Famed rocker Neil Young has played hundreds of towns and cities all over the world since starting his illustrious career in the ’60s, but last night marked his first performance in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. Neil Young and Promise Of The Real treated fans to a 21-song performance as part of their first of two consecutive shows at Town Park in Telluride on Friday.
Websites are starting to talk about a Donald Trump presidential cabinet and the names highlight a curiosity of this election: many of the principle insiders come from Northeast Corridor states that voted for Hillary Clinton. Rudolph Giuliani and Chris Christie, are, like the whole Trump family, metro New Yorkers and as far as I know Newt Gingrich lives in northern Virginia.
I’ve lived in Chris Christie’s New Jersey since he was elected governor and I find it really hard to believe he’s suddenly going to have a strong interest in the Midwestern red states that gave Trump the win. You can point to VP-elect Mike Pence of Indiana, but as far as I can tell he was only brought on for strategic reasons and is not part of the Trump circle.
What really can Trump do to bring back the good paying jobs that disappeared decades ago? Our economy has been shifting regardless of which party occupies the Oval Office. There’s sops and pork to be doled out, but the national economy has been centralizing in the big coastal cities that our new political leaders call home (the same would have been true with a Clinton presidency). What if Trump’s election is the ultimate prank: red states selling their vote to a New York developer who will mostly continue to develop the New York-to-DC corridor?
The biggest changes in half a decade are coming to QuakerQuaker. The Ning.com service that powers the main website is about to increase its monthly charge by 140 percent. When I first picked Ning to host the three-year-old QuakerQuaker project in 2008, it seemed like a smart move. Ning had recently been founded by tech world rock stars with access to stratospheric-level funds. But it never quite got traction and started dialing back its ambitions in 2010. It was sold and sold again and a long-announced new version never materialized. I've been warning people against starting new projects on it for years. Its limitations have become clearer with every passing year. But it's continued to work and a healthy community has kept the content on QuakerQuaker interesting. But I don't get enough donations to cover a 140 percent increase, and even if I did it's not worth it for a service stuck in 2010. It's time to evolve!
There are many interesting things I could build with a modern web platform. Initial research and some feedback from fellow Quaker techies has me interested in BuddyPress, an expanded and social version of the ubiquitous WordPress blogging system. It has plugins available that claim to move content from existing Ning sites to BuddyPress, leaving the tantalizing possibility that eight years of the online Quaker conversation can be maintained (wow!).
I will need funds for the move. The subscriptions to do the import/export will incur costs and there will be plugins and themes to buy. I'm mentally budgeting an open-ended number of late Saturday nights. And the personal computer we have is getting old. The charge doesn't hold and keys are starting to go. It will need replacement sooner rather than later.
Any donations Friends could make to the Paypal account would be very helpful for the move. You can start by going to http://bit.ly/quakergive. Other options are available on the donation page at http://www.quakerquaker.org/page/support. Thanks for whatever you can spare. I'm as surprised as anyone that this little DIY project continues to host some many interesting Quaker conversations eleven years on!
“I want to suggest that there is a living tradition of spiritual teaching and practice that makes up the Quaker Way, which is not defined by a particular social group, behavioural norms, or even values and beliefs.”
As usual Craig clearly articulates his premise: that Friends have become something of a content-less, lowest-common-denominator group that fears making belief statements that some of our membership would object to.
I agree with most of his analysis, though I would add some pieces. I don’t think one can understand what it means to be a Quaker today without looking at different types of definitions. Belief and practices is one part but so is self-identification (which is not necessarily membership). We are who we are but we also aren’t. There’s a deeper reality in not being able to separate Quaker philosophy from the people who are Quaker.
In this light, I do wish that Craig hadn’t resorted to using the jargony “Quaker Way” ten times in a short piece. For those who haven’t gotten the memo, liberal Friends are no longer supposed to say “Quakerism” (which implies a tradition and practice that is not necessarily the denominator of our member’s individual theologies) but instead use the vaguer “Quaker Way.” In my observation, it’s mostly a bureaucratic preference: we want to imply there is substance but don’t want to actually name it for fear of starting a fight. Contentless language has become its own art form, one that can suck the air out of robust discussions. A truly-vital living tradition should be able to speak in different accents.
One of the most famous scenes in the AMC show Mad Men comes near the end of season one. Kodak has asked the advertising firm to create a campaign around a new slide projector that has a circular tray. Don Draper presents the Carousel and gives a nostalgia-steeped presentation that use his personal photographs to move both the Kodak execs and the viewers at home, who know that these semi-focused pictures will soon be all that left of his disintegrating family.
No falling apart family for me, but I find myself already feeling nostalgic for a family vacation to Disney World that doesn’t start for another six days. I’ve recently been looking through our Flickr archive of past trips (four for me) and realize that they are our Carousel. The start with my fiancée taking a cynical me on my first trip. Later visits bring kids to the photographic lineup: newly-found legs to run, the joys of messy ice cream, the scare of not-very-scary rides and the big eyes of parades all run through the sets.
In less than a week we’ll start a new set. There will be two new children in this one. “The babies” are both walking and toddling and are at their peak of baby photogenic cuteness. The older two are real kids now and the eldest is starting to show early glimpses of teenage-hood: eye-rolling, exhalation of air (“uh!”) to show disapproval of inconvenient parental instructions.
Iconic family pictures will happen. Since our last visit five years ago, my wife’s lost her father to cancer and my mother’s been slipping into the forgetfulness of Alzheimer’s. As the wheel of life turns it somehow becomes more possible to see ourselves as part of the turning Carousel. Some decades from now I can imagine myself going through these pictures surrounded by indulging children and antsy grandchildren, exclaiming “look how young everyone looks!”
