SXSW 2014 Cover Art is Posted

I have just post­ed this year’s album art for SXSW, the Music fes­ti­val in Austin in eleven days.

But all is not well. SXSW has offered one track from each artist as a down­load (as a .tor­rent) since at least 2005. Accord­ing to the Unof­fi­cial SXSW Tor­rents site, while there are a small num­ber of tracks avail­able so far, SXSW has decid­ed to put the files up on Sound­cloud, instead. Sound­cloud works hard to pre­vent cap­ture of the music they play, which makes down­load­ing the tracks… dif­fi­cult.

Go to the cov­er art page to get this year’s art, and find out how to let SXSW know that you don’t like this.

SXSW Show­cas­ing Artist Cov­er Art

A near perfect tweet

I don’t do this often (enough?) but this tweet from Won­derel­la is so pitch per­fect on the top­ic of the Oxford Dic­tio­nary and Miley Cyrus, that I can’t help myself:

NRA: Shoot the bad guys for double points!

There is so much to say about today’s NRA state­ment in rela­tion to the Sandy Hook shoot­ing. But let us start with this. The NRA blames the shoot­ing on a cul­ture of vio­lence. They call out video games (spe­cif­ic ones, I guess you know who your friends are now!), media, the gov­ern­ment. It’s actu­al­ly a pret­ty com­pre­hen­sive (if slight) overview of the com­plex prob­lems of child­hood and games and tele­vi­sion and men­tal health and the econ­o­my. I’d say bra­vo for rec­og­niz­ing that the issue is shades of grey upon shades of grey. Except…

Iron­i­cal­ly, their answer is to present the fix to society’s ills as a video game:

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Wayne LaPierre, NRA Lob­by­ist

Bad guys. And good guys. Shoot the bad guys to save the chil­dren.

Well, I have some black and white rhetoric for you, too, Mr. LaPierre.

What is safer than a good guy in a school with a loaded firearm? No firearms. Not for good guys. Not for bad guys. Leave the firearms to the pro­fes­sion­als who need them.

Hunters and their guns

So, my wife and I had a lit­tle con­ver­sa­tion today about hunters and their guns in light of my pre­vi­ous post. We eat meat, and that meat has to be killed; hunters kill ani­mals, and some of them eat that meat… she won­dered if there was a prob­lem with my argu­ment in that con­text. I had to think about it for a moment before I wrapped my head around it.

But I’m good now.

I don’t have a moral prob­lem with killing ani­mals for meat. Nev­er have, real­ly. I have lots of prob­lems with the way we raise and kill food ani­mals, and try to buy my meat from local pro­duc­ers with small scale slaugh­ter­ing oper­a­tions. I don’t eat a lot of meat, for health rea­sons. But I’m fine with ani­mals as meat, killed by humans.

In that sense, I don’t have a prob­lem with indi­vid­ual hunters going out and killing ani­mals for meat. And while I may have a per­son­al dis­taste for hunters going out and killing ani­mals for fun, that isn’t what my argu­ment is about.

I have a prob­lem with peo­ple own­ing guns.

As I have said before, pro­fes­sion­al gun own­ers need their guns to do their jobs. Fine. But recre­ation­al gun own­ers do not need their guns. Recre­ation­al hunters do not need their guns. Recre­ation­al hunters do not need to kill ani­mals, and they cer­tain­ly don’t need to do it with guns.

They may want to. But that isn’t a good enough rea­son to own a gun.

  • You want to be one with nature? Go camp­ing.
  • You want to feel the “thrill of the hunt?” Grab a cam­era on your way out to the blind.
  • You want to feel like a man? Vol­un­teer at a soup kitchen. Build a house. Read at the library.
  • You real­ly need to kill? Do it with a bow, if you must. I’ll con­cede that piece of ground.

Your hunt­ing rifle does not make you safer. It puts every­one around you in dan­ger. What is safer than a respon­si­ble, trained hunter with a prop­er­ly secured gun? Not hav­ing a gun.

