Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recycling, Buffy and Me

Is recycling true and good and beautiful? Maybe. I have read many articles that are pro recycling, none that are con. None? As for cost-benefit, the costs I read about are less, usually, than benefits and the costs are measured, always, in terms of economics. Yet people don't live by cash alone.

One person who understood issues of emotion, not just cash, wrote in to the newspaper letters section sounding shrill and bitter. How hard can it be, he demanded, to soak your cans in the sink to peel off the labels? Or to leave glass jars in a full sink overnight to soak, as he does ...he went on like this "self-righteously" ...and therein lies his motivation. He mentioned no partner and I wondered if he is a bachelor and if, back in high school, he would have ever socialized with Cordelia Chase.

You may remember "Cordy" from Sunnydale High: a rich pretty cheerleader and social queen... not someone who would associate with library nerds, or a vampire slayer or... dare I say it, future bitter recycle-ers. When Cordy got a job in the real world, in L A, she was in a world at one remove from high school hell, but a world where many non nerds still feel traces of conformity-fear, still want to keep up with the Joneses and still look to opinion queens. I can imagine a woman sitting in a beauty salon, looking at her nails, and wondering, "Does Cordelia fill her sink overnight? And if she won't, then I won't either."


As I write this my spectacles are free of tape and I am wearing clothes with matching colors. Yes, I have a computer, and yes, I have the independent thinking of a nerd, but I also have enough consideration for others to dress well and to gently expect others to act as their peers do, not as my own peers might wish them to do.

Many of my peers, as noted in my (May 2011) Atrocities and Our Troops essay, are organic new age types. One fellow is a small businessman. This means long days. Maybe too long: the poor guy can't attend any of my community building or dialogue groups. And when I found out that on top of all his labor he was crushing and folding all the myriad cardboard boxes that came through his store, and after stomping on them he was carting them off to the (not a) recycling bin... I said, "Enough!"

I said that even people who own a computer (he owns four) and who have collected every episode of Buffy (he can freely borrow mine) are still allowed to "get a life." Sure, you're "s'posed to" recycle but think of all the good you can do for others with the time you could save. I told him, "What's good for your store is good for the new age community."

I think Buffy would sympathise. Like me, she feels pain at thoughtless litter bugs. And she would feel pain at seeing beautiful thoughtless Cordelia. Yet Buffy is too noble, too sensible, to escape from her pain by feeling alienated from Cordelia and condemning Cordelia's lifestyle. Buffy doesn't do "self righteous." Instead she came to sympathise with Cordy and to protect her with her life.

A couple I know—one is my friend of many years—expressed "irritation," you might say, the last time I failed to recycle my clothes. So, for my next time, I arranged with the friend to meet in a small town tea house called Tea & Time Emporium ... Then we would car pool and she would show me where the town recycling for clothing was. More importantly, and this was her idea, we were to meet at Tea & Time so I could edit down a couple of her professional articles. (I happen to be a paid published writer.) Well, I will tell you what happened: it was my turn to feel a little bit miffed, a wee bit cranky... and downright "irritated."


My friend forgot about recycling, forgot about me... I was stood up. And so my point is this: Following my organic friend's forgetful example, we don't need to take recycling too seriously. Not unless we enjoy feeling self-righteous and feeling cut off from our fellow humans... Better to recycle less from "s'posed to" and more from joy, as many of my dear readers do, joy in the spirit that each of us are a wonderful part of the planet... including the folks who don't recycle.

Sean Crawford,
North of a small town
Summer 2011....21.20


~ Responsible to others? Buffy is a blond who is too responsible to continue cheerleading with Cordelia, not once she answered her calling as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

~It strikes me that for teens the defining characteristic of "popular" non nerds, such as Cordelia, is no responsibility... The one who has to take care of Aunt May, or rush home to tend the animals, never makes it as teen royalty. There is an essay here... (Hence I've made a piece May 2013 about Silence and Three Nerd Heroes)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Others, Nerds and Readers

“Follow your passion,” goes the self-help wisdom in California.

Recently I’ve been feeling strangely blank from wondering: Do nerds, and others too, spend their hours on the web from having “new improved” passion, with computers being “the exciting wave of the future” or, instead, invest their hours merely in plunging down a time sink… As the band Counting Crows would sing, “…I want to know, and all I really know is I don’t want to know.”

