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december tunes

A visit to the Shaker village
I recently went to New Hampshire to visit a Shaker village.  The Shakers were interesting because they were highly religious and embraced celibacy.  This embrace unfortunately led to the demise of the village, but not before they made beautiful furniture and dish towels.  (I bought some dish towels).  The benevolence of the Shakers contrasts with the more sinister approach of modern religious cults, depicted in the so-bad-it's-good 1981 film Ticket to Heaven, copied by the virtually identical 1982 film Split Image, and joyfully ridiculed in a 2000 Strangers with Candy episode, "The Blank Stare," in which Jerri Blank gets abducted by and then kicked out of a cult.  My favorite line?  When the high school principal says, "We have to free her from that den of mindless superstition: consult the bones!"  Read a marvelous photo essay comparing and contrasting "The Blank Stare" with Ticket to Heaven here, see some photos of my Shaker Village visit here. From what I can tell, Ticket to Heaven is so bad that it inspired me to buy a copy of Michael Medved's The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time (and How They Got That Way).  It arrives next Monday!
posted November 10, 2013 7:35 pm

Historic day
"All human beings deserve to be lovedAll human beings."  That's the love guru, who says this warmly, emphatically, with the quiet firmness of someone speaking that which they know to be right.  He's sampled, endlessly, in "Give Me All Your Love" on Jondi & Spesh's Tubedrivers album—in my review of it here, I note how the love guru saying this "squares off against a slightly flat diva."  Today the United States Supreme Court took a small but significant step towards recognizing that gays can get married like anybody else.  Although their opinion was divided, good won out over bigotry.  My friend Chris Cronbaugh posted this beautiful equality painting-artwork thing, which I share with you here.  See a larger version here.  Keep loving.
posted June 26, 2013, 8:02 pm

Revisiting "that" vs. "which"
Sometimes I like learning grammar and, following up on an an earlier exploration of who versus whom, here, today I took another look at that versus which.  Here's the synopsis: use that when introducing a description that identifies or singles out the noun from others.  The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage.  (There's multiple lawn mowers and we're talking about just one of them.)  The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage.  (There's not any question of multiple lawn mowers, we're merely supplying additional information about the lawnmower, which requires a comma before the which.)  Sometimes, though rarely, you can also use a which not just to add information, but to single out, like a that.  Find out more about these mysterious defining whiches on my "That Vs. Which" page here.
posted May 16, 2:04 pm

Gun-totin' U.S.A.
Gun proliferation, as satirized in experimental rock group Negativland's song "Sycamore," here, which satirically juxtaposes a Bay Area real estate pitch against a manipulative gun lobby political ad, has gotten totally out of control.  The country drifts between shootings, and the White House weakly tells us that after a gun massacre is no time to talk about guns, as detailed in Alex Koppelman's December 14, 2012 New Yorker blog post "The Right Day to Talk About Guns" here.  The gun lobby, with lawmakers in its pocket, presses on with its preposterous vision of America-as-shooting alley, pleading for ever still more guns to prevent gun shooting, as a December 21, 2012 article by Forbes contributor Jeffrey Brown, "What the NRA Is Assuming (and Why They Are Wrong)" here. We had an assault weapons ban but Bush—bleagh—let it expire in 2004, as described in Josh Harkinson's January, 2012 Mother Jones article "Who Killed the Assault Weapons Ban?" here.  Since then, mass shootings have only increased, relentlessly.  There was the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater last July, at a Wisconsin Sikh temple last August, at a Minneapolis manufacturer in September, and then, unacceptably, the horrific slaughter at a Connecticut elementary school in December.  25 of the 62 mass shootings since 1982 have happened after 2005, seven of them in 2012, as a February 27, 2013 Mother Jones article by Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan, "A Guide to Mass Shootings in America," goes on to describe here.  But so tight is the gun lobby's stranglehold on our throat that four months after the Newtown massacre and two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, our dysfunctional Senate can't even pass an anemic background check law, even when the majority of the public supports it, as detailed in Rebekah Metzler's April 29, 2013 U.S. News article, "Poll: Majority Supports Failed Senate Gun Control Bill" here, much less pass any legislation that might curb the problem.  What can you do?  Find out who your representative is here, call them and tell them you don't care what their gun lobby tells them, you want gun control, including a ban on assault weapons, and you want it now.
posted May 2, 2013 8:40 pm  

Toxic couch
I think Crate & Barrel is the place to go for aesthetically beautiful furniture at reasonable prices.  So it was disappointing to find that their sofas, like virtually all furniture currently being  manufactured for the United States, are treated, thanks to a misguided California law, with carcinogenic fire retardants.  Over time, the retardant seeps out to raise the risk of cancer for people who use the couch.  A September 6, 2012 New York Times article by Dashka Slater asks "How Dangerous Is Your Couch?," here, describes a widely used fire retardant called chlorinated tris as "a mutagen" that "should not be used."  A May 6, 2012 Chicago Tribune article by Michael Hawthorne, "Testing Shows Treated Foam Offers No Safety Benefit," here, shows how studies indicate furniture treated with fire retardant burns just as fast as furniture without.  An October 31, 2012 Science KQED post by Liza Gross here suggests that halogens like chlorine or bromine damage living tissue and goes on to describe the discouraging response of manufacturers, which has been to play a game of chemical whack-a-mole by simply switching one toxic fire retardant with another.  I asked Crate & Barrel about their toxic furniture, they said they were replacing the chlorinated tris with a phosphorus-based flame retardant, which at least is not a halogen.  You can read Crate & Barrel's e-mail to me here.  I googled "Is phosphorus flame retardant carcinogenic?" and got a research study here, published in the August, 2012 issue of Chemosphere, which suggests that Crate & Barrel's new phosphorus-based flame retardant might not be carcinogenic, as long as it doesn't contain chlorine.  
posted March 14, 2013, 7:22 pm

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