Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Culture (page 2 / 4)

Streets without name – A geek in Japan

Streets without name – A geek in Japan →

In Japan, street are simply an empty space in between blocks, they don’t have an identity. However you can identify buildings following a 3 digit system: the first one indicates the district, the second one the block and the third one the building or house inside the block. It is a completely different, but perfectly valid, system of structuring and organizing cities. You have to change your whole mindset.

This difference from American street addresses has some big impacts. Japan now has more geolocalized information than any other country in the world. As a result, Japanese smartphones can offer you more information about where you are, what's around you, and how to get there.

This entry was not tagged.


Stuff →

I just discovered this 2007 article from Paul Graham. He said something that I've vaguely thought of before but I've never even come close to articulating it this well.

We all have lots and lots of stuff. We like to think that it's valuable because we'll use it one day. It's not. It's worthless.

What I didn't understand was that the value of some new acquisition wasn't the difference between its retail price and what I paid for it. It was the value I derived from it. Stuff is an extremely illiquid asset. Unless you have some plan for selling that valuable thing you got so cheaply, what difference does it make what it's "worth?" The only way you're ever going to extract any value from it is to use it. And if you don't have any immediate use for it, you probably never will.

Companies that sell stuff have spent huge sums training us to think stuff is still valuable. But it would be closer to the truth to treat stuff as worthless.

After reading this, I'm ready to go through the house and to start tossing "stuff".

This entry was tagged. Wealth

The Ghosts of World War II's Past

The Ghosts of World War II's Past →

Taking old World War II photos, Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov carefully photoshops them over more recent shots to make the past come alive. Not only do we get to experience places like Berlin, Prague, and Vienna in ways we could have never imagined, more importantly, we are able to appreciate our shared history in a whole new and unbelievably meaningful way.

Really, really cool.

This entry was tagged. History

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy →

Sure, under parenting your children is dangerous. But so is over parenting. It seems that the trick with parenting is to back off, beyond what your first instinct might be. Just don't get so far back that you can't see your kids anymore.

Which might be how people like my patient Lizzie end up in therapy. “You can have the best parenting in the world and you’ll still go through periods where you’re not happy,” Jeff Blume, a family psychologist with a busy practice in Los Angeles, told me when I spoke to him recently. “A kid needs to feel normal anxiety to be resilient. If we want our kids to grow up and be more independent, then we should prepare our kids to leave us every day.”

But that’s a big if. Blume believes that many of us today don’t really want our kids to leave, because we rely on them in various ways to fill the emotional holes in our own lives. Kindlon and Mogel both told me the same thing. Yes, we devote inordinate amounts of time, energy, and resources to our children, but for whose benefit?

This entry was tagged. Children Family Policy

Easy Indian Cooking

Here's your dinner post, just to get your mouth watering.

I'm really starting to enjoy Indian food but it usually looks like a lot of work to prepare it. I recently discovered The Indian Slow Cooker -- a collection of recipes, for making Indian food in a crock pot.

A Chicago TV station did a video segment on the book.

It looks really intriguing and I'm tempted to buy the book, just to try out a few of the recipes.

This entry was tagged. Food India

Feeding God's sheep, by hook or by crook


ABOVE: Father Tim Jones of the Church of England. Used to be when you invited the pastor over for dinner, you didn't have to count the silverware afterward.

The BBC informs us (in a story I am for some reason unable to link to - so go look it up) that a priest in Britain has told his flock "God's love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich" - so if times are truly desperate, steal what you need from your local Wal-Mart.

Or any other big corporation, just so long as "they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses — knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices."

This entry was tagged. Humor

A Good Husband's Guide

Men and women are always arguing over who has the tougher role to play. Obviously, it's the other gender.

Leanne Bell offers an interesting take, called the Good Husband's Guide. Refreshingly, she takes the men's side of the argument.

In May of 1955, a magazine called Housekeeping Monthly ran a short point-form article called "The Good Wife's Guide." The article is unaccredited, but I am sure that like many other articles written in 1950's women's magazine, it was probably written by a woman. This article was sent around by email to all the workstations in my office, and probably visited many other inboxes around the world as well.

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

  • Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

  • Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his personal comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

There's more.

Now, most modern men would say that such a guide is sexist and demeaning to women. Asked privately, perhaps after a few beers and promises of confidentiality, most men would also say that such a home sounds darn appealing. And, it is. Mostly because we're not the ones working to make it.

But men aren't the only ones guilty of looking to enjoy the good life. Ms. Bell happily recognizes that and presents the opposite guide. The Good Husband's Guide.

  • Always make getting and keeping a full-time job with regular raises, benefits, bonuses and the potential for prestigious advancement your number one priority in life. Remember always that you have a wife and children who need your financial support, and that it is your responsibility to provide for them to the best of your ability.