And then there’s this:

…the urge to kill lies with­in us all, espe­cial­ly as chil­dren. With­out prop­er chan­nelling of these instincts, chil­dren often grow into phys­i­cal­ly abu­sive and/or mur­der­ous adults. Can any of us hon­est­ly say that, as kids, we didn’t shoot birds with our sling­shots and bb guns, or set home­made traps for oth­er crit­ters? I say that if you can say that, then you either nev­er had an oppor­tu­ni­ty as a child, or you’re an excep­tion to the rule of human nature.”

From Why do Hunters Hunt? by Russ Chas­tain

I’m sor­ry, you have an instinc­tu­al “urge to kill” that you need to chan­nel prop­er­ly? And you had it as a child? I don’t have an alter­na­tive for you, except to hope to God that you are the excep­tion, not the rule.


Some of the read­ing I did for this:

You should not have a gun

I heard about the shoot­ing in New­town, Con­necti­cut, hours after it hap­pened. I was fly­ing East that day, and hadn’t checked in with the news. I don’t know any­one involved, but I have two boys in ele­men­tary school, one a six-year-old first grad­er. I have been sad, con­fused, and angry in turns, some­times all at once.

It has been sev­er­al days, and I think I’ve come to some… con­clu­sions about what I think. Buck­le up.

First off, men­tal ill­ness is a ter­ri­ble prob­lem. Unlike with guns, it is an almost unfath­omably com­pli­cat­ed top­ic, of enor­mous impor­tance, that I am com­plete­ly unqual­i­fied to speak to. I do think that, as a coun­try, we should be able to tack­le both guns and men­tal ill­ness. Both clear­ly need the atten­tion.

But, on guns, I think this:

  • I believe that peo­ple should only have access to guns if their pro­fes­sion requires it. Yeah, I’m a lit­tle left of Lib­er­al on this. But there is no rea­son, in a civ­i­lized soci­ety, for indi­vid­u­als to own guns for any sort of recre­ation­al pur­pose. None. Try your best to give me a rea­son. I like them doesn’t count. I grew up with guns doesn’t count. I need to defend myself (from oth­er peo­ple with guns) doesn’t count. I’m part of a well-reg­u­lat­ed mili­tia and I need them to defend myself from a future totalitarian/socialist gov­ern­ment. Real­ly? Guns kill, and you can’t tell me that killing is an accept­able end goal. Pun­to final.

  • If you own a gun for recre­ation­al pur­pos­es, I will be civ­il to you (lest you, you know, shoot me), but I will not be your friend. My chil­dren will not play at your house. You had bet­ter tell me now, and get it over with. You can unfriend me and we can go our sep­a­rate ways. My chil­dren and I will be safer.

Sure, a full-on firearms ban will nev­er fly in this coun­try. I under­stand the prac­ti­cal prob­lems with my stance. A ban on assault weapons, or on high-capac­i­ty mag­a­zines, or on bul­lets, is like­ly to be much more suc­cess­ful. But I remain con­vinced that you do not need a gun. You should not have a gun. You are not safer with a gun. I am not safer if you have a gun.

Gun-relat­ed deaths in 2010 in the Unit­ed States, from the CDC:

  • unin­ten­tion­al firearm deaths: 606
  • homi­cide firearm deaths: 11,078
  • sui­cide firearm deaths: 19,392
  • total firearm deaths: 31,672

Gun relat­ed non-sui­cide deaths per 100,000 peo­ple:

  • Unit­ed States, 2008–2010: 3.97
  • France, 2009: 0.68 (17.1% of US total)
  • Italy, 2009: 0.47 (11.8%)
  • Aus­tralia, 2008: 0.26 (6.5%)
  • Ger­many, 2010: 0.16 (4%)
  • Unit­ed King­dom, 2011: 0.07 (1.7%)
  • Nor­way, 2010: 0.06 (1.5%)

Yes, in the US, you are 56 times more like­ly to die from a gun than in the UK. That does not include sui­cides.

Once they come out of hid­ing, the NRA will trot out all their usu­al tropes: guns don’t kill peo­ple, gun safe­ty train­ing is very impor­tant, every­one should have gun locks, or gun safes, or unloaded guns, or some­thing that makes your gun safer.

You know what is more effec­tive than gun safe­ty train­ing? Not hav­ing a gun. You know what is more effec­tive than gun locks? Not hav­ing a gun. You know what is more effec­tive than gun safes? Not hav­ing a gun.

