Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin, Landscape, circa 1870.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
1. “Have Republicans Learned to Love the Berlin Wall?”: “Yes, you read that right. A former White House official and Reagan aide is demanding that Mexico maintain a Berlin Wall to keep its own citizens from escaping.”
2. Ann Althouse on the psychohistorical forces leading to Trump: “Consider whether Trump is revealing something that has long been true about the American presidency, that he is not such a great outlier. And I’m not just talking about Obama. I’m thinking about all the Presidents I remember in my lifetime. It’s a trajectory, and if you plot it out, you’d see that Trump is next. Trump is next, we are idiots, and we are screwed.”
4. The Wild Effect and the Pacific Crest Trail: “Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir about hiking the trail was published in the spring of 2012, and the film version starring Reese Witherspoon came out in December of last year. Before the book was published, about 300 people would take out permits to attempt the full hike, which usually takes four to five months. It’s not yet known how many will try this year, but estimates range from 1,600 to 3,000 — 10 times the number who tried before the book came out.”
Image Credit: Glacier Peak, Washington. Photo by Walter Siegmund, August 2003. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
So. What’s been happening since I more-or-less went into radio silence:
The UK election. A major earthquake devastated Nepal. ISIS, somehow, endures in Mesopotamia. The Greeks voted to reject proposed terms, and then, when the Powers That Be in Europe were unmoved, the Greek government and parliament accepted substantially the same terms (if not worse). The Affordable Care Act survived its latest litigated challenge. SCOTUS has made marriage equality the law of the land. The US Women’s National Team won the World Cup in spectacular fashion. New Horizons visited Pluto, successfully. The Iran deal. Charleston. Confederate flags have started coming down, even in South Carolina (I would not have predicted that).
And, a week-and-a-half ago, a man decided to shoot up my hometown, killing four marines and one sailor.
Some links for your consideration:
1. A good start: the president has commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent offenders.
2. Steve Saideman: not every threat is an existential threat.
8. Big changes are coming to Firefox, supposedly.
Image Credit: Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photo by Zack Johnston, December 2, 2005. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Pluto’s moon Charon, as imaged by the New Horizons spacecraft, July 14, 2015.
I am told that the dark region toward the north pole of Charon has provisionally been designated Mordor.
Image Source: NASA via Wikimedia Commons.
Fig. 1: Pluto as imaged by the New Horizons spacecraft, July 7, 2015, at a distance of approximately 8 million km.
Fig. 2: New Horizons trajectory through July 13.
Image Source: NASA via Wikimedia Commons.
1. At Crooked Timber, Gabriel Winant writes about the waning value of democratic citizenship:
Citizenship is waning. There are the obvious, brutal signs of this: the police apparently have a free hand to kill and cage certain citizens, more or less as they see fit; the fiscal state is crippled by the ability and willingness of its wealthier subjects to refuse taxation; voters must now share political space with corporations, their new legal equivalents in significant elements of democratic life. In many places, especially poorer places like Greece and Detroit, unelected bureaucracies now explicitly overrule the will of electorates. Then there are the more paradoxical data points indicating the civic crisis. As the value of democratic citizenship declines, for example, those who still have it behave more defensively, throwing up border walls and voting for neo-nationalists. The deportee prison, the mass drownings in the Mediterranean, the rise of Golden Dawn, UKIP, and the National Front: these phenomena signal the dissipation of citizenship as much as the overweening power of the European Central Bank or the quasi-colonial occupation of Ferguson do. When your portion is diminishing, you want to ration it out more stingily. If you’ve only got a little at all, though, what do you do?
Please do read the whole thing.
3. Noah Smith on the feminism of Mad Max: Fury Road.
4. Kelsey Snyder in Wired: Hollywood sets up its female superheroes to fail.
5. At Slate, Willa Paskin reviews Poldark: “Each episode of the series comes to resemble a procedural in the consistency of its beats: Poldark faces a setback, which he overcomes by throwing in not with his fellow gentleman but with the poor, achieving a near-happy ending. … Poldark has no patience for dramatic tension. It is always in a rush. It turns what should be a deliciously drawn-out love story into a fait accompli.”
