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
"All human beings deserve to be loved. All
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.
posted June 26, 2013, 8:02 pm
"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
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 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"
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)"
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"
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
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
posted March 14, 2013, 7:22 pm
For entries posted prior to 2013, I invite you to my