You know what is safer than hav­ing a gun? Not hav­ing a gun.

Scouting Dilemma

On the one hand, the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca are (offi­cial­ly) a dis­crim­i­na­to­ry orga­ni­za­tion of whom I real­ly do not approve. On the oth­er hand, my boys are in Boy Scouts (Cub Scouts, tech­ni­cal­ly). They enjoy the peer social activ­i­ties, and I enjoy the oppor­tu­ni­ties they would not have if they were not in an orga­ni­za­tion like that (camp­ing, civic duties, vol­un­teer­ing, etc.). I also like that they have friends there and get to hang with them.

But I am find­ing it more and more dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile the two.

There are few estab­lished alter­na-Scout­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able in our area. (No Camp­Fire group, no YMCA Adven­ture Guides, no BPSA group.)

So, I can:

  1. Keep my kids in the BSA and shut my mouth (or work from with­in for change). In the mean­time I keep send­ing mon­ey to the BSA, implic­it­ly sup­port­ing their posi­tions.

  2. Pull my kids from Scout­ing and enjoy not hav­ing annoy­ing activ­i­ties three times a month.

  3. Put my time and trea­sure where my ethics are and start some­thing myself, either per­son­al­ly ((DIY looks cool) or with the struc­ture (if not sup­port) of some orga­ni­za­tion like BPSA.

The first choice, stick­ing it out, is where we have default­ed. But when we joined the cur­rent Pack, (remem­ber, we just moved) at the intro­duc­to­ry meet­ing some hon­cho from the local Coun­cil came to sell it, and the first thing he said was how won­der­ful it is to have a place “where we can talk about God. We can’t do it in our schools!” He went on a bit about how glo­ri­ous this was, and how impor­tant, and then he might have caught my eye and he nev­er came back to it. It left a real­ly unpleas­ant taste in my mouth.

The sec­ond choice, ditch­ing, would be easy, but it feels so wrong. Worse than choice num­ber one, in fact.

The last one is clear­ly the right choice. But I am old, lazy, and tired (or at least I feel that way) and this would be a huge com­mit­ment on my part. I think there might be some sup­port in the com­mu­ni­ty (at the very least in my church, where it has already been brought up once), so I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be fly­ing alone. But this is real­ly quite a daunt­ing task. I am, shall we say, daunt­ed by the thought of it.

Thoughts? Encour­age­ment? Vol­un­teers?

The Legacy of Nine Eleven?

Dri­ving to work today, I drove by a home in our neigh­bor­hood where they had mount­ed a huge Amer­i­can flag on a flag­pole attached to a tree. I thought of all the peo­ple who had their lives tak­en from them on 9/11/2001, and all the peo­ple who had some­one ripped from their hearts on that day.

I have vis­cer­al mem­o­ries of watch­ing the tow­ers go down. I was stu­pe­fied, hor­ri­fied, and angered. But above all, I was sad. I felt hol­low to my core.

I also gave thought, this morn­ing, to all the peo­ple who have died in the after­math of the events of that day. I am a Lib­er­al, and so I am pre­dis­posed to dis­like war, but I think every­one can find room in their hearts to decry the end results of the sec­ond war on Iraq, entered into on the pre­text of security/revenge for 9/11, but against a coun­try that was ulti­mate­ly deter­mined to have had noth­ing to do with those attacks.

Let me repeat that.

The Peo­ple of these Unit­ed States went to war with Iraq because we were told Iraq was respon­si­ble for 9/11, except that it turns out they were not. Sad­dam Hus­sein was a ruth­less dic­ta­tor, yes, killing with aban­don and with no fear of ret­ri­bu­tion. But Syria’s Assad is the same, and our coun­try has no will to fight that fight. We were told we went to war with Iraq to avenge, and pre­vent, any fur­ther 9/11s.

This is part of the lega­cy of 9/11:

  • Vic­tims killed on 9/11 itself: 2,977 (source)
  • US Mil­i­tary killed in the Iraq War since 2003: 4,409 (source)
  • Iraqi cit­i­zens killed in the Iraq War since 2003: over 100,000 (source)
    (These num­bers are from var­i­ous Wikipedia arti­cles, fwiw, and that last num­ber is the low­est of esti­mates)

Here’s what I take away from this.