6. How the Scooby Doo gang would dress throughout each decade of the 20th Century.
The Battle of Waterloo was fought 200 years ago today.
In this post, Anderson pushes back against the popular/conventional assertion that Waterloo was one of the “Great” or Decisive Battles of history:
The battle was a famous victory, but TBA opines it was neither decisive nor particularly interesting. Napoleon was gambling that he could bloody the Allies’ noses so badly with a defeat in detail (i.e., defeating separated elements of their army) that he could negotiate a return to power. But the Allies were done with him, and had been since 1814. There is no plausible scenario where they would’ve accepted Napoleon’s return. Had he swept the field at Waterloo, another coalition army would have been put together.
Nor, close-run thing tho it may have been, was Waterloo a great battle as, say, Austerlitz was a great battle: a tactical masterpiece. For whatever reason, Napoleon’s tactical genius abandoned him, and he spent the day hurling troops into a frontal attack on a strong Allied (less than half British) position.
But mainly, this anniversary gives me an excuse to offer this xckd comic:
Image Credits: (1) Wikimedia Commons; (2) Randall Munroe, xkcd (CC BY-NC 2.5).
Game of Thrones wrapped up its fifth season Sunday evening.
The show had a strong finish for the season, but pacing was an issue all season long.* While the showrunners spent two full seasons developing plots adapted from the third volume of Martin’s series (A Storm of Swords), in season 5 they rushed through the material of two books in one season. This frantic pace meant that some plots were rushed — like the situation in King’s Landing, where the evolution of the Faith Militant and the rise of the High Sparrow did not have time to show the ominous, gradual, grassroots growth that shows in A Feast for Crows. And some plots were distorted and rendered unintelligible and meaningless by the process of condensation. The Dorne storyline was never my favorite storyline in the books, but the story on the page in A Feast for Crows was markedly better than what HBO delivered this season. The Sand Snakes fell flat, which is especially disappointing after Oberyn Martell (portrayed by Pedro Pascal) made such a splash in season 4. And whatever the weaknesses of the Dorne plot in the book, it is clear at the end that Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, is a crafty man and most definitely has a larger plan, as much as Varys or Littlefinger. Basically none of that came across this season — which is almost a waste of an excellent actor.
On the plus side, almost everything having to do with the storyline at the Wall was executed very well.
Anyway, some linkage (SPOILERS at all the links):
1. Dave Schilling, Grantland: “My god, the Sand Snakes. Can we talk about this? Did the writing staff of Game of Thrones add a 12-year-old to the room? I was half-expecting Kevin Sorbo or Louis Gossett Jr. to show up for an episode as Doran’s plot device/bodyguard, which frankly would have been an upgrade. After 10 episodes, the Sand Snakes accomplished two things: helping their mom kill Myrcella and fulfilling HBO’s nudity requirement. That could have taken half of one episode. You could have even skipped the nudity, folks. When was the last time Game of Thrones was even remotely titillating? After the 500th sexual assault and the millionth beheading, I’d be more excited by Dennis Franz’s bare cheeks on a rerun of NYPD Blue than this show.”
2. Jamelle Bouie, on the penultimate episode of the season: “So, my entire thought while watching that scene in the fighting pits with the Sons of the Harpy was ‘I wish dragons existed during Reconstruction,’ since — in the context of Game of Thrones — the Sons of Harpy are basically the Ku Klux Klan, and a world where Union soldiers soared through the Louisiana bayou burning Klansmen is a good world.”
In early 1962, Thomas Merton wrote as follows, in an essay entitled “Christian Culture Needs Oriental Wisdom” (originally published in Catholic World 195 [May 1962], 72-79):
Does this mean that the suggestion given in our title is strictly true? Does Christian culture need Oriental wisdom? It would certainly be rash to state this without further qualification. Yet we may ask ourselves a few pertinent questions on the subject.
