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:



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.