  • Always arrive home refreshed and happy - put your bad day or your confrontation with your boss, the traffic, the crowds or the physical exhaustion you might feel aside and try to arrive home as cheery and lighthearted as you possibly can. Your wife has been struggling with the children and the housework all day, she does not need to hear about how bad your day was.

  • Be prepared to help with household chores when you get home - let your wife relax or talk on the phone since she has been dealing with these problems all day. Make supper for her often, and offer to clean up afterwards so that she may rest and feel appreciated.

  • Do not bore your wife with stories of the troubles you faced at work today. Remember that you are lucky to have a job and that many other men would be happy to trade places with you. Remember that it is not masculine to complain or let worries trouble you. Your job is to provide, and whatever you must go through to achieve this is part of your lot in life. A good husband knows that he is lucky to have a wife at all, and that a woman wants a strong, silent man she can depend on.

There's more of that too. Note how normal it all sounds? What husband hasn't heard his wife, or his wife's friends, express similar sentiments?

Let's leave that thought there and turn to Matt Patterson for a moment: Men, the Gender Wars Are Over -- We Won.

Men, our long twilight struggle with the opposite sex is over. Our victory is total.

Can you believe the way things used to be? Remember when our fathers and grandfathers would drag themselves to mind-numbing jobs every day, having the sole responsibility for the feeding, clothing, and housing of their entire family?

And things were no easier before marriage, when men's quest for sexual satisfaction was all too often hampered by the widespread moral code which taught women not to give out the "milk" for "free."

Well, that state of affairs just wouldn't do. So we men came together and did what we do best -- formulate and implement a plan. First step, design the perfect world, the perfect male world. We decided such a world would consist of two things: less responsibility and more -- and no-strings -- sex.

Brothers, have we succeeded.

The amazing thing, really, is how easy it was, how fast the old world of obligation and responsibility dissolved. The first, crucial step, of course, was convincing women that they had it bad, that our jobs were "intellectually stimulating" and not the soul-crushing monotony that they in fact were.

There's more of that too.

What's my point? Well, I was entertained by both Leanne and Matt. And both reinforced my personal opinion: "life is pain" and the grass is the same shade of green on both sides of the fence. We're just capable of deluding ourselves into believing that it's less rote, less monotonous, and more stimulating on the other side.

That's it, really. I'm not sure I have a broader point to make here. Except, you know, thank your spouse for handling whatever crap that they go through each day.

Evidence in favor of my elitism

twilight poster

So New Moon, sequel adaptation of the Twilight book series, has reportedly broken the record for opening day receipts last set by Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.

And having ambitions of a professional writing career, I'm forced to pause and make sense of that - because whenever a movie or book that is to me obviously, horrifically (har?) bad succeeds so well with the public at large, I can't help but wonder if that little dream of mine is doomed. Maybe, the thought comes, the reading and movie-going public are firmly at odds with me as to what exactly qualifies as good entertainment. In which case, they're certainly not going to be buying anything you put out, now are they?

Suddenly my longtime-favorite newspaper The Economist, as if sensing its #1 fan in distress, comes to the rescue. In the middle of a new and highly-insightful article entitled "A World of Hits", which analyzes why we're seeing bigger blockbusters than ever in times when entertainment is becoming ever more specialized, the author takes time out to ask why it is that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is currently rated at 4/5 Stars on Netflix.

Perhaps the best explanation of why this might be so was offered in 1963. In “Formal Theories of Mass Behaviour”, William McPhee noted that a disproportionate share of the audience for a hit was made up of people who consumed few products of that type. (Many other studies have since reached the same conclusion.) A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read “The Lost Symbol”, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.

It won't put any more money in my wallet when my own books are just sitting on the shelf, but at least I'll have the consolation of knowing that it'll be through no fault of mine.

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Goliath Doesn't Like to Lose

I've been spending time this weekend catching up on some of the articles that I marked for reading over the last couple of months. This morning, I read How David Beats Goliath by Malcom Gladwell.

He tells several stories throughout the article to illustrate his main points: underdogs have to change the rules of the game.


  • Change the speed of the game
  • Supplant superior ability with superior effort: work harder than the competition.
  • Do what is socially horrifying: "challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought".
  • Accept the disapproval of the insider's.
  • Be prepared for Goliath to insist on unfair rules -- rules that only benefit Goliath.

Goliath doesn't like to lose. He'll stack the deck and insist on playing on terms that are favorable to him. Your job -- whether in sport, business, or battle -- is to exploit every loophole he gives you, to change the rules as much as possible, and to resist the pressure to conform to Goliath's rules.

Here's a few of my favorite quotes from the article:

What happened, Arreguin-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David's winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath's rules, they win, Arreguin-Toft concluded, "even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn't."

... David's victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguin-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful--in terms of armed might and population--as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.

... We tell ourselves that skill is the precious resource and effort is the commodity. It's the other way around. Effort can trump ability--legs, in Saxe's formulation, can overpower arms--because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor coordination.