First of all, it is quite clear that no non-Christian religion or philosophy has anything that Christianity needs, in so far as it is a supernaturally revealed religion. Yet from the point of view of the “incarnation” of revealed Christian truth in a social and cultural context, in man’s actual history, we know how much Greek philosophy and Roman law contributed to the actual formation of Christian culture and even Christian spirituality. We know too with what breadth of view and with what lofty freedom the scholastic doctors of the thirteenth century made use of Aristotle and his Arabian commentators. It can certainly be said that if a similar use had been made of Oriental philosophy and religious thought from the very start, the development of Christianity in Asia would have been a different story. Our Western Christian thought and culture would also have been immeasurably enriched and deepened.
Have we not been too ready to dismiss Oriental philosophy without really attempting to understand it? Do we not still shrug it off with a few easy generalizations?
(A Thomas Merton Reader, 301-02.)
I thought about the above passage when I read, late last month, about the latest ecumenical efforts by Fabian Bruskewitz, retired Catholic Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska:
Retired Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz stirred up debate this month with a letter he wrote to Women of Grace, a Florida-based Catholic organization.
The organization wrote a blog post that says the letter advised “Catholics to steer clear of yoga because of its basis in Hinduism and to take up other methods of exercise that don’t place the faith in unnecessary danger.”
Women of Grace describes itself as Catholic apostolate “whose mission is to transform the world one woman at a time.” The organization lists Bruskewitz as a member of its board of directors.
See also here:
In his letter, he urged women to find other forms of exercise that do not jeopardize their faith. The issue with yoga is that it is based in Hinduism — a religion the Catholic church has called “incompatible to Christianity.”
That’s not to say all yoga enthusiasts embrace Hinduism — in fact most Americans taking part in yoga do it for the physical and mental benefits of stretching, breathing and meditating.
But still, practitioners say Hindu phrases such as “namaste” — commonly translated: “the light within me bows to the light within you” — they assume poses with names like sun salutations and warrior, which have deep roots in the Hindu faith.
Uh-huh. And that led to this: “Hindus have asked the Vatican to discipline retired Lincoln Diocese Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz for telling Catholics that doing yoga could lead to serious sin. In a statement issued Friday morning, Hindu cleric Rajan Zed urged Pope Francis to discipline Bruskewitz for the unnecessary condemnation of yoga. …”
And then, on a related note, there’s this: “Is Yoga Religious? In India, It’s a Vexed Question” (H/T: Althouse):
Senior Muslim leaders in India are unhappy that some state governments are giving children compulsory lessons in yoga, which they say involves some practices contrary to Islamic beliefs.
Leaders say the practice of “surya namaskar” or sun salutation – a series of poses – goes against Shariah or Islamic law, which doesn’t allow Muslims to bend before anyone other than Allah, or God.
“We don’t believe in praying to the sun,” said Mohammad Abdul Rahim Quraishi, spokesman for Lucknow-based All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Yet, Mr. Quraishi said that schools in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have made yoga sessions compulsory, and the lessons include “surya namaskar”. He said that the sessions also require chanting of the word “Om” or other Sanksrit verses or shlokas, which he believes are connected to Hindu religion.
“They are trying to impose Hindu religion. On that, we have objection,” Mr. Quraishi said.
Over the weekend, the Muslim Law Board said it would constitute an action committee to look into whether compulsory yoga teaching at schools violates Indians’ constitutional rights, said Mr. Quraishi.
India’s ruling Bharaitya Janata Party says yoga is a secular activity. Yoga “is a science that deals with the well-being of the human mind and body,” said BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli. “There is no religious angle to this at all.”
I wish that I had more to say about all of this, but the whole controversy just leaves me…speechless.
So, offered without further comment.
Image Credits: (1) Yoga in King George Square, Brisbane. Photo by John, July 2013. Used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Source: Flickr. (2) Photo by Matt Olsen, May 2008. Used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.