Yesterday I was home with the kids on comp time and got to participate in their religion session (my wife keeps them to a schedule in the summers and religion makes for a quiet half hour midday).
My 9 year old was reading the passage of Jesus’s temptation in the desert found in Matthew 4. I find it such a relatable story. No, no one with pointy ears and a red tail has offered me a kingdom lately, but there are a number of normal human elements nonetheless.
To start with, Jesus is fasting and living without shelter for forty days. I know I become less of the person I want to be when I’m hungry, tired, and stressed. The tempter also proffers a test to see if God cares. That too is familiar: how often do we want something from close family and friends but hold back to see if it’s offered. “Oh, if they really cared I wouldn’t have to remind them.” We do this with God too, confusing changing states of fortune with divine favor rather than welcoming even hard times as a opportunity for growth and understanding.
One of my favorite parts of the Lord’s Prayer is the plea that we not even be led to temptation. There’s a certain humility to that. Jesus might be able to resist the sweet promises of the tempter even when cold and hungry, but I’d rather skip the tests.
It’s hard enough living in this world in a state of humility and coöperation. None of us are perfect, starting with me, and we all certainly have plenty of room to grow. But it’s nice to know that we don’t have to face the tempter alone. God knows just how hard it can be and has our back.
Ten years ago today, U.S. forces began the “shock and awe” bombardment on Baghdad, the first shots of the second Iraq War. President Bush said troops needed to go in to disable Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program, but as we now know that program did not exist. Many of us suspected as much at the time. The flimsy pieces of evidence held up by the Bush Administration didn’t pass the smell test but a lot of mainstream reporters went for it and supported the war.
Now those journalists are looking back. One is Andrew Sullivan, most widely known as the former editor of New Republic and now the publisher of the independent online magazine The Dish. I find his recent “Never Forget That They Were All Wrong” thread profoundly frustrating. I’m glad he’s taking the time to double-guess himself, but the whole premise of the thread continues the dismissive attitude toward activists. Starting in 1995 I ran a website that acted as a publishing platform for much of the established peace movement. Yes, we were a collection of antiwar activists, but that doesn’t mean we were unable to use logic and apply critical thinking when the official assurances didn’t add up. I wrote weekly posts challenging New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the smoke-and-mirror shows of two administrations over a ten-year period. My essays were occasionally picked up by the national media — when they needed a counterpoint to pro-war editorials — but in general my pieces and those of the pacifist groups I published were dismissed.
When U.S. troops finally did invade Iraq in 2003, they encountered an Iraqi military that was almost completely incapacitated by years of U.N. sanctions. The much-hyped Republican Guard had tanks that had too many broken parts to run. Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological programs had been shut down over a decade earlier. The real lesson that we should take from the Iraq War was that the nonviolent methods of United Nations sanctions had worked. This isn’t a surprise for what we might call pragmatic pacifists. There’s a growing body of research arguing that nonviolent methods are often more effective than armed interventions (see for example, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, reviewed in the March Friends Journal (subscription required).
What if the U.S. had acknowledge there was no compelling evidence of WMDs and had simply ratcheted up the sanctions and let Iraq stew for another couple of years? Eventually a coup or Arab Spring would probably have rolled around. Imagine it. No insurgency. No Abu Ghraib. Maybe we’d even have an ally in Baghdad. The situations in places like Tehran, Damascus, Islamabad, and Ramallah would probably be fundamentally different right now. Antiwar activists were right in 2003. Why should journalists like Andrew Sullivan assume that this was an anomaly?
I began Conrad’s classic tale as a follow-up to last month’s State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Her heroine traveled to the most remote reaches of the Amazon; all stories that make the trip from the blandness of civilization (Minnesota in Patchett’s case) owe a debt to Conrad’s classic tale of a steamboat trip far up the Congo River.
The book certainly has its oddities, starting with the narrative voice: we are listening to a story told aboard a ship on the Thames that is waiting for a change of tide to send it on its way out to sea. The narrator-within-the-story, Marlowe, tells the entire tale in flashback, with Conrad only occasionally coming up for air to the deck of the Thames boat (Heart of Darkness was written as a three-part serial; I assume these narrative breaks are the stitching between installments).
I had heard much about this book over the years so I was curious to see the exact nature of the depravities upon which the infamous Kurtz had indulged himself. But two-thirds of the way through the book I realized we were never to really learn them. We know there’s a remote camp by a lake and an African tribe that regards him as some kind of demi-god, and we hear tell that he’s lawless toward other Europeans and single-minded in his quest for ivory. But these are all barely more than hinted glimpses.
The story turns out to be not so much about Kurtz as it is about Marlows’ imaginings as he gets deeper into the continent and gathers clues about the mystery man at the top of the river. I found this to be a relief, as Conrad seems almost as uninterested in fleshing out the Africans along the way. Kurtz is a brilliant civilized man; in the jungle his savagery is unleashed and he becomes a force unto himself.
I had to deal with a being to whom I could not appeal in the name of anything high or low. I had, even like the n******, to invoke him – himself his own exalted and incredible degradation. There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air.
Yes, this is a working definition of a psychopath. If this were a modern Showtime or AMC television show, this would be the start of the action: the producers, writers, and actors would leave little gore or depravity to the imagination. But for Conrad this is the morality tale at the heart of the book. Shortly after being found, Kurtz conveniently dies and our narrator sails back downstream, going (we are helpfully told) twice the speed as before, back out to the ocean and civilization.