... This is the second half of the insurgent's creed. Insurgents work harder than Goliath. But their other advantage is that they will do what is "socially horrifying"--they will challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought. All the things that distinguish the ideal basketball player are acts of skill and coordination. When the game becomes about effort over ability, it becomes unrecognizable--a shocking mixture of broken plays and flailing limbs and usually competent players panicking and throwing the ball out of bounds. You have to be outside the establishment--a foreigner new to the game or a skinny kid from New York at the end of the bench--to have the audacity to play it that way.

... The price that the outsider pays for being so heedless of custom is, of course, the disapproval of the insider. Why did the Ivy League schools of the nineteen-twenties limit the admission of Jewish immigrants? Because they were the establishment and the Jews were the insurgents, scrambling and pressing and playing by immigrant rules that must have seemed to the Wasp elite of the time to be socially horrifying. "Their accomplishment is well over a hundred per cent of their ability on account of their tremendous energy and ambition," the dean of Columbia College said of the insurgents from Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the Lower East Side. He wasn't being complimentary. Goliath does not simply dwarf David. He brings the full force of social convention against him; he has contempt for David.

... But let's remember who made that rule: Goliath. And let's remember why Goliath made that rule: when the world has to play on Goliath's terms, Goliath wins.

This entry was tagged. Competition

The Most Racist Post Ever (Or, In Defense of Whitey)

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been - and, I believe, continue to be - in too many ways . . . a nation of cowards. We . . . simply do not talk enough with each other about race." - Attorney General Eric Holder

"Oh, fine. Have it your way." - Adam Volle

I'm not the sort of man who worries himself a lot about racial issues.

I've never felt any need to wear a "White Power" t-shirt in order to make a point about "Black Power" ones. I think Affirmative Action is an obviously flawed concept, but it's not a pet issue. Illegal immigration bothers me little more. And hey, if a buncha folk of whatever bloodline care to celebrate "(X) History Month", I say, "Hey, sounds interesting," because y'know, really, it does.

Also, I'm aware that any discussion of "white people", "black people", etc. is fairly useless at best and racist at worst, since what you're really talking about when you discuss "white people", for instance, is a set of ethnicities (nevermind how many individuals) so diverse that only the most vague and general statements will be accurate. Take a hike through Europe (no, really; you won't regret it) and you'll be amazed at how much attitudes change as soon as you cross a border. You will find, for instance, that in Italy most traffic lines are considered mere suggestions, while in Switzerland you will be glared at for jaywalking. The same is of course true of "black people" or even just "African people", who in fact recognize the differences among themselves so well that we can't keep them from killing each other.

Finally, I'm an individualist. Ultimately I believe we are a planet filled with people, not races and nations. The idea of discussing races as though this world is populated by a half-dozen hive-minds with histories strikes me as largely nonsensical. A person does not bear part of any 'group responsibility' because he or she is born into a certain group.

So let's be clear: I'm not really interested in talking about various levels of responsibility attached to different skin colors. People like Eric Holder are. And it's only because they seem desperate to have a discussion of this sort that I'm now saying OK, fine - I'll do it. I will discuss how white people relate to black people, and red people, and yellow people, and everyone else. If only this one time, I will enter into our national dialogue on race relations and discuss both the role I think my own "white" race has played and will continue to play on God's green earth. I will do this thing, and I will do it for Eric Holder.

When you're finished reading, just remember to at least give me credit for this: I did wait until Black History Month was good and over first.

OK. That all said:

White people are at least thus far the coolest race to ever walk the face of this planet.

In all of recorded history, no other people has achieved so much in the sciences, nor on the battlefield, nor shown so much compassion off of it. No other demographic has contributed as objectively great a gift to the world as "our" (boy, how strange that feels to write) ideas of government and human rights. And no race, finally, has so well born the brunt of others' unmerited anger.

All of the above probably sounds like sick humor or absurd delusion to those familiar with the events of just the last half a millenium. Haven't white people committed many of the worst atrocities in history, they rightly ask? What about Slavery? What about Colonialism? What about all the genocide - from the wiping out of Native-American cultures to the Holocaust? What about Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

But such condemnatory questions - and the standard by which their answers are typically judged - depend on a very myopic world view. That is, you can only talk about how awful white people were to, say, own slaves, if you ignore the fact that Slavery is a worldwide institution that has existed in almost every known culture (including those of Africa and Israel) since time immemorial. A society of slaves has always been the standard rule by which other instititutions are judged, not the exception - and it would indeed be unfairly unobjective to judge any other way.

According to that standard, then, slaveholders prior to the 1800s were not especially evil. Instead, people who did not own slaves were especially good.

And who didn't support slavery prior to the 1800s? Very few people - some of whom were white abolitionists.