“Know thyself,” goes the ancient wisdom; “Know others,” goes the street wisdom.

Nerds, of course, the forgotten minority, are known for “not knowing” about what “others” would think of basic fashion and social skills. Too bad, because knowing about “others” could be a check to see if you are missing out on fun or too unwisely following your passion: such as programming computers all day long, even during an all-too-brief Banff summer, down in a dingy basement. Contra-wise, (said Tweedledum) the “others” could check to see if they are missing out on knowing enough science.

I suspect many people don’t have any passions or hobbies, and I also think some people, even while they have an above average I.Q., haven’t any passion for learning. I graduated university. While only a few among the public might agree with Grandpa Rabbit, “Reading rots the brain,” more might think, “anyone at university must be a smart nerd.” Not so. Although undergraduates, by definition, have an above average I.Q., in my experience few see themselves as nerds, while some students, although smart, are downright passionless. They seem to be “going through the motions” in order to “get a good job” while having little interest in abstract knowledge—Those folks are the ones I confess I’m still trying to understand… And none of them ever seem to marvel at being able to look across a crowded hall where everybody has a university level I.Q.

I know most people, the “others,” well: They prefer noisy discos and dancing to conversation in quiet cafes; they prefer walking in lively malls and fashion districts to browsing in quiet bookstores. They prefer cities with neon lights such as Vegas, Miami and Los Angeles to modest places like Boulder or San Francisco. These regular folks are everywhere, average and normal but… they aren’t me.

It was my favorite web essayist and computer millionaire, Paul Graham, who pointed out that you won’t get any new start-up software companies, no Google or Microsoft, in any of the glamour cities because nerds don’t want to live there. Millionaires do and regular folks do, but not nerds. Graham is a delight for his reminders that there are other nerds just like me…

Of course I love the common man, of course I see nothing wrong with readers of People Magazine sharing the World Wide Web with readers of The Economist. I’m pleased that I once commented to computer expert Scott Berkun that in the wired world we haven’t yet come up with any “indicators,” any way to show instantly, on a home page, who is the intended audience. In fact, I said, it was as if the virtual world was defaulting to the dominant culture, to being for folks who watch TV and read People. In the paper world, of course, indicators abound: Ratio of pictures to print, density of paragraphs, number of pages, and more. Now I understand other people enough to know: We haven’t evolved such indicators yet—and we never will...

Nerds, being computer savvy, and being early adopters of the World Wide Web, were quick to have some nerd-centered web forums such as reddit and diggit. But here’s the thing: While reading such nerd sites, if it weren’t for some of the topics, you wouldn’t guess the users were smart: No dense paragraphs, no need for an attention span; lots of glitz and emotion, as flashy as Vegas, without sustained thought; everything presented in the now, devoid of historical context.

The Vegas “Wonderland” reminds me  of young Alice. She would be right at home on reddit. (See Neil Postman footnote) You may recall Alice wondered, “What’s the use of books without pictures and conversations?” Well, Berkun once referred to a young woman, a reddit fan, writing angrily that if you can’t make your point in x hundred words then don’t bother. She didn’t mean get to your thesis before the bottom of the first page; she meant say it all in double-quick time. I suspect she watches her TV screen more than she reads, and maybe she spends more time at her monitor than at her TV. Like Alice would, she values the web for pictures and little dialogue-sized paragraphs. Yes, she’s a computer nerd, but no, I don’t expect her to help evolve any indicators to show weighty web sites.

For years, amidst the excitement of spreading computers, I kept expecting computer users to pull up their socks. At last I came to understand, during the “blogging and linking” craze, that others would be in a hurry. Not me. Not Roger Ebert. I remember one fellow thought he would compliment blog-essay writer Roger Ebert, a highly literate man at the Chicago Sun-Times, by telling Ebert his writing was the only thing he didn’t skim. I’m sure Ebert had mixed feelings over this “compliment.” 

Needless to say, there was a lot of panicky skimming during the crazy race for “successful blog” statistics: such silly skimming I thought would be fading away by now because blogs are fading. No such luck.