Ter­ror­ists attacked our coun­try, killing inno­cent peo­ple in num­bers stag­ger­ing to behold. Almost three-thou­sand peo­ple died on that sin­gle day. In reac­tion, and for no good rea­son, we sac­ri­ficed almost four-thou­sand five-hun­dred of our bravest men and women, and had a hand in killing or pro­vok­ing the deaths of over one-hun­dred-thou­sand peo­ple, most of them as inno­cent as the orig­i­nal 3,000 who died eleven years ago.

I think today is a day to hang our heads in shame, and in anger. That we were attacked. That inno­cents have died. That we react­ed so child­ish­ly, so vio­lent­ly, with such patri­ot­ic fear. We did the work of Evil for them. We killed thou­sands of our own, and a hun­dred thou­sand inno­cents died because of us.

I am sor­ry.

And I still find myself, on this day eleven years lat­er, inef­fa­bly sad.

Is philanthropy heroic?

Yeah, so Lance Arm­strong is a jerk. He won sev­en Tour de France races, but has just not-admit­ted that he won them all with the help of per­for­mance enhanc­ing drugs. He used those wins to fuel a shock­ing­ly suc­cess­ful endorse­ment career, and used that mon­ey to fuel a shock­ing­ly wide­spread phil­an­thropic effort.

Oh, and he beat can­cer, too. (Before he won all the Tours de France, mind you.)

The Live­strong Fondation’s dona­tions to can­cer research are esti­mat­ed at $470 mil­lion by Forbes. Char­i­ty Nav­i­ga­tor rates the orga­ni­za­tion very high­ly, high­er than any oth­er can­cer char­i­ty in the coun­try. It’s a good orga­ni­za­tion, and it would not exist if Lance Arm­strong had not won all those races.

So he’s a cycling hero, who has crashed off that bike. He was a sports hero, and now, he is not.

But, does his phil­an­thropic work make up for that? Is he Robin the Hood, not the sto­ry­book char­ac­ter, but the real out­law, killing and steal­ing for some Oth­er Good? Did he bilk his spon­sors out of mil­lions, cheat­ing his way into their cof­fers, in order to use that mon­ey and fame to build the Lance Arm­strong Foun­da­tion?

And is that so bad?

Hon­est­ly, I don’t know. Cheat­ing is bad. Giv­ing is good. Cheat­ing cor­po­ra­tions is, well, not as bad. Lying to kids, how­ev­er, is pret­ty bad. Giv­ing hope to mil­lions of can­cer patients (some of them kids, some of them cycling fans)? Undoubt­ed­ly good.

Per­son­al­ly, I’m not so bro­ken up about his cheat­ing in the bike races, but I am not a huge cycling fan. My moth­er is in remis­sion from can­cer, and I appre­ci­ate any­thing the Live­strong Foundation’s $470 mil­lion might have indi­rect­ly had to do with her treat­ment.

So yeah, regard­less of what I think of Lance Arm­strong, I think phil­an­thropy is hero­ic. And I think Lance Arm­strong may have come to the same con­clu­sion.

Shopping at jcp this week end

I think I might need to shop at jcpen­ney more now (and we’re going clothes-hunt­ing this week end). It used to be the place we went last, usu­al­ly for a win­ter coat, if we’d bombed out else­where, but I’ve been try­ing to think more favor­ably about them recent­ly, giv­en their Apple-alum CEO. This may just have clinched it for them.

JC Pen­ney Launch­es Father’s Day Ad Fea­tur­ing Gay Dads And Their Kids

Gay Dads whoopin it up for low prices

Gay Dads whoopin it up for low prices

Pic­ture (and sto­ry) found at Joe.My.God.

Found the first half of 1919 at the bookstore

We stopped by a used book­store (Prospero’s Books, fwiw) last night after din­ner out, and I imme­di­ate­ly dis­cov­ered the “Weird. Old.” sec­tion, and found this:

1919

1919

Already fas­ci­nat­ed by a few of the arti­cles. I may have to start col­lect­ing old Nat Geos. And yeah, that arti­cle about the League of Nations is by William Howard Taft.