White people - indeed, all people - must be held to that same standard when we discuss the cringe-inducing subject of genocide. Though we may find it distasteful to think about, acts of cultural and ethnic genocide have long been common in world history. The ancient empires - those created by the Assyrians, Mongolians, Jews, Huns, Greeks, Babylonians, Japanese, Tamerlane, and numerous others - all often either completely eradicated entire cities full of their enemies or forced them to intermarry, opting for the complete destruction of others' identities than their physical forms. The city of Babylon, for instance, no longer exists for a reason, and Baghdad's population level did not recover from its visit by Tamerlane until the 1800s (!). In the context of this past, comparatively humanitarian countries such as the U.S.A. are the rogue states; the People's Republic of China, Nazi Germany, and North Korea look especially competent but not original.

Which brings us right 'round to judging the morality of the white races of Europe and eventually North America. Against this backdrop, this standard of racial and national relations, "our" conquering most of the known world was extremely impressive for the skill with which it was done, but not its depravity. Morally, all that is unique about the European race is what "we" did after placing "our" collective jackboot on the necks of other nations: We simply took it off. Other races were given not only their freedom, but equal representation in "our" governments.

This is an absolute miracle. In the history of the world, the white races are almost totally unique in having pulled up other races and given them equal standing within their own territories - in even encouraging other races to join them, to participate fully in the government. In fact, such openness is still comparatively rare in the countries of other races (how welcomed are immigrants to Asian lands? Arab ones?).

Let us also understand that other races were truly given the equal standing they now enjoy in white-dominated countries - for instance, the civil rights of African-Americans in the United States. The true triumph of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s many marches is not that he marched and freedom resulted; all of the marching in the world would have accomplished little if a majority of whites in the U.S.A. had not agreed that black people deserved all the rights they enjoyed. The glory of the Civil Rights movement instead is that the U.S.'s white establishment did not kill everyone involved. Yes, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s volunteers very bravely faced down dogs, a few arsonists, and police brutality, which are impressive obstacles - but let's admit that they were not exactly on par with the response of the Chinese government when its citizens tried to do the same:

[caption id="attachment_909" align="alignnone" width="755" caption="Tianenmen Square"]Tianenmen Square[/caption]

To review, then: in the white races we have a set of people who not only successfully conquered other races, but then proceeded to return their freedom to them - and in some cases repay them for the inconvenience. In the context of world history or even just modern times, they/we are saints - doubly so if you consider our forbearance when confronted with people like Reverend Lowery, who at President Obama's inauguration declared he pines for the day "when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

(A couple of points for you, Reverend: (1) by and large, we whites aren't asking for the blacks to give back anything; in fact as far as I can tell it's you guys and the reds who keep demanding reparations. We whites don't even need a 'thank you' for freeing you. We'd be content if you'd just shut up. (2) Also, a big 'Jump in a river' on behalf of 'yellows' everywhere. (3) The only society in the world that has so 'embraced what's right' as to allow a minority member to become its chief executive is... the U.S.A., dominated for the whole of its existence by white people.)

If I did indeed attach differing levels of group responsibility and value to various skin colors, I'd consider white people about the best possible group to which I might belong. While as guilty as anyone of history's ugliest acts, in the last couple hundred years white people have - almost as a race - evolved.

But that would only be if I thought of races as truly possessing their own identities. I don't.

If you do, though, then A.G. Eric Holder's comments notwithstanding, you may just want to shut up about it. It's not really a dialogue in which history is on your side.

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Some Men Are Predators, Therefore All Men Are Predators

Last week, Tim Challies posted some reflections entitled An Inflated Predator Panic? He reviewed some of the current anti-male hysteria: some airlines will no longer seat unaccompanied children next to men, child advocates advise parents not to hire male babysitters, sports leagues advise men not to touch children under any circumstances, etc.

Tim then asked whether we're being fair to men and posed some questions to his readers. Ultimately, he concluded that we're being entirely fair to men as he stated that he'd never allow another man to babysit his children under any circumstances. A distressingly large number of Tim's commenters agreed that it was never ever safe to allow a man -- any man -- to babysit or be alone with their children. Many of these same commenters proclaimed that their policy wasn't born out of an unreasonable fear of men and that they wanted their children to have a healthy attitude towards men.

What follows is an edited, reworked version of several comments that I left on Tim's post.I'm a 26 year old male. I got married when I was 23 and I now have two young daughters (2 years old and 8 months old). As a young dad, I'm very sensitive to the "I don't trust any man with my kids!" line.

