Sunday, November 18, 2007

Photoshop Work

Sorry for the dearth amount of posts these past few weeks. Though I'm spending more hours of the day in front of a computer, most of the time is spent on accomplishing activities I am required to do rather than activities I am seeking out (such as this blog and my website).

I am spending the little photography time I have available working on two skills I need to develop: learning how to get the sepia- & chrome-style images from digital photographs, and attempting to teach myself airbrushing and photomanipulation techniques.

Below is an example of one attempt at sepia-style black & whites.

Photo from a Sep. 2006 Agora II performance in Brooklyn, NY.

Secularizing a Holiday

I got into a short discussion with an acquaintance on whether or not the effort to secularize holidays was a good thing. I had mentioned to him that the movement to remove the Christian aspects from Thanksgiving and Christmas has not died, rather they have nearly completed their work.

I cannot count how many Happy Turkey Day signs I have seen in the past few weeks, and every time I see on of those signs I am somewhat disappointed. While I understand that some nonreligious people don’t want to be exposed to religion at all, I think the trend has gone overboard. The history behind Thanksgiving—as a national holiday—is relatively recent, the colonial roots of the celebration are important and religious in nature. Even for atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious can it really be such a bad thing to take a moment and remember the history of this nation, can it be so awful to step back and cogitate on what the individual has to be thankful/grateful for? Giving thanks is one of those two-way gifts that benefits both the giver and receiver. We could stand to do much more of it.

My acquaintance mentioned that some national holidays are maintained because such a large number of the population would request the day off, that it makes better sense to regularize observation. He pointed out that if people of Jewish cultural origin were of greater numbers in America, we would probably nationalize their holidays similar to what is done in Israel. I responded that I would be fine with that if we did. I certainly wouldn’t try to remove all religious references from Rosh Ha-Shanah.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Productive Paranoia

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!

I just finished reading an article at (drawn from the AP) that has reminded me that the demise of citizen anonymity (and the advent of Big Brother) is imminent and all-encompassing.

Jump to the Article: Intelligence Deputy to America: Rethink Privacy.

I remember thinking how intelligent the Founding Fathers of America were when they designed a system with separation of powers, that separated what the federal government could & should do, from what the individual states could & should do. Today I am continuously reminded that the modern day political spectrum seeks more to consolidate and hold power than maintain the bastion of democracy set forth in the American Constitution.

A direct quote from the article: “Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.

This is one of the most foolish statements I’ve hear from a public official in a long time. The government that cannot properly manage natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires wants us to trust them to manage private communication, personal, as well as financial data? The government that cannot account for how vast sums of money have been spent in the Iraq War, the government that routinely hides pet projects and kickbacks inside unrelated bill proposals wants the citizen’s of America to trust them with the most (non-physically) damaging information it is possible to obtain?

To be clear, I have no theoretical problem trusting the federal government. I believe the American system sports far less corruption than many of the other similar representative democracies. What I have a problem with is the perversion of the natural system of checks and balances--originally designed to combat such corruption--being systemically eroded, particularly in the name of security.

Another quote:Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.
The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil in order to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering because, as technology has changed, a growing amount of foreign communications passes through U.S.-based channels.

In simplest terms: Congress was designed to make laws; the President set up to administer them; the Courts designed to verify that both groups are obeying them.

By allowing Congress to pass—and the President to enact—a law that at best circumvents parts of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has neglected to uphold their duty in preventing The White House from bending (potentially breaking) the law. Does the simple nature of a law obstructing intelligence gathering give enough rationale for that law to be abolished? This is analogous to a doctor assigning a private investigator to constantly follow you around to report when you eat unhealthy food, then complaining that your refusal to tell the investigator what you ate is hindering his information gathering efforts.

I am reminded of a Benjamin Franklin quote: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

If the world has become a dangerous and unsafe place, then we need to recognize and accept that is the world we live in. We cannot buy our safety with the trading of our liberty: it is impossible. If we attempt to do so, we will find ourselves robbed of everything we value, holding dirt and stones instead of what we were told were diamonds.

The White House complained that getting warrants to tap phones and listen to conversations was too cumbersome. So rather than get Congress to pass laws to increase and streamline the U.S. Court system, The White House Administration gets Congress to eliminate the law requiring them to get warrants. That is akin to a six-year old deciding that rather than asking a parent to reconsider a request for a pre-dinner cookie, it is just better to eliminate the parent entirely. No parent, no oversight; no oversight, as many cookies as the six-year old wants.