What I failed to take into account was how my fellow Americans, the ones who “need” the Internet—even when on vacation in Banff—also crave their couches. In this our new century, others have noticed “the couch” might explain why there was no “citizen” oversight as people expired in Iraq and Afghanistan, bleeding to death alone, while no one in Washington was ever reprimanded or fired. The vast couch land of America enabled the men of Washington to have no sense of urgency—and no common sense. (No, I won’t footnote any history texts—I’m too disgusted) In hindsight, “Let George do it” is a perfectly predictable response for a “civilian” with a couch.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with couches in moderation. The same fellow who sits up and thoughtfully reads conceptual science fiction (sf) the “playground of the mind,” might then flip on his TV to watch sci-fi for a well-deserved chance to slouch like a potato. Especially right after work.

For me personally, the problem is at my monitor. The problem is when, like some sort of compulsive chain smoker, I go down the rabbit hole following links, emerging much later with no coherent awareness of “what just happened?” I know one thing for sure: If after spending hours sitting at my computer I stand up feeling hollow inside—which does happen—then I have just spent my man-hours in compulsively avoiding some specific task, or perhaps in avoiding my life.

I recall a motorcyclist who broke his leg leading to a stay in the hospital: He got released, went home, and found himself still watching soap operas. After saying, “Arrhg!” the ex-patient reached for sanity. Others make insane-to-me choices. I know this now. I know now that many nerds, and many others in general, “read” their computer screen while half-wishing they could just “view” it.

Successful science fiction writer Philip K. Dick once gloomily said, “Entropy always wins.” The solution for me is… I have a choice.

As for the choices of people accessing the Internet, thanks to Crawford Killian, (footnote) here is what one expert, web designer Jeffrey Zeldman, found back in the previous century:
Some are viewers, “…look for audiovisual entertainment…treat the web like radio, TV or movies, and don’t have much use for text, except as directions to the next surprise.”
Some are users, “…look for information they can apply… love hit-and-run retrieval.”
Some are readers, “…actually sit and scroll through long documents…may read for entertainment or for use, but they’re not in a hurry.”

Zeldman's findings were from at least as early as 1999. Since then, I suspect, “readers” have become even less “not in a hurry” and even fewer in number.

It’s queer: While the “regular culture,” when not forgetting about nerds, sees them as different, I think [nerds and “others”] actually have a lot in common: viewing. Perhaps the actual forgotten minority, the group being, as Neal Stephenson put it, “photoshopped out of the national scene” is not the nerds—perhaps, instead, it’s the readers: the minority who can handle complex sentences and slow sustained complex thoughts. Like Stephenson, I’m not bitter. Stephenson, being both a writer on the web for Wired Magazine, and a successful science fiction novelist, has a nice serene paragraph in Some Remarks (2012) subtitled Essays and Other Writings:
“Books though, and the thoughts that go through the heads of their readers, are too long and complex to work on the screen—be it a talk show, a PowerPoint presentation, or a web page. Bookish people sense this. They don’t object to it. They don’t favor electronic media anyway. So why should they make a fuss if those media Photoshop them out of the national scene? They know how to find each other and have the long conversations that nourish their bookish souls.” (p 270)
When I read Zeldman’s findings on the consumers of computer networks I didn’t feel any, “Yes! I was right!” Instead I felt blank, the same blankness I always feel when I’m integrating any new reality that “is what it is.” … Now what? What are the implications for the intersection of citizenship and everyday life?

Many people are remarking that our “attention span” is slipping. Very few are remarking on the more serious issue: Our “citizenship” is slipping. It’s not an easy thing to face, I know. God bless the passionate readers… At least, as a society, we are not mute peasants enduring a dictatorship. No. As the reverend Martin Luther King said, we are bound up in a network of mutuality—And we each have a choice.

Sean Crawford
Owning a TV,
Lacking a rooftop antenna,
Lacking cable and rabbit ears and netflix,
June 2013
Banff and Calgary

~The Counting Crows song, Amy Hit the Atmosphere, (waiting for mothers to come) used for the episode Toy House of Roswell, is from the album This Desert Life.

~The findings of Jeffrey Zeldman were condensed from a summary in Crawford Killian’s Writing For the Web, subtitled Writers’ Edition, Self-Counsel Press, USA and Canada, 1999, p 26

~For precisely what I commented publicly to Scott Berkun, and for what he had said, see my essay Fluffy Social Media archived November 2010.