So, to answer Tim's questions:

1. Would you leave your children with male babysitters?. Yes. 2. Would you allow your teenage boy to babysit other children? Assuming he liked kids more than I do, yes. (I don't understand kids that aren't my own. They have weird language and habits.) 3. Are you immediately hesitant or nervous when a man shows friendly interest in your children?. No, not really. I'm actually more nervous around teens or other kids. They're not fully mature yet. Who knows what they'll think is a good idea. 4. For the men: if you saw a child standing alone and crying in the mall, would you stop to help the child? If so, would you do so with confidence or with some level of fear? I probably wouldn't. I'd be afraid of what other people would think. I'd be petrified that the child's parents would see me with their child and totally freak out. I'd be afraid of getting a bogus conviction as a child molester and having a judge forbid me to even see my own children.

Let's move on to the substance behind the questions though. So far in this conversation, I'm seeing a lot of blanket statements and few actual statistics. Statements like "the fact remains that the vast majority of predators are men" or "After all, the vast majority of children are molested by men whom they know AND trust."

This is, sadly, pretty common. And I wonder how much of those statements are driven by sensational news coverage and not by actual truth. So, I went looking for some statistics. They seem to be hard to find. 30 minutes with Google hasn't turned up much. Here's what I have seen, from the U.S. Justice department:

Currently, it is estimated that adolescents (ages 13 to 17) account for up to one-fifth of all rapes and one-half of all cases of child molestation committed each year (Barbaree, Hudson, and Seto, 1993)

By 1997, however, 6,292 females had been arrested for forcible rape or other sex offenses, constituting approximately 8% of all rape and sexual assault arrests for that year (FBI, 1997). Additionally, studies indicate that females commit approximately 20% of sex offenses against children (ATSA, 1996).

This looks like females and other children commit a significant number of sex crimes. Now, I'll look at the numbers another way. Rounded off, there are 500,000 sex offenders in the state registries. There are 119,566,275 men aged 15 and up in the U.S. I'll round that to 119,500,000. Now, assuming that every single registered sex offender is male (not true), that means male sex offenders are .4% of the total male population. Note that's point 4 percent, not 4 percent.

Put differently, assuming that no women is every guilty of molestation, only 1 out of every 250 men is a risk to your child. How many men does your child even interact with on a regular basis? And the odds are even lower than that. Women can -- and do -- molest children. Why are we so intent on punishing so many men for the sins of so few? With odds this low, why do I have to worry that anyone seeing me carry my daughters around or hold their hands will assume I'm a predator?

Abigail, your comment, in particular, saddens me immensely. You wouldn't let any male babysit your children. You won't let your own son ever babysit anyone's children. You believe that any trusted male is a potential predator. And then you say that you're not telling him that all males are bad. How is he supposed to believe that?

To everyone who feels that way, how am I supposed to believe that? Given that you would never, every allow a man to babysit -- solely because he is a man -- how should I or your children believe that not all men are bad? Eventually your children will notice that mom and dad are okay with them being alone with women but not with men. What kind of a signal will that send to them?

I ask that as a young, Christian male who desperately wants to be a man that children can look up. I want to be a man that young women see as a model of manliness and a model of what to look for in a husband. I want to be a man that young men see as a model of manliness and a model of how to treat women and children.

But I know that you and other mothers like you are in my church. Women that look suspicious every time I go to the nursery to pick up my daughters. Women that give me strange looks when I take my daughter to the park without taking my wife along. Women that stop whatever they're doing to continually watch my interaction with my children.

How am I ever supposed to have any confidence that I can be a role model if half of the adults in the room cringe any time I happen to pass near their child? How can your children ever begin to look up to me and trust me when their mother so clearly fears me?

As a man, I'm very grateful for the parents who have said that they would use a male babysitter. I'm heartbroken over the parents who categorically reject the option. To explicitly say that one person is more trustworthy than another -- solely on the basis of gender -- is extremely discriminatory and discouraging.

I am a parent. I feel a great weight of responsibility for both of my daughters. What really concerns me is the attitude expressed by "E" and several others today: "I must say though, that generally speaking men are perverts and predators and deserve the stigma."

That attitude is entirely offensive, untrue, and demeaning. I will not raise my daughters to believe that every man but me is suspect and dangerous. I am pleading for the opportunity not to be viewed as a potential predator first and a person second. I am pleading for the opportunity to be seen as a Christian, a fellow brother in Christ, a mentor, a friend, a husband, a father, a loving son, and a faithful employee. Instead, I've felt that stigma of being a potential predator. I've walked into the church nursery -- alone -- to pick up my daughter and seen people look at me suspiciously. I've taken my daughter to the park -- alone -- and seen mothers view me with suspicion and a little fear.

Yes, I will protect my daughters. I will raise them to know that men view sex differently than women. That men are more visually oriented. That they should be careful with how they interact with young men: don't be flirtatious or unknowingly seductive. Men view these things differently. I know.

But many, many men are trustworthy and honorable. Many young men are worth of respect in their interactions with young women and children. And we insult and cripple these men if we're collectively telling everyone to be very, very careful with letting their children be alone with men or emotionally close to men.

