something along the lines of "I survived waterboarding, so it's OK to do it to this guy". Well, I remember a top Pentagon / DOD official actually articulating that argument, with no apparent recognition of the essential sickness of what he was saying.
The thing is, both SERE and SOA, and also the "hazing" in military academies (not just in the US, despite what David Morris thinks - there is an ongoing scandal in the British Armed forces involving suspicious deaths of young recruits in training) are symptoms of the whole military culture that allows them to happen. That is not going to change by closing the schools, by presidential edict or by legislation. Not that I know how it can be changed. I thought bringing women into the military might help, over 30 years ago when I still had my idealism, but that theory has been quashed by the evidence at Abu Ghraib.

18 January 2009

Obama: "He's going to be very hard to say no to, especially in the first year."

Andrew Rawnsley of the Observer has a great comment piece decrying the easy cynicism of the pessimists about the upcoming Obama presidency. There are even some who glibly claim that they're sure to be disappointed by his inaugural address, what with his overblown reputation for oratory and all. Although, I read somewhere else, and it's more convincing, that all he really needs to do in the current feverish and desperate climate is step up to the microphone and sneeze and the speech will be acclaimed in history. So, who you gonna believe. Rawnsley identifies one definite strength that the Obama team can use, quoted in the title above, and attributed to an unnamed official in the Brown government.

John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey,1923 - 2009

Photo Credit: Associated Press Photo

Sir John Mortimer, celebrated barrister, playwright and novelist, died 17 January, 2009. He was best known as the creator of the popular crime series Rumpole of the Bailey, featuring Horace Rumpole, a figure only slightly autobiographical, as he never aspired to, let alone attained, anything like Mortimer's own achievements. He was also the author of the Paradise Postponed series, which was made into a great TV series, Voyage Round My Father and several other popular plays. As a barrister, he had a long career during which he also published books on the law and defended free speech in high-profile obscenity cases.

17 January 2009

Andrew Wyeth, 1917 - 2009

Andrew Wyeth died yesterday at the age of 91. Revered and reviled in almost equal measures, there was a time when the controversy of Andrew Wyeth's art was the biggest thing there was in American art, and some of his paintings, particulary "Christina's World" have become icons of the American image. But I reckon that somewhere under the huckster, the hen-pecked husband rescued by a woman from a domineering father, the rock-ribbed Pennsylvania Republican, the remote and fastidious realist, what we really had was a Zen master with an inherited gift. At least that's what I think when I see a painting like this one.

03 January 2009

Ukulele Orchestra of GB Anarchy in the Ukulele

I had a YouTube video here of "Fly Me Off the Handel" by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain but sadly YT has purged the video for ToU violation :(

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