~I recently proposed that blogs are fading in popularity in Fading Blogs and Human Nature, archived February 2013

~For a short essay, quoting Roger Ebert, on the perils of surfing, see Surfing At Work, archived January 2011.

~For a long essay with a “present at the creation of the web” perspective see Essays and Blogs, archived in June 2010

~For a long essay answering a commenter as to why university is not merely for a job see Citizens, Jobs and the Liberal Arts, archived October 2011

~For an expanded look at ‘couch versus citizenship,’ see my quotes of The Assassins’ Gate by George Packer, as part of my essay Citizenship After 9/11 archived September 2012.

~The viewpoint of Alice as regards TV, (not the web) as noted by Neil Postman, is in the footnote to my essay-and-book-review of Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood, archived as Literacy Builds People, July 2012

~I like Philip K. Dick, not only as “a writer’s writer,” impossible to imitate, but as a man. According to a movie industry trade magazine, as I dimly recall from two decades ago, (Memory or the magazine could be off) Dick had a choice of receiving 4 million or 12 million dollars for the movie rights to his novel “Bladerunner” called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? To get the 12 million, he would have to agree to have his original novel suppressed and a new one, Bladerunner, written by a certain modest writer as a movie novelization. As it happens, Dick’s novel was written in the context of the Vietnam conflict, when he feared we were losing our empathy. I like Dick for taking only the 4 million.

Unfortunately he lived much of his life in poverty, with Bladerunner being the only movie made from his work in his lifetime. Since then there’s been both mainstream and independent movies made from Dick’s work. Too bad his other works have only become marketable movies since his passing, instead of during his lifetime.
Movies, from using a search engine:
Screamers, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report, Paycheck, Total Recall, Next, Megaville, Radio Free Albemuth, Imposter.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Citizens and Soldiers

Citizen Soldiers
a Footnote

One of the most beautiful young ladies in the world lives in my modest city in my modest G-8 country of Canada. Her name is Riza Santos, and she recently achieved the title of Miss Universe Canada. Of course our local broadsheet (not tabloid) newspaper, the Calgary Herald, (May 29, 2013) ran (Besides a tiny 6 X 4 cm pageant picture) not one but two photographs of her: I will describe them.

But first, I invite you to imagine a photo of some other beautiful lady down in some glittering city in some other nation that is not quite G-8, not quite democratic. Perhaps, in your mind’s eye, the picture shows her at full length, in a brightly colored dress. Perhaps she is a pretty doll on the arm of a young nephew of some old prince or colonel in the ruling junta.

Imagine: Is she a “citizen?” Meaning: Is she “informed” and “participating?” Would she volunteer to serve in her local community, or serve in the reserves? Maybe not. In non-democracies, such as the terror exporting states, rich men and women, “civilians,” usually don’t care enough to serve anywhere, certainly not in “the” —not “their”— armed forces.

The photographs of Santos are two: On the front page the picture portrays her at half-length wearing a dark dress. On next page, (A6) at full length, she is wearing rumpled combat clothing, out in the field, cheerfully balancing a heavy rocket launcher across her shoulder. No golden cage for this pretty lady: She is out volunteering in the reserves. 

On Canada Day, the first of July, 2011, as many new Canadians obtained their citizenship, the Globe and Mail had a front-page story about an increase in military presence at the swearing in ceremonies. “In an operational bulletin, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration said highlighting the service of members of the armed forces is a way to underline to every new Canadian the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.”

That sounds like common sense, who could quarrel with that? A history professor, Michael Fellman, that’s who. He’s not one of the “Regina 16” professors I rebuked in an essay of April 2010 called Socialists Reject Soldiers. “The Tories are in a long-range campaign to change Canadian values and make them more conservative,” Fellman said. “This is a way to show that the military is at the core of the meaning of citizenship.”

I disagree with the professor's conclusion the army is a “conservative” value.