For me, this goes back to a particular, peculiar, Christian view of sex. Many church youth groups tell their teens to avoid sex until marriage. They explicitly or implicitly tell them that sex is dirty, disgusting, and embarrassing -- so you should save it for the one you love. Are we -- as a society -- giving our children the same view of men? Are we telling our children, our daughters, that men are typically vile, evil, and dangerous; and that it's best not to get too close to them? Are we telling them that all men are predators and therefore you should love, honor, and cherish one as your husband? Are we implying to our sons that men are inherently untrustworthy and then expecting our sons to grow up and suddenly act inherently trustworthy?

People will live up -- or down -- to the expectations that are set for them. If the expectations are negative, well, why try to hard? After all, everyone expects you to fail. We can complain that people should be better than that. We can proclaim that one should always live right no matter what the expectations of others are. But, realistically, most people don't work like that. So, what kind of expectations are we setting for our sons?

Are we telling them that they're sex obsessed predators just waiting for a private moment to commit a crime? Are we telling our sons that they can never be trusted with anyone's children? Are we giving them expectations to live up to or expectations to live down to? Our young men will take their cues from what we say. But they'll also take their cues from how we treat other men and how much we trust other men.

So will our daughters. If we never fully trust any man other than our fathers, if women never fully trust any man but their husband, how can we raise our daughters to trust their husbands? If they grow up believing that most men are predators how can they trust even their husbands? Will they ever be comfortable leaving their children alone with their husbands? How many future marriages are we poisoning today?

Speaking for myself, I will raise my daughters to know what a trustworthy, honorable man looks like. I will raise them to give a trustworthy man the trust he's earned over a lifetime. I'll raise them to know the signs of an untrustworthy man (or boy) and avoid him. But I will not raise my daughters to instinctively distrust men simply for the crime of being male.

I will not discriminate against 50% of the population solely because of their gender. Will. Not. Happen.

Red Sex, Blue Sex

I saw an interesting article about the sociology of sex recently: Red Sex, Blue Sex. Specifically, the difference in attitudes between "red" communities and "blue" communities. One observation in particular really jumped out at me.

Social liberals in the country's "blue states" tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter's pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in "red states" generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn't choose to have an abortion.

But that wasn't all. Apparently, the truly religious (rather than the socially religious) teen-agers do act differently than their peers. But that difference may be more related to the religious support network than to the affects of religion itself.

Religious belief apparently does make a potent difference in behavior for one group of evangelical teen-agers: those who score highest on measures of religiosity--such as how often they go to church, or how often they pray at home. But many Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals, and who hold socially conservative beliefs, aren't deeply observant.

Even more important than religious conviction, Regnerus argues, is how "embedded" a teen-ager is in a network of friends, family, and institutions that reinforce his or her goal of delaying sex, and that offer a plausible alternative to America's sexed-up consumer culture. A church, of course, isn't the only way to provide a cohesive sense of community. Close-knit families make a difference. Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not. And adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.

Finally, the article points out some of the drawbacks of each approach to sex. Pay attention to the warning at the end. If religious conservatives want to make a difference in societal behaviors we'll have to work a lot harder on actually being involved in our communities and helping young Christians.

Each of these models of sexual behavior has drawbacks--in the blue-state scheme, people may postpone child-bearing to the point where infertility becomes an issue. And delaying child-bearing is better suited to the more affluent, for whom it yields economic benefits, in the form of educational opportunities and career advancement. But Carbone and Cahn argue that the red-state model is clearly failing on its own terms--producing high rates of teen pregnancy, divorce, sexually transmitted disease, and other dysfunctional outcomes that social conservatives say they abhor. In "Forbidden Fruit," Regnerus offers an "unscientific postscript," in which he advises social conservatives that if they really want to maintain their commitment to chastity and to marriage, they'll need to do more to help young couples stay married longer. As the Reverend Rick Marks, a Southern Baptist minister, recently pointed out in a Florida newspaper, "Evangelicals are fighting gay marriage, saying it will break down traditional marriage, when divorce has already broken it down." Conservatives may need to start talking as much about saving marriages as they do about, say, saving oneself for marriage.

"Having to wait until age twenty-five or thirty to have sex is unreasonable," Regnerus writes. He argues that religious organizations that advocate chastity should "work more creatively to support younger marriages. This is not the 1950s (for which I am glad), where one could bank on social norms, extended (and larger) families, and clear gender roles to negotiate and sustain early family formation."

We Have No Idea How Good We Have It

For a long time I've believed that the people who complain most about America have no idea how truly unique, special, and blessed America actually is. James Lilek's touched on this idea in his euology for Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

In the summer of '78 I was back home in Fargo between college years -- exiled from the civilized world, cast into barbarity. During the day I labored under the hot sun painting giant fuel tanks in the hot sun, next to an auto-body shop that exhaled poison and Eagles all day. A sensitive soul, cast into such grim circumstances. A noble soul, a poet, reduced to living on the gruel of hometown "culture," almost unable to stir himself each day to face the hopeless allotment that stretched forth until the sun turned its face away.