It is officials from this type of administration that ask us to trust them in how they handle the information they are gathering. How does the saying go…? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Is the American populace still so naive that we’ll believe that someone who says ‘Trust us, we’re the good guys!’ cannot do any wrong?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Feminism & Social Justice

As a combined result from exposure to a new blog, along with conversations with some new acquaintances, I have been again pondering the issue of feminism (and the greater issue of social justice in which it resides).

I recently saw a sticker an acquaintance had placed on her coffee mug that said: “This is what feminism looks like.” When I asked her what feminism meant to her she proffered that her short definition would be equal opportunity and lack of discrimination/bias across gender lines.

The question I’m posing in this post is only semi-rhetorical. If you are aware of the theistic (particularly Judeo-Christian) belief that the world is not as it should be (i.e. not currently as God wants it to be), then the question is this: can humankind alone change the world to the way it should be? This question is relevant because if the answer is no, then serious re-evaluation of the purposes of pursuing social justice must be made.

I have non-theistic friends who firmly believe that a society can change—for the better—and make pursuing social justice an accomplishable priority. I have liberal friends who firmly believe that for a society to survive it must make social justice a priority. But after some cursory examination of the religious organizations I am acquainted with, I wonder if those organizations have the same beliefs on the matter of social justice.

When it comes to some of the overarching goals (as I understand them) of feminism—eliminating patriarchal bias in public, corporate, and private life; promoting gender equality; promoting sexual equality—do the majority Christian religious organizations actually want this? And if not, is there an acceptable alternative being offered?

There are 2 passages from the Bible (one OT & one NT) I think that are relevant to this question and are excerpted as follows:

To the woman He[God] said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Gen. 3:16 NIV

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything….However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife Eph. 5:22-24, 33

Go to online versions of: Genesis Chapter 3 / Ephesians Chapter 5

On the surface, the idea of submission appears to directly conflict with the idea of gender equality. I’ve heard numerous sermons attempting to explain what exactly submission is (and what it looks like in the modern world); and since I am no theologian I shall not attempt to recite them herein. I will only state this: status and power are not necessarily the same thing. Two individuals of equal status may not have equal power in a relationship at any particular time. If Joe and Jim open a business as equal partners, but divide the business responsibilities such that Joe manages the finances while Jim manages product; Joe may spend time giving Jim orders about when to buy or sell product, while Jim may give Joe orders about what products to buy or sell.

So even with the instruction (as given by the apostle Paul) for wives to submit to their husbands, it is premature (and likely erroneous) to conclude Paul implies that wives have a lesser status than their husbands.

But what about the Genesis passage where it is directly attributed to God saying a wife will be ruled by her husband? Well there are two points that are critical to understand this passage. God’s proclamation comes in response to Adam and Eve’s violation of His edict about not eating from The Tree of Knowledge. In other words, Eve’s punishment is to have painful childbirths and to be ruled by the husband she desires. If you buy the idea that God’s proclamation extends to all humankind, then conceivably we are all under the same punishments. In other words, all men receive the punishment given Adam, and all women receive the punishment given Eve. This does not seem to bode well for women seeking gender equality.

The second critical point of this passage, is it does not directly indicate what the ideal setup of a husband-wife pair should be. Some might argue that the passage’s preceeding description of life before the fall of mankind explains the ideal, but even those descriptions are very vague.

In short, the Bible’s stance on the matter of gender equality does not disagree with the gender equality goal of feminism. I will save discussion of patriarchal bias and sexual equality for another post.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

New (Sort of) Deviation at DeviantArt

I posted Setback - A Short Story up on my Deviant Art page. Because I put myself as primarily a writer before photographer, I felt something of my work should be up. I don't know how one would classify prose fiction as art (or not art for that matter) but it will be interesting to see if it gets a response.

I have been pondering lately if I should attempt more short-story and short fiction writing. All my current writing projects are novel-length fiction or journal-length academic work. It has been several years since I have attempted to sit down and churn out short works in a matter of hours; I may have lost the skill. The current primary obstacle is just that I have so many things I want to write about already, I am hesitant to use my little available time writing anything else.

Interesting stuff has been happening in the world of late, but I may be somewhat late in posting thoughts. My schedule this past week (and this coming week) has surprised me in its business.