God, violence, and what I watched growing up

posted by Mike on April 1st, 2007

goodwar_small.pngMost young Americans don’t have a firsthand experience of war. Many grow up with no experience of intense violence at all. Their attitudes towards these things are shaped by art: books, TV shows, the news, and movies.

David Griffith, author of A Good War Is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence In America, is one of those people. So am I.

My peers and I really didn’t question violent entertainment while we were growing up, I think in part because we figured the stories told by adults were probably a good reflection of the world. (Today’s young people may be naturally more skeptical of these sorts of stories, since they can easily share their own videos with their peers over the Internet, and because their video games are more immersive—they can all use adult tools to act out their own stories. For people of my and Griffith’s generation, access to these tools implied some sort of legitimacy.)

In the essay “Some Proximity to Darkness” in Good War, Griffith revists the movies that shaped his sensibilities as a young man, this time taking a cold, hard look at them. I was shaped by many of these movies, and while reading the book I felt that Griffith was taking a cold, hard look inside my own head. Quite a trip.
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Two comments on two quotes from Yochai Benkler

posted by Mike on February 9th, 2007

I’m starting a project on Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks, and already a couple quotes have caught my attention.

Benkler spends most of the book describing how our information, as opposed to material goods, often comes from non-profit/voluntary/ad hoc sources. In setting up this argument, he begins chapter 2 thus:

There are no noncommercial automobile manufacturers. There are no volunteer steel foundries. You would never have your primary source of bread depend on voluntary contributions from others.

Many people choose to depend on the kindness of strangers. At times, I myself have depended on voluntary contributions from others. A whole strand of itinerant Christianity is based on this model.

My nitpicking is irrelevant to the thrust of his argument, but still I wish he’d make a place for bums in his otherwise compulsively thorough world view.

Another quote:

If all copyright on newspapers were abolished, the revenues of newspapers would be little affected.

(See Note 6.)

When I look at the on-line versions of the Worcester papers, I see ample room for improvement. And in a world without newspaper copyright, someone could spend a couple days making a site that would grab content from the T&G and WoMag websites, import it into a decent Content Management System, and republish it on the web in a competent way. I would surely visit that site rather than the crappy ones that exist now. Trouble is, there’s probably not enough on-line ad revenue associate with this content, so nobody would take the time.

Does this argument about newspaper copyright hold in the virtual world because newspapers have no virtual future? Or is newspaper copyright key to that virtual future?

I shouldn’t think about these things before I’ve had my coffee.

NB: You can also read thought by people smarter than me about this book.

Sign of Peace 5.2: Counter-recruitment and the Church

posted by Mike on December 8th, 2006


The latest issue of the Catholic Peace Fellowship‘s journal, The Sign of Peace, is excellent. You may wish to download the PDF. The CPF would also be delighted to mail you copies.

There follow some passages which caught my interest.
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Various Articles

posted by Adam (Southern California) on March 26th, 2006

The L.A. Times today is chock-full of articles relevant to P&C.

  • The lead story is on the massive demonstrations against proposed draconian laws against illegal immigration. They say it’s the biggest demonstration of any kind in L.A.’s history.
  • Steve Lopez continues to write compelling columns about life on Skid Row and the issues surrounding it. Today he writes of single mother Elizabeth Brown and her two children and their struggle to find affordable housing. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of opposition to putting homeless shelters anywhere besides Skid Row.
  • A obituary of the remarkable Desmond Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWII as a conscientious objector.
  • A look at the controversy around erecting fields of crosses as war memorials/protests.
  • The Hospital Association of Southern California is urging its members to revamp their policies for dealing with homeless patients in the wake of allegations of “dumping” the homeless on Skid Row.

Some of those links may require you to register for free at their site.

posted by Adam (Southern California) in General, Items, New Left Review | on March 26th, 2006 | Permanent Link to “Various Articles” | 3 Comments »

An Interview with Zack Berger

posted by Mike on November 9th, 2005

A few years ago, Zack Berger and Celeste Sollod self-published Zack’s Yiddish translation of “The Cat in the Hat,” Di Kats der Piyatz. Following the success of that book, they’ve come out with Zack’s Yiddish version of “Curious George,” George der Naygeriker. We caught up with Zack via e-mail.
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George der Naygeriker

posted by Mike on September 12th, 2005

Zack Berger’s Yiddish translation of Curious George is out!

There is no better holiday gift, save perhaps his Yiddish translation of The Cat in the Hat.

Update: Don’t miss our interview with Zack Berger.

posted by Mike in Books | on September 12th, 2005 | Permanent Link to “George der Naygeriker” | No Comments »