Naturally, I was in the perfect mood to read the entire Gulag Archipelago. I got all three volumes from the drugstore -- which should have told me something about the land in which I lived, that one could buy this work from a creaky wire rack at the drugstore -- and it taught me much about the Soviet Union and the era of Stalin. After that I could never quite understand the people who viewed the US and the USSR as moral equals, or regarded our history as not only indelibly stained but uniquely so. Reading Solzhenitsyn makes it difficult to take seriously the people in this culture who insist that Dissent has been squelched. Brother, you have no idea.

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Preoccupied By Race

I've been reading an article asking Is Obama the end of black politics? This excerpt jumped out at me:

I asked [Michael] Nutter [the black mayor of Philadelphia] if, during his private conversations with Obama early in the campaign, the subject of race and the historic nature of his candidacy came up. He stared at me for a moment. "Um, I knew he was black," he said finally. "I'd really kind of picked up on that."

Later, when I mentioned that it could be hard for a white journalist to understand all of the nuances of race, he looked over at his press secretary, who is black, and interrupted me. "He's not black?" Nutter deadpanned, motioning back at me. "You guys told me it was a skin condition. I thought I was talking to a brother." Nutter is known to have a dry sense of humor, but I also had the sense that he was tweaking me in these moments, watching with some amusement as I tried to navigate subjects that white and black Americans rarely discuss together. He seemed to think I was oddly preoccupied with race.

In fact, Nutter seemed puzzled by the very notion that he should be expected to support a candidate just because they both had dark skin.

Indeed, Matt Bai does seem oddly preoccupied by race. Most of the media seems to be. Most of the older generation of black leaders seem to be. Unfortunately, Obama himself seems to be oddly preoccupied by race. (At the very least, his supporters are.)

Isn't that sad? 40 years after Dr. King, many people still can't seem to see beyond skin color.

This entry was tagged. Barack Obama

Korea vs. France

Video Game Poster

Despite the certain eyeball-rolling from the young ladies in our lives we know is sure to come - or perhaps, in fact, because of it - your Minor Thoughts correspondents feel we cannot possibly consider ourselves socially-responsible bloggers without mentioning the latest on video-game addiction.

So: According to The Economist,

"Both console gaming [i.e., Nintendo, Playstation, et al.] and its online counterpart ["multiplayer online gaming"] are booming businesses that are set to keep on growing. In 2004 the industry saw its revenues overtake those generated by film box-office receipts. This year it is expected to outstrip the music business with revenues of $37.5 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a consultancy. And the games industry is forecast to expand by over 9% annually over the next few years to become worth $48.9 billion by 2011."

The Republic of Korea, "home to the world's most extreme gamer culture" (The Washington Post)), is of course greeting this news with only slightly less enthusiasm than it would the melting of all polar ice caps.

[In 2006] the government -- which opened a treatment center in 2002 -- launched a game addiction hotline. Hundreds of private hospitals and psychiatric clinics have opened units to treat the problem... An estimated 2.4 percent of the population from 9 to 39 are believed to be suffering from game addiction, according to a government-funded survey. Another 10.2 percent were found to be "borderline cases" at risk of addiction -- defined as an obsession with playing electronic games to the point of sleep deprivation, disruption of daily life and a loosening grip on reality."

Never mind that the above symptoms are also typical of Korean life in general; contemplate instead facing a future in which there exist double the number of nerds alive today. Korea's government sure is. And while admittedly, the concept produces a few obvious positives - for one thing, that 5+% of the male population will obviously not be mating, and that's good news for a country about to experience a dire shortage of females - the "Land of the Morning Calm" just feels it is not quite yet ready to concede that its proud, ancient warrior tradition has come down to how well it plays Halo.

Which is why, at this point, war with France is its best option.


Blizzard HQ

I'm an American and I know Terrorism when I see it (and I see it everywhere). This influx of next-generation games on Korea is certainly nothing less than Cultural Terrorism. And, as the Israelis can tell you, if there's to be any hope of ending terrorist attacks, the country must cut them off at the source: those rogue states which serve as their nurseries.

Game-wise, that oddly enough means France, which is at least good fortune for Korea in that it's one nation the R.O.K. can conceivably conquer. Unbeknownst to innocent adult-adolescents everywhere, the tentacles delivering their favorite computer crack have for years led back to the French multinational beast that is - Vivendi! The froggy biz is responsible for some of the best-known games on this planet, including the current holy grail of all gaming experiences, the seminal World of Warcraft itself.

Who could have ever suspected that a development firm with a name like "Blizzard" would start each day by singing La Marseillaise (Do they even have blizzards in France? You never hear about them, at least not in the US)? But then, really, who could have suspected the French of going into the video game industry at all, and doing well at it? Maybe it's just our twenty-plus years of experience with company names like "Nintendo" and "Atari", but we Americans tend to expect our geek culture to come from the East; we gave up on the Old World long ago. How is this understandable?