George Orwell, a prominent socialist, would have disagreed too. Orwell, a hero of mine, was certainly no member of the conservative party. (The Tories) While he’s best known for his novel Nineteen Eighty Four, I have found his essays to be even more rewarding. Immigrants from Asia may remember having as students studied his splendid anti-imperialist essay, Shooting an Elephant. An idealist, Orwell even volunteered to join a socialist brigade to fight the dirty fascists in Spain. (Such as that gruesome Captain in my essay of April 2011 called Goals and 300) Orwell returned to Britain only because a bullet had torn through his throat. There he continued to strive to help Britain become socialist. After his voice returned he wrote an essay explaining that a socialist Britain would still have soldiers at Buckingham palace, and they would still have The Lion and the Unicorn (essay title) on their brass buttons on their tunics. No, the army was not a “Tory thing” to Orwell.

Some people will always mix up “army” with “conservative” or “the establishment.” I can better understand these people after being enlightened from an essay by Orwell about his contemporary, Rudyard Kipling. According to Orwell, although Kipling didn’t know enough to be anti-imperialist, he did know far more about imperialism than the sandal-wearing strident anti-imperialists in England. Why? Because Kipling, however imperfectly, at least tried to walk in the shoes of the people in power. Kipling, notes Orwell, was willing to take responsibility to try to imagine having responsibility. It seems to me the people of the fringe parties, people who are thinking that, if they ever come to power, they will magically abolish the armed forces, are the same people who will never come to power except through magic.

The Globe: “The bulletin, which describes military service as one of the highest expressions of citizenship, states that a member of the military should be seated on the main platform with the citizenship judge, that they can stand in the receiving line congratulating new citizens and that they may give a two-to-three-minute speech.”

The Globe quotes a soldier who has sat on the stage, Major Pete Saunders: “What we want to impress upon (the new citizens), much in the some way as the RCMP officer, is that we’re here to serve them. We’re not here beat them down. We’re not here to cause them fear,” Major Sounders said. “That’s central to our message, so they understand that when we go on operations it’s at the behest of a democratically elected government and they have a hand in who that government is.”

In 1994 Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer addressed students in a medium sized room behind the student council chambers. He reminded us that 10 percent of the bombs being dropped on Yugoslavia were Canadian. We gasped. “How does it feel to be a member of an aggressor nation?” he asked. We gasped again. That year, as Canada’s armed representatives were using force, violence, to protect Muslims in Yugoslavia, I wrote an article, Citizen Soldiers, for the yearly Mount Royal College magazine, Skylines. The theme for the magazine that year was trends, and there was a trend towards more peacekeeping.

Citizen Soldiers
In military field-maneuvers a high profile is something to be shunned. Lately, however, the Calgary Highlanders and other reserve outfits have enjoyed a higher public presence due to reservists serving with the regular army as part of Canada's peacekeeping forces. Yet few Calgarians understand that membership in the Canadian Forces Reserves is an avocation pursued by ordinary people.

Corporal Walter Fritz is a general contractor in civilian life. He is not in the service for the pay. "I lose money when I go on call-out (active duty with the regular army)," he says. His relatives worried about him going to Yugoslavia. "They had the normal worry-worry crap, but my wife supported it completely."

(Socio-economic leveler)

Fritz is a section commander in the Calgary Highlanders with about 10 men under him. He and his comrades train every Wednesday night and about two weekends a month. "The main thing to remember," he says, "is that this is not a career." He has seen too many "professional students" become "militia bums."

Lieutenant Barry Agnew agrees. "It certainly can become an overriding part of your life." In the Highlanders, Agnew writes articles for service papers and news releases as the public affairs officer. By day he works in a museum. "I wouldn't want to come down here (to Mewata Armory) to do museum work," he says, explaining that people join the reserves to do something different. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Lynn Moffat, is a school teacher.

The Alberta district recruiting officer, Captain Graham Oakley, says that he doesn't want any Rambos. "We want mature, serious, responsible people," he says. "Absolutely everybody joins the reserves: doctors, lawyers, high school students... everybody joins." He explains the militia is a socioeconomic leveler. "While they're here they have everything in common."

Oakley says that with recent peacekeeping there has been a "tremendous increase" in recruiting. "The militia has changed tremendously in the last two or three years," says Oakley, adding that the reserves have better equipment, more of it and more exposure to regular force personnel. Summer training, which is geared to the post-secondary student, starts as early as May. Most of the training takes place away from Calgary. The soldiers do basic training and then go on to specific trades training.


