31 March 2010
30 March 2010
29 March 2010
28 March 2010
This writer is humbly gratified at the amount of traffic to a blog that is quite modest, as blogs go. My readership started out small, and spread both by word of mouth and by subject searches through engines such as Google. I write about what interests me -- social justice, the arts, astronomy, history, aviation, ecology and the environment, to name a few -- and make no apologies for my opinions. Comments are always welcome, and I post them all, including those which dissent from my views -- so long as the discourse remains civilized.
27 March 2010
26 March 2010
A recent Newsweek article by Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison reports that the gender gap, the pay disparity between men and women for comparable work, is alive and well. Although there has been token movement into more prestigious and lucrative positions in the business world, in politics and in academia, emphasis remains on the word "token". "Women still make 76 cents for every dollar a male earns in the United States", the article notes. Further, women tend to be clustered in entry level and midlevel corporate positions, with very few penetrating to the upper levels of management. Hence the term "the glass ceiling".
This persistence of discrimination is unjust and intolerable. The pace of progress is painfully slow. My hope has been that, just as younger generations have been far less burdened by the racist attitudes of their elders, that sexism would similarly die of attrition. Now I'm not so sure. There's no predicting which of our prejudices will fade more quickly, or what prejudices may replace them. One can only plan and hope for the best, and remain prepared for the worst. A sad commentary on our enlightened age.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master." Speaking as a male, as I would not be the victim of discrimination, so I would not be its perpetrator. My thanks to my dear friend IZ for sending the article.
25 March 2010
24 March 2010
23 March 2010
22 March 2010
21 March 2010
20 March 2010
19 March 2010
18 March 2010
17 March 2010
16 March 2010
15 March 2010
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." -- Helen Keller
Recently I sent the above quote to a number of email correspondents. Clearly the word "security" means different things to different people. Here is a sampling (anonymous) of the replies that came back:
~~ Yes. And for verification, read The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts .... Odd. Now I work for a company doing "software security."
~~ say what...
~~ I don't know about that. I figure I have a better chance of surviving Afghanistan if I stay out of there.
~~ Now that is thought provoking ! I, in my own little world, would like to think that there is security. However, in light of my time here on earth and experiences, I know all too well how vulnerable we all are and how fast life can change and cease to exist as we have known it !
I'm inclined to agree with Keller's quote. Granted, security is relative, and one risks it by running out into traffic (or traveling to Afghanistan). It seems to me that security is not black or white, present or absent. Rather, it exists along a continuum between, say being 99% secure (100% being dead), and 1% secure (0% also being dead?). So, are the extremes defined by (at one end) a police state, and (at the other end) anarchy? Or are they defined by monotony vs. adventure, as Keller suggests?
Further, there is the dualism of external, physical security and internal, emotional security. One may be physically safe, but not feel safe. One may also feel unsafe, but be physically safe. It seems to me that physical security is corporeal, and never fully assured. Emotional security, in contrast, is a state of mind under one's control, therefore as assured as one wishes to make it. It is analogous to identity. I am me, complete and inviolate and unassailable, right up to the moment of my physical death. Does my identity (soul, spirit, personality) persist after my body's demise? I have no definitive answer, nor does anyone else -- if they claim differently, they're trying to sell you something.
My hunch is that physical death is identity death as well, food for the fishes and worms and microbes, furthering the cycle of life. On a primitive level, the thought of an afterlife is appealing, as is reincarnation (though I would hate to come back as a fungus, or as Carl Rove. Still, I'll be content to have my molecules remix with the planet .... if only it were possible to watch where they travel next.
In a parallel vein, recall the mis-quoted phrase often attributed to Benjamin Franklin -- "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Old Ben (or whoever the author was) was seeing things in stark, black-and-white terms. No continuum here, though the moral stand is clear. Or is it? Hmm.
14 March 2010
- Altitude above you.
- Runway behind you.
- Fuel in the truck.
- The airspeed you don't have.
- Half a second ago.
~~ "If you don't get in that plane you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life." Rick Blaine, in the movie Casablanca, 1942
13 March 2010
12 March 2010
11 March 2010
10 March 2010
The event was the catalyst for a breakthrough in Brooks' relationships with his grandchildren, who had always been in awe of their reticent grandfather. Brooks was an ace during the war, but rarely talked about his experiences as a fighter pilot. In the film he reveals his part in that historic era for the first time.
As an aspiring pilot, as a father and grandfather, and as a military veteran who similarly rarely talks about my personal war, Vietnam, I was spellbound by this story, and moved to tears more than once. Through the month of March, you can view the video for free online here. If you choose to buy it, please do so at the Gray Eagles Foundation website -- your purchase will help finance their education efforts and restoration of World War II aircraft. Note: the Mustang was the finest fighter of WWII, so advanced that future generations of fighters would be measured against it. Of some 16,000 Mustangs built, only 200 remain worldwide. Any pilot would sacrifice greatly for the chance to fly a Mustang today -- it is an aviation icon, the same aircraft flown by the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
09 March 2010
Thanks to the recommendation of my friend JM, I've been enjoying a few very excellent older films -- the Three Colors trilogy Blue, White, and Red by the masterful Polish director Krzysztok Kieslowski. Each film stands on its own as a distinct story, yet the three are interwoven in their exploration of the virtues of liberty, equality and brotherhood (symbolized by the three colors on the French flag, and in the film titles) as they appear with beautifully subtle irony and ambiguity in the lives of Kieslowski's characters. The acting is heart-breakingly superb, as is the direction. Ancillary interviews and analysis on the DVDs sheds light on each film, and on the director's remarkable human achievement.
This is art, compared to the merely transitory entertainment that passes for movie-making in most Hollywood productions. One more reason to appreciate Netflix -- access to films from many countries, many decades, many directors. Here is an IMDB link to Kieslowski's filmography.