The simple answer is: it's not. And people fear what they don't understand. And they hate what they fear.

Ergo, we here at Minor Thoughts hate this development, and urge that Korea teach this Eurotrash to meddle in our affairs but good. They need to be made an example out of before we all learn, to our infinite self-loathing, that the Finns are behind our favorite action movies.

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Should We "Give Back" at Thanksgiving?

This Thanksgiving, President Bush wants us to give back to our communities.

In a reflective mood as he looks toward his final year in office, President Bush delivered his first official Thanksgiving speech Monday, urging Americans to "show their thanks by giving back" and to remember that "our nation's greatest strength is the decency and compassion of our people."

It was a call to action, in a sense, from a president whose first instinct after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was to ask the public for "continued participation and confidence in the American economy," a request that has been widely interpreted as advice to go shopping.

By contrast, Mr. Bush on Monday asked Americans to consider the "many ways to spread hope this holiday: volunteer in a shelter, mentor a child, help an elderly neighbor, say thanks to one who wears the nation's uniform."

Now, I'm certainly no opponent to charity. I love giving and sharing my resources. But I agree with Thomas Sowell. All of this talk about giving back "irritate[s] me like chalk screeching across a blackboard".

I have donated money, books, and blood for people I have never seen and to whom I owe nothing. Nor is that unusual among Americans, who do more of this than anyone else.

But we are not "giving back" anything to those people because we never took anything from them in the first place.

This Thanksgiving, my family and I will be thankful for all of the ways God has blessed us. We'll be most thankful for the gift of forgiven sins and the gift of becoming children of God. We'll also be thankful for the gifts of family, friends, strong jobs, material prosperity, and much more.

In response to our thanksgiving, we will give to others freely and generously as a reflection of the free and generous gifts we receive from God. But we will not be giving back. Not to Madison's poor, because they've never given us anything. And certainly not to God -- nothing we do for Him could ever begin to approach even a partial repayment for what He's given us.

This entry was tagged. Charity

His name is Bruce


Bruce Campbell

What do you get if you mix the classic comedy The Three Amigos with the cult classic Evil Dead series of humorous horror films?

You get Bruce Campbell's new movie My Name Is Bruce, an indie flick (you'll rarely see Bruce starring in anything else) in which actor Bruce Campbell ostensibly plays himself kidnapped by his #1 fan, who has seen far too many of his movies and earnestly believes Bruce can save his town from a very real Chinese demon. Campbell, of course, simply believes that the whole situation is a grand example of method-acting, and his agent is behind it all

Something about these types of films fascinates me, perhaps because by their very nature we see so few of them. Nothing like My Name Is Bruce could exist if Bruce Campbell himself were not America's great B-movie icon, patron saint of the working-class actor - a status he cemented in 2002 with his extremely successful autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of A B-Movie Actor (the obvious problem with his having become famous for taking on awful roles, of course, is that he has thereby created his own career's ceiling; God knows, he'll never get headline work as anything else now - but that suits the reportedly very humble Mr. Campbell just fine). Since he is, a wonderfully unique little cinematic experience has been created, one which doesn't even require a high level of quality to be enjoyable: a tribute to and roast of an awful sub-genre, encapsulated in a tribute to and send-up of a man identified with it more than anyone, starring the man himself.

And starring him in a way which is not offensively worshipful. Just as musicians sometimes betray their total self-obsession through songs about themselves (e.g., Fergie's stunningly odious "Fergilicious"), movie stars' occasional forays into self-portrayal often feel uncomfortably egotistical. Mel Gibson's cameo in Paparazzi is an example of self-portrayal done right: with a touch of self-deprecation. According to early reviews, My Name Is Bruce takes the same approach, but runs with it.

"[Bruce is portrayed as] rude to his cast mates and crew, hitting on a pretty co-star with some more terrible one-liners, treating his fans like dirt, attempting to fire his incompetent agent (played by Ted Raimi in one of three roles), finally retiring to his trashed mobile home where he gets drunk and passes out on Shemp’s Hooch..." (Ain'tItCoolNews.com )

You can't help but like that; sure, nobody (at least, nobody worth taking seriously) blames Chuck Norris for signing onto Sidekicks - as Roger Ebert writes, "Norris is believable in the role, not so much because he is playing himself as because he is the kind of nice guy who actually would do something like that" - but Campbell's approach is far more entertaining.

At least, it would be entertaining if I were to go see it; I doubt any theaters in Korea will be showing it (in fact, I doubt more than a handful of mainstream theaters in the U.S. will be showing it). So it goes; I'm not the target audience anyway, and to appreciate something is one thing, to enjoy it quite another.

This entry was tagged. Humor