Russ Meades is a second-year journalism student at SAIT. "If there is one thing I am committed to, as the company sergeant major, it is to weed out the 'Rambo wannabes,'" says Meades. "They are undisciplined fly-boys who could risk the lives of others."

The training provides physical and mental challenge, according to Meades, and can provide people with a focused chance to learn about their capabilities and who they are. "Am I someone who flips burgers or a part-time soldier?" asks Meades. He says that challenge is big part of the appeal of the reserves. He had a classmate who was having some problems, and was "hurting for money." Meades recommended the reserves, and later was surprised to get a phone call from the man saying that he had enlisted. "He came back (from summer training) a changed man, extremely positive. He was getting school assignments done without excuses, on time and neatly typed. An instructor said, 'This guy's really turned around.'"

Army life has been good for Sergeant Cindy Greenough. "I was a very mild, meek, normal person," she says. "If I knew you and you walked by, I wouldn't say hello. The military does give you lots of self-confidence." As the regimental quartermaster sergeant for the Calgary Highlanders, she provides the "beans and bullets" whenever they go on maneuvers. Greenough would recommend that anyone give it a shot, adding, "Even if you don't stay with it, you've still learned something."

One of the soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, Michael Hayakaze, was of Japanese ancestry but I don't regard him as a "visible minority," not if the term means fresh immigrant. I am confident he grew up here doing typical boyish things such as reading comic books and buying bubblegum to get the hockey cards.

At home, along my entrance hall, I have a limited edition photo-lithograph, Morning Swim, of a lady walking into a remote forest lake while taking off her T-shirt. Next to it is a limited edition print, The Hunters, of some U.S. army rangers patrolling in a muddy sunken creek, past a poisonous snake, with a sun peeping high through the dense foliage... When my massage practitioner friend passed down the hall she cried, "Ahhhh!" She was horrified that the soldiers were so close to the vulnerable woman! I replied that because of those brave men, dedicated to civilian control, the lady could swim safely... 

...She certainly couldn't safely swim undressed in a nondemocracy, not with the sort of "undermotivated" soldiers and police that such states always end up with. If people who see themselves as peasants, rather than as responsible citizens, immigrate from such states to North America, then often they initially assume that all police are corrupt and that all soldiers, if not conscripted, (drafted) enlist for the money, as workers for the dictator's government. Hence the glaring lack of visible minorities in our armed forces. Peasants can't conceive of volunteer "citizen-soldiers." I remember an immigrant fresh off the plane, at the airport, being astonished when a passing RCMP smiled and said "Hello." He knew instantly that Canada was different.

As for the beautiful Santos, she's "visible," yes, but being raised here she has a sensible perspective on our armed forces.

God save the queen.

a Footnote: For more on the historical connection of citizen/soldier to democracy, see my essay Heroes are Soldiers of January 2012

Sean Crawford
sleeping soundly because others guard the frontiers,
summer 2008-13.40

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Taking Stock and Afterthoughts

As a blog administrator, with my admin pages set to “25,” having again accumulated a full page, or batch, of 25 essay titles, I again feel entitled to indulge in a “taking stock” essay. What’s new?

Taking Stock
In this new batch is an essay on Fading Blogs. (February 2013) Since posting it, I have found a new reason to suspect blogs are fading in popularity: This is my first page without any comments for any essay. It’s also the first time I’ve needed to activate the “captcha” feature, where you need to “prove you’re not a robot” by typing in letters, and while that can be an obstacle for some people, I don’t think that’s why I have no comments.

For this latest page, I won’t share which of the 25 essays are my three best, or the three most important, or my three favorites; I will say which three according to hit count are the most popular by far:
A Young Girl’s Guide to Wars and Drugs (March 2013)
Community Health Centers (January 2013)
Recent Anecdotes (December 2012)

The Young Girl’s one came about after I had commented on Chicago critic Roger Ebert’s blog, and then some other commenter had replied to say my comment made no sense. I decided to ignore Chicago and compose a long and careful essay for my dear readers. And then, to my surprise, it turned out to be one of my most popular; I don’t know why.

And I don’t know why the other two are so popular, either. The Anecdote piece, right on the border of two admin pages, is another “taking stock” one: I had felt I deserved to indulge in a series of anecdotes instead of a proper essay. Maybe sometimes people prefer anecdotes, eh?

Queerly, for the previous page of 25 essays, there’s a piece with good many hits that’s also on the border, one where I took a stand against making web links: No Links is Good Links. (July 2012) I had assumed my stand would put me as a boring “minority of one” so it’s interesting to see the post so popular. As blogs are fading, I wonder if the laziest readers, the ones who “need” their links handed to them on a silver platter, are fading away too. My opinion remains: I still don’t believe in making links.

Also new is how my statistics, or hit counts, are up: partly, I hope, from new readers but mostly, I suspect, from being discovered at long last by the spammer crowd. Who knows, maybe my web address is registered at “spam central.”

As for the numbers, who needs crowds? I believe even just a few readers are enough to feel a sense of meaning for my work, feeling inspired to keep trying my best. And because I keep trying, I think my writing is getting better—Hurray!

I came up through journalism: cramped columns for hasty readers are just like little screens for hasty bloggers. As a news reporter I favored short declarative sentences, or breathless timesaving run-on sentences. Now at last I am getting used to calm writing for patient people, using complex sentences with several clauses. Maybe as blogs fade the remaining readers will have a longer attention spans; maybe one day I’ll have the nerve to write long dense paragraphs, the same as for “real” prose on real paper—Or maybe I’ll just abandon e-blogs for books… Here’s Neal Stephenson (see footnote) on page 270 in Some Remarks:

“Books, though, and the thoughts that go through the heads of their readers, are too long and complex to work on the screen—be it a talk show, a PowerPoint presentation, or a web page. Bookish people sense this. They don’t object to it. They don’t favor electronic media anyway. So why should they make a fuss if those media Photoshop them out of the national scene? They know how to find each other and to have the long conversations that nourish their bookish souls.”

Lately I’ve been posting re-runs. Why? Partly because if I am “posting weekly” then it’s embarrassing to have any years with more than 52 essays. Mainly because ever since a future prime minister, Justin Trudeau, speculated—or made excuses—that within America, terrorism’s root cause is individuals seeing everyone else in society “as their enemies,” I have been thinking about membership and belonging and volunteering for Muslims. Some of my previous essays, about such human needs, have interested me lately.

I have no sympathy for any male Muslim who lives in his mother’s basement and confines his “caring” to his own little clan. If that Boston bomber, a boxer, had volunteered to help children of various faiths to learn how to box then his short selfish life might have turned out differently. I have noticed how people headed for jail never volunteer….

For my previous post, deliberately left off, as the post already had lots of ideas:

~For Han Suyin being “a very nice person”: not only had I felt so, but two clerks from Canadian Forces Base Jericho, Corporals Jan Wong and Sonia Kramer, had gone for tea with Suyin and really liked her. (Born Sept 12, 1917, died Nov 2, 2012) (blast from the past link)

~Why should anyone in a Muslim country value and believe in the UN’s 1948 declaration of Human Rights? After all, Arab religious leaders and royalty could claim that “rights,” just like “democracy,” is “western,” hence dirty and tainted.
So why? Because: The opposite of a king’s “divide and conquer” is a feeling of respect and dignity for everyone, including females, a feeling that has to start somewhere. And I would say rights are a part of the feeling of “everyday community and citizenship,” meaning: a part of political community. (If that sounds familiar—Remember the headline for this web site?)

“…The overt corruption commonly found in the new states reveals the full consequences of the absence of political community. Only from the latter can effective norms arise, norms felt in the consciousness of each citizen. Without political community there can be no effective norms, and without the norms that arise quite naturally from the values and beliefs of the community, the state is no more than a machine. It is then that the coup t’etat becomes feasible since, as with any machine, one may gain control over the whole by seizing hold of the critical levers….” …Coup d’etat by Edward Luttwak, (1979) p16-17

~ I believe a society could be religious and be optimistic and face forwards into the future. Here is a quote from science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, after the Egyptians had plundered and destroyed their best technology and their library:
“…It’s when a society plunders its ability to look over the horizon and into the future in order to get short-term gain—sometimes illusory gain—that it begins a long slide nearly impossible to reverse.” …Some Remarks subtitled Essays and Other Writing, (2012) p 185

Sean Crawford
June 2013